Home >> Blampied >>

Letter from Edmund Blampied to Harold J. Baily

[Editor's note. Harold James Baily (1887-1964) was an American lawyer who lived in Brooklyn, New York. He was an avid collector of Blampied's prints and drawings. In 1937 he and his wife Marguerite had visited London and had met Edmund and Marianne Blampied for the first time, after about 10 years of writing letters. The letters Blampied wrote to Harold Baily are in the Long Island Studies Institute of Hofstra University, New York. Only the punctuation has been edited, not the text, which reflects the views and attitudes of the time.]

Keechong, Route Orange, St Brelades, Jersey CI

May 21, 1945

Dear Harold and dear Marguerite,

At long long long last. The sunrise that Churchill promised us. The humble little flowers - the weeds and the grasses at work again recarpeting over - the horrors and the many many sorrows. Really one should tread gently with these thoughts in mind.

Harold - so many thanks and our gratefulness for the two out of possibly very many messages from you that reached us - the first one to be received some 18 months after you had sent it. I sent you some too. Also for your most welcome telegram received today which I have answered. I would have written earlier after peace day but our mails are difficult and are not yet normal and the first days were for Empire service only - so I'm just chancing it as not even the local post office can tell me whether I may communicate to USA.

We are both well and I hope both you and Marguerite are too. The only photograph I have permitted in my studio has been yours during all the time of the occupation and have often questioned it of what was happening to both of you and so on. It was company in its silent way.

Well - we have not as some of the papers dwell upon - come down to eating cats and dogs but it was grim during the last months, particularly - the nightmares of possible deportation and probable invasion eventually, if the Germans had refused to surrender. Had the Germans at the last refused to give up Norway this certainly would have happened and the island was strongly fortified - and we had 16,000 of these greenfly to defend it. The result would have been just hell.

We were two weeks without bread and the Red Cross saved us just in time – We were without heating, gas, electricity, telephone - no cars, no buses, hardly any soap and we patched patches - footwear was well-nigh unprocurable - my own is the same I bought in London before coming over - I mended my shoes myself and a gifted farmer cut my hair every first Sunday of the month. You had to take your own shaving soap to the barber and the ladies firewood to the hairdressers. Poor people burnt their furniture in the winter - quite a common occurrence by the way because the wood ration a week's ration was damp and not enough for one day's heating. When the Red Cross relief ship brought us flour the joy and relief was as great as on peace day. The flour laden lorries going through the town were followed by barefooted children scratching with bare fingers at the flower sacks whatever look like flour into caps or paper. People accosted each other friend or stranger and shouted "Look, look - flour flour!".

We had to barricade ourselves into our bedrooms at night with all food, even the dog's food and any tobacco etc - because the Germans themselves hungry as rats were burgling the houses - even in our small parish 7,8 or 9 and sometimes more burglaries took place every night. Our house was entered into some two weeks before peace day but nothing much was taken fortunately - because we had the dog in our bedroom. Towards the finish the Germans were eating dogs and cats - stealing cows pigs poultry and rabbits - vegetables of all kinds and doing any amount of damage. They were extremely well behaved in the daytime and were superficially so charming as to be dangerous. They presented the island with what is estimated in number 800 illegitimates. Where Hitler has rested is as bad as where so many caravans have rested and unpleasant for the locality. But excepting these fears of burglary we could sleep. Comparing our troubles to those of Londoners we had by far the better time. I raised my hat (old and worn as it is) to the Londoners - they were wonderful - absolutely. The little we have gleaned from their letters almost brings tears one's eyes. Their behaviour was fine to say the least of it.

Marianne became very thin down to eight stone and I also, but not so much. Marianne is much proud of her figure now and to tease her I tell her that if she wore a jockey cap and rigout a horse would no doubt look at her twice. All the shortage of necessities meant a tremendous deal of extra work particularly foraging. We bought trees and had them sawn and made ready for use - a costly business - I must have spent some £80 roughly on firewood. It meant a lot of work for us in addition I had to collect a lot of brushwood. Most if it fresh and damp and improved the pronunciation of our haitches. We had locally made bellows and to keep the fires going meant one person's work - and many other etceteras. To experience is the thing really. But apart from the serious side of it all there was yet a good deal of laughter about.

Our friends in London are well - or as well as can be expected after these five years. My niece had her husband killed last December. From just ordinary militia private he became a flight officer and was captain of a Lancaster. That's hit the family somewhat as he was a rather fine specimen of manhood. The brother of this niece is now in Italy - wounded once and is now on a less active job out there and having, according to him, a good time. Marianne's relations in Holland - very doubtful as they have not been heard from them for some time and we fear bad news. I think that this time it was the devil "that sent his only son" to the world - but there is plenty of much smoke-screened evidence that he has more than one son.

As regards work I have done good deal and sold very well. For about a year I attempted portraiture, most of them successful. But the "portrait to please the family and its relations" became too much for me - so I gave up portraiture. I did try to do yours from the portraits you sent me and though I "swotted" and perspired over it the result was not to my liking. I may perhaps another try one of these days. A very good idea and one that would give us great joy, believe me! is that both you and Marguerite - if so your duties to the state your affairs permit it - pay us some days visit on the island. The bailiff and his dame are great friends of ours and he also is a lawyer - a very alive man maybe some eight years younger than you are - and both very charming. I have done his portrait which I have in my possession and of great value to me. I'd love to listen to both of you talking - for he's good company.

During the occupation the Germans also insisted on the Jersey States having postage stamps of their own and I did the design of these - six in number up to three pence. The Germans gave us four of the subjects and I chose two, the halfpenny and the three penny which made six subjects. The printing was not too good nor was the choice or quality of colour and it could only be line reproduction - all this because of shortage occasioned by circumstances. But they were generally liked. I also designed the local money notes which were used finally giving place altogether to the Reich notes for some reason or other. I shall send you some of the stamps later on when it may be safer to do so.

Another point of interest. We milled our own home-grown corn on the island and really could have been self-supporting had it not been for the Germans. Some of our old watermills came into use again and the Bailiff would take me to these in his own car - where I could spend the day sketching them. I have all my sketches and would very much like to compose a "publishable portfolio" presentable to the public. But everything is scarce and expensive and war naturally has priority in all things. Let us pray and hope that Japan may soon give in - or very soon lose it to such an extent as to force them to do so - "and give us peace for the rest of our days, O lord". I'm afraid my letter is somewhat jerky.

I hear from Elfrida [Tharle-Hughes, a mutual friend] that you have been keeping my work before the "public eye" in USA. Marianne and I looked at each other on reading this. We thought it wonderful of you and I cannot thank you enough. It was brotherly. We are now looking forward to your letter which I am sure is already on the way and to tell us your news - how you both are. We islanders are completely out of date - dormant for five years and thoroughly prewar and we shall have very likely to relearn the latest English.

Every good wish and hope of again seeing you both one-day. I have looked at snapshots sent me by you often.

Cordially, Edmund and Marianne

Letter from Marianne Blampied to Marguerite Baily

Keechong, St Brelades, Jersey

July 1 [1945]

My dear Marguerite

After more than five years, it gives me infinite pleasure to be able to write to you again.

We are rather worried about not hearing from you, because as soon as we had Harold's wire, Edmund sent off a letter to him. Where to begin? How thrilled we were to hear that you were both well and fit, and how we long to see you again. Do you know I should love to come over to see you both and am trying hard to get Edmund to feel like that, too. I know he would like to see you both, but I think he would like you to come to Jersey. That would indeed be lovely, and I think you be much interested in the efforts of the Germans to spoil our little island, [but] it is still a beautiful spot despite everything and I think you would like it.

It would indeed be a joy to have you both with us again, this time in our own home. This house is rather nice, and has a seaview, but we shall be having to leave it some time this year, because the owner wants to come back to it.

Well, Marguerite, you may imagine we feel better this 1st July, than we did in 1940, on the same date of that year we had to put up the white flag. How we hated it. Edmund had decided that he wanted to stay on the island, so here we remained. It seems, though we had mental worries, that our people in England were much worse off than we here in Jersey. At least we could go to bed at night and not feel fear being "blitzed". True the food question was becoming pretty acute, and the Red Cross parcels came just in the nick of time.

We missed greatly the loss of our wireless, also they took our car, then electricity went, followed by the telephone, and last of all gas. That really was the limit, for it meant doing every bit of cooking on an open fire, and that with wet wood was just awful, the wood was difficult procure, so it meant being careful with it, and that meant relighting fire three or four times a day.

For nearly a year neither Edmund nor I went to the town, there were no buses to take us, and was nothing to buy.

The lack of sugar and fats gave us both chilblains, Edmund especially on his hands, it made work difficult for him. He worried me a good deal last winter as his heart was not good, and he had to give up long walks going up and down hills [See Note, below]. I'm thankful to say that he is much better now, and the doctor has told me there is no need to worry.

He is ambitious for his work, and that is a good sign. He is working on a book for Jersey, and has been asked to have a show in Glasgow in 1946. That is one of the reasons why I want him to have a holiday. But once a Jerseyman comes back to the island, he is difficult to shift. We all feel very tired. A form of reaction I suppose. We lived for our Red Cross letters. In all these five years we got only two of Harold's letters, one took two years to reach us, and the other 16 months. This week we received the one Harold sent in Jan 1945. John Blampied, my brother-in-law, sent one monthly, and once it was nearly eight months before we received one.

Did Edmund tell Harold in his letter that he had designed stamps for Jersey during the occupation, also notes. I expect he will be sending some of these to Harold. I do hope you are both well, and we are longing to hear from you both by letter. Send us a snapshot of yourselves, we can't get any film here.

It is a thrill to see newspapers again, also books, and last week Edmund and I went to the cinema the first time in five years. What a lot we have to make up. I am longing to go to the theatre again. I want to see the ballet, too, and go to all the films I can. It is difficult out here in the country, the buses are so few and far between, and cars are scarce and petrol scarcer.

I go to the little town once a week. It is good to see the shops beginning to be stocked again. We had a wonderful view of the King and Queen when they came to the island through the kindness of the officer in command (he is much interested in Edmund's work). We were given a place right in the Centre Gallery of the States building, this faces exactly opposite the chairs on which their majesties were to sit during the reading of loyal address by the Bailiff so they were directly in front of us. The Queen looked very charming, the King we thought looked very serious.

And what have you been doing all these five years? We have had some delightful letters from Elfrida, she is a good friend. And, now Marguerite, I hope this letter won't weary you. It seems to me to wander so.

Do write to us soon and let us know that all is well with you both.

Edmund joins me in love to you both, affectionately yours, Marianne

[Note: Edmund had been given permission by the owner of Noirmont Manor to collect firewood in the grounds. He used a shopping trolley and walked there and back, about 7 km in total, down then back up a hill.]