RESISTANCE, DEFIANCE AND DISRUPTION IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS – AN OVERVIEW

One of the myths surrounding the German occupation of the Channel Islands, outside of the islands, was that there were no acts of resistance. This is simply not true. Many Channel Islanders risked serious consequences by carrying out various acts throughout the occupation with some paying the ultimate price.

I will be dealing with this in detail on the blog during the course of this year. I thought an overview in advance of that might be of interest. Particularly as I have been interviewed by History Rage on their podcast on this subject. If you missed the podcast you can find it here and also on the all the usual podcast services. It is Series 8 Episode 2.

Whilst there were no acts of armed resistance, such as in other occupied countries, there were many acts of resistance, defiance and disruption. These acts caused some Channel Islanders to be deported to prisons or camps in mainland Europe. A number of these people paid the ultimate price, eight from Guernsey and twenty one from Jersey. There were over 4,000 prosecutions for breaking German laws in the Channel Islands.1 The list is acknowledged to be incomplete and doesn’t include those deported to internment camps under the mass deportations. In the context of a total population of the Channel Islands of approximately 68,400 this a large percentage.2

Why was there no armed resistance?

A broad explanation for no armed resistance or partisans was for a number of reasons :-

1. These islands are small and lacked any mountains or forests to disappear into after such acts. In other occupied countries they could be forty or fifty miles away after an attack.

2. Most men of military age had left the islands to join the British armed forces.

3. All weapons had been confiscated at the start of the occupation.

4. They had made it quite clear that any acts against the occupying forces would result in severe reprisals. These threats were not unfounded as the islanders were to find out.

5. The population was faced with ratios of one to three or one to two Germans at various points during the war.

6. The British had removed all weapons when they demilitarised the islands.

7. At no point did the British attempt to supply weapons or organise any resistance. The reason for this was that just as they viewed the Channel Islands of no strategic value they also felt that there was no value in encouraging such resistance. It would have just led to reprisals without actively aiding the war effort.

That isn’t to say that the Germans were not worried about the possibility of armed action being taken against them.

So what resistance was there?

There were many different types of resistance, defiance and disruption during the occupation of the Channel Islands. It varied from small personally significant acts, that made the perpetrator feel better, to organised groups disseminating news from the BBC, acts of sabotage or disruption, escapes and sheltering those that the Germans were looking for.

Small personal acts

Small personal acts were many and varied. Probably the most well known was the “V” sign campaign. The campaign came about because the BBC were encouraging those in all of the occupied territories to make the Germans feel threatened and uneasy. Channel Islanders took this onboard and started utilising the “V” for victory sign.

Xavier De Guillebon – Photograph of the display at German Occupation Museum

Xavier De Guillebon was the first Channel Islander to be punished with imprisonment in Caen Prison. As the “V” sign campaign escalated the Germans threatened to have any perpetrators of this shot. Fortunately this didn’t happen.

Other personal acts were the wearing of V for victory badges made from coins. These were usually worn under the collar of a jacket and upon sighting a friend it was turned over to show the badge.

Examples of the badges fashioned from coins. These examples are on display at La Valette Museum in Guernsey.

Another example of actions taken against the Germans was an incident where two police constables spotted a very drunk German on the streets of St Peter Port. He was near the top of some steps and they gave him a shove resulting in him falling down the steps and sustaining significant injuries.3 They then called an Ambulance and were thanked by the Germans for helping their colleague. If they had been found out they would have probably been sent to prison for three months and fined two years pay.

News sheets

There were at least two organised groups that circulated news sheets after radios had been confiscated for the second time. These groups produced news sheets that were circulated at great risks to themselves.

One group was known as GUNS (Guernsey Underground News Service) and I wrote a blog post about them. You can read it on the link below.

The other group was called GASP (Guernsey Active Secret Press). GASP were lucky as they weren’t betrayed and carried on until Liberation.

Display at the German Occupation Museum which tells a little of the GASP story.

The article below also tells the story of GASP.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail – Saturday 19 May 1945
Image © National World Publishing Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Sabotage

There were acts of sabotage of varying levels during the course of the occupation. I have picked a few as examples.

Probably one of the longest running acts of sabotage was in Jersey. The Germans had kept on the civilian controller of the airport, Charles Roche. It is estimated that he was responsible for at least twenty eight German aircraft being written off between 1940 and 1942. Jersey War Tours wrote an excellent piece on this which is worth a read. You can find it here

Another example of the type of activities that were carried out to sabotage German plans is the “Matthew’s Sark Party”. Despite being forced by the Germans to work for them they managed to use this to carry out acts of sabotage. A summary of this is in the article below.

Dover Express – Friday 06 July 1945 – Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Other acts of sabotage included cutting telephone cables or removing wooden poles from fields. In the latter case it is entirely feasible that some of these wooden poles were removed by Germans desperate for firewood.

Guernsey Evening Press – 2nd March 1945

The poles had been placed there to inhibit the landing of gliders or parachutists and were rigged with explosives. It was therefore a very risky endeavour to go near them. Fortunately the only account I can find of a casualty is of a cow which wandered in amongst them.

Sheltering escaped forced workers and others

During the course of the occupation many escaped forced workers were sheltered by locals. Some were successfully hidden for a number of years and, some until liberation in May 1945.

Probably the best known story is that of Louisa Gould and Russian Bill. You can read about this tragic story here.

As well as forced labourers there were instances of prisoners of war being helped to escape. You can read about two Americans here.

Escapes from the Channel Islands

An estimated 225 people escaped from the Channel Islands over the course of the occupation. These escapers were able to provide valuable intelligence to M.I. 19, a branch of military intelligence. This consisted of not only the state of islanders but also the defences on the islands.

This was a risky proposition because of the risk of being shot whilst trying to escape and the risks of being at sea in boats that were often unsuitable for the task.

Defiance

One of the best known acts of defiance is that of Major Marie Ozanne. I wrote a blog about her on the link below.

Repercussions of these acts

There were various different threatened repercussions in response to these acts. Ranging from being made to provide guards to patrol in the case of sabotage or “V” signs to threat of the death penalty. Examples of various notices published threatening serious consequences.

From the German Occupation Museum
Guernsey Evening Press – 19 March 1941

From August 1st 1942, all inhabitants of the Channel Isles who are held in custody for any reason by the German Authorities, either in the Channel Islands or France, are liable to the DEATH PENALTY if any attacks or acts of sabotage are made against the Occupying Power in the Occupied Territory.  

In addition, I declare that, henceforth, I reserve to myself the right to nominate certain members of any Parish who will be liable to the Death Penalty in the event of any attacks against communications, as for instance harbours, cranes, bridges, cables and wires, if these are made with the assistance or with the knowledge of the inhabitants of the Parish concerned. In their own interest I call upon the population for an increased activity and watchfulness in combating all suspicious elements, and to co-operate in the discovery of the guilty persons. The population 

of the Island are once more reminded that, in accordance with the German Military Law and in agreement with the Hague Convention, penalties are as follows.

Espionage: The death penalty. 

Sabotage: The death penalty. 

High Treason: The death penalty or penal servitude for life. 

Der Feldkommandantur, Gez. KNACKFUSS, 
Jersey, den 27.7.42. Oberst.

Memorials

There are memorials in both Guernsey & Jersey to those that died as a result of their acts of protest, defiance and resistance.

Guernsey Memorial ©️Nick Le Huray

You can read about the Guernsey Memorial here

The Jersey Memorial has a similar inscription which reads:

During the period of the German occupation of Jersey, from 1 July 1940 to 9 May 1945, many inhabitants were imprisoned for acts of protest and defiance against the Occupation Forces in H.M. Prison, Gloucester Street which stood on this site. Others were deported and held in camps in Germany and elsewhere from which some did not return.”

Jersey Memorial

Conclusion

As will have become clear from this post there are many stories to explore in this area and I will be dealing with these future blog posts.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.


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. Jersey Archives L/C/24/A/5 – Lists of Channel Islanders 1940-1945 (political prisoners, deportees and escapees) List incomplete.
  2. Cruickshank “The German Occupation of the Channel Islands” Page 59 Only 6,600 out of 50,000 left Jersey and 17,000 out of 42,000 left Guernsey.
  3. Bell, William (1995). I beg to report. Bell (1995).

JERSEY GOVERNMENT PROVIDING FUNDING FOR FILM ABOUT OCCUPATION RESISTANCE!

A quick post to highlight the excellent news that not one, but two films are in the process of being made. They are about two ladies that committed acts of resistance in Jersey during the German Occupation.

At least one of the films has received funding from the Jersey Government. Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore put notes in German soldiers pockets or left them in German cars inciting them to revolt. They created many of these messages under the German pseudonym Der Soldat Ohne Namen, or The Soldier With No Name, to deceive German soldiers that there was a conspiracy amongst the occupation troops

They were arrested in July 1944 for listening to the BBC and inciting the German Garrison to revolt. Imprisoned until May 1945 it is amazing that they survived the war as they were sentenced to death.

Bailiwick Express have written an article about this which is well worth a few minutes of your time to read. Follow the link here to read it.

You can read more about Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore here as there is an ten page article here from Jersey Heritage with photographs.

It is great to see that these films are going to be be made to tell their story.

I have a number of long blog posts in the works which will be out in the coming weeks.

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.


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

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 or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.


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

“MRS CHURCHILL” DEPORTED 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

Probably one of the best known people for carrying out individual acts of defiance against the Germans during the occupation of the Channel Islands is Winifred Green. If you consult almost any book about the occupation Winifred gets a mention.

She became quite well known in the UK Newspapers in May 1945 when her story was widely reported. Some extracts below from a couple of newspapers.

Manchester Evening News 15 May 1945

The Scotsman 16 May 1945

Below is a photo of the display at the German Occupation Museum in Guernsey.

Display at German Occupation Museum

You can read more about Winifred at the Frank Falla archive here

If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.


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 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 or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.


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

GUERNSEY’S ENTIRE POLICE FORCE ARRESTED – 5 MARCH 1942

Guernsey Policeman with a German Soldier – German propaganda photograph

Today is the 80th anniversary of the day that the German occupying forces arrested all of the Island’s police force. Their crime was stealing food from German stores and giving it to civilians. At this point in the occupation the Germans had plentiful supplies of food but Islanders did not.

The thefts of food were initially started by Constables Kingston Bailey and Frank Tuck. Bailey notes in his memoir that it started to get out of hand and practically the entire police force was involved.

Eventually Bailey and Tuck were apprehended on 3 March 1942 by German soldiers who were laying in wait. Subsequent to this the entire police force was arrested on 5 March 1942.

Accounts indicate that they were tortured and forced to sign confessions or be shot.

In May and June 1942 seventeen police officers were brought to trial. The sentences were severe and they were deported to Prisons and camps in mainland Europe. Many suffered life changing health issues from their time in the camps and sadly one officer Herbert Smith died whilst in detention.

18 May 1942 Guernsey Evening Press

Islanders were of course keen to know what was happening in the trial and were largely reliant on the Guernsey Press and The Star newspapers which was subject to censorship by the Germans. The editor Frank Falla managed to get approximately 1,500 copies of the newspaper printed with an uncensored version before the censor had redacted a large part of the article. Unfortunately for Falla one of the unauthorised copies was purchased by a German who was sitting on the bench for the trial.

Frank Falla – Silent War
Frank Falla – The Silent War
Frank Falla – The Silent War
Frank Falla – The Silent War

The case had further impact on the local community as in late January 1943 former police officers and some of the family members of the imprisoned officers were deported to camps on mainland Europe for “military reasons”.

You can read more about the individual officers at the Frank Falla Archive by following these links to those that I have mentioned by name here Kingston Bailey, Frank Tuck and Herbert Smith. Thanks to Jenna Holloway who also pointed me in the direction of her great grandfather William Quin who was one of the Policeman and Adelaide Laine who lives in the house previously owned by Thomas Gaudion.

Recent attempts to clear the names of those involved have unfortunately been unsuccessful at the time of writing. The campaign to get an apology continues and well known historian Dr Gilly Carr is actively involved in this. You can read about this in a recent BBC article and an article from the Daily Mail.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. You can sign up for email alerts to new blog posts here.

Death of an Occupation Resister -Salvation Army Major Marie Ozanne

The 25th of February is the anniversary of the death of Salvation Army Major Marie Ozanne in 1943.

Marie was incredibly brave and didn’t hesitate to challenge the occupying forces. Unfortunately this led to her paying the ultimate price.

The Island Archives acquired her diaries and this link gives a brief explanation.

There is also an excellent article about her here.

Below is a short video recorded by Dr Gilly Carr explaining more about Marie Ozanne.

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If you would like to receive email notifications of future blogs, you can sign up to the right of this blog post or here. Feel free to look around the website, where I have categorized 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.

You can also find articles, podcasts, TV appearances and other social media etc here.


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 English Doctor’s Occupation Story. Dr Richard Sutcliffe.

This is the story of Richard Brook Sutcliffe a doctor and surgeon who lived through the occupation of Guernsey in the Channel Islands 1940 to 1945. He was known as Brook to his friends. The interview conducted by Conrad Wood for the Imperial War Museum provides a great insight into many aspects of the occupation of Guernsey 1940-45. If you want to listen to the interview it is here

This post comes with a warning that some of what he describes may be upsetting to some as he details some unpleasant things he witnessed. No individuals are named in the more unpleasant parts for obvious reasons.

He came to visit the Island in 1937 and was so taken with the place that he accepted the offer of becoming a partner in a local doctors practice.

A friend of mine, who was a surgeon, Simpson Smith, who was also a great friend of Dr. Montague, who was also in practice in Guernsey and he was looking for a partner.

He came to ask me whether I would consider coming over as they wanted somebody over here to join him. I came over here to have a look round and I was so much taken with it that I came over here and settled in practice with my wife and then three small children, which being in 1937, was just two years before we were occupied. 

He recalls little of the evacuation of the Island other than his wife and three children travelling to England. His other recollection is interesting is the quandary that doctors living in the Islands faced at the time of evacuation.

It was difficult then to decide how many doctors we would need in the island, because that would depend upon entirely upon the number of people we had left in the island.  

So we formed a committee, which consisted of Dr. Kerry, who was at that time a very highly respected one of our practitioners in Guernsey, Dr. Montague who was my senior partner and myself, and when anybody wish to leave the island, then they had to appear in front of that committee.

We would decide whether or not they could leave the island. Unfortunately, I’m not going to mention any names here, but unfortunately, despite the wishes of the committee, with regard to certain doctors, three of them left without our permission.

Newspaper announcing evacuation of Children

Unlike the doctors he doesn’t recall any of the nurses leaving the Island. I will be blogging about a nurses experience at a later date.

All the the people in charge of the nursing home and the hospital they all congregated into the country hospital which we then converted into what was known as emergency hospital and remained there of course.

During the height of the war they did a wonderful job of work. The person in charge of it was matron Hall who was the person in charge of the Victoria Hospital and of course we had the sisters who were in charge of the maternity hospital they ran that and I can’t speak too highly of the word they did. Absolutely wonderful. 

When recalling the bombing of St Peter Port on 28th June 1940 he doesn’t recall much of the raid itself more the aftermath.

The only thing I remember is the noise that went on and the fact that we were at the hospital to receive the casualties. 

We had people with abdominal wounds. We had people with legs, badly injured. We had every type of injury that you would expect. Somewhere between 30 and 35 of them.

Dr. Gibson, who was in the other surgeon in the Island and myself ran a theatre there and we did the majority of the operations during that night.  We started the 10 o’clock at night and we finished at 10 o’clock the next morning, but we did have a small break for breakfast.

The burnt out weighbridge in St Peter Port following the bombing of the harbour on the evening of 28th June 1940. Images © The Priaulx Library via Occupation Archive
Smoke rises from burning vehicles shortly after a bombing raid on the White Rock in St Peter Port. The raid on the evening of 28th June 1940 resulted in 33 civilian dead. The parked tomato trucks were mistaken for military vehicles. Images © The Priaulx Library via Occupation Archive
The aftermath of the bombing raid on 28th June 1940 with the burnt out tomato trucks littering the White Rock pier. Images © The Priaulx Library via Occupation Archive
Memorial at St Peter Port Harbour to those that lost their lives in the raid. Photo © Nick Le Huray

Two days after the raid he saw the Germans for the first time. They drove down the Grange as he was talking to his neighbour and friend outside of his house.

Jack Martel who was a lawyer over here a great friend of mine lived nearly opposite me.  I lived in the Grange then in house which is now Kleinwort Benson and we were standing outside when the Germans drove past.

They’d just landed and they drove past in the police car, an old Wolseley.  Jack said to me “Well Brook, they are here at last now” and I said “they are here at last Jack” and later on he said to me, do you know after we were liberated, he said to me “Brook do you remember the occasion when we were standing outside your house and the Germans came down and I said to you “well they are here at last and you said to me something. Do you remember what it was?” I said no.
“You said to me well, I suppose Jack there’ll be here for anything up to five years. Which was exactly the time they were here.”  I mean they weren’t here for a short time. We knew that I mean to take that length of time to get rid of them. 

The house that he lived in and referred to as now being Kleinwort Benson has subsequently become the headquarters for Healthspan. The building has been extended to make office space and is on the Grange which is the main road into St Peter Port.

The house where Dr Sutcliffe lived at the start of the occupation. © Nick Le Huray

During the occupation he witnessed some awful things. One of his first interactions with them, other than seeing in the street, was being called to a patient who had been robbed and raped.

Well, the first impression I had of them was went in my meeting with the Major Müller who was then in charge of the the German forces when they arrived and I think I was one of the very few civilians who ever came in contact with him.

That was due to the fact that there was a patient of mine there were two sisters who run ran a sort of preparatory school in the island. They were both around about the age of 70. I had an emergency call to go to see them because one of them had been raped. They’d both been robbed and one of them been raped by a German soldier.

When I arrived, Mr. Sherwill was there, who was I think the Procureur. He later became the Bailiff Sir Ambrose Sherwill, who was sent away during the war to one of the camps in in Germany. Wonderful Bailiff, he was a wonderful man. When they knew that this person had been raped, of course a Major Müller was sent for and when he was told that this woman had been raped, he was absolutely livid. I’ve never seen a man so angry in my life. And he immediately summoned the whole of the forces to parade, he discovered the man with the missing revolver.

The following morning, I was sent for by the Germans, they collected me at my house, under armed escort with Mr. Sherwill, we were driven to the airport, where we were placed in a cottage on the perimeter of the airport to await the court martial.

We were then taken into the court martial and we gave our evidence.  We were told that they would then return to tell us the verdict and we were then taken back to the cottage.

We were then taken back to the the court martial and we were told that he had been found guilty and he would be shot and would we like to see him shot. We told them we’d no desire to see anybody shot and to the best of my knowledge, he was then taken out onto the airport and shot. 

Photo of from the Axis History Forum of Generalmajor Erich Müller

Müller was feared by his men and eventually shipped off to the eastern front, captured by the Russians and held in a POW camp until 19552.

It would seem that the doctor is correct that his sort of attack wasn’t that common as recalled in a post war report on policing.

It was very unusual to hear a soldier whistle after a woman in the street and during the whole period we only had two cases of rape – one occurred within the first week of the Occupation, and he was sentenced to death, the other some years later. We reported the facts to the German Police. The man was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment. He appealed and the sentence was changed to 8 years.

Policing During The Occupation – Albert Peter Lamy

He notes that initially that health was pretty good and explains it as being because of the lack of alcohol and cigarettes. His reference to lack of alcohol and cigarettes is taken to be a reference to a restricted availability rather than none being available at all. Islanders improvised when tobacco became scare and either started growing it themselves or drying other leaves to use a substitute.

Whilst many accounts focus on what some called the ‘Hunger Winter’ of 1944/45 after the Normandy landings in June 1944 it is important to note that the lack of food had a serious impact some two years before this.

The interviewer asks about a picture he has been shown of a patient.

I have in front of me one of your photographs from the occupation of a patient’s lying in hospital and the patient really looks like somebody from the Belsen concentration camp and you’ve put on the back that this person was admitted on the 13th of May 1942.

So the starvation started as early as that,  there were starvation cases well before the islands were cut off by the Normandy invasions? 

Conrad Wood

He responds that they were very short of food and that it was the elderly that suffered the most. They were dropping like flies. The patient referred to in the photograph weighed just six stone five. In kilos that is just 40.5!

There’s nothing to do nothing at all. We had no food to give them. They were beyond doing anything.

I suppose under modern conditions where you had everything that you could give them that’s a very different kettle of fish. But then don’t forget we were we were isolated with nothing at all. We no antibiotics we had nothing.

We had to improvise, as I said, the present medical profession would think we were prehistoric. We managed it’s surprising what you can do you know what you got to do it.  

He goes on to explain that this was an Island wide problem and that the lack of food was enough for a patient to die.

Particularly the old people, those people who couldn’t get anything on the black market or anything like that you see. They’re very independent  you know. The Guernseyman is a very independent sort of person. 

I have mentioned the fiercely independent nature and stubbornness and hence why to this day we are still known as “Guernsey Donkeys”.

It wasn’t just the Islanders that were suffering malnutrition during the occupation. Especially during the later stages the Germans were also suffering.

If you had a dog or a cat and you let it out at night it never came back in the morning because the Germans got hold of it killed it and ate it.

That’s the stage they were at. People had to put their cattle in at night for the fear of the Germans would go out and kill them and slaughter them. They were in a pretty poor state as well. 

It got to the stage where the Germans were having to send out soldiers to guard locals crops and livestock. You can read more about the impact of the ‘Hunger Winter’ on my previous blog post of A German Soldier’s experience here.

Dr Sutcliffe wrote in April 1944 about the need to balance meat production, milk production, the health of the population, and future sales of cattle post war.

To sacrifice the general public in order to maintain a high standard of Island cattle for presumed post-war sale is nothing short of criminal …

Desirable as it may be to maintain a good Island stock, I consider it more desirable to maintain the population, and I am sure that this view would be shared by the many people who have been evacuated. They would rather come back to be greeted by a healthy relative than by a large and healthy herd of Guernsey cows.

Charles Cruickshank notes in his book that Admiral Hüffmeier, who succeeded von Schmettow as Commander-in-Chief of the Islands in February 1945, saw the dairy herds as the saviours of the Wehrmacht. Hüffmeier was determined to hold out for the Führer. He famously said to the Bailiff of Jersey Coutanche that he would hold out until “You and I are eating grass”.

He had no doubt that the garrison could hold out longer if the production of milk, butter, and cheese was kept up; and he was therefore against the slaughter of cattle to provide even the troops with a meat ration.

He proposed in the interests of the garrison that the civilian milk ration in Jersey should be converted from full to skimmed milk; but Coutanche5 successfully resisted this move. 

The German Occupation of the Channel Islands

When asked to explain the impact of the International Red Cross ship SS Vega delivering food during the last six months of the occupation he provides a very good explanation of how important it was.

Terrific. Terrific. It saved the island there’s no doubt about it.  The Red Cross saved the island and I’ve got it on my film.

You’ve got film at the war museum of the Vega arriving and I remember that that time writing a letter to the to the local press saying how grateful we must be to the to the Vega for coming in at that stage and saving literally saving the island. I suggested at that time that every time that the Vega came in or whatever Red Cross ship it was that came in that the island should give, the Islanders who got a parcel,  should give 10 pounds for every parcel.

They gave to the Red Cross and that would have given an enormous amount of money to the Red Cross people for literally coming and saving the lives of the islanders. I don’t know what they collected. I have no idea. 

He recalls that he tried to limit his interactions with the Germans but he like many Islanders had Germans billeted in his house. One day they told him to get out of the house as they were taking it over. Now normally they would have official papers for this but these two didn’t. He therefore took matters into his own hands to get one up on them!

I had two officers put into my house and they behaved reasonably well, I suppose. One morning they came to me and said you must get out we are taking your house over. Now. At that time we had a billeting officer I’m trying to think of his name now major.

Anyway, it was usual. If the Germans took over a house, they would present you with official documents. They were very keen on official documents. You probably know the Germans were and when they came to me and said you must get out of the house. They didn’t present me with any official documents and I said well this is being done by themselves. They’re not doing this officially.

So I rang up a great friend of mine who was in removal man, Mr. Gould and I told him what was happening and he said, ‘right I will be around first thing in the morning’ and he turned up with his truck and we took everything out of the house.

I had an Aga cooker. and I rang up Huelins who were then the agents and I told Huelins and they said ‘We’ll be around doctor”. They came and they dismantled my Aga took the whole thing out and they put it in, down in my surgery in New Street, the house which was vacant and had been occupied by Dr. Montague.

So I moved in there and when the Germans got back that night they found nothing in the house. I had a very irate telephone call from them saying ‘you were removed the cooker and the curtains and everything else’.  I said well, I understand you have a billeting officer Major Langer. If you get in touch with him, if he gives me orders to return things I will do so. I heard nothing more after that. I concluded they had done it off their own bat and I got away with it. 

New Street where he moved and where he had his surgery.The actual building may have been replaced by a more modern one. © Nick Le Huray

This type of behaviour by the Germans was not uncommon and there are many references to this behaviour.

We were surrounded by Germans and if they decided they wanted to they would come in and look around the house in case there was anything they wanted, because there were days when if they decided for example they wanted  blankets,  they would roll up to your house with a van, ring the bell and say right we are confiscating blankets and they’d strip your house of blankets.

Dorothy Hurrel-Langlois

When it comes to the impossibility of armed resistance he sums it up nicely. Although in respect of his thoughts on the Guernsey Underground News Service and Frank Falla I don’t agree with but that is his view point.

There’s no point in it actually and I mean, as I said, in France, you could blow a bridge up and be 50 miles away within an hour or two, but there really was no point. 

I think people did silly things in a way we had I think a fellow called Falla who ran an underground newsreader thing, which I think was really quite unnecessary because so many people had crystal sets and sets they’re listened into and he was eventually caught doing this and then he was sent away to Germany to one of the one of the camps.

But news got round and then of course, we had the RAF drop leaflets here. I got the whole lot of them and I think they’re now in possession of the Imperial War Museum. News got round fairly quickly you know. 

His views on propaganda produced is in line with all of the other sources that I have read. Very little impact.

When asked about collaboration he at first speaks about it but then says he doesn’t want to bring it up further.

Well, you’re bound to get a certain amount I think, personally, I think the amount of collaboration that went on in Guernsey was minimal. I know a lot of it has been made in this film they’ve had ‘The Swastika over the Channel Islands’, particularly in Jersey. I don’t think it’s done Jersey any good.

I can’t speak for Jersey. I know there were a number of babies, German babies born. It is more than likely I delivered some of them. But you’re bound to get that I mean what would it have been like?

Dammit look at the Americans in England. You’re bound to get that going on in an occupied territory. Look at France look at the whole of the occupied territories in Europe and compare them with the Channel Islands. This is bound to happen and I think to bring it up now is, I’ve no time for it, I’m sorry. 

When asked about the experience as a whole he provides an interesting and thought provoking explanation.

I don’t know I suppose. A period of experience I think. In wartime one has to put up with many things that one doesn’t want. 

My dear wife who’s now left me (she died before he was interviewed) was over in England with my three young children and I when I look back on it, she was bombed from here to there.

I think that apart from starvation, she’s probably had over a much worse time than I had. In wartime one’s got to put up with the certain things you’ve got to put up with and consider yourself lucky if you get through them. Fortunately, my wife and three children they got through them I got through it but that is war. 

His take on the behaviour on the Germans and the occupation as a whole is in my opinion a fair statement given the lack of the more extreme aspects of the occupied European countries.

Could have been a lot worse. They suffered at the end you know, they (the Germans) were starving in the end. 

Upon Liberation he used a Ciné-Kodak camera and colour film he had hidden to film the liberation which is above or you can watch the whole film here and the colour footage starts at 5:29.

After the war he continued to serve the Island for many years in a variety of roles. In particular he was instrumental in the development and extensions to the Hospital that still serves the Island today. You can read about this in his Obituary below.

A massive thank you to those that also pointed me in the direction of information for this blog.

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

© Nick Le Huray

Footnotes

  1. Obituary
  2. The Channel Islands at War: A German Perspective  – George Forty page 51
  3. Hurrell-Langlois, Dorothy Catherine (Oral history) IWM Archive reel 2
  4. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands – Dr Cruickshank
  5. https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/Lord_Coutanche
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