1st of September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Britain then declares war on Germany.
10th of May 1940, Hitler launched his invasion of Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France.
26th of May, Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk
16th of June, Operation Aerial, the evacuation of Allied forces and civilians from ports in western France. St Malo's evacuation was supported by Jersey civilians and their crafts.
19th of June, The British cabinet met and declared that the islands should be demilitarised and declared "Open Towns". the islands would be demilitarised and could be taken over without a fight.
24th June, The King sends the following Message to the Governments of the Channel Islands.
“For strategic reasons, it has been found necessary to withdraw the armed forces from the Channel Islands. I deeply regret this necessity and I wish to assure My people in the islands that, in taking this decision, My Government has not been unmindful of their position. It is in their interest that this step should be taken in present circumstances. The long association of the islands with the Crown and the loyal service the people of the islands have rendered to My Ancestors and Myself are Guarantees that the link between us will remain unbroken and I know that My people in the islands will look forward with the same confidence as I do to the day when the resolute fortitude with which we face our present difficulties will reap the reward of victory.”
28th of June, The German Luftwaffe mounted a reconnaissance & attack to draw any fire from the island's defences. Six Heinkel 111 bombers approached the island from the east strafing and dropping bombs at La Rocque killing three people, they proceeded to St Helier where they attacked the harbour area where a further six people were killed. The tenth victim was a crewman on the Guernsey lifeboat which was rounding Noirmont when it was attacked.
1 of July, General Richthofen, The Commander of the German Air Forces in Normandy, dropped an ultimatum from the air demanding the immediate surrender of the island. White flags and crosses were placed in prominent positions, as stipulated by the Germans, and later that day Jersey was occupied by air-borne troops under the command of Hauptmann Gussek with the Navy transporting troops from St Malo.
20 of October 1941, following a Fuhrer conference on 18 October to discuss the German engineer's assessment & requirements for fortifying the Channel Islands. Hitler requests the permanent fortification of the Channel Islands converting them into an impregnable fortress.
More history between 41 and 43 coming soon
Work on the tunnel started in July 1943 by the Organisation Todt (OT) firm of “Riechert” and later in 1943 by OT firm “Hellenbart” under the command of the Naval Harbour Construction HQ, which was at number four Commercial buildings. The Todt Organisation was a Third Reich civil and military engineering group named after its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi figure. The organisation was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects both in pre-World War II Germany, in Germany itself and occupied territories from Jersey to the Soviet Union during the war. It was notorious for using slave and forced labour.
The German Navy perhaps thought that as the main source of power was from a civilian power station and a secure tunnel housing a power plant would keep the harbours crane operational no matter what. The CIOS book “Jersey’s German Tunnels” by Michael Ginns, MBE (ISBN 978-0-9550086-1-0) states that between August and November 1942 there was correspondence about the installation of an electric motor in the Tunnel. This document included how much power was needed to run it 14 hours per day. We are not too sure if this was to power for the mining operation or if it was for the harbour power. It also records that in 1943, two French MAN generators arrive on the island for the eventual placement in Ho19, but they had both been sabotaged at the Renault Factory. The book, however, suggests that after the lining was done in 1943, the tunnel is abandoned and left in the same condition that it is found today. We have had the opportunity to work in the tunnel for well over two years and can evidence this tunnel was still being worked on in May 1944 and was used right up to Liberation in May 1945.
Local historian and researcher John Bull provided us with a rare document mentioning Ho19. On the 18th November 1943, the Organisation Todt requested the closing of the road on Mount Bingham for work to be carried out. Photo below, courtesy of Jersey Heritage, Photo By J. Bull.
The road closure request was due to the chance of a potential collapse due to how close the first 20 meters of the tunnel had been mined to the road above. The OT Firm Theodore Elche was employed to line the tunnel. Wooden shuttering was installed in the tunnel and concrete was poured directly from the road above.
Like many bunkers the shuttering is still very evident
One thing that is not very clear, is when the work for the connecting tunnel Ho20 was done. There are date stones in the tunnel indicating work is still going on in May 1944 and from interviews with islanders, who were there, the tunnel had two steel doors with two armed guards in place, right up to liberation day. Ho20 seemed to have started off life as a planned connecting tunnel that went all the way through Mount Bingham, but it looks like they stopped mining in May 1944 and it was converted to a storage tunnel, potentially munitions due to the protection provided by guards. Below is a little anecdote by Bob Le Sueur who remembers the entrance of the tunnel very well.
More coming soon
More history between 44 and 2015 coming soon
On a cold rainy morning in Feb 2015, we were given access to a tunnel complex in the harbour area of St Helier Jersey. As we passed the entrance gate, we were soon greeted by a collection of stencils for road signs and a fair amount of astroturf. The tunnel had signs of significant damp, and a constant sound of dripping could be heard echoing through the site. As we approached the first junction, a wall had been put in place, probably to reduce the amount of water leaking into the first 30 meters of the tunnel. At this point, we realised the complex was much more substantial than we had imagined. We were hooked and needed to secure more permanent access to document the tunnel and save it from further neglect. With the help of the Department of Infrastructure and Jersey Property Holdings, we agreed on a tenancy licence to ensure its protection and provide long-term access to maintain and research the site.
In May 2016 we received the long-term licence for this project and started work.