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From Guernsey to California, via Biberach

From Guernsey to California, via Biberach

Monday 10 October 2022

From Guernsey to California, via Biberach

Monday 10 October 2022

A Guernsey deportee, who is the subject of a new book about life in Biberach during the Second World War, has returned to the island, with family and friends, to celebrate her 88th birthday.

Jill Oliver - née Pay - was eight when she, her younger brother Jack, and their parents were deported to Biberach during the German Occupation of Guernsey.

Jill Oliver

Pictured: Jill Oliver, with (l-r) a nephew, great niece, niece, and another great niece in Guernsey this weekend. 

Relatives who have spent the past few days in Guernsey with her said she never spoke in detail about that part of her life until she made a new friend one Boxing Day.

Sitting next to David Treadway at a friend's house for lunch, he asked her what her oldest Christmas memory was. She said it was in Biberach when her parents, brother and she shared a single orange.

From then their friendship grew and she shared more memories which led to the book One Orange for Christmas, now published.

Mr Treadway, his wife Kate, Mrs Oliver and some of her nephews, nieces, and great nieces arrived in Guernsey last week for her birthday celebrations. They were joined by family members who still live in the island, including members of the Le Huray family.

Jill Oliver

Pictured (l-r): Kate Treadway, a great niece of Jill Oliver and her husband, and David Treadway.

Mrs Oliver was the second youngest of eight children. Her father had four children with his first wife, and four with his second - Mrs Pay's mother. Prior to the Occupation the family home was a property called Debonair, near the airport. While one of her older brothers is believed to have been evacuated to the UK with Les Vauxbelets college, the younger children were sent to Biberach with their parents.

When they returned, they found that Debonair had been used by German Officers. Mrs Oliver's father was short of work after the war as few people could afford dentistry so they moved to the UK before settling in America. 

While at least one brother remained in Guernsey, others also settled in the USA with family members now spread across the world. 

Meeting with Express at the Grange Lodge Hotel, where many of her family were staying during their visit, and which was also used by the German Occupying Forces, Mrs Oliver said Guernsey remains very close to her heart and returning to her family home was a very special experience for her. 

"We have been going to the museums, but the highlight of my life was seeing the house that my dad built and thoroughly being welcomed, having a good time there. We went back the next day and they gave us tea and Jeff Fox who is the owner of the house now took us around Guernsey and showed us some of the bunkers and what was still left from World War Two.

Jill Oliver

Pictured: David Treadway shared photos of his trip to Guernsey with Jill Oliver via the Guernsey Days Gone By Facebook group.

"I just remembered, and knew it was close to the war museum and close to the airport, but actually which street I had no idea but I said to the cab driver 'let's just go down this street, down here' and sure enough we hit this 'T' in the street and I said 'make a left' and he made a left and I said 'just keep going...' and we saw this brick wall made out of Guernsey granite and I said 'it's close to here' then I saw the driveway and I knew that was Debonair. That was the house that my dad built. 

"We were lucky enough to go up into the house. It's very similar! We were able to show a photograph of the house as my dad had built it, which the current owners were thrilled to see. She loved the windows that my dad had put in and both of them were so welcoming, I felt like I had known them all of my life."

This was Mrs Oliver's first time back at her childhood home since she was around 10 or 11 years old. 

"It was really good, I remember playing on the lawn there, and she (Mrs Fox) was pleased to hear about that because her girls play on the lawn and they had remodelled the garage and the greenhouse has gone, they spent some good money on the house, the kitchen has been remodelled and moved, but I remembered where things were and she was pleased to hear about it.

"She didn't know the Germans had occupied the house so she was pleased to know the history of the house."

Jill Oliver

Pictured: Mrs Oliver with two of her nephews and a great niece who all travelled to Guernsey for the weekend.

Sunday was Mrs Oliver's 88th birthday and she had lunch with her extended family at the Cobo Bay Hotel. 

"There's 14 people coming from America, bless all of them, and I think about ten from here, and about four children.

"I have three nieces here and their families, a lot of them have come over and stayed with me too which makes me happy."

Mrs Oliver's closest childhood friend, Mary Mead was also deported to Biberach and has died, but she is in contact with her daughter instead. She also made a new friend on this trip, having met the daughter of another lady who was also at Biberach and has also since died.

"She was charming, we had not met her but she had emailed David, the author of the book One Orange for Christmas. She loved the book - she said it was the best book she's ever read. She was so touched, we both signed it for her - she was thrilled that I had been on the same boat as her mother. She cried buckets - she literally just turned on the fawcet. I thought it was so sweet and it was so nice to meet her. And we've made new friends."

Jill Oliver

Pictured: Mrs Oliver has kept some of her possessions from her time at Biberach, which includes a tapestry she made from discarded thread, and hand drawn cards exchanged with friends also at Biberach including a Mary Mead, who has since died.

Mr Treadway who wrote One Orange for Christmas was pleased to have joined Mrs Oliver and her relatives on this journey - almost a pilgrimage to retrace her childhood steps.

"It's been really special because a lot of research went into it before hand, but now to see the places like Debonair the house in person and to see the Occupation Museum, it had a lot of things that I had researched and I had watched the Island at War series and the Potato Peel Society so to see those places first hand was really, really neat." 


One Orange for Christmas

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