Jersey under German Occupation
From July 1, 1940 to May 8, 1945, the Germans occupied the Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey. The two British Crown dependencies in the English Channel, close to the coast of Normandy were the only occupied part of the British Isles by the Germans during the war.
The Germans, anticipating a swift victory over Britain, experimented by using a very gentle approach that set the theme for the next five years. The island authorities adopted a similar attitude, giving rise to accusations of collaboration. However, as time progressed the situation grew gradually worse, ending in near starvation for both occupied and occupiers during the winter of 1944–45.
After the Allied defeat in France, the British government decided on June 15, 1940 that the Channel Islands were of no strategic importance and will not be defended. However, this information was withheld to the Germans.
Despite the aversion of Winston Churchill, the British government gave up the oldest possession of the English Crown without firing a single shot. The Channel Islands served the Germans only for propaganda value of having occupied British territory. The "Channel Islands had been demilitarised and declared “an open town".
The Germans did not realise that the islands had been demilitarised (news of the demilitarisation had been suppressed until 30 June 1940), and they approached with extreme caution. Recon flights were inconclusive. On 28 June 1940, the German Luftwaffe sent a squadron of bombers over the islands and bombed the harbours of Guernsey and Jersey. A similar attack occurred in Jersey where nine died. In total, 44 islanders were killed in the raids. The BBC broadcast a belated message that the islands had been declared "open towns" and later in the day reported the German bombing of the islands.
While the Wehrmacht was preparing Operation Grünpfeil (Green Arrow), the planned invasion of the islands with assault troops comprising two battalions, a reconnaissance pilot, Hauptmann Liebe-Pieteritz, made a test landing at Guernsey's deserted airfield on 30 June to test the level of defence. He reported his experience to Luftflotte 3 which came to the decision that the islands were not defended. A platoon of Luftwaffe soldiers was flown to Guernsey that evening. Inspector Sculpher of the Guernsey police went to the airport carrying a letter signed by the bailiff stating that "This Island has been declared an Open Island by His Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom. There are no armed forces of any description. The bearer has been instructed to hand this communication to you. He does not understand the German language." He found that the airport had been taken over by the Luftwaffe. The senior German officer, Major Albrecht Lanz, asked to be taken to the island's chief man. They went by police car to the Royal Hotel where they were joined by the bailiff, the president of the controlling committee, and other officials. Lanz announced through an interpreter that Guernsey was now under German occupation. In this way the Luftwaffe pre-empted the Wehrmacht's invasion plans. Jersey surrendered on 1 July. Alderney, where only a handful of islanders remained, was occupied on 2 July and a small detachment travelled from Guernsey to Sark, which surrendered on 4 July. 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, 1940
The German defense positions on Jersey
The Channel Islands were the most heavily fortified part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. Hitler poured resources into the islands fortification that far outweighed their real strategic value, and ordered that they be turned into impregnable fortresses. However, they were undeniably some important tactical advantages to hold the islands, apart from the obvious propaganda value. In particular by emplacing costal artillery batteries on the islands, it was possible to seal off the Gulf of Saint Malo, as well as to protect the German shipping between Cherbourg and Brest.
The most heavily defended Bay was considered to be Saint Ouen’s Bay (more defense positions as on Omaha Beach) and the shoreline from La Corbiere in the South to L’Etacquerel in the North was covered by no fewer than two Strongpoints, Nine Widerstandsnester (Resistance Nests); and one Einsatzstellung (Operation Position).
The Strongpoint at La Corbiere
The infantry defences at La Corbiere was manned by troops of the 2. Company of Machine Gun Battalion 16, attached to the 319. Infantry Division, which had the responsibility of defending the entire West coast of Jersey from a point at the extreme West of Saint Brelade’s Bay around to Devils Hole on the North coast. The Battalion strength was approximately 850 soldiers, of which 5 NCO’s and 19 other ranks were at Strongpoint Corbiere. The Strongpoint was spread all over the lower part of Jersey’s southwestern peninsula.
The six main fortifications on the mainland were built between 1942 and 1943 by the Organisation Todt form Kehl & Co., who employed Spanish, French and Belgian workers and not, contrary to popular belief, hundreds of Russian slave labourers. The workers got high rates of payment and big workers ‘rations.
The main armory were two 10.5cm K331 (f) guns in Jaeger-type casemates, one Maschinengranatwerfer in a type 633 bunker, two heavy MG34 machine guns in a Sechsschartenstand on a type 634 bunker as well asa 60cm searchlight.
“Stützpunkt Corbiere has the order to engage hostile attacks from the sea, land and the air against the southwest and western part of the island. A counterattack into Petit Port Bay is to be carried out in co-operation with Widerstandnest L’Oeilliere and Corbiere Lighthouse- A counterattack into La Rosiere Bay is to be carried out in co-operation with Corbiere Lighthouse. Enemy that has penetrated the Stützpunkt is to be destroyed”.
After D-Day, the Channel Islands were bypassed by the Allies, and whilst the costal artillery and anti-aircraft batteries did see some action, the infantry defences were never put on the test, and the surrender of the German Occupation Forces on May 9, 1945 was carried out in a peaceful and orderly manner. One former German soldier remembered showing a British officer around on the strongpoint, who always insisted that his German guide enter a bunker first in case of booby traps!
After the war two former German soldiers of Strongpoint Corbiere came back to site. Horst Hermann was a crew member in Bunker K2 and was on duty from 1943 until the Liberation. After he spent his time as a P.O.W. camp until 1948, he stayed in England. Horst first returned to Jersey in 1980, when he made contact with the CIOS (Channel Islands Occupation Society) and was given the change to re-visit his old bunker. After that he became a member of the Society, returned regularly on holidays to meet members and watch the bunker’s restoration. When the Ks was open to the public again Horst was on hand during the summer months to answer questions of amazed visitors. Horst Hermann passed away in March 2007.
The second one was the former commander of Mortar Bunker M19, Engelbert Hoppe. On an open day in June 2006 he showed up at the M19 and announced that he was the last commander in 1944/1945. Engelbert Hoppe passed away in 2013.
Some Then and Now
The German War Cemetery Saint Brelade, Jersey
From July 1, 1940 to May 8, 1945 Germany occupied the Channel Islands were its Forces soon established their Heldenfriedhof in the historic site of Saint Brelade’s Churchyard. This was reserved for the German military dead and their allies. The first burial occurred in July 1940, just 10 days after the Germans occupied Jersey.
The British built a permanent P.O.W camp at Blanches Banques, Les Quennevais to hold German P.O.W’s. The camp was open between March 1915 and October 1919, By July 1915 about 1’500 prisoners were held in the camp. Then Saint Brelade’s cemetery was used, as the camp was within its parish.
The former inmate, Oberst Knackfuss, returned to Jersey in WW2 as the first commander in charge of the occupying forces. He chose to bury the WW2 dead besides his comrades here in the Saint Brelade’s cemetery.
Of the 221 foreign war burials in Saint Brelade’s Heldenfriedhof 7 were from WW1. According to the German War Graves Commission in 1961 these included.
126 German soldiers, 2 Italian Helpers, 6 Men of Organisation Todt, 2 Russian Liberation Army, 3 NSKK, 41 soldiers of the Kriegsmarine and 38 Luftwaffe soldiers.
Today July 2018
In 1960 the German War Graves Commission asked and was granted permission to exhume and move their war dead to a German Military Cemetery at Mont-de-Huisnes, Normandy, France. In total 347 German war dead from Jersey were interred. The Heldenfriedhof was then returned to civilian use
Strongpoint Le Grouin, Saint Brelade
This Strongpoint belonged to the Unterabschnitt Brelades and was defended by the 5. Company, Infantry-Regiment 582, which had its Command post in the area of La Route de Noirmont. The sub-sector had 8 coastal defensive positions sweeping the coastline from Beauport Bay to a point near Noirmont Manor, and two inland defensive positons covering an area up to the foot of Mont Fallu, St. Peter.
Strongpoint Le Grouin straddling Le Grouin Point, which separates Saint Brelade’s Bay from Ouaisne Bay. The main guns one 7.5cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun in a type 680 casemate and a 4.7cm Pak K36(t) with coaxial MG 37(t) machine gun in a type 631 casemate. It also had a 30cm searchlight in an open position as well as a MG311(f) and two heavy MG34
The two casemates can still be seen as well as traces of foxholes and trenches, field-type shelters and open gun platforms dating from 1941.
Positions on Le Grouin Point
Then and Now
Widerstandsnest Mont Orgueil
This defense position was located in the medieval castle overlooking the small town of Gorey. This position is rarely mentioned in the fortification records. The reason could be that due to the fact that Mont Orgueil housed more coastal artillery than infantry, despite the fact it was armed with no less than 19 nineteen roll bombs.
Strongpoint Greve de Lecq
This defense position was situated within the Bay of Greve de Lecq. The troop strength was 4 NCO’s and 30 other ranks. The armory was one 10.5 cm K331 (f) in a type 670 casemate, one 7.5cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun in a type 680 casemate, one 3.7cm KwK 144 (f) with a coaxial MG 311 (f) machine gun in a APX-R turret, one 20cm le Ladungswerfer, two 5cm Festungsgranatwerfer 210 (f), two heavy MG34 machine guns twin mounting, two medium flame throwers, one flare gun as well as one 30cm, one 40cm and one 60cm searchlight.
The two casemated guns gave flanking fire over this small Bay. The twin machine guns were on top of the round tower.
Heeres-Küstenartillerie Batterie Moltke
(previously HKB 356, Batterie Les Landes)
This heavy artillery position is situated at Les Landes, Saint Ouen, on the North of Saint Ouen’s Bay and had was manned by 100 soldiers of the 5./Heeres-Küstenartillerie-Regiment 1265. The main armament were 4 15.5cm K418 (f) field guns. The 3.7cm Flak37 anti-aircraft gun was manned by I. Battalion, 9. Company of Gem Flak Abteilung 364 and was in concrete emplacements close to the main Battery.
The Battery Name is in honour of Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke Chief of Staff 1906 until 1914. The No. 4 gun site has been completely restored by the CIOS, and one of the original guns, dumped over the cliffs by the British Army in 1946 and recovered in 1990, has been renovated and replaced on its original emplacement.
Strongpoint Elizabeth Castle
Standing on an island in the middle of Saint Aubin’s Bay. The castle dominates the bay and the approaches to Saint Helier Harbour. Wiederstandsnest Elizabeth Castle Nord and Elizabeth Castle Süd combined to make this Strongpoint. With its massive concrete observation post and allround vision, was most likely the Gefechststand (Command Post) for Unterabschnitt Hafen.
Widerstandnest Nord and Süd was manned by soldiers of 6. Company, Infanterie-Regiment 582 and its main guns were two 10.5cm K331 (f) in a Jäger-Type casemate. The 10.5cm gun south covered the harbour entrance and the other one faces the west and covers Saint Aubin’s Bay.
The Flak guns were operated by men of IV. Battalion, 7. Company, Gemflakabteilung 364. One of the three 2cm Flak 38 was placed on top of the observation tower, in a structure that still contains its original wooden floors and wall-linings. The other two Flak 38 were mounted on a 19th century 24-pound barbette emplacements.
Jersey War Tunnels - German Underground Hospital
During World War II, Britain left Jersey and the other Channel Islands defenceless and the Islands became occupied by German forces. Jersey War Tunnels are a product of five long years of occupation; they bore witness to the particular cruelty of the Nazi regime.
It was dug deep into the hillside by more than 5’000 forced and slave workers from nations across Europe.There are over 1000 meters of Tunnels, over 50 meters above ground Level.
The underground tunnels were designed to allow the occupying infantry to withstand Allied air raids and bombardment in the event of an invasion. In 1943, the Germans converted into an emergency hospital with a capacity of approximately 500 patients.
The Unfinished Tunnel
Men armed with picks and shovels, loading rocks into trolleys and pushing them back up to the tunnel entrance. In an almost pitch black environment, with the constant fear of rock falls, this hard, back-breaking work went on in 12-hour shifts. There were many who did not make it back.
Then and Now
Widerstandsnest Lewis Tower
This position is situated in and around Martello Tower, at the northern end of La Grande Route des Mielles (five mile road). The main weapon was a 10.5cm K331 (f) in a Jäger-Type casemate, a 4.7cm Pak K36(t) in a 631b casemate. The Jäger-Type casemate is now the home of the Channel Islands Military Museum, on which an APX-R turret transferred from St. Aubin Fort is mounted.
Some Text by Wikipedia, from the books "Jersey Occupied" "Jersey's Bunkers", "the German war cemetery at St Brelade's Bay", some photos by CIOS and the mentioned books. I would like to thank Kimberly and Phil from Jersey War Tours for an awesome Bunker Tour. All today photos taken by myself in July 2018