On June 30, 1940, the Nazi German armed forces (Wehrmacht) invaded Jersey and the other Channel Islands, starting a five-year occupation that wouldn’t end until May 9, 1945. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by the Germans during World War II. Anticipating a swift victory over Britain, the occupiers experimented by using a very gentle approach that set the theme for the next five years. The island authorities adopted a similar attitude, giving rise to accusations of collaboration. However, as time progressed the situation grew gradually worse, ending in near starvation for both occupied and occupiers during the winter of 1944-45. A shortage of coinage and postage stamps on the islands led to the issuance of banknotes and stamps on both Guernsey and Jersey.
Between September 3, 1939, when the United Kingdom declared war against Germany, and May 9, 1940, little changed in the Channel Islands. Conscription did not exist, but a number of people traveled to Britain to join up as volunteers. The horticulture and tourist trades continued as normal; the British government relaxed restrictions on travel between the UK and the Channel Islands in March 1940, enabling tourists from the UK to take morale-boosting holidays in traditional island resorts.
On May 10, 1940, Germany attacked the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg by air and land and the war stepped closer. The Battle of France was reaching its climax on Empire Day, May 24, when King George VI addressed his subjects by radio, saying,
“The decisive struggle is now upon us … Let no one be mistaken; it is not mere territorial conquest that our enemies are seeking. It is the overthrow, complete and final, of this Empire and of everything for which it stands, and after that the conquest of the world. And if their will prevails they will bring to its accomplishment all the hatred and cruelty which they have already displayed.”
The war was moving swiftly towards the islands, but still the islands did not react.
On June 11, 1940, as part of the British war effort in the Battle of France, a long range RAF aerial sortie carried out by 36 Whitley bombers against the Italian cities of Turin and Genoa departed from small airfields in Jersey and Guernsey, as part of Operation Haddock. Weather conditions determined that only 10 Whitleys reached their intended targets. Two bombers were lost in the action.
On June 15, after the Allied defeat in France, the British government decided that the Channel Islands were of no strategic importance and would not be defended, but did not give Germany this information. Thus despite the reluctance of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the British government gave up the oldest possession of the Crown “without firing a single shot”. The Channel Islands served no purpose to the Germans other than the propaganda value of having occupied British territory.
On June 16, 1940, the Lieutenant-Governors of each island were instructed to make available as many boats as possible to aid the evacuation of Saint-Malo. Guernsey was too far away to help at such short notice. The Bailiff of Jersey called on the Saint Helier Yacht Club in Jersey to help. Four yachts set off immediately, with 14 others being made ready within 24 hours. The first yachts arrived in Saint-Malo on the morning of June 17 and embarked troops from shore to waiting transport ships; the remaining yachts from Jersey arrived on June 18 and helped clear the last parties from land.
On June 17, a plane arrived in Jersey from Bordeaux evacuating Brigade General Charles de Gaulle from France. After coffee and refueling, the plane flew on to Heston, outside London where next day the general made his historic appeal of June 18 to the French people via the BBC. The last troops left the islands on June 20, departing so quickly that half-consumed meals and bedding were left in Castle Cornet.
The realization of the necessity of civilian evacuation from the Channel Islands came very late. With no forward planning and secrecy being maintained, communications between the island governments and the UK took place in an atmosphere of confusion and misinterpretation. Opinion was divided and chaos ensued with different policies adopted by the different islands. The British government concluded its best policy was to make available as many ships as possible so that islanders had the option to leave if they wanted to.
Ships urgently needed to evacuate soldiers from France in Operation Ariel, were diverted to help civilians in the Channel Islands. Marshal Philippe Pétain requested an armistice on June 17 and on June 19 nearby Cherbourg was captured by German forces.
The authorities in Alderney, having no direct communication with the UK, recommended that all islanders evacuate, and all but a handful did so. The Dame of Sark, Sibyl Hathaway, encouraged everyone to stay.
On June 19, the Guernsey local paper published announcements that plans were well in hand to evacuate all the children from the island, telling parents to go to their schools that evening to register and to prepare to send the children away the next day. Some schools asked that the child and their suitcase be brought so it could be checked. Teachers were told they were expected to travel with their children bringing assistants to help. Mothers volunteered to do this. Guernsey evacuated 80% of children of school age, giving the parents the option of keeping their children with them, or evacuating them with their school. Some schools decided to relocate in total whereas others had their children scattered amongst local schools all over England, Scotland and Wales.
By June 21, it became apparent to the government of Guernsey that it would be impossible to evacuate everyone who wanted to leave and priority would have to be given to special categories in the time remaining. The message in Guernsey was changed to an anti-evacuation one, in total, 5,000 school children and 12,000 adults out of 42,000 were evacuated.
On June 21 alone, 25 ships took people from Guernsey — ships like the SS Viking, built 1905, served as HMS Vindex until 1918. Requisitioned in 1939 as a troopship, she transported 1,800 schoolchildren from Guernsey to Weymouth.
In Jersey, where the school children were on two weeks holiday to help with the potato harvest, everyone who wished to leave was asked to register, queues quickly appeared, with 23,000 eventually registering. The majority of islanders, following the consistent advice of the island government, then chose to stay with only 6,600 out of 50,000 leaving on the evacuation ships. Nearby Cherbourg was already occupied by German forces before official evacuation boats started leaving on June 20. The civil service could not cope and scared of potential riots with desperate people trying to get on ships, announcements that it was best to stay in the island resulted in only about 1,000 Jersey children being evacuated with their parents and 67 teachers.
Eighteen ships sailed on June 21 from Jersey including the SS Shepperton Ferry carrying military stores and 400 evacuees. Evacuation ships stopped on June 23, when ships sailed for England empty, though mail boats and cargo ships continued to call at the islands until June 28. The regular cargo boats and ferries were asked to resume normal service and six evacuation ships were sent to Alderney where previous ships had docked and left almost empty of passengers. 90% of all Channel Island evacuees were taken to Weymouth Harbour, Dorset.
As soon as the majority of the first wave had departed, ships were made available for anyone else who wished to depart, however with the fear of ships being mobbed, riots amongst travelers and in the empty towns, with looting of empty houses and shops, as had happened in France on the Channel coast, the authorities pushed the message that ‘staying was best’, with posters saying “Don’t be yellow, stay at home”, (the “patriot” responsible for this poster fled to England). This led to confusion and disorder, especially in Jersey where the authorities did not think it necessary to evacuate children, therefore it was safe for adults to stay.
The reasons why people stayed or evacuated were personal, ranging from fear of the unknown to noble thoughts of continuing the fight with England. Only a few people were put under pressure to either evacuate or stay, often due to their important jobs.
The island authorities assumed that all locals who particularly feared a German occupation would leave the islands, such as people of the Jewish faith. Some certainly did, however it came as a surprise to find out later that others had decided not to leave or who were barred from entering the United Kingdom, because they were “aliens”, resulted in around 20 people the Germans would define as “Jewish” becoming trapped in the islands.
Houses, cars and businesses were abandoned by those evacuating. Some locked their front doors, some did not, reasoning that someone would break the door to get in anyway. Some gave away pets, others just released them, many put them down. Some gave away furniture and belongings, some gave it to someone for safe storage, others simply walked away, leaving dirty dishes in the sink and food on the table. The withdrawal of cash from banks was limited to £20 per person. People could take just one suitcase.
Several ships including the Southern Railway SS Isle of Sark, the normal cross channel ferry, were docked in St Peter Port harbor on June 28 when the Luftwaffe arrived and six Heinkel He 111 bombers attacked Guernsey. Lewis machine guns on the ships opened fire, to no visible effect. The bomb damage was mainly to the harbor where lorries loaded with tomatoes for export were lined up, 34 people died. A similar attack occurred in Jersey where nine died. That night the Isle of Sark sailed for England with 647 refugees, she was the last ship to sail, its Captain, Hervy H. Golding being awarded an OBE for his actions that day.
The fact that Guernsey was loading ships with tomatoes rather than people indicates the lack of panic; ships from Guernsey and Jersey designated to carry evacuees were sometimes packed, but others did not sail to their full capacity. No hospital ship had arrived to take the elderly and sick away. Several ships, including the Guernsey lifeboat, were machine gunned by German aircraft however with enemy aircraft and submarines operating in the Channel, it was lucky that no evacuation ship was sunk.
The British Home Office instructed the Lieutenant-Governors that in the eventuality of the recall of the representatives of the Crown, the Bailiffs should take over their responsibilities, and that the Bailiffs and Crown Officers should remain at their posts. The Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey discussed with the Bailiff of Jersey the matter of being required to carry on administration under German orders. The Bailiff considered that this would be contrary to his oath of allegiance, but he was instructed otherwise.
Last-minute arrangements were made to enable British administration to legally continue under the circumstances of occupation. The Lieutenant Governor of Jersey and Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey left their islands on board ships on June 21, 1940, the day France surrendered. The withdrawal of the Lieutenant Governors and the cutting of contact with the Privy Council prevented Royal Assent being given to laws passed by the legislatures, The Bailiffs took over the civil, but not the military, functions of the Lieutenant- Governors. The traditional consensus-based governments of the bailiwicks were unsuited to swift executive action, and therefore in the face of imminent occupation, smaller instruments of government were adopted. Since the legislatures met in public session, the creation of smaller executive bodies that could meet behind closed doors enabled freer discussion of matters such as how far to comply with German orders.
In Guernsey, the States of Deliberation voted on June 21 to hand responsibility for running island affairs to a controlling committee, under the presidency of HM Attorney General Ambrose Sherwill MC, who was selected rather than the 69-year-old Bailiff, Victor Carey, as he was a younger and more robust person. The States of Jersey passed the Defence (Transfer of Powers) (Jersey) Regulation 1940 on June 27 to amalgamate the various executive committees into eight departments each under the presidency of a States Member. The presidents along with the Crown Officers made up the Superior Council under the presidency of the 48-year-old Bailiff, Capt. Alexander Coutanche.
The Germans did not realize that the islands had been demilitarized (news of the demilitarization had been suppressed until June 30, 1940), and they approached them with caution. Reconnaissance flights were inconclusive. On June 28, they sent a squadron of bombers over the islands and bombed the harbors of Guernsey and Jersey. In St Peter Port, the main town of Guernsey, some lorries lined up to load tomatoes for export to England were mistaken by the reconnaissance for troop carriers. A similar attack occurred in Jersey where nine died. In total, 44 islanders were killed in the raids. The BBC broadcast a belated message that the islands had been declared “open towns” and later in the day reported the German bombing of the island.
While the Wehrmacht was preparing Operation Grünpfeil (Green Arrows) a planned invasion of the islands with assault troops comprising two battalions, a reconnaissance pilot, Hauptmann Liebe-Pieteritz, made a test landing at Guernsey’s deserted airfield on June 30 to determine the level of defense. He reported his brief landing to Luftflotte 3 which came to the decision that the islands were not defended. A platoon of Luftwaffe airmen was flown that evening to Guernsey by Junkers transport planes. Inspector Sculpher of the Guernsey police went to the airport carrying a letter signed by the bailiff stating that “This Island has been declared an Open Island by His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom. There are no armed forces of any description. The bearer has been instructed to hand this communication to you. He does not understand the German language.” He found that the airport had been taken over by the Luftwaffe. The senior German officer, Major Albrecht Lanz, asked to be taken to the island’s chief man. They went by police car to the Royal Hotel where they were joined by the bailiff, the president of the controlling committee, and other officials. Lanz announced through an interpreter that Guernsey was now under German occupation. In this way the Luftwaffe pre-empted the Wehrmacht‘s invasion plans.
Jersey surrendered on July 1. Alderney, where only a handful of islanders remained, was occupied on July 2 and a small detachment traveled from Guernsey to Sark, which surrendered on July 4. The first shipborne German troops consisting of two anti-aircraft units, arrived in St. Peter Port on the captured freighter SS Holland on July 14.
The German forces quickly consolidated their positions. They brought in infantry, established communications and anti-aircraft defenses, established an air service with occupied mainland France, and rounded up British servicemen on leave.
The Germans organized their administration as part of the department of Manche, administered as part of military government Area A based in St. Germain. Feldkommandantur 515 was set up in Jersey, with a Nebenstelle in Guernsey (also covering Sark), an Aussenstelle in Alderney, and a logistics Zufuhrstelle in Granville.
The kommandant issued an order in Guernsey on July 2, 1940, and in Jersey on July 8 instructing that laws passed by the legislatures would have to be given assent by the kommandant and that German orders were to be registered as legislation. The civil courts would continue in operation, but German military courts would try breaches of German law. At first the bailiffs submitted legislation for the assent of the kommandant signed in their capacities as lieutenant governors. At the end of 1941, the kommandant objected to this style and subsequent legislation was submitted simply signed as bailiff.
The German authorities changed the Channel Island time zone from Greenwich Mean Time to Central European Time to bring the islands into line with most of continental Europe, and the rule of the road was also changed to driving on the right. Scrip (occupation money) was issued in the islands to keep the economy going. German military forces used the scrip for payment of goods and services. Locals employed by Germans were also paid in the Occupation Reichsmarks.
The Germans allowed entertainment to continue including cinemas and theatre; their military bands performed in public. In 1944, the popular German film actress Lil Dagover arrived to entertain German troops in Jersey and Guernsey with a theatre tour to boost morale.
The islands’ governments had a legal and moral requirement to do their best for the population of the islands. That meant preserving life until such time as the world became dominated by Germany or the islands were liberated. Mistakes were made as there were no guidelines on how a government should act when occupied. Austria was annexed, Czechoslovakia and Poland were invaded and puppet governments installed. Denmark installed a protectorate government and stayed in power taking a passive and pro German view by accepting a nonaggression pact. In Norway, a government was imposed on the population, the same in the Netherlands and Belgium. France was split in two with their government keeping control of the southern zone. The Channel Islands decided their actions independent of each other and came to very similar passive views which enabled the existing civil and legal structures to remain in place.
The view of the majority of islanders about active resistance to German rule was probably expressed by John Lewis, a medical doctor on Jersey. “Any sort of sabotage was not only risky but completely counterproductive. More important still, there would be instant repercussions on the civilian population who were very vulnerable to all sorts of reprisals.” Sherwill seems to have expressed the views of a majority of the islanders on July 18, 1940, when he complained about a series of abortive raids by British commandos on Guernsey. “Military activities of this kind were most unwelcome and could result in loss of life among the civilian population.” He asked the British government to leave the Channel Islands in peace. Sherwill was later imprisoned by the Germans for his role in helping two British spies on Guernsey. and when released, deported to a German internment camp.
Sherwill’s situation illustrated the difficulty for the island government and their citizens cooperating — but stop short of collaborating — with their occupiers and to retain as much independence as possible from German rule. The issue of islander collaboration with the Germans remained quiescent for many years, but was ignited in the 1990s with the release of wartime archives and the subsequent publication of a book titled The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands under German Rule, 1940-1945 by Madeleine Bunting. Language such as the title of one chapter, “Resistance? What Resistance?” incited islander ire. The issue of collaboration was further inflamed by the fictional television program Island at War (2004) which featured a romance between a German soldier and an islander girl and portrayed favorably the German military commander of the occupation. Bunting’s point was that the Channel Islanders did not act in a Churchillian manner, they “did not fight on the beaches, in the fields or in the streets. They did not commit suicide, and they did not kill any Germans. Instead they settled down, with few overt signs of resistance, to a hard, dull but relatively peaceful five years of occupation, in which more than half the population was working for the Germans.” There were suicides and since Bunting’s book was published, several new books and journal articles have been published describing additional incidents of resistance, both active and passive, by islanders.
Charles Cruickshank summed up the opposing and official view about the conduct of the Channel Islands’ governments under German occupation by saying “it would be difficult to voice any criticism of their relationship with the occupiers.” Had the island leaders “simply kept their heads above water and done what they were told to do by the occupying power it would hardly be a matter for censure; but they carried the administrative war into the enemy camp on many occasions. It is not that they made some mistakes that is surprising, but that they did so much right in circumstances of the greatest possibly difficulty.”
Life as a civilian during the occupation came as a shock. Having their own governments continuing to govern them softened the blow and kept most civilians at a distance from their oppressors. Many lost their jobs when businesses closed down and it was hard finding work for non German employers. As the war progressed, life became harsher and morale fell, especially when radios were confiscated and when deportations took place in September 1942. Food, fuel and medicines became scarce and crime increased. Following June 6, 1944, liberation became more likely in the popular mind, but the hardest times for the civilians was still to come as the winter of 1944-45 was very cold and hungry, the population being saved from starvation with the arrival of Red Cross parcels.
All external telephone links were severed within days of occupation and all radio transmitters were seized. For the first four months, radio receivers were permitted and people could listen to the BBC. Then, following a preliminary commando raid when two men were trapped in Guernsey, 8,000 radios were confiscated and handed in within Guernsey alone. It was easy to identify owners as (almost) everyone had a BBC Radio licence. Returned in December 1940, they were again confiscated in June 1942 for “military reasons” a coincidence that it followed a devastating raid by 1,000 bombers on Cologne.
If people had more than one radio, they might hold one back, or just hand in an old broken set. Other people made crystal radio sets. It was possible to make crystals, wire was available, the hardest object was a speaker. Stripping down telephone receivers, solved that problem. Radios and crystal sets had to be well hidden as listening to them had severe penalties of up to six months in prison with a very heavy fine. Imprisonment of a number of people resulting in some deaths, including Frederick William Page who died in Naumburg-am-Saale penal prison.
The BBC did not broadcast any programs aimed at the Channel Island civilians for fear of retribution being made against the civilians, it left the islanders feeling forgotten although in July 1940 on the Forces program a message was transmitted about the progress of evacuated children. and on April 24, 1942, a message was sent. Programs were scheduled by the BBC for Christmas Day 1941. and on the same day in 1942 however it is not known if they were broadcast.
Until the occupation, the British postal system was responsible for the island mails. German authorities permitted the continued use of British postage stamps for inter-island mail, but initially no post was permitted outside of the islands. The post was subject to censorship and control. Since the source of stamps was cut off, a shortage of British postage stamps soon occurred. The Post Office authorized the bisecting of 2-pence stamps to cover the one penny postage rate between December 27, 1940 and February 22, 1941. The first consequence of this appeared in Guernsey. By December 1940, stocks of the 1-penny stamp were nearly exhausted. Locally designed and printed stamps were issued for Guernsey. These showed the a coat of arms bearing three lions; these were actually from the Arms of England rather than Guernsey itself. There were 3 values — ½-penny (green), 1-penny (red) and 2½-pence (blue). There were many different printings of these stamps resulting in many color varieties. In early 1942, French banknote paper was used to print the stamps. When gum was applied, a chemical reaction turned the paper blue. Guernsey occupation stamps were first issued on February 18, 1941 and were valid until April 13, 1946.
On Jersey, the local German authorities overprinted a few sets of George VI stamps with a swastika on a trial basis in 1940. The Bailiff of Jersey protested against the defacing of the King’s head. and the matter was referred to Berlin. Berlin rejected the stamps and ordered all copies destroyed, however a few sets found their way to a German stamp auction in 1941. The Germans then commissioned a Jersey firm to produce an essay for a 1-penny postage stamp bearing the arms of the States of Jersey. These were generally imperforate and some were overprinted with swastikas. These were also rejected and never placed in use.
As supplies of British stamps on Jersey dwindled, the bailiff asked Major Rybot, a local artist, to create a design for a 1-penny postage stamp. They were printed locally by the Jersey Evening Post using the typography method, unwatermarked and perforated 11. The 1-penny (vermilion) was released on April 1, 1941, while the ½-penny (bright green) appeared on January 29, 1942. As with Guernsey, there were several printings resulting in color variations.
Major Rybot hid masked insults to the Germans in the one-penny stamp, which was the first of the Jersey stamps issued. He inserted a small letter A into each of the four corners of the stamp, later explaining that they stood for Ad Avernum, Adolphe Atrox, which means “To hell with you, atrocious Adolph”. In the ½-penny stamp, he inserted an A into each of the upper corners and a B in the lower corners. The meaning of the letters were “Atrocious Adolf” and “Bloody Benito”.
In 1943, the German Field Commandant for Jersey, Colonel Knackfuss, suggested a set of six stamps depicting local scenes. The new stamps, designed by local artist Edmund Blampied, were approved by the bailiff and the German Field Commandant. Due to the shortage of materials, the designs were sent to Paris for printing by Henri Cortot. The original proofs were made the same size as the current French definitives, but were deemed too small for the level of detail on the stamps. The names of Blampied and Cortot were inserted into the designs of all six stamps.
The first two of the Jersey local scene stamps were released on June 1, 1943, a ½-penny (dark green) depicting an old Jersey farm and the 1-penny (scarlet) portraying Portelet Bay. Two additional values were issued a week later — June 8 — 1½-penny (brown) with Corbiere Lighthouse and 2-pence (orange) picturing Elizabeth Castle. The final two stamps issued under the German occupation of Jersey are the 2½-pence (blue) portraying Mont Orgueil Castle and the 3-pence (red violet) depicting the gathering of seaweed, released on June 29, 1943. On February 25, 1944, the 2½-pence was reprinted on newsprint, followed by the 1-penny on February 28. All of these stamps were perforated 13½.
The artist — Edmund Blampied — went to great lengths to embed subtle insults to the German authorities in designing these stamps. A cursory glance at the triangles containing the denominations reveals that they are all inverted Vs. The final insult appears on the 3-pence stamp: the script initials GR (for Georgius Rex) on either side of the 3 displays loyalty to King George VI. Edmund Blampied also forged stamps for documents for fugitives.
At several times during the occupation, supplies of stamps were temporarily exhausted. On such occasions, special PAID hand stamps in different values were applied in red at the Guernsey and Jersey Head Post offices. All of the Jersey stamps issued under German occupation were postally valid until April 13, 1946.
The registration service was in use throughout the occupation. The registered letter rate was 5½ pence. Registration labels were supplied from London prior to the occupation but no further supplies were forthcoming. When stocks of labels ran out at the Guernsey main post office, labels from closed sub post offices were used. In April 1944, Guernsey employed a violet registration hand stamp for such mail. Similarly, the Sark post office ran out of registration labels towards the end of the occupation. Herm registration labels were used with the word HERM crossed out and SARK inserted in manuscript. When stocks of registration labels in Jersey were exhausted, the Jersey post office introduced unframed hand stamps coded ´A´, ´B´ or ´C´ followed by up to 4 digits.
Mail to and from the German troops on the Islands was sent through the German Feldpost system. There was one Feldpost office on Guernsey and one on Jersey. German soldiers were allowed to send mail free of charge. Islanders could also use this service to write to friends in occupied territories such as France. For this service, only German stamps could be used. These were canceled with a standard German Feldpost postmark. Channel Islands stamps were not valid for this service. Similarly covers from France and Germany into the Channel Islands are very collectible. Covers are known bearing both Channel Islands and German stamps. These are philatelic and are of little value.
During late 1942 and 1943, islanders of British nationality were deported from the Channel Islands to special internment camps in Germany. These Internees could write to the Channel Islands or to their relatives in England on special Internee cards or letter sheets. Mail was also sent from the Channel Islands and England to these camps.
In September 1940 the first letters allowed to be sent via the Red Cross from Jersey were limited to 220 in number. The Germans initially refused to accept any letters to anyone who had evacuated the Island before the invasion. The letters sent via the International Red Cross were the only way islanders could send messages to their relatives in England or other unoccupied countries. These messages were typed on special forms provided by the German Red Cross and sent through the local Red Cross Message bureau. Similarly, the islanders were able to receive messages from England. These were on forms provided by the British Red Cross. There was space on the back of the form for the islanders to reply. Normally routed via Germany then Sweden or Portugal, the Red Cross letters could take weeks or months to arrive. The number of words written on the cards was limited, as well as vetted. This was one area where restriction were gradually lifted, the number of words increased from 10 to 25. The number and frequency of cards one could send also increased. The requirement to come and collect your message changed to simply posting the message to recipients. Nearly one million messages were dealt with by the bureau volunteers before the islands were isolated in late 1944 and messages stopped.
Towards the end of the occupation period, paper and consequently envelopes were in very short supply, and envelopes were re-used twice or even three times. Many ingenious people made their own envelopes from either tomato wrapping paper or even from brown bags.
In Guernsey in 1940, the Germans proposed, instead of letters, to record a message to be transmitted by them over a radio so that people in Britain could listen. The message recorded by Ambrose Sherwill was broadcast and caused controversy as it mentioned the exemplary conduct of the German soldiers and how the population was being well looked after. This was not the way Churchill wished the Germans to be perceived, but would have provided comfort to islanders in Britain.
During the occupation, a shortage of coinage (partly caused by occupying troops taking away coins as souvenirs) led to the passing of the Currency Notes (Jersey) Law on April 29, 1941. A series of 2-shilling notes (blue lettering on orange paper) were issued. The law was amended on November 29, 1941, to provide for further issues of notes of various denominations, and a series of banknotes designed by Edmund Blampied was issued by the States of Jersey in denominations of 6 pence, 1, 2 and 10 shillings, and 1 pound. The six pence note was designed in such a way that the wording of the word six on the reverse incorporated an outsized “X” so that when the note was folded, the result was the resistance symbol “V” for victory.
Newspapers were censored from the start, with papers often carrying articles written by Germans who purported to be editors. Printing exactly what they were given, the bad English used in “German” articles gave away the propaganda items. During those months when it was possible to listen to the BBC openly it was also clear who was telling the truth. A Jersey paper written in Jersey French caused problems for the Germans as they could not translate it and it ceased production.
Paper became scarce so newspapers became smaller, dropping to just one page and then began to print on alternate days. Official announcements were then displayed in shop windows.
Resistance newssheets were printed secretly as a means of circulating news from the BBC. Most people involved were eventually arrested and a number died in prisons. Allied propaganda leaflets were not dropped after summer 1940. In autumn 1944, leaflets were dropped to encourage Germans to surrender, something the individual soldier could not do, as they were trapped.
Libraries were popular and operated through the war after having some titles withdrawn through censorship.
The population actively resisting German occupation in continental European countries was between 0.6% and 3%, and the percentage of the islander population participating in active resistance is comparable. From a wartime population of 66,000 in the Channel Islands, a total of around 4000 islanders were sentenced for breaking laws (around 2600 in Jersey and 1400 in Guernsey), although many of these were for ordinary criminal acts rather than resistance; 570 prisoners were sent to continental prisons and camps, and at least 22 Jerseymen and nine Guernseymen did not return. Willmott estimated that over 200 people in Jersey provided material and moral support to escaped forced workers, including over 100 who were involved in the network of safe houses sheltering escapees.
No islanders joined active German military units while a small number of UK men who had been stranded in the islands at the start of the occupation joined up from prison. Eddie Chapman, an Englishman, was in prison for burglary in Jersey when the invasion occurred, and offered to work for the Germans as a spy under the code name Fritz, then became a British double agent under the code name ZigZag.
Resistance involved passive resistance, acts of minor sabotage, sheltering and aiding escaped slave workers, and publishing underground newspapers containing news from BBC radio. There was no armed resistance movement in the Channel Islands. Much of the population of military age had already joined the British or French armed forces. Because of the small size of the islands, most resistance involved individuals risking their lives to save someone else. The British government did not encourage resistance in the Channel Islands. Islanders joined in Churchill’s V sign campaign by daubing the letter “V” (for Victory) over German signs.
The Germans initially followed a policy of presenting a non-threatening presence to the resident population for its propaganda value ahead of an eventual invasion and occupation of the United Kingdom. Many islanders were willing to go along with the necessities of occupation as long as they felt the Germans were behaving in a correct and legal way. Two events particularly jolted many islanders out of this passive attitude: the confiscation of radios, and the deportation of large sections of the population.
In May 1942, three youngsters, Peter Hassall, Maurice Gould, and Denis Audrain, attempted to escape from Jersey in a boat. Audrain drowned, and Hassall and Gould were imprisoned in Germany, where Gould died. Following this escape attempt, restrictions on small boats and watercraft were introduced, restrictions were imposed on the ownership of photographic equipment (the boys had been carrying photographs of fortifications with them), and radios were confiscated from the population. A total of 225 islanders, such as Peter Crill, escaped from the islands to England or France: 150 from Jersey, and 75 from Guernsey. The number of escapes increased after D-Day, when conditions in the islands worsened as supply routes to the continent were cut off and the desire to join in the liberation of Europe increased.
On specific orders from Adolf Hitler, in 1942, the German authorities announced that all residents of the Channel Islands who were not born in the islands, as well as those men who had served as officers in World War I, were to be deported. The majority of them were transported to the south west of Germany, to Ilag V-B at Biberach an der Riss and Ilag VII at Laufen, and Wurzach. This deportation order was originally issued in 1941, as a reprisal for the 800 German civilians in Iran being deported and interned. The ratio was 20 Channel Islanders to be interned for every German interned but its enactment was delayed and then diluted. The fear of internment caused suicides in all three islands. Guernsey nurse Gladys Skillett, who was five months pregnant at the time of her deportation to Biberach, became the first Channel Islander to give birth while in captivity in Germany. Out of the 2,300 deported, 45 would die before the war ended.
The deportations of 1942 sparked the first mass demonstrations of patriotism of the occupation. The illegality and injustice of the measure, which contrasted with the Germans’ earlier showy insistence on legality and correctness, outraged those who remained behind and encouraged many to turn a blind eye to the resistance activities of others in passive support.
Soon after the sinking of HMS Charybdis on October 23, 1943, the bodies of 21 Royal Navy and Royal Marines men were washed up in Guernsey. The German authorities buried them with full military honors. The funerals became an opportunity for some of the islanders to demonstrate their loyalty to Britain and their opposition to the occupiers: around 5,000 islanders attended the funeral, laying 900 wreaths — enough of a demonstration against the occupation for subsequent military funerals to be closed to civilians by the German occupiers.
Some island women fraternized with the occupying forces. This was frowned upon by the majority of islanders, who gave them the derogatory nickname Jerry-bags. According to the Ministry of Defence, a very high proportion of women “from all classes and families” had sexual relations with the enemy, and 800–900 children were born to German fathers. The Germans estimated their troops had been responsible for fathering 60 to 80 illegitimate births in the Channel Islands. As far as official figures went, 176 illegitimate births in total had been registered in Jersey between July 1940 and May 1945; and in Guernsey 259 illegitimate births between July 1941 and June 1945 (the disparity in the official figures is explained by differing legal definitions of illegitimacy in the two jurisdictions). The German military authorities tried to prohibit sexual fraternization in an attempt to reduce incidences of sexually transmitted diseases. They opened brothels for soldiers, staffed with French prostitutes under German medical surveillance.
The sight of brutality against slave workers brought home to many islanders the reality of Nazi ideology behind the punctilious façade of the occupation. Forced marches between camps and work sites by wretched workers and open public beatings rendered visible the brutality of the régime.
As part of the Atlantic Wall, between 1940 and 1945 the occupying German forces and the Organisation Todt constructed fortifications, roads and other facilities in the Channel Islands. In a letter from the Oberbefehlshaber West dated June 16, 1941, the reinforcing of the islands was to be carried out on orders of Hitler, since an Allied attack “must be reckoned with” in Summer 1941. Much of work was carried out by imported labor, including thousands from the Soviet Union, and under the supervision of the German forces. The Germans transported over 16,000 slave workers to the Channel Islands to build fortifications. Five categories of construction worker were employed (or used) by the Germans.
Paid foreign labor was recruited from occupied Europe, including French, Belgian and Dutch workers — including some members of resistance movements who used the opportunity to travel to gain access to maps and plans.
Conscripted laborers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands were also assigned. In 1941, hundreds of unemployed French Algerians and Moroccans were handed to the Germans by the Vichy government and sent to Jersey. Around 2,000 Spaniards who had taken refuge in France after the Spanish Civil War and who had been interned were handed over for forced labor. Most of the Soviet slave workers came from the Ukraine.
The problem of the use of local labor arose early in the occupation. In a request for labor dated July 19, 1941, the Oberbefehlshaber West cited the “extreme difficulty” of procuring local civilian labor. On August 7, Deputy Le Quesne, who was in charge of Jersey’s Labour Department, refused a German order to provide labor for improvements at Jersey Airport on the grounds that this would be to provide military assistance to the enemy. On August 12, the Germans stated that unless labor was forthcoming men would be conscripted. The builders who had originally built the airport undertook the work under protest. In the face of threats of conscription and deportation to France, resistance to the demands led to an ongoing tussle over the interpretation of the Hague Convention and the definition of military and non-military works.
On August 1, 1941, the Germans accepted that the Hague Convention laid down that no civilian could be compelled to work on military projects. The case of the reinforcement of sea walls, which could legitimately be described as civilian sea defenses (important for islands) but were undeniably of military benefit in terms of coastal defense, showed how difficult it was to distinguish in practice. Economic necessity drove many islanders to take up employment offered by the Germans, taking the opportunity to sabotage or delay works, and to steal tools and provisions. Lorry drivers siphoned off scarce petrol to barter for food with farmers. The Germans also induced civilian labor by offering those who contravened curfew or other regulations employment on building projects as an alternative to deportation to Germany.
The fifth category of labor were British conscientious objectors and Irish citizens. As many of the islands’ young men had joined the armed forces at the outbreak of war, there was a shortfall in manual labor on the farms, particularly for the potato crop. 150 registered conscientious objectors associated with the Peace Pledge Union and 456 Irish workers were recruited for Jersey. Some chose to remain and were trapped by the occupation. Some of the conscientious objectors were communists and regarded the German-Soviet pact as a justification for working for the Germans. Others participated in non-violent resistance activities. As the Irish workers were citizens of a neutral country, they were free to work for the Germans as they wished and many did so.
The Germans attempted to foster anti-British and IRA sympathies with propaganda events aimed at the Irish. John Francis Reilly convinced 72 of his fellow Irishmen in 1942 to volunteer for employment at the Hermann Göring ironworks near Brunswick. Conditions were unpleasant and they returned to Jersey in 1943. Reilly stayed behind in Germany to broadcast on radio and joined the SS Sicherheitsdienst.
The Channel Islands were amongst the most heavily fortified parts of the Atlantic Wall, particularly Alderney which is the closest to France. On October 20, 1941, Hitler signed a directive, against the advice of Commander-in-Chief von Witzleben, to turn the Channel Islands into an “impregnable fortress”. In the course of 1942, one twelfth of the resources funneled into the whole Atlantic Wall was dedicated to the fortification of the Channel Islands. Hitler had decreed that 10% of the steel and concrete used in the Atlantic Wall go to the Channel Islands. It is often said the Channel Islands were better defended than the Normandy beaches, given the large number of tunnels and bunkers around the islands. By 1944 in tunneling alone, 244,000 m³ of rock had been extracted collectively from Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney (the majority from Jersey). At the same point in 1944, the entire Atlantic Wall from Norway to the Franco-Spanish border, excluding the Channel Islands, had extracted some 225,000 m³.
Light railways were built in Jersey and Guernsey to supply coastal fortifications. In Jersey, a one-meter gauge line was laid down following the route of the former Jersey Railway from St Helier to La Corbière, with a branch line connecting the stone quarry at Ronez in St John. A 60-cm line ran along the west coast, and another was laid out heading east from St Helier to Gorey. The first line was opened in July 1942, the ceremony being disrupted by passively-resisting Jersey spectators. The Alderney Railway was taken over by the Germans who lifted part of the standard gauge line and replaced it with a meter gauge line, worked by two Feldbahn 0-4-0 diesel locomotives. The German railway infrastructure was dismantled after the liberation in 1945.
During June 1944, the Allied Forces launched the D-Day landings and the liberation of Normandy. They decided to bypass the Channel Islands due to their heavy fortifications. As a result, German supply lines for food and other supplies through France were completely severed. The islanders’ food supplies were already dwindling, and this made matters considerably worse. The islanders and German forces alike were on the point of starvation.
In August 1944, the German Foreign Ministry made an offer to Britain, through the Swiss Red Cross, that would see the release and evacuation of all Channel Island civilians except for men of military age. This was not a possibility that the British had envisaged. The British considered the offer, a memorandum from Winston Churchill stating “Let ’em starve. They can rot at their leisure”, it is not clear whether Churchill meant the Germans, or the civilians. The German offer was rejected in late September.
In September 1944 a ship sailed from France to Guernsey under a white flag. The American on board asked the Germans if they were aware of their hopeless position. The Germans refused to discuss surrender terms and the American sailed away.
It took months of protracted negotiations before the International Committee of the Red Cross ship SS Vega was permitted to bring relief to the starving islanders in December 1944, carrying Red Cross parcels, salt and soap, as well as medical and surgical supplies. Permission was obtained to sail no earlier than December 20, 1944. German artillery observers on Guernsey spotted the ship at 10:40 am on December 27. Escorted by a minesweeper, M 4613 and with her radio transmitter disabled, she docked at Saint Peter Port harbor at 5;50 pm watched by a crowd of locals.
The unloading by the Kriegsmarine was watched by a large crowd who lined the route from the harbor to the store where Red Cross Parcels would be stored prior to distribution. The parcels, donated by Canada and New Zealand, being transported on hand pushed rail trolleys to a storage depot in St George’s Hall. Unloading was almost completed on December 29 and she sailed for Jersey next day. Unloading by German sailors and marines at Saint Helier harbor was completed on January 3, 1945. Vega then returned to Lisbon.
The Honourable Herbert Morrison MP, speaking as Home Secretary in the British House of Commons on January 18, 1945, stated that “the ship had sustained damage at the harbor at Guernsey,” which would require repairs, so delaying the second visit until around January 25. The damage was to her bottom as she grounded at low tide, having been put in a berth designed for ships of up to 400 tons. She went into dry dock in Lisbon for repairs.
Problems arose with the proposal to transport two members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as there was only one cabin available and only one space available in a lifeboat, should it be necessary. The extra person was given space in the Captain’s cabin and the Captain agreed to breach the safety rules on crew numbers of 21. The Vega sailed on her second Channel Islands relief voyage on February 1, 1945, arriving at Guernsey on February 7. She departed on February 11 and arrived at Jersey on February 13, departing for Lisbon on February 16 and arriving there on February 21.
In total, SS Vega made five voyages to the Channel Islands. The first three arrived in the Islands while they were still occupied, the last one was after liberation on May 9, 1945. The ship was docked alongside the Albert Pier in St Helier, Jersey when the island was liberated from the occupying forces. Presentations and gifts were made by the authorities in Jersey to Captain Wideberg and the crew, thanking them for bringing relief to the Islands.
The Granville Raid occurred on the night of March 8-9, 1945, when a German raiding force from the Channel Islands landed in Allied-occupied France and brought back supplies to their base. Granville had been the headquarters of Dwight D. Eisenhower for three weeks, six months earlier.
Although plans had been drawn up and proposed in 1943 by Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten for Operation Constellation, a military reconquest of the islands. This was to be an assault on the three main islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney where 40,000 Wehrmacht troops were well dug in. Mountbatten commented:
“Each island is a veritable fortress, the assault against which cannot be contemplated unless the defences are neutralised, or reduced to a very considerable extent by prior action. The proposal was eventually scuttled after it was felt that in order to dislodge the occupiers, naval and air units would need to smash the defences, resulting in massive civilian casualties.”
Planning for the liberation of the Channel Islands began with “Operation Rankin”, prepared in late 1943. It looked at three possibilities:
- Case A – before the liberation of France, which concluded a small attack might work if German morale was low and most German forces had left the Islands
- Case B – To occupy the Islands if they were evacuated by the Germans
- Case C – In the event of the complete unconditional surrender of all German forces
Only Case C was considered likely at the time and a directive dated November 10, 1943, by the Chief of Staff Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC) was issued which resulted in a Joint Plan for Operation Rankin C.
Naval forces would be based on whatever was available at the time, merchant shipping would be needed to transport three months supply of food and medicines, as would small craft for landing supplies, bicycles for transport and signaling equipment. 725 officers and men were considered adequate.
In 1943, intelligence was severely lacking. Additional aerial photographs needed to be taken and interpreted. There were no allied controlled radio transmitters in the islands so communications to discover what was actually happening in the islands was almost non-existent.
It was estimated that German troops comprised 23,800 men with one artillery and three infantry regiments within 319 Infantry Division. Surrender would be unlikely to occur without a fall in morale once isolated and/or starvation. Aware of the 2,000-3,000 British civilians who had been deported to camps in Germany in 1942-3, civilian numbers were estimated at 65,000 with 42,000 in Jersey, 23,000 in Guernsey and 355 in Sark.
Aerial photographs were taken and the few escaping civilians from the islands were interviewed.
Early in 1944, Brigadier Alfred Ernest Snow was appointed to command Task Force 135, the code name given to the liberation task force. Snow was 46 years old and had served in India and Burma between the wars, he was awarded an OBE when a Major with the BEF in June 1940. A small HQ structure was created to look into the planning.
On May 10, 1944, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, (SHAEF) sent a report to Southern Command stating that in the event it became necessary to capture the Channel Islands, this would be undertaken by 21st Army Group, after which Southern Command would take over and Rankin C should be reviewed accordingly. Shipping would be available after July 15, but no troops. Southern Command replied on June 22, 1944, after the Normandy D-Day landings had taken place, that Rankin C could be amended to suit either the German evacuation of the Islands or the German surrender on the Islands. Alderney was to be bypassed as it was not believed there were any civilians on the island.
By August, it was decided that only Rankin C would be applicable and Headquarters 115 Brigade provided the nucleus of the HQ for Task Force 135. The code name was changed to Operation Nestegg on August 11, 1944. Plymouth was chosen as the embarkation port and the planners of Task Force 135 moved their HQ from the New Forest to Cornwall.
In August 1944, the German Foreign Ministry made an offer to Britain, through the Swiss Red Cross, that would see the release and evacuation of all Channel Island civilians except for men of military age. This was not a possibility that the British had envisaged. The British considered the offer, a memorandum from Winston Churchill stating “Let ’em starve. They can rot at their leisure”. The German offer was rejected.
Not knowing when the force would be needed, a code word W-Day or warning day when the operation was given the go ahead by SHAEF was established and a timetable from then, W+1, W+2 etc. was established until C-Day, the first landing day, with C+1, C+2 etc. for follow up days.:26
A decision was made to involve a number of Channel Island people in the planning, as their local knowledge would be invaluable. The interrogation of any islanders who managed to escape the islands by boat, especially those in 1944 provided much needed intelligence.
Needing to land in both Jersey and Guernsey on the same day involved additional shipping and men, three battalions each of 700 men, plus engineers, were now needed. Suitable beaches for landings, such as St Aubin’s bay in Jersey and L’Ancresse in Guernsey, were selected. Unloading in an area with a 33-foot (10-meter) rise and fall of the tide had to be planned. Surrender terms were drafted. Prisoner of war facilities would be needed. The airports would be opened for transport planes to land.
Administrative tasks would be given to No 20 Civil Affairs Unit including the responsibility to bring 200 tons of food, clothing and medicines in on C-Day. Everything the islands needed from pots and pans to 1.1 million sheets of toilet paper were sourced. The British Government gave the force commander authority under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 to make regulations, any new laws passed by the Civil Governments in the islands would need Brigadier Snow’s approval.
Civilians would not be allowed to leave the islands without a permit. English currency would be provided, with £1,000,000 in notes and coins brought to the islands to enable people to exchange Reichsmarks back into sterling. A distribution of free “treats” including tobacco, chocolate and tea were planned.
Longer term plans were made for the removal of PoW’s, mines and weapons and the bringing in of food sufficient for 2,750 calories a day for three months for the civilians as well as fuel and goods, including 15 months worth of clothing rations which would be made available to purchase through the island shops.
There was no rush to liberate the islands. The Germans were prisoners of war who did not even have to be guarded. Because of the shortage of infantry, troops allocated to Task Force 135 were being sent to join the main army fighting in Europe.
During September 1944, British aircraft dropped leaflets printed in German over the islands almost every night, then on September 22 an unarmed air-sea rescue high speed launch HSL-2632 traveled from France to a point near St Martin’s point off Guernsey, arriving late and not finding any German ship to meet them, they proceeded to St Peter Port harbor under a white flag, met by E-boat S-112 which was not aware of the proposed meeting. A message was sent ashore but the opportunity for a discussion was refused. The HSL-2632 sailed off to England, being fired at by an 8.8 centimeters (3.5 inches) battery on Alderney who were not aware of the attempted peace mission.
It was around this time that agreement was given by the Allies to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to send a ship with Red Cross Parcels to the islands to reduce the risk of starvation. The first ship would sail in mid December.
A few more leaflet dropping missions were undertaken, with no visible sign of success, possibly because it was impossible for the soldiers, trapped on an island, to desert.
In December 1944, a rehearsal for Nestegg from W-Day to C+3 was undertaken. 6,100 troops were gathered and briefed, supplies loaded onto vehicles and ships, vehicles then were loaded onto landing ships and men were boarded. The Jersey force with 200 vehicles and 804 tons of supplies were landed at Paignton, the Guernsey force with 340 vehicles and 800 tons landed at Brixham. Realism continued with a few fanatic “enemy”, some in plain clothes and civilian women favouring Germany were met onshore. There were 12 minor injuries and a barn was damaged by a bulldozer. Lessons were learned, such as the discovery of a shortage of cooks, and applied to the Nestegg plans.
A second exercise in late February was undertaken with no problems, as was street fighting in bombed out streets in Plymouth. A third exercise, scheduled for mid-May was canceled.
On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler died, German flags in the Channel Islands were flown at half masts and Union Jack flags were being sold openly in the islands. The Bailiff in Jersey appealed for calm.
Plan Prophet, the landing in Guernsey and plan Moslem in Jersey, were given the “stand to” warning on May 3, 1945, making May 4 W-Day. Formation badges were issued, the shield was based on the three lions of Jersey and Guernsey coat of arms as used by Edward I of England and stencil formation signs were painted on the vehicles. Equipment and stores started to move from depots as far away as Liverpool. W+1, W+2 and W+3 came and went. On W+4, May 8, 1945, the day Europe celebrated the end of War in Europe, vehicles were being loaded. Press men came aboard on W+5 just before the leading ships sailed.
In the islands of Guernsey, Jersey and Sark the anticipation of the end of the war in Europe was at fever pitch, the authorities were trying hard to suppress the civilians’ urge to hang out patriotic flags as they did not want to provoke German retaliation. The Germans were very nervous about their future.
On May 7, the Bailiff of Jersey went to the prison and his request resulted in 30 ”political prisoners” being released. Also on W+3 a message was transmitted by Southern Command in clear to the German commander in the Channel Islands telling them that ships would arrive shortly to accept their surrender. The German reply was that they only took orders from German command.
Everything changed on May 8. The Germans released all other political prisoners — British, French and American prisoners of war and all German prisoners, held in the islands. Bunting and flags were put up in the streets. Radios, which had been banned for years upon pain of imprisonment, were produced in public, connected to loud speakers and tuned in to the speech given by Winston Churchill at 3:00 pm where they heard him say:
“Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, but in the interests of saving lives the cease fire began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.”
The crowds were cheering and jubilant, the island newspapers had published that peace had been declared, allied flags and bunting flew everywhere, but where were the British?
Very late on May 7, Southern Command had tried again by radio. The German commander replied to the British radio message confirming the British ships would not be fired upon. Two destroyers, HMS Beagle escorting HMS Bulldog sailed at 9:45 am on May 8 with an advance party, codename Omelette.
The following morning, May 9, 1945, HMS Bulldog arrived in St Peter Port, Guernsey, and the German forces surrendered unconditionally aboard the vessel at dawn. British forces landed in St Peter Port shortly afterwards, greeted by crowds of joyous but malnourished islanders singing, amongst other patriotic songs, “Sarnia-Cherie”.
HMS Beagle, which had set out at the same time from Plymouth, performed a similar role in liberating Jersey. Two naval officers, Surgeon Lieutenant Ronald McDonald and Sub Lieutenant R. Milne, were met by the harbormaster who escorted them to his office where they hoisted the Union Flag, before also raising it on the flagstaff of the Pomme D’Or Hotel. It appears that the first place liberated in Jersey may have been the British General Post Office Jersey repeater station. Mr. Warder, a GPO lineman, had been stranded in the island during the occupation. He did not wait for the island to be liberated and went to the repeater station where he informed the German officer in charge that he was taking over the building on behalf of the British Post Office.
Sark was liberated on May 10, 1945, and the German troops in Alderney surrendered on May 16. The German prisoners of war were removed from Alderney by May 20, and its population started to return in December 1945, after clearing up had been carried out by German troops under British military supervision.
A Royal Proclamation read out by Brigadier Alfred Snow in both Guernsey and Jersey vested the authority of military government in him. The British Government had planned for the relief and restoration of order in the islands. Food, clothing, pots, pans and household necessities had been stockpiled so as to supply islanders immediately. It was decided that to minimize financial disruption Reichsmarks would continue in circulation until they could be exchanged for sterling.
In Sark, the Dame was left in command of the 275 German troops in the island until May 17 when they were transferred as prisoners of war to England. The UK Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, visited Guernsey on May 14 and Jersey on May 15 and offered an explanation in person to the States in both bailiwicks as to why it had been felt in the interests of the islands not to defend them in 1940 and not to use force to liberate them after D-Day.
On June 7, the King and Queen visited Jersey and Guernsey to welcome the oldest possessions of the Crown back to freedom.
Since the state of affairs in the islands had been largely unknown and there had been uncertainty as to the extent of resistance by the German forces, the Defence (Channel Islands) Regulations of 1944 had vested sweeping administrative powers in the military governor. As it turned out that the German surrender was entirely peaceful and orderly and civil order had been maintained, these regulations were used only for technical purposes such as reverting to Greenwich Mean Time. Each bailiwick was left to make its own regulations as necessary. The situation of retrospectively regularizing legislation passed without Royal Assent had to be dealt with. Brigadier Snow signed regulations on June 13 (promulgated June 16) to renew orders in Jersey and ordinances in Guernsey as though there had been no interruption in their technical validity. The period of military government lasted until August 25, 1945, when new Lieutenant Governors in each bailiwick were appointed.
Following the liberation of 1945, allegations of collaboration with the occupying authorities were investigated. By November 1946, the UK Home Secretary was in a position to inform the House of Commons that most of the allegations lacked substance and only 12 cases of collaboration were considered for prosecution, but the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled out prosecutions on insufficient grounds. In particular, it was decided that there were no legal grounds for proceeding against those alleged to have informed to the occupying authorities against their fellow citizens. The only trials connected to the occupation of the Channel Islands to be conducted under the Treachery Act 1940 were against individuals from among those who had come to the islands from Britain in 1939–1940 for agricultural work. These included conscientious objectors associated with the Peace Pledge Union and people of Irish extraction. In December 1945, a list of British honors was announced to recognize a certain number of prominent islanders for services during the occupation.
In Jersey and Guernsey, laws were passed to confiscate retrospectively the financial gains made by war profiteers and black marketeers, although these measures also affected those who had made legitimate profits during the years of military occupation.
The abandoned German equipment and fortifications posed a serious safety risk and there were many accidents after the occupation resulting in several deaths. Many of the bunkers, batteries and tunnels can still be seen today. Some have been restored, such as Battery Lothringen and Ho8, and are open for the general public to visit. After the occupation, the islanders used some of the fortifications for other purposes, but most were stripped out in scrap drives (and by souvenir hunters) and left abandoned. One bunker was transformed into a fish hatchery and a large tunnel complex was made into a mushroom farm.
The islands were seriously in debt, with the island governments owing over £10,000,000, having had to pay for the evacuation ships, the costs incurred by evacuees in the UK, the cost of the “occupation forces”, being wages, food, accommodation and transport as well as the cost of providing domestics for the Germans, providing civilian work for islanders and needing to pay for reconstruction and compensation after the war. Taxation receipts having fallen dramatically during the war period. Finally, the now worthless Occupation Reichsmarks and RM bank deposits were converted back to Sterling at the rate of 9.36 RM to £1. Part of this debt was met by a “gift” from the UK government of £3,300,000 which was used to reimburse islanders who had suffered damage and loss. In addition, the cost of maintaining the evacuees, estimated at £1,000,000 was written off by the government. As one could buy a house for £250 in the 1940s, the gift was equivalent to the value of 17,000 houses.
Since the end of the occupation, the anniversary of Liberation Day has been celebrated in Jersey and Guernsey on May 9 as a national holiday. Sark marks Liberation Day on May 10. In Alderney, there was no official local population to be liberated, so Alderney celebrates “Homecoming Day” on December 15 to commemorate the return of the evacuated population. The first shipload of evacuated citizens from Alderney returned on this day.