Q. But when you have tens of thousands of young men and women in one place, it’s inevitable what will happen. The Jersey Channel Islands Occupation Society's collection of Occupation ephemera, photographs, etc. A. The Islands of Guernsey are what’s known as an ‘archipelago’ – a collection of islands located on the English Channel between England and France. I was quite shocked to hear how angry people can get about this subject even all these years later. Throughout Europe there had been a massive campaign, partly encouraged by the BBC, to encourage people to chalk up V-signs on buildings. On October 3rd 1942, 12 British Commandos of the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) launched ‘Operation BASALT’ raiding Sark Island to capture prisoners and offensive reconnaissance. The Channel Islands were liberated a day after the official end of the war in Europe and this joyous event is celebrated annually on 9 May. When the slave workers escaped, locals would often let them hide in their homes. The handling of the situation led to a lot of people losing trust in the Germans. Finally, in 1945, an announcement was given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill: Having a relationship with someone from the ‘other side’ was considered much worse than some of the wrongdoings that – to me – seemed more deserving of anger: collaboration, dodgy trading with the Germans, etc. The five-year occupation came to an end on 9 May 1945 - Liberation Day, an event still celebrated in Jersey with an annual Bank Holiday. Here, Rachel Dinning talks to Duncan Barrett, author of Hitler's British Isles, to find out what it was like to live under German rule. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to fall under Nazi Occupation during World War Two.. After the German offensive raced through France, the British government concluded in June 1940 that the islands were indefensible; island officials were ordered to demilitarise and some citizens were evacuated to mainland Britain. Little did they know this would be for almost five years. Rachel Dinning is Digital Editorial Assistant at HistoryExtra, Save over 50% on a gift subscription to their favourite history magazine. Many of them lived in people’s houses, so if you had a spare room, then you were likely to have a German living with you. Personalities: Major Friedrich Knackfuss Feldkommandant of the Islands from 1941-1944 standing with an Islander on a promenade in Guernsey The soldiers did hand themselves in, but the Germans went back on their promise and they were sentenced to death. Guernsey was officially occupied from 30th June 1940 when it was left undefended after the British Government decided to de-militarise it. Some were sent to prisons and camps, while others resisted with acts of protest and defiance between 1940 and 1945. Although the Germans treated the local people reasonably well, they imported slave workers from various European countries to build the fortifications on the island. 9th May is a Bank Holiday on the Islands of Guernsey, and Guernsey’s capital town of St Peter Port comes alive with thousands of people attending parades, firework displays, live music, entertainment and activities for everyone to enjoy. The pig-owner had to pretend that he hadn’t understood the original question – and luckily, he got away with it. German soldiers standing at an intersection in Jersey during the WWII occupation of the Channel Islands. It was extremely tough, but compared to the German occupation in France or Holland it was a much ‘softer’ occupation. Thanks! The five-year German occupation came to an end on 16 May 1945 and the first day the islanders were able to return to their island on December 15 is known as Homecoming Day, an event still celebrated in Alderney with an annual Bank Holiday. People were always pushing the boundaries of what they could get away with. German armed forces ruled the Channel Islands from June 1940 until May 1945. Islands in Danger: Story of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands, 1940-45 by Alan Seaton-Wood: 1945: Jersey Occupied: The German Armed Forces in Jersey 1940-1945 by Michael Ginns: 1945: Jersey Under the Jackboot by R. C. F. Maugham: 1945: The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands Under German Rule 1940-1945 by Madeleine Bunting: 1945 Channel Islands Liberated- the End of German Occupation, Channel Islands, 1945 D24595 Receiving a message from the Germans agreeing to a meeting at midnight on 8–9 May, the ships returned to the same south west coast location off Guernsey and a German … A. All five Islands quickly found themselves under German rule, each serving their own purpose for what became known as ‘Hitler’s Island Madness’ as the Channel Islands became the most fortified place in the world. Those who were discovered to be having these illicit relationships had their heads shaved and were ‘tarred and feathered’ – had liquid tar and feathers poured over them. Speaking your mind could get you into a lot of trouble. the occupation and liberation of the channel islands 1940-1945 HU 25932. The whole book can be found under Resources on the Occupation Memorial website. It gives a good overview in different sections from invasion to liberation. Everything you ever wanted to know about... Nazi wives: the women beside Hess, Goebbels, Göring and Himmler. Subscribe to latest events View Event Website Events you might be interested in. This page tells the story of the two Woolworth stores during the period of German occupation. Sark itself is still a unique time capsule as one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned and exploring on foot, by bike or on a horse drawn carriage is the best way to get around. 30 June 1940 : Occupation began 15 Sept 1942 : Deportation order 27 Dec 1944 : Red cross ship Vega arrives with food 9 May 1945 : Liberation The occupation of the Channel Islands by the Germans may have been a small episode in the Second World War, but it … Even so, over twenty civilians died for resistance against the occupiers. But, many parents tell a different story as their future was looking increasingly uncertain as the years went by. He considered the Channel Islands to be his ‘stepping stone’ to the British Isles. While there were a few real Nazis – individuals committed to national socialism and Hitler – the majority of Germans on the island were just ordinary soldiers who wanted to go back to their homes and families. Many local people saw the Germans as normal men who had found themselves in uniform. 69th Liberation Day 2014, The Guernsey Event Company, *Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the events below have been put on hold. It was a meal you could make if you only had potatoes, with potato peelings on top. 5621230. They couldn’t speak freely, they were living under curfew and they were often struggling for food. A. I interviewed hundreds of residents for my book, Hitler’s British Isles, and something that came up repeatedly was this idea that “there were Nazis, and there were Germans”. While there wasn’t a resistance in the militarised sense of the word, there were definitely moments of rebellion – acts of arson and graffiti, for example. Author of The British Channel Islands Under German Occupation 1940-45 A fifth of all the defence works in the so-called Atlantic Wall - a defensive line stretching from the Baltic to the Spanish Frontier - were built on the Channel Islands. When the Germans became aware that there were British soldiers on the island, they set an ultimatum: the soldiers were to hand themselves in by a certain date and they would be sent to a prisoner of war camp to live out the remainder of the war in safety. Thank you for subscribing to HistoryExtra, you now have unlimited access. In Jersey the arrival of the invader was equally un-dramatic. The Channel Islands were the only part of Britain to have been occupied by German forces in World War II. Around half of the Islands’ population including four fifths of school children were evacuated to the UK. The substantial German garrison and small size oif the islands meant that resistance was impossible. Guernsey’s history is a fascinating one that spans centuries. Although they were granted a last-minute reprieve on Christmas Eve 1940, by this point one of the men’s fathers had already committed suicide. You can unsubscribe at any time. Just a fortnight earlier Whitehall had ordered the Channel Islands to be demilitarised and had carried out elaborate voluntary evacuation plans. Alderney’s experience of the Occupation was very different to the other Islands, but at just 3 miles long by 1 ½ miles wide, it packs a great deal of history into its modern day visitor offerings with natural trails, military walks, Victorian forts, bunker open days and other annual events and tours. Guernsey and the other Channel Islands were occupied by German Forces during the Second World War. Some of them were actively looking for opportunities to form friendly relationships with the locals and to prove that they weren’t the kind of monsters that they had been painted as by Allied propaganda. From changing the clocks to reflect the time in Germany to restricting activities such a fishing, club meetings and the singing of patriotic songs, islanders had to abide by these newly imposed laws otherwise they would have been arrested, or even faced the risk of being deported. Jack Higgins has lived in Jersey for over 30 years, in which time he has taken a special interest in the German Occupation of the Channel Islands. Against The Tide book. It is a time to think about how relieved and happy everyone must have felt. Although there were instances where the people in authority made questionable decisions to keep the peace, you have to remember that everyone was in a very difficult situation and it’s easy to judge actions in hindsight. WWII fortifications across the Islands of Guernsey were constructed by captured men forced into work. Alderney was the only Channel Island to be evacuated during WWII as the island became part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall. A. For 75 years, Liberation Day has and will continue to be celebrated on 9th May, while Sark Island celebrates theirs on the 10th. Although considered to be hidden gems, the islands were not able to evade German occupation during World War II and subsequently the number of fortifications that still stand today and the history that surrounds them is both fascinating and astonishing. Some ended up in prison or even lost their lives for going against German authority. I interviewed one woman who was a small girl at the time of the occupation. As a popular place for walking through naturally beautiful surroundings, it is hard to imagine that it was once part of such turbulent times. From 1st April right through until the end of October, 75+ heritage themed events will take place in Guernsey, Herm, Sark, Alderney and Lihou. Depending on the area, there could be as many as one to two Germans per islander. A. Years before WWII took hold, the famous French writer Victor Hugo – writer of Les Misérables – called Guernsey home for 15 years in the 1800s and the Island is well-known for its Neolithic remains, ancient dolmens, tales of folklore, cultural traditions, Roman influences, Napoleonic fortifications and so much more. The mounting pressure on food and ration supplies resulted in the early release of prisoners, but the situation was becoming critical. They were in a precarious position: if they were discovered and classified as spies, then they could be shot. She brought with her food and medical supplies. I would also argue that the so-called ‘model occupation’ became harder to sustain as tensions grew and trust began to break down. Some even remember specific acts of kindness from soldiers who wanted to help rather than take control. ‘Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight. Tens of thousands of islanders had been evacuated to Britain just before the Germans arrived on the Channel Islands in 1940, and when they returned there was a difficult period of reintegration. Copyright © Historic UK Ltd. Company Registered in England No. Herm Island, which is only 20 minutes away from Guernsey by ferry, was initially passed by the Germans but was later claimed by the Third Reich on July 20th 1940. (Public domain) After their liberation in 1945, a silence fell over the islands … Islanders all had different experiences of the war as some sadly lost their lives and loved ones, while others formed civil relationships and found new ways to live with their enemies. A German control tower and observation post with radar in St Ouen, Jersey during the German occupation of the Channel Islands, pictured in 1945 (Picture: TopFoto/PA). A large number of these people were Russians who were treated particularly badly by the Nazis, who viewed them as “Untermenschen” (sub-human). Although these were just notes written to a child, she was very worried about showing them to me in case I thought she had been a ‘collaborator’. This was for two reasons: firstly, Britain didn’t have the resources to fight for the islanders, and the local people had been told not to resist; secondly, the geography of the Channel Islands would have made it very difficult for a potential resistance to hide and organise ­– the islands were very small, flat and easily searched. On this day, 30 th June 1940, the German occupation of the Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Herm and Sark) began. Yes, the title of the film is not an exaggeration – potato peel pie really was a dish that people were eating at the time. Others remained undiscovered or in hiding. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. In Guernsey, three women who were deported ended up at Auschwitz and were killed there. There is a lot of high feeling and controversy surrounding this period in the Islands’ history. One could say it is a miracle that the remains of the Priory were not completely destroyed as you can still go and see them to this very day. He is also Patron of The Jersey Film Society. This was exemplified in an instance relatively early on, in 1940, when two local Guernsey lads who had signed up to the British Army returned to the island on a reconnaissance mission. From the Publisher We produce a large number of books about the German Occupation of the Channel Islands and this has been our best seller by far. Towards the end of the war, the question wasn’t whether the allies would win, but whether they would die of starvation before the island could be liberated. Obviously not every Guernsey resident felt the same way. It took a long time for these two sides of society to make peace with those different experiences. If you subscribe to BBC History Magazine Print or Digital Editions then you can unlock 10 years’ worth of archived history material fully searchable by Topic, Location, Period and Person. There was humanitarian resistance too. Location: Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark) Outcome: Operation Green Arrow, the German occupation of the Channel Islands, was achieved swiftly and with few casualties. With Saskia Reeves, Owen Teale, Julia Ford, Clare Holman. The official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine, Save over 50% on a BBC History Magazine or BBC History Revealed gift subscription, Occupied by the Germans between 1940 and 1945, the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to have been seized by the Nazi regime. About The Channel Islands; Latest information on COVID-19 and travel to Jersey & Guernsey ... German Occupation - Fortifications and Military History Share . Before the war, the island had been massively reliant on importing and exporting with the mainland. There are many families living in Guernsey whose parents or grandparents can recall specific details from life as a child during the Occupation. There seems to be a problem, please try again. The Germans issued a range of strict regulations. Duncan Barrett is the author of Hitler’s British Isles, which is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in June 2018. They managed to do a certain amount of trading with France – the Germans actually allowed that – but after D-Day [the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944], they were cut off and began to starve. The German Occupation of Guernsey, Channel Islands Visit Guernsey May 8, 2019 The biggest impact on the Islands during the 20th century was when … The islands had a very high number of German soldiers compared to the civilian population, one soldier for every 2-3 civilians, which reduced options; this linked to the severe penalties imposed by the occupiers meant that only forms of non-lethal resistance were used by the population. This was the case for both sides – the Germans could be in trouble for forming relationships with the local women­ too. 68th Liberation Day 2013, The Guernsey Event Company. This timeline of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands is an edited and abridged version of that contained in Paul Sanders’ 2005 book The British Channel Islands under German Occupation 1940-1945. The Islands were the only British territory Hitler ever conquered, and locals had most of their lands, belongings, food and freedom taken away. The Nazi occupation of part of the British Isles had begun. German invasion After the loss of the Battle of France, the UK deemed the Channel Islands to be of little strategic importance. So if the Germans had invaded Britain, I think people would have been able to fight back in a way that just wasn’t possible on the Channel Islands. It gives islanders a chance to rejoice in their freedom and reflect on those who had to endure everything that the Occupation brought with it. What was Christmas like in Britain during the Second World War? It varied between the islands to some extent. There was one woman, for example, who was working for a pro-Nazi Swiss chef. The smaller islands of Sark fell on 2 July and Alderney on 4 July 1940. From themed tours and guided walks to exhibitions, family fun days and exclusive site openings, visitors will be able to delve into a wide range of experiences. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. German planes bombed the harbour in Guernsey’s capital parish of St Peter Port after mistaking a group of tomato lorries for a convoy of troop carriers and, after 48 hours, German troops began to land and their flag was raised. It is also a day of remembrance for those who bravely fought and lost their lives to serve an Island that thousands are proud to call home. Many of the men who had served in the First World War, and who were perhaps too old to fight in the Second World War, found it difficult to accept the presence of the Germans. So there was definitely this feeling among the locals that they were judged by the outside world for even quite innocent interactions like that. https://www.visitguernsey.com/heritage75. The Channel Islands, two British territories, fell under German occupation in 1940 during WWII. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. The Channel Islands were the only part of the Britain Isles to be occupied by German forces in WW2. Most Jews had already evacuated from the islands before the Germans arrived. The smallest of the four main Channel Islands, Sark is located some 80 miles from the south coast of England and only 24 miles from the north coast of France. Rumours had spread through the islands about the ship’s arrival, and emotions were running high as islanders shouted with gratitude and cried with relief once it entered the harbour. Guernsey is the largest of five, and its sister Islands of Herm, Sark, Alderney and Lihou are a short boat trip (or even walk) away. However please join the islanders for their virtual celebrations: more details at During the German Occupation of WW2, almost half of Guernsey residents were evacuated, but many families chose to stay. And our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.’. There were people who did denounce their neighbours or became paid informants working directly for the Germans, but it would be unfair to call the vast majority ‘collaborators’. At the same time, for five years the residents lived an existence that wasn’t completely free. The German occupation of the Channel Islands still haunts Britain's image of itself at war. I feel a degree of sympathy for the islanders because they were really abandoned by Britain during the war. You have successfully linked your account! A. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions and privacy policy. Please enter your number below. When the tide is right, you can walk over and explore the abundance of flora and fauna, a Benedictine Priory from the 12th century and a crystal clear Venus Pool. People didn’t always get off so lightly. Some children would play pranks on German soldiers, while others were excited by the arrival of alien-like army trucks. 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