I always rise well before breakfast
when we stay in Jersey and walk briskly along the cliff tops to
Groznez Castle. The route takes me past numerous reminders of the
German occupation. The marks they left on the island are literally
set in stone. Gun emplacements and underground bunkers litter the
coastline. It is easy to think back to those days and picture the
soldiers who manned them.
One outstanding structure is the Target Direction Finding Tower
perched on the cliff top at St. Ouens Bay. The tower stands perhaps
one hundred feet high and has a vista of nearly all of the lonely
North Jersey coastline. I have paused there many times on my
solitary walks to the ruined Castle. If I had been walking there
during the last World War my approach would, no doubt, have been
monitored by a soldier manning a machine gun. The barrel would have
been pointed at me through one of the ominous looking gun slits set
into the side of the circular tower.
The early morning sun shone brightly promising another hot
August day. I was on my way back to the hotel after touching the
ancient Castle walls. I stopped for a while to examine the German
tower once again. The size and strength of it has always impressed
me. Tons of concrete, hard labour and possibly even lives must have
gone into its construction. I went round to the seawardside of the
building to gaze at the view that the Germans must have looked on
all those years ago. A slight slip filled my shoe with a few small
chips of granite. I tried to ignore them but it was clear that
walking would be painful without getting rid of them.
With a sigh I sat on the roof of the bunker attached to the
tower and took off my shoe. A mans voice came from somewhere behind
"If you had proper boots on you wouldn't be troubled with that"
"You're right" I replied banging my shoe on the concrete roof "I
really am going to buy a pair one of these......" my voice trailed
off. Something was wrong. Something about the words? Yes maybe that
was it. Possibly it was that I hadn't heard any footsteps
approaching on the gravely surface. There had been no one at the
tower as I walked towards it. I slowly turned around.
Momentarily I thought someone was there, but no, there was only
the tower, the rocks and the sea. No sign of anyone. Then a faint
smell of tobacco smoke filled my nose. Laying on the ground a few
feet away was the still smouldering remains of a cigarette. My skin
began to crawl as realisation dawned and fear set in. The voice had
spoken to me in German and I had understood it perfectly. Even more
incredible was that I had replied in German. A language I know
I slipped my shoe on and, without tying the lace, ran. After a
while I sat exhausted on a rock and gazed back at the distant tower
standing out against the skyline. I hoped that I had imagined the
whole episode. The implications of it's reality could dispel a
lifetime of scepticism. I swore that I would never risk visiting
the tower again.