THE END OF AMBASSADOR AND AN ATTEMPT TO RESCUE MULHOLLAND AND MARTEL – 3 AUGUST 1940

Sgt. Stanley Ferbrache – You can see this and more information at the German Occupation Museum

This one is just a short blog to tie up the end of the Operation Ambassador story.

If you read my earlier blog about Operation Anger and Operation Ambassador you might be wondering why there was an attempt to rescue them on the 3rd of August when they became POWs on 28 July 1940. The earlier blog is here.

The answer to that question is that there was no way of getting a message out of the Guernsey other than if someone escaped or by the covert landings. Rumours abound on some forums that someone had a radio transmitter but this is simply untrue. All of the military equipment had been destroyed or removed prior to the arrival of the Germans.

Another Guernseyman Stanley Ferbrache volunteered to attempt to meet up with Mulholland and Martel and get them off of the island.

As with the previous raids he was landed at La Jaonnet Bay, this time having learnt of the issues with using other boats they used an MTB, on the 3rd of August.

Having met some of his family members he discovered that Mulholland and Martel had been left with no choice but to surrender the previous week. In order to avoid the mission being a waste of time he spent the next few days gathering intelligence on the German forces in the island.

He succeeded on leaving the island on 6th August. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for this mission.

Churchill is reputed to have said ‘Let there be no more silly fiascos like those perpetrated at Guernsey.’ As it turned out there were plenty more missions to the Channel Islands to come and they were much better organised. More of those to come in future blogs.

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.

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

OPERATION ANGER BECOMES AMBASSADOR- A BIT OF A DISASTER BUT AN IMPORTANT LESSON

On my blog post about stage one of Operation Anger we left the story at the point where Hubert Nicolle had been picked up by submarine H43 after two other Guernseymen 2nd Lieutenants Martel and Mulholland had been landed and briefed by Nicolle before he left. If you haven’t read that you might want to start there and come back to this after. You can find it here

2nd Lieutenant Mulholland
Martel taken post war.

This is probably as near to plan a things went! The rest most definitely didn’t go to plan.

The second phase of Anger was to prepare for the arrival of the raiding force of Operation Ambassador. Ambassador was originally planned for a landing in the early hours of 13 July 1940. The idea being that Martel and Mulholland would meet them on the beach and act as guides. The plan being that they would take the first of the raiding party to the airport where they could destroy aircraft and fuel supplies. They would then leave on the boats that had brought the raiding party to the island. The raiding party was to consist of No. 3 Commando and No. 11 Independent Company. Some 140 men were to take part in all.

The commander of the raid was Lieutenant Colonel Durnford-Slater. Upon arriving at Combined Operations Headquarters in Whitehall he was briefed by the actor David Niven, who was one of the staff officers. Niven having been an officer in the army in the 1930s before resigning his commission to embark on his Hollywood career. He returned from Hollywood and re-enlisted following the outbreak of war. Incidentally he recounts in his autobiography “The Moon’s a Balloon” a raid on Sark which he took part in. His other connection was starring in “Appointment with Venus”in 1951 which was filmed in Sark.

The first landing was to take place at Pointe de la Moye immediately south of the airport. The intention being this would be a distraction to the Germans. This aspect of the raid was to be carried out by H troop of 3 Commando.

Map showing Pointe de la Moye at the bottom, the airport at the top left and Le Jaonnet Bay on the right.

There were to be two other landings other than the party landing at Point de la Moye to attack the airport. The second landing was to be further east at Petit Port to attack a German machine gun post and a billet that had been identified at Telegraph Bay.

The third landing was to take place at Le Jaonnet Bay where the others had been previously been dropped. The idea being that they would be able to deal with any reinforcements sent from St Peter Port as a result of the landings. They were also tasked with taking prisoners in order to bring them back to England.

Map showing Le Jaonnet Bay on the left and Petit Port on the Jerbourg peninsula

At this point the wheels really started to come off the operation.

Mulholland and Martel made for the rendezvous at the appointed time on the night of 12th/13th July but unknown to them bad weather had delayed the mission. It wasn’t possible to contact them to tell them of the delay. They hid during the following two days coming out at night to return to the beach to give the signals again.

The Commander of the submarine that had dropped the three men in Guernsey had been quite robust in his report. He felt that the operation had been put together far too quickly and without time to practice. He felt that it was only because of the experience that the three Guernseymen had with boats that they had succeeded in getting ashore at all.

The submarine was commissioned in 1919 and was not ideal for an operation such as this. They had to stay submerged for most of the trip and this placed a strain on the batteries. Navigation to the Guernsey coast was also problematic for the submarine crew.

The landings for Ambassador were to take place from two destroyers HMS Scimitar and HMS Saladin with six RAF Launches to accompany them. Two RAF Ansons were to circle at low level over the Island to drown out the noise of the engines and provide a distraction.

HMS Scimitar © IWM FL 5410
HMS Saladin © IWM FL 12574
Thanks to Stephen Fisher (@SeaSpitfires) for sourcing the photo of the type of launch used. It was in fact a 37’6″ seaplane tender IWM CH1687.

Having arrived off of the coast of Guernsey they set about landing the men who would have just an hour and a half ashore before being picked up. Well that was the plan anyway!

One launch set off and for some reason immediately headed off in the wrong direction. There are a couple of theories as we know it was because the compass was incorrectly indicating direction. The first is that equipment on the destroyer interfered with the compass or that equipment for the raid stowed on the launch had interfered with it.

Here there are varying accounts as to what happened to the launch. It found its way to one of the islands off of the east coast of Guernsey. Some accounts indicate that they landed on Little Sark, other accounts say they went there but didn’t land. Further accounts appear to indicate it may have been Herm or Jethou. In any event they returned to HMS Saladin.

Sark in the left of the picture Jerbourg point © Nick Le Huray

The second party set off in launches heading for Pointe de la Moye. Here the waited for the signal from Martel & Mulholland who were in fact at Le Jaonnet bay as originally planned. As a result the launches at Pointe de la Moye didn’t receive a signal and failed to identify a beach to land on. Two launches returned to HMS Saladin the third was unable to find the ship so returned to Dartmouth.

If they had managed to make it to the airport they would likely have found rich pickings as the Germans based a variety of aircraft there including fighters. A report of activity at the airport around that time indicated that there were approximately 30 to 50 aircraft. Approximately two thirds were Bf109s the rest being Bf110s and JU52s.

Bf109 at Guernsey Airport

The third landing force successfully landed at Petit Port after a struggle to get ashore involving having to save ashore with all their kit in four feet of water. The delay in the operation had meant that the launches couldn’t get as close in due to the rocks and tides.

They created a road block out of rocks and cut a telephone cable at Telegraph Bay. They sent out patrols and quickly discovered that there no Germans in the area and the machine gun post was deserted. Durnford-Slater gives an account of this in his memoir.

Johnny Giles and I crawled up on either side of the little mound in which the machine-gun nest was dug. I carried grenades and a 45 Webley; Giles, a giant of well over six feet, had a tommy gun.

We jumped to our feet and into the nest, a sandbagged circle. We were both ready to shoot, but I found myself face to face with Johnny’s tommy gun; and he with my Webley. “Hell!” Johnny said bitterly, “there’s no one here!” We went down to where the others were cutting the cables leading from the hut. Knight asked me rather plaintively: “Please can I blow the place up, sir?” He had a pack of demolition stores on his back and was aching to use it.

“No. Apparently the Germans don’t know yet that we’ve come. There’s no point in announcing it. Just cut the cables.”

We went back to see if we could help de Crespigny’s party. It was pitch dark, and as I approached, Corporal “Curly” Gimbert burst through a hedge at me. The next thing I felt was a bayonet pushing insistently through my tunic. “Password!” Gimbert hissed.

He was a big, powerful man. It seemed a long time before I could say anything when I’ve been less scared. At last I remembered the word and let it out with a sigh. “Desmond!” I said. Gimbert, recognising my voice, removed the bayonet quickly. “All right, Colonel.” I thought he sounded disappointed.

Commando: Memoirs of a Fighting Commando in World War Two – John Durnford-Slater
Telegraph Bay a Photograph taken later in the war in February 1945. Higher resolution images are available from NCAP here
This is likely to be the spot where they set up the road block as there are still large granite boulders in the garden of the property on the left and this is the first point where they could block the road entirely for the Jerbourg Pennisula. © Nick Le Huray

They resigned themselves to returning empty handed although they were not happy about it as Durnford-Slater recounts.

We formed up on the road between the barracks and the Doyle Column, a monument we had used as a landmark. It was easy to guess from the muttered curses that the others shared my disgust at our negative performance and at the fact that we had met no Germans.

George Herbert was particularly upset and begged me to give them a few minutes more to visit some houses nearby which he thought might contain Germans. In this atmosphere of complete anticlimax, it was clear that none of us wanted to leave. But I called the officers together. “We’ve got to be back on the beach in ten minutes,” I said urgently.

Commando: Memoirs of a Fighting Commando in World War Two – John Durnford-Slater
Looking the other way from the road block towards the Doyle Monument. This is actually a replacement as the Germans demolished the original during the war. © Nick Le Huray
View from Jerbourg Point © Nick Le Huray

The only shot fired by the raiders was accidental when Durnford-Slater slipped and discharged his pistol. A searchlight briefly came on followed by a brief burst of machine gun fire. The Germans had only been in the island for two weeks so had not yet built the bunkers that you see on Jerbourg peninsula today.

Hardly surprising that running down here in the dark Durnford-Slater slipped and his cocked pistol went off. As at July 2022 you can’t get down to the beach due to a rockfall. © Nick Le Huray

Their troubles were not over. Due to the tide and the rocks the launches couldn’t get close in. They began ferrying the party out in a dinghy but on one of the trips it was caught in the waves and overturned. One of the commandos, Gunner J. McGoldrick, was lost overboard and feared drowned. He was later found alive and captured remaining a POW until 1945.

They were now left with no choice but to swim to the launches. This presented another problem as three of them couldn’t swim. The three men were Private F.T. Drain, Private A Ross and Corporal D. Dumper. They were left on the beach with instructions to hide and return the next night to be picked up. Unfortunately for them this was deemed too risky and the Navy refused to come and pick them up.

When I mentioned on Twitter that I was writing about Operation Ambassador @GuernseyLiz14 Liz Walton was kind enough to share the information that she had collated about her relatives who helped to hide the non swimmers. Her Aunt & Uncle stayed in contact with Fred Drain after the war with him visiting them. Thanks Liz for your kind permission to share these.

© Liz Walton
© Liz Walton
© Liz Walton

They were later apprehended walking down the road near the airport some days later. At least unlike Mulholland and Martel they were wearing uniform.

There is an account of the raid in an interview held by the Imperial War Museum given in 1988 by Sir Ronald Swayne MC who held the rank of Lieutenant at the time of the raid. In his interview he recalls that some of the boats were towed by the destroyers and that they had gone too fast for these boats which left them damaged and leaking.

But we weren’t remotely ready. We didn’t know what kind of boats we wanted, we didn’t know how to do it, there wasn’t a proper planning body to prepare for these raids. In any case there was a fearful shortage of weapons and everything… we had no Tommy guns and we didn’t have the Remington Colt which we were issued with later… we were armed with .38 revolvers which was, I always thought, a poor weapon. There was a shortage of ammunition for teaching the soldiers to shoot. Some of them had hardly done any practice on the range, it was all frightfully amateurish.

Sir Ronald Swayne MC, interview with the IWM which you can find it here.

Interestingly his account regarding the weapons situation seems to different from other accounts as they all refer to them being armed with Tommy guns and Bren guns. The pistol situation sounds about right given that Durnford-Slater’s pistol was cocked when he lost his footing and it discharged. This difference in accounts may be due to the passage of time between the events and the interview some forty eight years later. Many other accounts given more closely to the raid indicate that Tommy guns and Brens were used.

As the party due to meet Martel and Mulholland never made it to the bay instead heading on a trip to another island they weren’t picked up. As a result the two men, fearing for the impact that their capture may have on their relatives still in Guernsey decided they needed to hide then escape.

They left the beach and decided to hide in a barn and spent some time hiding with family. Martel with his sister and Mulholland with his mother then spending some time at a house in Vazon on the west coast of the island. Realising this was putting their family at great risk and after several attempts to escape from Guernsey, including one by stealing a boat from Perelle Bay which left them stranded on rocks, they decided they had no choice but to surrender themselves to the German authorities.

They contacted the Bailiff Ambrose Sherwill and he arranged for them to be supplied with some uniforms as they had come to the island in civilian clothes which would have resulted in them being treated as spies with the prospect of being shot. Luckily for both men the Germans treated them as prisoners of war rather than spies when they surrendered on 28th July.

They were taken to France and interrogated separately. Mulholland was sent to
Oflag VIIb Eichstätt, Bavaria and Martel to a camp at Tittmoning, Warburg and then Eichstätt.

As with many operations relatively early in the war these two were put together in a rush and a relatively amateur fashion.

The RAF Launches proved to be far from suitable for the job. They were designed for operating over much shorter distances and nearer the coast than travelling over 90 miles to the south west coast of Guernsey. Two of them became unserviceable before the raid even started. They had been supposed to carry twenty men each to the beach. As a results other boats from the destroyers had to be towed behind the launches.

Subsequent raids used larger MTBs, as shown above, which were much more suited to this type of operating environment. Durnford-Slater went on to requisition his own boats that his men were trained to operate and maintain for future raids on mainland Europe.

Ambassador may appear a bit of a disaster with four men captured, Mulholland and Martel subsequently captured and no military objective achieved other than cutting some telephone wires. It did however provide some valuable lessons which were to be implemented for future raids.

Whilst being able to swim was a requirement when signing up for the commandos nobody had actually checked that they could. The unit had only been formed in mid June 1940.

The Navy came in for some criticism from the Army for not being as professional and as experienced as expected. This would seem to me to be a little harsh given the efforts they made to recover the commandos. They stayed beyond the allotted time putting the ships at risk of air attack as dawn came. They had also been promised a pilot with local knowledge but he was not taken onboard before they left England.

The main thing that they learnt was those involved required adequate training and that proper planning was key to the success of future operations.

Churchill was reported to be furious at the amateurish nature of the operation but surely must be partly culpable in the lack of planning because of his wish for it to take place so quickly. After all Anger took place six days after Churchill had ordered the raid and Ambassador twelve days after his initial order.

Dunford-Slater recalls in his memoirs that those involved had all become caught up in the rush to stage the raid that the first proper briefing was on the eve of the operation after they had set sail.

In his interview Swayne puts the blame squarely on the Royal Navy.

It was beautifully planned from an army point of view but the naval preparation was very inefficient, partly due to inadequate equipment of course…. it was a wonderful idea and it could have been a very, very clever raid.

Sir Ronald Swayne MC, interview with the IWM which you can find it here.

One aspect of Ambassador that was a success was that it made the Germans nervous. They conducted a thorough investigation into the landing at Petit Port and the activity around Jerbourg. Having been unable to extract any information from the four commandos and with Martel and Mulholland still at large they were unaware of the other two attempts at landing.

They even staged a re-enactment to try and better understand what had happened. Their assessment was rather more generous in the capabilities of the landing party than if they had been aware of the other landing parties and issues.

As a result of this they spent time searching the island for any raiders that had been left behind and became nervous about the defence of the coastal areas. They also instructed the Guernsey Police force to assist with the search, although they didn’t look very hard.

They placed more restrictions on areas around the coast that civilians could visit and deployed more men to those areas. In addition they began laying minefields.

Evening Press 18 July 1940

The Bailiff (Leading Citizen see here for the role) Ambrose Sherwill (Later Sir Ambrose Sherwill) was troubled by the raid as the Germans had threatened to bomb the island if there was any trouble, presumably after withdrawing themselves. With the deaths of civilians in the raid before the Germans arrived only a few weeks earlier he was moved to write a letter to the British Government. In it he warned of the consequences of such raids. He asked the Germans to ensure this was passed on through diplomatic channels but they declined. You can read my blog about the air raid here

Durnford-Slater certainly learnt from the lessons of Ambassador and took this forward to lead No.3 Commando to many notable successes in future operations.

If you want to learn more about the raids and some of the individuals I recommend these books:

Commando – John Durnford-Slater at the time of writing free on Kindle.

No News From Guernsey – The Diary of Lieutenant Desmond Mulholland MC by Peter Jesson

If you are in Guernsey then you may wish to contact Keith from Guernsey Walking Tours as he does a tour that includes Mulholland. You can follow them on Twitter here @gsywtours.

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.

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

OUTRAGE IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS – 9 JULY 1940

Just a short blog post today to flag an article that may be of interest. Regular readers of the blog will be aware that the demilitarisation of the Channel Islands in June 1940 was not without controversy in UK Government circles.

The article below from the Birmingham Daily Post – Wednesday 10 July 1940 details various concerns raised in the House of Lords. Lord Portsea, who was born in Jersey, was to remain vocal throughout the war in raising his concerns in respect of the Channel Islands. I mention him in my blog about False Hope And Fear as a result of D-Day when he called for a force of Channel Islanders to be raised to liberate the Channel Islands. You can find that here

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.

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

HUBERT COMES HOME – THE FIRST COMMANDO LANDING IN GUERNSEY

Photograph of Hubert Nicolle on display at the German Occupation Museum which I took a photograph of recently.

Just over a week after after the Germans had occupied the Channel Islands twenty year old Hubert Nicolle landed in Guernsey to undertake “Operation Anger”. Hubert was a Guernseyman that had originally served in the Royal Guernsey Militia and then joined the Hampshire Regiment.

Guernsey had been occupied by the Germans on 30 June 1940 and on 4 July Nicolle was ordered to report to Room 74 at the Admiralty. Arriving, still having no idea why, he learned that Combined Operations had been instructed by Winston Churchill to send someone “to find out what is going on in the Channel Islands”. He was told, “If you do this and are caught we don’t want to know you; you are out on your own. You will be shot and that will be the end of it.” Nicolle immediately agreed to go.

Obituary of Hubert Nicolle The Independent 2 October 1998

He was brought to the Island on the submarine H43 and landed at Le Jaonnet Bay on the south coast of Guernsey in the early hours of 8 July.

In an interview with the Imperial War Museum Ian McGeoch who was a first lieutenant on H43 recalls how things didn’t go smoothly.

We found our way to the southwest side of Guernsey and surfaced near the coastline so we could hear the dogs barking. Fortunately, it was fairly calm. Well not calm but fairly calm. I recall an incident, it was a very still night.

I recall probably the second Coxon, the leading seaman whose job it was to open up the casing and help to get the canoe out and so forth when he lifted the big steel plate which was part of the door of the top of the casing, he inadvertently let it drop. And you can imagine the noise made by about 100 square inches of steel being dropped. And of course, we thought oh well everybody is bound to hear the dogs bark and everything I said there was a panic, but we got away with it.

Ian McGeoch
H43

He was taken ashore in a canoe that had been purchased from Gamages a London department store a few days before. The flat pack canoe was originally assembled inside the submarine but they then discovered it wouldn’t fit out of the hatch. It had to be taken apart and reassembled on the hull.

Once assembled a naval officer, Sub-Lt J.L.E. Leitch took him the two miles to shore before returning to the submarine.

This bay is at the bottom of a large cliff. The initial ascent is via a ladder from the beach, sorry no photo, and 218 steps to the cliff path at the top. As you can imagine this beach doesn’t attract the casual visitor given how difficult it is to access. So on a dark night it must have been a challenge to get up from the beach.

The picture below and the map will give you an idea of where he landed.

Looking down from the cliff path at Icart towards Le Jaonnet Bay. This photograph gives you an idea of the terrain. © Nick Le Huray

Nicolle was able to make contact with friends and family. He borrowed a bicycle and was able to move around the island and obtain information about the German garrison and their positions. Now you might wonder how he was able to move about so freely. He was of course in civilian clothes and the island had been occupied for little more than a week.

He had determined that the German Garrison stood at only 469 soldiers based mainly around St Peter Port, this information was provided to him by a friend who was a baker and forced to supply the Germans. His uncle was the assistant harbour master and provided him with information about German shipping activity.

The reason for the small numbers was that they had only been here for a week. At the peak in numbers Charles Cruickshank estimates in in his book there were approximately 12,000. Whilst there were machine gun posts located around the coast he estimated that it would take about twenty minutes for reinforcements to arrive if the alarm was raised.

As a result the Germans were still present in relatively small numbers and identification cards had not yet been introduced. He was of course a local so able to pass without suspicion as well as using his local knowledge to move about through the lanes. He was therefore able to also visit the roads around the airport and assess the position there.

Having gathered this intelligence he was picked up by the same submarine on 10 July 1940 and two other Guernseymen were dropped off, this time using a Berthon boat rather than a canoe. They were 2nd Lieuts Philip Martel and Desmond Mulholland who were to conduct the second phase of Operation Anger.

They were taken to shore by the same navy officer that had dropped Nicolle off. This nearly ended in disaster as the boat became swamped in the waves near the shore. Fortunately they made it with the help of Nicolle. He briefed his two fellow Guernseymen on the curfew, where the Germans were and other useful information.

They didn’t have to wait long to repay the favour of being rescued as the boat began to sink as it was on the way back to the submarine and they had to help bring it back to shore.

Eventually the boat made it back to the submarine and Nicolle was able to report back to London with his findings.

A memorial stone stands at the top of the cliffs in commemoration of Nicolle’s landing.

Memorial at Icart to the landing. © Nick Le Huray

I was privileged to have known Hubert or Mr Nicolle as we called him. He was a past pupil of the school that I attended, Elizabeth College, and was actively involved in college activities when I was a pupil in the 1980s. Little did I know that the gentleman that often started swimming races with a starting pistol was used to more deadly weapons!

He was to return to Guernsey again on 3 September 1940 with another Guernseyman and fellow pupil of Elizabeth College James Symes. That is a story for a future blog and a far more eventful visit it was! I have an interview with Symes that provides some interesting insight into this raid as well as some archive material and an interview with one of the submarine crew who recalled the landing. Sign up for email notifications of you don’t want to miss out.

I have only been able to touch on a fraction of the story here so if you would like to read more about the operation I recommend you track down a copy of William Bell’s “The Commando Who Came Home To Spy” which is out of print but you can pick up for a few pounds second hand on Amazon, eBay or from a second hand book shop.

At this point you are probably wondering what happened to Martel and Mulholland. Well they stayed in the island to gather intelligence and take part in the next phase Operation Anger and the follow up Operation Ambassador later in the month. This was a raid consisting of some 140 men. A blog post about this will be out later in July.

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.

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

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT AN ASPECT OF THE OCCUPATION?

The blog has been going for just over six months now and I have endeavoured to cover a variety of topics so far. It takes time to research and write each post and I appreciate the time that everyone takes to read them. At the time of writing this almost 10,000 views of the blog have happened from around the world.

It probably won’t surprise you that when I open my web browser the most visited sites are the various archives across the world! Sometimes documents aren’t digitised so I have to request them or go and photograph them. I also have a vast collection of documents and newspapers from that time.

I have many things that I am researching at the moment but that doesn’t mean I can’t turn my attentions to a topic that may be of interest to you. If you have a question please either comment here or drop me an email to Nick@Le-Huray.com .

Also happy to receive information or stories that you may wish to share. The personal stories are so interesting and often missed from so many books.

I have helped a few people resolve questions about events that impacted their families and not all of these have made it onto the blog because they were of a personal nature to those families. Should you wish to get assistance with this happy to help.

So over to you. I am taking a few days out to recharge my batteries but there are already a couple of blogs written and already scheduled to post during that time. I will be sat on a beach with some books and no doubt dipping into the odd archive or two…..

A couple of blog posts are scheduled to appear later this week.

In the meantime if you could share the site on social media or just tell people about it that would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again for reading. À bétao (See you soon)

THE OCCUPATION STARTS – FIVE LONG YEARS UNDER THE JACKBOOT!

30 June marks the anniversary of the arrival of the Germans in 1940. This followed an air raid on 28 June which you can read about on my last blog, just scroll down or click here

A German aircraft, a Dornier Do.17 similar to the one pictured below, had landed earlier in the day but had beaten a hasty retreat when attacked by three RAF Blenheims that were in the area. The first German Oberfeldwebel Roman Gastager, a Dornier Do 17 crewman from Fernaufklärungsgruppe 3.(F)/123. This is recorded in Simon Hamon’s excellent book “Channel Islands Invaded: The German Attack on the British Isles in 1940 Told Through Eye-Witness Accounts, Newspapers Reports, Parliamentary Debates, Memoirs and Diaries” 

Image from the Sunday Mirror 29 September 1940 © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
Roman Gastager as Oberfeldwebel in late 1944 Photo from https://www.imoebi.de/Gastager.htm were you can read more about him.

Having found the island undefended they reported back to their base at Cherbourg and troops were sent over to occupy Guernsey. The occupation began when German troops arrived from Cherbourg on 30th June 1940 aboard JU 52 transports.

Jersey was occupied one day later on 1 July 1940.

Below are a selection of photographs of their arrival and some further information and reading on the subject.

Castle Cornet and St Peter Port seen from a German aircraft.
Photograph is on display at the German Occupation Museum. These are men of the 396th Infantry Regiment who arrived from Cherbourg.
Photograph from Das Bundesarchiv more troops at Guernsey Airport.
The Germans taking down the flag at Guernsey Airport. Photograph from Das Bundesarchiv.
Commandeered Guernsey truck being used to refuel a ME 109 0f KG53 Photograph from Das Bundesarchiv
Photograph from Das Bundesarchiv
Photograph from Das Bundesarchiv
Messerschmitt-Bf-109E3-4.JG53-La-Villiaza-Guernsey-1940

If the Airport on the current site hadn’t been completed in 1939 then they may have had a slightly tougher time in landing as the previous aerodrome was at L’Eree on the coast and is a wetland that is now a nature reserve. L’Eree had a runway of 450 yards and a very short lived operational life.

A modern view of the original aerodrome at L’Eree

Luckily for the Germans the airport had been moved to the current site and had been opened in May 1939. It had four grass runways, night landing facilities and direction finding equipment. Taken over by the RAF in September 1939 and vacated by them in June 1940 they took the precaution of sabotaging the equipment before they left. I wrote about the experiences of some RAF Pilots in June 1940 who were based in Guernsey. You can read about it at
A TALE OF TWO PILOTS, HURRICANE GIRLS & A FRENCHMAN!

Soon after their arrival orders were issued to islanders with the threat of any attempt to cause trouble would lead to St Peter Port being bombed.

Orders of the Commandant

In subsequent months there followed Junkers 52 troop carriers, Dornier DO 17 bombers, Heinkel He 111 bombers, Henschel Hs 126 reconnaissance aircraft, ME109 fighters and Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers.

Display at the German Occupation Museum about the arrival of the Germans and items collected by locals.

If you want to find out more about the arrival of the Germans you can find a summary here

In my blog about the life of a doctor in Guernsey he talks about the arrival of the Germans. You can read it here.

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

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

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

GERMAN AIR RAID ON THE CHANNEL ISLANDS 28 JUNE 1940

28 June is the anniversary of the bombing of the Channel Islands by the Germans. I thought I would take a slightly different approach to the usual articles on the subject and look at it from the point of view of the reporting in the Newspapers across the UK.

Whilst some aspects of these reports are the same the regional newspapers record the views of those that were there but left the island before the occupation forces arrived or escaped shortly after. As they turned up in different parts of the UK you get some different views based on this.

As a brief overview Frank Falla wrote of the event:

Six enemy aircraft came, it seemed, from nowhere… three swooped down over the harbour dropping incendiaries and high explosive bombs, and machine-gunning ruthlessly along the line of waiting lorries…

The air-raid warning sirens were not set going until at least ten minutes after the first bomb had been dropped, and even then it was not the ARP officials who set them in motion but three cool-headed telephone operators… as a result of this raid on defenceless Guernsey, thirty-four people died on the spot or in hospital soon afterwards, and another thirty-three were injured.

Frank Falla – Silent War

Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with events as you can find links at the bottom of this page which take you to the usual sources that explain the raid. If you want to skip to these first before reading the rest of the blog click here.

My blog post about a doctor who lived in Guernsey during the occupation has a section about the attack including photographs. The English Doctor’s Occupation Story. Dr Richard Sutcliffe.

50 kg. bomb of the type dropped by the German aircraft during the raid. This example is in the German Occupation Museum in Guernsey. Each of the aircraft carried twenty of these. © Nick Le Huray

The newspaper articles focus on the attack on the area around St Peter Port Harbour but there were other areas of Guernsey that were attacked. This is an example of a bomb which was dropped on the Capelles area.

One of the larger bombs dropped and is in the German Occupation Museum in Guernsey. © Nick Le Huray

Before I move on to the UK newspapers here is the front page of of the Guernsey Newspapers from the next day.

Photo of the newspaper on display at the German Occupation Museum in Guernsey. © Nick Le Huray

The Aberdeen Press and Journal of 8 July 1940 tells the story from the perspective of a bandmaster who was there and had subsequently arrived in Aberdeen.

The Evening Sentinel of 29 June 1940 reported on the Murderous German Raids including the death of a Guernsey Lifeboatman. You can read more about this here Death of a Guernsey Lifeboat Man.

In Warwickshire the Evening dispatch reported on 29 June 1940 about Channel Islanders abandoning their homes.

Strangely the number of casualties had become vastly inflated above the actual number when this article appeared in the Nottingham Evening Post – Thursday 12 December 1940.

Illustrated London News 6 July 1940
Illustrated London News 6 July 1940
Memorial Service 2018. Phil Martin of the Channel Islands Occupation Society says a few words to those gathered. © Nick Le Huray
The Memorial at St Peter Port Harbour. © Nick Le Huray

All newspaper extracts are Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Hear Mollie Bihet’s firsthand account of the moment St Peter Port harbour was bombed on Fri 28 June 1940 which killed 33 islanders and injured more.

The German Air Raid  28th of June 1940 

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.

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 TALE OF TWO PILOTS, HURRICANE GIRLS & A FRENCHMAN!

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

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

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

The Coastal Command Pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugh Eccles – IWM Interview

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

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

Hugh Eccles – IWM Interview

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

SS Brittany – See SS Brittany for more

The Hurricane Pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harold Bird-Wilson – IWM Interview

The Squadron records record a little of events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harold Bird-Wilson – IWM Interview

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

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

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

Other Aircraft Retreating Through the Channel Islands

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

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

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

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

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

© Nick Le Huray

THE REVEREND DOUGLAS ORD GUERNSEY OCCUPATION DIARIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Morning News, 21 June 1944

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belfast Telegraph 6 June 1944

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Map of the Channel Islands and the pocket of German resistance
Map from the Illustrated London News February 1945

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

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

Report from the March 1945 Channel Islands Monthly Review of a speech about why the Islands had not been liberated after D-Day.

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.

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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