The islands’ Liberation Day celebrations are on hold, but you can still tap into interest in their Second World War heritage, writes Katie McGonagle.
Visit the Jersey War Tunnels
This network of underground tunnels, built by occupying German troops using forced labour in case of an Allied incursion to the island, are among Jersey’s most popular attractions. Lydia Smith, marketing manager for Airways Holidays parent C I Travel Group, says: “In the 75th year since the liberation of the Channel Islands, what better time is there to explore the history and heritage of Jersey? The Jersey War Tunnels are no ordinary museum: they offer an unforgettable and moving experience, serving as a permanent reminder of the German occupation of Jersey.”
“The Jersey War Tunnels offer an unforgettable and moving experience, serving as a permanent reminder of the German occupation of Jersey.”
Book it: Airways Holidays’ seven-night Jersey History & Heritage Break includes ferry crossing from Poole, B&B accommodation, shuttle bus and entrance to Jersey War Tunnels, and Jersey Heritage Pass to access four other sites, priced from £399 in September.
Stroll the Guernsey coast
During the occupation of Guernsey, German troops built dozens of fortifications along its coastline, adapting existing defences and building reinforced bunkers to withstand attacks. That was especially true on the west coast, where sites include Fort Grey, Fort Saumarez, Fort Hommet and the observation tower at Pleinmont Headland.
Visit Guernsey has mapped out a two-hour self-guided clifftop walk, Occupation Reminders and Folklore Legend (visitguernsey.com, follow links to walking routes) that also takes in folk site the Fairy Ring, the wave-whipped Hanois lighthouse and traditional fishing spot Portelet Harbour.
“Visit Guernsey has mapped out a two-hour self-guided clifftop walk, Occupation Reminders and Folklore Legend that also takes in folk site the Fairy Ring.”
Book it: Premier Holidays’ seven-day Guernsey Discovery holiday costs from £625, with ferry travel or flights from nine regional airports (including Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands and Manchester), plus B&B accommodation, half-day guided tour and day trips to Herm and Sark.
Explore bunkers by night
Visitors with a love of military history can indulge their interest with night-time tours of bunkers and tunnels not usually open to the public. Non-profit organisation Jersey War Tours Research leads tours including close-up views of wartime weaponry and artefacts, with profits going back into research and preservation.
“Non-profit organisation Jersey War Tours Research leads tours including close-up views of wartime weaponry and artefacts.”
Book it: Tours depart from St Helier, costing £50 for up to four people. This tour is currently open only to private groups from the same household, adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Mosey round museums
Guernsey is home to a number of museums and attractions that explore the island’s wartime heritage. The German Occupation Museum includes a realistic recreation of an occupation-era street plus exhibitions on maritime history; the German Underground Hospital is a huge structure hewn out of solid rock and hidden from planes flying overhead; while La Valette Underground Museum covers island history from the First World War onwards, housed in tunnels built as fuel storage for German U-Boats.
“The German Occupation Museum includes a realistic recreation of an occupation-era street plus exhibitions on maritime history.”
Book it: The German Occupation Museum is £6 adults/£3 children; German Underground Hospital £4.50/£2.50; La Valette £6/£3.50.
Sail to Sark
The less-travelled sister islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney were also subject to the German occupation, from July 1940 until the end of the Second World War. Prestige Holidays’ general sales manager Lee Hamilton says: “Many clients might have holidayed on the islands of Jersey or Guernsey, but may not have considered the smaller islands of Sark and Herm, which can be reached by ferry. They are car-free and easy to explore on foot or by bike, and the beaches tend to be quieter than the main islands.”
“Many clients might have holidayed on the islands of Jersey or Guernsey, but may not have considered the smaller islands of Sark and Herm.”
Book it: Prestige Holidays offers properties including the Stocks Hotel, La Sablonnerie and Clos de Vaul Creux on Sark, or The White House Hotel on Herm.