On the morning of May 8, 1945, German forces occupying the Channel Islands announced that the war was over. That afternoon, Winston Churchill broadcast these words to the Islands:
“Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, but in the interests of saving lives the “Cease fire” began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today. ”
The following day the arrival of HMS Bulldog in St Peter Port, Guernsey, officially signalled the end of the occupation. It could not have come a day too soon; by 1945 the Islanders were suffering terribly from lack of food because the supply lines the Germans used through France had been cut off following the D-Day landings in June 1944. Nearly a year later, the Islanders and the Germans – having received only limited emergency supplies - faced starvation and were reduced to scavenging for snails and slugs, and shooting seagulls out of the sky to eat.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the liberation and will be marked by a series of commemorative events.
The actor, John Nettles, who played the famous Jersey-based detective, Jim Bergerac, has written a book and presented a documentary on the German occupation of the Channel Islands, and was involved in the anniversary events this year.
“I am presenting a radio programme reflecting the sights and sounds of the liberation,” he said. “It will be a joint ceremony also with Germans taking part as well.
“It was a hard occupation for the Islanders. Obviously it doesn’t compare with the hardship of the concentration camps but it was by no means a benign occupation.” John, whose book, Jewels and Jackboots, has also just been published in German, lived for many years in the Channel Islands after falling in love with the area during the filming of Bergerac. “There is a special magic about the place. Not only is it stunningly beautiful but the people are so characterful and welcoming. I enjoyed living there and I was sad to leave but luckily my daughter now lives there so I always have a good excuse to visit.”
“I particularly love the coastline of Sark and Brechou. The late television presenter Alan Wicker once said that St Brelade’s Bay in Jersey is one of the most beautiful bays in the world. He should know - Alan travelled the world several times over - and I agree, St Brelade’s is stunning, with its red granite as warm and comforting as the welcome of the locals.” To commemorate the liberation, the Channel Islands Heritage Festival 2015 runs over five weeks, with Liberation Day itself falling over two days this year: Friday 8th and Saturday 9th May.
Jersey Liberation Celebrations
Friday May 8
Island Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance, Town Church, St Helier, led by the Dean of Jersey. The service is open to the public.
Saturday 9 May
There is a whole day of events planned, starting in the morning with the Slave Workers’ Memorial Service at Westmount Crematorium. This is followed by a re-enactment of flag raising at Liberation Square and the Liberation grand parade from Liberation Square to People’s Park. Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex will be attending the formal events at People’s Park. The entertainment will continue into the evening with a programme of events, precise details of which are yet to be announced. The events in People’s Park will be open to the public, but some seats will be ticketed. For more information, go to: www.jersey.com
Jersey & Guernsey Liberation Celebrations
May 8 and 9 May
Guernsey and Jersey will host an ensemble from the world-renowned Berliner Philharmonic Octet. To accompany the music, there will be a narrative re-telling the story of the occupation and liberation through letters and diaries from Channel Island residents. This unique archive has been collated by a group of volunteers who spent the past 12 months researching the stories and lives of those who lived through this remarkable period in history.
The Guernsey concert will take place at St James Concert and Assembly Hall, on Friday 8th May 2015. Tickets are on sale online from www.guernseytickets.gg or from St James Box Office (Tel: +44 1481 711361).
The Jersey concert will take place, as part of the Liberation International Music Festival, at Jersey Opera House, Gloucester Street, St Helier, on Saturday May 9th. Tickets are on sale online from www.jerseyoperahouse.co.uk or via the box office (Tel: +44 1534 511115).
For details of other liberation events taking place in Guernsey, go to: www.guernseyliberationday.com
For details of events taking place in Jersey, go to: www.jersey.com