When it became clear that the Islands would be occupied, the civilian populations faced the traumatic decision to leave their homes and move to England, divide their family by evacuating just their children or to remain together living under German rule. Those choosing to remain experienced five hard and hungry years living under stifling rules and regulations.
Almost half of the resident population of Guernsey remained on the Island during the German occupation; four fifths of children and 12,000 adults had been evacuated at short notice prior to the bombing of St. Peter Port harbour by German forces on June 28 1940. Around 6,000 of a population of 47,000 evacuated from Jersey. Conversely, virtually all residents of Alderney were evacuated and the occupying forces arrived to an almost uninhabited Island. In contrast, no Sark residents left the Island. One family lived in Herm Island and Lihou was abandoned. Mainly used for hunting and training exercises, these smaller Islands remained largely unoccupied by German forces.
The Islands were liberated by Allied Force 135 on the 9 & 10 May 1945. While the liberation was achieved without armed conflict, sadly both British and German soldiers went on to lose their lives clearing mines.
The effects of the occupation were far reaching. Food shortages had emaciated the inhabitants of the Islands and German fortifications dotted the landscape. Many evacuated children suffered an inability to re-connect with their families, which would linger throughout their lives.
Castle Cornet sits at the mouth of Guernsey’s St. peter Port harbour. The castle was used by German forces to guard the harbour. The 800-year old castle currently houses four museums and offers panoramic views across St Peter Port harbour and out to the other smaller Islands of Guernsey.
The German Occupation Museum
The Channels Islands were the only British isles to be occupied during WWII. The occupation lasted for almost five years until the end of the war. The German Occupation Museum offers a fascinating insight into the Occupation and Liberation of the Islands of Guernsey during this dark period of history.
La Valette Underground Military Museum
Occupied for almost five years by German forces in June 1940, the Islands of Guernsey are strategically located in the English Channel between England and northern France. La Valette Museum is situated within an German tunnel complex and exhibits the German Occupation and subsequent Liberation of the Islands of Guernsey.
Beside the Elizabeth Marina is Richard Perry’s Freedom Tree, which was unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 60th anniversary of the Liberation. The striking bronze sculpture stands twenty feet tall and carries thirty oak leaves and twelve acorns – one for each of the parishes of Jersey.
Standing immediately outside the Maritime Museum, on the New North Quay of St. Helier Harbour, is the Lighthouse Memorial. The lighthouse stood at St. Catherine’s Pier for over 100 years, before it was decommissioned in 1996. It was then installed there as a memorial to the Jersey 21.
In 2005, to mark the 60th anniversary of Liberation, engraved pavement slabs were installed in the Charing Cross area of St Helier. Each carries a moving quotation by an eyewitness to the German Occupation, and gives an insight into the trauma and suffering of captivity, and joy of liberation.
Fauvic Embarcation Point
More than 150 Islanders attempted to escape to England and France during the occupation. Nine Islanders are known to have drowned and one, Douglas Le Marchand, was shot by a German sentry. The Fauvic area was closest to the French
Memorial to US Motor Torpedo Squadron 34
In an exposed location on the south-western coast of Jersey is Noirmont Point, beneath which is a warren of bunkers which formed one of Island’s largest coastal artillery batteries during the occupation. The headland is also home to a memorial to American naval servicemen killed in an engagement after D-Day.
V for Victory
Despite the unprecedented size of the enemy presence, approximately one German soldier to four civilians, and the threat of severe punishment, acts of subversion were widespread. Joseph Le Guyader found a unique way of expressing his recalcitrance, by laying paving stones in the shape of a V-for-Victory in a public place.