A TALE OF TWO PILOTS, HURRICANE GIRLS & A FRENCHMAN!

June 1940 and the fall of France is imminent. This post looks at the story of two pilots and their brief experiences in the Channel Islands at that time. This is from their interviews with the Imperial War Museum along with other information I have found in the archives.

Other than the same two photographs of a German Sentry standing guard next to RAF signs after the occupation of the islands not much is mentioned about RAF operations from Guernsey in 1939 and 1940. The same two photos always appear in the Daily Mail etc. They were official propaganda photos taken by the German occupiers.

There were various RAF activities at both Guernsey and Jersey airports from the start of the war until the islands were demilitarised in June 1940. These ranged from training, convoy escorts, support of the withdrawal from France to a full on bombing raid on Italy. I will be covering the general operations from the Channel Islands in a future blog post. You can read about the raid on Italy, Operation Haddock, in an earlier blog post here.

The Coastal Command Pilot

Hugh Eccles was a young pilot in Coastal Command. On 7th June 1940 he found himself posted to No 1 School of General Reconnaissance in Guernsey.

This course was designed to be an introduction to Coastal Command, navigation, ship recognition, and anti submarine warfare. They were equipped with Avro Ansons like the one shown below from 48 Squadron who also operated from Guernsey.

ROYAL AIR FORCE COASTAL COMMAND, 1939-1945. (C 3043) An Avro Anson Mark I of No. 48 Squadron RAF in flight, escorting an Atlantic Convoy. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205211342

Sadly for Eccles his time in Guernsey was to be cut short as he seemed to enjoy it.

I was billeted in the Manor Hotel nearby. It was a small holiday hotel pre war, it wasn’t a terribly extravagant affair.

Just down the road was an extremely delightful little beach. A cove called Petit Bot I think it was, where you could get drinks, which were extremely cheap. A complete round of drinks was a shilling.

Hugh Eccles – IWM Interview
The Manor Hotel still exists in 2022.
You still get drinks at Petit Bot but they will cost more than a shilling! © Nick Le Huray
Petit Bot Beach- © Nick Le Huray

When asked for more details about his time in Guernsey he went on to explain what they did in their spare time. It may seem like they were having a jolly good time considering that there was a war on. To give some context to this though people were still coming from the UK to Guernsey on holiday during the first half of 1940. This happened to such an extent and so late into June some were trapped here by the arrival of the Germans. I wrote about it here if you would like to know more.

We were enjoying the beach. Actually, we bought a car for I think 30 shillings between the four of us. We each had a driving licence, which I think was something like a shilling for life in Guernsey said there wasn’t very much.

We drove this car around Guernsey to go to beaches and pubs and when we left in a hurry, we had to get rid of it. So we drew lots to see who was going to drive it over the cliff. I was the fortunate one. This was an old car that had an accelerator on the steering wheel and I put the car at speed and jumped out and left it to go over the cliff but unfortunately, it hit a tuft of grass and came round back again. So somebody else had to have go.

It did go over the edge but it really wasn’t at all spectacular a bit of a disappointment. It was just a heap with a lot of steam coming up at the bottom of the cliff. Didn’t look terribly bent at all.

Hugh Eccles – IWM Interview

He talks bout having done some flying whilst here and seeing some smoke from the French coast.

And it wasn’t a surprise when we were told at three o’clock in the afternoon that we were to be off on the five o’clock boat and that was in fact the last boat out of Guernsey.

Hugh Eccles – IWM Interview

Where he refers to the last boat out of Guernsey he is mistaken as RAF personnel from the School of General Reconnaissance left the Island on 17 June and 19th June 1940 on the SS Brittany. They left along with personnel of No 23 and 64 Fighter Service Units. This was well in advance of evacuation of civilians by ship later in the month. He was of course not to know this.

SS Brittany – See SS Brittany for more

The Hurricane Pilot

Harold “Birdie” Bird-Wilson was a Hurricane pilot who as France began to fall found himself and his squadron retreating west.

F/O Harold Bird-Wilson © http://www.bbm.org.uk

If you want to read more about his interesting chap and his long career here

Above (L to R): F/O HAC Bird-Wilson, P/O DC Leary, Sgt. DA Sewell, S/Ldr. CW Williams, P/O DH Wissler, P/O JK Ross. With a Hurricane. © http://www.bbm.org.uk

He talks about how he ended up in the Channel Islands.

l have one interesting part is that we finally got back to western part of France to a place called Dinard. We landed at Dinard and operated from Dinard and the armistice on the 17th of June was about to be signed by the French and the colonel, the French station commander or whatever he called himself called the squadron commander in and said we had one hour to get off his airfield. Otherwise our Hurricanes would be destroyed.

Not a very friendly gesture because we’d been trying to help France but then that was our orders and honestly I’ve never seen a squadron scramble so quickly in its life and we then went to the Channel Isles. We were ordered to land on Jersey and patrol Cherbourg from Jersey and from Guernsey. We had B flight at Guernsey and A flight at Jersey. So we carried out patrols over Cherbourg while the army were being evacuated from there and finally we left the Channel Isles on the 27th of June.

Harold Bird-Wilson – IWM Interview

The Squadron records record a little of events.

17 Squadron Air 27/234/9 – National Archives
17 Squadron Air 27/234/9 – National Archives

His recollection that they arrived on the 17th June and left on the 27th June would appear too be out of kilter with the Squadron records record their departure from France on 17th June but departure from the Channel Islands on the 19th of June. The 19th of course was the day that demilitarisation was completed so it makes sense that they left then. One has to remember that he gave the interview forty eight years after the events took place.

Now you might be wondering who the hurricane girls were that are referred to in the title. Towards the end of the section of the interview he makes reference to them here.

They knew there was a possible invasion and the possibility of occupation. The only experience we had was young ladies coming up to the pilots, us pilots and asking if we would fly them back to England. Being in a single seater fighter it is a pretty tight squeeze and I’m not saying that everybody obeyed the Kings regulations and didn’t succumb to the request from a pretty young lady.

A year or two later I did meet a lady at a party and she said she’d come from the Channel Isles and I said how’d you get back? She said I came in a Hurricane. I said, Well, you better keep that one quiet.

That may have been one of those ladies that we had, I think it was Guernsey at the time, but the pilot would have had to fly without a parachute. That would have been a tricky situation and he would have had to fly, not complaining I wouldn’t think, on the girl’s lap.

Harold Bird-Wilson – IWM Interview

Now I had read somewhere, although where eludes me, about a lady that had claimed to have left Guernsey in this way. At the time I thought this was unlikely. This reference seems to imply that it might have happened. Especially given the amount of detail that he goes into on the problems associated with doing this.

Sadly I haven’t been able to locate any other evidence of this happening but if you have heard of this or seen anything on it please do let me know.

These Hurricane Girls are of course not to be confused with the ATA that delivered Hurricanes to squadrons during the war!

Other Aircraft Retreating Through the Channel Islands

Now the Hurricanes and Coastal Command aircraft were not the only ones in the area. Spitfires from 501 Squadron were briefly based in Jersey. One day they had an unexpected French visitor.

Leven Mail 14 August 1940 Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorised posts to make them easier to find and other resources such as tours, films and other resources that may be of interest.

You can also follow on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs.

I will be adding more as time permits. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it on social media or add a comment if you did. Feedback is always appreciated.

© Nick Le Huray

THE REVEREND DOUGLAS ORD GUERNSEY OCCUPATION DIARIES

John Nettles, those of a certain age will know him as Bergerac or if you are slightly younger as DCI Tom Barnaby in ITV’s Midsomer Murders, is also a man with a passion for the history of the Channel Islands during the Second World War.

His latest endeavour, no he wasn’t in that TV detective show, was to finally get the Occupation Diaries of the Reverend Douglas Ord published. The diaries were held at the Priaulx Library in Guernsey and often referred to by historians in their publications but were not available to the public unless they were aware of them and also able to visit the library.

The diaries are a great primary source of information about life during the Occupation of Guernsey. Written at the time so not subject to the passage of time on memories. It is also an excellent read, rather than just a reference book, it tells of the challenges of daily life.

This short film explains a little more and will only take a five minutes of your time to watch. It comes with the caveat that you may end up buying a book!

If you want to find out more about the Reverend Ord or might be interested in purchasing the book take a look at The Ord Diaries

John has also written another excellent book about the Occupation of all of the Islands called Jewels and Jackboots: Hitler’s British Channel Islands

FALSE HOPE AND FEAR – D-DAY AND THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

This blog is about the impact that the D-Day landings on the morale of islanders in Guernsey, the hopes and fears surrounding the news, and the impact on them and the German garrison over the following weeks.

Islanders suffered a poor night’s sleep on the evening of 5th and 6th of June 1944 as streams of Allied aircraft flew overhead the Islands from 11pm.

Some feared it was German aircraft that were forming up to attack the English south coast as they had done on many occasions. Others awakened by the aircraft thought “This is it, the invasion of France has started!”

The Rev. Douglas Ord recorded in his diary that sleep was impossible even if one had wanted to sleep. He was standing in his balcony watching the streams of aircraft flying overhead which finally slowed in intensity at 3pm on the 6th.

In addition to the noise of the aircraft there was the sound of the bombing and shelling of the Cherbourg peninsula and the German’s returning fire.

As the Germans had been on a heightened state of alert for some weeks it is somewhat surprising that they didn’t seem to react until approximately 2am when Ord records that they started firing the anti aircraft guns, of which there were many on the islands. Allied aircraft also attacked positions on the islands.

The only civilian casualty in Guernsey on D-Day was a Mr Malbon of the Vale who was killed at 7:30am when an anti aircraft shell fell on his house.

By the morning of 6 June news had begun to circulate that the Allies had landed in Normandy. This news was obtained by islanders from illicit crystal radio sets but also from German troops who were, unlike their commanders, on the whole keen for the whole thing to be over so that they could return home.

In the first few days after D-Day islanders moods were lifted and islanders would great each other with a smile and a thumbs up. Various rumours abounded including that the German High Command had fled that morning. In fact they had left on 4 June to attend a conference in Renne and had been taken by surprise by the invasion. They had to rush back to Guernsey.

Many thought that it would be only a couple of weeks before the islands were liberated. This hope was tempered by the fear that the German commanders were determined to fight on and any attempt to liberate the islands would result in massive loss of civilian lives.

In the House of Lords long time champion of the Channel Islands Lord Portsea, who was a Jersey man, called for a force of Channel Islands troops to liberate the islands.

Western Morning News, 21 June 1944

This of course was a completely impractical suggestion given that the Channel Islanders serving in the forces were spread far and wide across the world. If you take my own grandfathers as an example one was serving in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and my other was more close at hand as a gunnery petty officer on HMS Ramillies supporting the D-Day landings.

Now Lord Portsea wasn’t the only one that advocated retaking the Channel Islands at various points during the war both Mountbatten and Vice-Admiral John Hughes-Hallett also advocated operations to retake them. One such example is covered in my blog post about Operation Blazing that can be found here.

Fortunately the implications of trying to retake the islands had not been overlooked by the Allied commanders and in addition to this they were of little strategic value so they decided to pass them by. Attempts were made to secure a surrender but these came to nothing until 9 May 1945. You can read about these attempts in an earlier blog post of mine about the liberation.

As a result of the landings the German forces were placed on the highest state of alert. Islanders were confined to their houses from 9pm until 6am as the curfew was brought forward from 11pm. All places of entertainment were closed as were schools because of the danger of air raids.

Rules were introduced forbidding islanders from going about their business but few seemed to obey them. Ord notes in his diary that he went into town and there was hardly anyone around and little business to be going about in any case as the difficulties in obtaining supplies meant many shops were closed.

The German police were fining those that hung around in groups which is just another example of how petty they could be at times. Other than the police the Germans were notable by their absence from the streets as they were either required to man the defences or remain in their billets.

There was also the fear that the remaining civilian population would be taken from the islands to Germany in order to allow the Germans to hold out longer. There had of course been deportations earlier in the occupation to internment camps in Germany such as Biberach internment camp Ilag V-B for allied civilians.

The fear was exasperated when islanders witnessed forced workers being marched through the streets to boats to be taken away to the mainland Europe. Indeed the removal of the population was suggested numerous times to Hitler but his procrastination over making a decision effectively took it out of his hands as the Allies seized all of the French ports that could have been used.

One of the strange bits of propaganda that the Germans broadcast on the radio for consumption in Germany was that there had been a landing in Guernsey and Jersey by Allied parachutists. They reported that there had been great loss of life of both the parachutists and the local civilian population as well as severe damage. Now the German garrison heard this broadcast and of course knew it wasn’t true. This made many of them question what to believe and was certainly an own goal from that perspective.

It was even reported in the UK Newspapers on 6 June 1944.

Belfast Telegraph 6 June 1944

During the weeks preceding D-Day there had been an increased level of air attacks on German positions in the Channel Islands. In particular the area around the harbour and Fort George. The main aim being to destroy the radar installation at the Fort as it was feared that this would detect the invasion fleet heading for France in D-Day.

These attacks increased in intensity post D-Day which led to islanders to leave their front doors unlocked to enable passersby to shelter in the event of an air raid. It is worth mentioning that these weren’t large scale air raids but more targeted attacks on specific targets. They usually consisted of fewer than ten aircraft aircraft and quite often just two or three aircraft.

They were of course seeking to cause maximum damage on German forces with minimal civilian casualties. The raids were often timed for when the minimal number of civilians would be in the harbour area. One such raid to attack shipping that had taken shelter including a U-Boat was carried out before the shops and offices opened. Which was just as well as they dropped a 1,000lb bomb in the harbour which blew all the windows out of the shops in the high street as well as some of the stained glass windows of the Town Church.

This raid was carried out by Typhoons protected by Spitfires. Whilst on local suffered slight shrapnel wounds but twenty eight Germans were killed or badly wounded.

This was likely to be U-275 which was attacked no less than five times in St Peter Port Harbour. On the 14th of June it was attacked leaving the harbour by Typhoons. It escaped but two support vessels were severely damaged. I found an account of this attack from an NCO Pilot Tom Handley who was a Typhoon pilot. It is only a brief mention on reel 7 of the tapes here on the IWM if you want to listen to it. He recalls them attacking the submarine with rockets when he was hit by flak and had to head for home.

Now whilst there was minimal airborne opposition to these raids they did run the risk of considerable anti aircraft fire. This can be seen in a selection of photographs below.

The area around Havelet Bay in St Peter Port had been largely abandoned by the civilian population as the risk of being injured was too high. Rather unfortunately for a Mr Jehan who owned a house on the Strand overlooking the bay it was hit by a stray bomb and completely demolished. Fortunately it was unoccupied as it had been badly damaged in 1940 when the Germans bombed the harbour. In the book ‘The Battle of Newlands: the Wartime Diaries of Winifred Harvey’ Mr Jehan is recorded as having agreed it had rather solved a problem for him as to what to do about the property.

View from Castle Cornet over Havelet Bay to Fort George and the far end of the Strand where Mr Jehan ’s house stood. © Nick Le Huray
View from Fort George looking out over Havelet Bay to Castle Cornet and the Harbour. © Nick Le Huray
Castle Cornet & Havelet Bay images courtesy of Das Bundesarchiv

As a result of these air raids the Germans started to move away from the harbour area and the fort and seek billets in civilian house. The occupiers being turfed out to find alternative accommodation.

As the weeks went on islanders found that the other implications of the Normandy landings began to become apparent. The islands had effectively become cut off and supplies were not able to get through. The Royal Navy was active in the area as were Allied aircraft. This led to an announcement on the BBC that the area from a line drawn east of Cherbourg to Guernsey and a line across from St Malo in the south was a free bombing area and that fishermen should avoid putting to sea in this area.

This presented a problem for Channel Islands fishermen as once they were allowed to return to sea they could not refuse to do so as this would have alerted the Germans to the fact they had been listening to the BBC on an illicit radio.

Map from the Illustrated London News February 1945

This announcement didn’t deter islanders from attempting to escape the islands using small boats. Now this wasn’t an easy task as any fishing trips were guarded by the Germans but this didn’t stop attempts at night or in bad weather such as fog. The Allies now being much closer on the French coast led to an increase in these attempts as any journey would be no more than thirty miles rather than a minimum of eighty miles across the Channel to England.

The initial hope given by the D-Day landings soon changed to a realisation that it wasn’t going too end soon. This lead to severe hardship for the islanders for the next eleven months but that is a topic for another blog post. If you want an initial insight into the problems encountered in the winter of 1944/45 I discuss it in my blog about a German soldiers experience which you can find here.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorised posts to make them easier to find and other resources such as tours, films and other resources that may be of interest.

I will be adding more as time permits. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it on social media or add a comment if you did. Feedback is always appreciated.

© Nick Le Huray

7th JUNE 1945 – ROYAL VISIT TO THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

As we are celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee I thought it might be a good time to look back at the visit her parents made to the Channel Islands shortly after the liberation of the islands. This blog post will share some hopefully interesting facts, photographs and a short film of the visit.

On the 7th of June 1945, less than a month after the liberation, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Guernsey and Jersey. It really was a flying visit as they visited both islands in one day.

The brief nature of this trip meant that one of the feudal traditions of presenting the visiting monarch with the Golden Spurs of Guernsey was not performed. You may be wondering what this is all about. The Duke of Normandy is the title of the reigning monarch of the British Crown Dependencies of both Guernsey and Jersey. The title traces its roots back to the Duchy of Normandy (of which the Channel Islands are remnants). You can read more about this here.

The Aberdeen Press and Journal reported that Miss M. Dorey had hidden the spurs throughout the occupation of the island but that the ceremony was not to take place on this occasion.

They arrived in Jersey at 10:15 on the Fiji Class Cruiser HMS Jamaica. Jamaica was accompanied by the Destroyers HMS Caesar, HMS Faulknor, HMS Brilliant and HMS Impulsive.

HMS JAMAICA, BRITISH FIJI CLASS CRUISER. 1944 AND 1945, AT SEA. (A 30157) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161336

They had embarked in Portsmouth and the West Sussex Gazette reported the trip and their greeting at Portsmouth by Channel Islanders living there because of the war.

The royal couple were met in Jersey by the Bailiff, Alexander Coutanche, and Brigadier Alfred Snow, the Commander of Task Force 135. Task Force 135 was the force that liberated the islands. If you are unfamiliar with the role of the Bailiff I should point out that in this context it isn’t someone that comes to take things away if you can’t keep up the payments!

The Bailiff is as the leading citizen and representative in non-political matters, with functions embracing judicial and civic duties, and a more limited but important parliamentary role.

There are some photos of the visit to Jersey on the link here

After visiting Jersey they flew to Guernsey on a Dakota, KN386 of 24 Squadron. Some sources suggest that the aircraft was in fact KG770 however the wireless operators log was signed by the King and Queen and indicates that it was KN386 that they flew on.

Upon checking the Air 27 (Record of Events) for 24 Squadron it confirms the details of the flight for KN386 and the passengers. Extract below.

Extract from AIR 27 of 24 Squadron courtesy of the National Archives.

It would appear that KG770 was in fact a spare aircraft that also made the trip as the following is listed in respect of this trip in the AIR 27.

Extract from AIR 27 of 24 Squadron courtesy of the National Archives

As you will see from the flight times they spent just over three hours in Guernsey.

This flight is notable as it was the first time that Queen Elizabeth had flown since the coronation. They were welcomed by the Royal Artillery giving a Royal Salute using captured German guns.

KING AND QUEEN VISIT CHANNEL ISLANDS [7TH JUNE 1945] (CH 15400) Original wartime caption: Men of the Royal Artillery manning captured German guns to give a Royal Salute at Guernsey airport. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205454542
KING AND QUEEN VISIT CHANNEL ISLANDS [7TH JUNE 1945] (CH 15399) Original wartime caption: Left to right – The King; Air Commodore L. Darville, MC., Air Officer Commanding No.46 Group,RAF Transport Command; The Queen; Wing Commander Hatfield – arriving at Guernsey airport for the return journey to England. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205454541
KING AND QUEEN VISIT CHANNEL ISLANDS [7TH JUNE 1945] (CH 15402) Original wartime caption: Members of the R.A.F. watching from the flying control tower at Guernsey as the King and Queen’s aircraft takes off for England. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205454544
KING AND QUEEN VISIT CHANNEL ISLANDS [7TH JUNE 1945] (CH 15403) Original wartime caption: The Royal Standard flying above the nose of the Dakota before the take off from Guernsey. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205454545

Some accounts suggest that the intention was that they rejoin HMS Jamaica but that the King had other ideas. In any event they flew back to RAF Northolt accompanied by Spitfires.

You can watch a short film from Pathé below.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog. If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorised posts to make them easier to find and other resources such as tours, films and other resources that may be of interest.

I will be adding more as time permits. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it on social media or add a comment if you did. Feedback is always appreciated.

© Nick Le Huray

NEW FILM – OCCUPIED – NOW AVAILABLE TO WATCH ONLINE

I was pleased to see that the locally produced film “Occupied” can now be watched online for free. This follows it finishing its run of screenings on the film festival circuit It is refreshing to see a film on the subject actually filmed locally and with Guernsey actors!

The short film made by White Rock Productions explores various aspects of the occupation of Guernsey starting with the bombing of the St Peter Port harbour and following the impact on some of the characters. It also uses Guernésiais, our local language, in a short segment. Don’t worry there are subtitles for that bit!

Those of you who are Guernsey based may even have seen some of it being filmed at various places around the Island.

It is well worth twenty one minutes of your time to watch it. The titles at the end are accompanied by Guernsey’s unofficial anthem “Sarnia Cherie”.

If you enjoy this film go give them a follow on Twitter or Facebook as they have other projects.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorised posts to make them easier to find and other resources such as tours, films and other resources that may be of interest.

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.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog. If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorised posts to make them easier to find and other resources such as tours, films and other resources that may be of interest.

I will be adding more as time permits. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it on social media or add a comment if you did. Feedback is always appreciated.

© Nick Le Huray

THE SURRENDER AND LIBERATION MAY 1945

It is that time of the year when we remember the liberation of the Channel Islands. Those not familiar with the topic may wonder why the title is “Liberation Days” rather than “Liberation Day.” This is because whilst Guernsey and Jersey were both liberated on on 9th May the other Islands had to wait.

Sark was liberated a day later and Alderney not until the 16th of May. There is a story that Sark was only liberated on the 10th because smoke was spotted by the forces in Guernsey and they sent some men to investigate as they were worried that the German forces had set fire to buildings. I cannot find anything to substantiate this often repeated story.

The anniversary has always been a day for remembering the impact of those years, those that didn’t live through it, as well as celebrating the liberation.   In the morning remembrance services are held in the Islands along with the traditional parades. In the afternoon islanders celebrate in a multitude of ways and there is a cavalcade of military and civilian vehicles of the time.

When contemplating what to write about for the 77th Anniversary I thought about writing about the celebrations and Islanders thoughts but these are covered every year in the media and by various commentators since the very first liberation.

I decided to run a poll on Twitter and a couple of history groups to see if readers wanted me to blog about the celebrations or blog about the process of the surrender and how the senior Germans behaved in the run up to liberation.

It wasn’t really a surprise that the poll massively went in favour of a blog about the latter and the impact on both the civilian population and their own personnel.

Many of the Germans were just as keen for their war to end as everyone else. It was just some of the senior officers that were committed to holding out even after it was clear the war was over for Germany.

I wrote a blog about an ordinary German soldier called Erwin Grubba who makes it quite clear how many of them felt during the winter of 1944 and through to the eventual liberation of the islands.

At the end of the war, of course, they knew it was lost, and I talked to one who had been a Hitler youth and of course, he was very glum. He wasn’t a bad lad and he was quite a nice chap. He said to me, so what will happen now is they will grind, grind us to dust, and we will be like slaves.

I said, well, this is you forget, you see, you are thinking of the mentality that you’re brought up to have but you are now facing somebody who does not have that same philosophy. You can’t expect that they will put laurels on your head but at the same time, they will not treat you as you or your Führer would have treated the conquered nations if the war had gone the other way. They were depressed, naturally, I mean their ideas are shattered.

They had really believed in it, you know, to them that must have been a severe blow. But again, that was only a small clique that thought that way. Because the ordinary soldier the ordinary person there was totally sick of it. They wanted to go home that’s all they wanted that so only thought was at the capitulation was well, when can we get home?

Erwin Grubba

You can read his whole story and his further experiences on the occupation and Liberation experience here.

The key player from the German side in the run up to the liberation was Vizeadmiral Friedrich Hüffmeier. He had previously commanded the German battleship Scharnhorst (from 31 March 1942 to 13 October 1943). From 25 July 1944 to 26 February 1945, he was Island commander of Guernsey before eventually forcing out his superior Lieutenant General Rudolf Graf von Schmettow as fortress commander for all of the Channel Islands.

Rudolf Graf von Schmettow
Hüffmeier

Hüffmeier was an ardent Nazi. Which can be the only explanation for why he achieved such a high rank given that by all accounts he was pretty rubbish at commanding ships. He was also hated by the crews of the ships that he commanded.

John Winton notes in his book Death of the Scharnhorst that the crew had a very low opinion of their commander.

But it took only a short time for Scharnhorst’s ship company to decide, to a man that ‘Poldi’ Hüffmeier was a walking disaster area. They believed he owed his appointment more to social influence than to ability, and he quickly showed himself a poor seaman, with almost no talent at all for ship handling.

Their view that he was a walking disaster area is supported by some of the events that happened whilst he was commander. Winton records that he ran the Scharnhorst aground off Hela in Poland, wrapped a buoy wire around the starboard screw whilst leaving harbour and collided with the submarine U 523 whilst on manoeuvres in the Baltic. All of these incidents required dockyard repairs.

After leaving Scharnhorst and before arriving in Guernsey he held the post of Chief officer in the Wehrgeistiger Führungsstab. This post literally translates as “Military Spiritual Leadership Staff” which was the naval branch of the Armed Forces National Socialist Leadership Staff. Essentially this meant that he oversaw the posting of officers to naval units, ships and submarines. These officers were responsible for maintaining morale and keeping the forces motivated by spreading the propaganda of the National Socialist Party and gave political and ideological instruction.

This was an example of how the party infiltrated the German Armed Forces and operated in a similar way to the Soviet political commissars. It is therefore unsurprising that he was constantly complaining in radio messages to Berlin that von Schmettow was “too soft”. This was all part of his ultimately successful prolonged campaign to oust his superior.

At this point you might be surprised to find that we rewind to 1944, because 9 May 1945 was not the first time that the Germans had been in negotiation, of a sort, to surrender.

Whilst von Schmettow was still in command an attempt to secure the surrender of the Channel Islands was made during September 1944. If they had accepted this opportunity it could have spared the islanders and the German personnel going through the hunger winter of 1944/45.

At the time the Islands were caught in a pocket and effectively under siege.

Illustrated London News Feb 1945

The allies took the opportunity following the June 1944 landings in France to try and encourage the occupying forces to surrender. In an attempt to get them to do that they mounted a psychological warfare operation dubbed “Rankin C” during which they dropped leaflets to encourage them to surrender.

The first attempt to achieve a surrender by direct negotiation happened on 22 September 1944. Having secured the assistance of a high ranking German officer, who had been captured in 1943, Major Chambers boarded an R.A.F. launch at Carteret and proceeded towards Guernsey under a white flag. I have read a number of differing accounts of this and decided to go back to primary sources to establish exactly what happened.

The intention was that Chambers would meet with von Schmettow and invite him to come and meet the German officer understandably said he was not willing to go ashore or aboard a German vessel. The German officer is only identified in the reports of the raid as Mr Black. Subsequent to earlier accounts being written it is now believed that Mr Black was in fact Gerhard Bassenge. He was captured in North Africa in 1943 and spent time in Trent Park a luxurious camp for high-ranking prisoners. They were kept in luxury because it meant they would talk freely amongst themselves without realising that the British were listening through hidden microphones.

Letters had been dropped to arrange a meeting off the south coast of Guernsey. On arriving at the rendezvous point they found no German vessel waiting to meet them. Chambers decided that they should proceed to St Peter Port and try to make contact. On approaching St Peter Port a German vessel, not under a white flag, approached them. Extracts from the official report about what happened next.

This was certainly a brave effort by Major Chambers, who received a DSO for his actions. The full account and his medal citation are here if you would like to read it.

Now you have to ask yourself why did von Schmettow not entertain the meeting. Particularly as by all accounts he was a professional soldier of the officer class rather than a Nazi. Indeed it is now fairly widely accepted that he often did his best to mitigate the demands of Berlin and to water down their demands. That is not to discount of course the terrible things that went on which he had little ability to prevent such as the treatment of the slave workers, deportations etc.

Von Schmettow was recalled at the end of February 1945, on the grounds of ill-health, although he had not seen a doctor for 15 months. On his return to Germany he had to face disciplinary action for being too kind and then he disappeared in the general confusion as Germany neared defeat.

If he had decided to surrender he could have saved the islanders and his own personnel from a terrible winter of hunger and deprivation.

I can’t help but feel that he may also been influenced by the real villain of the piece Hüffmeier but that is just supposition on my part.

You are asking a soldier of many years why he did not turn traitor and commit treason on his country. That is very difficult for a professional soldier to do. It was impossible for me to do.

Interview with von Schmettow in Jersey Topic magazine

If you want to read the whole interview it is in the link here.

There is also a short film of him being interviewed by Channel TV in the 1960s which you can find here and covers a range of topics including deportations, treatment of the forced workers and why he didn’t surrender.

Back to Hüffmeier who as you will have gathered from the above was not a pleasant character. Having forced von Schmettow out, the islands now had a barely competent fervent Nazi at the helm. What could possibly go wrong?

He was so determined to hold out that he once told Jersey’s Bailiff Alexander Coutanche. “We shall never surrender, in the end you and I will be eating grass.”

His personnel were starving and were reduced to eating limpets, stealing islanders pets and eating them. The islanders had a very tough time and only survived because of the deliveries eventually made by the Red Cross ship Vega.

When liberation finally came it became apparent that, on the orders of Hüffmeier, vast stocks of supplies had been held back over that winter because he wanted to have provisions to hold out. My blog post about about Erwin Grubba explains this in more detail. Click the link to learn more.

Fast forward to April 1945 and Hüffmeier addressed senior officers in the Forum Cinema in Jersey and told them that it was important to defend the Channel Islands against any attack by the allies. He was also labouring under the impression that it was still possible that they could hold the Islands and that Germany would not lose the war. Deluded, bonkers, incompetent I will leave you to draw your own conclusion.

The German unconditional surrender of the German High Command had been agreed on 7 May 1945 to take effect from 00:01 on 8th May.

It was feared that the Channel Islands may not have heard the news or that Hüffmeier might decide to fight on alone rather than surrender. Force 135 was dispatched towards the Islands. Signals were sent and eventually a reply was received by the British advising that he was willing to send a representative to meet the British ships off of the Les Hanois at noon on 8 May.

In the book The German Occupation of the Channel Islands by Charles Cruickshank he records that “They rendezvoused with a German mine-sweeping trawler at noon to find that Hüffmeier had sent a junior naval officer, Kapitänleutänant Armin Zimmerman, 19 who was authorised to do no more than discuss armistice terms. He was given a copy of the surrender document and a letter from Snow to the Commander-in-Chief stating that either he or his properly accredited representative must come prepared to accept unconditional surrender. There was no question of an armistice.

Before he left the Bulldog Zimmerman warned that his commander had guaranteed safe-conduct to HM ships as far as the rendezvous only. If they stayed where they were they would be fired on by the shore batteries. He pointed out that the general cease-fire was not due until 00.01 hours on 9 May and that as it was still 8 May the coastal guns would open fire.”

Brigadier Snow responded that he was to tell Hüffmeier that if they were fired on he would hang in the morning. Discretion being the better part of valour the British ships moved back a few miles.

Some commentators assert that Zimmerman was sent in order to delay or frustrate matters. Another reason may have been that Hüffmeier was worried about his own security as he had uncovered a plot by some of his officers to poison him. He used to walk to Castle Carey to drink hot milk each day and some officers loyal to von Schmettow had plotted to poison him there. They were unsuccessful and were transferred to the Island of Herm to fend for themselves.

The Rev. Ord records in his diary in late April 1945 that he was told by a German that ”The “Admiral” (Hüffmeier?) says he can hold out till 1946, but this is just bluff. It is believed he will be assassinated, probably by a group of conspirators. It is said already that there have been attempts on his life, and sinister-looking guards parade the road outside his residence.” So this may be why he sent Zimmerman.

Illustrated London News 19 May 1945
CHANNEL ISLANDS LIBERATED: THE END OF GERMAN OCCUPATION, CHANNEL ISLANDS, UK, 1945 (D 24595) A scene on board HMS BULLDOG during the first conference with Captain Lieutenant Zimmerman prior to the signing of the surrender document which liberated the Channel Islands. Left to right around the table are: Admiral Stuart (Royal Navy), Brigadier General A E Snow (Chief British Emissary), Captain Harold Herzmark (Intelligence Corps), Wing Commander Archie Steward (Royal Air Force), Lieutenant Colonel E A Stoneman, Major John Margeson, Colonel H R Power (all of the British Army) and Captain Lieutenant Zimmermanhttp://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205201892

Zimmermann was sent back and only after Hüffmeier had received a direct order from General Admiral Karl Dönitz was he willing to Surrender.  A signal came that General major Heine, second in command of the Channel Islands and commander of Guernsey, would come to the same rendezvous at midnight.

CHANNEL ISLANDS LIBERATED: THE END OF GERMAN OCCUPATION, CHANNEL ISLANDS, UK, 1945 (D 24601) Major General Heine, German Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Islands (right), has his identification papers checked as arrives at HMS BULLDOG to sign the document of surrender. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205201894

As it was after midnight when Heine came on board. Hüffmeier could no longer threaten to fire on the destroyers. Snow therefore decided to move from Les Hanois to St Peter Port.

THE OCCUPATION AND LIBERATION OF THE CHANNEL ISLANDS 1940-1945 (D 24594) Liberation: German representatives Major-General Heine and Lieutenant-Commander Arnim Zimmerman aboard HMS BULLDOG off Guernsey before the final signing of the instrument of surrender. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205196726

The surrender was duly signed by Heine on the quarterdeck of the Bulldog at 7.14 a.m. on 9 May. It features in this short film.

There is another film where you can see Hüffmeier being described as “pretty browned off.”

Following the surrender Brigadier Snow transferred to the Beagle, which anchored off St Helier at 10 a.m. to receive the surrender of the garrison of Jersey. Generalmajor Wulf, the Inselkommandant, was ordered on board but failed to put in an appearance. Snow said he must be found immediately.

Eventually he turned up. He was at first ‘somewhat arrogant and aggressive’, but after Snow had expressed his severe displeasure (which he was well qualified to do) he was reduced ‘almost to tears’ and duly signed the surrender.

Snow returned to Guernsey on 12 May and received Hüffmeier’s surrender. Hüffmeier explained that he could not hand over his sword as he had destroyed it in accordance with orders.

Hüffmeier was promptly shipped off to a prisoner of war camp where he remained until release in April 1948. He died in Germany in 1972.

Zimmermann went on to serve in the post war German Navy and rose to the rank of Admiral.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog. If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorised posts to make them easier to find and other resources such as tours, films and other resources that may be of interest.

I will be adding more as time permits. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it on social media or add a comment if you did. Feedback is always appreciated.

© Nick Le Huray

WATCH THE COMMEMORATION OF THE LIBERATION AND THE CELEBRATIONS LIVE ONLINE

I thought this might be useful to share for those readers of the blog that are either on Island but for whatever reason unable to go out to watch events live or those overseas.

You can take part in the Church Service, watch the Cavalcade and even the Fireworks. Just follow the link for details. All times are British Summer Time.

http://liberationday.gg/livestreams

Planned Large Scale Raid on Alderney 1942 – Operation Blazing

The small-scale raids that took place around Alderney and the other Channel Islands are well recorded; however, this planned raid was something completely different. This would have been a full-scale invasion of the island with the intention of holding it for a week during 1942.

The attack would have involved a force of 6,000-7,000 personnel from all services—a vastly different proposition from anything planned before. An estimated 4,800 men to land on the island.

It raises many questions; why hold it for a week and then leave? Why do it at all? What would it achieve, especially in the first half of 1942? This blog post will look at all these questions and more.

Whilst researching something else, I listened to an interview on the IWM website with General Michael Stephen Hancock, part of which he talked about his role in this proposed raid and the training that was undertaken in early 1942.

Before I start with an explanation, there are a couple of things that would be useful to set the scene, particularly for those not familiar with Alderney or its location. This will help understand the reasons for the proposed raid and the challenges they may have faced if it had been executed. If you are already familiar with Alderney, then feel free to skip past this bit.

Alderney is the most northerly Channel Island and approximately ten miles from La Hague on the Cotentin Peninsula. You can see it on the map below with the red pin.

Map from Google Maps.

The island is shown on the map below, and it is 3 miles (5 km) long by 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide. The size of the island is essential for understanding some of the challenges the proposed raid may face.

Map from Visit Alderney

I remembered that I had come across a few references to this planned raid some time ago when reading the diaries of General Sir Alan Brooke, later 1st Viscount Alan Brooke. The references to the planned raid did not provide much information but are of interest because it involved those at the highest level of the armed forces and the prime minister Winston Churchill.

Frankly, the diaries do not give you a lot to go on. It is also important to note that his diary entries are obviously from his perspective and need to be tempered by reviewing other documents from the time. I decided to search the National Archives and various other sources to see what I could find.

GENERAL SIR ALAN BROOKE, CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF, 1942 © IWM TR 151

Brooke notes on 28 March 1942 that “Mountbatten was still hankering after a landing near Cherbourg where proper air support is not possible.”

It is fair to say that Brooke found Mountbatten quite irritating at times, not least because of his status and his relationship with Churchill. Brooke found it frustrating because he frequently stayed with Churchill at Ditchley Park and Chequers from late 1942. This gave him the opportunity to discuss his ideas and try to get Churchill onside.

Now Lord Mountbatten was known for his love of a hair-brained scheme, and this certainly would seem to be one. However, he was not alone in these ideas of actions in the Channel Islands. Vice-Admiral John Hughes-Hallett also advocated operations to retake the Channel Islands by force at various times during the war.

These were discounted for many reasons. Primarily because of the massive loss of life, this would have caused the civilian population let alone the inevitable casualties of any invading force. One must remember that an estimated 8% of all the concrete used on the Atlantic Wall was poured into the fortifications of the Channel Islands by the end of the war. The fortifications in the Islands contained more armaments than the 350 miles of the nearby Normandy coastline.

The other Channel Islands were also of less significance for the Allies from a strategic point of view aside from the other challenges mentioned above. The fortification and sinking of men and resources into the Islands are often referred to as “Hitler’s Island Madness.”

Alderney would have been a different prospect as only approximately seven civilians were left on the island. However, many forced workers on the island would have also become casualties. During the war, Alderney was heavily fortified and became one of the most heavily armed sections of the Atlantic Wall. Alderney was designated a Festung (Fortress).

Alderney had gun batteries that could prove troublesome to any attack on Cherbourg at a later stage in the war but not in the summer of 1942. Later in the war, in June 1944, the 150 mm guns in Battery Blücher on Alderney fired upon the American troops on the Cotentin Peninsula. Subsequently, the British warship HMS Rodney attacked the gun battery, which cost the lives of two German soldiers.

Article from the Northampton Mercury & Herald 18 August 1944

What purpose could risking so many lives to occupy the island for a week serve war effort? There appears to be some speculation that such a raid could have been used to appease Stalin that the Allies were serious about mounting operations to open a second front, but surely this would have been too small scale.

Another reason that they considered the raid to be of value was that the Germans were using Alderney as a control centre for U Boats in the area returning to or leaving the French ports.

In his book “The German Occupation of The Channel Islands” Cruickshank states that Mountbatten first raised the idea of a an operation to take Alderney at a meeting of his staff on 6 March 1942.

Brooke notes in his diary on 8 April 1942, “Very difficult COS attended by Paget, Sholto Douglas, and Mountbatten. Subject-attempt to assist Russia through action in France. Plan they had put up was a thoroughly bad one!!” This would indicate some substance to the assertion that the raid may have been partly for this purpose.

Mountbatten briefed the Chiefs of Staff Committee on 16 April 1942. His initial plan was to take and hold Alderney permanently. His reasons for doing so were:

A) The island would provide a base for small craft to be used to attack the German’s convoy route from the Channel ports down to Bay of Biscay.

B) It could be used to site a radar installation to extend Fighter Command’s radar coverage.

C) It could be used as an emergency landing strip.

D) To open a second front in a small way.

The plan changed many times during the course of April and early May. Not least changing from a plan to hold the island permanently to a plan to hold it for a week.

The interview with General Michael Hancock sheds more light on the plan and just how far preparations went.

“The object of the operation was only to hold the island for about a week, and the stated objects in the Chiefs of Staffs um appro… approval of it were, (I cannot remember in what order they were), but they included three things, and I don’t know that I can remember them all, but one of them, (which surprised me having had nothing to do with the political side of things) was in order to satisfy the clamour for a second front. Seems a little surprising, I suppose for a small-scale thing like this, but still, it was not all that small scale. We are talking about 7,000 men that sort of size.”

“A lot of men to put on such a small island. It is the island is what three miles by one something about that, but the Germans were holding it with four or five thousand.”

“Secondly, to put out of action, er, their control of their submarines, which they did from there with radio control etcetera and thirdly, to hold it long enough, so the Germans might think we intended springboards for the invasion of France and might withdraw something from the Russian front.”

“Wishful thinking, I suspect. We had allocated not only for this not only for this, but we had also been allocated a Parachute Battalion.”

“One of the snags was that the island is about a mile wide from the northwest side, north, east side and southwest side. The prevailing wind, of course, is across that, and in those days, you jumped out of an aircraft with 20 men, one after the other, and the mathematics of it are that if you do this and everything goes perfectly, you drop two or three men in the sea, either before you start or at the end of the run.“

“This was one of the difficulties at any rate, in the end, after I suppose three or four weeks of planning and rehearsal and so on. It was called off because it was recommended the RAF, who would have to give us a great deal of support beforehand, would lose several hundred aircraft, and they could not afford it at the time.”

So how far did they get with the plan?

“We got as far as having a particular beach and the Isle of Wight, which had the right characteristics tarted up a bit with certain little floating jetties, but to make it similar to where we would be landing in at Alderney. We did rehearsal landings on it.”

When asked why they expected such significant losses, he explained
“It was heavily defended, very heavily defended. I don’t know, but that is what we were told.”

He wasn’t wrong; Alderney was indeed heavily defended. Now I know this link is a Wikipedia one, but it does stack up with all of the reference sources I have checked at the time of writing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortifications_of_Alderney#German_fortifications

Brooke notes in his diary on 6 May 1942, “Arrived just in time to go to COS meeting to turn down proposed attack on Alderney Island [Channel Islands] as a large raid by Guards Brigade.”

So why did they turn it down, given the immense effort put into planning and training? These extracts from that meeting explain the discussion and the reasons. They even considered scaling back the operation to a single day.

A significant problem was the gap they would have between the bombing of the island and the landing. Given the small size of the island and the lack of accurate bombing in 1942, it was doubtful how effective it would have been in softening up the defences.

In 1942 it would only have been possible for fighters to provide cover for fifteen minutes at a time. The Luftwaffe would have been able to operate from airfields only twenty miles from Alderney where as the RAF would have had to operate from airfields more than seventy miles away. This partly explains the massive commitment of aircraft that would have been required.

Overall, they felt that the casualties would not be worth the dividend from such an operation. You can read the complete deliberations in the extracts of the War Cabinet Chiefs of Staff Committee minutes below.

Churchill was still keen for a raid, perhaps spurred on by Mountbatten. Brooke notes in his diary of 11 May 1942, “At 12 noon we had meeting with PM to discuss the giving up of the attack on Alderney, and raids planned as alternatives.”

The minute of this meeting is not very clearly scanned in the national archives, but you can get its gist. (Blue text added to clarify the feint wording)

Even at this stage, they didn’t discount resurrecting the operation later in the year. It did make an appearance later in they year as Operation “Aimwell” with the intention of a smaller force and only holding the island for twenty four hours. This was also cancelled.

Going back to the interview with Hancock, he talks about what happened next.
“So as we were there and all geared up for such an operation, an alternative operation was planned as a raid on the French coast. Somewhere in the … between Boulogne and Dieppe, I forget where but in that sort of area, and so we then started planning for that instead. And they got us in, I suppose it must have been the end of May, early June, and we are about then getting into the ships ready to go, and we were all in our ships with these funny little radios off Spithead, and the weather was foul.”

“That is why I remember the ship was flat bottomed pitching and, and so all these six-seven thousand men but in the ship sitting there we sat down for three days. The weather showed no sign of abating. And they decided then that it was too long or risks to security over us being there for three days. Without anything happening were too great. So, the whole operation was called off. We were sent back to Scotland.”

Ultimately some of what they planned was used in the planning and execution of Operation “Jubilee”, the raid on Dieppe.

I wonder what the impact would have been on the civilian population of the Channel Islands if the raid had gone ahead, given the deportations following other raids later in the war.

If you find this of interest, I can highly recommend visiting Alderney, where you can visit some of the fortifications. You can find details at Visit Alderney.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorised posts to make them easier to find and other resources such as tours, films and other resources that may be of interest.

I will be adding more as time permits. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it on social media or add a comment if you did. Feedback is always appreciated.

Thanks to my brother Matt Le Huray for his patience in proofreading these longer blog posts. Any typos in the shorter ones that I put out are nothing to do with him 😊

© Nick Le Huray

ANOTHER FILM OF FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS OF THE OCCUPATION

Whilst busy writing another blog post I stumbled across a great film by Nicola White. I have followed her for some time on Twitter @tidelineart and had no idea that Nicola had a connection to the Island.

Nicola has featured on a number of programmes on the BBC on both radio and film. This film made in February 2022 is well worth a watch and features many people I know. Click the video below to watch it. Also do take a look at her website for some great mud larking finds in London.

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