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  • Guernsey Liberation Day celebrations
  • Jersey War Tunnels
  • War Tunnels in Jersey
  • Fort Hommet, Guernsey
  • Liberation Day girl

Channel Islands Occupation

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

The Legacy of World War II in 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 Atlantic Wall

During World War II, Hitler saw The Channel Islands Occupation as part of a strategic defence strategy and formed plans to militarise them as part of a huge Atlantic Wall against Britain. Occupying forces moved in for 5 years from 1940 until 1945, creating a huge and lasting presence on both the islanders and the islands.

Occupation on each island

By 1940, The Channel Islands were being promoted as tourism destinations in an effort to boost the morale of British Citizens. However when the Battle of France took place in June, 46 Whitley bombers were sent from Guernsey and Jersey to assist efforts in Italy. When the battle was lost, Winston Churchill took the decision to de-militarise the islands, unbeknown to Hitler. As bombs began to fall on 28 June 1940, in the ensuing confusion, authorities on each island took their separate decisions as to whether evacuation was necessary. Guernsey prepared to evacuate its children with parents given an option to go with them, Herm remained relatively unscathed and Sark’s Dame, Sybil Hathaway, chose to treat the new occupants as guests. In Jersey the majority of the population stayed whilst Alderney residents were ordered to evacuate entirely. By 1st July, Nazi flags were flying high on all the islands.

The Channel Islands, a military history

As you visit the Channel Islands today, you can’t fail to notice military looking fortifications dotted around the coastlines. The Channel Islands have a long military history of being variously claimed by Britain and France and many fortifications date back to Napolean’s time. When German forces entered during World War II, many of the former military sites were adapted for new purpose. There are a number of excellent museums in Jersey and Guernsey which bring to life events of the time. 

Jersey Occupation – places to visit

Channel Islands Military Museum

A former German bunker with a collection of memorabilia.

Jersey War Tunnels and German Underground Hospital

Set in the actual tunnels dug by German prisoners of war, learn the fascinating history of the Occupation in Jersey with exhibits and interactive displays.

Battery Lothringen

Command bunker at Noirmont Point in St Brélade is open to the public.

Marine Peilstand or MP Towers

Can be seen around the island. Intending 6 to be used as look outs to sea, only 3 were eventually built. MP1 is part of Battery Lothringen, the radio tower at Corbière lighthouse serves as MP2 and MP3 is part of Battery Moltke.

Battery Moltke

Situated at St Ouen has one bunker open with public access.

Hohlgangsanlagen

A network of various cave like tunnels around the island. Ho8 is a museum.

Plémont guardhouse

Adapted from an 18th Century battery to have a tank turret and contain an emplacement with twin machine guns, an observation post and searchlight shelter.

10.5cm Jäger Casemate

Situated at various coastline locations with Corbiere the fullest example and operating as a museum. St Ouen’s Bay is another location, also operating as a museum although lacking a gun. There are 2 unrestored examples at Elizabeth Castle.

4.7cm Festung Pak 36 (t) Casemate

Often added to sea walls. CIOS operate a museum at Millbrook where one is situated.

Multiple Sechsschartentürme

Six looped turrets can be seen around the island with one at Corbiere now a museum although lacking its turret.

Noirmont headland, St Brelade
La Valette Underground Museum, Guernsey
Fort Pezeries, Guernsey

Guernsey Occupation – places to visit

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.