ELIZABETH COLLEGE IN EXILE 1940 TO 1945.

Whilst going through the numerous copies of the Guernsey Press from the Occupation years I found this in the Guernsey Weekly Press of 20 June 1945.

It is an article about my old school Elizabeth College during the years that the pupils and staff spent in exile in England. Link to a longer account of their time at the end.

If you want to read a more detailed account of the evacuation and exile of Elizabeth there is a more detailed account written by Vernon Collenette who was a pupil at the time and teacher at Elizabeth College. Mr Collenette was a teacher at the time that I was at Elizabeth College in the 1980s.

You can read his account here as Elizabeth College have digitised it.

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© Nick Le Huray

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, films and other resources 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.

© 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, films and other resources that may be of interest.

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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.

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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.

© 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 

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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.

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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 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.

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

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

© Nick Le Huray

NEW FILM – OCCUPIED – NOW AVAILABLE TO WATCH ONLINE

I was pleased to see that the locally produced film “Occupied” can now be watched online for free. This follows it finishing its run of screenings on the film festival circuit It is refreshing to see a film on the subject actually filmed locally and with Guernsey actors!

The short film made by White Rock Productions explores various aspects of the occupation of Guernsey starting with the bombing of the St Peter Port harbour and following the impact on some of the characters. It also uses Guernésiais, our local language, in a short segment. Don’t worry there are subtitles for that bit!

Those of you who are Guernsey based may even have seen some of it being filmed at various places around the Island.

It is well worth twenty one minutes of your time to watch it. The titles at the end are accompanied by Guernsey’s unofficial anthem “Sarnia Cherie”.

If you enjoy this film go give them a follow on Twitter or Facebook as they have other projects.

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WATCH THE COMMEMORATION OF THE LIBERATION AND THE CELEBRATIONS LIVE ONLINE

I thought this might be useful to share for those readers of the blog that are either on Island but for whatever reason unable to go out to watch events live or those overseas.

You can take part in the Church Service, watch the Cavalcade and even the Fireworks. Just follow the link for details. All times are British Summer Time.

http://liberationday.gg/livestreams

Planned Large Scale Raid on Alderney 1942 – Operation Blazing

The small-scale raids that took place around Alderney and the other Channel Islands are well recorded; however, this planned raid was something completely different. This would have been a full-scale invasion of the island with the intention of holding it for a week during 1942.

The attack would have involved a force of 6,000-7,000 personnel from all services—a vastly different proposition from anything planned before. An estimated 4,800 men to land on the island.

It raises many questions; why hold it for a week and then leave? Why do it at all? What would it achieve, especially in the first half of 1942? This blog post will look at all these questions and more.

Whilst researching something else, I listened to an interview on the IWM website with General Michael Stephen Hancock, part of which he talked about his role in this proposed raid and the training that was undertaken in early 1942.

Before I start with an explanation, there are a couple of things that would be useful to set the scene, particularly for those not familiar with Alderney or its location. This will help understand the reasons for the proposed raid and the challenges they may have faced if it had been executed. If you are already familiar with Alderney, then feel free to skip past this bit.

Alderney is the most northerly Channel Island and approximately ten miles from La Hague on the Cotentin Peninsula. You can see it on the map below with the red pin.

Map from Google Maps.

The island is shown on the map below, and it is 3 miles (5 km) long by 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide. The size of the island is essential for understanding some of the challenges the proposed raid may face.

Map from Visit Alderney

I remembered that I had come across a few references to this planned raid some time ago when reading the diaries of General Sir Alan Brooke, later 1st Viscount Alan Brooke. The references to the planned raid did not provide much information but are of interest because it involved those at the highest level of the armed forces and the prime minister Winston Churchill.

Frankly, the diaries do not give you a lot to go on. It is also important to note that his diary entries are obviously from his perspective and need to be tempered by reviewing other documents from the time. I decided to search the National Archives and various other sources to see what I could find.

GENERAL SIR ALAN BROOKE, CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF, 1942 © IWM TR 151

Brooke notes on 28 March 1942 that “Mountbatten was still hankering after a landing near Cherbourg where proper air support is not possible.”

It is fair to say that Brooke found Mountbatten quite irritating at times, not least because of his status and his relationship with Churchill. Brooke found it frustrating because he frequently stayed with Churchill at Ditchley Park and Chequers from late 1942. This gave him the opportunity to discuss his ideas and try to get Churchill onside.

Now Lord Mountbatten was known for his love of a hair-brained scheme, and this certainly would seem to be one. However, he was not alone in these ideas of actions in the Channel Islands. Vice-Admiral John Hughes-Hallett also advocated operations to retake the Channel Islands by force at various times during the war.

These were discounted for many reasons. Primarily because of the massive loss of life, this would have caused the civilian population let alone the inevitable casualties of any invading force. One must remember that an estimated 8% of all the concrete used on the Atlantic Wall was poured into the fortifications of the Channel Islands by the end of the war. The fortifications in the Islands contained more armaments than the 350 miles of the nearby Normandy coastline.

The other Channel Islands were also of less significance for the Allies from a strategic point of view aside from the other challenges mentioned above. The fortification and sinking of men and resources into the Islands are often referred to as “Hitler’s Island Madness.”

Alderney would have been a different prospect as only approximately seven civilians were left on the island. However, many forced workers on the island would have also become casualties. During the war, Alderney was heavily fortified and became one of the most heavily armed sections of the Atlantic Wall. Alderney was designated a Festung (Fortress).

Alderney had gun batteries that could prove troublesome to any attack on Cherbourg at a later stage in the war but not in the summer of 1942. Later in the war, in June 1944, the 150 mm guns in Battery Blücher on Alderney fired upon the American troops on the Cotentin Peninsula. Subsequently, the British warship HMS Rodney attacked the gun battery, which cost the lives of two German soldiers.

Article from the Northampton Mercury & Herald 18 August 1944

What purpose could risking so many lives to occupy the island for a week serve war effort? There appears to be some speculation that such a raid could have been used to appease Stalin that the Allies were serious about mounting operations to open a second front, but surely this would have been too small scale.

Another reason that they considered the raid to be of value was that the Germans were using Alderney as a control centre for U Boats in the area returning to or leaving the French ports.

In his book “The German Occupation of The Channel Islands” Cruickshank states that Mountbatten first raised the idea of a an operation to take Alderney at a meeting of his staff on 6 March 1942.

Brooke notes in his diary on 8 April 1942, “Very difficult COS attended by Paget, Sholto Douglas, and Mountbatten. Subject-attempt to assist Russia through action in France. Plan they had put up was a thoroughly bad one!!” This would indicate some substance to the assertion that the raid may have been partly for this purpose.

Mountbatten briefed the Chiefs of Staff Committee on 16 April 1942. His initial plan was to take and hold Alderney permanently. His reasons for doing so were:

A) The island would provide a base for small craft to be used to attack the German’s convoy route from the Channel ports down to Bay of Biscay.

B) It could be used to site a radar installation to extend Fighter Command’s radar coverage.

C) It could be used as an emergency landing strip.

D) To open a second front in a small way.

The plan changed many times during the course of April and early May. Not least changing from a plan to hold the island permanently to a plan to hold it for a week.

The interview with General Michael Hancock sheds more light on the plan and just how far preparations went.

“The object of the operation was only to hold the island for about a week, and the stated objects in the Chiefs of Staffs um appro… approval of it were, (I cannot remember in what order they were), but they included three things, and I don’t know that I can remember them all, but one of them, (which surprised me having had nothing to do with the political side of things) was in order to satisfy the clamour for a second front. Seems a little surprising, I suppose for a small-scale thing like this, but still, it was not all that small scale. We are talking about 7,000 men that sort of size.”

“A lot of men to put on such a small island. It is the island is what three miles by one something about that, but the Germans were holding it with four or five thousand.”

“Secondly, to put out of action, er, their control of their submarines, which they did from there with radio control etcetera and thirdly, to hold it long enough, so the Germans might think we intended springboards for the invasion of France and might withdraw something from the Russian front.”

“Wishful thinking, I suspect. We had allocated not only for this not only for this, but we had also been allocated a Parachute Battalion.”

“One of the snags was that the island is about a mile wide from the northwest side, north, east side and southwest side. The prevailing wind, of course, is across that, and in those days, you jumped out of an aircraft with 20 men, one after the other, and the mathematics of it are that if you do this and everything goes perfectly, you drop two or three men in the sea, either before you start or at the end of the run.“

“This was one of the difficulties at any rate, in the end, after I suppose three or four weeks of planning and rehearsal and so on. It was called off because it was recommended the RAF, who would have to give us a great deal of support beforehand, would lose several hundred aircraft, and they could not afford it at the time.”

So how far did they get with the plan?

“We got as far as having a particular beach and the Isle of Wight, which had the right characteristics tarted up a bit with certain little floating jetties, but to make it similar to where we would be landing in at Alderney. We did rehearsal landings on it.”

When asked why they expected such significant losses, he explained
“It was heavily defended, very heavily defended. I don’t know, but that is what we were told.”

He wasn’t wrong; Alderney was indeed heavily defended. Now I know this link is a Wikipedia one, but it does stack up with all of the reference sources I have checked at the time of writing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortifications_of_Alderney#German_fortifications

Brooke notes in his diary on 6 May 1942, “Arrived just in time to go to COS meeting to turn down proposed attack on Alderney Island [Channel Islands] as a large raid by Guards Brigade.”

So why did they turn it down, given the immense effort put into planning and training? These extracts from that meeting explain the discussion and the reasons. They even considered scaling back the operation to a single day.

A significant problem was the gap they would have between the bombing of the island and the landing. Given the small size of the island and the lack of accurate bombing in 1942, it was doubtful how effective it would have been in softening up the defences.

In 1942 it would only have been possible for fighters to provide cover for fifteen minutes at a time. The Luftwaffe would have been able to operate from airfields only twenty miles from Alderney where as the RAF would have had to operate from airfields more than seventy miles away. This partly explains the massive commitment of aircraft that would have been required.

Overall, they felt that the casualties would not be worth the dividend from such an operation. You can read the complete deliberations in the extracts of the War Cabinet Chiefs of Staff Committee minutes below.

Churchill was still keen for a raid, perhaps spurred on by Mountbatten. Brooke notes in his diary of 11 May 1942, “At 12 noon we had meeting with PM to discuss the giving up of the attack on Alderney, and raids planned as alternatives.”

The minute of this meeting is not very clearly scanned in the national archives, but you can get its gist. (Blue text added to clarify the feint wording)

Even at this stage, they didn’t discount resurrecting the operation later in the year. It did make an appearance later in they year as Operation “Aimwell” with the intention of a smaller force and only holding the island for twenty four hours. This was also cancelled.

Going back to the interview with Hancock, he talks about what happened next.
“So as we were there and all geared up for such an operation, an alternative operation was planned as a raid on the French coast. Somewhere in the … between Boulogne and Dieppe, I forget where but in that sort of area, and so we then started planning for that instead. And they got us in, I suppose it must have been the end of May, early June, and we are about then getting into the ships ready to go, and we were all in our ships with these funny little radios off Spithead, and the weather was foul.”

“That is why I remember the ship was flat bottomed pitching and, and so all these six-seven thousand men but in the ship sitting there we sat down for three days. The weather showed no sign of abating. And they decided then that it was too long or risks to security over us being there for three days. Without anything happening were too great. So, the whole operation was called off. We were sent back to Scotland.”

Ultimately some of what they planned was used in the planning and execution of Operation “Jubilee”, the raid on Dieppe.

I wonder what the impact would have been on the civilian population of the Channel Islands if the raid had gone ahead, given the deportations following other raids later in the war.

If you find this of interest, I can highly recommend visiting Alderney, where you can visit some of the fortifications. You can find details at Visit Alderney.

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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.

Thanks to my brother Matt Le Huray for his patience in proofreading these longer blog posts. Any typos in the shorter ones that I put out are nothing to do with him 😊

© Nick Le Huray

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