1 JUL 2020

Fortress Guernsey

The Nazi invasion and occupation of the Channel Islands

On 28 June 1940 the sound of German aircraft filled the skies over the Channel Islands, they were followed by the whistle of bombs and the crack of explosions. The islands had been demilitarised but a row of trucks on quay of St Peter Port's harbour were mistake for military vehicles and destroyed - red liquid spilling from them, their cargo of tomatoes symbolic of the 34 civilians killed in the attack.

Five Years of Nazi Rule

This episode Anton and I remember the the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2. The only part of the British Isles to fall under German rule during the war they were important propaganda tools with Hitler order on 10 October 1941 to ‘convert them into an impregnable fortress’.

We look at events during the first days of the invasion then the massive investment in bunkers and fortifications that still adorn the coastline today. In Guernsey alone the Germans laid 118 minefields and throughout the Channel Islands 244,000 m³ of rock were excavated. The entirety of the rest of the Atlantic Wall, running from Norway to France, had only 255,000m³ of rock excavated.

And our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.

Winston Churchill, 8 May 1945


We were very lucky to be given a copy of the book Occupied! by Blue Ormer Publishing. It’s tells the amazing story of the occupation of Guernsey during WW2. Aimed at kids it features fascinating facts and beautiful illustrations. You can order a copy on their website.

Further reading


This transcript is automatically generated so may contain errors.

80 years ago today the sound of German aircraft filled the skies over the Channel Islands there, followed by the whistle of bombs and the crack of explosions. The islands have been demilitarised, but a row of trucks on the key of Saint Peter Port Harbour were mistaken for military vehicles, bombed and destroyed. Red liquid spilled from their cargo of tomatoes, symbolic for 34 civilians killed in the attack.

Welcome to the curiosity of a child.

The bombing raid commenced at 6:45 and lasted nearly an hour, with locals unable to put up any resistance, the weighbridge Clock damaged by the bombing, stopped just before 7:00 o'clock, marking its moment in time.

Two days later, German officers arrived on the island to accept their surrender.

Following the terms of the Geneva Convention, the Islanders responded to invasion by offering no resistance, but also no collaboration.

The German set up her controlling committee to run the island, taking over from the local government the states of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and the rest of the Channel Islands also fall under German occupation for the next five years.

They were also the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by the Germans during World War Two, so photos of Nazi troops marching through Saint Peter Port were popular propaganda tools.

That's right, we got a couple of photos here, haven't we? So this is the High Street in guns and there's a whole bunch of German soldiers walking up. What you need is about it though.

It looks like.

Along robot.


and all this one's different. This is kind of a band with lots and lots of sneaking soldiers.

Along Lynam yeah, but if you need space in their their bands, aren't they invaded? They say I've only been funny how you go and occupy.

Another place free music, yeah.

Yeah, you gonna concept for them, yeah?

There is untold how music is kind of another tool of propaganda I guess, isn't it?

To remember this event, we visited where the worst of the bombing occured, is now marked by several plaques telling the Storey of the evacuation and those who lost their lives that day. So we now go over to our live recording.


Where down in support now by the white Rock where the bombing happened 80 years ago. To this very day, yeah.

Standing opposite the White Rock Cafe now and he might hear a flag pole clashing in the window. It's pretty windy, which is where the bombings took place. There would be another smarty trucks lined up along here on sun, so could you imagine what it must have been like? Kind of.

A few weeks earlier, people have activated the islands and then you hear off in the Sky. The sound of aircraft.

If your child, you're probably a little bit confused.

If you are older.


yeah, this was a little island to me. I think we felt a little bit out of the way and kind of non threatening to anybody to actually then become involved in the war. I think was a shock to many people.

Now just days before the occupation plans were hastily put into place to evacuate the Islanders with limited time to make arrangements. The communication was confusing and misinterpreted at times. Despite this 5000 school children and 12,000 adults VAC rated to the UK, but not all those who wanted to leave for able T money, you've been doing something that's cool. Have a nice drink.

So could you imagine might be like being your age and leaving.

The island I guess you'd be quite exciting cause you might have gone on a boat before.

But also a little bit scary and upsetting because you're leaving.

You are island somewhere you don't know and.

Then there's the war on as well. Once it hasn't really come to the islands. Yeah, yeah, you know that you put the Harrods and I'll see in the papers with England's being bombed and you'll be thinking are you going to wear? It's gonna be bums. Yeah, obviously you're not being taken, they've been take out into the countryside or further North by Great Gramps. He went up to Scotland. Yeah, now we have this. Actually lots of various plaques up on the walls aren't there commemorating different.

Events that happened during the war, so there's one here, which sometimes going to read in a moment.

This plaque commemorates the evacuation of children and adults ahead of the occupation of the island by Germany forces in June 1940.

Full fifths of the children and altogether almost half the population of Guernsey, were transported to England, so that scarcely a family was.

Does that say undivided?

Underrated because it's quite tricky to read this.

Yeah, I think they need to.

Do it again.

Yes, just clean up the pack a little bit. Now there's some other ones here. Here's a commemoration to Jews in the islands who were sadly died at Auschwitz, and there's another memorial here is dedicated to the memory of all the Islanders who committed acts of protest, defiance, and resistance during the German occupation. Basware imprisoned or deported and those who died in captivity. So there's seven people disappear on their answers. Left a flower next to it so?

Maybe a relative?

So this plaque commemorates the illegal deportation of by Germany, occupying forces of 1000 and three men, women and children, from Guernsey and Sark. In September 1942 and February 1943, and two captivity in civilian internment camps in Germany and France.

Actually, there you probably going to be Barak.

Which students South of Germany?

So we are at another tablet which was erected to the memory and it records the names of those members of civil population who lost their lives as the result of an enemy aerosis 34 of them.

Yes, it may do with 34 people who were killed in the bombing 80 years ago.

Also, lucky to have recordings of people's memories from that day. People actually witnessed the event and will play part of some of them now.

The full video will be linked on our Twitter and also on our website.

I heard these aircraft coming over. I could see them, but nine of them in formation.


I said oh look, there they are bad and.

All of a sudden.

There was ladders going down from them. I said that why are they putting ladders down from the Plains?

Tell my God we got the older my mum we've got to go we gotta go find shelter why those aren't ladders? Those are bombs starting to come down.

Anyway, we we quickly went to the toilet block there becausr it was sand bagged for the war and then the first bomb actually exploded somewhere. I'm not tell you we didn't take many seconds to get into that because we didn't go round the back to the Doctor Gentry. Everyone was going into first but thank you. Get into and we went into the ladies toilet block and.

There we stayed for the whole of the raid.

Because we had no other alternatives, the old men knew the bomb, made a whistling noise when they came, and someone said.

Crikey, Eric, this is going to be a close one we could do is whistling down.

Never buying anyway. The raid ended. That was a lot of Mr Bean about the last stick of bombs that fell.

And anywhere me when this all clear went about. Perhaps 10 minutes later.

We could see it landed. What was the income tax office? Now? It wasn't income tax office there, but it was a tobacco factory and it was on fire. It had landed that close.

It was frightening for Marcos being a little lad.

I didn't know what was going on and all this noise.

And then having to be told to swap down and be quiet.

It was very frightening, yes?

The Germans expecting Swift victory against the British, experimented with a gentler approach to the occupation then and other parts of Europe.

I imagine this was helped by the islands geography small and cut off the mainland Europe. They posed less of a threat.

The slower island life, maybe also had a calming effect.

And before she got some newspapers here from the period. So let's have a quick look at the front pages, shall we? Yeah, so this is the star which is dated July the 3rd, 1940. So couple of days later. And then there's the orders of the competence of German forces in the occupation, the Bailiwick of Guernsey. And there's a list of regulations and things which they have to follow. Their or the locals have to follow.

So all clocks and watches are to be advanced by one hour from midnight to bring it in accordance with the German time and assemblies at churches and chapels, for the purpose of divine worship are permitted. So yeah, this new rules. But there's still some adverts running in the paper, so we got swelling the fruit from W Holmes and Son Limited.

Also another advert for popular tobacco, the Stuart mixture. There's another headline on the front page which is states since the local government here states ready to take over lost from growers. Complete break with the past.

So say some notices here, so to every Islander the public are notified that no resistance whatsoever is to be offered to those in military occupation of this island. The public are asked to be calm to carry on their lives and to work in the usual way and to obey the orders of the German competent.

So it's a bit of a mixture though. Isn't it between half normal life and strict strict rules? Yeah, we got another one here. Actually from June the 29th.

And are these their headlines after the bombing itself? We got 22 dead and 30, three badly room did in last night's raid. So sadly some more people have died after that as well. Dreadful to of German bombs and machine guns, popular police constable among the killed. And this is a bit shocking. Ambulance attacked while taking victims to hospital.

So we will put these newspapers as well were linked to them from our Twitter and our websites.

Little bit hard to read, but I'm.

Sure, you can find a way.

Despite the gentler approach to the occupation and locals trying to live a normal life, it wasn't easy going.

This same geography that may have led to quieter times would prove a problem later in the war. The islands remained under German occupation as the Allies started to take control of much of Europe, meaning limited food and supplies could reach the islands, leading to the near starvation. In winter of 1940, Four 45.

Guillotine will end officially.

At one minute after midnight tonight.

Good day at the 8th of May.

But in the interests of saving lives.

The cease fire began yesterday.

You'll be sounding all along the front.

And our dad. Channel Island.

Are also to be freed today.

It wasn't until May 9th, 1945 that the islands were Philly at finally liberated.

But that's not to say that the Germans didn't take the occupation seriously. On 10th of October 1941, Hitler announced his intention to.

Confirmed, some enter an impregnable Fort, Russ.

I had to do that.

A series of bunkers and fortifications were built circumventing the islands, many of which still remain to this day. Over 300 structures were built throughout the Channel Islands make them most heavily fortified outposts in Europe.

So guns like the Super Mega Ultra easy defending thing.

Yes, this mass building surely outweighed the actual need, but thankfully they were never used in anger.

The largest structure built was the underground Hospital in Guernsey, which covers 7000 square metres, much fat dog out of the rock by slave Labour, and you're not much of a fan of. It's an airy place to go, isn't.

It been there for a while, but yeah, so the creepy because the lights are green and it's just a bit.

Smaller than that? Yeah, yeah, haven't.

Been there though I do like the gift shop.

Where we gave him the gift shop then shall we yeah?

Many parts of the island became no go areas for civilians, there covered in barbed wire and some 67,000 mines were buried on the beaches and cliffs occasion there still found today.

I remember a Storey.

If we had someone into school telling us about their time during.

The occupation now go down to the beach where they live, quite near the beach, digging up for mines and telling.

And bring it into their parents and saying, look what we found like loads of them with their bags and they were like shouldn't be doing that. But they did it anyway. There's none of them excluders. There's like she said that she had about.

50 of them wasn't in play, me not one of them blew up.

It's amazing actually how well they've been cleared please.

Kind of in my lifetime. I don't really remember much that.

67,000 yeah.

Cleared in.

You get storeys of lot space in the world where mines have in place and like years and years and years later, there's still no go areas, so it's fantastic. Actually, how well cleared it has been.

And we really need it. An island, what some island without beach is exactly yeah.

The Germans also deployed 12,000 troops to Guernsey. That's one soldier for every two civilians, so life was anything but normal for comparison in France that anyone soldier for every 80 people.


Then I got a map for the fortifications. Here I'm done.

And you can see how they release around the island only. So there.

Everywhere someone somewhere kind of in groups they must think like.

Almost flanking fire fan with was to come from that division.

Strategic points.

Spicer, these red ones on the island in the middle, were trying put this map on our Twitter. Those are some large kind of guns and the ones that we visited which we talk at the moment there's actually smoking.

Even though it's quite big.

Well, not only islands though.

Today, as well as reminding us of the history, the bunkers also made great places to visit and a couple of weeks ago answer and I visited one of the gun emplacements in the South West of the island.

The H KB General Oberst Dolman Battery is situated at Pleinmont, sitting high on the cliffs overlooking the sea, surrounded by trenches and near several observation towers. It would have been an important strategic strategic. I can't see that one today. It would have been an important strategic position to defend against naval invasions.

Yeah, and I actually think that.

This battery was named after a German General Frederick Doorman for pronouncing wrong there. He Friedrich Dorman.

Yeah, and he was. He commanded the 7th Army during the invasion of France and was also leading up part of the invasion of Normandy to his squad in 1944. I think. So picture in the nights he's got Ballesteros ID.

May be a bit more.

Perhaps abit more actually, yeah.

The battery was armed with four 22 centimetre guns, one of which has been restored and can be visited today.

Yeah, that was actually from Jersey. That gun. I think it's at the bottom of Cliffs and they found it half buried and brought over here.

That's must been a tricky job to bring it over here. Firstly, and Secondly, restore it.

Yeah, it was really fun because we climbed over the gun.

Yeah cool Yep.

Pretending to actually use unload at turn around the guns were actually captured. French cannons from World War One, with a range of 22 kilometres. So they were FT-7. Renault FT-17 means most of the machine guns.

Pretty faces separate. Yeah, so that was. Yeah, the big cannon wasn't that would say.

That was sold out. Hillary. Yeah, that's artillery, not yet Huni Tara.

So that was a target from a little French tank, wasn't it?

Yeah, FT-17 is tiny, not much bigger than a car.

And what do they do with it?


Took the tower off and plonked in a hole in the ground so you get into it.

Yeah, like little armoured.

Tiring and going to a club and we went around here. There was a puddle going into the entrance is someone who was like really or our meal awesome. They just dived into the puddle Crudup and leprechaun. Yeah, and the little doors around the back were closed so he opened. It was like.

I'll tell you, climbed into the tour event.


The bunker was also defended by 10.5 centimetre field guns, mortars and machine guns, search lights and minefields.

Yeah, so pretty heavily militarised there wasn't it.

Yeah, I think they quite liked that area.

We will have some photos on Twitter and the website which should be coming soon. Ish. Yeah, hopefully depends when you're listening to this.

That is true. Maybe it's launched already, got a million visits.

There are also two large ammunition bunkers dug deep into the ground, which can still be entered, and we have a short 2 recording from one now.

Okay, so what's behind this big rusty door?

Just give him.

It's very, very dark here. Comedy see the floor. The acoustics are amazing, and so you want Andy neighbour was.


It's also very scary.

Yes, it's kind of deep underground this business. So you could imagine it being well protected from enemy shells and selling.

Doors as well. Can't remotely there. Made of two protects.

Stuff I also had another Stephanie Mitchell. Then there's a window here, but they would be able to pass out. The shells were easier. Imagine and there's a couple of these dreams on their journey out here now.

It was dark in that bunker, isn't it?

Very dark, amazing acoustics. We went just as we were going out. There's a giant spider we think I know. Yeah yeah it looks like it was like 3 times the size of a tarantula.

Is well worth a visit though, even if you are scared of spiders. Now we've got some interesting statistics here about the fortification of the islands. Haven't wasted some of these numbers are amazing when you can remember just have a small guns years and that was off the case to France wasn't part of the mainland. You wouldn't call it particular statistically important. The airport that big to be able to have it as some sort of.


Important aerial place to control these skies.

Yes, you can't really.

They would have to send planes from France probably if I wanted to go to England because they can have any joy.

Or just getting.

Fuel on to the island of things for them food and fruit. Yeah, exactly. So these numbers are amazing when you consider that.

So number 1 / 16,000 military engineers and workers were brought to the Channel Islands for the building projects.


244 thousand square metres of rock were excavators. Drawing building.

The rest of the Atlantic Wall only totalled 255 thousand square metres.

Yeah, so just in the items are laying those nearly as much stuff dog out as in the rest of the Atlantic Wall should have been kind of down the edge of France and things yeah much larger area.


Over half a million square metres of concrete were used in Guernsey solo bunkers, yeah.


There were 118 minefields laid on Gansey, each containing.

Countless lines, so there's been so many places where you can go, so it's just amazing. Actually, thank you terribly clear those up. Yeah yeah. So the bunks are good places to visit only, yeah.

Guernsey and the other Channel Islands may have avoided the worst of World War Two, but the invasion and the five year occupation have left their mark. The sheer number of fortifications makes you wonder about Hitler's long term plans for the islands.

Today, however, they offer fantastic places to visit, adding to our history and keeping these important memories alive. Living in such a small community is easy to forget. We are part of a larger world and we're not always shielded from events.

The Knights of Corona virus have reminded us of this and that we are one large global community which will strive to be good, responsible people.

Most recording in town about the tomato bombings and tonight Chatter Man. He was curious about what we were doing with the microphone.

He was a former politician from South Africa and interested in the history we were telling.

Like the events we have told, he too has seen great changes and struggles in his lifetime, but with them his brain wise and knows that's what's inside. Each one of us is that matters. The person we are and who we want to be. And This is why we need to remember our history and learn from it.

That's a wrap, another show.

Yeah, just a single feature this time because it's such an important.

Event, I guess it would be like her ganzy occupation special.

So I hope you enjoyed it and make sure you first on Twitter at.

The Curious child pod mate just carry childhood liver Curry childhood that's.

Right Cutie child pod please please please leave a review as well. I'm gonna try and get some photos up on our Twitter and hopefully a website live seen as I have started it.

Say goodbye and thank you.

See you next time, bye.


And our dad. Channel Island.

Are also to be freed today.