Jersey's Occupation Story

Documenting the past for future generations


Discover Jersey’s Occupation Story
From Occupation to Liberation (1940 - 1945)


The German Occupation of Jersey began one week after the British government had demilitarised the island fearing for the safety of civilians should there be any conflict. The codename for this was “Operation Green Arrow” and the initial German Air Force reconnaissance flights mistake civilian farming lorries for troop carriers. On the 28th of June 1940 , the German Air Force, not knowing of the demilitarisation, bomb and machine gun multiple sites on the island. The attacks killed ten people and wound many more. A few days later on the 1 of July 1940 General Richthofen, The Commander of the German Air Forces in Normandy, dropped an ultimatum from the air demanding the immediate surrender of the island. White flags and crosses were placed in prominent positions, as stipulated by the Germans, and later that day Jersey was occupied by air-borne troops under the command of Hauptmann Gussek with the Navy transporting troops from St Malo.

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Above German troops leaving St Malo for Jersey. Below the airport is under a new command (Bundesarchiv)

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Under the occupying forces, one of the greatest hardships was the lack of news from the mainland after the Germans had outlawed the use of crystal radio sets. A number of individuals risked imprisonment by making their own sets and spreading frontline news. Horse drawn traffic became an increasingly regular sight as petrol shortages became severe, and many vehicles were converted to use gas. The price of bicycles rose, and their use was restricted to those connected to essential services. The German’s ordered all traffic to drive on the wrong side of the road. The island was also moved to Central European time. Hitler ordered the conversion of Jersey into an impregnable fortress. Thousands of slave workers from countries like Russia, Spain, France, Poland, and Algeria built hundreds of bunkers, anti-tank walls, railway systems, as well as many tunnel complexes. In late 1943 the Tunnel Complex Ho8 (now known as the Jersey War Tunnels) in St. Lawrence was converted from an artillery workshop and barracks to an emergency casualty clearing station able to cope with up to 500 patients. All of the fortifications built around the island were part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’. Today, traces of Jersey’s defences and wartime occupation can be discovered across the island, especially in St. Ouen’s Bay.

Below construction starts at Batterie Lothringen and Batterie Moltke (Bundesarchiv).
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In June 1941, islanders responded to a radio appeal from Britain to the peoples of Nazi-occupied Europe to put up ‘V for Victory’ signs. The appeal was not specifically directed towards Channel Islanders, but a few bold people joined in nevertheless. Such signs were painted on street signs, houses and walls. The sabotage provoked a strong reaction from the Germans who threatened to punish whole neighbourhoods if the culprit was not found. Islanders helped to hide forced workers that had escaped, shared news from illegal radios, some escaped with detailed plans of bunkers. All of these actions were seen by the German forces as military crimes, with heavy penalties if caught. Some islanders made the ultimate sacrifice for others.

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One of the most common questions we are asked on our tours is whether there was any attempt by the British to get back the islands. Operation Constellation was the code name of one of the missions planned by Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1943 to take back the Channel Islands. ‘Condor’ was the name given to the Jersey part of the operation. After a period of heavy bombing Jersey would be taken back at force. Approved by most of the high command, no air support was offered due to what was seen to be as an excessive loss of civilian life. The liberation of the Channel Islands would have to wait until after D-day.
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Above is a photo of the map drawn up for the invasion of Jersey, courtesy of the National Archives, Kew

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Photograph shows American soldiers landing at OMAHA,Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944

On the 6th of June 1944, the Normandy landings marked the initiation of ‘Operation Overlord’, the invasion of northwest Europe by the Allied forces.1944 signalled the beginning of the end of the German occupation, but it was not until nearly a year later that the islands were finally liberated. As you can see on the map below, the 82nd and 101st Paratroopers passed incredibly close to the islands. Major David Thomas, regimental surgeon of the 508th PIR, like most of the other in the regiment, took off from England on his first combat jump.

“We took off and headed out over the English Channel. As far as you could see were C-47s We got no flak until we passed the Channel Islands. Shortly thereafter we did a left flank and went into Normandy”.

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The Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 profoundly affected the food and economic situation of the islands. Supplies which had previously been imported from German-occupied France were cut off. In a memorandum handed by the Bailiff to the commander of the German forces on 31 August 1944, Dr R N McKinstry, the medical officer of health, stated of the islanders: “Many are in a very poor condition, so the extra reduction in food values will have a serious consequence for them.” The British government reminded the German commander that it was the duty of the occupying authority to feed the civilian population. On 12 November, the German authorities allowed the Bailiff of Jersey, Alexander M Coutanche, to send a message to the British government giving details of the state of the islands’ supplies. The Home Office issued a letter on 9 November 1944, proposing that the Joint War Organisation (JWO) take definite action to help the islanders. The government would provide facilities for sending food parcels to British civilians on the islands, subject to the same conditions under which parcels were sent to prisoners of war. The ICRC would supervise the supply and distribution of the parcels. The German government agreed to accept a supply of food to the islands. The JWO estimated it would need to supply 300,000 food parcels and 10,000 diet supplement parcels (for the ill) to the islands for the first five or six weeks. The JWO had several ships operating a shuttle service between Lisbon and Marseilles. The government asked the organisation to provide one of their ships to transport the supplies, and the Vega was chosen for the duty. The Bailiff of Jersey announced in The Evening Post on Friday 8 December 1944 that: “I am officially informed by the German military authorities that a Red Cross ship was, weather permitting, due to leave Lisbon on Thursday, December 7th, for the Channel Islands. The ship will call at Guernsey first, en route for Jersey.” They were also informed that letters for the Channel Islands’ civilian internees in Germany would be collected by the Red Cross ships. The Red Cross’ SS Vega left Lisbon on 20 December, carrying food parcels and diet supplies for the ill. She arrived in Guernsey with her life-saving cargo on 27 December and in Jersey on 31 December. The food parcels were provided from the British Commonwealth supply stores in Lisbon and included 108,592 Canadian-packed parcels and 11,200 New Zealand-packed parcels. The Vega sailed five more times. In relief voyages between February and April 1945.
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Photos and information provided by the British Red Cross
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On the 6 May 1945 a delegation of German officials met with Jersey’s Bailiff, Alexander Coutanche, and the Attorney-General to discuss the developments in Europe and their impact on the islands. The German Command were defiant and no reference to surrender was entertained. Instead, the Germans portrayed their defeat as a shift in focus towards a union between the powers in a new fight against Russia. As if to illustrate this sentiment, the German Commander of the Channel Islands, Vice-Admiral Huffmeier, responded to the British Army’s request for capitulation by stating that he only received orders from his ‘own Government’. Despite the nonchalance of the German occupying forces, which were still officially recognised, Jersey’s preparations for liberation began to take noticeable shape. On 8 May the Allied units that made up Force 135 received their orders to move to their marshalling camps in Portsmouth. The main body of the Force was due to arrive in the islands on 12 May, however, a small contingent of Force 135, including their Commander, Brigadier AE Snow, left for the Channel Islands aboard HMS’ Bulldog and Beagle the morning of 8 May. Together with the units of Force 135, this first party consisted of a team of officials responsible for negotiating the terms of the Germans’ surrender. The front page of the Jersey Evening Post carried Jersey’s first confirmation of the Allies’ victory in Europe, and islanders were informed that Winston Churchill would broadcast the Nation’s first official announcement that afternoon at 3.00pm. Crowds began to gather at various locations to hear the announcement that would declare their liberation. Islanders waited patiently amidst the heavy air of expectation. At 3.00pm Winston Churchill crackled onto the airwaves. The Prime Minister’s words announced the end to the war in Europe and the “unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and air forces in Europe”. When, amidst great cheers across the island, he uttered the words, “our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today”. Island-wide flags and decorations sprang up. From a balcony overlooking the Royal Square, Bailiff Coutanche gave an impassioned address and proceed with an emotional rendition of the national anthem. Possessions, forbidden under the occupation, miraculously reappeared, adding to the celebrations. Parties continued throughout the rest of the day and long after the King’s speech at 9.00pm, with several bonfire and firework displays taking place.
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May 8, 1945: Winston Churchill waves to crowds gathered in Whitehall on VE Day Keystone/Getty Images

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At 7.15am on 9 May, on the quarter deck of HMS Bulldog, Second-in-Command for Guernsey General Siegfried Heine signed the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the German Command of the Channel Islands, effecting their capitulation. On completion of this, General Heine was then ordered to “immediately cause all German flags and ensigns now flying in the Channel Islands to be lowered”. At Midday, an overjoyed Bailiff Coutanche accompanied a German delegation led by the island Commander, General Major Rudolf Wulf, aboard HMS Beagle anchored in St. Aubin’s bay, where the separate surrender of Jersey was to take place. Arriving at the same time in St. Helier’s harbour was a small naval inspection party sent to report on the health of the islanders, who were promptly overwhelmed by an enthusiastic crowd delighted at seeing their first liberators landing on Jersey soil. The advanced landing party was dispatched to secure control of St. Helier and signal the liberation. Crowds greeted the liberating forces. Having wrestled their way through the hordes of celebrating locals, Lieutenant-Colonel WPA Robinson and his team eventually arrived at the Pomme d’Or; the pre-selected liberation HQ. On their arrival the swastika flag was ordered down from the hotel balcony and, at 3.40pm the Union Jack was hoisted, officially signalling the end of the occupation. At this the crowd broke into a passionate performance of the national anthem before the streams of cheers erupted. This time, it was the Germans who were ordered to fly the white flag. The task force included many Channel Islanders who were forced to leave in 1940, and one of them, Captain Hugh le Brocq, was given the honour of raising the Union Jack over Fort Regent. As the day of liberation drew on, the celebrations continued and islanders celebrated their freedom to be together.
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Exploring bunkers:

• Always get permission from the owner
• Take a torch, a spare and one more for luck
• Don't go alone & tell someone where you will be and for how long
• You will get dirty as most are often full of rubbish and may have been used as a public toilet
• Anything you find still belongs to the person that owns the property
Unexploded ordnance is still found in Jersey if you see or find anything that looks like ordnance please call the bomb disposal officer on 01534 612 612.

Jargon Help

Widerstandsnest (WN) = Resistance Nest (RN)
Small pocket of resistance, these would be made up of small groups of up to 10 men with light weapons. They would man Anti-tank weapons, an observation post or a field gun.

Stützpunkt St.P = Strongpoint (STP)
Next level up from an RN and consisted of several RN's. STP areas would have a combination of weapons and different branches of the military used. Examples of this can be found with Strongpoint Greve de Lecq and Strongpoint Corbiere

Einsatzstellung = Operational Position or Action Post
Smaller MG type position generally it was only maned during an alert

Feldwache = Field Watch

Jäger Casemate was a special design and name for bunkers designed to hold a 10.5cm field gun

Sources of Information

German Documents are housed at The National Archived in Washington or Archive in Kew UK
T-78 Roll 318
T-78 Roll 317
T-315 Roll 1639
T-315 Roll 1643
T-311 Roll 27
T-312 Roll 1545

Operation Green Arrows - Occupation of the Channel Islands MOD 584
Allied Technical Intelligence Reports 1944-45
German Preparations for Invasion of the United Kingdom 1941-42
B-833, 319th Infantry Division (1941-45)
German Seacoast Defenses, European Theatre - prepared by the Seacoast Artillery Evaluation Board
Jersey Occupied by Michael Ginns - ISBN 978-1-905095-29-2
Operation Nestegg Plans
Operation Hardtack Plans
Operation Basalt Plans
RAF Photos care of The National Collection of Aerial Photography
Bundesarchiv - Multiple Photos - and Files
A Map of slave labour camps. Kindly Provided by Emilio Pérez
Photo's and information provided by fans
Onsite visits & internet research
After the Battle Multiple Magazines

If we have used any photos or information which you believe to posted without permission, please contact us at info@jerseywartours.com

Links of other excellent websites and people you must support.

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The National Trust for Jersey are a fantastic group and we can not praise them enough for the work they do. Please go support them as their vision is to permanently protect Jersey's natural beauty, rich wildlife and historic places for everyone to enjoy and experience.

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Jersey Heritage look after multiple sites most with links to the Second World War and all worth a visit. The archive they have is amazing and one of the best sources of information. It can be used online or in person and we ask you to please support all they do.

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The Channel Island Occupation Society are guardians of 5 sites which have all been restored or have been made to look like they did in the Second World War. Visits to these sites help fund the work they do and we encourage you to take a look at the opening times and visit them. They also have a wide range of books and reviews, all of which are an excellent resource for education.

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Whether you are an established Battlefield Guide, retired from the craft, interested in how it is done or considering a future in guiding, the International Guild of Battlefield Guides is for you. Kimberley and Phil are both associate members and recommend you visit their website to show support.
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