Jersey - The Occupation
The Second World War 1939-45
Lying just off the coast of northern France, the Channel Islands are a unique part of the British Isles with a long history spanning many centuries. The largest of the islands is Jersey, covering just 45 square miles, and together with the neighbouring islands they were seized by German forces in July 1940. Over the next five years the islands were under Nazi rule and for the area they covered, had more troops deployed to guard them than any other territory under German occupation.
Over the following months the civilian population watched as more troops arrived by sea and took control of facilities such as the airport and harbours. Cut off from the outside world Hitler was determined they should never be retaken by the British and ordered the islands turned into powerful fortresses with massive anti-tank walls, bunkers and tunnels absorbing thousands of tons of concrete and steel. Minefields were laid and artillery positions built to encircle each island and more weapons were shipped in to make the islands ever-more powerful.
The Occupation took a different course from other European countries, although martial law imposed a curfew and civilian movement was restricted to certain areas. Gradually more strict laws were imposed and those citizens not born on the islands were deported to camps in Europe and the small Jewish community was also sent to Concentration Camps. Many died in these unique transportation plans, resistance was futile, apart from passive demonstrations and any act of insubordination brought severe repercussions including deportation. Along with other occupied territories the islands were expected to contribute to the occupying powers and pay for their own administration.
Each of the main islands were transformed into heavily defended fortresses, first by the Organisation Todt, the German Army's construction unit, and later forced labour using Russian prisoners brought to the islands. Each island developed its own defensive system according to size and terrain, which was out of all proportion to their military importance. On Jersey, for example, tunnels, such as the Hohlgansanlage 8 in Lawrence, were dug using slave labour to create a series of galleries measuring more than half-a-mile. Originally begun as a storage facility the tunnels were turned into an underground hospital with the capacity for 500 beds to deal with the wounded following D-Day.
This tour to Jersey will take you to visit some of the best preserved sites with access in the company of your guide, who will explain the intricacies of the weapons, defence plans and the commando raids conducted against the island by British troops.