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13 November 2014

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You are in: Guernsey > History > Occupation > Occupation Timeline 1939 - June 1940

German bunker

Guernsey's coast is covered with forts.

Occupation Timeline 1939 - June 1940

The lead up to the German Occupation of the Channel Islands. The timeline will continue soon so keep logging in.

1939 August

Police guards are mounted on vulnerable areas of the island including on the oil tanks in Bulwer Avenue, the Shell-Mex compound at Castle Emplacement and at the telegraph cable huts at Jerbourg and Saints.
Military Authorities guard the waterworks sites in Kings Mills and Forest Road, Electricity Power Stations at North Side and Les Amballes, Guernsey Gas Light Company premises at the Longstore and the telephone exchange in the Grange.

September 1st

Germany invade Poland.


Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, gives Adolf Hitler, the German Fuhrer, an ultimatum demanding he withdraw German forces from Poland.


Neville Chamberlain declares war on Germany.

In Guernsey blackout regulations are imposed, street lights are turned off, cinemas and all other places of entertainment were closed, cars were forced to a 15mph speed limit at night and were only allowed to use their side lights.


The Dame of Sark requested the Guernsey Lifeboat be sent to help a French Trawler. B.3035 was in difficulties at Havre Gosselin, Sark. The lifeboat found the ship had engine trouble and needed to be towed to St Peter Port Harbour but could not manage the 350-ton vessel itself. The S S New Fawn was sent to tow the ship into harbour. The trawler was in fact a French Naval vessel. B3035 was a submarine chaser with a crew of 43 and armed with six guns and depth charges. The French consul in Guernsey visited the ship before its departure at 4.30pm the same day.


Proving their loyalty to the crown more than one thousand Guernsey men signed up for the army in the first four months of the war.

For islanders life had mostly returned to normal in a period that has been called the phoney war. The mail boats were running, the tomato crop had been planted and bookings were being received for the summer tourist season.

1940 January

The wartime regulations meaning that anyone travelling between Guernsey and England needed a passport or permit card were abolished.


An air raid rehearsal took place.

April 9th

German forces invade Denmark and Norway. These invasions caused concern in islanders but had no other effects.


Germany reaches the English Channel by going around the French Maginot Line with the invasion of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Islanders become uneasy as the possibility that they may be closely involved with the war hits home.

Military Guards are reinstated at the States waterworks, electricity power stations, the gas installation and the telephone exchange.


Due to the state of war four german nationals residing in Guernsey are interned. Eugene Hacklander, Karl Hacklander, Hans Hacklander and Berthold Zulauf were handed over to H M Sheriff at the Prison. The only other male German in the islands was Dr Hans Frisch was seen as very anti-german. Along with his wife Dora he would be leaving for England before any of his countrymen could arrive.

June 1st

30 enemy aliens were arrested and detained. They were not only Germans but also former Austrians who now held German citizenship since the annexation of their country by Germany.


Guernsey swears in Major General Minshull-Ford as the new Lieutenant Governor. Major General Telfer-Smollett had resigned after only a year in office following the death of his wife.


Following Italy’s entry into the war as part of the German led Axis Powers seven Italian residents were detained.


The Italians were moved from the Prison to the Castel internment camp.


Paris falls to the advancing German forces. The news caused great concern amongst islanders many of whom spent the weekend at the white rock (near the harbour) trying to decide whether to leave their homes and possessions behind and catch the next boat or stay and face the uncertain future.


Just before 10pm the air raid siren sounded to warn of approaching enemy aircraft. However it was a false alarm, nothing happened and the all clear was sounded at 10.55pm.


A German Reconnaissance plane flew over the island photographing areas including the harbours and the airport.


The Germans reach Cherbourg and islanders had observed explosions along the Contentin Peninsula for the last few days.

Interned Karl Hacklander was complaining that his imprisonment was due to the authorities spite. Fearing retaliatory measures from the German forces if they were to invade Attorney General Ambrose Sherwill spoke to the Home Office. The remaining members of the Hacklander and Zulauf families were arrested and they were all transferred to the UK.

The Bailiff issued a statement informing islanders that the UK Government had decided that the Bailiwick would be demilitarized completely.

The Royal Court was convened and said that the Royal Guernsey Militia should be immediately demilitarized. All ranks were ordered to surrender arms, uniforms and equipment at the Town Arsenal and then proceed home quietly.

Anyone in possession of a firearm was told to hand them in to either the Constable of their Parish or the Police Station. There was a huge response ranging from an antique Turkish rifle, to a machine gun and even grenades! All were secured in the Town Arsenal.

The Home Secretary told the Lieutenant Governor that if he was recalled then the civil duties of his office should be given to the Bailiff. It was suggested to the Bailiff that he should stay at his post and administer the government of the island as well as he could, whether he could contact the UK Government or not.

Notices appeared in newspapers announcing the evacuation of school children, teachers and mothers with children of under school age. Those wishing to be evacuated had to register with their Parish Constable by 8pm that evening. Queues developed quickly.

Exports of island produce continued despite the events and on this day more than 350,000 chips of tomatoes were shipped to the UK.

A curfew on cars was put into place from 10.30pm until 5am the next day. This helped the military evacuation to proceed quickly.


When the SS Biarritz, with 1000 troops aboard, left at 8am the island was completely demilitarised. Also aboard were the Lieutenant Governor and his wife along with more than one hundred French servicemen and civilians who had recently arrived in the islands.

Many islanders felt bitter about being abandoned and made plans to evacuate if possible.

The evacuation of mothers and children took place throughout the day.

The Bailiff, Victor Gosselin Carey, sworn in as Lieutenant Governor.


States of Deliberation met to organise the streamlining of Guernsey Government. The Controlling Committee of the States of Guernsey was created. Headed by Attorney General Ambrose Sherwill what was actually created was a new form of government for the island. With a cabinet of seven other members, each with responsibility for a department of their own, the island had a leadership of eight islanders who had the authority and hopefully the abilities to make quick decisions.


Only about twelve residents remain in Alderney after today’s evacuation. The controlling committee made arrangements for cattle, pigs and abandoned military stores to be moved to Guernsey. The SS New Fawn and the SS Courier, both of which belonged to Sark Motor Ships, were kept busy going back and forth.


All twenty-eight enemy aliens released on the orders of the Government Secretary.


Concern and unrest was felt by islanders as a German plane flew low over Town heading to the north. The visibility was good and the iron crosses on the fuselage and wings could be seen clearly.

Bailiff told Police Inspector William Sculpher that it was becoming obvious the Germans would soon arrive in the Island. No resistance was to be offered and they were to be treated courteously. The Inspector was also given a sealed envelope that he was to give to the commanding.


At the meeting of the Controlling Committee the idea that continuing exports to the UK might make the islands a target was discussed. The Committee decided to ask the Home Office if continued exports would be in the general interest of Guernsey and the Empire.
The Manager of the Telephone Department told the Committee that he had been instructed in the event of occupation to communicate with England so that the wires could be cut. The Controlling Committee had not been consulted in this and an order was put into place saying that no such plans should be put into place without going through a member of the committee.

Whether to evacuate or not was playing on the minds of many islanders, some who had left the island even returned.

At 6.15pm Ambrose Sherwill spoke to the Guernsey people about the current situation. When he had finished half an hour later he spoke to the Home Office to update them on the situation.

Just before 7pm three German planes were flying towards Guernsey from the South East. The island was about to suffer its first air raid. The target was the harbour and bombs landed on the Cambridge Sheds, the Information Bureau and the tomato lorries waiting in the queue to be exported. After delivering another attack on the harbour the planes split up and individually attacked the Fruit Export Sheds, La Vassalerie, St Andrew and the Vazon Area. The all clear sounded at 8pm but the reality of war had hit Guernsey. The death toll was 33 with a further 67 injured. 49 vehicles were burnt out or seriously damaged and bomb craters covered the ground. The Weighbridge was heavily damaged and the clock was stopped at just before seven.


The air raid siren sounded at 11am. A German aircraft flew over the island but dropped no bombs nor discharged its machine guns and was obviously assessing the results of the air raid. The all clear sounded at 11.30am.

The SS Courier had been beached at the entrance to St Sampson’s harbour in the previous day’s air raid but was re-floated and taken to St Peter Port Harbour. Later in the day the vessel untied and left the jetty for Plymouth with its cargo of pigs. The Captain noticed four people running towards the ship; he turned the bow towards the jetty allowing the men to make a flying jump to the ship’s deck. They were probably the last to leave by steamer before the Occupation begun.


Three Blenheims, light bombers, escorted a RAF launch into the harbour to pick up wireless equipment and their remaining personnel. The air raid siren was sounded and the launch crew, who probably thought the Guernsey wardens had mistaken the friendly Blenheims for enemy aircraft, were startled into action when they saw green planes with black crosses on the side overhead.

The air raid siren went again at 1.10pm and four planes circled around the island and three then landed at the airport. The Police went to find out what was happening there but the planes took off again before they got there. A building search found the main door had been forced but everything else intact.

Shortly after 7.30pm the air raid siren sounded again and planes could be seen overhead.

Just after 8.30pm five Junker troop carriers landed and this time they were here to stay.

The Occupation had begun.

last updated: 12/05/2009 at 12:28
created: 19/07/2004

You are in: Guernsey > History > Occupation > Occupation Timeline 1939 - June 1940

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