As Michael Caine would certainly say, not a lot of people know that, especially today, 70 years on! But yes, its true.
Back in June 1940, Hitler was roaring through Europe, and all that was left, was Britain. Thing is, because we’re an island, Hitler did realise that trying to invade our country was going to be a bit more of a challenge than mainland Europe. Didnt stop him trying a bombing campaign, and if he hadnt made the crazy decision to turn on his ally, the Soviet Union, to rid the world of communism, well, who knows if we would have held out eventually? But thats all hypothesis, and no more. He didnt, and as history proved, it backfired on him massively.
But despite all that was said about him, Hitler wasnt entirely stupid, and quickly realised that invading a little bit of Britain might not be so hard. Yes, the Channel Islands of course. And back in June 1940, the navy decided that it either couldnt defend the group of islands, just 14 miles from occupied France, or just didnt want to. Who knows, those details are lost in history, all we know is Churchill decided to demilitarize the Islands, and leave them to it. He did offer an evacuation process for people, but hardly made it look an attractive offer!
Anyway, after a brief (one off) bombing campaign of the islands by the German’s (they were tipped off after that, that there were no military on the island), they took control on the 1st July 1940…and stayed until 9th May 1945. Thats right, nearly a year after D-Day, the German’s still controlled the Islands, partly because they had no way out, even if they’d wanted too! They were well defended, had little benefit to the Allies, and so…got ignored, until the war was over! Snag was, no supplies were therefore getting in, and people were beginning to starve.
Finally, at the end of 1944, a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was reached, and a Red Cross ship sailed into the island, with provisions for the locals. Sadly, that was it for about 5 months, so the benefit was soon gone again.
Lets not mention the atrocities that went on, we all know the history of that. But one of the things constructed, partly by slave labour (from Eastern Europe, who lasted on average 6 months, being starved, brutalised, and over worked), and partly by others, including locals, who were paid well for their efforts, was what is now known as the War Tunnels. Initially as a defence, and communication hub for the island, and toward the end, a military hospital for the invasion that never happened, for the wounded.
Yes, they are where I went today, a follow up visit from over 30 years ago. Back then, the tour was extremely basic, just a few passages you could walk down, a very basic display, and that was it. Now, with time, and modern techniques, its far better done, and I’m glad I went back.
Its hard to imagine, in more senses than one, what life must have been like for the Islanders back then, and I’m not even going to try!
Oh, and for the journey back to town, I travelled on a bus, that may not have been around during the war, but saw service soon after, an amazing treat for someone like me.
The music, what could be more apt, than a German singing about peace, in her own language, English, and at least 1 more for her trouble. It won Eurovision, in 1982, before the contest became a political joke!