Having caused a bit of a kerfuffle in various history forums and on social media, particularly locally, with my look at Churchill’s “Let’em Starve” comment, see here if you missed it, I thought I would follow up with a look at the proposed warning to the commander of the Channel Islands in March 1945.
Churchill’s comment was made in September 1944 based on information available at the time to the British Government. Their concern being that any relief effort for the civilian population would lead to the Germans taking additional food supplies from the islands. This would of course result in no improvement of the position of the civilian population of the islands but would improve the position of the occupying forces.
The British Government did of course change their mind later in 1944 and allowed the International Red Cross to send supplies following an appeal from the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey. The International Red Cross ship the SS Vega made five trips to the Islands prior to the liberation in May 1945. The first arriving in Guernsey on 27 December 1944. A further visit was made in June 1945 after the liberation.
The ship delivered food parcels designed to supplement the meagre food supplies of Islanders. The parcels were designed to provide an additional 462 calories a day. To give some context that is the equivalent of eating two Snickers bars or slightly less than one Big Mac.
The Germans managed a few flights after D-Day bringing in limited supplies by air. The first of which arrived on 11 October 1944.
As the war on mainland Europe progressed the supply line became longer and longer. Eventually these limited flights, if they made it through, required a round trip of almost 1.000 miles. I will be blogging about these flights in the future.
If you want to understand how cut off the Channel Islands were after D-Day and haven’t read it yet I wrote about it on the post below.
So having set the scene we fast forward to March 1945 when the War Cabinet were considering the position as it stood then. The Channel Islands remained essentially cut off from supplies from anywhere except from those flights and the International Red Cross.
By this time the commander of the Channel Islands was Vizeadmiral Friedrich Hüffmeier a thoroughly nasty individual who was an ardent Nazi. You can read about the extreme lengths he went to and the trouble he caused in the blog below.
Given the above serious consideration was given to sending a message to him that if he were to neglect his obligations to the civilian population he would be treated as a war criminal. A warning had been given in September 1944 about their obligations under the Geneva Convention as an occupying force.
Having considered the report, which you can read below, the War Cabinet decided on the 28th March 1945 not to issue the warning.
The rationale being that there was no information from the International Red Cross officials that the civilian population had their Red Cross supplies interfered with. The other consideration was that the Germans would point out that the offer to the British Government of evacuation of Channel Islanders not of military age in September 1944 would be thrown back at them. Have a read of the document below for the full detail.
Hopefully the above will shed a bit more light on why they did not pursue this course. It does of course not answer the debate of whether he should have been treated as a war criminal for other actions. That is a blog for another day.
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© Nick Le Huray
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