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Occupation of the Channel Islands by Germany, the Only De Jure Area of the Uk Occupied During WW II

MG Singh- early retired Airforce senior officer who is now a corporate advisor. He is also a global traveler and writer

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Introduction

The channel islands are a set of islands that are close to the French coast but part of the British Empire. The German occupation of the Channel Islands was a prelude to the attack on England i.e Operation Sea Lion. The fall of France inside 40 days brought a secret visit by Hitler to Paris. That is the time he formulated his plan for an invasion of England but before that, he wished to ensure that the Royal Air Force is completely decimated so that the Wehrmacht is not unduly held up.

The British government had already decided not to defend the islands as they were a mere 8 miles from the Normandy coast and were considered indefensible. After the fall of France in 1940, the British had removed almost 50% of the population including young children and adults to England. Germans were unaware that the islands were not defended and in June 1940, a squadron of bombers bombed the harbors of Guernsey and Jersey. This resulted in 44 men being killed.

When the war cabinet came to know about it in England, the BBC announced that the islands are not defended and were "ópen towns". Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of the islands and Operation Grünpfeil (Green Arrow) was launched. Two battalions were earmarked for this invasion. A reconnaissance pilot, Hauptmann Liebe-Pieteritz, was asked to make a test landing. He landed at Guernsey's deserted airfield on 30 June. He radioed to Luftflotte 3 that it was all clear and in another two hours more Luftwaffe airmen landed on the islands. By evening that day, the Luftwaffe had taken control of the islands much before the German army had come. The first shipborne German troops consisting of two anti-aircraft units, arrived in St. Peter Port on the captured freighter SS Holland on 14 July.

The German occupation lasted from 30 June 1940-9 May 1945. The Channel Islands were the only de jure part of the Uk to be occupied during the war

Initially, the Germans adopted a soft approach but as the years passed situation grew gradually worse leading to tension and near-starvation during the winter of 1944–45.


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German occupation

When the Germans occupied the islands the residents accepted the German rule and adjusted accordingly. The issue of islanders' collaboration with the Germans has been the subject of many books as well as a fictional TV program titled "Ïsland at war"(2004), This serial featured a romance between a German soldier and an island woman. It also favorably portrayed the German military commander.

However, author Charles Cruickshank in his writings has defended the island leaders and their government. He wrote that there was no choice and anybody not agreeing with the rulers was liable to be transported to a detention camp in France or worse to Poland. So they "simply kept their heads above water and done what they were told to do by the occupying power"

However, a sore point with the British is the conduct of the women and girls on the channel islands. There is no doubt that the women had intimate relations with the occupying forces. The majority of islands men were aghast at this but could not do anything. They ended up giving them a derogatory nick nameJerry-bags.

As per the MOD, a very high percentage of women from all classes had sexual relations with the enemy. The extent of this fraternization can be gauged from the fact that 800–900 children born during this period had German fathers. The breakdown is 176 out of wedlock in Jersey; and in Guernsey 259 out of wedlock. There is a disparity in figures but the fact remains that it was prevalent.

The German military authorities were alarmed and tried to stop it, mainly they were scared of STD and for that reason, they opened brothels on the islands with French prostitutes.

Slave labor

One aspect of occupation by the Germans was the import of slave labor. This labor was inducted to help build the Atlantic wall. The general staff was not interested in defending the islands but Hitler insisted on it and 10% of all concrete used for the Atlantic wall was poured into fortifications of the islands. The labor used for this purpose was basically Jews from France and Poles.

There were a few ethnic Jews on the islands who were rounded up in 1944 and sent to a concentration camp in Germany where they died. There is a memorial to these Jews on the island. Overall the islands did not face the harshness of the occupation like in the eastern lands as the Germans adopted a soft approach. The reason probably could be that ultimately they would conquer England and they did not want unnecessary hardening of the England population attitude towards them.



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Liberation and aftermath

The liberation of the Channel Islands was extremely low in the priority of the GHQ. The only instance was in 1943 when Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten proposed Operation Constellation but it was never carried out. Freedom came to the Channel Islands only after the surrender of Germany. Even when France was liberated after D- Day, no attempt was made to free the islands from German and rule. The Allied supreme command decided not to assault the islands because of the heavy fortifications by the Germans. They also felt it was not worth the effort. They however enforced a blockade and food became extremely scarce. The residents and the Germans were reduced to eating weeds and whatever is available on the islands. Winston Churchill refused to send any supplies as he wished to starve the German garrison to surrender. He did not realize that this blockade would affect the residents also. Subsequently to ameliorate the condition the Red Cross would drop a few food packets during 1945.

The German garrison was the first to inform the Islanders when on 8 May 1945 at 10 AM they were told that the war is over. Prime Minister Churchill subsequently made a radio broadcast at 15:00 hours.

The Liberation forces arrived in the islands on 12 May 1945. By a Royal Proclamation, Brigadier Alfred Snow took over as the military governor in Guernsey and Jersey. The plan of the British was to avoid disruption to the maximum extent and hence the Reich Mark was continued to be used till it could be exchanged for the pound sterling.

There were 275 German troops on the island and by 17 May they were transferred as prisoners of war to England. On 7 June the King and Queen visited Jersey and Guernsey to welcome the islands back to Crown. The only problem was women who had fraternized with German soldiers. Many of the women had mothered children from Germans and to prevent revenge attacks from some of the men, the British forces intervened in their defense. However, within a few weeks, this animosity died down.

The home office carried out an investigation of any collaborators with the German regime and came up with 12 names but they were not prosecuted for lack of evidence. Obviously, the women who had fraternized with the Germans were not prosecuted. Thus ends the saga of a small group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean that invite-only a footnote in World War II history.



Comments

tom on October 10, 2020:

tv series isaland at war is based on channel island occupation

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 07, 2020:

Tom, nice of you to have pointed out this information

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 07, 2020:

Pamela, it's always a pleasure to read your comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 07, 2020:

Devika, Nice of you to have commented.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 07, 2020:

That is how England's survived any invasion from Europe for last 1000 years.

tom on October 06, 2020:

double agent edward hapman was imprisoned in channel islands,a robber he volunteered to spy for germans,reaching england he ,told everything to british,he sent useless information to germans,movie triple cross 1966 is based on his story

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 06, 2020:

I didn't know of the German occupation of these islands. This article is very informative. Thanks for another bit of history, MG.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 06, 2020:

MG Singh emge This is an enlightening hub on an interesting insight on an historical topic.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 06, 2020:

Edward 8th abdicated for his love Mrs Simpson, later he regretted it and wanted to be king. So there was a chance that he could team up with Hitler but Churchill sent him to Bahamas-far away in the Caribbean. Hitler foolishly fortified the channel islands and Ike bypassed them. Even when France was liberated the Islands remained under the control of Germany until Germany surrendered.

tom on October 06, 2020:

best defence of england english channel

tom on October 05, 2020:

worlds best anti tank ditch english channel saved england ,royal navy and royal airforce guarded it,if there wasa land border panzers would have over run england in few weeks,pro nazi duke of windosr,former edward 8th would be puppet king

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 05, 2020:

Thank you Sankhajit for your comment

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on October 05, 2020:

quite interesting...