A STRANGE CHARACTER APPEARS IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS!

This blog post is a slightly different one as it relates to events in the 1970s but about the Channel Islands during the Occupation of 1940-1945. It really is quite a curious tale, and it is hard to see what the character involved thought he might gain by his actions.

It lead me to a connection between Jersey and one of the most successful and well known double agents of the Second World War, as well as a traitor that was tried for treason after the war.

I recently found an article in the Guardian newspaper about a visit to the Channel Islands in October 1974. A man who claimed to be a former British Intelligence Officer turned author, Peter Tombs certainly seems to have been an interesting and controversial character throughout his life. He made strange claims about Martin Bormann and I found another, not immediately obvious, connection to the Channel Islands in that story. More about that later in this blog post.

He claimed that “he might take out a prosecution against the islands collectively under an ancient law of “harbouring of the King’s enemy”” when he appeared on a television show during his visit to the Channel Islands.

I wondered what motivated him to make this claim and why, if you were going to do so, you would travel to the very islands you are accusing to make those accusations on the local TV station. Much less be surprised when it provokes a hostile reaction from the population.

He claimed to have written a book on the subject although I cannot, at this time find any trace of, or of any legal action that he claimed he was going to launch.

He was believed to have completed a book, provisionally called “The Traitor Isles,” which accuses the Islanders of extreme passivity during the five years of occupation during the last war. He is considering taking out a prosecution against the Islands collectively under a sixteenth-century treason law for “harbouring of the King’s enemy.”

Guardian article 9 October 1974: Channel Islanders committed ‘treason’ in second world war.

One has to wonder why nobody checked on his past, previous claims, and accusations. I appreciate that it is much easier check the bona fides of people in the internet age but he had hardly been a stranger to the British national newspapers at the time.

Channel TV are quoted in the article giving their reasons and the reaction to the interview. Sadly I cannot find any footage of the interview.

A spokesman for Channel TV said last night: “Our switchboard was jammed with angry callers after the programme. Only one or two offered information about black marketeering and collaboration. The great majority very much resented what Mr Tombs said. We decided to invite him over when we heard about his book and like any good journalist we wanted to investigate it further.”

Guardian article 9 October 1974: Channel Islanders committed ‘treason’ in second world war.

He claimed that he had spoken to islanders and high ranking Germans that supported his story.

Now I am not saying that there weren’t people that made profits from the black market or that collaborated, these are well documented. Action was taken against those that had profited in 1946 to confiscate those profits and others had to live with the consequences.

He was going to launch a court case or at the very least to get questions raised in the House of Commons. I have searched the National Archives, British Newspaper Archive and Hansard. None of these provide any evidence of either or the book being published.

You can read the article about his appearance on Channel TV, the local ITV station for the Channel Islands here.

So who was Peter Tombs the British intelligence officer? Well it would seem that it was doubtful that he was a British intelligence officer at all. He first appeared in an article in 1969 where he claimed to be a double agent for South Africa & Tanzania.

Daily Mirror – Friday 11 July 1969
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

This was quickly denounced by the South African Premier.

Daily Mirror – Saturday 12 July 1969
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD

A couple of years after the interview in the Channel Islands he made some “interesting” claims in the Birmingham Daily Post. According to Tombs, Martin Bormann was alive and well and farming in Norfolk.

A series of articles in this vein followed. This was a little odd, not least because Bormann’s body had been found, and he had been declared dead in 1973!

Birmingham Daily Post – Tuesday 09 March 1976
Birmingham Daily Post – Tuesday 09 March 1976

His claim about Bormann was supported in the next article by another interesting character.

Diss Express – Friday 19 March 1976
Image © Iliffe News & Media Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The man that supported his claim, Mr Eric Pleasants, obviously forgot to tell the reporter how he came to be in Berlin in 1945. The reporters also missed that Eric Pleasants had been tried for treason in 1946 and that he had a book written about his life in 1957.

Diss Express – Friday 26 March 1976
Image © Iliffe News & Media Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Curiously Tombs claimed that he wanted to ensure that Bormann came to no harm. Which is an odd sentiment when talking about a senior Nazi! After the article above the story disappeared. One can only assume that he liked the publicity and got some sort of strange kick out of it.

When I looked further into Eric Pleasants and how he found himself in Berlin I discovered that he had been tried for treason in absentia in 1946. I then found that he had a connection with Jersey. He had left England in May 1940 to try and avoid military service. Caught up in the occupation of the islands he was sent to prison a number of times, during this time he met Eddie Chapman. Chapman was in prison in Jersey and went on to become “Agent Zig Zag”.

Following his deportation to Germany he joined up to fight for the Germans in the British Free Corps. He deserted and was captured by the Russians and wasn’t freed until 1954.

You can read about Pleasants here and Chapman here.

That is the end of this blog. If I find more I will share it.

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.

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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

THE CHANNEL ISLANDS AT WAR -THREE PART DOCUMENTARY

I am busy writing a couple of in depth posts at the moment, working through almost six hundred pages of information from the National Archives. These are primarily military intelligence reports relating to the islands. As a result there has been a bit of a delay in getting things out on the blog at the moment. I want to make sure that what I write takes everything into account.

In the meantime you might enjoy these three documentaries with a lot of archive footage and interviews with people from both sides that lived through the occupation years. Sadly many of those interviewed are no longer with us.

They are presented by John Nettles, who not only starred as Bergerac in the TV series, but has produced excellent documentaries and books about the occupation. He has spent a lot time doing this and these are well worth a watch.

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

FILM – JACKBOOTS, BUCKETS AND SPADES

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog for the last few weeks as I have had a bad dose of the flu! Hoping to get things back to normal soon because I have a lot of research from the archives to write up for forthcoming blogs.

In the meantime you might enjoy this film that I found from 1995. Fronted by the late Hugh Scully it features some great archive footage and interviews with people that were here during the occupation of the Channel Islands. This includes some German personnel, islanders and slave workers.

A few of these are people that I have written about before, click the links to go to the blog posts about them.

Hubert Nicolle – M.C. – Hubert comes home, the first commando landing in Guernsey and A secret mission 3/4 September 1940 – Nicolle returns with Symes.
Dame Sibyl Hathaway (recorded in 1974) – What Happened in Sark and Rose Cottage and the liberation of Sark.
Bob Le Sueur MBE – A truly remarkable man.

Topics covered include distribution of news from the BBC, secret photos sent to the british intelligence service, a secret transmitter, deportations and a lot more.

Well worth a watch if you want to hear some first hand accounts of life under occupation.

I have a list of other films that you can find 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. 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

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

ALDERNEY FORTIFICATIONS – FILM WITH DAN SNOW

If you have read any of my blog posts about Alderney, and even if you haven’t, you might find this short film interesting.

Dan Snow takes a look around some of the fortifications and explains the history. Well worth a watch and provides some context for other blog posts which are linked below.

My blog posts about Alderney can be found below.

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

TANKS IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

After a recent visit to the Tank Museum in Bovington, plus a few questions people have asked me, prompted me to think about the use of tanks in the Channel Islands. If you are familiar with the island roads you will perhaps be surprised that there were any tanks at all.

Initially there were no tanks deployed in the islands. Then in June 1941, after Hitler had personally studied the plans for the defence of the Channel Islands, he ordered that captured French Tanks should be sent. His concern was that once he launched Operation Barbarossa, the attack on Russia later that month, the British would then attack Norway or the Channel Islands.

This was as a result of small scale raids on Norway and the Channel Islands. He thought that they would want to appease the Russians by opening a second front or at the very least tie up the German forces in the West.

His belief that this was going to happen wasn’t entirely misguided as the British did indeed consider doing just that. Operation Attaboy, Operation Blazing, Operation Constellation and Operation Condor were some of these operations that were planned and cancelled.

Von Runstedt was less than enthusiastic on sending tanks to the Channel Islands as he could not see the need for them. He did however send two tanks to Guernsey to defend the harbour. More tanks were to follow later.

All of the tanks that were used in the Channel Islands by the Germans were captured French tanks.

Renault FT-17s.

The first to arrive were Renault FT-17s. These were well beyond their sell by date as they dated back to 1918. State of the art at the time they were produced with the first to have its armament in a turret that could fully rotate.

The Germans had captured so many French tanks and other vehicles that they had converted Panzerabteilung 213 to entirely to French equipment.

As they were of little use in other theatres a total of twenty FT-17s were deployed to the Channel Islands. Eight in Jersey, Eight in Guernsey, and four in Alderney.1

Photograph taken surreptitiously from an upstairs window by Frank le Page showing commandeered French Renault tanks moving along La Rue Cauchee in St Martin’s, Guernsey, after Hitler’s decision to fortify the islands in 1941. © IWM HU 25951

Whils visiting the Tank Museum I made a point of seeking out two tank types that had been used in the Islands.

Renault FT (often known as the FT-17) at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank is the same type that was used in the Channel Islands. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
Renault FT (often known as the FT-17) at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank is the same type that was used in the Channel Islands. Photograph © Nick Le Huray

The FT-17s became of little use as the war progressed and very few were actually still running by December 1944. If you think you recognise the turrets of these tanks you have probably seen them around the islands as a few of the turrets remain today. They were taken off of the tanks and fitted onto Tobruk pits on bunkers around the islands. In Guernsey you can still see examples, one in situ at Batterie Dollmann at Pleinmont and there is also an example at the German Occupation Museum.

Renault FT-17 turret at the German Occupation Museum. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
Renault FT-17 turret at Batterie Dollman. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
Renault FT-17 turret at Batterie Dollman. Photograph © Nick Le Huray

The fitting of tank turrets to fixed fortifications is reported in a number of the M.I. 19 interviews with successful escapees. One example is an interview with Hubert who escaped in August 1943. Interview is in the National Archives as M.I.19 (R.P.S) 1742

This refers to a turret at the bunker near the current site of the Guernsey Yacht Club
Sited at the St Sampson Harbour entrance

The Tank museum has a great short video about the tanks that you can watch below.

Char B1

The next tanks arrived in 1942 were Char B1 Bis of Panzerabteilung 213. These were a much better tank being of much more modern construction and armament. For Panzerabteilung 213 this was to be somewhat academic as they were the only German panzer group to never see action during the war!2

In 1940 during the battle for France these were seen as a well respected, well armoured and armed tank. They were however dogged by high fuel consumption and low speed. They had a top speed of only 16 mph. Limited range and slow speed were not of course a hindrance in the relatively small Channel Islands.

Char B1 at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank was used in Jersey. Photograph © Nick Le Huray

A total of thirty six Char B1 bis of various different versions were sent to Guernsey and Jersey. Four command tanks, twenty four normal tanks, and ten of the flamethrower equipped tanks. These were split evenly between the two islands.2

The flamethrower version replaced the lower 75mm gun in the hull with a flamethrower.

Char B1 at the Tank Museum, Bovington. This tank was used in Jersey. Photograph © Nick Le Huray
This is the Char B1 bis currently on display at the Tank Museum. When this photo was taken it was at the School of Tank Technology in Chertsey. It came to the Museum in 1951. The British were the tank’s third owner, after the French, who built it, and the Germans, who captured it. In their hands it was assigned to 1st Platoon, 1st Company of Panzer Abteilung 213 and shipped to the Channel Island of Jersey in Spring 1942. The British captured it when they liberated the islands in 1945. Photograph © The Tank Museum
Char B1 bis tank, with German ‘B2’ modifications, owned by Bovington Tank Museum and shown here displayed at the Jersey War Tunnels in 2008.

A short history of this Char B1 is in the video below.

Not a Tank!

Now those of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen some banter about #NotATank. Whilst this article is dealing with tanks I thought it would be remiss of me not to include the Panzerjäger 35R Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f).

For the avoidance of doubt this was not a tank, it was a self propelled gun, although it was based on the chassis of a Renault R35 tank. The turret was replaced with a fixed superstructure with a Czechoslovak 47mm anti-tank gun. Strangely the superstructure was open topped, you can see the canvas cover in the photograph below, which must have been rather unpleasant for the crew of those that were sent to the freezing conditions of the eastern front!

They did however see service in the Channel Islands so are worthy of a mention here.

From the Jerripedia page. German Renault Panzerjäger 35R Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) Tank Destroyer  at Millbrook in Jersey.
From the Jerripedia page. German Renault Panzerjäger 35R Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) Tank Destroyer  at Millbrook in Jersey.

I will be researching the use of tanks in the Channel Islands some more so will revisit the topic at some future point.

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

FOOTNOTES

  1. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands – Charles Cruickshank
  2. Atlantic Wall: Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark – George Forty

BOB LE SUEUR MBE – A TRULY REMARKABLE MAN!

Just a short blog on the life of Bob Le Sueur who sadly died at the weekend. Recognised when he received the MBE in 2013 for his work during the occupation, he helped eight or nine escaped Russian slave workers to evade recapture, at great personal risk to himself. Mr Le Sueur could very easily have suffered the same fate as others, such as Louisa Gould who also helped escaped slave workers, but were caught and paid the ultimate price in Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Always willing to assist historians that were documenting the occupation years he will be sorely missed. He continued his humanitarian work up to the end of his life aged 102, most recently raising money for the Ukrainian victims of the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

There have been many short news reports about his life but I thought it would be good to share a couple of longer videos that tell you more.

Channel Islands Occupation Society Interview with him giving a comprehensive talk about the occupation.
Friends of the blog Jersey War Tours also had this excellent chat with him.

You can also read about him here and watch the news report from Channel TV here.

I recommend reading his story in his book. Growing Up Fast: An ordinary man’s extraordinary life in occupied Jersey.

RIP and thank you for all that you did over the years to champion the cause of those that needed help.

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

MIN(E)D WHERE YOU WALK! MAJOR BLASCHEK AND AN ACCIDENT.

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.

Photo © Nick Le Huray

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.

Some eight months prior to the order this notice appeared in the Evening Press.

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.

Photo © Nick Le Huray
Thanks to Colin R Fallaize (@LeRoiHaptalon on Twitter) for this drone shot of the area. Photo © Colin R Fallaize

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.

German mine chart of the minefield at Rousse kindly provided to me by ©
Jersey War Tours.
German mine chart of the minefield at Rousse kindly provided to me by ©
Jersey War Tours.

As you can see the area was extensively mined with both Tellermines (anti tank) and Schrapnellmines or ‘S’ (anti-personnel) mines.

Tellermine from National Army Museum

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.

S.Mi.35 (Sprengen Mine 1935) (S-Mine & Schrapnellmine 35) anti-personnel mine (MUN 3318) The Sprengen Mine 1935, also known as the ‘S-Mine’ or ‘Schrapnellmine 35’, was a German Second World War anti-personnel device, that could be activated by direct pressure on the igniter in the top, or by a pull on one or more tripwires attached to pull igniters. It could also be fired electrically. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30021489
Concrete ‘punkt’ (point) marker. This one is located on the wall behind the post war toilet block. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Existing Granite marker that was placed by the Board of Ordinance and re-utilised as ‘punkt’ (point) marker. Easily missed if you are out for a walk. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Existing Granite marker that was placed by the Board of Ordinance and re-utilised as a ‘punkt’ (point) marker. Looking over the area where mine group two and three were laid. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Existing Granite marker that was placed by the Board of Ordinance and re-utilised as a ‘punkt’ (point) marker. Looking back to the tower from the site of mine group 3. Photo © Nick Le Huray
The ‘Schuppen’ or shack identified on the mine chart just where the road splits in two. Photo © Nick Le Huray
The ‘Schuppen’ or shack identified on the mine chart just where the road splits in two has seen better days. Photo © Nick Le Huray
Thanks to Colin R Fallaize (@LeRoiHaptalon on Twitter) for this drone shot of the area. Photo © Colin R Fallaize

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.

Aerial Reconnaisance Photo March 1942. Roque-Rousse; Guernsey

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.

Snip from the mine chart showing that it had been signed off
In the other corner of the mine chart (translated with Google Translate) it notes that the safety pins have been handed over to Guernsey command.

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.

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 SURPRISING FIND ABOUT VICE-ADMIRAL FRIEDRICH HUFFMEIER!

Whilst looking at what happened to him after the war I stumbled across an article from 1971. He pretty much disappeared off the radar after he was released from a prisoner of war camp in 1948. He moved back to Germany and some say he became a preacher, perhaps atoning for his past, although I have not as yet seen anything to evidence this.

Interestingly there is no mention in the article about his time, in the latter stages of the war, as commander of the German forces occupying the Channel Islands. As an ardent Nazi he was quite prepared to let his own men and the civilian population of the Channel Islands starve rather than surrender.

This appearance at watching HMS Belfast demobbed was just three months before his death.

Nottingham Guardian – Friday 22 October 1971 Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

There is even a picture, below, of a smiling Vice-Admiral Friedrich Huffmeier (left), a former captain of the German battlecruiser ‘Scharnhorst’, presents a picture to Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles, a former captain of the cruiser ‘HMS Belfast’, which was involved in the sinking of the ‘Scharnhorst’ during World War II, at a ceremony on the River Thames, 21st October 1971. The ‘HMS Belfast’ is being handed over to the Belfast Trust as a floating museum. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Embed from Getty Images

You can read about Huffmeier and his dragging out of the occupation of the Channel Islands all the way to the end of the war in my blog posts below.

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

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