How World War II Shaped Guernsey


Interested in World War II history? Then read on to hear about the huge impact the war had on the Channel Islands, where it shaped the islands and their residents, leaving a lasting legacy both emotionally and literally.

On 28th June 1940 St Peter Port's harbour and tomato trucks were were targeted by Germans who'd mistaken them for a convoy of troop carriers. The air raid killed 33 islanders and injured a further 67. The German's were unaware of Guernsey's demilitarised status that had began on 19th June, when the British Government decided to effectively leave the Channel Islands undefended. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reluctant to lose control of the Crown's old possession but the islands offered no strategic benefit to Britain. Two days after the first air raid German troops arrived and the German flag was raised. As a result, a quarter of the island's population including around 4000 school children were evacuated to the UK.

It was one of the most significant and fascinating periods of Guernsey's history when it was under German Occupation for almost 5 years until May 1945. Troops went about heavily fortifying Guernsey, building new reinforced bunkers as well as adapting existing fortifications. Today there remains plenty of evidence of their stay with the headlands still punctuated with the bunkers and imposing fortifications, and plenty of museums which recreate those dark days.

Each year on the 9th May the residents of Guernsey celebrate Liberation Day, the anniversary of the Germans departing the island at the end of the war, and when evacuees and soldiers were reunited with their families. The occasion is celebrated with parades and fireworks.

Pleinmont

Dotted along Guernsey's West Coast you will find an array of bunkers and observation towers, gun-site emplacements have been restored and you can wander around Pleinmont Observation Tower which is a five-story tower which was used by German forces from 1942-1945 which has been restored with original rangefinders and has information boards throughout. It is £3 per person and open April to October on Wednesdays and Sundays from 2pm to 4pm. You can also squeeze into a tower which hasn't been restored, it is dank and dark, eerie and creepy. You climb the concrete stairs in near darkness before peeping out of the watch tower 'windows'.

Fort Doyle

In the North of the island you can visit Fort Doyle which was built in the early years of the 19th century. During World War II the occupying German forces heavily fortified the area with three coastal defence guns, anti-aircraft guns and mortars.

Fort Hommet

Fort Hommet is a fortification on the Vazon Bay headland, the fortifications date back to 1680, in 1942 the German forces constructed bunkers and casemates. The Germans loved their concrete, as it was a fast an easy method of construction, the harsh grey is in contrast to the other eras of construction where local stone has been used, walking around Fort Hommet you can visibly spot this.

Clarence Battery/ Cows Horn

Constructed in 1780, Clarence Battery was built as one of the original outer defences of Fort George, Guernsey’s major military headquarters in the late 1780s. It was the island’s principal fort during the French Revolution and home of the German Luftwaffe early warning system during World War IITwo. The battery had a guard room, gun pivots, ammunition lockers, shell stories and artillery stores. Some of it still remains, though some alterations were made by the Germans during the occupation. The Cows Horn as it kn