Operation Hardtack

Operation Hardtack was a series of raids on the German occupied Channel Islands, the French coast and southern Holland between 24 December and 28 December 1943. This article will deal with the raids on the Channel Islands.

The raids on the Channel Islands were all for Reconnaissance and
capture of prisoners.

Hard Tack 7 (Sark)

Whilst Operation Basalt, a raid on the island of Sark1 in October 1942, has been the subject of a book by Eric Lee2, not as much has been written about the raids that comprised Operation Hardtack. Although they do merit a chapter in Will Fowler’s book The Last Raid: The Commandos, Channel Islands and Final Nazi Raid3.

Thanks to @KevSouth1 on Twitter for reminding me that some of the population of Sark were moved inland after Basalt as well as deportations to camps on the Continent. More of that in another blog.

The first raid on the night of the 25/26 had to be abandoned as the climb was found to be impossible. As can be seen from the photographs that I took from the top of the cliff that they climbed on the second raid it isn’t easy to scale these cliffs.

Pictures ©Nick Le Huray

They returned the next night and successfully landed and climbed the cliff at the Hog’s Back where Operation Basalt had landed in the previous year.

Unfortunately the shore party found themselves in a minefield, laid in response to the previous raid. After several mines detonated, causing a number of casualties, they decided to return to the MGB that was waiting for them.

Photograph I took of the memorial in May 2019. ©Nick Le Huray

There is an excellent summary of Hardtack 7, including the report on the operation along with maps and photographs here

Hardtack 22 (Herm)

The raid on the Island of Herm4 was cancelled at the planning stage. Originally planned by No. 10 Commando responsibility for the proposed raid was transferred to No. 2 US Ranger Battalion, but the operation was not proceeded with5.

Arguably there would have been little to have been gained from a raid as the Island is much smaller than the others and only had a small number of troops stationed there. Although it was visited by other troops for leisure purposes during daylight hours.

Hardtack 28 (Jersey)

The raid on Jersey6 took place on the night of 25/26 December and was time to be on the same night as the raid on Sark. There is an excellent article with maps and photographs here.

No Hardtack raid on Guernsey?

It is likely that there were no Hardtack raids in respect of Guernsey7 as there had been a number of other raids over the previous years. There was little to be gained from such a raid.

Conclusion

Whilst only the raid on Jersey provided any useful information news of the raids did at least boost the morale of Islanders with hope of the second front being imminent. Albeit this came a great cost in casualties.

Shortly after the raids it was decided that no more raids were to be made on the Channel Islands.

Footnotes

1 Sark – Information about the Island.
2 Operation Basalt – Eric Lee .
3 The Last Raid: The Commandos, Channel Islands and Final Nazi Raid – Will Fowler Chapter 22.
4 Herm Island
5 Cruickshank 1975 page 245.
6 Information on Jersey.
7 Information on Guernsey.


What’s this all about then?

I have been fascinated by the history of the Bailiwick of Guernsey since I was a small child.  Growing up in Guernsey I became particularly interested in the occupation of the Channel Islands by German forces during the Second World War.   

After all there are many remaining fortifications to remind us of this part of our history.   As a teenager and into later life I spent many hours exploring them. 

I was lucky enough to be able to talk to various people over the years about their experiences during the occupation and collect various documents.   

During lockdown I started listening to the We Have Ways of Making You Talk Podcast, joined their Independent Company and joined their weekly live streams.  This has led to some fascinating interactions with fellow members, both online and in person at WarFest in September 2020.   

Other members and sharing of their family stories has spurred me on to put something down in writing about what life was like during the occupation. The fortification of the islands and military activity from both sides.  Lots of photos and stories to follow.

Surprisingly despite the many books on the subject there are also some aspects that haven’t been addressed.  I will be looking at these areas as well. 

If you are a member of the Independent Company never fear, there will also be concrete bunkers and things that go bang! 

If you have read this far and are still awake feel free to sign up to the mailing list, follow the blog on Twitter @fortress_island.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Le Huray

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