Jersey’s history is written across the island, from a Neolithic passage grave (of which, more another day) to magnificent Medieval and Tudor castles. A more recent episode in Jersey’s history is also etched on the landscape; during World War 2, the Channel Islands were occupied by the German army.
The islands were occupied on 1st July 1940 and were liberated more than five years later, on 9th July 1945. During the occupation, extensive defences were built all over Jersey, even on top of the Tudor Elizabeth Castle.
Numerous pillboxes, batteries and other defences were constructed, using slave labour from the defeated peoples of Europe. At La Hougue Bie, a moving display tells their story. The defences included three enormous observation towers.
Although, in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, the impulse of the islanders was to bury the signs of occupation, more recently this part of the island’s history is being explored and preserved. Some sites are open, manned by volunteers, on certain days and the Jersey War Tunnels museum is always open and offers an informative, moving yet balanced account of the war years.
Most of the pillboxes and batteries remain derelict, however, stark reminders of this difficult and tragic time.
Needless to say, they also provide an opportunity to try some moody, grainy photography, with the assistance of willing teenage son in black hoody.
Some of the derelict structures have been used, although all signs of habitation seemed pretty old.
More about Jersey tomorrow.