- La Vallette Underground Military Museum, La Valette, Guernsey
Believing the Channel Islands held enormous propaganda value, Hitler laid down a directive that they be made into “impregnable fortresses”. Huge quantities of concrete, weapons and men were transported to the Islands, making them the most heavily fortified place on earth. By 1944, the Channel Islands had ‘more guns than 600 miles of the Normandy Coast’. Forced labour camps were set up, with ‘slave’ workers and Operation Todt workers from Europe often treated poorly; some, sadly, lost their lives from exhaustion.
La Valette Underground Military Museum is situated in a German underground tunnel complex constructed by these workers. This particular tunnel was built as a fuel store for German U-boats, but was never finished. Work on the conversion of the tunnels into a Museum started in late 1987 and took two years to complete.
In late May 1944, in the build-up to the invasion of France, Allied Forces planned to destroy all long range radar installations in the vicinity of northern France. The Freya radar site which was located at Fort George, just along from this museum, was particularly significant, as it covered the area to the west of the Normandy beaches. Two attacks were made by the RAF to take out the radar. There were multiple casualties and 8 Allied aircraft lost. This resulted in the Allied Forces deciding to bypass the Islands in the D-Day Landings due to their heavy fortification.
This award-winning Museum covers all aspects of The Islands of Guernsey’s military history, with large sections devoted to both the German occupation and the Liberation of the Islands.
The Liberation of the Channel Islands
The Channel Islands were left undefended by British forces throughout WWII and lived under German Occupation for five long years. On 9 May 1945, liberating Allied forces negotiated the surrender of the Islands. Landing in both Guernsey and Jersey, they were greeted by crowds of cheering Islanders, joyously celebrating their freedom.