Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Traveling Tuesday: The Channel Islands During WWII

Traveling Tuesday: 
The Channel Islands During WWII

The United Kingdom’s Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German forces during World War II. An archipelago (a collection of islands), the islands are located in the English Channel off the French coast of Normandy, the closest one a mere fourteen miles from France. The islands are divided into “bailiwicks,” or jurisdictions: the Bailiwick of Jersey, the largest of the islands, and the Bailiwick of Guernsey which consists of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, and some smaller islands. As “Crown Dependencies,” they are self-governing possessions of England, and although not part of the UK, Britain is responsible for their defense and international relations.

Originally part of the Duchy of Normandy, the islands were among William the Conqueror’s possessions when he became King of England in 1066. In 1204, King John of England lost Normandy to the King of France, but to keep the islands loyal, he decreed they could be governed according to the laws they were used to and set up a separate system of government with the British monarch ruling as “Duke of Normandy.” (Interestingly, although a woman, Queen Elizabeth II held the title Duke of Normandy.) The official languages are English and French, and a local patois combines them.

The Battle of France which took place between May 10 and June 25, 1940 resulted in a defeat of the Allies. As the conflict neared its end, the British government decided the Channel Islands were of no
strategic importance, and therefore would not defend them. Troops were withdrawn, and on June 17, 1940, Brigade General Charles de Gaulle was evacuated from Jersey by airplane, then landed in London, where he declared himself head of the Free French over BBC radio.

Inhabitants of the islands were also given the opportunity to evacuate which was met with mixed response. About a fifth of the people of Jersey and half of Guernsey evacuated, and nearly the entire island of Alderney was vacated. On Sark, led by the bailiff, Dame Sibyl Hathaway, almost the entire population remained. Britain failed to notify Germany of the demilitarization of the islands which resulted in several strafing and bombing attacks on the harbors of Guernsey and Jersey. Reportedly, trucks filled with tomatoes in St. Peter Port, Guernsey were mistaken for troop carriers. Forty-four islanders were killed during the raids. A belated messaged went out over the BBC declaring the islands “open towns.”

The Germans arrived on June 30 on Jersey and the following day on Guernsey. Over the course of the month, I’ll be sharing about each island’s experience. Next week: Guernsey.


Francine’s Foibles

She's given up hope. He never had any. Will they find it together?

World War II is finally over, and America is extra grateful as the country approaches this year’s Thanksgiving. But for Francine life hasn’t changed. Despite working at Fort Meade processing the paperwork for the thousands of men who have returned home, she’s still lonely and very single. Is she destined for spinsterhood?

Grateful that his parents anglicized the family surname after emigrating to the United States after the Great War, first-generation German-American Ray Fisher has done all he can to hide his heritage. He managed to make it through this second “war to end all wars,” but what American woman would want to marry into a German family. Must he leave the country to find wedded bliss?

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