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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Channel Islands Invaded

28 June to 4 July 1940

Theatre: Home Front
Area: Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark)
Players: German: Detachment of German Naval Gotenhafen (Marines) and a battalion of 216 Infantry Division under Major Dr Lanz.
Outcome: Operation Green Arrow, the German occupation of the Channel Islands, was achieved swiftly and with few casualties. The islands remained occupied until May 1945.

Sitting just 20 miles off the French coast, the Channel Islands were vulnerable to attack and had no strategic importance to Britain. It was therefore decided that they should not be defended: the islands were demilitarised and the pre-war garrisons and militia assigned to new duties.

As the German army moved through France, some 30,000 Channel Islanders (one third of the total population) were evacuated in June 1940. The initial panic over, however, the rest decided to stay and tough it out, mainly on Jersey and Guernsey.

Unaware that the islands were undefended, on 28 June the Luftwaffe bombed Jersey and Guernsey, killing 44 people. Two days later, Luftwaffe personnel took control of Guernsey airfield. There they met the chief of police, who informed them that the islands were undefended.

The following day, a detachment of Gotenhafen arrived on Guernsey and that afternoon the German flag was raised. More troops arrived later and their attention turned to the other islands. Jersey surrendered the same day and was quickly garrisoned by a company of troops.

Alderney was almost completely empty, but was garrisoned by a company of troops, while the Dame of Sark, Sybil Hathaway, received German officers on 2 July. They assured her she had nothing to fear and the island's garrison of just ten men arrived on 4 July.

The Channel Islands were the only British territories to be occupied by the Germans during the war. They were liberated in May 1945.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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