Jersey War Tunnels
The Jersey War Tunnels give a fascinating insight into life in Jersey during World War 2.The exhibition is housed in the former underground complex built for the Germans. In 1941 it was originally built as a shelter to protect German troops but was converted to a hospital in 1943. It remained operational until 1945.
German Invasion of Jersey
So, why were the Channel Islands occupied by German forces when the rest of the British Isles weren't? In May 1940, German troops swept throughout Europe forcing the Allies to review their strategies. As a result, the UK government decided that the Channel Islands were not of strategic military importance and demilitarised the islands. This was done very quickly so as to not alert Hilter to the plans. Islanders were given around 24 hours to decide if they wanted to stay or be evacuated to the British mainland. With very little time to prepare only 6,600 of the 50,000 inhabitants left Jersey. Once the evacuations had been carried out, the troops also left and this was completed in late June. Hilter's troops invaded Jersey on 30th June 1940.
Following the arrival of the German soldiers, they and the islanders lived side-by-side for the next five years. The enemy occupation meant that life changed dramatically for everyone. The inhabitants had been abandoned by Britain and eventually became cut off from France. The museum describes the challenges they faced from censorship, curfews and food rationing. Archive footage, artefacts, exhibits and interviews with islanders help visitors to understand what life was like on a day to day basis.
The tunnels are approximately 1km long. They were carved out in a hillside by salve labourers from Russian, Land, France and Spain. Not all the tunnels were finished allowing visitors to see the dreadful conditions the labourers worked in. The original operating theatre, boiler room, telephone exchange and office of the Head Storeroom have been preserved. There are re-creations of an air raid shelter and a 1940s Jersey home.
The invasion on D-Day by Allied troops was the start of Europe's liberation. However, for Jersey and the other Channel Islands, this wasn't the case. As German troops retreated from Normandy, the channel islands became cut off from mainland France. The islands had been very well fortified; 10% of the steel and concrete meant to re-inforce the Atlantic Wall was used on the Channel Islands. Because of this the winter of 1944/45 was very difficult as food shortages affected both the troops and the islanders. Jersey was finally liberated on 9th May 1945. Liberation Day is therefore celebrated every year and a sculpture in Liberation Square in St Helier is a reminder of the hardship endured.
Wrap up warm as the tunnels can be cold. I visited on a very warm September day and they were cool. The Jersey are Tunnels are at Les Charrières de Malorey in St Lawrence. In 2020 they are open every day from 15th February to 31st October from 9.30am to 5.30pm. They will remain open until 15th November but will close at 3pm. Visitors can take a bus (route 8 or 28) or enjoy a vintage shuttle bus. Visit the Jersey Bus Tours website for more information . Parking is available right outside if you travel there by car. There's more information about the tunnels on the Jersey War tunnels website.