Channel Islands occupation

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Channel Islands occupation

Post by g.l.s.h » 29 May 2004 16:40


How exactly did the Channel Islands were occupiad in 1940, and why did the Brittish gave them up (they certainly had a few weeks to preper their defence) with no struggle, while they held up other remote Islands?

How come they were not taken back in 1944, and why did the Germans kept them selfs surrounded there?

How were the residents of the Islands treated? were they "closed" in their Island for the whole war?


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Post by Kurt_Steiner » 30 May 2004 16:48

On 16 June 1940 it became clear that Germany’s advancing troops were too close for comfort. The bailiff received orders that all available small craft had to be sent to St Malo to rescue the Allied forces who had become trapped by the advance of the enemy. At first there were plans to defend Jersey - additional troops were sent from the UK - and a compulsory evacuation of the civilian population was also considered. But Germany’s advance swerved towards Rennes, and Churchill made the decision that to defend Jersey would be impractical.

On 19 June, the Lieutenant-Governor of the island announced to the States that he had received the order for demilitarisation from Whitehall, and that he, along with his troops and all military equipment, would be returning to the mainland. Jersey was to be left undefended.

On 28 June, the Germans bombed St Helier harbour and La Rocque. They did not know that Jersey was undefended - England had kept it quiet. Once they established that there were no Allied forces on the island, they decided to occupy it themselves. On 1 July, a paper ultimatum was dropped over Jersey, ordering that large white crosses be painted on certain spots and white flags be flown from all buildings. Not wanting a repeat of the bombing, the islanders complied, and that afternoon about 100 German troops arrived. By December 1940 there were 1,750 Germans on Jersey, and within a year this had increased to 11,500.

Getting off the island
Before the Germans arrived on the island, England had sent ships to evacuate anyone who wished to leave. They were told to register at the Town Hall, and by the end of the next day, more than 23,000 islanders had registered. But far fewer actually left. Many of the islanders who had registered changed their minds, while others tried to get onto the ships but were turned away. Of the 23,000 that had registered, only 6,500 actually left.

The evacuees could only take what they could carry, and this led to all sorts of problems. Cars and pets were abandoned, empty homes were ransacked, and the banks ran out of money as people tried to withdraw their savings.

Once the island was occupied, the only way out for many was to escape. There were more than 140 escape attempts by islanders - but it was extremely dangerous. Nine people drowned, and of those that were caught by the Germans 24 were imprisoned, and one – 19-year-old Douglas Le Marchand - was shot and killed on the beach.

Many left the island against their will, deported to concentration camps on mainland Europe. In September 1942, it was announced that all British-born islanders would be deported to Germany - 1,200 people in all. As well as this, islanders were deported for crimes such as hiding wireless sets in their houses, or helping escaped prisoners of war.

German rule
The German Commandant took up residence in Victoria College (a private school for boys), while military police, as well as secret police in plain clothes, patrolled the streets. The Evening Post was controlled by German editorial staff, and new laws were issued for islanders - including a curfew from 11pm to 5am and a ban on the sale of spirits.

In June 1942, the Germans commanded that all wirelesses be handed in. But in this case the Germans were disobeyed. Islanders hid radios all over the place, in chimneys and piles of manure, as well as building their own crystal radios. But this activity often came at a price. Dozens of letters were sent to the German Field Commander informing on other islanders who had hidden radios. Informants also told on those who were selling or hoarding food, or helping escaped slave workers.

The post office tried to intercept as many of the letters as they could, steaming them open and destroying them. Letters that did get through often led to death or deportation for those that were implicated.

There was also trouble for those who became friendly with Germans. Other islanders didn't think they could trust those who mixed with the enemy - women who spent time with the soldiers were known as 'Jerry-bags' and were shunned.

With all supply routes to the island cut off, Jersey had to survive on what it could provide itself. When the lack of fuel became severe, trees all over the island were cut down – nearly 200,000 in total.

Potato fields were sown with corn, and sugar beet was planted to provide sugar. In addition to this, Jersey was placed under Le Departement de la Manche, meaning that the islanders were allowed the same rations that were granted to occupied France. Nevertheless, by November 1944, the islanders faced starvation. The Germans insisted that it was not their responsibility to feed the islanders, whilst Churchill was determined to let the Germans starve - even if this meant that the islanders starved too. Eventually an agreement was reached, and in December 1944 the SS Vega arrived with food parcels for every islander.

Money was also a problem. By the terms of the Hague Convention, Jersey had to pay all of the expenses of the occupying forces. That meant that at one time the island was financing as many as 16,000 troops, and this number seldom fell to below 10,000. The expenses included food, light and fuel, as well as the wages of the civilian staff and that of the soldiers after D-Day. By the end of the war, the States owed the banks nearly £6 million.

The Western Wall
Anti-aircraft and machine-gun posts riddled the island, but on 20 October 1941, orders were received from Hitler stating that because England might try to recover the Channel Islands, they had to be turned into ‘an impregnable fortress’ as part of his Western Wall defences.

Labourers were brought in from all over occupied Europe, including 1,000 Russian prisoners of war. Hitler’s ‘impregnable fortress’ began to take shape. Wherever a beach was identified as a possible landing area, steel rails, each with an explosive charge, were driven into the sand. Behind these were high anti-tank walls of steel and reinforced concrete, and behind these lay mine fields and masses of barbed wire. To finish off, there were large guns on the higher levels - one of them, in St Martin, could fire as far as France. As well as these defences, the island was covered with camouflaged gun emplacements and dummy houses, complete with flowerpots in the windows which hid machine gun nests.

The Germans also dug huge underground defences and shelters, with the aim of sheltering over 12,000 men and all of their equipment should the island be bombed. The largest was known as Hohlgangsanlage 8 – it took almost three years to build and had a network of tunnels a kilometre long. It was planned as a bombproof barracks, store and workshop, but was converted into a casualty clearing station when the threat of Allied invasion loomed.

The Allied invasion never came. On 8 May 1945, VE Day, two Royal Navy destroyers arrived in Channel Island waters, and on 9 May a declaration of unconditional surrender was signed.

The celebrations continued for several days, with people singing and dancing in the streets. But for the islanders who had helped the Germans it was not so joyful - they were attacked by angry crowds and swastikas were painted on their houses.

28 June to 4 July 1940 Operation Green Arrow took place, the German occupation of the Channel Islands, was achieved swiftly and with few casualties. The islands remained occupied until May 1945.

Sitting just 20 miles off the French coast, the Channel Islands were vulnerable to attack and had no strategic importance to Britain. It was therefore decided that they should not be defended: the islands were demilitarised and the pre-war garrisons and militia assigned to new duties. As the German army moved through France, some 30,000 Channel Islanders (one third of the total population) were evacuated in June 1940. The initial panic over, however, the rest decided to stay and tough it out, mainly on Jersey and Guernsey.

Unaware that the islands were undefended, on 28 June the Luftwaffe bombed Jersey and Guernsey, killing 44 people. Two days later, Luftwaffe personnel took control of Guernsey airfield. There they met the chief of police, who informed them that the islands were undefended. The following day, a detachment of Gotenhafen arrived on Guernsey and that afternoon the German flag was raised. More troops arrived later and their attention turned to the other islands. Jersey surrendered the same day and was quickly garrisoned by a company of troops.

Alderney was almost completely empty, but was garrisoned by a company of troops, while the Dame of Sark, Sybil Hathaway, received German officers on 2 July. They assured her she had nothing to fear and the island's garrison of just ten men arrived on 4 July.The Channel Islands were the only British territories to be occupied by the Germans during the war. They were liberated in May 1945.

They weren't liberated earlier because they were not important to the course of the war.

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channel islands

Post by sauce » 30 May 2004 23:36

One thing I love, is that when the islands were occupied the german's were told by there superiors to treat everyone as if they were in your home town, the germans came in and purchased everything in all the stores, items like chocolate and soda's, things they had not seen at home for many years because of rationing., i have read very few horror story's about the occupation, and one good book that talks about it in great deal is "operation sea lion" by Egbert Kieser.

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Post by g.l.s.h » 01 Jun 2004 09:58


Am I the only one that feels that the fact channel islands were "liberated" only in May 1945, looks outstanding?. It seems that liberating their own territoty was not too important.

I have also heard once that some German comadoes raided an American base in a Normandy coast (Granville i think it was) long ater that area was deep behind the American lines. their starting point, was the channel islands.If thats true, the Channel islands were more that a remote tiny pice of land, with no threat to the allies.

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Post by Hanski » 10 Jun 2004 20:09

Here is a link to a previous discussion on the subject:


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Post by tonyh » 11 Jun 2004 15:49

My Mother was evacuated from the Channel Islands early in 1940. The British government were very well aware that the Germans would try and land there, to deny the British use of the Islands, if for nothing else. As a strategic point, the Islands were of little use.

The account of the High Command telling the Soldiers to behave themselves is quite true and the occupation was peacful, in fact the Germans had to apply to the dame of Sark to land on the Island, because she considered it "her" Island. The Islanders got on well with the German soldiers and vice versa to a large extent, theres a great photo of an English "bobby" (Policeman) standing side by side with a Wehrmacht soldier in the "Timelife" book of the "The Battle of Britain". They got on well with their occupiers, because they had to, there was no food supplies coming from England and the Islanders had to rely on the Germans to ship food from France.

My Grandfather got off the Island and joined the Merchant Navy, but my Grandmother and my Mother's sister Pam stayed on Guernsey. She said, after the war that the German soldiers, by and large very well behaved and quite proper in their manner. They regarded being stationed on the Island as a easy time and certainly weren't going to rock the boat. There was occasionally the odd bit of trouble, but it was trivial, like stealing or black marketing. This usually resulted in a "smack on the wrist" or a spell in the Island's one jail cell!!! Curiously, these actions were usually carried out by the local constabulary, not the German occupying force.

The only incident my mother recalls, although she didn't witness it herself was when a young lad was caught with radio. The German forces stepped in then, but all they did was just take the radio from him and gave him a stern threat not to do it again or else he'd be shipped off to France. Maybe they were so leanient on him because he was very young or because he said that he only used it to listen to football results!

One interesting story, after the invasion of Normandy and the Island became cut off, the Germans asked the British to supply the Island with food. They refused, so life became a little more harder. I don't know how that turned out later during the war though.


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Post by alf » 12 Jun 2004 02:20

The Jersey Island has published its own website on the Occupation,

The Occupation was more muted than other parts of Europe, but Islanders were still sent to concentration camps, Jews were registered and subject to the same discrimation as occurred under Nazism elsewhere, the details are there to read.

Slave labourers died under the hands of the SS (over 600 deaths) are known.

What the Trust has preserved is a window into Nazism and its impact, 3 German and Austrain Jewesses who had immigrated from Germany/Austria to escape Nazism, were caught up on the Island when it was occupied. The Germans shipped them to their deaths at Auschwitz in 1942, putting paid to the myth of what happened to so many German and Austrain Jews who fled Hitlers Regime pre war. If they were caught again they were killed.

A British girl who was half jewess was shipped to a concentration camp (and death) for slapping a German soldier who groped her, an Australian deaf mute was sent to his death for no reason other than he was "disabled".

Some 23 Islanders I think were sent to concentration camps and died, some dozens more, who were shipped off, survived the war

The Occupation came down to who the Germans considered equal or undermensch, the choice was theirs and the power of life and death was theirs.

Again, there was a marked distinction between the Wehrmacht and SS troops there on how they dealt with the civilain population, and what is recorded is how the Civil Authourities also co-operated.

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