The 16th of May marks the anniversary of the liberation of Alderney. Alderney had been almost completely evacuated save for the family of Alderney resident George Pope. There were therefore few Alderney people there to see the liberation.

Force 135 had bypassed Alderney as there were estimated to be some 3,000 Germans there as well as some political prisoners and slave workers, although many of those had been removed from the island in late 1943 and 1944.

On 16th May “Plan Merit” was undertaken to liberate Alderney. An armed trawler HMT Beal set off for Alderney along with two LCI’s, Landing Craft Infantry, carrying approximately two hundred men of all ranks.

A view from a landing craft sailing towards a jetty, looking up towards a group of German soldiers standing in on the quayside. © IWM Art.IWM ART LD 5594

Brigadier Snow A.E. Snow accepted the surrender of the Alderney garrison from Oberstleutnant Schwalm, who was the Island Commandant, at a property which is called Peacehaven which was used as the Officers’ Mess.

The picture below shows five German officers in uniform sitting around a table within the interior of an Officers’ Mess. One of the German officers, Schwalm, signs a document on the table in front of him, watched by a British naval officer who is sitting on the same side of the table, two British officers sitting at the end of the table and a crowd of British officers gathering at the door behind them.

© IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 5595)

Once the document was signed the Union Flag was duly raised.

Alderney had been left in a terrible mess by the Germans who had destroyed many of the buildings by stripping them of wood and other materials to burn as well as causing other damage.

Some of the Germans were kept back to clear up the mess they had made and deal with removal of land mines and other weapons but a large number were removed within a few days and taken to England as prisoners of war.

Birmingham Mail – Thursday 24 May 1945
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

As I mentioned above there were only a handful of Alderney residents there at the liberation. The islanders had almost totally evacuated in the summer of 1940 and were not to return in any numbers until 15 December 1945, which is now celebrated as “Homecoming Day” you can read about that in my blog post below.

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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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