Posts Tagged Weapons

Channel Islands Occupied – Unique Pictures Of The Nazi Rule 1940-1945

Channel Islands Occupied – Unique Pictures Of The Nazi Rule 1940-1945.  Richard Mayne.  Jarrold & Sons Limited, Norwich, Norfolk, England. 1978.  ISBN 978-0711702448 Card cover.  64 pages.  channelislenazirule

I LOVE READING and I also like to support different charities.  I’m able to combine both of these interests by purchasing books at various charity shops. The books are usually in reasonable nick and are a fraction of their original price.  Therefore, when I came across Channel Islands Occupied in a charity shop a while ago, I was more than happy to pay the princely sum of 50p for it.

Compiled, and with a commentary, by Richard Mayne, it relates to the occupation of the Channel Islands – made up of Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey and Sark, and some smaller islands – by National Socialist Germany during WWII.  At 64 pages, it’s not a huge book.  However, I liked its convenient size – it’s roughly the same as a large postcard so you can keep it in a jacket pocket.  My copy also had reasonably thick cardboard cover which wouldn’t bend too easily.

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German Armed Forces (around 20,000 troops held the islands) during WWII and this book is absolutely crammed full of evocative photographs of the period.  Reflecting the history and makeup of the islands themselves, all text and captions are in English and French – indeed, the French title of the book is Les Iles Anglo-Normandes Occupées.

The book is dedicated to ‘the memory of the known five hundred and fifty-seven ‘slave’ workers, mainly Russian and Spanish, who died in these islands between 1942 and 1944.’

Richard Mayne sets the scene in his dramatic Introduction:

‘In 1940 Hitler’s legions swept rapidly and violently through France, and on 12 June the swastika, that hated symbol of Nazi Germany, was flown from public buildings in Paris.  With the fall of the rest of France imminent, the German occupation of the Channel Islands also became inevitable. 

There was voluntary evacuation to Britain of the civilian population of the islands and about 34,500 people departed, leaving a population of some 64,000.  In Alderney, the evacuation was so thorough that only 7 people remained out of a population of 1,432.  At the same time, the British Government demilitarised the islands by withdrawing British troops.  The Jersey Militia subsequently became the 11th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.  The Guernsey Militia had previously been disbanded to release hundreds of men to volunteer for H.M. forces.’

Channel Islands Occupied is conveniently and effectively set out in chronological order – before, during and after the occupation.  Headings like The calm before the storm, German Command, Fortification, Liberation are all accompanied by a commentary plus many photographs.  However, it’s still possible to dip in and out of it at your leisure – something I did many times.

The full colour cover is striking enough, but the hundred or so fascinating black & white photographs are the highlights of the book.  I’ve read a lot of history books, but I don’t really know too much about the occupation and I’ve never come across any of these photographs before.  They include images of bomb damage, the German military, fortifications, weapons, and the ‘slave’ workers.  Of particular note are photographs of various German proclamations and death warrants.

One photograph is a favourite of mine – it depicts a van belonging to the Jersey Gas Company which has been converted to run on gas.  A massive gas bag sits incongruously on top of the van – it’s truly a bizarre sight as it looks slightly larger than the van itself! – but apparently, there’s enough to fuel the van to cover a distance of 30 miles.

A fairly small photograph also caught my eye.  It depicted the words ‘British Victory Is Certain’ painted over a German language road sign in Jersey.  It made me wonder what the level and type of resistance to the occupation of the Channel Isles was like.  This interests me because I’m sure I’ve come across suggestions that some of the leading lights of island society didn’t exactly go out of their way to oppose the occupation.  I have a vague notion that one of the people who first mentioned this was, ironically, a former member of the British Free Corps, a volunteer unit of the Waffen SS made up of former British PoWs.  Hopefully, I’ll come across the source material again as I believe it’d make an interesting piece for this site.

I’ve wanted to visit the Channel Island for a long time now as a former workmate recommended the area years ago as an ideal holiday destination.  Like me, he was very interested in history – he was also a great fan of the TV programme Bergerac, which starred John Nettles and Louise Jameson, and which was filmed there.  In fact, he was the first person I’d ever come across who would go of his way to visit various TV and film locations – something that seems to be very common these days, given the success of films like Harry Potter and the TV series Game Of Thrones.

Channel Islands Occupied is a great introduction to this little known period of British and German military history.  It has certainly whetted my appetite for more information.  Needless to say, that reading it has deepened the desire to visit as I understand that it’s possible to visit some of the fortifications and associated museums.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that in the not too distant future and obviously produce a follow-up article for Counter Culture.

  • Reviewed by John Field
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La Illeta Dels Banyets

yacimiento-arqueologicoEL CAMPELLO is a delightful town, in the heart of the Spanish Costa Blanca.  Situated about half an hour away from Alicante and an hour away from Benidorm, it has a population of around 26,000.  El Campello is home to a few English speaking folks – but it’s light years away from those who live, work and holiday in Alicante and Benidorm. 

As the town’s web-site – http://www.elcampello.es/index.php?s=campello_hoy&i=en – notes, it’s a ‘traditional fishing village which has known how to transform itself, without losing its roots, in to a first rate tourist town.’

Indeed, it’s where a lot of Spanish folks go for their holidays.  And it’s easy to see why – there’s over 14 miles (23 kilometres) of beautiful beaches which are effectively given a ‘manicure’ early every morning.  In addition to this the whole beach front is immaculate.  In fact it’s so neat and tidy you’d be hard pressed to find any litter at all. 

If you’re into history and culture, one of the highlights of El Campello is an archaeological site known as La Illeta Dels Banyets, sometimes known as the Queen’s Bathing Pools.

Earlier this year my wife and I visited the town.  We were aware of the La Illeta and wanted to visit it.  We were really lucky as our visit coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the opening of El Campello’s Tourist Information Office.  To mark the occasion, some visitor attractions were open free of charge – including the La Illeta.  Happy days!

I’ll let the town’s aforementioned web-site explain the significance of the site:

Located in a small peninsula, at the foot of the Watchtower, an archaeological site can be found which is, without a doubt, the most important of the Mediterranean. These lands were separated from the coast by an earthquake of an unknown date, and during the 30’s of the last century were artificially reunited with the land. The first excavations were carried out by F. Figueras Pacheco between 1931 and 35 and, during the decade of the 70’s, by E. A. Llobregat. These works confirmed the existence on this site of different civilisations and cultures, with the Roman, the Iberian, and the Bronze Era being the most significant, and so we can date the site as being over 5,000 years old.

From the Iberian era vessels, weapons, tombs and ceramic remains have been found, as well as singular buildings which lead us to believe that significant production and trade activity took place in relation to other Mediterranean cultures between the second and fourth Centuries B.C.

From the Roman era small thermal baths have been found which belonged to a disappeared agricultural village and, linked to this and to others nearby, some fish-farm hatcheries cut into the rock. Despite the erosion, the pools can still be made out, connected to the sea, in which the fish were farmed. These constructions (els Banyets) give their name to the site because according to word of mouth tradition they were the bathing pools of a Moorish queen.

The site is currently supervised by the Museo Arqueológico de Alicante (Marq), which is in charge of is museumisation.’

We both found La Illeta really interesting.  There were detailed information boards everywhere.  Even by the plants – which somehow are able to survive the reasonably arid conditions in this part of the world – had information boards!  It provided a fascinating glimpse into the past.  We both found ourselves thinking that we have it really easy compared to the lives our European ancestors lived.

My wife was particularly interested in the wine making area which dated back to the Iberian era.  As a wine lover, she wondered how our ancestors ‘came across’ wine.  Indeed, how did they work out how to make it – was it completely by accident or did someone deliberately set out to do it?  I’m not really into wine at all, but even I started to wonder if wine has always tasted the same or did it evolve over the years? I presume environmental changes and modern production methods would have some bearing on the matter – if so, is there any way that the ‘original’ taste of wines throughout the ages could be recreated?

During our time on La Illeta we came across one of the assistants talking in French to a young girl.  We presumed she was an archaeology student as she was taking copious notes whilst the assistant was going into great detail and both were taking a very close look at some of the ruins.

We really enjoyed our time there.  However, I thought that maybe even a small ‘living history’ museum near the site would have been useful.  I would have really like to seen full size mock-ups of the buildings, characters in various period costumes and maybe an audio visual display providing a history of the general area. 

La Illeta is one of the most prominent features along the El Campello coast line.  Others include a modern marina, nautical club and fish market.  Overlooking this area is La Illeta Watchtower.  It’s a very impressive and a fairly substantial defensive position dating back to the sixteenth century and built to warn against raids from Berber Pirates.  As mentioned earlier, some form of museum could provide a link between all of these features – a real delight for all history buffs and culture vultures!

La Illeta is well, well worth a visit.  However, a word to the wise – it’s surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea which provides a lovely – but deceiving – breeze.  Believe it or not it’s easy to get roasted by the sun without actually noticing it.  Our tip is to use plenty of the highest factor sun cream you can get hold of – you have been warned!

Reviewed by John Field

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