Those of you that live in Guernsey, or have visited will be familiar with the headland at Rousse and will know that there is a Napoleonic era loophole tower and a pier that is used by fisherman and swimmers. The area is also popular with walkers. I suspect that many of the walkers, like the lady that stopped to talk to us a few weeks back, are unaware that they are walking over a former minefield!
There isn’t anything for these walkers to be worried about as the mines were cleared in the immediate months after the war. There are some innocuous reminders of the minefield that you can still see today and most people walking the area are unaware of.
You may be wondering why I picked this particular minefield to write about. When I was at the German war grave cemetery at Fort George in the summer I happened to photograph the grave of Major Friedrich Blaschek. The reason I photographed it was that I wondered what had happened to him.
Following on from this I did some research and I discovered how he had become fatally injured and the bravery of a soldier that tried to save him.
THE ROUSSE MINEFIELD
The Germans had already laid many minefields around the islands but not on the scale that followed the order from Hitler to fortify the islands in October 1941. You can read about the fortification order on the blog post here.
I was provided with an original map of the minefield by Jersey War Tours and I thought I would go and take a few photographs to illustrate the blog post.
As with many of the existing fortifications on the Channel Islands the Germans strengthened the defences around the existing loophole tower at Rousse.
The minefield chart or “Minenplan” is very detailed and I will use some extracts from it later on so don’t worry if you can’t read all of the detail on the full scale picture below.
As you can see the area was extensively mined with both Tellermines (anti tank) and Schrapnellmines or ‘S’ (anti-personnel) mines.
The Tellermine whilst primarily being an anti tank mine could also be triggered by someone running. The S mine shown below was particularly nasty, as if you touched one of the horns it would tigger the mine with a delay of a few seconds then it would spring up to waist height before exploding. It would fire 360 steel balls, short steel rods, or scrap metal pieces in all directions. The Americans nicknamed them ‘Bouncing Betty’ because of this.
Below is a picture from March 1942 of the headland taken from a photo reconnaissance Spitfire of the RAF 140 Squadron. One thing you will notice from the 1942 photo is the lack of boats in the bay. If you are familiar with this area you would know that this bay would normally have been full of boats. The reason there are none are because of the escapes that had happened earlier in the occupation which had led all boats having to be moved to St Sampson and St Peter Port harbours.
MAJOR FRIEDRICH BLASCHEK
Major Blaschek was commander of No.1 Pioneer Battalion 319 Infantry Division. His men were responsible for laying the minefield at Rousse and many others around Guernsey.
In his book ‘Achtung’ Minen! Guernsey The History of the German Minefields 1940-45’ – Henry Beckingham includes an extract from two letters to Blaschek’s widow. These letters were written using the accounts of those present at the time of the accident. A précis of what happened is below.
On the 7th November 1941 Blaschek went to inspect the minefield that his men were working on. He noted that his men were not working on the minefield and inspected the fencing surrounding the minefield. He then stepped into the minefield to go and inspect it. This was a fatal mistake as, unbeknownst to him, the minefield had been made live the previous day.
You may have spotted in the mine chart images above that the minefield had been signed off as ‘unlocked’ or ‘armed’ by Lieutenant Kias on 6.11.41.
Having stepped into the minefield he soon set off an ‘S mine’. He was rescued from the minefield by Hauptfeldwebel (Company Sergeant Major) Schulz. Despite the badly wounded Blaschek repeatedly telling him not to enter the minefield he did so and succeeded in rescuing Blaschek who had been unable to move more than a few steps after stepping on the mine. Schulz received a commendation for this.
Blaschek was taken to hospital and initially it was thought that he would survive. Indeed he was visited by a number of men from his battalion before he was operated on. As the operation proceeded it became apparent that his wounds were much more severe than first thought. He died at eight pm, aged thirty six, during the operation without regaining consciousness.
He was buried at Fort George with full military honours. Blaschek was far from the first or last minefield casualty in the Channel Islands.
I hope you have enjoyed the blog. As part of the fortification order a large number of further minefields were to be laid. I am going to be writing a blog covering minefields across the Channel Islands in general in the future.
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© Nick Le Huray