A HOLIDAY IN GUERNSEY JUNE 1940? YES REALLY!

This blog post will look at why people were still coming on holiday right up until the days immediately before invasion and what happened to a couple on their honeymoon and a family who chose Guernsey instead of Cornwall.

It may surprise you that even up until mid June 1940 adverts for holidays to the Channel Islands were still being published in British newspapers. What could possibly go wrong?

“Lovely Guernsey for a Restful Holiday” proclaimed the advert in the 13th June 1940 edition of the London paper the Daily News. Just nine days short of the French capitulation the adverts were extolling the benefits of “Golf, Tennis, Bathing, Boating and Fishing.”

The adverts advised that sea services were available from Southampton and air services were “available three times daily from Shoreham. Apply Guernsey Airways, Hudson Place, Victoria Station, S.W.1.”

Adverts like the one below featured in Newspapers across the whole of Britain.

Daily Mirror 1 June 1940

They were of course placed well in advance so it is no surprise that they were still appearing at this point in the war. They had come about because of lobbying by hoteliers across the Channel Islands who in the spring of 1940 were keen not to miss out on their usual stream of visitors. After all in early 1940 it looked like the war would be fought far away from these islands.

Fast forward to June 1940 and you may be wondering did people still travel for holidays given that the Germans were advancing across France at a rapid pace? Especially with the Channel Islands being so close to the French coast.

Given that the British Government kept changing their assessment of whether the Islands would be invaded, sometimes twice in a day, you can’t really blame people for taking a holiday. The deliberations by the Government would not have been public knowledge in any case. Well not until the announcement that they were demilitarised and declared an open town on 15 June 1940.

In a few cases these holiday makers were to have an unexpected longer “holiday” than planned. Mr & Mrs Dunkley of Ramsgate had considered going to Cornwall but had previously enjoyed a holiday in Guernsey so decided to visit again with their son Leonard.

Unfortunately for them not long after they arrived the Germans bombed St Peter Port harbour on 28 June 1940. They were down at the harbour at the time of the raid and Mrs Dunkley described it as a terrifying experience. Two days later the occupying forces arrived and they were trapped for almost the next five years.

The problem that they will have faced is that once evacuation started it was clear that not everyone would be able to be evacuated.

Mr Dunkley and his son found work and they were able to find somewhere to live. In September 1942 they were deported to France and then onward to an internment camp in Biberach in Southern Germany. This was part of the deportation of all English born residents between the ages of 16-70, together with their families. Also deported were those who had at any time in their lives been enrolled in the armed forces of the Crown. The notice published by the Germans used the term “evacuated” rather than deported.

They were liberated in April 1945 and returned to Ramsgate where they were delighted to find their home intact. The whole article from the newspaper is at the end of this blog post.

Another couple who came to the island on Honeymoon were to suffer a similar fate. Ronald Harris married Eileen Brewer in London on 14 June 1940 and travelled to Guernsey for their honeymoon.

Ronald & Eileen from the Daily Herald June 1945

They had intended to return to England on the day that the Germans bombed St Peter Port.

Finding themselves stuck in Guernsey with only £3 Ronald volunteered to be an an ARP warden as he had experience. After the invasion on the 30th June he found himself as second officer in the Guernsey Fire Brigade. Whenever they were called out after an RAF raid they had to get permission to attend the fire and the telephonist at the German HQ didn’t speak English. They worked as slowly as possible when the Germans wanted them to put out a fire.

In early 1942 the Germans stood down the Guernsey Fire Brigade and insisted that they train Germans. So Ronald found himself in charge of 25 Germans for some weeks with them obeying his orders and his whistle. He clearly enjoyed ordering them about and training them to his whistle!

As with the Dunkley family they were also deported in September 1942. Eventually they were repatriated to England in April 1945.

The article from the Below is an article published in the Thanet Advertiser & Echo on 17 April 1945.

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© Nick Le Huray

Author: Nick Le Huray 🇬🇬

Guernsey based amateur historian. Interested in the Occupation of the Channel Islands and wider Second World War history.

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