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The German occupation of Jersey occurred in 1940 and lasted for the majority of the Second World War up until 1945. For five years, residents of Jersey were forced into labour, faced major restrictions, experienced mass deportation and nearly ended up starving as a result of the occupation. Hitler sought to turn Jersey into an impregnable fortress which resulted in the construction of tunnels, bunkers, concrete defences and anti-tank walls. The historic background of these fortifications can be experienced at Jersey War Tunnels, The Channel Islands Military Museum and by visiting the different German bunkers that are scattered around the Island. If you want to know more about COVID restrictions, please check the operator’s website.
The Jersey occupation remains an integral part of the Island’s history, as the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German forces during World War Two. The island had been demilitarized by the British government for the safety of their citizens and on the 28th June 1940, German Air Forces attacked after mistaking civilian farming lorries for troop carriers, which killed 10 people. On the 1st July General Richthofen, The Commander of the German Air Forces in Normandy, demanded the immediate surrender of the island. White flags and crosses were put up around the Island forced by the Germans and the day after Jersey was occupied by air-borne troops under the command of Hauptmann Gussek.
Jersey had become an impregnable fortress by the demands of Hitler. Thousands of slave workers from around Europe built bunkers, railway systems, tunnel complexes and anti-tank walls. All of these fortifications were part of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall”. All of these fortifications can be visited to fully experience what life was like for citizens during this time.
On the 3rd May operation ‘Nestegg’ was set in motion by the British Military with the aim of liberating the Channel Islands by using the British Army units ‘Force 135’. On the 7th May 1945, the German army has surrendered and the end of the war in Europe was announced. Force 135 arrived in Jersey on the morning of 8 May and together with the officials they negotiated terms for German surrender. At 3:00pm Winston Churchill announced the end of the war and on 9 May Siegfried Heine signed the Instrument of Surrender of the German Command of the Channel Islands, effecting their capitulation. The 9 May is now known as Liberation Day and widely celebrated amongst the citizens of Jersey.
For an interesting historical experience and to discover Jersey’s occupation story there are an assortment of historical sites that you can visit. You can even take a guided tour to learn about the specifics of each location.
To get a true experience of what life was like during Jersey’s occupation visit Jersey War Tunnels or as the location was known during the war, Hohlgangsanlage 8. There are over 1,000 metres of tunnels over 50 metres deep underground all produced by 5,000 slave labourers. The tunnels were specifically designed to allow German occupying infantry to have protection against any air raids or attacks against their allied. In 1943 the tunnel complex was converted into an emergency hospital. The tunnels tells the story reflect the heroism and heartache of those who lived during this time, providing an incredible insight into the German occupation.
After exploring the tunnels make sure to follow the War Trail, the series of footpaths helps to provide an interesting inside into the fortifications built by the Germans. The remains of the anti-aircraft battery have remained untouched since 1945.
Jersey War Tunnels also houses two escape rooms, the Operation Constellation and Escape to Blighty. Both escape rooms cost £20 per person.
The Vega Café tearoom serves delicious cakes and drinks to help fuel your day of fun. The interior and décor of the café is completely inspired by the 1940’s to recreate an authentic experience.
The tranquil Garden of Reflection is an area dedicated to peace, an opportunity to reflect on the Jersey’s occupation. There are 64 plaques that commemorate Jersey residents who died because of the occupation and a further 50 plaques that communicate facts regarding conflict. A place of reflect of those we have lost and the wider issues of military warfare.
Jersey War Tunnels, Les Charrieres, Malorey, St Lawrence, Jersey, JE3 1FU