I is for… the Invasion of the Channel Islands

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German troops during the Second World War. The stories of victims and survivors of German occupation and Nazi persecution are largely omitted from British narratives on the Second World War, as this does not fit with the ‘standing alone’ connotations that many historians like to invoke. On 19 June 1940, the islands were demilitarised and anyone who wish to be evacuated had to add their name to a register.[1] However the evacuations were both poorly planned and executed, leading to many civilians still on the islands when the German troops arrived. By 30 June, German forces had landed in Guernsey, with more troops landing in Jersey the following day.

German military band marching past Lloyds Bank on The Pollet, St Peter Port at Guernsey

The British government considered the Channel Islands to be of little strategic importance and were thus disinclined to spend money on defence for the islands. So, when the German troops landed there was no organised resistance against them, only acts by individuals.[2] Civilians “carried out symbolic, silent or clandestine acts of resistance” however, if and when they were caught, they were subjected to inhumane treatment in the Nazi prisons and camps.[3]

During the occupation of the islands several changes occurred for the civilian inhabitants. For example, a nightly curfew was imposed, and the press was censored.[4] Hundreds of islanders were arrested, imprisoned, and even deported as enemies of the Third Reich.[5] The islands also became heavily fortified, built by foreign workers, under the watchful eye of the Organisation Todt (a German civil military engineering group).[6] Many workers were worked to death constructing the fortification. The islanders suffered from acute food shortages across the war years, although the conditions became dire by late 1944.[7] Despite this, only a few people tried to escape to Britain.

Two women islanders and their children collecting Red Cross parcels from Le Riche’s shop in St Peter Port, Guernsey

It was only in 1944, and the D-Day landings that the beginning of the end of the German occupation of the Channel Islands occurred.[8] However, it was not until nearly a year later that the islands were officially liberated.[9] On 9 May 105, the HMS Bulldog arrived in a port in Guernsey, and a declaration of unconditional surrender was signed the following day.[10]

The Islands’ authorities perceived the resisters actions as ‘criminal’ and foolish’ for decades after the German occupation ended.[11] It wasn’t until 1996 that the first memorial for the Jersey civilians who died under the German occupation was unveiled, and it took another 20 years for Guernsey to honour its own resisters.[12]


[1] Imperial War Museum (IWM), “How the Germans occupied part of the British Isles in the Second World War,” last accessed 10 July 2021, https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-the-germans-occupied-part-of-the-british-isles-in-the-second-world-war

[2] IWM, “How the Germans occupied part of the British Isles in the Second World War,” last accessed 10 July 2021, https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-the-germans-occupied-part-of-the-british-isles-in-the-second-world-war

[3] University of Cambridge, Emma Shaw & Gilly Carr, “The Channel Islands; victims and survivors of Nazi Persecution’ last accessed 10 July 2021, https://www.cam.ac.uk/channelislandsvictims

[4] IWM, “How the Germans occupied part of the British Isles in the Second World War,” last accessed 10 July 2021, https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-the-germans-occupied-part-of-the-british-isles-in-the-second-world-war

[5] University of Cambridge, Emma Shaw & Gilly Carr, “The Channel Islands; victims and survivors of Nazi Persecution’ last accessed 10 July 2021, https://www.cam.ac.uk/channelislandsvictims

[6] IWM, “How the Germans occupied part of the British Isles in the Second World War,” last accessed 10 July 2021, https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-the-germans-occupied-part-of-the-british-isles-in-the-second-world-war

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] University of Cambridge, Emma Shaw & Gilly Carr, “The Channel Islands; victims and survivors of Nazi Persecution’ last accessed 10 July 2021, https://www.cam.ac.uk/channelislandsvictims

[12] Ibid

[Image 1] IWM, “The Occupation and Liberation of the Channel Islands, 1940 – 1945,” HU 2596610, https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205088496

[Image 2] IWM, “The Occupation and Liberation of the Channel Islands, 1940 – 1945,” HU 25920, https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205088504


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