What happened after the liberation of the Channel Islands? Jersey remained under the control of the British military until 25th August 1945. Food and clothing was shipped in urgently, over 11,000 German soldiers were shipped out to prisoner-of-war camps in England. Islanders began to return by sea and by air; the first mailboat sailed into St Helier harbour on 26th June. German bunkers were blocked up, their guns thrown over cliffs. Slowly, life returned to normal.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the Channel Islands on 7th June 1945, arriving off Jersey in the cruiser HMS Jamaica. The royal couple were met by the Bailiff, Alexander Coutanche, and Brigadier Alfred Snow, the Commander of Task Force 135. The King’s message to islanders survives in the Jersey Archive.
When they paused to reflect, what did the people of Jersey think about their occupation experience? There was, at first, elation at being liberated. This was followed by excitement at the prospect of being re-united with loved ones last seen in 1940. But with exposure to newspapers and newsreels and photographs of World War Two, attitudes began to change. As Dixie Landick remembered in 1995…
For five years the people of Jersey had been trapped in their island. They had suffered many of the privations endured by those in other occupied territories but, save for an air raid on 28th June 1940, three days before the Germans arrived, no bombing. After the Liberation, Islanders were keen to travel and many bought a ticket for a day-trip to St Malo aboard the SS Brittany. Some may not have been prepared for what they found…
In Jersey income tax had been raised to 20% to pay for the damage wrought by the Germans. In the late 1940s tourism came back; many English visitors preferred to holiday in the Channel Islands where they didn’t need a passport and the residents spoke English. Gradually, the Island’s economy revived.
King George VI died in February 1952 and, with the accession of his daughter, the country entered a new Elizabethan age. And, through the unique film of the Jersey Film Archive, it’s possible to chart the progress of Jersey from Liberation to Coronation…
The Southern Railway mailboat Isle of Sark, re-painted in peacetime colours, discharges its passengers onto the Albert Pier in St Helier Harbour.