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A History of Guernsey told through Maurice's pipe
wooden carved pipe
The pipe was carved with a razor blade in the shape of the Kaiser's head

The story attached to this special object tells a history of the island - and the eventual role-reversal which followed the end of World War II.

"He was just in a green uniform with 25 others - he was there for half a minute, and then gone."

This is all Maurice Sangan remembers of the German prisoner who traded him a hand-carved wooden pipe for tobacco.

He got in touch with BBC Guernsey when he heard the A History of the World project was looking for your objects.

His story starts when he returned to Guernsey after five years of evacuation in September 1945 when he was 15 years old.

He found work in 1946 with his uncle, Jack Bridle, who was a cabinet maker.

Maurice Sangan
His training in the Sea Cadet Corps helped him recognise the danger

It was whilst working on the Grandes Rocques hotel, which had been commandeered by the Germans, that he spotted a frightening object from the roof.

"Looking down I saw the high tide bursting against a cleft in the rocks, and crashing a large, black sea mine with horns against it."

"I couldn't believe my eyes. I knew immediately what it was."

Maurice picked up the knowledge through training with the Army cadets for two years, then the sea cadets for one year whilst in England.

He raced down the stairs - shouting "a mine!"

His uncle phoned the police station, which mobilised the bomb disposal squad.

At that time the beach ordinance corps were still clearing the beaches of barbed wire and land mines using a contingent of German prisoners.

I didn't want to damage it - didn't want to wear it out... I thought it was a lovely thing.
Maurice Sangan

As work started to disarm the mine, they continued hiding - knowing if it went off, they'd be "mincemeat".

Maurice lit his pipe while waiting in the hot sun, and was approached by one of the Germans, looking for a fill.

He briskly told the prisoner to "clear off", but the German's friend proposed that for a little tobacco, he'd trade Maurice a pipe he carved out of white wood, with a razor blade, in the shape of the Kaiser's head.

Maurice Sangan
Maurice has only smoked the pipe once for fear of wearing it out

"I, considering that to be a good bargain, offered him my tobacco pouch."

Maurice still has the pipe to this day - having only smoked it once.

"Well I didn't want to damage it - didn't want to wear it out, because its quite a fragile thing... I thought it was a lovely thing."

Maurice said the pipe had travelled all over the world with him wherever he lived, or was stationed in the Royal Air Force.

For the young Maurice, who collected pipes at the time, the object was a welcome acquisition.

He said he had never seen anything like it since.




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