Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 10:55 UK
Guernsey's Liberation Day story
Liberation mural
This mural was painted by Bert Hill in 1945 to mark the Liberation

The 9 May 1945 is a day that will never be forgotten in Guernsey's history.

On that day the island (along with Jersey and Herm) was liberated following five years of occupation.

Richard Heaume, owner of the German Occupation Museum, said as liberation neared locals were "following the demise of the Third Reich".

He added that the process "was very drawn out" up until 8 May and the German surrender in Europe and after that "we knew we would be liberated".

Following the official surrender of Germany on VE Day the German authorities in Guernsey allowed the locals to fly their own flags for the first time in five years from 1500 in recognition of this.

Occupation facts
Guernsey was occupied by Germany from June 1940 to May 1945
The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied
While residents remained on most islands Alderney was completed evacuated and became the location of several concentration camps
Sark celebrate their Liberation Day a day later than Guernsey and Jersey on 10 May
Alderney celebrate Homecoming Day rather than Liberation Day on 15 December

Richard explained that despite this: "The German government hadn't officially sanctioned the surrender of the Channel Islands and the German commander, Admiral Hoffmeier, refused to surrender on 8 May and it wasn't until the early hours of 9 May that he allowed the garrison of the Channel Islands to surrender."

For Guernsey this act was completed by Major General Hiner and Captain Lieutenant Zimmerman aboard the HMS Bulldog which was moored in the Little Russell.

From that point the British troops came ashore to great celebration from the harbour side as immortalised in the famous pictures taken on the day.

However, this was not the end of the process, though the island was officially liberated and the German troops laid down their guns on 9 May the island was still littered with land mines and the still present bunkers.

Richard explained that the German soldiers were rounded up and moved to the camps that had been built for foreign workers during the war. He said: "The Germans were here as prisoners of war... [they were housed] in the north part of the island waiting to be shipped out."

As the war neared its end the only food making its way into Guernsey was the Red Cross parcels, famously delivered by the SS Vega, but otherwise food was scarce and many were malnourished.

Liberation Day
A British soldier hands out items to Guernsey people on Liberation Day

Because of this one of the first things that was done was food supplies were brought to the island. The landing craft used to deliver the large amounts of supplies were too big to land in St Peter Port and so landed on the beach at L'Ancresse, starting on 12 May.

The landing craft were then used to transport the German prisoners of war to the UK. Though Richard explained that 1,000 of them remained behind for longer to help the clear up operation, removing landmines and dismantling the large guns, which were then dumped out to see, many in Herd Deep off Alderney.

Other items were stored in the various tunnels that had been dug during the occupation and were gradually dismantled for parts and scrapped.

Richard said it took the "best part of a year before we were back to normal" as the evacuees returned over the summer and life began to settle back into its own routine.

Liberation is still marked each year in Guernsey on 9 May with everything from church services to live music (often written and rehearsed in one of the many bunkers left over from the occupation, which have been converted into sound proof rehearsal spaces).

Richard said: "It is important that the children of today realise what it's all about."




BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific