About the Society
Welcome to the official website of the Channel Islands Occupation Society (Jersey)
We are a non-political, voluntary organisation, dedicated to the preservation and recordal of all aspects of the German Occupation of Jersey during the Second World War.
The Society has now restored several fortification sites, which may be visited by the public at advertised times. This is a remarkable achievement, especially when it is considered that, a few decades ago, German fortifications were still viewed as "scars on the landscape", and that very few, if any, of the present-day European organisations dedicated to this kind of activity even existed.
About The Occupation
During World War Two the Channel Islands (comprising, principally, the islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm) were the only part of the British Isles ever to fall into enemy hands, being occupied by the German forces for five long years. The experience of the Occupation period provides a fascinating insight into the way in which things might have been had the Germans been equally successful in their invasion of mainland England. The civilian population was staunchly patriotic and determined to defy the Germans at every opportunity, but the islands' severely restricted land area, coupled with vast numbers of enemy troops, meant that organised resistance was futile.
The two Island Governments, - the States of Jersey, and the States of Guernsey - were permitted to remain. However, they had only limited power, and devoted their energies and meagre resources to diluting some of the harsher military orders and looking after the islanders' general welfare; newspapers were censored, a curfew was imposed, and much of the coastline was put out of bounds by the creation of military zones.
Later in the Occupation, severe punishments were meted out on those who listened to the BBC on clandestine radios, or who were caught engaging in other acts of patriotism, such as attempting to escape to England, hiding escaped Russian forced labourers, disseminating Allied propaganda, defacing road signs or sabotaging German equipment.
During the Occupation the Germans fortified the Islands out of all proportion to their strategic value, in order to fulfil Hitler's personal directive that they be turned into "impregnable fortresses". Hitler was obsessed with the idea that the Allies would try to regain the islands at any price, and issued "Construction Orders" that resulted in over 20% of the material that went into the so-called 'Atlantic Wall' – a line of massive defence works which stretched from the Baltic to the Spanish frontier – being committed to the Channel Islands.
Hundreds of concrete, reinforced bunkers and gun emplacements, anti-tank walls and tunnels were constructed during a two-year period up to September, 1943, but for an invasion which never came.
After the fall of northern France in August 1944, the Islands were cut off from their supply routes with the nearby Cotentin (Cherbourg) Peninsula, and by-passed, as the Allies swept on towards Germany.
For over eight months, the local population and the 28,000-strong German garrison suffered increasing hardship, as food, heat and clothing ran out, and disease and starvation set in.
On 8th May 1945, came the announcement of the surrender of Germany, and in his famous speech (which the Germans permitted to be broadcast to the population), Winston Churchill promised that "our dear Channel Islands" would also be freed.
The end finally came on the following day, on 9th May, when an Allied task force, headed by HMS Bulldog, arrived off St. Peter Port in Guernsey, to take the surrender of the overall Kommandant of the Channel Islands, Vice-Admiral Hüffmeier, before sending a detachment to Jersey under HMS Beagle to accept the separate surrender of the land forces there.
In the months that followed, the Royal Engineers were charged with disposing of the German ordnance, and generally making the islands safe again.
It was a huge task, as there were not only hundreds of artillery and light field pieces, machine-guns, flame-throwers and rifles, but also over 20,000 tons of ammunition and 68,000 mines, not to mention mile upon mile of barbed wire to remove. The ammunition and other explosive ordnance, together with the more transportable weapons, were consigned to a watery grave at "Hurd Deep" off Alderney. The larger, anti-shipping artillery weapons, which were mounted on open platforms, were moved by road to their disposal point. In Jersey, this involved towing the weapons to the 200 ft. cliffs at Les Landes, and shunting them over the edge. Some have since been retrieved from the rocks below, and may be seen on display at the Society's fortification sites at Noirmont Point and Les Landes.
Other weapons, usually in the form of beach defence guns, remained in situ in casemate bunkers until the early 1950s, when they were cut up for scrap. At the same time, other steel fixtures and fittings in the form of steel doors, pipe work, cupolas and armoured shields were removed. After being stripped of practically anything of value, the bunkers were sealed by the Island authorities, and largely forgotten, until 1977 when the Channel Islands Occupation Society embarked on an ambitious preservation programme.