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Free Nights

All the free nights advertised throughout this website have to be completed within the date bands shown.

  • Fort Hommet gun placement, Guernsey
  • Guernsey Liberation Day celebrations
  • La Valette Museum, Guernsey

The Guernsey Occupation

When visiting Guernsey you can’t fail to notice the beautiful landscape is dotted with military bunkers and fortifications. The Channel Islands were an important strategic acquisition long before World War II and many of the buildings in Guernsey stem from Napoleons’s era but were adapted and added to by Hitlers German army. Nowadays you can visit plenty of exhibitions and learn about the events that left the islanders living under Nazi Occupation for five years. Here we take a quick look at what happened and mention some of the places you can visit.

The bombing of St Peter Port

On 28 June 1940, St Peter Port Harbour in Guernsey along with St Helier in Jersey were bombed by the Luftwaffe, killing 33 islanders and injuring twice that number. Mistaking trucks of tomatoes lined up for export for lorries carrying troops, the bombers were also unaware the islands had been de-militarised, a fatal mistake by the British Government. When visiting Guernsey you can’t fail to notice the war bunkers and fortifications dotted around the landscape. The impact the five year Guernsey Occupation had on its residents is evident today and Liberation Day is celebrated as a public holiday. So just how did these peaceful islands become the only British land occupied by Germans during the Second World War?

Open access, the Channel Islands lie undefended

By March 1940, the Channel Islands were being promoted to British citizens as a morale boosting tourism destination. The islands were not without their war effort though and by 11 June, 36 Whitley bombers took to the skies from Guernsey and Jersey in an effort to help regain France. When France was lost, Churchill took the decision to concentrate troops on the mainland and declared the islands would be undefended. His mistake was in not informing Hitler who seeing them as a strategic part of his Atlantic Wall defences, moved his troops in on 30 June 1940.

Evacuation on different scales

In the chaos of mixed messages leading up to the invasion, each island had taken its own decision as to whether evacuation was necessary. Having suffered casualties already, Guernsey authorities concentrated on evacuating children, giving parents 4 hours to decide if they would take the option to go with them. With time running out, half the population of Guernsey managed to leave. On Sark, the Dame of Sark, Sybil Hathaway, famously took another stance, ordering residents to stay and greeting German troops as if they were visitors (she even made them sign an official visitor book!). The entire population of Alderney evacuated, leaving the island open to the most concentrated Occupation. Herm was very little affected by the proceedings and save for a military bunker and a propaganda video made by German troops on its beaches, suffered the least during this time. In Jersey, the majority of islanders stayed.

Life in Guernsey under Occupation

After the bombing of its main harbour, German troops began to arrive on 30 June. By 1 July, the German flag was raised and Nazi rule began. Nazi laws, currency and a German time zone were introduced and Guernsey residents watched as their beautiful island became heavily fortified. To learn more about day to day life in Guernsey under Occupation, visit the islands museums and attractions, where first hand accounts and daily life under occupation have been bought to life. Guernsey also has a special interest group, Festung Guernsey, who have restored many of the bunkers and wartime fortifications which are now open for visitors.

Liberation Day in Guernsey

If you plan to visit the islands in May, then join in with the Liberation Day celebrations. After VE Day on 8 May, Jersey and Guernsey were liberated on 9 May, Sark on 10 May with Alderney finally surrendered on 16 May. Every year 1940’s themed parades, services, music and an evening of fireworks take place on the sea front at St Peter Port in Guernsey.

Visit Guernsey and find out more

Throughout the year, Guernsey’s war bunkers and fortifications can be seen. Between April and October many of them, having been restored, are open for visitors to explore, as are the museums. Browse our accommodation section and book online to find out more about Guernsey’s fascinating history.

Visit:

  • St Jacques Naval Headquarters
    Open April – October, 2pm – 4:30pm
    German Naval Commander radio transmissions took place at the neighbouring La Collinette Hotel and La Porte Hotel in 1942 before moving to this bunker in the grounds.
  • German Occupation Museum:
    Open 10am – 5pm, April – October
    10am – 1pm, November – March (except Mondays)
  • Fort Hommet, Vazon Bay
    Open April – October
    Tuesdays and Saturdays 2pm – 5pm
  • Pleinmont MP3 Tower and Dollman Batterie
    Open April – October
    Wednesdays and Sundays 2pm – 5pm
    Restored WWII German Gun Battery
  • German Underground Hospital, St Andrews
    Different opening times during the year
  • Castle Cornet, St Peter Port
    Open March – October, 10am – 5pm
  • La Valette Military Museum, St Peter Port
    Open April – October, 10am – 5pm

Take a look at our “News & Events” section for Occupation and War related events and festivals.