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Occupied Islands – True Stories (Guernsey)

The Islands of Guernsey are located in the English Channel, just 30 miles from the Normandy coast. All five of these beautiful Islands have a great deal of WWII history as they were the only British territory that Hitler conquered and were occupied by German forces for five years from June 1940. The number of fortifications and carefully preserved time capsules that still exist for modern day visitors are both astonishing and fascinating, making the Islands the perfect place for history buffs and newbies alike. 75 years ago, on 8th May 1945, Winston Churchill announced the end of the war in Europe and the Islands of Guernsey were freed on the following day which has since been annually celebrated as ‘Liberation Day’ on 9th May. It gives Islanders a chance to rejoice in their freedom and reflect on those who had to endure the hardships that the Occupation brought with it.

Heritage75

As 2020 will mark 75 years since the Islands were freed, a special 7-month long festival called ‘Heritage75’ will be running from 1st April until the end of October. 75+ heritage themed events will take place in Guernsey, Herm, Sark, Alderney and Lihou. 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. The Islands of Guernsey are proud to be part of the Liberation Route Europe and featured events will be published right here on the Europe Remembers website while the full list is available at visitguernsey.com.

Occupied Islands – True Stories 

Real people, real stories. Go on a guided walk with an Accredited Guide in Guernsey as they bring personal stories from the German Occupation of WWII to life. A wide range of walks will be taking place during Heritage75, but the following will specifically focus on personal anecdotes, local families and the emotions felt by many Islanders during the Occupation. 

1. True Stories with Victoria Robinson (Mrs Mahy’s Occupation Memories) 

Saturday 4 and Saturday 25 April / 2pm – 5.30pm 

If you were inspired by the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, then hear the real life recollections of a local islander, Miriam Mahy, who remained in Guernsey throughout the Occupation. When the news arrived that the island was to be occupied in 1940 nearly half the island’s population evacuated to the mainland. Those who stayed faced great uncertainty of what was to come. When the Germans arrived they took over every aspect of island life and so began a hugely difficult chapter for the locals who remained.

Miriam Mahy was 26 when the occupation began in 1940. In 1992 she published her book ‘There is an Occupation’ which recalled her life in Guernsey throughout the war. Living to 104, she spent many years sharing her recollections of the occupation with younger generations, preserving the memories and history of what life was like during that period for years to come.

Discover the occupation through the eyes of Miriam, walking the Vale lanes in the north of the island where she lived during the war. Along the way visit the main sites mentioned in her book including her wartime home, landmarks such as the Vale Mill, Paradis- a war time prison, and Bordeaux Harbour where some daring islanders escaped from. During the walk, find out what everyday life was really like for the locals who remained here. From the sadness of evacuations, encounters with the Germans, surviving with little food, uniting community spirit and much more. This walk will give you a true idea of what life during the occupation was like for those living on Guernsey and the lasting effect it’s had on the island to this day.

Cost: £8 per person
Email Victoria to book

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2. True Stories with Jan Le Tissier

Friday 1 and Tuesday 12 May / 10am – 1pm 

A gentle 2-hour walk around Guernsey’s capital of St Peter Port where Jan Le Tissier will tell you of the experiences of her two grandmothers before the evacuation, her 10 year old parents experiences of being evacuated and her teenage in laws experiences of being occupied. What was it like to return home? On this walk you will look at places that were particularly influenced by the war. At the end of the walk you will experience a taste of WWII delicacies.

Cost: £15 per person
Email Jan to book

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3. True Stories with Keith Pengelley

Saturday 8th August and Saturday 10th October / 2pm – 4pm

Keith Pengelley of Guernsey Walking Tours will guide you through beautiful St Martin’s lanes and locations associated with his family’s experiences during the run up to WWII and the rigours of the Nazi Occupation. The walk will include many rare documents and photographs that will chart this period in our shared island experience – Keith’s family story also includes a real Potato Peel Pie tale of huge family significance.

Cost: £8 per person
Email Keith to book

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4. True Stories with Eric Grimsley (A Family Separated)

Saturday 5 and Sunday 13 September / 9.30am – 12pm

This is the true happenings of a Guernsey family torn apart through war. The best laid plans destroyed by an air raid on a defenceless town. News reports of bombings in England and months of not knowing whether the family members were still alive. Led by Gold Accredited Guide Eric Grimsley.

Cost: £8 per person
Email Eric to book

Occupied Islands – True Stories (Guernsey)