The Jersey War Tunnels


I’m ashamed to say that I knew nothing of the suffering of the Jersey people during WWII. I guess the Channel Islands are too far away for it to bear any impact on the average spotty 14 year old sitting in a History class of a mainland British school.

My trip to the tunnels was educating and alarming. It’s a very thought provoking place. How can you say you enjoyed your visit in the knowledge of all the suffering that went on there? The atmosphere is heavy, cold and eerie. But, at the same time I found it inspiring. I carried Louisa May Gould’s ID card with me, at that stage, unaware of her fate.

The strength of us Brits in times of trouble is somewhat famous, and many would argue quite unique throughout history. So I emerged into the warm daylight from the dark caverns filled with a sense of hope and admiration.

Louisa was a widow when the war started, with 2 sons.

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This photo was taken in 1939.

One of her sons was killed in action, so when she discovered that one of the Russian prisoners had escaped the Nazi’s who were using their prisoners as slave workers, she said “I have to do something for another woman’s son.” She ended up hiding Feodor “Bill” Buryiv for nearly a year in 1943/44.

Betrayed by a neighbour, she was arrested in May 1944 and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment. Sent to France and by August of that year she was in a concentration camp near Berlin, Ravensbruck.

Unfortunately, when the Germans received word that the allies were closing in, they fled the camp, but not before killing everyone in it by constructing make shift gas chambers. Louisa died on the 13th February 1945.

I guess what drew me to this story is that I am a mother of 2 sons myself. Would I have done the same thing? I really don’t know. Louisa knew the consequences, what would happen to her if she got caught. But I guess, that desire to help a young man, when she couldn’t help her own son, was overpowering.

So that’s the basic story, and I’ve been toying with ideas, and the question, how to tell Louisa’s story. I could do it from the POV of “Bill”? Or what about her other son, the one that didn’t get killed in action, how did he feel about it all? Or how about the neighbour, the one that betrayed her. Why did that person do that? Who were they? Or just stick with Louisa’s? And then there’s the choice of 1st person or 3rd person lol.

I think that one of the overriding things that makes me beleive I’m a writer is the fact that I question everything and often describe myself *goes into London mode* as wanting to know “the ins and outs of a ducks arse” lol. Horrible saying I know, but one I grew up with as a child….haven’t got a clue who came up with that one! Anyway, I need to think, I need to make a decision…hey, I need to research lol

Which POV would interest you the most?

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20 thoughts on “The Jersey War Tunnels

  1. This is such an amazing story that needs to be told. People don’t realize the true depth of their history until they come upon stories like this. It can definitely restore your faith in people and the world.

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  2. All of them. It’s not just her story, it belongs to the rest as well. Especially the neighbour. I read a book from Dutch literature (translated!) which told of a family who dragged a dying man from the front of their house to the front of their neighbour’s house, so their neighbour got investigated and punished. It turned out the first family were resistance workers, so any investigation of their house would lead to many resistance workers being caught, not just the family.
    Could be her POV in first person, the rest in third? Or just try out different voices for different parts and see what works best.

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  3. Like you I felt very emotional about the War Tunnels. I personally tell the story of the two sons & of Louisa. The story of the neighbour is also interesting you could research that at a different level.

    Fascinating & I am looking forward to seeing the path you follow with this one! X

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  4. It would certainly be interesting to read the story of each of them as suggested. For me I would like to hear Louisa’s version, she must have been an amazing woman; brave, strong and courageous. I’m sure it will be an interesting read whichever way you go. πŸ™‚

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  5. This is such a touching story – it would make a fantastic novel from almost any angle I think! I look forward to reading it one day…

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  6. The simple answer is it depends on what approach you wish to take. By which I mean, I prefer Louisa’s perspective, but you could add a little something by her being a ghost recalling her story, or better still a person caught in the moment before death recalling how she got to that moment, and what she leaves behind. That does bring with it the question of how to use POV which requires a little more thinking, but as it is looking back…

    Hmm… plenty to think about, but good questions to ask.

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  7. Hi vikki! Did you ever write this story? I am Louisa’s great grandson and I have just arrived home from my first visit to jersey

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