Soon afterwards the bodies of many of the crew were washed ashore on Guernsey’s West coast and were subsequently buried, with full military honours, in the Foulon Cemetery. Thousands of Islanders attended the funeral, which made such an impression that a memorial service is held annually at the Cemetery, even today.
Up to that time the bodies of only three Allied servicemen had been washed ashore in Jersey, and these were buried with military honours at Westmount. But following the sinking of H.M.S. Charybdis, the bodies of members of her crew eventually, (and later than in Guernsey,) began to be washed ashore in Jersey; the total finally amounted to 37, this being 16 more than in Guernsey.
They were placed in a holding grave at Westmount on 17 November 1943, as, with the arrival of the bodies of so many victims of war, the States of Jersey were moved to create an Allied War Cemetery in the Howard Davis Park. The chosen plot of ground was dedicated by the Dean of Jersey on 26 November 1943, and the first burial took place three days later. All the servicemen buried at Westmount were eventually transferred to the Park, as were the remain of Private Hanlon, a guard at the prisoner-of-war camp in St Ouen’s Bay during the First World War, who had died of pneumonia in 1916 and had been buried in St Brelade’s Churchyard.
There was a service of remembrance in the Park on 10 May 1946, when the Bailiff, Sir Alexander Coutanche, and Colonel Drexel Biddle of the U.S. Army, laid wreathes at the cemetery’s memorial stone. Present were pupils from island schools who had tended the graves during the Occupation.
It should be pointed out that, eventually, many servicemen of the U.S. forces were interred in the Park but, in accordance with their normal custom, the American authorities removed the bodies of their war dead to a large, central cemetery in France later in 1946.
In 1993, thanks to the States of Jersey Occupation and Liberation Committee, the opportunity was taken to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Cemetery, and the crew of H.M.S. Jersey, visiting the island for the last time, were present to make this a naval occasion.
Extracts from Leslie Sinel’s Occupation Diary, entries for November and December 1943:
Many bodies of British sailors or marines have and are being washed up around the coasts, especially in the west; these are apparently of men who lost their lives in a naval engagement reported to have taken place in the Gulf of St Malo on the night of October 22, in which the cruiser Charybdis and a destroyer were sunk.
Impressive funeral service held at Mont-à-l’Abbé Cemetery at 9am, as the last of the bodies of 29 British naval men were laid to rest in a common grave. The Dean conducted the service, and those present officially were the Bailiff, the Attorney General, the Constable of St Helier, and representatives of the Red Cross and Order of St John, the British Legion and the Navy League. The Germans had a firing party and a guard of honour from the Army and Navy drawn up at the side of the grave, and after the coffins, covered with the white ensign, had been lowered into the grave, the official wreaths were laid: these were from the States of Jersey, the British Red Cross and Order of St John, the Parish of St Helier, the British Legion, the Jersey Harbourmaster and Staff, the Navy League, the German Navy and the German Army. Later in the day a large number of wreaths sent by private citizens, firms and associations were deposited on the grave.
Many people visit the grave of the British sailors at Mont-à-l’Abbé and more wreaths are placed there. It was subsequently learned that a large number of bodies had also been picked up in Guernsey, and in contrast to the hush-hush policy of the Germans over here the greatest publicity was given to the burial ceremony in the sister Island.
Dedication of a plot of ground in the Howard Davis Park by the Dean of Jersey to be used as an Island of Jersey War Cemetery; in due course the bodies of those airmen and sailors already buried at Mont-à-l’Abbé will be re-interred there.
First internment takes place in the Island War Cemetery, a British naval rating being buried there with full military honours; the German Navy furnished a firing party and guard of honour. The bodies of three more members of the crews of the cruiser Charybdis or of the un-named destroyer sunk off the Islands were recovered today, and the re-internment of bodies buried in Mont-à-l’Abbé Cemetery has commenced.
Early morning ceremony at the Island War Cemetery; burial of six more British naval ratings whose bodies have recently been washed ashore. The Dean and Father Arscott were the officiating clergy, and the Bailiff and other officials attended, the Germans supplying the usual guard of honour and a firing party. A total of 36 men of the Royal Navy, two of the Royal Air Force and one U.S.A. Air Force man have now been buried there, those originally interred at Mont-à-l’Abbé having now been transferred. Various schools take it in turns to keep the graves supplied with flowers.