Jersey Islanders to Tell of Hardship of German Occupation

Liberation Day in Jersey. Photo: BBC

Liberation Day in Jersey. Photo: BBC

People in Normandy often forget that after the D-Day landings liberated the region the nearby Channel Islands were still occupied by the Germans but a radio programme is set to reveal how the inhabitants of Jersey coped.

Jersey was occupied by the Germans on 01 July 1940 and it was described by some historians as being like a dry run for what might actually happen across the country if Hitler was successful in his plans to invade the rest of Britain.

The islanders had been instructed to surrender as the UK government, led by Winston Churchill, had decided that Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark were of no strategic importance.

Military chiefs also pointed out that it would be very difficult to defend the islands so British troops were withdrawn and the inhabitants left to the mercy of the Germans.

The occupation years were hard and food was scarce. There was a group of Gestapo officers on Jersey, for example, and any signs of resistance were punished harshly by the occupying German troops who became even more desperate after D-Day as they felt stranded and forgotten.

The difficulties, both physical and psychological, faced over 70 years ago will be discussed on BBC Radio Four’s The Reunion programme to be broadcast on Sunday 08 September. A group of Jersey people will discuss the dilemmas they faced including how to live with the enemy but still stall loyal to Britain.

Those talking with presenter Sue MacGregor include Bob Le Sueur who was a young insurance clerk at the time and helped Russian prisoners hide from their German captors. Leo Harris, a teenager at the beginning of the war, will talk about how he carried out acts of Boys Own style resistance.

Also taking part will be some who endured terrible hardship, including Michael Ginns, who found himself in an internment camp in Bavaria, Hazel Lakeman who was also taken off the island and interned in terrible conditions and John Floyd, one of the few Jersey residents who actually managed to escape from the island.

Hitler ordered the conversion of Jersey into an impregnable fortress island and thousands of slave workers from countries like Spain, France, Poland, Russia, and Algeria arrived to build fortifications. They also added to the food shortage problems.

One of the greatest hardships for islanders was the lack of news from the mainland after the Germans had outlawed the use of crystal sets. A few individuals risked imprisonment by making their own sets and spreading the news from the front.

During the first week of May 1945 islanders had been hearing reports of Hitler’s fall in Berlin by way of their hidden radios and news that the war was ending in Europe. On 08 May the front page of the Jersey Evening Post carried news of the Allies’ victory in Europe and Jersey was liberated the next day.

The liberation is still commemorated every year on the island with a parade in Liberation Square in St Helier.

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About Ray Clancy

Ray Clancy has 20 years experience in journalism including contributing articles to print and on-line publications such as PropertyWire.com, Property World Middle East and websites for estate agents. She has also written for the Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

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