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  • Jersey Occupation
  • Occupation Tapestry
  • Jersey War Tunnels

Jersey Occupation

1940 – 1945 saw 5 years of Occupation in the Channel Islands by Hitler’s German forces. The effects of World War II can be seen across all the islands with fortifications, bunkers and underground tunnels dotted across and within the landscape. When visiting Jersey, it is well worth taking a look at some of the landmarks and finding out just what happened during the Jersey occupation.

Demilitarisation and evacuation

In March 1940, restrictions were lifted on travel to and from the mainland. The Channel Islands were seen as an important tourism centre and a boost to morale for British citizens. On 11 June, 26 Whitley bombers flew from Jersey and Guernsey to Italy to assist the British war effort in the battle of France. By 15 June, France had been lost to Germany and Sir Winston Churchill took the decision to demilitarise the Channel Islands, unbeknown to Hitler. On 16 – 18 June, Jersey Yacht Club assisted in the evacuation of British troops from St Malo but there were no plans to evacuate the islanders. Opinion was divided between the various island governors and in the confusion, each island made its own decision. Alderney evacuated everyone whereas the Dame of Sark instructed her inhabitants to stay. Guernsey began preparations to evacuate its children, giving parents the option to stay or go with them. With time running out, the majority of Jersey islanders chose to stay with just 6,600 leaving out of the 50,000 population.

Liberation Day car

german-underground-hospital

Liberation Day soldiers

Occupation

Unaware the islands were demilitarised, Hitler bombed Jersey and Guernsey on 28 June 1940. Taking possession of a Guernsey airfield, German troops began arriving and by 1 July, Jersey had surrendered. Occupying the islands was a boost for German propaganda and formed part of Hitler’s defence plans for an Atlantic Wall.

The Jersey occupation trail

To really get a feel for what life was like in Jersey under the Occupation, there are a range of excellent museums and resources. Many first hand observations have been preserved and recorded.

  • St Lawrence – Jersey War Tunnels and German Underground Hospital
  • St Ouen – Channel Islands Military Museum
  • St Helier – Occupation Tapestry – award winning tapestry at the Maritime Museum
  • Plemont Bay – searchlight shelter and reinforced field
  • St Aubin’s Bay – Elizabeth Castle fortifications
  • Grosnez – Rouge Nez MP3 Artillery Direction and range finding tower
  • St Ouen – coastal gun casement
  • St Brelade – La Corbiere strongpoint
  • St Martin – Mont Orgueil Castle Observation Towers and Gorey Harbour’s Bunker House
  • St Helier – Liberation Square monument

Jersey War Tunnels

Liberation Day dancing

Liberation Day Parade

Liberation

On 8 May 1945, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, made his famous speech to mark the end of the war. Within it were the words:

“and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.”

However, people in Jersey only officially realised the war was over when they saw HMS Beagle sail into St Aubin’s Harbour on 9 May. Today ‘Liberation day’ is marked with a public holiday for Jersey and Guernsey on 9 May, Sark on 10 May and Alderney on 16 May.

Learn more about the Occupation of Jersey

If you plan to visit during May, then make your way to St Helier for Liberation Day celebrations on 9 May. A commemorative ceremony in Liberation Square in St Helier starts with a parade and service of thanksgiving, followed by the re-enacting of raising a union flag and removing the swastikas from the Pomme d’Or Hotel and Fort Regent. An afternoon of street party style entertainment with a 1940’s theme continues the celebrations at Weighbridge Square.

Also on Liberation Day watch out for the Jersey Old Motor Club parade of vintage vehicles complete with occupants often dressed in 1940’s style along The Esplanade in St Helier.

Throughout the summer months, Jersey Blue badge Guide tours take place around the island with various themes such as ‘Living with the Enemy,’ ‘Occupation to Liberation’ and ‘Behind Enemy Lines.’ More details can be found on our walking pages.

Browse our News & Events section for more information on dates for Occupation and Liberation events during the year. Should you then wish to come and find out more about the fascinating war history of Jersey or join the celebrations, accommodation and travel can be booked online.