This is the story of eight men who made a daring escape, by small boat, to England on 6th September 1940. The escapees were Frederick Hockey, a signalman at St Peter Port harbour, his three sons Frederick, George, and Harold. The remainder were William Dorey, William Mahy, Percy Du Port, and Herbert Le C. Bichard. Apart from Frederick they were all tomato growers.

It is incredible to think that they made this journey at night, in a 20ft boat, initially to Dartmouth and then on to Brixham. A journey of approximately eighty-seven miles through some challenging waters. They also didn’t have charts!

I had read a very brief report about this escape in the 1978 Channel Islands Occupation Review and decided to see if I could find more information1. This blog post is compiled using multiple sources which are detailed in the footnotes at the end.

I managed to find quite a bit of additional information as, unusually, it received quite a lot of newspaper coverage in England in the weeks following their escape. This included the names of all involved and a lot of other information about the occupation of Guernsey. This is partly because it was relatively early on in the occupation and thoughts about family members left behind being impacted hadn’t been considered.

The British government even sent three RAF bombing raids to Guernsey, as well as bombs they also dropped leaflets and copies of the the Daily Sketch and Daily Mirror newspapers reporting the escape. More of this later.

As with the all of the escapes in 1940 there doesn’t appear to be any MI 19 reports of interviews with them, unlike the later escapes where it is possible to obtain detailed reports. MI 19, a section of British Directorate of Military Intelligence, interviewed anyone arriving in England from the continent or the Channel Islands. This was to establish that they weren’t spies and to obtain valuable intelligence about the enemy. They also interrogated German prisoners as well as listening to their conversations covertly to obtain information. If you are interested in the activities of MI 19 I recommend the book by Helen Fry ‘The London Cage’.2

This escape, and the escape immediately preceding it, had serious ramifications for fisherman in Guernsey. Following these two escapes an order was issued on 26 September 1940 that all boats, including those stored on land, were to be moved to St Sampson and St Peter Port harbours by 1 October. The Germans were worried that escapees would provide valuable intelligence to the British authorities.

As a result of these restrictions this was to be the last escape from Guernsey until some two years later in September 1942.


In a newspaper interview Frederick said he felt that “All of this German business was getting a bit two thick.”3 The Germans were importing a large number of German women into the island and they were working in cafes and other places. Frederick’s son Harold went into a cafe and ordered a cup of tea but some Germans who came in after were served first. In typical British fashion Frederick said “This was the sort of thing that makes your blood boiling angry.” The other thing that irritated him was the “oily politeness” and attempts to ingratiate themselves with the local population.

All of the restrictions introduced by the Germans were in Frederick’s words making living in the island impossible.

Expecting air raids, there had been raids in August 1940 on the airport, the Germans had made all civilians dig air raid shelters at home and at their place of work. They also appeared worried that the British may try to take back the island and had, just before this escape, commandeered a number of large yachts and boats and had them fuelled and ready for them to make their getaway should this happen.

This made the prospect of escape by civilians more difficult. Despite this Herbert Bichard approached Frederick and discreetly enquired if he had ever thought of trying to escape. They went to Frederick’s house and sat in his kitchen where they discussed the possibility of an escape. Bichard had access to a 20ft boat, the ‘Tim’, and wanted to use it to escape along with three friends.

As they were all tomato growers they needed someone with boating experience. Frederick had considerable experience of boats sailing around the Channel Islands and this was why they had approached him. He agreed on the proviso that he could take his three sons with him.

They met several times after this, in his kitchen, to come up with a plan as to how to get away. Eventually they agreed on a plan and the night they would attempt it providing conditions were suitable. They needed a pitch dark night and the right tide.


At ten thirty, half an hour after the curfew started, on the evening of 6th September the men left their homes and set off on foot. They carried a few recent copies of local newspapers, some heavy spanners and some petrol for the boat engine. The petrol was difficult to obtain despite this being only two months after the Germans occupied the island.

Frederick said that they hadn’t dared to leave the petrol on the boat so carried it in cans with them. Another report said that they used beer bottles to transport it so it is not clear which method they used. He declined to say how they had acquired it but one can safely assume they pinched it from the Germans!4

They had armed themselves with heavy spanners as they knew some of the areas were patrolled by Germans. They had decided that it was “them or us” if they were stopped by a German patrol.

In order to attempt to avoid the German patrols they made their way through fields, back gardens and vineries. You can see from the photograph below how many vineries there were in that part of the island at the time. When they got to a main road that they had to cross they spotted a German on a bicycle and ducked into the long grass clutching their heavy spanners. Fortunately, they had not seen them and they crept across the road and continued on their way.

Their first objective was to reach a small dinghy which was hidden on the small tidal islet of Houmet Benest, circled in red on the photograph, at Bordeaux harbour.

The photograph below shows how Houmet Benest can be accessed via a shingle bank except at high tide. Google maps seems to have picked up a slightly different spelling of the name.
Houmet Benest the small islet from which they started their escape. Google Maps

The photograph below from Google maps show the location of the islet of Houmet Benest in relation to St Sampson’s harbour.

Map showing the location of Bordeaux Harbour, St Sampson Harbour and Houmet Benest. Google Maps.

If they had been trying to escape using Houmet Benest later in the occupation they would have been out of luck as the Germans put a 10.5cm Gun and a machine gun position there to strengthen the defences. If you want to have a virtual look around Houmet Benest you can do so thanks to probably the youngest historian in the island Zac Osborne. His video is below.

Very grateful to Zac and his dad Tim for producing this video not least because it saved me climbing over the rocks! Well worth subscribing to his YouTube Channel.

Herbert Bichard and Frederick rowed out to the boat named ‘Tim’ which was on an outer mooring. They then rowed back and collected the others from a group of rocks where they had agreed to meet them. Having returned to the ‘Tim’ they made fast the dinghy and rowed for about half a mile before they caught the tide and raised the sail.

This would have been risky as, by this point, there would have been Germans based at Vale Castle. The castle is on a hill and has an excellent view out over Bordeaux Harbour. Also there would have been sentries along the coast.

Frederick was worried about making any noise and attracting unwanted attention. Just a noisy splash of the oars could have given them away.

They were just north of the Platte Fougère lighthouse, which is a mile off of the north-east tip of Guernsey when three German aircraft flew overhead and flares were dropped. Incredibly they weren’t spotted despite the flares coming very close to the boat. One flare landed in the water only twenty yards from the stern of the boat.

They were unsure if the aircraft had been sent to look for them or if they were doing something else. What they did know was if they had been caught they would have been in serious trouble. If they had been caught they would have been sent to prison for a long time, probably in France. Realising that the noise of the aircraft engines would mask the sound of their boat engine they decided to risk starting it.

Just after passing the Casquets Lighthouse, twenty-five miles north of Guernsey and just eight miles from Alderney, their engine broke down and they had to repair it. This must have been a very nervous four hours drifting at sea, in waters that have strong currents, along with the risk of being spotted by a German aircraft or a German E-Boat, particularly given their encounter with aircraft dropping flares earlier.

Once they repaired the motor they headed for Dartmouth unmolested. Upon their arrival they were unable to attract attention to be let through the boom in the harbour so proceeded to Brixham where they were towed into the harbour by a customs launch. In total, their journey had taken some nineteen hours.

Unlike later escapes from the Channel Islands, they weren’t interviewed by MI 19 but were instead dispersed to their families around England. Frederick Hockey Senior had thirteen Children and all bar his eldest sons, who escaped with him, and his daughter, who wouldn’t leave with him when he escaped, had previously been evacuated.

Newspaper reports

This escape received extensive newspaper coverage, indeed probably the most detailed coverage of any escape from Guernsey.

Initial reports appeared in some newspapers, The Daily Sketch and Daily Mirror, on 27 September 1940. These articles are all relatively short. They didn’t really contain much of any interest.

The Daily Herald ran several days of detailed articles in October about the escape and life in occupied Guernsey. This provided details as to life in the run-up to and under the Germans in the first few months of the occupation. There are some interesting observations within these articles which are worth sharing.

In the first article5 on 16 October, the reporter, Dudley Barker, announced that through the interviews with Frederick Hockey, he would be able to provide for the first time the story of the occupation by the Germans.

After the fall of Paris and the Germans getting closer to the French coast, there was much unease and talk of evacuation, although nothing had been announced. One day Frederick was sitting in his office at the White Rock, St Peter Port harbour, and he got the first hint that things were really wrong. At two o’clock, he noticed that the British garrison was starting to embark on ships. They took everything men, guns and transport. By six o’clock that evening, they were gone and the harbour was quiet again.

Guernsey was now completely undefended. The Royal Guernsey Militia had been disbanded and the Home Guard as they would have been called in England had been disarmed.

Many had not known, with the exception of some in government, that the British were pulling out until it happened; there was a bit of an uproar with people wondering what was going on. This is referred to by Douglas Ord and Ralph Durand in their diaries.

For two days nothing happened. Then it was announced that all women and children under fourteen years old were to be registered for evacuation. Frederick was at work in the signal station when his wife and youngest children left. Interestingly Frederick notes that the boats were by no means full as some people changed their minds. He saw one ship leave which he thought could have carried four thousand and he doubted that there were more than thirty people on it.

On Saturday morning his son Harold came to see him at work and said that he was not going and neither was his girlfriend or his sister and her boyfriend. They had heard a rumour on the Friday night that those that had reached England were being compelled to sleep in public parks so the girls didn’t want to go. He did try to persuade his daughter to join the escape but she was worried that it was too dangerous so would not leave Guernsey and he could not press her to do so.

Another reason that some didn’t go was that on the Saturday the Bailiff and other leading men of the island climbed onto platforms and urged people not to leave. They said trade would carry on as usual, there would be no worry or trouble and if it came to the worst they would see that everybody got safely away. They had cars going around with posters saying ‘Don’t be yellow’. There was no compulsion but they persuaded thousands of people not to leave; he booked out large ships the government had sent with only a handful of people aboard. 

Example of the posters that were placed around Guernsey

The following week the island shook itself back to normal. The tomato boats that had ceased running during the evacuation week started running more busily than ever. The lorries pulled up to the quayside in St Peter Port and the mail boats came in again as usual. He had never had such a busy week. Everything seemed so normal that a few people who had gone away to England came back again on the mail boats, although some others decided to evacuate after all though this time they had to pay their own fares. 

Throughout that week he saw various German aircraft fly over the harbour initially high in the sky and then later at low level, so low he could see the pilot in the cockpit. Then on Friday 28 June 1940 the Channel Islands were attacked by German bombers. You can read about this in the article below.

After the air raid they knew that the Germans would be invading the Channel Islands they just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

In the next article on 17th October6 Frederick talks about the arrival of the Germans in Guernsey on Sunday 30th June. He, like most people, was not aware of the arrival of the Germans until the next day. On the Sunday afternoon, he had seen a German plane in the distance and had seen it dip but then rise again. Later in the afternoon, he saw another, and this time he did not see it take off again.

In the evening, he rode his bicycle to work. On the way, he saw people gathered on doorsteps chatting and some called out to him to see if he knew what was happening, but he didn’t have any news for them. The rest of his ride was not unusual except he felt that it was quieter than normal and those that he did see were quite nervy. He did not see any Germans.

When he arrived at the signal station his colleague asked him what he thought of things now, and Frederick told him that he didn’t like the look of it because he thought that a German plane had landed at the airport. His colleague went home, and he was alone, not that he was busy, as no ships were coming in or leaving the harbour.

It was deadly quiet except for the drone of the troop-carrying planes that started to come over about 18:00 and kept it up all night. At midnight one of the local police officers came to relieve him. This was because one of the signalmen had slipped away at the last moment on the pig boat from Alderney. The police officer had no definite news either. He asked what things were like and Frederick said very slack except for those planes going over and he didn’t know quite what to make of that. The police officer said all they could do now was hope for the best and it was his belief that the Germans had arrived.

He got on his bicycle and went home and still, there was nothing unusual to see. The island was very still except for the sound of those planes and the sound of the sea. It was a lovely night. Everything was alright when he got home, so he just went to bed.

The next morning he went down to the seawall at Bordeaux Bay which was the usual meeting place for the area and there were about one hundred people there sitting on the wall, talking and looking out to sea. They knew he had been on duty at the harbour so they asked me for news but he had none to give them. Then two German officers drove by in a car. They were the first they had seen and they were too surprised to do anything but stare at them.

The car was a Guernsey car that they had commandeered. They were driving along cool as you please in the sunshine towards Fort Doyle. Everyone stared at them, and they smiled and saluted and drove on. Frederick muttered something about there go the square-headed pigs. That encounter answered all of their questions. The Germans were here all right, so the meeting on the sea wall broke up, and he went home for breakfast. While he was sitting at breakfast in his kitchen two more Germans went by on motorbikes that they had brought with them in the aircraft.

By noon, the place suddenly seemed to be full of Germans. By nightfall, they were all in their positions, and the German patrols were out on the roads, and that’s how the Germans occupied Guernsey. It made people laugh a day or two later to read the German communique about it, which was printed in our newspapers. It said the British island of Guernsey was captured in a daring coup de main by detachments of the German Air Force. It also reported that in an air fight, the Germans reconnaissance aeroplanes shot down two RAF Bristol Blenheim bombers. There appears to be no record of these aircraft being shot down!

You can read in more detail about the arrival of the Germans in my article below.

The next instalment appeared on 18th October, where he detailed the initial days of the occupation and the impact that it had.7 The first thing he knew on Monday morning, after the encounter with the two Germans, was that the island’s two newspapers were being distributed free. They kept that up for three days, and their front pages were covered with the new German regulations for Guernsey. These new regulations were one of the things that were to spur him on to escape.

The regulations were extensive. All weapons, guns, ammunition, daggers and bayonets had to be handed in immediately to the Royal Hotel. It was forbidden to sing God Save The King; the penalty for doing that was 15 years of penal servitude. Nobody was to be outside their home at night between the hours of 22:00 and 06:00.

No fishermen were allowed to leave the port initially, three weeks later this was altered and they were allowed to go out to a limit of two miles from the shore. One or two fishermen broke this rule and they got a shot across the bows as a warning and then a launch went out to bring them back. Afterwards, their boats were hauled up on the beach for the duration of the war. What is more, if three or more fishermen went out in one boat they had to take a German sentry with them, and he sat with the machine gun across his knees.

Other regulations published on that first day said all motor transport was stopped except for absolute necessities. The chief tradesmen, for instance, were allowed to use their vans for deliveries. All petrol had to be handed into the Germans at once. This was, of course, a problem when they later needed to obtain petrol to escape.

There was to be no talking in groups, and severe penalties would be imposed for that. Nobody was allowed to buy another man a drink in a pub every man had to pay for his own. All sales of spirits were banned, and the spirits were to be handed over to the Germans. Larders had to be cleared of stores of sugar, tea, bacon and any tinned food. It had to be handed over to the Germans at the Channel Islands Hotel. He decided to risk not handing in his food and was lucky that his house wasn’t searched, unlike others.

These were just the first restrictions that impeded normal life. In the next article8 he explains how difficult it made life.

It was surprising, really, how things settled down on Guernsey on the surface, at any rate, after the Germans had been there a few days. After the shock of finding them there at all the islanders were pleasantly surprised at first to discover that the occupation did not seem to mean any particular hardships. It was not long before things began to get sufficiently intolerable for these eight men at least to risk their lives in escaping to England.

Initially, the most difficult thing was getting used to observing all of the regulations. Early on, some people were caught out just two minutes after the curfew. They were taken to a hotel for the night before appearing before the German court in the morning. They were fined and made to pay for their hotel accommodation.

The Germans imposed much stricter blackout restrictions than had previously been in place and Frederick tells some interesting stories. Before the occupation, you might get a ticking off from the local police officer; under the Germans, things were much stricter and slightly bizarrely different!

Old Bob, the police constable, got a shot through his window that nearly hit him because his wife had left a tiny crack in the curtains. Another man was shaving, and there happened to be a faint glow through a window. A German officer walked into the room, smashed the electric bulb with a revolver shot and then walked out again without saying a single word!

He said that the most difficult thing of all to get used to was ‘the attitude of the square-headed pigs themselves’. That is what Frederick said most people usually called the German soldiers.

They offered cigarettes, drinks and even packets of coffee to him. They were always mixing with locals in the pubs. Frederick said he would say ‘Look out here are the square-headed pigs,’ but they took no notice of that. Men would turn their backs, but the Germans would force their way up and offer drinks. Frederick and his friends would say that they had enough or make any sort of excuse but it was no good. They would buy the drinks put them down in front of them, and we had to drink them. Then, they would bring out cigarettes and cigars and compel them to accept them. If you refused the drinks that were offered, there was trouble. They were just so damn polite. This attempt to ingratiate themselves with islanders really got to him.

Sometimes, we just couldn’t stick it any longer and had to revolt. Frederick remembered one night he and some friends had got a bit merry in the London House and then they went home and stood outside his house and sang God Save The King as loudly as they could. Then his friends cycled home after midnight, more than two hours past the curfew. There were plenty of sentries about, but he thought that they must have looked as though we were spoiling for a bit of trouble that night, and none of them spoke to them.

The next instalment in the Daily Herald appeared on 21st October. This article dealt with the difficulties following the first few weeks of occupation.

A couple of weeks after the occupation, the Germans decided to prove that things would be better and happier under occupation. The idea was we should have no rich or poor, and all men would be equal except, of course, the Germans.

It was duly announced in the Guernsey newspapers that, henceforward, all businesses would belong to the States of Guernsey9, which in turn, of course, though this was not emphasised, temporarily belonged to Germany.

It was not exactly compulsory to hand your business over to the States, but if you did not there was nobody in Guernsey that could afford any longer to buy your produce. You could not export it, and you could not draw enough money to pay your employees even if you had it in the bank. This meant there was not much choice about it. A week later, all wages on the island were regulated as well. It was announced that every single man who was employed, and the Germans saw to it that they were employed if only for forced labour at the airport, would draw thirty shillings a week from the States.

Married men would get an extra 30 shillings a week with one shilling extra for each child up to the number of five and sixpence extra for each child over that number. Foremen and people who previously owned their business received two shillings a week extra and people with dependent relatives also got a little bit more. It was surprising how quickly you can put this sort of organisation into force, providing nobody is allowed to express any opinion about it and nobody is allowed to argue against it for they had it running in Guernsey within a few days.

They appointed overseers in each district to go around and make sure that everybody was working properly. Then, they set up local court officials in the school rooms in each parish to pay out the government wages collected each week by the foremen and the owners of businesses.

People of independent means were no better off because no matter how much they had in the bank, they were not allowed to draw out more than their 30 shillings each week, although they did not have to do any work. That was why no man could carry on his private business, as he could not get the money to pay his expenses. The Germans of course, wanted all businesses to be handed over to the States so they themselves could control them. Most of the Guernsey businesses were glass houses for growing tomatoes or grapes. The Germans made the growers turn many of them over to other crops, particularly maize and beans. It was thought that they wanted the seed to be sent to Germany for next year’s sowing.

Now, this idea of everybody having an equal income, even if it was a rather small income, sounded alright in theory, and some people got taken in by it at first.  Frederick heard several of them say so in pubs and sitting on the sea wall of an evening.  Even these people soon began to realise that things did not work out quite the way they thought they would. Everybody is working, everybody is equal, everybody is happy and so on. What happened was the Guernsey people were paid in Guernsey money that was the same as English money. At the same time, the Germans flooded the island with German money; at first, it was Marks they brought from Germany, but a week or two later they started printing them in Guernsey itself.

The Germans were paid in Marks, and the Germans decided how many Marks went to their Guernsey pound. The way it worked out was that the German private soldiers were getting three pounds a week in Guernsey money, and their NCOs and officers were rich men. Then, locals began to find out that it didn’t matter so much what their incomes were, but it did matter if there was nothing to buy with them. Nothing was imported into the island for the use of islanders, whilst the Germans got everything they wanted.

One of the first results was one by one the shops were closing down, despite the German order that business should carry on as usual. They were closing because they had exhausted their stocks. They could not get any more, and they had nothing left to sell. Then, the shopkeepers went out to work on the land or at the airport for thirty shillings a week. That was what his father-in-law had to do for one.

The Germans tried to cover all of this up by starting a little gaiety. They reopened the cinemas twice a week and at first, they showed one German and one English film. But when they had used up all the English films that were in the Channel Islands, they had to be all German films for which they put English subtitles. They also started showing propaganda films.

The article on the 22nd of October continued to tell the story of the difficulties faced by the local population.

Soon there was no bacon, no coal, and they were having to make potato bread. Frederick said that he feared that this winter, people in Guernsey would be existing on little else except potatoes and bread. The bread itself was at least half potato flour already. The Germans even got at people who had vegetable gardens and people who owned a field of potatoes to make a little pocket money. They published an order that these people could only keep for themselves five perches10 of potatoes each, and that had to last the winter.  

The other great trouble was clothes; they were rationed too, and nobody was allowed to buy any clothes at all, not even a pair of bootlaces, without the consent of the Kommandant. If you wanted to buy something, you had to take the old worn-out article along with you when you applied for permission to prove that it was really unwearable. Nearly always, they would hand it back to you saying you can wear it for a few weeks longer. You even had to get a permit to have your shoes repaired and you had to take the shoes to prove they needed it. As for buying a new packet of razor blades, it simply couldn’t be done.

There was of course a strong regulation that nobody could say anything against the Germans or Germany. One day a girl walked into a shop to buy something or other, and they could not sell it to her. She got a bit annoyed and said something about the Germans having everything and the Guernsey people having nothing. She went on that like that for a few minutes just an ordinary bit of grumbling.

As she stepped out of the shop door, she was arrested by one of those men in plain clothes who had been standing outside listening. They took the girl to prison, and though he didn’t think a charge was ever brought against her she was still in prison when he left the island. That taught people to be much more careful about what they said in public, and they started looking over their shoulders to see who was about before they said anything at all.

Early one morning, about fifty German soldiers, all dressed up for battle and carrying their guns, went off with a few boats and a film camera crew to the little island of Herm, which lies off the east coast of Guernsey. They put the camera person ashore on the deserted beach, and then the German soldiers made a gallant landing from their boats. Then they got back into the boats again and made the landing again and again. They landed on that beach hundreds of times that day. They then had a film which looked like thousands and thousands of German soldiers fully armed landed on a beach. He supposed they had already taken a film of German troop ships leaving Germany.

Not all their activities were just propaganda, though; one reason why islanders were not allowed to be out of doors at night was that they were practising all sorts of things, landings on the coast amongst them. There didn’t seem to be much doubt in his mind that if the Germans ever did really try to invade England, they planned part of the invasion to come from the Channel Islands.

They certainly had a lot of guns and ammunition there, and he saw the boats bringing them in and was held to secrecy about it under the threat of the most severe penalties, which may have included death. Frederick said the German propaganda was on the wrong tack when they tried to prove the British were bombing us. The reason was the Guernsey folk would have welcomed it.

Most had grown to hate the Germans, in spite of their soft soap methods, that they would willingly have taken a chance if the British started bombing the Germans out of the island. He had heard scores of Guernsey folks say that. Indeed they were delighted when the British bombed the airport. His father-in-law was up there at the time and he was delighted as the rest of us when we heard the news. Incidentally, as it happens, the RAF killed Germans in that raid and not a single Guernsey-man.

The reaction of the  Guernsey people towards the Germans after three months of this polite invasion was that they loathed them like poison. A few people may have been partly won over by the propaganda but most of the islanders would give their lives to see the Germans driven out. For now they were powerless to do anything but to submit to German orders, but that is how they feel about it.

The final article dealt with the escape which I dealt with earlier in this blog post. The poignant thing at the end of the article is where Frederick says ‘One day we will go back to Guernsey, with luck, in the British expedition to recapture it’.

Leaflet drops & bombing raids

Following the escape, and the early reports of it in the the Daily Mirror and Daily Sketch, there were a number of bombing raids which were also leaflet drops.

The raids didn’t kill any locals but left Guernsey covered in leaflets blowing around with the Germans desperately scrabbling to collect them. The locals were reminded that being caught with these leaflets was an offence. You can see an example of the leaflets below.

Extract from the leaflet dropped on Guernsey following the escape. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
Leaflet dropped on Guernsey following the escape. Photograph © Nick Le Huray


The escape had serious consequences for islanders. The Germans published a notice that all boats whether moored around the coast or on dry land must be brought to to St Peter Port harbour. This severely impacted the ability of islanders to fish and therefore provide vital food for the island.

At the time it looked like they were there for the duration, however, later in the war the Germans relented and fishing was permitted from St Peter Port, St Sampson and Portelet. Those fishing trips were policed by the Germans under strict rules.

The first official notification of the escape came in a notice published in the Guernsey newspapers.

It must now be known to a good many local inhabitants that some eight persons recently left this Island in a boat with a view to reaching England. As a direct result, drastic control of boats has been instituted by the German Authorities, resulting in fishermen in the northern and western parts of our Island being unable to follow their vocation, and depriving the population of a very large proportion of the fish obtainable.

Any further such departures or attempts thereat can only result in further restrictions. In other words, any persons who manage to get away do so at the expense of those left behind. In the event of a repetition of any such incident there is a grave possibility that, by way of reprisal, the male population of the Island will be evacuated to France.

To any who may be contemplating running away (for that is what it is), we urgently address the order to put it out of their heads as an action unworthy of Guernsey men. I am officially informed that, before the incident, the local German command had been at pains to communicate to their headquarters the cooperation of the Island authorities and the exemplary behaviour of the whole of the civilian population, and, for their part, they hope no further incident will compel them to take the drastic action which would follow the departure of any other boat. (Signed) A.J. Sherwill

Notice published in the Guernsey News papers 28th September 1940 by A. J. Sherwill who was President of the Controlling Committee which represented the Government of Guernsey.

The Reverend Douglas Ord noted in his diary11 on the 28th September that he had been to town and groups of people were discussing the notice. Durand notes in his book that some people were critical of the use of ‘running away’ and an ‘action unworthy’ of Guernseymen. The more level headed realised that Sherwill was having to walk a difficult line to do the best for the population without provoking the Germans.

I hope you have found this an interesting story. I will be dealing with other escapes in the future.

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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


  1. Derek Kreckler Article – Channel Islands Occupation Review 1978 ↩︎
  2. The London Cage – Helen Fry ↩︎
  3. Daily Herald 24 October 1940 – Reporter Dudley Barker – British Newspaper Archive ↩︎
  4. Daily Herald 24 October 1940 – Reporter Dudley Barker – British Newspaper Archive ↩︎
  5. Daily Herald 16 October 1940 – Reporter Dudley Barker – British Newspaper Archive ↩︎
  6. Daily Herald 17 October 1940 – Reporter Dudley Barker – British Newspaper Archive ↩︎
  7. Daily Herald 18 October 1940 – Reporter Dudley Barker – British Newspaper Archive ↩︎
  8. Daily Herald 19 October 1940 – Reporter Dudley Barker – British Newspaper Archive ↩︎
  9. The States of Guernsey is the Government of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. ↩︎
  10. Perch = 41m² ↩︎


Whilst I am working on researching some in depth articles I thought it might be worth sharing this video. It was made as part of the Imperial War Museum film Project in 2018. There is some video footage from the occupation in Sark and from Guernsey.

It features the story of a Sark girl Phyllis Baker & Werner Rang a conscripted German medical orderly who went to Sark to treat the sick.

There is an in depth article about them here.

After the war whilst Werner was a POW in England they kept in touch and they were later married.

I met both of them a number of times when I visited Sark in the 90s and early 2000s. I didn’t know their story, I just knew that they were incredibly friendly people who ran a jewellery shop in Sark. This video is well worth a few minutes of your time to watch.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.

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


Lord Portsea was a colourful character and frankly must have been viewed by the British Government as a bit of a nuisance. The octogenarian was a fervent champion of the plight of the Channel Islands population, those that had been evacuated, those that were serving in the armed forces and those that remained behind in the Channel Islands. Despite this I would venture to suggest that many Channel Islanders alive now would be unaware of what he achieved and how he helped the islands.

If you are old enough to remember Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” then you will understand that this is a bit of a “What did Lord Portsea ever do for us apart from….” rather than the Romans. If you don’t remember Monty Python this is the relevant bit!

Some might say that he did more for the Channel Islands than any member of the House of Lords since the end of the war. There were others in the Lords that raised the issue of the Channel Islands from time to time but none were as vociferous and persistent as Portsea.

Some of the suggestions of action that he called on the government to take were quite sensible and others a little more fanciful. His suggestions included using POWs to sail a ship with aid to Guernsey or some women who had volunteered to do so, a force of Channel Islanders to go and recapture the islands and a few more. More of those suggestions later. Some of his suggestions really did help.

He was absolutely furious that the Channel Islands had been surrendered and declared in the House of Lords that he would go to liberate the islands himself if he could despite being 80. He viewed the surrender of the islands as an act of cowardice or ‘poltroonery’ as he put it. He also viewed it as a risk that the axis countries would think that they might surrender other parts of the British Empire just as easily.

I am an old man, but I do not imagine that because the sands of life are running out those sands are less hallowed. They are hoarded with miserly care. But I say to this House with all honesty that if I could go tomorrow to submit to the bombardment with any chance whatever of recovering those islands, I would go, I would go today.

Lord Portsea’s speech in the House of Lords – as reported in Daily News (London) – Friday 02 August 1940.

He made sure that the plight of Channel Islanders was not lost in the media or Government circles. One imagines that if he had been alive in the age of social media, he would have been all over it. If we were to compare his campaign in the media of the 1940s with the current position of social media campaigns on behalf of Ukraine it would probably have been very similar.

Whilst talking about social media thanks to Dan Girard for reminding me on the local Facebook history group “Guernsey Days Gone By” that Lord Portsea was worth writing some more about.

If you are familiar with the constitutional position of the Channel Islands, we aren’t part of the United Kingdom, you will know that we don’t have an official representative in the House of Lords. If you aren’t familiar with the constitutional position and want to know more you can find it here. You are probably wondering why I gave the article the title I did given this situation all will be revealed in this post. Before we get into what he did I will set the scene with a bit about Portsea himself.

Who was he?

Sir Bertram Falle. Bart. chose the title of Lord Portsea of Portsmouth when he was created a peer in the New Year’s Honours list in 1934. His connection with the Channel Islands was that he was born and educated in Jersey.

He then went on to a career as a lawyer, judge and politician before being elevated to the Lords. He had also fought in the First World War and gained the rank of Major in the Royal Field Artillery.

At the outbreak of the war in 1939 he was two months away from his 80th Birthday.

He was known not to be a fan of the motor car and was the last member of either House of Parliament to arrive by carriage and pair. He had several carriages and disposed of the last one in in July 1942.

Lord Portsea being drive out of Old Palace Yard at the Houses of Parliament
Portsmouth Evening News – Saturday 18 July 1942
Georgie and Ginger outside the house in Eaton Square, London c 1935

Anger & concern

At the top of the blog I mentioned that he was angry about what he viewed to be a cowardly act of leaving the islands undefended. You will find further down the blog quotes of his very eloquent speeches which illustrate quite how angry he was about the situation.

He was quick out of the blocks to speak on the subject and cause a fuss in the House of Lords just days after the islands were occupied. You can read about that here on my blog post from earlier this year.

This was followed by him expressing concern over the RAF bombing of the airport in Guernsey in August 1940 and lack of information available in respect of this.

Belfast News-Letter – Saturday 17 August 1940
Sunday Mirror 11 August 1940 – Reporting on the 9 August Raid.

In January 1941 he again raised his concerns about the Government treatment of the Channel Islands.

Aberdeen Press and Journal – Wednesday 29 January 1941

As time went on he became particularly annoyed at the difficulty in communication between those in the UK and their friends and family who were still in the Channel Islands. I wrote a blog post about these difficulties which you can find here.

Hampshire Telegraph – Friday 14 February 1941

Now the eagle eyed among you will have noticed that his “telegram” would have actually been a short Red Cross message. Miss Falle was of course his younger sister who was still in Jersey.

Portsea continued to campaign for the islands to receive food aid and to reiterate the impact of the lack of information had on the morale of Channel Islands men serving in the armed forces.

Belfast Telegraph – Wednesday 22 April 1942

He even offered to supply a ship and would take it there himself.

Hampshire Telegraph – Friday 24 April 1942

By September 1942 he had written an article for the Weekly Dispatch (London) – which was published on Sunday 6th September 1942. His article again drew attention to the history of the Channel Islands, their connection with the Crown and the information he had about conditions. You can read it below.

His frustration continued in October 1942 at the news of deportations from the Channel Islands to internment camps on mainland Europe, again referring to the abandonment of the islands.

The Scotsman – Friday 09 October 1942

He continued to raise the prospect of food being sent to help the Channel Islands. Accused of being hysterical and that any aid would aid the enemy he was still ignored. He raised the prospect of women sailing ships to the islands.

Daily Mirror – Friday 19 March 1943

He compared the dropping of food parcels to Belgium with the fact they were unwilling to do so for British subjects in the Channel Islands.

The Scotsman – Wednesday 02 June 1943

Following D-Day he became even more concerned about the situation in the islands and when they might be liberated. Proposing a force of Channel Island troops to liberate the Islands. Now what he wouldn’t have been aware of was that there had already been plans to liberate one or all of the Islands that had been discounted for various reasons. You can read about them Operation Attaboy and Operation Blazing. There were also further plans under way which had begun as Operation Rankin and became Operation Nest Egg the ultimate liberation of the Islands.

Liverpool Daily Post – Wednesday 21 June 1944

He later raised the question of whether the Government would give the German garrison an opportunity to surrender. What is interesting is the timing of this question as he raised it just a matter of days after an attempt to get the garrison to surrender had been made. Major Chambers had attempted to negotiate a surrender, at great risk to himself which you can read about here on 22 September 1944.

The Scotsman – Thursday 05 October 1944

In January 1945 he had another falling out with Lord Munster in the House of Lords.

The Scotsman – Wednesday 31 January 1945

Following the liberation of the Channel Islands the King was welcomed to the House of Lords where he replied to the speeches given and acknowledged as noted in the article below.

Northern Whig – Friday 18 May 1945

What did he achieve?

Whilst some of his ideas were somewhat fanciful and not achievable he did manage some significant achievements.

His constant harrying of the government around the food situation in the Channel Islands undoubtedly helped with the eventual U-turn by the British Government in 1944 over the policy of not allowing food to be provided. See my post about “Let’em starve. No fighting. Let them rot at their leisure.”

Earlier on in the war, in May 1942, he managed to save the Channel Islands Monthly Review which was an extremely important publication to those Channel Islanders that were outside of the Islands. Many of them were spread across the UK and also away serving in the forces.

If you can imagine going from small closeknit island communities and then being spread across the United Kingdom, let alone the World, with none of the modern methods of communication for five years then you may begin to understand the importance of the publication.

My Lords, I beg to ask the starred question that stands in my name.
[The question was as follows:
To ask his Majesty’s Government whether they are aware that the Stockport Channel Island Monthly Review has been ordered to cease publication on the ground of shortage of paper, and if they are aware that this small monthly publication is of great interest to Norman Islanders (of whom many are in His Majesty’s Forces) and whether the order can be rescinded.]


My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend the Minister of Works and Buildings, I have been asked to reply. The Stockport Channel Island Monthly Review first appeared in May, 1941. The printing or publication in the United Kingdom of new periodicals has been prohibited since August, 1940, on account of the shortage of paper. It has been necessary to refuse permission to publish many new periodicals, including a number for circulation among persons in the Forces or affected by the war, and I regret that it is not possible to make an exception in the present case.

Hansard 12 May 1942 – Questions in the House of Lords

Now Portsea was not going to be fobbed off so easily and brought the matter back to the House again on 20th May 1942.

The review is the only real link between thousands of islanders who are serving His Majesty, their homes, their wives and their children. I have had a large number of letters from every part of the United Kingdom asking me to bring this matter before your Lordships. 


He went on to share his anger at the treatment of Channel Islanders and how they were being treated differently to POWs.

The Government state that the review is not to be allowed to continue because it has not been in being within certain dates, that is to say, within two years; and yet a brand new magazine has had its first issue with Government sanction this very month—the first issue of a “new special monthly journal” to be sent free of charge to all those who are eligible for it. It is called The Prisoner of War. It was inaugurated in a fine speech by a Scot. He says:

“Loss of freedom is hard to bear to those who have lived as free men in a free country.”

Who so free as the Norman islander, a free man, a freeholder; no serf blood in his veins, not a drop! A free man with a thousand years of history, his soil untainted by the foot of a conqueror till now, when the Government have handed him over to the Germans, not for any fault of his own, not because he did not want to fight. As he says:

“It is hard for those who wait at home, aye, and fight, to go cheerfully to their daily tasks, knowing that someone dear to them is a prisoner.”

Now the people of these islands are, from my point of view, truly prisoners, not because they gave themselves up—oh, no!—not because they were unwilling to fight—the thousands now fighting prove that—not because they wished to give in, not because they were hands-uppers—we know how the Boers despised their hands-uppers—but because a Government of their own blood handed them over to the Germans. Surely they have a claim to decent treatment. Abandoned, deserted and betrayed, to cover up that shame some red herring is introduced, and they are spat upon.


His eloquent and staunch stance on the need for the continued publication of the Review undoubtedly saved it. The image gallery below shows an example of the publication.

A legacy that lives on today.

His legacy lives on in Jersey through “THE LORD PORTSEA GIFT FUND (JERSEY) ACT, 1971” . This fund was established in his name by his sister.

The Lord Portsea Gift Fund provides financial help for educational training, re-training or specialised equipment to young people who want to further their careers in the United Kingdom armed services or the civil services in Jersey or the United Kingdom.


So that’s it!

I hope you have found this an interesting account of a champion of the Channel Islands who often gets overlooked when it comes to the Occupation of the Channel Islands. Lord Portsea passed away on 1 November 1948 at his sister’s home in Jersey.

All newspaper extracts are 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 or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.

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


Having caused a bit of a kerfuffle in various history forums and on social media, particularly locally, with my look at Churchill’s “Let’em Starve” comment, see here if you missed it, I thought I would follow up with a look at the proposed warning to the commander of the Channel Islands in March 1945.

Churchill’s comment was made in September 1944 based on information available at the time to the British Government. Their concern being that any relief effort for the civilian population would lead to the Germans taking additional food supplies from the islands. This would of course result in no improvement of the position of the civilian population of the islands but would improve the position of the occupying forces.

The British Government did of course change their mind later in 1944 and allowed the International Red Cross to send supplies following an appeal from the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey. The International Red Cross ship the SS Vega made five trips to the Islands prior to the liberation in May 1945. The first arriving in Guernsey on 27 December 1944. A further visit was made in June 1945 after the liberation.

The ship delivered food parcels designed to supplement the meagre food supplies of Islanders. The parcels were designed to provide an additional 462 calories a day. To give some context that is the equivalent of eating two Snickers bars or slightly less than one Big Mac.

SS VEGA in St Peter Port Harbour Image from BBC.co.uk

The Germans managed a few flights after D-Day bringing in limited supplies by air. The first of which arrived on 11 October 1944.

Western Morning Press 12 October 1944

As the war on mainland Europe progressed the supply line became longer and longer. Eventually these limited flights, if they made it through, required a round trip of almost 1.000 miles. I will be blogging about these flights in the future.

If you want to understand how cut off the Channel Islands were after D-Day and haven’t read it yet I wrote about it on the post below.

So having set the scene we fast forward to March 1945 when the War Cabinet were considering the position as it stood then. The Channel Islands remained essentially cut off from supplies from anywhere except from those flights and the International Red Cross.

By this time the commander of the Channel Islands was Vizeadmiral Friedrich Hüffmeier a thoroughly nasty individual who was an ardent Nazi. You can read about the extreme lengths he went to and the trouble he caused in the blog below.

Given the above serious consideration was given to sending a message to him that if he were to neglect his obligations to the civilian population he would be treated as a war criminal. A warning had been given in September 1944 about their obligations under the Geneva Convention as an occupying force.

Having considered the report, which you can read below, the War Cabinet decided on the 28th March 1945 not to issue the warning.

The rationale being that there was no information from the International Red Cross officials that the civilian population had their Red Cross supplies interfered with. The other consideration was that the Germans would point out that the offer to the British Government of evacuation of Channel Islanders not of military age in September 1944 would be thrown back at them. Have a read of the document below for the full detail.

Hopefully the above will shed a bit more light on why they did not pursue this course. It does of course not answer the debate of whether he should have been treated as a war criminal for other actions. That is a blog for another day.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.

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


On the 27th September 1944 Churchill is reputed to have scrawled a note on the bottom of a report put forward to the War Cabinet “Let’em starve. No fighting. Let them rot at their leisure.” A picture of the report is at the end of this blog post.

The report was produced following a request from the Germans to arrange the evacuation of all of the civilian population of the Channel Islands with the exception of men of military age. Rather than do this or mount any form of operation to liberate the islands the British Government reminded the German authorities of their responsibility under the Geneva Convention to adequately feed the population.

Over the years this has become a very controversial comment with various historians and islanders interpreting it differently. Some felt that he meant just the German garrison, others felt that he meant both the garrison and the islanders.

The aspect that is always focused on is the lack of food and Churchill’s refusal to allow a supply of the islands with food. The rationale for this was that it was felt that the Germans would take the food for themselves. The islands effectively formed a prisoner of war camp which didn’t require guards but meant that a large force of German resources were tied up there rather than being able to be deployed in mainland Europe.

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

Illustrated London News Feb 1945

There are some factors that don’t seem to have been taken into account by some commentators. Most notably that Churchill’s comment was made days after an attempt to get the Germans to surrender. They had however refused to even entertain the idea. One would imagine that he would have taken this into account in making his assessment.

This 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.  You can read the full account of it here

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

Eventually following an appeal from the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey an International Red Cross ship the SS Vega made five trips to the Islands prior to the liberation in May 1945. The first arriving in Guernsey on 27 December 1944. A further visit was made in June 1945.

The ship delivered food parcels designed to supplement the meagre food supplies of Islanders. The parcels were designed to provide an additional 462 calories a day. To give some context that is the equivalent of eating two Snickers bars or slightly less than one Big Mac.

SS VEGA in St Peter Port Harbour Image from BBC.co.uk
Newcastle Journal – 31 January 1945

Without these food parcels things could have been much worse. If you want to read more about the food situation from a German soldier’s perspective go to my previous blog here . For a civilian view point I blogged about the doctor’s story here .

The report with Churchill’s comment scrawled on the bottom.

Whatever the true reason or reasons were some islanders held it against Churchill for the rest of their lives.

You may be reading this and wondering why the Channel Islands were not retaken by force. There are a multitude of reasons but first and foremost the loss of life that would have occurred amongst the civilian population would have been immense. It would also have mean’t that a vast amount resources would be taken away from the main front on mainland Europe. That is a blog for another day.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.

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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