A STRANGE CHARACTER APPEARS IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS!

This blog post is a slightly different one as it relates to events in the 1970s but about the Channel Islands during the Occupation of 1940-1945. It really is quite a curious tale, and it is hard to see what the character involved thought he might gain by his actions.

It lead me to a connection between Jersey and one of the most successful and well known double agents of the Second World War, as well as a traitor that was tried for treason after the war.

I recently found an article in the Guardian newspaper about a visit to the Channel Islands in October 1974. A man who claimed to be a former British Intelligence Officer turned author, Peter Tombs certainly seems to have been an interesting and controversial character throughout his life. He made strange claims about Martin Bormann and I found another, not immediately obvious, connection to the Channel Islands in that story. More about that later in this blog post.

He claimed that “he might take out a prosecution against the islands collectively under an ancient law of “harbouring of the King’s enemy”” when he appeared on a television show during his visit to the Channel Islands.

I wondered what motivated him to make this claim and why, if you were going to do so, you would travel to the very islands you are accusing to make those accusations on the local TV station. Much less be surprised when it provokes a hostile reaction from the population.

He claimed to have written a book on the subject although I cannot, at this time find any trace of, or of any legal action that he claimed he was going to launch.

He was believed to have completed a book, provisionally called “The Traitor Isles,” which accuses the Islanders of extreme passivity during the five years of occupation during the last war. He is considering taking out a prosecution against the Islands collectively under a sixteenth-century treason law for “harbouring of the King’s enemy.”

Guardian article 9 October 1974: Channel Islanders committed ‘treason’ in second world war.

One has to wonder why nobody checked on his past, previous claims, and accusations. I appreciate that it is much easier check the bona fides of people in the internet age but he had hardly been a stranger to the British national newspapers at the time.

Channel TV are quoted in the article giving their reasons and the reaction to the interview. Sadly I cannot find any footage of the interview.

A spokesman for Channel TV said last night: “Our switchboard was jammed with angry callers after the programme. Only one or two offered information about black marketeering and collaboration. The great majority very much resented what Mr Tombs said. We decided to invite him over when we heard about his book and like any good journalist we wanted to investigate it further.”

Guardian article 9 October 1974: Channel Islanders committed ‘treason’ in second world war.

He claimed that he had spoken to islanders and high ranking Germans that supported his story.

Now I am not saying that there weren’t people that made profits from the black market or that collaborated, these are well documented. Action was taken against those that had profited in 1946 to confiscate those profits and others had to live with the consequences.

He was going to launch a court case or at the very least to get questions raised in the House of Commons. I have searched the National Archives, British Newspaper Archive and Hansard. None of these provide any evidence of either or the book being published.

You can read the article about his appearance on Channel TV, the local ITV station for the Channel Islands here.

So who was Peter Tombs the British intelligence officer? Well it would seem that it was doubtful that he was a British intelligence officer at all. He first appeared in an article in 1969 where he claimed to be a double agent for South Africa & Tanzania.

Daily Mirror – Friday 11 July 1969
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

This was quickly denounced by the South African Premier.

Daily Mirror – Saturday 12 July 1969
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD

A couple of years after the interview in the Channel Islands he made some “interesting” claims in the Birmingham Daily Post. According to Tombs, Martin Bormann was alive and well and farming in Norfolk.

A series of articles in this vein followed. This was a little odd, not least because Bormann’s body had been found, and he had been declared dead in 1973!

Birmingham Daily Post – Tuesday 09 March 1976
Birmingham Daily Post – Tuesday 09 March 1976

His claim about Bormann was supported in the next article by another interesting character.

Diss Express – Friday 19 March 1976
Image © Iliffe News & Media Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The man that supported his claim, Mr Eric Pleasants, obviously forgot to tell the reporter how he came to be in Berlin in 1945. The reporters also missed that Eric Pleasants had been tried for treason in 1946 and that he had a book written about his life in 1957.

Diss Express – Friday 26 March 1976
Image © Iliffe News & Media Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Curiously Tombs claimed that he wanted to ensure that Bormann came to no harm. Which is an odd sentiment when talking about a senior Nazi! After the article above the story disappeared. One can only assume that he liked the publicity and got some sort of strange kick out of it.

When I looked further into Eric Pleasants and how he found himself in Berlin I discovered that he had been tried for treason in absentia in 1946. I then found that he had a connection with Jersey. He had left England in May 1940 to try and avoid military service. Caught up in the occupation of the islands he was sent to prison a number of times, during this time he met Eddie Chapman. Chapman was in prison in Jersey and went on to become “Agent Zig Zag”.

Following his deportation to Germany he joined up to fight for the Germans in the British Free Corps. He deserted and was captured by the Russians and wasn’t freed until 1954.

You can read about Pleasants here and Chapman here.

That is the end of this blog. If I find more I will share it.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

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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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

RAF RAID ON ST PETER PORT – 17 JANUARY 1942 – PART 2.

Last year I wrote a blog about this air raid. I recently came across this article, written at the time for the Star newspaper, and I thought it was worth sharing it.

It is important to remember that the content of the newspaper was controlled by the German forces, so presents their viewpoint.

My original blog post with tmore detail on the raid is here.

Report in the Jersey Evening Post reproducing the article from the Guernsey newspaper the Star. From a scrapbook kept by Helene Marie Sinnatt, née Jackson, during the Occupation. Book 3, Page 57. It is in the Jersey Heritage Archive ref L/C/306/A/3/57.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

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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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

THE CHANNEL ISLANDS AT WAR -THREE PART DOCUMENTARY

I am busy writing a couple of in depth posts at the moment, working through almost six hundred pages of information from the National Archives. These are primarily military intelligence reports relating to the islands. As a result there has been a bit of a delay in getting things out on the blog at the moment. I want to make sure that what I write takes everything into account.

In the meantime you might enjoy these three documentaries with a lot of archive footage and interviews with people from both sides that lived through the occupation years. Sadly many of those interviewed are no longer with us.

They are presented by John Nettles, who not only starred as Bergerac in the TV series, but has produced excellent documentaries and books about the occupation. He has spent a lot time doing this and these are well worth a watch.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

If you have questions or information to share you can contact me by email on Contact@Island-Fortress.Com.

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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

FILM – JACKBOOTS, BUCKETS AND SPADES

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog for the last few weeks as I have had a bad dose of the flu! Hoping to get things back to normal soon because I have a lot of research from the archives to write up for forthcoming blogs.

In the meantime you might enjoy this film that I found from 1995. Fronted by the late Hugh Scully it features some great archive footage and interviews with people that were here during the occupation of the Channel Islands. This includes some German personnel, islanders and slave workers.

A few of these are people that I have written about before, click the links to go to the blog posts about them.

Hubert Nicolle – M.C. – Hubert comes home, the first commando landing in Guernsey and A secret mission 3/4 September 1940 – Nicolle returns with Symes.
Dame Sibyl Hathaway (recorded in 1974) – What Happened in Sark and Rose Cottage and the liberation of Sark.
Bob Le Sueur MBE – A truly remarkable man.

Topics covered include distribution of news from the BBC, secret photos sent to the british intelligence service, a secret transmitter, deportations and a lot more.

Well worth a watch if you want to hear some first hand accounts of life under occupation.

I have a list of other films that 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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

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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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

ALDERNEY HOMECOMING DAY – 15 DECEMBER 1945 – BITTER SWEET EXPERIENCE

Of the Channel Islanders that had been evacuated in June 1940 it was those from Alderney that had to wait the longest to return home. The reason for this was the sad state that the island had been left by the occupying forces.

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”. In advance of this there was much work to be done. Things were already moving apace with the British Army having arrived in late May 1945 and German POWs being supervised clearing the island of mines, ammunition and barbed wire.

The first to return to Alderney was Judge French who, along with a few small groups, arrived in the island on 2nd December 1945 to prepare for the return of the population. Judge French was the crown appointed leader of the island who had been in charge when the island was evacuated.

A number of women from the W.V.S. went to the island as part of these advanced groups. They were sent to prepare to help with feeding and rehabilitating those that were to return. Miss Dunn-Pattison of the W.V.S. is reported in the Market Harborough Advertiser and Midland Mail – Friday 24 May 1946 of telling her local W.V.S. group of her experiences. She told them of the trials and tribulations and the ultimate success of their task.

Another W.V.S. lady that went to the island, Miss Cicely Fosbrook, was interviewed by the Leicester Evening Mail and their 9 February 1946 edition reports that she had gone to Alderney in November as part of the W.V.S. team of twelve.

The team was well equipped with all kinds of provisions and equipment, including two goldfish for the officers’ mess for the Army personnel occupying the island.

Miss Cicely Fosbrook 9 February 1946

Her team were housed in the convent as she recalls most of the houses were ‘flat’, more of that later, and most of the remaining structures were of German construction. She recalls that all houses which were standing and any furniture left on the island were pooled.

They established a transit camp for returning islanders where they stayed for two or three days before being dispersed gradually. Throughought this time the convent became the centre of life and activity for them.

About forty children arrived before Christmas and a big party was arranged for them, while a Christmas tree was also brought over for the church and decorated with every candle they could find – they numbered seventy. A padre was brought from Guernsey.

Miss Cicely Fosbrook 9 February 1946

The final note in the article recalls that when she left Alderney there were positive signs of normal life returning with signs indicating that shops were reopening shortly.

Homecoming Day

Western Morning News – Saturday 15 December 1945 Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The Salvation Army in Guernsey sent all three of their bands to welcome them home. The British Army provided a guard of honour to welcome them back.

Lieut.-General Phillip Neame’s, Lieut.-Governor of Guernsey, welcomed over a hundred war-time exiles of Alderney on their return to the Island on 15 December 1945 . In the course of his address he said:

On this great day, when you are returning to your own dear island, I want to quote to you some lines of Rudyard Kipling’s which have always appealed to me in regard to my own corner of Kent.

I am sure they will express the feeling for Alderney which is in your hearts today –

“God gives all men all earth to love,

But since man’s heart is small,

Ordains for each one spot shall prove,

Beloved overall.”

Lieut.-General Phillip Neame’s address as reported in the Faversham News and East Kent Journal 4 January 1946

Islanders were overjoyed to finally be returning. The Bradford Observer of 15 December reports an interview with Mr & Mrs F.C. Orderie who had run the bakery and confectionery shop in Alderney before the war. Their bakery had been destroyed by the Germans but they were still hopeful that they could reopen using a German constructed bakery.

This joy turned to a bitter sweet experience though as mentioned in the account above by Miss Fosbrook many of the houses had been flattened or had the interiors destroyed as the Germans ripped any wood out to use for fuel.

As there were all bar a handful of residents left after the evacuation, those that remained were the family of George Pope, the Germans had free reign to do as they wished. At least in the other islands the civilian authorities could protest and in some cases prevent some actions of the Germans.

George Pope had refused to leave as it would have meant that his cattle would have been left untended. Aside from the Pope family the only other Channel Islanders on Alderney were occasional working parties sent from Guernsey.

Whilst it became possible to return to other Channel Islands without a permit from 31 March 1946 it was not that easy to return to Alderney. By the end of 1946 only 459 islanders had returned. This was approximately one third of the population.

Belfast Telegraph – Friday 22 March 1946

The damage to the island and the difficulties of restoring some form of normality went on for a number of years causing all sorts of difficulties and arguments. It eventually led to an enquiry by the Home Secretary and a fundamental overhaul of their system of government. I will deal with that in a future blog.

If you would like to know more about the homecoming and hear from some who were there the film below is worth a watch.

A film made by David Earl about the 60th anniversary.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

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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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

ALDERNEY FORTIFICATIONS – FILM WITH DAN SNOW

If you have read any of my blog posts about Alderney, and even if you haven’t, you might find this short film interesting.

Dan Snow takes a look around some of the fortifications and explains the history. Well worth a watch and provides some context for other blog posts which are linked below.

My blog posts about Alderney can be found below.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

If you have questions or information to share you can contact me by email on Contact@Island-Fortress.Com.

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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

TANKS IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

After a recent visit to the Tank Museum in Bovington, plus a few questions people have asked me, prompted me to think about the use of tanks in the Channel Islands. If you are familiar with the island roads you will perhaps be surprised that there were any tanks at all.

Initially there were no tanks deployed in the islands. Then in June 1941, after Hitler had personally studied the plans for the defence of the Channel Islands, he ordered that captured French Tanks should be sent. His concern was that once he launched Operation Barbarossa, the attack on Russia later that month, the British would then attack Norway or the Channel Islands.

This was as a result of small scale raids on Norway and the Channel Islands. He thought that they would want to appease the Russians by opening a second front or at the very least tie up the German forces in the West.

His belief that this was going to happen wasn’t entirely misguided as the British did indeed consider doing just that. Operation Attaboy, Operation Blazing, Operation Constellation and Operation Condor were some of these operations that were planned and cancelled.

Von Runstedt was less than enthusiastic on sending tanks to the Channel Islands as he could not see the need for them. He did however send two tanks to Guernsey to defend the harbour. More tanks were to follow later.

All of the tanks that were used in the Channel Islands by the Germans were captured French tanks.

Renault FT-17s.

The first to arrive were Renault FT-17s. These were well beyond their sell by date as they dated back to 1918. State of the art at the time they were produced with the first to have its armament in a turret that could fully rotate.

The Germans had captured so many French tanks and other vehicles that they had converted Panzerabteilung 213 to entirely to French equipment.

As they were of little use in other theatres a total of twenty FT-17s were deployed to the Channel Islands. Eight in Jersey, Eight in Guernsey, and four in Alderney.1

Photograph taken surreptitiously from an upstairs window by Frank le Page showing commandeered French Renault tanks moving along La Rue Cauchee in St Martin’s, Guernsey, after Hitler’s decision to fortify the islands in 1941. © IWM HU 25951

Whils visiting the Tank Museum I made a point of seeking out two tank types that had been used in the Islands.

Renault FT (often known as the FT-17) at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank is the same type that was used in the Channel Islands. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
Renault FT (often known as the FT-17) at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank is the same type that was used in the Channel Islands. Photograph © Nick Le Huray

The FT-17s became of little use as the war progressed and very few were actually still running by December 1944. If you think you recognise the turrets of these tanks you have probably seen them around the islands as a few of the turrets remain today. They were taken off of the tanks and fitted onto Tobruk pits on bunkers around the islands. In Guernsey you can still see examples, one in situ at Batterie Dollmann at Pleinmont and there is also an example at the German Occupation Museum.

Renault FT-17 turret at the German Occupation Museum. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
Renault FT-17 turret at Batterie Dollman. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
Renault FT-17 turret at Batterie Dollman. Photograph © Nick Le Huray

The fitting of tank turrets to fixed fortifications is reported in a number of the M.I. 19 interviews with successful escapees. One example is an interview with Hubert who escaped in August 1943. Interview is in the National Archives as M.I.19 (R.P.S) 1742

This refers to a turret at the bunker near the current site of the Guernsey Yacht Club
Sited at the St Sampson Harbour entrance

The Tank museum has a great short video about the tanks that you can watch below.

Char B1

The next tanks arrived in 1942 were Char B1 Bis of Panzerabteilung 213. These were a much better tank being of much more modern construction and armament. For Panzerabteilung 213 this was to be somewhat academic as they were the only German panzer group to never see action during the war!2

In 1940 during the battle for France these were seen as a well respected, well armoured and armed tank. They were however dogged by high fuel consumption and low speed. They had a top speed of only 16 mph. Limited range and slow speed were not of course a hindrance in the relatively small Channel Islands.

Char B1 at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank was used in Jersey. Photograph © Nick Le Huray

A total of thirty six Char B1 bis of various different versions were sent to Guernsey and Jersey. Four command tanks, twenty four normal tanks, and ten of the flamethrower equipped tanks. These were split evenly between the two islands.2

The flamethrower version replaced the lower 75mm gun in the hull with a flamethrower.

Char B1 at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank was used in Jersey. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
This is the Char B1 bis currently on display at the Tank Museum. When this photo was taken it was at the School of Tank Technology in Chertsey. It came to the Museum in 1951. The British were the tank’s third owner, after the French, who built it, and the Germans, who captured it. In their hands it was assigned to 1st Platoon, 1st Company of Panzer Abteilung 213 and shipped to the Channel Island of Jersey in Spring 1942. The British captured it when they liberated the islands in 1945. Photograph © The Tank Museum
Char B1 bis tank, with German ‘B2’ modifications, owned by Bovington Tank Museum and shown here displayed at the Jersey War Tunnels in 2008.

A short history of this Char B1 is in the video below.

Not a Tank!

Now those of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen some banter about #NotATank. Whilst this article is dealing with tanks I thought it would be remiss of me not to include the Panzerjäger 35R Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f).

For the avoidance of doubt this was not a tank, it was a self propelled gun, although it was based on the chassis of a Renault R35 tank. The turret was replaced with a fixed superstructure with a Czechoslovak 47mm anti-tank gun. Strangely the superstructure was open topped, you can see the canvas cover in the photograph below, which must have been rather unpleasant for the crew of those that were sent to the freezing conditions of the eastern front!

They did however see service in the Channel Islands so are worthy of a mention here.

From the Jerripedia page. German Renault Panzerjäger 35R Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) Tank Destroyer  at Millbrook in Jersey.
From the Jerripedia page. German Renault Panzerjäger 35R Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) Tank Destroyer  at Millbrook in Jersey.

I will be researching the use of tanks in the Channel Islands some more so will revisit the topic at some future point.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

If you have questions or information to share you can contact me by email on Contact@Island-Fortress.Com.

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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

FOOTNOTES

  1. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands – Charles Cruickshank
  2. Atlantic Wall: Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark – George Forty

CHURCHILL ABANDONED THE CHANNEL ISLANDS OR DID HE?

Recently Dr Gordon Barclay was getting a hard time from some quarters on Twitter, for taking the position that Churchill did not abandon the Channel Islands. Having been tagged by a mutual friend, Andy Bryson, I tweeted a very brief overview of my view of the situation and the oft repeated “Churchill abandoned the Channel Islands and forgot about them” commentary.

It wasn’t possible to cover it in detail in a series of Tweets so I thought I would address it in a blog post. Where the idea of abandonment came from, how it was perpetuated and was it true?

There are a number of reasons this narrative has arisen, and to be honest I did have it on the list of things to blog about but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. The above has spurred me on to address it now.

The ground rules!

It is important to remember that unlike today, when we take instant communication and access to information for granted, this was not the case during the war years and for many decades thereafter. Sat here in front of my PC with an iPad and iPhone to consult the archives, newspapers and search the information from my own personal collection it is easier to get an overview of what was happening.

Much of the evidence I will present in this blog post was not available until many years after the cessation of hostilities and indeed in some cases not available to the public until recent years.

I am writing this with the benefit of access to this information and viewing it with an objective 2022 lens. Given the emergence of information over time if I had been writing this in the 1950s or 60s my view may have been different.

Where did this come from?

Arguably this comes from a number of sources dating as far back as the summer of 1940. There are also other events or perceived lack of action throughout the war which also relate to this idea that Churchill abandoned and forgot about the Channel Islands.

Firstly it came from the occupation of the Channel Islands in the summer of 1940. The British Government declared us a demilitarised zone with no defences. Some view this as being abandoned to suffer our fate.

This caused a bit of a commotion at the time in the House of Lords. You can read about that on my post here. This was caused by Lord Portsea who will feature further down this blog post.

For the next five years sentiment amongst some Channel Islanders was that no thought was being given to retaking the islands or what was happening there. You will see why later in this blog post.

The next key point was the advent of D-Day in Normandy on 6 June 1944. This created a false hope that Liberation would be imminent. With the French coast being visible from all of the Channel Islands and the sounds of aircraft over head as they dropped airborne forces and bombs on France, as well as the naval bombardment, hopes were raised that the occupation of the Channel Islands would end soon.

This turned into a feeling of disappointment and that the Channel Islands had been forgotten about. You can read about this in my post about “False hope and fear” blog.

The final nail in the coffin for Churchill’s reputation, with some, was the withholding of permission for food to be provided to the islands for several months. Eventually the requests for permission to help from the International Red Cross were granted. I dealt with the interpretation of Churchill’s “Let’em Starve” blog post.

How was it perpetuated?

Lord Portsea, himself a Jerseyman, was very vocal in the House of Lords for the entirety of the war. These protestations by Portsea were widely reported in the British press and also in the Channel Islands Monthly Review, a monthly publication for those that had left the islands. These were widely read by those that had been evacuated and those that had left to serve in the forces. I wrote about Lord Portsea here

Portsea wasn’t alone in campaigning, but he was certainly the most vocal, although others sought to make political capital out of this both during and after the war.

Lack of information in the Channel Islands as to commando raids and intelligence gathering operations contributed to this feeling. Only the capture of some raiders in 1940 and the ‘Sark raid’, Operation Basalt, were widely known about within the islands themselves.

One example of this is the M.I. 19 interview with two Guernseymen that escaped from Alderney in 1944.

M. 19 (R.P.S.)/2144

Within the islands there was restricted access to news from outside and German propaganda in the local newspapers added to this. Following confiscation of radio sets islanders turned to making crystal radio sets to listen illegally and at some risk.

The lack of broadcasts or mention of the Channel Islands on the BBC added to this feeling of abandonment and that we were forgotten. This was a deliberate decision by the British government as there was a concern that such broadcasts may cause more difficulties for the islanders. There was a perception, rightly or wrongly, they may cause the Germans to introduce further measures.

Lack of information immediately post war other than very general short articles in the newspapers or the Channel Islands Monthly Review meant nothing was done to disagree with this view.

All of the above took hold over the war years. Over such an extended period of time and in the absence of evidence to the contrary these beliefs became entrenched. Rumours and speculation always gather momentum with a lack of information. They take on a life of their own and become a ‘truth’.

Was it true?

To consider the facts one needs to break it down into the various events that led to this feeling of being abandoned and forgotten. Addressing each aspect on its own merits and considering the evidence available.

June 1940 and occupation

Let’s address the situation in the run up to and the invasion of Guernsey on 30 June 1940 and Jersey on 1 July 1940. One has to remember that this was an extremely fast moving situation which meant that some decisions were reversed

As early as 1925 the Channel Islands had been identified as of no strategic significance and too difficult to defend. This was partially due to the advent of the aeroplane and in particular the bomber. In June 1940 a number of memoranda were produced to assess what was to be done with the Channel Islands.

C.O.S.C. (40) 430. 10 June 1940 “Defence of the Channel Islands, Memorandum of the Chief of Imperial General Staff,” Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference CAB 80/12 Page 158 & 159

The memorandum then concludes as follows:

If the enemy effected a lading on these islands it would be essential to eject him as a matter of prestige, and an operation to ensure this would necessitate a diversion of our forces.

The Committee are asked to consider the danger and effect of the Enemy’s attack on the Channel Islands and to decide what steps if any shall be taken to strengthen the defences

C.O.S.C. (40) 430. 10 June 1940 “Defence of the Channel Islands, Memorandum of the Chief of Imperial General Staff,” by Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill. Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference CAB 80/12 Page 160

Following on from the above there was a further consideration dated the same day in another memorandum, extracts of which are set out below.

C.O.S. (40) 442. (J.P.) (J.P. (40) 220). “Strategic Importance of the Channel Islands,” Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference: CAB 80/12/69

These memoranda were considered at meetings of the war cabinet on the 12th and 13th of June. At the meeting at 10 a.m. on 13th June they concluded that it was pointless to send the two battalions mentioned in the memorandum above.

13 June 1940 C.O.S. (40)178th. Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference:
CAB 79/5/3

On the 14th of June the position was considered again and decided to defer the position until the Chief of Air Staff had considered the RAF requirements.

C.O.S. Committee 14 June 1940 Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference: CAB 79-5-6

Events were moving every quickly and following on from the 18th of June a memorandum (CAB 66/8/38) was circulated that despite the above it was necessary to use the aerodromes in Guernsey and Jersey to provide support to the B.E.F. being evacuated from Brest and Cherbourg.

A further meeting on 14 June 1940 again talked about demilitarisation.

C.O.S. Committee 14 June 1940 Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference CAB 79-5-20

The problem with what was agreed in respect of “no declaration of demilitarisation should be made by them unless they felt it advisable” was to have tragic consequences. A meeting on the 15th June went on to reinforce this decision.

War Cabinet meeting 15th June 1940. Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference: CAB 79-5-7

The meeting of the War Cabinet on 19th June 1940 was the meeting that sealed the fate of the idea of defending the Channel Islands as you will see from the minutes below Churchill felt that the islands could be defended by the Royal Navy. He was eventually persuaded otherwise.

War Cabinet meeting 19th June 1940. Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference:CAB 65-7-67

At the War Cabinet meeting on the 21st of June 1940, they were informed that the military evacuation was complete.

War Cabinet meeting 21st June 1940. Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference:CAB 65-7-69

On the 22nd of June 1940 a notice was drafted to declare the islands demilitarised. As noted in the minute of the 14th of June there was reluctance to release this. It was felt that releasing this notice too early would invite the Germans to invade. Unfortunately, this meant that the Germans went on to Bomb both Jersey and Guernsey with significant loss of life. You can read about it here. Occupation followed on the 30th of June 1940 and in Jersey’s case

I have seen the idea bandied about that the Channel Islands could have been defended in the same fashion as Malta. This argument simply doesn’t hold water for many reasons not least our geographical location so close to the French coast. There was also a complete lack of anywhere for the population to shelter in the event of sustained bombing or naval bombardment.

The map below will give you some idea of the challenges that would have been faced.

Location of the Channel Islands – Google maps

Malta had immense strategic importance to both the allies and axis forces so it was worth devoting men and resources as well as risking the cost to lives on the island. As you will see as you read on this was not the case for the Channel Islands.

One must remember that in June 1940 the British were smarting from Dunkirk and also facing the prospect of invasion. Precious men and resources could not be spared to attempt to prevent the Channel Islands being taken by force.

Our proximity to the French coast also meant that the Luftwaffe would have been able to operate from airfields that were only a few minutes from their target. The RAF on the other hand would have only been able to operate from airfields in the south of England which would mean that fighter aircraft would have only had approximately fifteen minutes over the islands before having to return to refuel and re arm. This would involve a round trip of some two hundred or more miles as opposed to sixty to eighty miles for the Luftwaffe. This continues to be an issue when planning the proposed operations to retake the islands. You will see this problem considered later on in this post.

Even if the Channel Islands had been able to be held initially the logistics of keeping them re supplied would have been impossible. The Germans were to find this out after D-Day in 1944. The allied occupied French coast meant they were unable to get anything but a few ships through to the islands.

No attempt or plan to retake the islands?

This aspect of the of the myth is patently untrue. At the time nobody outside of those involved in the plans would have been aware of them because by their very nature they were secret. The British population were therefore unaware of these at the time, including those Channel Islanders that had left the islands. Those still in the islands equally so for obvious reasons.

There were a number of detailed plans to retake one or more of the Channel Islands throughout the war. They reached differing levels of planning and training.

The first of these was Operation Attaboy in March 1941 which I wrote about in detail here.

The second was Operation Blazing strangely enough one year later than Operation Attaboy. My detailed analysis of Blazing is here.

Operation Constellation was a plan in March 1943 that considered retaking one or all of the Channel Islands. This became Operation Concertina when they again chose Alderney.

If you read my blog posts linked above, you will see that Lord Mountbatten and Vice-Admiral John Hughes-Hallett amongst others were frequently pushing plans to retake the Channel Islands right from the outset. Often to the extreme annoyance of General Sir Alan Brooke.

Churchill was also involved in supporting the plan some of these operations.

“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.”

Brooke notes in his diary on 6 May 1942

In addition to these large-scale operations there were many more smaller raids and the order to pursue this course of action as early as the 2nd of July 1940.

War Cabinet meeting 2nd July 1940. Held at the National Archives, Kew, File reference: CAB 65-14-2

These gave rise to a number of operations running right up to December 1943, after which raids were stopped due to preparations for D-Day.

The initial flurry of raids in 1940 were Operation Anger 8th July 1940, Operation Ambassador 14th / 15th July 1940 and an intelligence gathering mission on 3rd / 4th September. You can read about these operations here.

In addition to these raids the following raids were carried out.

Paul Woodage of WW2TV was kind enough to have me on to talk about Commando Raids on the Channel Islands which also covers the planned large-scale operations discussed above. You can watch it on the YouTube link below.

What about negotiating a surrender?

It is frequently overlooked that there was extensive leaflet dropping following D-Day to encourage the garrison to surrender and at least one if not more attempts to secure a surrender. The October 1944 edition of the Channel Island Monthly Review notes a brief account of what happened.

From the October 1944 Channel Islands Monthly Review

Should you wish to find out more about this daring operation to attempt to secure a surrender, using a German General who was a POW, you can read about it here.

Let’em starve

Nobody outside of government was aware of this comment at the time but when it emerged there was much debate over whether Churchill meant the German garrison or the population as well. You can find my analysis of this here.

The comment was interpreted by many to be applicable to both the German Garrison and the population. Take a look at the blog to understand this complex situation.

The Verdict

The assessment in this blog post is in no way a criticism of those that were alive at the time and formed this view. I would have formed the same view had I been sat here trapped in Guernsey for five years and suffering numerous privations.

I will let you form your own opinion as to whether you think Churchill is guilty as charged or not guilty. Hopefully the above analysis will provide you with the information to draw your own conclusions.

It would however be remiss of me not to throw in my two penn’orth! Having looked at the evidence that has become available over the years, which I have set out above, I believe that Churchill is not guilty of abandoning or forgetting the Channel Islands.

My rationale for this opinion is:-

The Channels Islands were totally indefensible by 1940. Any attempt to defend them would have just led to them being bombed into submission. This would have resulted in enormous loss of life and some of you reading this may never have been born as a result.

The various intelligence gathering operations and commando raids clearly demonstrate that the Channel Islands were not forgotten.

Planned operations to retake one or more of the Channel Islands despite the fact that they were of no strategic advantage demonstrates that we were not forgotten. These operations didn’t take place, but were very seriously considered, trained and planned for, something that they wouldn’t have expended time, effort and resources on if we were forgotten or abandoned.

Churchill was not making these decisions alone. Whilst he was the figurehead of the government, he was guided by the War Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff.

Whatever else he might have done wrong throughout his career and whatever else you think of him I don’t think on this occasion he is guilty as charged.

That’s all folks

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I suspect I may get some incoming flak for this post. Ironic given the one thing we didn’t have in 1940 was anti-aircraft guns.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

If you have questions or information to share you can contact me by email on Contact@Island-Fortress.Com.

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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

BOB LE SUEUR MBE – A TRULY REMARKABLE MAN!

Just a short blog on the life of Bob Le Sueur who sadly died at the weekend. Recognised when he received the MBE in 2013 for his work during the occupation, he helped eight or nine escaped Russian slave workers to evade recapture, at great personal risk to himself. Mr Le Sueur could very easily have suffered the same fate as others, such as Louisa Gould who also helped escaped slave workers, but were caught and paid the ultimate price in Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Always willing to assist historians that were documenting the occupation years he will be sorely missed. He continued his humanitarian work up to the end of his life aged 102, most recently raising money for the Ukrainian victims of the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

There have been many short news reports about his life but I thought it would be good to share a couple of longer videos that tell you more.

Channel Islands Occupation Society Interview with him giving a comprehensive talk about the occupation.
Friends of the blog Jersey War Tours also had this excellent chat with him.

You can also read about him here and watch the news report from Channel TV here.

I recommend reading his story in his book. Growing Up Fast: An ordinary man’s extraordinary life in occupied Jersey.

RIP and thank you for all that you did over the years to champion the cause of those that needed help.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

If you have questions or information to share you can contact me by email on Contact@Island-Fortress.Com.

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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

MIN(E)D WHERE YOU WALK! MAJOR BLASCHEK AND AN ACCIDENT.

Those of you that live in Guernsey, or have visited will be familiar with the headland at Rousse and will know that there is a Napoleonic era loophole tower and a pier that is used by fisherman and swimmers. The area is also popular with walkers. I suspect that many of the walkers, like the lady that stopped to talk to us a few weeks back, are unaware that they are walking over a former minefield!

There isn’t anything for these walkers to be worried about as the mines were cleared in the immediate months after the war. There are some innocuous reminders of the minefield that you can still see today and most people walking the area are unaware of.

You may be wondering why I picked this particular minefield to write about. When I was at the German war grave cemetery at Fort George in the summer I happened to photograph the grave of Major Friedrich Blaschek. The reason I photographed it was that I wondered what had happened to him.

Photo © Nick Le Huray

Following on from this I did some research and I discovered how he had become fatally injured and the bravery of a soldier that tried to save him.

THE ROUSSE MINEFIELD

The Germans had already laid many minefields around the islands but not on the scale that followed the order from Hitler to fortify the islands in October 1941. You can read about the fortification order on the blog post here.

Some eight months prior to the order this notice appeared in the Evening Press.

I was provided with an original map of the minefield by Jersey War Tours and I thought I would go and take a few photographs to illustrate the blog post.

As with many of the existing fortifications on the Channel Islands the Germans strengthened the defences around the existing loophole tower at Rousse.

Photo © Nick Le Huray
Thanks to Colin R Fallaize (@LeRoiHaptalon on Twitter) for this drone shot of the area. Photo © Colin R Fallaize

The minefield chart or “Minenplan” is very detailed and I will use some extracts from it later on so don’t worry if you can’t read all of the detail on the full scale picture below.

German mine chart of the minefield at Rousse kindly provided to me by ©
Jersey War Tours.
German mine chart of the minefield at Rousse kindly provided to me by ©
Jersey War Tours.

As you can see the area was extensively mined with both Tellermines (anti tank) and Schrapnellmines or ‘S’ (anti-personnel) mines.

Tellermine from National Army Museum

The Tellermine whilst primarily being an anti tank mine could also be triggered by someone running. The S mine shown below was particularly nasty, as if you touched one of the horns it would tigger the mine with a delay of a few seconds then it would spring up to waist height before exploding. It would fire 360 steel balls, short steel rods, or scrap metal pieces in all directions. The Americans nicknamed them ‘Bouncing Betty’ because of this.

S.Mi.35 (Sprengen Mine 1935) (S-Mine & Schrapnellmine 35) anti-personnel mine (MUN 3318) The Sprengen Mine 1935, also known as the ‘S-Mine’ or ‘Schrapnellmine 35’, was a German Second World War anti-personnel device, that could be activated by direct pressure on the igniter in the top, or by a pull on one or more tripwires attached to pull igniters. It could also be fired electrically. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30021489
Concrete ‘punkt’ (point) marker. This one is located on the wall behind the post war toilet block. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Existing Granite marker that was placed by the Board of Ordinance and re-utilised as ‘punkt’ (point) marker. Easily missed if you are out for a walk. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Existing Granite marker that was placed by the Board of Ordinance and re-utilised as a ‘punkt’ (point) marker. Looking over the area where mine group two and three were laid. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Existing Granite marker that was placed by the Board of Ordinance and re-utilised as a ‘punkt’ (point) marker. Looking back to the tower from the site of mine group 3. Photo © Nick Le Huray
The ‘Schuppen’ or shack identified on the mine chart just where the road splits in two. Photo © Nick Le Huray
The ‘Schuppen’ or shack identified on the mine chart just where the road splits in two has seen better days. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Thanks to Colin R Fallaize (@LeRoiHaptalon on Twitter) for this drone shot of the area. Photo © Colin R Fallaize

Below is a picture from March 1942 of the headland taken from a photo reconnaissance Spitfire of the RAF 140 Squadron. One thing you will notice from the 1942 photo is the lack of boats in the bay. If you are familiar with this area you would know that this bay would normally have been full of boats. The reason there are none are because of the escapes that had happened earlier in the occupation which had led all boats having to be moved to St Sampson and St Peter Port harbours.

Aerial Reconnaisance Photo March 1942. Roque-Rousse; Guernsey

MAJOR FRIEDRICH BLASCHEK

Major Blaschek was commander of No.1 Pioneer Battalion 319 Infantry Division. His men were responsible for laying the minefield at Rousse and many others around Guernsey.

In his book ‘Achtung’ Minen! Guernsey The History of the German Minefields 1940-45’ – Henry Beckingham includes an extract from two letters to Blaschek’s widow. These letters were written using the accounts of those present at the time of the accident. A précis of what happened is below.

On the 7th November 1941 Blaschek went to inspect the minefield that his men were working on. He noted that his men were not working on the minefield and inspected the fencing surrounding the minefield. He then stepped into the minefield to go and inspect it. This was a fatal mistake as, unbeknownst to him, the minefield had been made live the previous day.

You may have spotted in the mine chart images above that the minefield had been signed off as ‘unlocked’ or ‘armed’ by Lieutenant Kias on 6.11.41.

Snip from the mine chart showing that it had been signed off
In the other corner of the mine chart (translated with Google Translate) it notes that the safety pins have been handed over to Guernsey command.

Having stepped into the minefield he soon set off an ‘S mine’. He was rescued from the minefield by Hauptfeldwebel (Company Sergeant Major) Schulz. Despite the badly wounded Blaschek repeatedly telling him not to enter the minefield he did so and succeeded in rescuing Blaschek who had been unable to move more than a few steps after stepping on the mine. Schulz received a commendation for this.

Blaschek was taken to hospital and initially it was thought that he would survive. Indeed he was visited by a number of men from his battalion before he was operated on. As the operation proceeded it became apparent that his wounds were much more severe than first thought. He died at eight pm, aged thirty six, during the operation without regaining consciousness.

He was buried at Fort George with full military honours. Blaschek was far from the first or last minefield casualty in the Channel Islands.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog. As part of the fortification order a large number of further minefields were to be laid. I am going to be writing a blog covering minefields across the Channel Islands in general in the future.

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, places to visit and films that may be of interest.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter at @Fortress_Island where I share other information and photographs. If you prefer Facebook I also have a page there.

If you have questions or information to share you can contact me by email on Contact@Island-Fortress.Com.

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.

Also happy to be contacted with questions about the war in the Channel Islands, media appearances, podcasts etc.

© Nick Le Huray

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