Alderney – Homecoming Day celebrations

The entire population of the small Channel Island of Alderney was evacuated during the war. While the islanders were in UK their beloved Alderney was used as a concentration camp by the Germans. When the allies won and Alderney was returned to us it wasn’t cleared of mines & declared safe until December 1945. When the first wave of returning islanders landed back home on Dec 15th they were greeted by scenes of complete devastation – homes had been ransacked, roof timbers burned by POWs attempting to keep warm etc 🙁 While Jersey and Guernsey celebrate Liberation Day in May, the citizens of Alderney hold Homecoming Day celebrations 7 months later.

During the war the 6 bells of St Anne’s, Alderney had been removed from the tower by the Germans with some taken to France. After the war all were returned but one was cracked and all were badly chipped. Recasting took place in 1953 and a local band established in the 70’s. Augmenting the bells to 12 in 2013 has resulted in many good peal bands passing through – each one happily spending many hours developing the skills of the local ringers. The Reading ringers (Jack Page and John & June Wells in particular) have been particularly sympathetic to our needs and generous with their time – we would not be where we are today without them. Gradually we have become confident with triples and major and can now ring creditable plain hunt on 9 on a practice night.

Using our many visitors, all of our ‘advanced’ ringers scored quarter peals on 8 over the summer, & last week we rang our first all-local quarter of bob triples. Combining a strong desire to participate in the 70th anniversary of Homecoming celebrations with a definite ‘coming of age’ of our local band we attempted the first ever full peal by a local band on Alderney on Dec 15th. I am very grateful to Stephen Rossiter (tower captain) for agreeing to call the peal, with such an inexperienced band it was quite an undertaking. Our first pealers = Pam Pearson (treble) learned on Alderney about 7 years ago, has rung one quarter on 8 with a visiting band and the local one of bob triples last week. Aileen Wilson (2) learned on Alderney 3 years ago has rung 8 quarters on 8 & 8+ bells, and one handbell peal over the summer. Heather Winder returned to ringing when she retired to Alderney 3 years ago having been lapsed for more years than she is prepared to reveal has rung 5 quarters on 8 & 8+ bells. Victoria McAllister (tenor) learned on Alderney about 7 years ago has rung one quarter of bob major and last week the local quarter of bob triples. Philippa Arditti (3) who learned as a girl in Bucks, but spent 20 years in HK & Scotland, returned to ringing when she moved to Alderney 5 years ago, Philippa has rung 3 peals. Helen McGregor (5), Peter Bevis (6) and Stephen Rossiter (7) can muster all of only 600 peals between them! Our first peal by an Alderney local band was well rung and no-one listening to it would have realised how inexperienced most of the ringers were – well done the Alderney band – a fitting contribution to the Homecoming Day celebrations.

By Helen McGregor