The Occupation of Guernsey

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  • Guernsey Liberation Day celebrations
  • Fort Hommet
  • Guernsey Occupation Museum
  • La Valette Underground Museum
  • Liberation Day girl

The Occupation of Guernsey during World War II

Channel Islands Heritage Festival 2017

8th April – 10th May

A pan island history festival to celebrate the islands’ 70th Liberation anniversary

Liberation Day 70th Anniversary 2017

9th May – Jersey, Guernsey & Herm

10th May – Sark, 16th May – Alderney

How World War II affected the Channel Islands

Today Liberation Day is celebrated in Jersey, Guernsey and Herm 9th May, Sark on 10th May whereas Alderney remembers Liberation Day as the 16th May but also commemorates the day its residents returned as ‘Homecoming Day’ on 15th December.

Hitler’s Invasion

Situated just a few miles from France but part of the British Isles, Hitler saw the Channel Islands as a strategic way of gaining ground against Britain and defending Nazi occupied Europe from an invasion. He planned a huge military campaign centred around the concept of an Atlantic Wall with manned defences running from Scandinavia to the Channel Islands. From 1940 until 1945, the Channel Islands were under German Occupation but the legacy the occupation left on them remains today.

How the Channel Islands responded to Occupation

In the 1940’s, with the threat of war looming and in an attempt to boost morale, the Channel Islands enjoyed their first real status as a holiday destination for British people. However, by June islanders were involved in the Battle of France with 46 Whitley bombers from the islands taking part. As the battle was lost, Winston Churchill de-militarised the islands unbeknown to Hitler. As German invasion began on 28 June 1940, each separate island reacted differently. Parents in Guernsey were given the option to evacuate with their children whilst the majority of Jersey’s population remained on the island. In Alderney entire evacuation was ordered whilst Herm and Sark remained relatively untouched by events. By 1st July, Nazi rule had to be obeyed on all the Channel Islands.

Guernsey Occupation – places to visit

Many of the bunkers and military defences situated around the islands originated from Napoleon’s time and were re-occupied during the Occupation. New tunnels were built with forced labour and military underground hospitals and networks of tunnels survive today and are able to be visited as museums.

Clarence Battery

Built during the French Revolution, the building housed the Luftwaffe early arming system during the Second World War.

Fort Doyle

Taken over during WWII, the fort was originally a defence against French invasion.

Fort Le Marchant

17th Century Fort with 18th Century additions.

Fort Pezeries

18th Century gun platform with 3 canon.

German Military Underground Hospital

The unfinished largest German structure in the Channel Islands, carved out of rock by slave workers as a casualty hospital for German soldiers.

German Occupation Museum

Learn about the history of Guernsey’s Occupation with life-size re-creations, memorabilia and anti-tank guns.

La Valette Underground Military Museum

Learn about the military history of Guernsey, including both World Wars.

Rousse Tower

19th Century defence tower.

St Jaques Naval Headquarters

The site of German naval transmissions in St Peter Port.

Alderney Occupation – places to visit

Alderney’s Occupation history is immense. Completely evacuated for 5 years, the residents returned to find their island devastated and land mines a constant threat. Military bases, fortifications and look outs surrounded the coastline and four concentration camps had been dug in a network of underground tunnels by forced labourers. Lager Sylt was the only Nazi concentration camp on British soil. Today Lagers Helgoland, Norderney, Borkum and Sylt are closed to the public. Contact Visit Alderney for more information about which bunkers and fortifications are available to visit, including:

  • 5 Coastal Batteries
  • 13 Strong points
  • 22 Anti-aircraft Batteries
  • 12 Resistance Nests
  • 3 Defence Lines

Sark and Herm during the Occupation

Sark’s Dame Sybil Hathaway, refused to admit Occupation and instead treated the German invaders as invited guests, making them sign a guest book! The island escaped relatively free from harm as did Herm, where the only real involvement was as a scene for a German propaganda film staged to make British Citizens believe The Isle of Wight had been captured.

Liberation Day girl
La Valette Underground Museum, Guernsey
Fort Pezeries, Guernsey