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Douglas' story: helping fellow islanders

A smiling man wearing Red Cross/ Order of St John badgeRebecca McIlhone/British Red CrossFollowing the outbreak of war in August 1914, the British Red Cross and the Order of St John started working together under the protected emblem of the Red Cross.

St John volunteer Douglas Isherwood, 88, became a Red Cross volunteer during the occupation under this arrangement. He and his colleagues provided first aid cover at events and hospitals on Jersey.

“I was on the men’s ward,” says Douglas. “You had to be a bit broad-minded. You had to crack a few unsavoury jokes, just to keep everybody happy.”

To fulfil their duties, Red Cross volunteers were allowed to break the curfews that applied to everyone else during the occupation, but they also had to help with some of the more upsetting tasks.

“There was a naval battle between our ships and the German navy and about 12 or 15 men were washed up here on Jersey,” recalls Douglas. “They couldn’t bury them right away because it was pouring with rain so we spent three nights at the cemetery guarding their coffins.”

Protecting supplies

Another important duty was supervising the handling of the Red Cross food parcels towards the end of the war.

Douglas says: “Some of the German officers might have opened the tins. We said, no you can’t do that under Red Cross regulations. You can pick it up and do anything you like with it, but you can’t open it.”

Like many of the islanders, Douglas’s experiences mean he is still a staunch Red Cross supporter to this day.

“I often think when I see these tremendous volcanic eruptions and other disasters, if I was younger I’d volunteer to go.”

Read more recollections of occupation

Find out how the Red Cross helped the Channel Islands during the war