The Jersey War Tunnels were built by slave labour during the German occupation of the Channel Islands in the Second World War. Originally built as fortifications for Hitler’s plan to turn the Islands into an ‘impregnable fortress’, orders came in 1943 to turn the tunnels into an underground hospital (at this point in the war, the German High Command believed that an Allied assault on the French coast was imminent). The hospital was never used by the occupiers. When the Islands were liberated on 9 May 1945, a British medical unit moved in and the hospital was subsequently stripped of all its supplies.In a move similar to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we were given three identity cards belonging to Islanders on arrival and invited to follow them around the exhibits. Both The Brainy One and I were surprised by our reactions to the things we read and saw, and he summed it in three words – white hot rage. We are both experienced visitors to military museums. We have both paid our respects to our war dead across the world, resulting in a self-published book. I have visited Bergen-Belsen. The only conclusion we could reach was that because the Islanders are British, that somehow makes the atrocities meted out on Jersey become all the more personal. Joseph Arthur Miere was just 14 years old when the Channel Islands were occupied. He became active in the Resistance and was eventually imprisoned in St Helier’s prison, where he remained until the Islands were liberated.
Louisa Gould was a widowed mother of two sons and ran a village shop at the time of the occupation. She was also incredibly brave and strong. She defied an order to turn in her wireless set and hid it in her bedroom. She then passed on news heard from the BBC to her customers. And if that wasn’t risky enough, she subsequently gave shelter to an escaped Soviet prisoner-of-war. Betrayed by an informer at the end of 1943, she was arrested and sentenced on 22 June 1944. In August 1944 she was transported to Ravensbrück where she died on 13 February 1945. In 2010 she was posthumously awarded the honour British Hero of the Holocaust (alongside her sister and brother). A film of her life, Another Mother’s Son, was produced in 2017. I don’t mind admitting that I cried buckets when I learned of Louisa’s death.
Edward Oliver Ross was an Islander who had been born on the UK mainland in Glasgow in 1903. Edward and his wife, Nan, attempted to pass on information regarding the progress of the Allies to Soviet prisoners. Arrested by German guards and charged with ‘consorting without authority with prisoners of war and distributing wireless news hostile to Germany’, Edward and Nan were sentenced to six months imprisonment and sent to a prison in France. Amazingly, both survived their imprisonment and, with the help of the International Red Cross, were reunited.
You can read more about Jersey prisoners here.