Islands at War – Guernsey, Jersey & Sark
Islands at War – occupied by the Germans between 1940 and 1945, the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to have been seized by the Nazi regime.
Following the fall of France in June 1940, the British government withdrew from the islands, their exposed position in the bay of Saint-Malo having rendered them strategically untenable. On 19 June 1940, the islands were demilitarised, and it was announced that those who wanted to be evacuated should register forthwith.
German forces landed in Guernsey on 30 June 1940 and in Jersey the next day. There was no organised resistance movement against German forces – only acts by individuals or small groups. The occupying forces enforced a number of restrictions such as a nightly curfew and censorship of the press.
During the occupation the islands were heavily fortified as part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’. Construction was overseen by the German Forces and the Organisation Todt – a paramilitary engineering outfit. Forced labourers were imported to build the fortifications. This included Spanish Republican refugees from France who had been surrendered by the Vichy government, and people rounded up in Eastern Europe who were treated as work-slaves.
The islands were finally liberated on 9 May 1945, the day after VE Day. HMS Beagle and HMS Bulldog arrived in Jersey and Guernsey respectively, with on board British officers who finalised the unconditional surrender of German forces in the islands.
2020 will be the 75th anniversary of Jersey’s Liberation following Occupation during WW2. Jersey will mark this milestone by identifying and telling compelling stories to ensure Jersey’s Liberation legacy lives on. As well as the stories of hardship and suffering, Jersey will curate stories to bring the brave spirit of Jersey and its people to life. Events and experiences will be organised throughout the year to celebrate this anniversary. The island will reveal modern execution methods, interactive installations and media to ensure the content resonates with all, but also creates a product story and engagement piece for all generations that can remain as an accessible legacy for the island.
This tour visits the three largest islands exploring a fascinating and little understood episode of Britain’s WWII history.
We also have a ready made Channel Islands Explorer tour visiting both islands – Take a look
We are also specialists in bespoke tailor made tours to the Channel Islands – let us know what you are looking for and we will be pleased to quote, whatever your requirements – please call us.
2019 & 2020 dates available on request
Travel to Jersey
Arrive at Jersey Airport, where you will be met by a driver and guide who will welcome you to the Island and arrange a private transfer to your selected hotel.
If your arrival is in the morning, we will be pleased to suggest a programme for the afternoon, or you may just choose to relax and settle into your hotel.
Rest of the afternoon/evening will be at your leisure.
Jersey under Occupation
Take breakfast in your hotel, and meet with your driver and tour guide, for a full day tour.
The German Occupation changed Jersey forever. Loss of freedom, hardship and millions of tons of concrete and steel! A more general tour covering the impact of the Occupation upon Jersey’s residents as well as the Island itself. Few people who have only known freedom will understand how occupation changes human behaviour – sometimes for the better but often for the worst.
This tour circles the Island and therefore includes most of Jersey’s best scenery. Visit to Channel Islands Military Museum (which is in a former bunker) will be included if open.
The Channel Islands Military Museum is housed in a German bunker which once formed part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defences. Sitting right on the sea wall the bunker dominates the surrounding area. Within the bunker itself are many rooms full of artefacts, both military and civilian which help tell the story of the five years of occupation. There are hundreds of interesting pieces to look at as well as lots of reading material, there is also a 40-minute commentary of locals recounting experiences of the time.
Jersey War Tunnels and transfer to Guernsey
Breakfast in the hotel. Check out and leave your luggage with the concierge.
Climb on board a 1950’s vintage open top bus or similar transport, and breathe in Jersey’s south coast views as you head up to the Jersey War Tunnels.
Built by the Germans using forced and conscripted labour, the Jersey War Tunnels house an immersive exhibition within an underground tunnel complex. Discover the hardship, the heartache and the heroism, in the words of the people who were there. Visitors can enjoy the war trail, garden of reflection alongside a visitor centre, gift shop and the new Vega café.
The café has been refurbished with its new décor, furnishings and general atmosphere to deliver a truly authentic 1940’s experience, run by retired islanders. You might meet 81-year old Jean McLaughlin, who is extremely knowledgeable about island life during the war, being the founder of the Jersey Evacuees Association!
We can also arrange a visit to the War Tunnels with your own private car and guide if you prefer.
Return to your hotel lunchtime / early afternoon.
There will be a transfer to the port a short distance from the hotel, where you will board the Condor Lines ferry for the 1 hour crossing to Guernsey. Reserved seats are included, and on board you will find a cafe and duty free shop.
On arrival there will be a private transfer to your selected hotel, with the rest of the evening at your leisure.
Please note that the times of the ferry from Jersey to Guernsey do vary depending on day of week / month – but are usually in the afternoon.
Guernsey – Full day Occupation tour
After breakfast in the hotel, meet with your driver/guide for a full day exploring the Island.
Near Guernsey Airport lies the German Occupation Museum, which provides great insight into everyday life during the occupation, complete with a recreation of an occupation-era street. It is also home to a number of Second World War vehicles and fortifications.
La Villette Underground Military Museum is found at the southern end of St Peter Port, set in a series of tunnels used for U-Boat fuel storage during the occupation. As well as memorabilia and exhibits from the occupation era, the museum also houses fascinating items from the First World War. Almost on Guernsey’s west coast is overlooked by an imposing fortification either built or improved by the occupying forces. Many are preserved by local volunteer group Festung Guernsey, and are available to explore for yourself.
Return to your hotel.
Sark with Two-Hour Carriage Ride
Breakfast in the hotel, and check out.
We would suggest taking an overnight bag with you and leaving your main luggage with the concierge, ready for your return the next day.
There will be a transfer from your hotel to the ferry terminal, for the 45 minute crossing to the island of Sark.
A trip to Sark is a must for anyone visiting Guernsey. The island’s natural beauty is its best asset and from its Jurassic cliffs to its secluded bays and unparalleled views, there is a lot to see. There are no cars on Sark, so the best way to see the island is by horse and carriage on a two-hour tour of the island (which is included), whilst in the meantime your luggage will be taken directly to the hotel (if you are booking the overnight package).
At the end of the carriage ride, there will be chance to take lunch in Stocks Hotel.
At leisure this afternoon to relax in the grounds of your hotel, if the weather is nice there is a delightful outdoor pool, or simply explore on foot.
Dinner will be served in the hotel this evening – and you can then experience this “Dark Sky Island” – the first in the world.
Sark under Occupation and the Dame of Sark
Breakfast in the hotel, then meet with your local guide to learn more about life on the Island.
In May 1940, with the fall of France imminent, the British Government suggested that there should be an evacuation of all who wished to leave.
Sibyl Hathaway, as Dame of Sark, had declared to a public meeting that she and her husband, Robert Hathaway, an American citizen and legally the co-ruler, would be staying on Sark and that she did not think the Germans would bother the Island and even if they did, would not stay long and as the Islands would provide enough food, there was no need to leave. This persuaded many people to stay, including most local born people.
The Guernsey lifeboat arrived on 3 July carrying three German officers. Major Doctor Albrecht Lanz, the commandant of Guernsey, was accompanied by Major Maass, who could speak English. They were told by the Seneschal that no carriage was available and they had to walk up the 300 feet (91 m) hill and across the Island to La Seigneurie, the home of Sibyl Hathaway, where she did them the honour of receiving them.
By playing on the etiquette of the old school German officers, she would manage throughout the war to control meetings, expecting the officers to bow to her and kiss her hand, this was to be an advantage for the islanders. Sibyl Hathaway had worked in Germany and spoke German well, so could converse clearly with them. Also arriving on the lifeboat was a squad of 10 German troops under an NCO who established themselves, with a flag, in the Hotel Bel Air at the top of Harbour Hill.
One of her early victories was to get agreement for a German doctor to be based in Sark who would treat the locals as well as the soldiers that would be based on the Island.
There may be the opportunity during your stay for us to arrange for you to meet Christopher Beaumont, the 23rd Seigneur of Sark and his wife, and take a tour of the Seigneurie. Christopher is the Grandson of Sybil Hathaway, and will show you some of the rooms in this grand house during the tour, including the drawing room where his grandmother first “welcomed” the Germans onto the Island.
You can also visit the delightful garden attached to the house.
You will then return to the harbour for the boat journey back to Guernsey, and on arrival a car will be waiting to take you back to your hotel.
St Peter Port Walking Tour and optional visit to Castle Cornet
Meet with your guide at the hotel, and there will be a walking tour of St Peter Port, where you will learn more about life in the town during the War years. There is also an optional visit to this 800 year old castle standing at the mouth of the harbour. Explore five museums and four period gardens and the firing of the noon-day gun by scarlet clad gunners.
Just a short walk from the town centre, the Castle not only offers a fascinating insight into hundreds of years of island history – but spectacular panoramic views back towards St Peter Port and out across the sister islands.
The story of the Castle and other aspects of Guernsey’s past can be found in the five museums housed within the Castle. These comprise of The Story of Castle Cornet, 201 Squadron (RAF) Museum, Maritime Museum, Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum and Royal Guernsey Militia Museum.
There are four historic gardens within the castle walls, lovingly tended by the castle Keepers who keep them free from weeds, dead-headed and watered daily. The keepers have also recently transformed many areas of the castle not acknowledged as formal gardens but which serve to make the castle a interesting horticultural experience.
The Governor’s Garden follows the layout of the Bastide plan quite closely and is planted up in the formal 17th century style of a knot garden.
The Sutler’s kept a kitchen garden, growing herbs, vegetables and fruit and an adjacent area called a ‘plaisance’. Planted with roses and passion flower and hollyhocks and with a camomile lawn for the enjoyment of the officers who resided in the castle.
Lambert’s Garden is laid out following 17th century patterns and is situated near the building where General Sir John Lambert had been imprisoned in 1660 for his part in the English Civil War. The garden has been planted with the same varieties of herbs and flowers he would have used to make medicinal remedies to treat the ailments of the soldiers within the castle.
The fourth formal garden in the castle – the Master Gunner’s Garden – is laid out in a 19th century domestic pattern. The area is east-facing and subject to the harsh and salty seas that would have made growing difficult. The raised bed most likely would have kept some caged animals, perhaps goats kept for their milk and rabbits to eat.
The rest of your day will be at leisure on Guernsey. If you fancy some independent exploration, there is an excellent network of local buses – all departing from the Town terminal by the harbour in St Peter Port, and with a fare of £1 for any journey of any distance, you can make the most of your time.
Depart Guernsey or extend your stay
You may have some free time for some last minute purchases, before the transfer to the Airport.
Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay on Guernsey.
Please contact us for details of how to extend your stay.
We have a good selection of 4 and 5 star hotels on Jersey and Guernsey – centrally located and in the countryside, and work with the Stocks Hotel on the Island of Sark.
Our prices are based on bed & breakfast in the hotel, leaving you the chance to eat out at some fabulous restaurants. It may also be possible for us to prebook dinner in the hotel – details and prices on request. In Sark, we will make your booking to include dinner in the hotel.
This tour is available for Individual Travellers & Groups – All itineraries are flexible, and can be tailored to your own requirements, including duration, length of stay on each Island, and inclusions on each Island.
When booking as an individual, airport and port transfers will usually be by private car or taxi.
Excursions and tours can be either with your own private driver and guide, or alternatively the option to join with other travellers in a regular scheduled tour by coach. Please be aware that if you are travelling as an individual (less than 10 persons) then this tour will usually be unescorted.
If you are booking as a group – minimum 10 persons, a coach or mini coach will be provided for exclusive use of the group.
Our prices are based on bed & breakfast in the hotel allowing you the flexibility to eat as you wish and experience the great cuisine the Islands offer. Dinner in the hotels can be arranged and supplements will be quoted on request.