Jersey’s Occupation Relics

Jersey WW2

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.


This one’s now a holiday rental

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.

German pillbox on top of tudor castle

An incongruous site

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.

WW2 tower Jersey

Does this remind you of the cylons in original Battlestar Galactica, or is that just me?

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.

St.Ouen's Beach, Jersey

Remains of WW2 beach defences

Most of the pillboxes and batteries remain derelict, however, stark reminders of this difficult and tragic time.

WW2 tower, Jersey

Creepily atmospheric in fog

Needless to say, they also provide an opportunity to try some moody, grainy photography, with the assistance of willing teenage son in black hoody.

Derelict war tunnel, Jersey

Someone has been decorating

Some of the derelict structures have been used, although all signs of habitation seemed pretty old.

graffiti in war tunnel

What does this mean?

Teenager in derelict war tunnel

Moodiness comes with the territory

More about Jersey tomorrow.

8 thoughts on “Jersey’s Occupation Relics

  1. The black and white shot with son in hoody made me think of Galactica more than the color one. All these remnants of the wars are a bit on the creepy side. I remember visiting some similar stuff on the opposite side of the Bay in San Francisco (Marin county). There’s also a building along the Coast here that reminds me somewhat of these, but I’ve never able to determine their true origin.

  2. Nice photo essay; I really enjoyed it. I’ve never been to the Channel Islands and this (probably even more than your earlier series of posts) makes me want to go.

    I don’t find old relics of WW2 off putting at all and for me they can “enhance” the landscape. There’s an old pillbox on the coast just north of Dunstanburgh Castle (you have probably seen it; I know you like Northumberland) and it fascinates me. You can take a photo of the pillbox with the castle in the background. To me they are the same thing, just separated by a few hundred years. And in a few hundred years time I think people will look back at WW2 stuff with the same feelings that people now look back at castles from the middle ages.

  3. Haha, I bought my first hoody on the weekend at the age of 48! Mine has a bit of colour in it, and I doubt I could replicate that look of menacing sloth teens manage so well.

    Those fortifications are fascinatingly creepy. The style doesn’t actually seem that dated – it brings home how recent those dark days were in real terms. They look like they could have been built a decade ago – from the outside at least.

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