The Channel Islands are an archipelago in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy, and the islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during World War II, remaining under German control for five years until they were liberated in May 1945.
The Germans build a series of fortifications on the islands, in order to beat back an invasion. An invasion that never came. The build several bunkers on the islands as part of their defensive strategy. The islands were something of a fortress.
The Channel Islands Occupation Society (CIOS) said that because Hitler believed the Allies would attempt to regain the islands, they were fortified “out of all proportion to their strategic value.” A common bunker would have been manned 24 hours a day and consisted of fortification 6.5 feet thick, crew quarters for eight people, a Luftwaffe FL 242 anti-aircraft gun bunker, and full equipment for a gas attack, including gas-lock doors. Hundreds of these concrete, reinforced bunkers, gun stations, anti-tank walls, and tunnels were constructed to protect the islands from an Allied invasion that never came.
Tony Pike, from the CIOS, said, “After the war the States tried to destroy the fortifications. They were considered a nuisance and not regarded as of historical importance, but it was too expensive, so bunkers were filled with rubble and waste.”
Since then the bunkers have been abandoned and nothing has been done to them. However, interest in the bunkers has revived in recent years and there is a greater interest in the Channel Islanders unique war-time experiences.
Volunteers have removed about 15 tons of earth and rubble by hand from the bunker at Les Landes Common, which Pike says was filled in by the government “partly for safety reasons and partly to have it buried and forgotten.” The States of Jersey Environment Department gave the Channel Islands Occupation Society (CIOS) permission to carry out the work. It is a big task and it will require a lot of work, by the volunteers.
The bunker, which has been closed since it was filled in more than 50 years ago, will soon be opened to the public for the first time. The former anti-aircraft gun station still has original German floral artwork on the walls. It will give visitors a real sense of what the bunker was like during the war. The restored bunker will allow the local people and visitors to the island an opportunity to understand the islands experiences and those of soldiers during wartime.
Mr. Pike hopes that the restored bunker will be open to the public on the 16th of May 2016, the anniversary of the liberation of the Channel Islands.