Gleaner leads Liberation Day celebrations in Jersey

Sailors from the smallest ship in the Royal Navy proudly paraded through the heart of St Helier to help Channel Islanders celebrate the 72nd anniversary of their liberation from Nazi tyranny.

The crew of Her Majesty's Survey Motor Launch Gleaner joined local military and cadet forces for the annual re-enactment and celebration of events on May 9 1945.

The Channel Islands were the only part of the mother country to be occupied by German forces in World War 2.

They were so heavily fortified by the Nazis that no attempt was made to liberate them when Allied forces freed neighbouring Normandy and Brittany in the summer of 1944.

The marchers headed to Liberation Square passing a sea of crowds cheering and waving flags.

Instead, islanders endured nearly an extra year under the jackboot until German forces across Europe threw in the towel, prompting the dispatch of a small task force to Jersey and Guernsey to take the surrender of German forces and re-establish British rule.

Ever since, the anniversary of liberation has been a day of major celebration; 2017 was no exception as Jersey folk lined up outside the States Building to the accompaniment of music from the Band of the Island of Jersey for the annual parade.

The marchers headed to Liberation Square passing a sea of crowds cheering and waving flags.

After falling out, various re-enactments were performed for the spectators, who filled the streets to near capacity, before there was a more solemn act of thanksgiving and commemoration.

"It was great to be part of the celebrations," said AB(HM) Joel Bradley.

"I especially enjoyed the march as we got so much support from the locals who were cheering us on the whole time."

Gleaner's crew then led the way along with Jersey Field Squadron for the final march past, where the salute was taken by Jersey's Lieutenant Governor, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton.

Afterwards, all parade participants were hosted by the bailiff in the Pomme d'Or hotel - where the Union Flag was first raised again back in 1945 - and had a chance to meet local veterans from all three Services.

"Even though we've only been here for a few days everyone has made us feel so welcome," said Gleaner's executive officer Lt Max Parsonson said.

"The crew are really looking forward to the work we have ahead of us but today has been all about enjoying the parade and meeting some of the locals."

Gleaner has just completed the initial survey of Portsmouth Harbour ahead of the arrival of new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and is now conducting a detailed survey of Saint Helier, resuming work that she started last summer; she will stay there for several months before hopping back across the Channel.