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

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

LORD PORTSEA – OUR CHAMPION IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS!

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.

LORD PORTSEA
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.]

LORD TEMPLEMORE

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. 

Hansard

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.

Hansard

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.

Gov.Je

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. 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

A TRIP TO ROSE COTTAGE, SITE OF THE GERMAN SURRENDER IN SARK. YOU COULD LIVE IN A BIT OF HISTORY AS IT IS FOR SALE!

Whilst I was in Sark recently my old school friend, Simon Elmont, asked me if I wanted to see the cottage where the Germans had formally surrendered to British forces on 10th May 1945. You can read about the surrender on the other Islands here.

We were walking from the Operation Basalt 80th Anniversary lunch at Stocks Hotel to the Bel Air for a quick drink, before I had to catch the boat back to Guernsey.

A very short diversion later we were outside Rose Cottage which sits on the Rosebud Tenement. It turns out that the house is pretty much as it was at the time of the surrender. Albeit the house is looking a little dilapidated having been empty for some time.

Rose Cottage Photo © Nick Le Huray
Rose Cottage. My friend Simon Elmont. Photo © Nick Le Huray
This is quite likely the table on which the surrender of the garrison in Sark was agreed. Photo © Nick Le Huray
The other two cottages that form part of the site. Photo © Nick Le Huray

Now you might be wondering why the this didn’t happen at La Seigneurie the home of Sybil Hathaway, Dame of Sark. The reason was that the German Kommandantur was not based there but at the cottage above. In the below extract from her book “Dame of Sark, an autobiography” explains what happened.

The British force had not landed on Guernsey till 9 May and the Occupation troops on Sark had refused to answer telephone calls from Guernsey. This ostrich-like behaviour gave rise to a rumour that there must be ‘trouble in Sark’. So at about five o’clock in the evening on 10 May a tug came over with only three officers and twenty men, and I went to the harbour to meet our ‘Liberation Force’. Not a German was to be seen anywhere.

Colonel Allen, the English officer in charge of the party, asked where they were and added that he would need an interpreter. I informed him that I would act as interpreter and led him to the house that the Germans used as their Kommandantur. But no Germans were about and it was only after one of our soldiers hammered loudly on the door that they appeared and the German major who was in charge was summoned to answer Colonel Allen’s questions.

When he had done so satisfactorily Colonel Allen turned to me. ‘I can’t leave any troops here because so far only a token force has been landed in Guernsey.’ He hesitated a moment and then asked, ‘Would you mind being left for a few days, or would you prefer to return to Guernsey with me?’ There was a glint in his eyes when I said tartly, ‘As I have been left for nearly five years I can stand a few more days.” ‘That’s fine. Now will you tell the German Commandant that he is to carry out whatever orders you give until our troops come over?’

Having translated this command, I promptly gave my first order to the German major: ‘You will see to it that the telephone is laid on at once to my house and kept open day and night so that I can contact Guernsey.’ Our Liberation Force boarded the tug and I was left in command of 275 German troops!

Dame of Sark, an autobiography
Guernsey Evening Press 11 May 1945

The cottage is for sale along with the other two on the site as part of the Rosebud Tenement.

Hopefully it will be purchased by someone that will be able to preserve the house and its history.

Estate Agent details for the property

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

7th JUNE 1945 – ROYAL VISIT TO THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch a short film from Pathé below.

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

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

© Nick Le Huray

THE SURRENDER AND LIBERATION MAY 1945

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erwin Grubba

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

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

Generalleutnant Von Schmettow with Vizeadmiral Friedrich Hüffmeier
Rudolf Graf von Schmettow
Hüffmeier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustrated London News Feb 1945

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with von Schmettow in Jersey Topic magazine

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

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

There is also a note in the Daily Herald – Monday 29 June 1964 of him being consulted about some glass phials washed up on a Jersey beach.
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nottingham Journal – Monday 14 May 1945 Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD

Hüffmeier was promptly shipped off to a prisoner of war camp where he remained until release in April 1948. He died in Germany in 1972. Living a quiet life and not really appearing in the post war media with the exception of the below.

I recently found this article which was somewhat surprising it fails to mention that he was was an ardent Nazi as outlined above. He was quite prepared to let the Channel Islanders and his own men starve rather than surrender which is completely missed by this article.

Nottingham Guardian – Friday 22 October 1971

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

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

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

© Nick Le Huray

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