The German Invasion of Jersey

The invasion and occupation of France and the Channel Islands is a complicated and often untold story. This page is dedicated to the members of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) and the French Forces who fought so hard to stop the Invasion.   

In 1939 Hitler had become determined to invade and occupy Poland. Poland had guarantees of French and British military support should it be attacked by Germany. At 12:40 PM on August 31, 1939, Hitler ordered hostilities against Poland to start at 4:45 the next morning. The invasion began as ordered. In response, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, at 11:00 AM and at 5:00 PM, respectively. World War II had begun. General Lord Gort was appointed to the command of the B.E.F on 3 September 1939 and the B.E.F began moving to France on 4 September 1939.

For ease, we have broken the story into a timeline format  

May 1940
 

German Military Situation Report 1st of May 1940

17th of May 1940 Jersey 

A request is made for men to enlist in an Insular Defence Force. Islanders are to register for interest at Parish and Public Halls. 

This force would be armed with a WW1 Enfield Rifle and 10 rounds of Ammunition. The force will be called the "Jersey Defence Volunteers"

At the same time 250 boys from the Army Technical School are deployed to Jersey Airport to provide security.    

25th of May 1940 France 

Operation Alphabet is approved for the evacuation of British Forces in Norway. Today in 1940 Hitler visited General von Rundstedt's headquarters at Charleville. This resulted in the halt of The German Panzer advance on Dunkirk.

25th of May 1940 Jersey 

The "Jersey Defence Volunteers" are officially formed and patrols of coastal areas begun. 

26th of May 1940 France 

The German command rescinded the halt order and now continue to drive towards Dunkirk. The German halt provided the surrounded B.E.F and French and Belgian armies time to prepare defences and pull back large numbers of troops. The French First Army, at this point 80 years ago, is preparing to hold Lille.

B.E.F Commanding General Lord Gort received the formal authorisation to withdraw surrounded troops. Operation Dynamo was the code name of the massive evacuation, it was headed by British Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey.

Below a British Cruiser Mk IV tank crew repairing tank track, Blangy-sur-Ternoise, France, 26 May 1940

27th of May 1940 France 

The aerial photo was taken between 18:15 and 19:00 above Dunkirk.

28th of May 1940 London & France 

"The House should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies" Sir Winston Churchill 

Operation Dynamo first full Day  
Evacuations Today 
Beach - 5,930
Harbour - 11,874

The below was dropped over the surrounded troops close to Dunkirk to encourage surrender. For comparison, we include the German situation map from the same time.

June 1940
 

4th of June 1940 France 

Operation Dynamo Finished

Harbour - 25,553
Total personnel rescued 338,226
1,000 Ships participated 
700 Civilian Craft 
240 ships are lost 
The RAF lost 84 planes and the Luftwaffe 78
39% of the personnel rescued were French

10th of June 1940 Jersey 

The war office in London orders the transfer of all Personnel of the Machine Gun Training Centre (based in Alderney) to aid in the defence of Jersey and Guernsey. Machine-gun posts were placed covering the bays of the Island, also two batteries of Bofors anti-aircraft guns arrived from England       

16th of June 1940 Jersey 

Operation Aerial

Operation Aerial was the evacuation of Allied forces and civilians from ports in western France. Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, Major General Harrison, receives a request from London asking for all available small craft to be sent to St Malo to help with the evacuation of the B.E.F. There. The ask of the civilian fleet was to ferry troops out to the waiting steamers that were too large to enter the Harbour there.

That evening the first convoy of boats, an old RNLI lifeboat, Klang II, Teaser, St Clement and Clutha left Jersey with the States of Jersey launch. The second group of 13 larger craft - Ma Mie, Fiona, Desiree, Caillou, Lenoiroit, Sibelle, Daddy, Girl Joyce, Solace, Diana, Laurie, Parson and Lindolet left Jersey the next day. At St Malo, the Jersey craft operated under the orders of the Senior Naval Officer and were soon engaged in ferrying men and equipment to larger vessels waiting outside the port. The last people to be brought off were members of a demolition party sent to blow up a fuel depot and the lock gates, and as they left the German forces were just five miles away. 

      

17th of June 1940 Jersey 

On the 17th June 1940 Jersey airport received French General Charles de Gaulle who arrives from Bordeau. Early in the morning, the plane with three passengers, de Gaulle, His aide-de-camp Geoffrey de Courcel and Edward Spears Took off from the aerodrome at Bordeaux. This was a plane sent by Winston Churchill Spears had orders to ensure de Gaulle made it back to London. It flew over La Rochelle, continued up the Atlantic coast and over Brittany. The plane landed at Jersey to refuel and Spears went and got a coffee for de Gaulle. He took a sip and said that he hadn't asked for tea. Spears replied that's not a tea that's coffee! With the airport food stall closed, they went on to St Peter's Country Inn for Lunch as the plane was being tended to. 

After refuelling, they took off and landed at Heston, an aerodrome on the outskirts of London.​

19th of June 1940 Jersey 

 

The Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, Major General Harrison, received two official communications from London:

“War Cabinet decision is that the Island of Jersey is to be demilitarised. Further instructions regarding the Governor will follow”

 

Second message 

“The Channel Islands will not, repeat, not be defended against external invasion by sea or air.”

R.A.F No. 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron was based at RAF Filton in Bristol but on 10th May 1940, they were assigned to the Advanced Air Striking Force and operated out of various airfields in France following the German invasion. Today 80 years ago they were transferred to Jersey (https://www.hurricane501.co.uk/) to protect those involved in the evacuation of Forces from France and the Channel Islands.

20th of June 1940

Message One: 

From: German Command (Berlin)

To: Marinegruppenkommando West (Naval Group Command West)

"Plan to destroy all wireless and cable communication links on and around the British Channel Islands by way of Raid using motor torpedo boats"

Message Two: 

From: German Command (Berlin)

To: Admiral Karlgeorg Schuster ​(Commander of German Forces in France)

"Occupation of the British Channel Islands and Ushant is both urgent and important. Carry out local reconnaissance and execution thereof"

Ushant is a French island at the south-western end of the English Channel which marks the north-westernmost point of metropolitan France.

 

The demilitarisation of Jersey begun.  The Jersey Defence Volunteers force was disbanded and 11 officers and 193 men of the Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey left on the SS Hodder to England, where they formed the 11th Royal Militia Island of Jersey Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment The Channel Islands were to become open towns. Over 23,000 people in Jersey register to be evacuated. Bailiff Alexander Coutanche and Judge Pinel speak in Royal Square. They urge people to keep calm. Coutanche announces he will never leave.

21st of June 1940 

Admiral Karlgeorg Schuster, who was tasked with the Capture of the Channel Islands and French Islands, discussed the situation with the operations teams of Luftflotte 2 (German Airforce Fleet 2) and a series of recognisance flights using Dornier Do17p aircraft were ordered to take place. this was to determine the strength of the Island defences.  

15 ships also depart St Helier with evacuees and the Lieutenant Governor Major-General J. M. R. Harrison, left on an auxiliary naval ship. The last civilian plane also left the Airport. The Bailiff Alexander Coutanche was sworn in as Civil Governor.

Aproxamently 5,000 animals were put down by the Animal Shelter all left behind by the evacuees 

22nd of June 1940 

The German lines were 12 miles away from Jersey and 216 German Infantry Division was moving towards Cherbourg (they would soon be used for the invasion of the Channel Islands). the French signed an armistice with the Germans, near Compiègne. ​Adolf Hitler forced the French delegation to sign at the exact same spot as that of the signing of the 1918 Armistice. The location of Germany’s 1918 surrender became the symbolic site of the Third Reich’s victory over France.

24th of June 1940 

King George VI sends a letter of assurance to the Channel Islands which is published in the Royal Square and posted in the parish church notices:

Below is a draft of the above letter which can be found in the London War Rooms. It was typed by Muriel Cooper who kept it after noticing a minor error.  

Luftflotte 2 (German Airforce Fleet 2) continued flights above the Channel Islands using Dornier Do17p aircraft. This was to determine the strength of the Island defences.  Previous missions had not provided any clear evidence of defences so flight were sent out daily from this point.  

25th of June 1940 

Operation Green Arrow (Grüne Pfeil)

The German Invasion of the Channel Islands was given the operational name "Operation Green Arrow" (Grüne Pfeil)

Luftflotte 3 took charge of the reconnaissance flights and was given the responsibility for air protection and the air security of the British Isles invasion. Earlier reconnaissance flights of Luftflotte 2 provided little evidence of any defences.

Despite the message from the King and the British Governments official withdrawal of troops from the British Isles the BBC have not broadcast this news on the world service. In most cases of "open towns" (demilitarised areas), the Government would reach out to an ambassador of a neutral country to advise the Germans of the withdrawal of troops. At this point, no contact was made.   

Operation Green Arrow called for six German Battalions. 

​Three battalions for the invasion of Jersey
​Two battalions for Guernsey 
​One battalion for Alderney 

​The invasion force was also to contain a Naval assault detachment "Marrinesstruppabtrilung" and two Combat Engineer Companies. The invasion was to be across two days. 

​Day 1
Alderney & Guernsey  

​Day 2
Jersey 

​German Naval operations would clear up British sea mines, provide artillery support and Luftflotte 3 to provide Ju87 Stuka dive-bombers, Heinkel He111 medium bombers and transportation via Junkers Ju 52 aircraft. 216 Infantry Division would provide the bulk of the occupation force. 

28th of June 1940 

The German Air Raid 

Luftflotte 2 & 3 reconnaissance flights had not produced a clear picture on the defences on the Channel Islands, so a bombing raid of Jersey and Guernsey was ordered to take place. At 17:30 on the 28th of June 1945, six Luftwaffe Heinkel He111 Bombers of 8th Staffel, 1/Gruppe Kampfgescgawder 55, departed from their base at Villacoublay (close to Paris). At 18:45 three of the bombers attacked La Rocque harbour moving on to St Helier. The other three bombers attack St Peter Port, Guernsey.  

The German aircraft dropped bombs and their machine guns strafed the harbour and buildings along the way. The only opposition they encountered was a twin lewis Machine Gun on the Vessel Ilse of Sark south of St Peter Port, Guernsey. 

The bombers each carried 20 50kg Fragmentation bombs. There are no records on how many were dropped. Local accounts suggest of the 9 bombers only three attack Jersey and a separate three attack Guernsey, the other three potentially in reserve or providing cover. If all 9 did attack the islands, 180, 50kg Bombs could have been dropped. If just 6, 120, bombs would have been dropped. 

In Jersey and Guernsey, 45 Islands lost their lives in this raid and over 100 were injured. 

Find out more about the raid: here

29th of June 1940 

In a meeting in Germany, Admiral Schuster discussed plans of the invasion. The raid on the 28th provided intelligence that defences on the islands were weak and a decision was made to reduce the invasion force size. Despite the BBC announcing after the raid on the Islands being classed as demilitarised open towns, a second raid was scheduled for the evening of the 1st of July.

The originally planned invasion force was now scaled down to just one battalion for Guernsey, one for Jersey and a single infantry company for Alderney. The light Anti Aircraft guns being used in Cherbourg would also be transferred.  

Recconasase flights were sent back to the Channel Islands to review the damage and any changes in defence. 

30th of June 1940 

The capture of Guernsey 

German forces continued reconnaissance flights above the Channel Islands with four Dornier Do17p aircraft belonging to Aufklärungsgruppe 123 (F).  At 14:50 Lead pilot, Hauptmann Liebe-Pieteritz decided to land at Guernsey Airport to see what the response would be. The three other aircraft provided cover.  Hauptmann landed and with his sidearm in hand headed to the airport building. The building was locked so he forced his way in but found it to be empty. Just as this happened three R.A.F Bristol Blenheim noticed the German Aircraft and begun an attack. Hauptmann darted back to his aircraft and the Dornier's returned to France. Despite some claims of the Dornier's shooting down two of the British aircraft, the R.A.F record no loses that day.  

​Aufklärungsgruppe 123 (F) report to Germany on what happened and that Guernsey was undefended. Arrangements were quickly made to put together an assault force, and they head back to Guernsey to capture the airfield. This force, under the command of Major Hassel, capture the airport just after 18:00. Guernsey Police inspector William Sculpher arrived at the airport that evening and confirmed the surrender of the Island to Major Hessel. Inspector Sculpher then drove the Major to the Ballif of Guernsey to confirm the same.

British Foreign Office asked the American Ambassador in London, Joseph P. Kenedy, to pass the below official message via the United States Embassy in Berlin to the German Government. 

"The evacuation of all military personnel and equipment from the Channel Islands was completed some days ago. The Islands are therefore demilitarised and cannot be considered in any way as a legitimate target for bombardment. A public announcement to this effect was made on the evening of June 28th." 

 

1st of July 1940 

The capture of Jersey 

The Germans were not convinced on the strength of any defence in Jersey so, in the early hours of the 1st of July 1940, Luftwaffe Recconasance Group 123 dropped ultimatum letters in pouches at the airport and St Helier. The order stated that a large white cross was to be shown from 7 am on the 2nd of July at the Airport, Fort Regent and the Royal Square. Fortifications, buildings and houses were to also show white flags.

At midday German pilot Lt Richard Kern Observed white crosses and landed at Jersey Airport unopposed. Kern approached the airport building with the crew of his Aircraft following his steps with their machine guns. Kern was met by Charles Roche, the Civilian in charge of the airport. Charles Roche confirmed there were no defences and Jersey was undefended. Lt Kern returned to his Aircraft and headed back to France.

German transport aircraft began arriving at the airport, and at 3pm Bailiff Alexander Coutanche and Duret Aubin were summoned to meet German officers. It was arranged that at 6 pm they would meet Major Lanz who was travelling from Guernsey to accept their official surrender.
 

By early evening well over 100 troops had been transferred to Jersey. Hotels had been set up as billets, and Anti-Aircraft weapons and checkpoints were operational before sunset. The need for a large scale invasion force was no longer required, and instead, the focus is changed in bringing over a large scale occupation force.

Major Lanz appointed Hauptmann Erich Gussek, commanding officer of No 1 Company, 216 Infantry Division, as the Commandant of Jersey. Gussek already knew Jersey, having been a prisoner of war in the WW1 Blanches Banques camp. Gussek set up his residence in Government House, and The Town Hall was set up as his operational headquarters.

2nd of July 1940 

The first of the German proclamations is issued and published in the evening post.

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