The government of Jersey during the Occupation

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Government during the Occupation


This article by Lord Coutanche was first published in the 1965 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

For a considerable time before the Munich crisis in September 1938, the insular authorities had been in consultation with the Home Office in London as to the legal and administrative arrangements which would be necessary in the event of war.

Order in Council

It may be recalled that during the First World War the power to make Defence Regulations was reserved to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and the Regulations so made were sent, normally through the ordinary postal services, not only to the Channel Islands but to a number of overseas territories which were not completely self-governing. It was accepted that, in the sort of war which threatened in 1938, with the obvious far greater danger of the interruption of sea and air services, this system would not work and that decentralisation was essential. Accordingly, the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, which was enacted by the Parliament at Westminster, not only empowered His Majesty in Council to make Defence Regulations for the United Kingdom, but to delegate a similar power to a number of overseas territories, including the Channel Islands. So, by the Emergency Powers (Jersey) Defence Order in Council of 25 August 1939, the States of Jersey were substituted for His Majesty in Council as the Authority empowered to make Defence Regulations for Jersey.

This Order in Council and the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, were registered by the Royal Court of Jersey on 31 August 1939. It should be recorded, however, that on 15 August 1941, His Majesty in Council revoked the Emergency Powers (Jersey) Defence Order in Council 1939. The insular government was in ignorance of its revocation until the Liberation, and throughout the Occupation continued to operate on the assumption that the 1939 Order in Council was in force.

Defence Regulations, which followed very closely similar Regulations proposed to be made in the United Kingdom, had been drafted and kept in readiness in Jersey. The first Regulations were made by the States on 1 September 1939. War was declared on 3 September 1939. Many other Regulations were made by the States as and when circumstances required. Like those made in the United Kingdom, these provided for the wide variety of emergencies which it was foreseen might arise. But one eventuality never foreseen was that of occupation by the enemy.

Collapse in France

The autumn of 1939, the following winter and the spring of 1940 - the period of the "phoney war" - were comparatively uneventful so far as life within the Island of Jersey was concerned. Soon, however, the German drive through the Low Countries and the collapse of France, followed by the Dunkirk evacuation and finally by the evacuation of the remaining British troops from France through the ports of Cherbourg, St Malo, Brest, and St Nazaire in mid-June 1940, left no doubt as to the imminent danger to the Channel Islands.

It was feared that the length of the sea journey between the French and English Channel ports might, in view of the rapid advance of the German Forces, make it impossible for the limited shipping available to get all the troops out of France. Jersey was chosen as the most convenient port to be used as a stepping stone between French and English ports and was got ready, militarily, to defend itself and the troops expected to be temporarily in it.

At the request of the Admiralty, a flotilla of small boats was sent from Jersey to St Malo to help in the evacuation. This operation was organised by the late Deputy W S Le Masurier, Commodore of the St Helier Yacht Club, father of our present Bailiff.

Fortunately, the Germans turned aside in their advance on St Malo, and Jersey was but little used in the evacuation from France. But with the prospect of that operation and for other reasons, the Lieut-Governor, Major-General J M R Harrison, and the Bailiff were ordered to stay at their posts, and were asked to send a trusted adviser for confidential talks in London. Jurat Edgar Aleck Dorey readily accepted this difficult mission. He flew to London on Monday, 17 June, and returned to Jersey on Wednesday, 19 June, in an RAF Anson.

He brought with him a letter dated 19 June 1940 addressed to the Lieut-Governor, from Sir Alexander Maxwell, Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, in the following terms:

"I am directed by the Secretary of State to say that in the event of your recall it is desired by His Majesty's Government that the Bailiff should discharge the duties of Lieut-Governor, which would then be confined to civil duties, and that he should stay at his post and administer the government of the Island to the best of his abilities in the interest of the inhabitants, whether or not he is in a position to receive instructions from His Majesty's Government. The Crown Officers also should remain at their posts."

The Lieut-Governor was recalled and left the Island on Friday, 21 June, in a yacht specially provided by the Admiralty. Immediately after his departure the Bailiff took, before the Superior Number of the Royal Court, the oath of Lieut-Governor but, by agreement with the Home Secretary, in a modified form which omitted the traditional reference to the defence of the Island, namely "et avec tout votre sens et pouvoir garderez et ferez garder ladite Ile et Chateaux contre les incursions et surprises des ennemis".

Troops withdrawn

All British troops were withdrawn from the Island. The Royal Jersey Militia embarked and left for England as did the servicemen who were on leave in the Island. Some 10,000 civilians sailed for England in ships provided by the Ministry of Transport. The Government Secretary, Lieut-Colonel H H Hulton, remained at his post and, until his untimely death in December 1940, rendered distinguished service to the Island.

During these critical days the Bailiff and the Law Officers had been in constant consultation with senior members of the States, and, in view of the likely need for quick decisions quietly taken, it was decided that government by the existing committees must be suspended in favour of government through a small number of departments, with a Superior Council, acting as a cabinet. This arrangement worked extremely well under the special circumstances of the Occupation.

King's message

On Monday 24 June 1940 the States met and received the following message from the King addressed to the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey:

"For strategic reasons it has been found necessary to withdraw the Armed Forces from the Channel Islands. I deeply regret this necessity and I wish to assure My people in the Islands that, in taking this decision, My Government has not been unmindful of their position. It is in their interest that this step should be taken in present circumstances. The long association of the Islands with the Crown and the loval service the people of the Islands have rendered to My Ancestors and Myself are guarantees that the link between us will remain unbroken and I know that My people in the Islands will look forward with the same confidence as I do to the day when the resolute fortitude with which we face our present difficulties will reap the reward of victory."

King George VI always took a great interest in matters affecting the Channel Islands, and it is known that their occupation by the Germans was a matter of particular grief to him.

Superior council

On that day, too, the States resolved that, until the Assembly should otherwise decide, there should be constituted the following eight departments with their respective presidents:

  • Essential Commodities: Jurat Edwin Philip Le Masurier
  • Transport and Communications: JuratJames Messervy Norman
  • Finance and Economics: Jurat Edgar Aleck Dorey
  • Agriculture: Jurat Touzel John Bree
  • Public Health: Jurat Philip Melmoth Baudains
  • Essential Services: Deputy William Smythe Le Masurier
  • Public Instruction: Jurat Philip Ernest Bree
  • Labour: Deputy Edward Le Quesne

Each president was empowered to choose, subject to the approval of the States, two other members of the States for his department. (It will be recalled that until 1948 Jurats were elected for life by popular vote and were members of both the States and the Royal Court).

The States further resolved that the presidents of the Departments should, with the Bailiff as President, the Attorney-General, and the Solicitor-General, constitute the Superior Council. The Council was charged to consider the problems created by the existing situation, and to make to the States, from time to time, such recommendations as it might think fit. The first meeting of the Council was held in the Bailiff's Chambers on Monday, 24 June 1940.

The States met again on 27 June. They adopted a Humble Address to His Majesty thanking Him for the gracious message and then adopted Defence Regulations, the effect of which was to transfer to the new departments the powers which had previously been entrusted by the States to the former committees. Credits voted to the former committees were frozen and all available monies placed to the credit of a special fund, out of which the Council was to discharge all the outstanding liabilities of the committees and to place at the disposal of the new departments the funds necessary to carry on the government of the Island. The legal and administrative arrangements which were thought to be necessary to deal with the impending enemy occupation of Jersey were now complete.

Germans arrive

The States met on 1 July when the Bailiff read a translation of the communication which he had received earlier in the day from the Commandant of the German Air Force in Normandy announcing his intention to occupy the Island. The States ordered the inhabitants of the Island to offer no resistance. German airborne forces landed at the Airport the same evening.

The first German Commandant in Jersey was Captain Gussek. He came, first and foremost, as a fighting soldier seizing a territory. He took little interest in civil administration, and was more than willing that the existing civil government of Jersey should continue, provided that it showed that it could govern and was ready to meet the reasonable and legal demands of his small occupation force.

The Bailiff and Law Officers engaged at once in consultations with Captain Gussek in the hope, which was fully realised, of making clear the conditions under which the insular government could continue to function. Captain Gussek, as a result of these consulations, issued, on 8 July 1940, a proclamation which was to form the permanent basis of the legal relations between the insular government and the German Forces throughout the Occupation.

Three provisions of the proclamation require to be set out in full, for they were of supreme importance:

  • The Civil Government and the Courts of the Island will continue to function as heretofore, save that all Laws, Ordinances, Regulations and Orders will be submitted to the German Commandant before being enacted.
  • Such legislation as, in the past, required the sanction of His Britannic Majesty-in-Council for its validity, shall henceforth be valid on being approved by the German Commandant and thereafter sanctioned by the Bailiff of Jersey.
  • The orders of the German Commandant heretofore, now and hereafter issued shall, in due course, be registered in the records of the Island of Jersey, in order that no person may plead ignorance thereof. Offences against the same, saving those punishable under German Military Law, shall be punishable by the Civil Courts, who shall enact suitable penalties

in respect of such offences, with the approval of the German Commandant.

Captain Gussek made no secret of the fact that he regarded his command as a temporary one, and that a victorious German Army was about to invade and occupy England. Satisfied that there were ample supplies in the Island for the needs of the civil population, he required the imposition of but few additional rationing regulations.

In the middle of August 1940, Captain Gussek informed the Bailiff that Feldkommandantur (Field Command) 515 was coming to Jersey to take over from him the control of civil affairs. The Field Command was established at Victoria College House on 9 August 1940. It was, in effect, a Civil Affairs unit, similar to the units of the same kind which had been set up throughout German-occupied territory. It operated under the direction of a superior unit in Paris.

On 11 October 1940 the Royal Court registered an order made by the Chief of the Military Administration in France directing that orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the German Army in relation to the territory of the Military Administration in France should apply to the Channel Islands. A large number of such orders were subsequently registered by the Royal Court.

After Battle of Britain

Alas, the occupation of Jersey was not yet complete. Immediately after the Battle of Britain, in which the Luftwaffe failed to gain superiority over the Royal Air Force, Captain Gussek called on the Bailiff and informed him that he was leaving the Island. Recent events, he said, had changed the military situation and the war might be prolonged. He then announced the appointment of a Befelshaber (Commander-in-Chief) of the Channel Islands, with headquarters in Jersey. This was the final meeting between the Bailiff and Captain Gussek, who left the island.

The Commander-in-Chief was Colonel (later Major-General) Graf von Schmettow. He lived at Government House in Jersey, and set up his headquarters in Roseville Street at the end of September 1940. His Chief of Staff was Major Baron von Helldorf. Both remained in the Channel Islands until the end of 1944. The headquarters alternated between Jersey and Guernsey.

Both the Commander-in-Chief and the Field Commandant accepted the legal position established between the insular government and the Army of Occupation by Captain Gussek's proclamation of 8 July 1940. The control of military affairs was in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief and his staff. The control of civil affairs was in the hands of the Field Commandant and his staff. The first Field Commandant was Colonel Shumacher. He was succeeded in October 1941 by Colonel Knackfuss. The Field Commandants were assisted by Senior (OKVRs) and Junior (KVRs) Civil Affairs officers.

The Battle of Britain and the postponement and subsequent abandonment of the German plan to invade Britain - operation Sea Lion - had a profound effect upon the nature of the enemy occupation of Jersey. General von Schmettow's mission was now to turn Jersey into an impregnable fortress - Festung Jersey.

Council at work

As soon as they were appointed by the States in June 1940 the presidents of the various departments, with their clerical and technical staffs, established themselves in separate offices in some convenient place. The presidents attended daily; the other members of the departments very frequently.

Except at moments of crisis, when it sat constantly, the Superior Council met regularly once a week. Each president reported upon the work of his department and decisions were made on the many problems which arose. The execution of these decisions, and the issue of necessary Orders and Regulations, were the responsibility of the department concerned. As an exceptional measure, when matters which required special treatment arose, a meeting was held of all the members of all the departments.

During the Occupation the States met on 23 occasions only. By general consent, they met only when absolutely necessary, for instance, to deal with the Estimates and the Budget and to enact such legislation as required, constitutionally, to be passed by the Assembly. Such legislation required to be approved by the Field Commandant and sanctioned by the Bailiff. All major Orders and Regulations also had to be approved by the Field Commandant. Thus, in May 1941, the Superior Council took power, in compliance with the directions of the Field Commandant, to regulate the use of a large number of specified materials.

Under these powers Mr (now Jurat) S P Pepin was appointed Fuel Controller in August 1941, and Mr R J Hele became Textile and Footwear Controller. Both controllers issued Orders and Directions in accordance with general or special approvals given by the Council.

The presidents of the departments were in constant touch with their opposite numbers at Field Command. The Field Commandant dealt personally with matters of major importance at conferences at which the Bailiff normally represented the insular government, with one of the Law Officers, together with a president or other representative of one or more departments to advise him. The Law Officers dealt directly with the Judge and Officers of the German Military Court in relation to criminal affairs and other matters of a purely legal nature.

Many of the fortifications of all kinds which the German High Command constructed remain a grim reminder to the people of Jersey of those dark and dangerous days. The size of the fighting elements of the Occupation Force was greatly increased. Polish troops, Russian and North African prisoners of war, "voluntary workers" of many nations, and the German civil engineering unit known as Organization Todt were employed on the construction of the fortifications. The German Navy had its Headquarters at the Pomme d'Or Hotel, and controlled the harbours, buoys, lights, shipping and fishing. The Airport was occupied by the German Air Force.

The five years of enemy occupation can be divided into two distinct periods. The first and much longer period extended from the Battle of Britain (September 1940) to D-Day (6 June 1944). The second, from D-Day to the Liberation of the island, (9 May 1945).

To deal with the first period:

Except on very rare occasions, British and Allied Forces made no attempt to interfere with the sea and air communications which the German authorities established between the island and the continent; they had far more important tasks on hand. Jersey was considered by the German High Command as part of the German Military Organisation of North-West France, and was expected to maintain the civil population, as far as possible, out of her own agricultural resources.


A scientific cropping plan was worked out by the Department of Agriculture and it issued Orders and Directions, under which all occupiers of agricultural land were required to grow stated quantities of certain crops, and to sell the produce to the Department of Agriculture. Inevitably, under the circumstances, a small proportion of what was actually produced found its way into unauthorised hands; but the vast majority of the farming community gave the policy of the insular government loyal support, and the success of the cropping plans resulted from this co-operation,

The face of Jersey, as the inhabitants had so long known it, was transformed. Wheat, oats and barley largely displaced the potato. The old water mills were repaired and brought again into use, and it was indeed fortunate that some of the old millers were still alive. They were recalled from their retirement and operated the mills and taught many younger men the art of milling. From the harvest of 1941 onwards, Jersey produced almost enough flour to supply to the civilian population a minimum weekly bread ration of about four and a quarter pounds per head for all adults, in addition to breakfast food (mostly oat flour) for adults, and baby food (made mostly of oats) for babies. Supplementary flour was obtained from France.

In this first period, no cereals were requisitioned for consumption by the German Armed Forces.

Jersey produced more than sufficient potatoes to supply the standard ration of five pounds per head per week. The surplus of the crop was exported, under German orders, to France as some return for the supplies of food obtained from France, also to Guernsey. The rest was requisitioned for consumption by the German armed forces.

Throughout, Jersey's herd of cattle was a priceless possession. The population received, during the whole of this first period, a ration of full milk. True, it was a small ration, half-a-pint a day for people over 16 years of age, with a small additional ration for children, expectant and nursing mothers, and special medical allowances in certain cases; but it was invaluable. Butter had been rationed from February 1940, and during the first period of the Occupation the population received a weekly butter ration, generally of four ounces, but sometimes of two ounces per head.

The German armed forces did not requisition any butter during this first period, but drew milk from the Island's supplies.

With the exception of aged animals and bull calves, no slaughter was permitted. Pigs were bred in considerable quantities. As much meat as was possible was imported from France. All meat was strictly rationed.

The Department of Essential Commodities was mainly responsible for rationing, in accordance with the general principles laid down by the Council. Distribution was effected, as far as possible, through the normal channels of trade.

In September 1940, Jersey and Guernsey had co-operated in establishing an office in Granville, and representatives of both Islands scoured France obtaining such supplies of food, clothing, medicines and other commodities as were available and which they were permitted to acquire. The late J L Jouault, and W N Rumball and O L Hall rendered valuable services to the Island at different times as representatives in Granville. In Jersey, great work was done by the Food Controller, the late Alfred Le Gresley.

Facing the difficulties

A Delegation of the Superior Council established a clothing and footwear factory at Summerland, in Rouge Bouillon, the premises being placed at the disposal of the States by the Reverend Mother. This factory was most efficiently managed by R L Sangan. An elderly maker of clogs was discovered who readily returned to his trade and taught one or two younger men his skill. Soon the island resounded, like a Lancashire mill town, to the clatter of clogs.

From the autumn of 1940, communal cooking and feeding was introduced under the supervision of the late Miss Fraser, of the States Technical School. Later, the directors of the Sun Works placed their factory at the disposal of the States. A Delegation of the Council was appointed, and, greatly aided by the staff of the Sun Works, the plant manufactured soup, which was distributed by horse transport to centres throughout the island.

The Department of Essential Services had its first meeting on 25 June 1940. With the approval of the department and of the Council, the gas and electricity companies, although their stocks were adequate for ordinary purposes, decided as an administrative measure to ration their own customers on the basis of their previous requirements of gas, coke and electricity. However, it was recognised that rationing by Regulation could not be long delayed.

Coal began to arrive from the Pas de Calais district in France in November 1940, both for gas making and for household consumption. Until D-Day some fuel oil for the generation of electricity was obtained by the Germans for the company, but this commodity was in ever-increasing short supply on the Continent. From February 1941, in the case of electricity, and from August 1941, in the case of coal and wood, consumption was strictly rationed by official regulations. From March 1942 gas was only available for about 12 hours out of the 24, and that at minimum pressure.

In 1943 the gas company laid a gas main to the electricity generating plant at Queen's Road, and the Germans constructed a coal-burning power plant in St Peter's Valley. In the winter of 1944, the hours of supply of electricity were drastically curtailed and, even during the few hours when electricity was available for lighting, there were cut-off periods of half-an-hour. From time to time whole districts were temporarily blacked out.

Shortages and improvisations

The difficulties of the Department of Public Health were greatly increased by the requisitioning, in spite of protests, and the gradual take-over by the Germans of the whole of the first floor (including the operating theatre) of the General Hospital. Restrictions on the use of motor transport, particularly after curfew, led to the concentration of all maternity services at the Dispensary and Infirmary in St Saviour's Road.

There was a shortage of doctors, dentists and nurses, and of all medical and surgical supplies. Doctors were gradually deprived of the use of their motor transport and were compelled to visit their patients on bicycles or on foot. More than one doctor subsequently paid with his life for this devotion to duty. The late Dr McKinstry, the Medical Officer of Health, rendered most valuable service.

Before the arrival of the Vega at the end of 1944, urgent medical requirements, although in very small quantities, were received through the International Red Cross.

The Department of Public Health was at this time still responsible for drainage and all sanitary services, and in this field also, shortage of supplies produced very great difficulties.


At the beginning of the Occupation, there were in the island about 140 teachers and 4,500 children of school age. Victoria College was requisitioned from October 1941 to January 1943, during which time the school was transferred to Halkett Place School. The Boarding House was requisitioned throughout the occupation. As acting Principal of Victoria College, the late P A Tatam rendered services of a very high order.

The College for Girls building was requisitioned in November 1941, and remained in enemy Occupation until the liberation, but the school continued to function under the distinguished leadership of its Headmistress, the late Miss E G Barton - first at Coie Hall and subsequently at the Victoria College Preparatory.

For senior pupils, examinations on the style of the Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board examinations were held. The papers were marked and placed in safe custody. After the liberation the marked papers and the results were submitted to the Oxford and Cambridge Board, which accepted the examinations, issued a result list and awarded certificates to those who had been successful. Thanks to arrangements of a similar nature, a resident in Jersey was enabled to sit, in Jersey, for the examinations of the Council of Legal Education in London, which he passed with high success.

Full-time classes in carpentry and metal work under skilled instructors were introduced for some 50 to 70 youths.

In May 1941, the States raised the school-leaving age to 16 to help offset the lack of juvenile employment.

In August 1943 children's allowances, which have ever since been an important element in the social security system in Jersey, were introduced.

The Department of Transport lost, as already indicated, the control of the harbours and airport, and of lighthouses, buoys and beacons. It was concerned with the requisition of motor cars by the German Purchasing Commission, and organised a system of horse transport which was used in place of the gradually disappearing motor transport.

Financial problems

Finance was a special problem affecting almost every field of activity. Income Tax was raised to 4s in the £ in September 1940, with effect from 1 January 1940; but the incomes of nearly everyone had been greatly reduced, if they had not disappeared entirely. Revenue from wines, spirits and tobacco was also greatly reduced. The Department of Finance arranged for large advances against States Treasury Bonds, from the local branches of the English 'Big Five' banks all, of whom continued to function. The insular government made itself responsible for the payment of all military pensions to British and French nationals, and for the costs of the French consulate in Jersey. The banks volunteered to provide customers whose sources of revenue came from outside the island with reasonable advances. This was done under the guarantee of the States, and included persons in receipt of civil pensions. In the final result no loss fell upon the island.

The cost of quarters for the German troops in private property was a charge upon the insular government, as were the levies imposed by the German military authorities for the payment of their troops. As early as September 1940, the German authorities began the requisitioning, against payment, of motor vehicles. The Department of Finance arranged for the owners of these vehicles to receive payment in sterling. This made available to the department the equivalent in foreign currency, with which to finance the purchases of essential goods made by the island representatives in France.

The trading accounts within the island for agricultural produce, textiles, and imported goods were managed by the Department of Finance, with the assistance of the other departments concerned. This department organised the issue of Jersey currency notes which circulated along with British and German ones.

If it is permitted to anticipate events, it may be useful to record here that the direct war costs of the occupation were in excess of £4 million. These costs embrace money levied from the States by the army of occupation, redemption of the valueless German Occupation marks held by the banks, British notes confiscated by the Germans, requisitions made by the Germans and not paid for, motor cars requisitioned from the States and not paid for, and the cost of quarters for German troops in private property from 1940 to 1945. A gift of £4,200,000 from His Majesty's Government paid these direct war costs; this gift was paid over directly to the banks in reduction of the debts owing to them by the States.

Under the authority of a Law passed by the States on 25 April 1946, and confirmed by Order of His Majesty in Council on 2 August 1946, the States authorised a £1,970,000 Occupation 2 per cent loan 1955/60 which was issued to the joint stock banks carrying on business in the island. All the remaining debts due by the States to the banks were thus paid. This loan has long since been entirely redeemed.

A further loan of £1,500,000, bearing interest at 3 per cent, was raised from the public for the resettlement of the people and the provision and development of social services in the island. These figures take no account of the pre-Occupation debt (£1,333,000) still outstanding at the Liberation.

Successful protests

The Occupation destroyed the ordinary employment of the majority of the inhabitants. The minutes of the Superior Council show the high priority given to the welfare of these innocent sufferers. There was only sufficient money to pay a bare living wage to those for whom some kind of work was found by the States. Agriculture and the felling of trees occupied many. It was important that the workers should not be driven by sheer necessity to work for the enemy. As early as July 1941, the military authorities sought to requisition the services of States departments, and of individual contractors, for work of a military character. With the full support of the Council, the Bailiff protested. This was the first occasion upon which the Hague Convention was invoked. Major von Helldorf subsequently issued an historic order:

"In accordance with the Hague Convention, it is not permitted to compel the civil population in an occupied territory to work on military objects, especially if these are against their own country. The enrolment of civilians for these purposes must be a voluntary arrangement."

To the eternal honour of the workers of Jersey, the number of volunteers was negligible. The construction by the States of the North Road provided work for a great number of men, and is an everlasting memorial to their loyalty to their country.

Red Cross messages

The local branch of the English Post Office carried on its normal work, but with all communication with England severed, this was naturally very much reduced. When the supply of English postage stamps ran out, Jersey stamps were designed, printed and issued. At no time were stamps, British or Jersey, defaced with the swastika.

In August 1940 the Field Commandant agreed to 220 Red Cross Messages being sent from the island by persons approved by the Bailiff to persons who he could certify had not left the island immediately prior to the Occupation. A small band of voluntary workers, headed by the late Colonel W J J Collas, was appointed to set up the necessary organisation. Not till November 1940 were the first letters received in the island through the Red Cross. In February 1941, by which time the flow of letters in both directions had greatly increased, the executive work was entrusted to the Post Office, for which purpose Charles d'Authreau was seconded from the Post Office. Colonel Collas continued to render valuable service as the Bailiff's chief representative in the organisation, with particular responsibility for censorship.

The total number of messages dealt with during the Occupation exceeded half a million. In addition to the ordinary family messages, the service complied with requests for certificates of births and deaths and arranged for the transfer of money to relatives in Great Britain. There were also large numbers of letters addressed to the organisation requesting information about the welfare and whereabouts of relatives in the island.

The German authorities would not permit the use of a Red Cross rubber stamp upon the messages, since there was no properly established Red Cross organisation in the island. An impression of the seal, granted by Edward I to the Bailiff, was used to authenticate the messages.


It is impossible to write of this first period of the Occupation without reference to the cruel and useless deportation from the island in September 1942 of 1,200 British-born civilians. Also, it was ordered that 800 be deported from Guernsey.

From the outset the Superior Council protested that this action constituted a breach of Paragraph 8 of the Ultimatum of 1 July 1940, signed by General Freiher von Richthofen, Commander of the German Air Forces in Normandy, whereby the islanders were called upon to surrender, and upon the basis of which they did, in fact, surrender. The paragraph was in the following terms, (translation):

"In case of peaceful surrender the lives, property and liberty of peaceful inhabitants are solemnly guaranteed."

The German military authorities in Jersey declared in the most solemn terms that they were acting upon superior orders. They produced to the Bailiff and to the Attorney-General an order which they declared bore the signature of Hitler himself. The insular authorities had no means of identifying this signature.

Darkest days

It is now time to turn to the second period of the Occupation, namely from June 1944 to May 1945, which though bringing clear hopes of victory, also brought to the Channel Islands their greatest hardships.

It should be noted that Colonel Knackfuss, the Field Commandant, had been replaced, in March 1944, by Major Heider, who, on 19 May 1944, announced that Field Command 515 had, with immediate effect, been replaced by Platzkommandur 1 St Helier. The Commander-in-Chief, General von Schmettow, had previously transferred his headquarters to Guernsey and Colonel Heine now became Kommandant der Festung Jersey, In that capacity he issued a Proclamation on 6 June 1944, (the Allies' D-Day), announcing that Germany's enemy was on the point of attacking French soil, and declaring that attacks against the German forces would be punishable by death. All theatres and cinemas were closed, dances and public entertainments were cancelled, and curfew was advanced to 10 pm.

D-Day effectively cut the Channel Islands' regular sea communications with France, which the German authorities had established. All supplies from France, both for civilians and for the German forces, abruptly ceased. The Council made a thorough investigation into the situation and requested each department to state its exact stocks and the final date beyond which none would be available. In the light of the information thus gathered, the Council arrived at the conclusion that, at the very latest, the end of 1944 would see the exhaustion of all civilian stocks.

It must be emphasised that, up to this time, with the exception of potatoes and milk, the German forces had drawn practically nothing, either from the produce of the soil of Jersey, or from civilian supplies imported from France. Now it became obvious that the German forces, cut off from their supplies from the Continent, would seek to draw upon the civilian stocks. Before this happened, the Council decided to act, and in a lengthy memorandum dated 31 August 1944, the Bailiff gave the military authorities a full statement of the situation.

Growing isolation

General von Schmettow replied to the memorandum on 25 September 1944. He complained of the attacks by the Allies on ships plying to the islands, and stated that his Higher Command had pointed out to the British Government that, in the event of the continuation of the attacks, the occupying authorities could no longer guarantee the provisioning of the island population. He promised to forward to Higher Authority the petition of the States for supplies from the Red Cross, but refused the proposal of the States that they (the States) should make direct contact with the Allies. He was sure that the British Government was aware of the exact position with regard to the supplies available for its subjects in the Channel Islands, and that it remained "solely a matter for the decision and volition of the British Government whether it considered assistance to be necessary for its subjects in the Channel Islands."

He added: "The besiegers are the allied forces and we are the besieged. The inhabitants of the island fortresses are British subjects. By reason of the cutting off of the Islands, I can no longer supply the population. In the event of a prolongation of the siege by the allied forces and a refusal of supplies for the population, it will become necessary, under certain circumstances, for the maintenance of the power of defence of the island fortresses, indiscriminately to draw upon island supplies (such as cattle, flour, potatoes and other supplies) this contrary to the previous reluctance to do so. In this case the besieger alone must bear the responsibility for his nationals."

General von Schmettow concluded thus: "The German forces do not build fortresses of such strength without holding them with the greatest bitterness until the final exhaustion of the defending forces. The increasing needs of the population, for which the besieger is alone responsible, will in no wise alter this decision."

The worst happened. Requisitions from civilian stocks by the German forces began on 8 October 1944, cereals being first commodities to be commandeered. Butter began to be requisitioned on 10 October, and coal and coke on 20 October 20.

On 7 November 1944 the Bailiff handed to the Platzkommandant, for transmission to the Protecting Power, an urgent request to receive an authoritative assurance that the essential facts concerning the position in the island were to the knowledge of His Britannic Majesty's Government. On 12 November the Platzkommandant, by order of the Commander-in-Chief, assured the Bailiff that the information with regard to the position of the population of Jersey, based on his (the Bailiff's) memorandum, directed from German sources to the Protecting Power, had reached the hands of the British Government.

On 12 November the Bailiff and the Attorney-General conferred in Jersey with General von Schmettow, Colonel von Helldorf, Major Heider and Baron von Aufsess, and the General promised to make arrangements for the transmission to the Protecting Power of a message from the Bailiff, in which details were given as to the latest position of supplies in the island.


All were tremendously relieved when on 8 December 1944 the Evening Post#' published the following message from the Bailiff:

"I am officially informed by the German Military Authorities that a Red Cross ship was, weather permitting, due to leave Lisbon on Thursday, 7 December, for the Channel Islands. The ship will call at Guernsey first, en route for Jersey."

The efforts of the insular Government, and similar efforts made by the insular government in Guernsey, had not been in vain. Speaking in the House of Commons on 12 December 1944, the Home Secretary (Herbert Morrison) said "It is, of course, a recognized principle of international law that an Occupying Power is responsible for supplies to the civil population. Nevertheless, in view of reports received by us, as to the conditions in the islands, His Majesty's Government has decided that it would be right to supplement the rations of the civil population in the islands by sending supplies of medicines, soap and food parcels on the basis of those supplied to prisoners of war."

Meanwhile, the stocks situation in Jersey had gravely deteriorated. There was no more sugar nor suet. The weekly meat ration for adults was 4 oz. The weekly bread ration for adults was 4¼ lb. There were no, or practically no, extras. The ration of coal ceased, except in certain very exceptional cases. Electricity was only available for general use during limited periods. The generation of electricity ceased on 25 January 1945. The making of gas stopped on 4 September 1944.

Prior to this, six additional baker's ovens had been constructed in various parts of the island for use as communal cooking ovens, and available for one cooked meal per family per day. These ovens were fired by coke, which had been reserved for this purpose, and when the supply of coke failed, wood fuel was used. The main boilers at the General Hospital were kept in by burning coal-tar as a fuel. Tar, which had been stored below the gas holders, was supplied to the public, and this, mixed with twigs and kitchen garbage, supplied some little heat if used in closed stoves. Otherwise, there was no fuel of any kind except a little wood, the cutting of which was greatly restricted.

The Bailiff, with Baron von Aufsess, crossed to Guernsey to meet the Red Cross ship Vega (which had been delayed) on 27 December 1944. General von Schmettow met the Bailiff, but it was obvious that Admiral Huffmeier had the real authority. The Vega arrived in Jersey on 30 December having on board two representatives of the Red Cross, whose names must be recorded: Colonel Iselin of the Swiss Army, and M Callias. The Vega brought enough food parcels for two distributions at fortnightly intervals to the whole of the civil population, together with many other Red Cross supplies. Two conferences were held at which the Red Cross representatives, the members of the Superior Council, representatives of the British and French Red Cross and the German military authorities were present.

It was at once apparent that the Germans intended to requisition the whole of the remaining civilian stocks of cereals and that the principal mission of the Vega would be to bring supplies of flour to the Channel Islands. The vision of an endless supply of food parcels vanished for the time being. Baron von Aufsess repeated at the second Red Cross conference in Jersey on 3 January 1945, that the British government had been informed that after 31 January 1945, the German military authorities could not supply the civilian population of the Channel Islands with more than 2 oz of fat per week, 4 oz of meat per fortnight and some vegetables. He added that it was intended, however, that there should be in addition an unspecified ration of potatoes. As was expected, the remaining cereals and large quantities of potatoes were requisitioned.

Significantly, Admiral Huffmeier replaced General von Schmettow as Commander-in-Chief on 1 February 1945, having been his chief-of-staff since October 1944. Colonel von Helldorf and Baron von Aufsess disappeared. A naval officer, Captain von Cleve, became Platzkommandant. Under the surveillance of Admiral Krancke since 1 October 1944, the Channel Islands were now entirely under the control of the German Navy. The attempt on Hitler's life in July I944 did not seem to have any particular effect on affairs in Jersey apart from the superiority which the Navy gained. It was rumoured later, but without any confirmation to this day, that some members of the families of some of the senior army officers in the Channel Islands had been involved in the conspiracy.

From December 1944, first one, then three, milkless days a week were ordered. The ration of butter ceased on 15 January 1945; that of potatoes on 29 April 1945. The ration of bread was reduced to one pound per head per week for all categories from 19 to 24 February 1945, from which time no bread at all was available until 10 March, when the Vega having brought flour the bread ration was restored to 4 lb per head per week for adults.

By this time, to summarise, there was no gas, no electricity, no coal, coke or wood, nothing but a little tar and twigs. And there was an acute shortage of food only relieved by the infrequent visits of the Vega bringing supplies.

End in sight

The week or so preceding the Liberation was an anxious but exciting time. The Superior Council met on 2 May, when the Bailiff reported that, in the presence of Jurats Le Masurier and Dorey, he had been asked by the Platzkommandant to discuss the possible repercussions in the island of the recent developments in Germany. The Kommandant had expressed the hope that it would be possible for the insular government to keep the population calm, pointing out that while it was natural that the inhabitants would want to give vent to their feelings, it was feared that, if those feelings were not expressed with restraint, unfortunate incidents might occur. Many members of the occupying forces had now lost all that they possessed and their feelings, too, said the Platzkommandant, must be taken into consideration. He quoted Admiral Dcenitz as saying that Germany would continue the war against the USSR, but not against Britain or America except to prevent them rendering assistance to the USSR.

The Bailiff reported to the Council that he had asked that the civilian government of the island should be restored unconditionally with power to release all political prisoners, to remove the prohibition on radio reception, to make arrangements for the holding of thanksgiving services, and to take such other measures as it might think fit. The Platzkommandant undertook to transmit these requests to the Commander-in-Chief in Guernsey. The Bailiff urged that the Commanderin-Chief should come to Jersey to discuss these matters with him. Admiral Huffmeier arrived in Jersey on Sunday 6 May, but steadfastly refused to see the Bailiff. He established his headquarters in a small house at La Collette and, finally relenting, saw the Bailiff on 7 May.

He agreed that the Bailiff should make a reassuring statement to the islanders, and that services of thanksgiving be held. He undertook to consider the release of political prisoners, but said that military considerations prevented his allowing the use of radio sets. He promised to give the island authorities unrestricted access to the Red Cross delegates during their forthcoming visits to the island and to provide facilities for the Vega to proceed direct from Jersey to Cardiff to expedite supplies of food, fuel, etc.

The Superior Council was immediately informed of this meeting and its last action was to approve the Bailiff's message to the islanders in the following terms:

"I appeal to you to maintain your calm and dignity in the days through which we are now passing. It is my earnest wish that services be held in all places of worship upon the day or days on which similar services are held in the United Kingdom and in other parts of the Empire consequent upon the announcement of the cessation of hostilities in Europe. I am

in personal contact with the Admiral commanding the Forces of occupation in the Channel Islands and so far as I am able, I shall make known to you immediately any important changes in the military situation as it affects this island. I am hoping within the next few days to discuss with the representatives of the International Red Cross ways and means of speeding-up supplies of food, fuel, and other essentials. I have again urged upon the Occupying Authorities that they should release from custody persons sentenced by them, and I am not without hope that some measure of success may attend my efforts. I give you this message with the unanimous approval of the Council."

The Liberation of Jersey took place on 9 May 1945.

Personal observations

There is no doubt that the Superior Council fulfilled the highest hopes of its creators and that, during nearly five years, it administered the government of the island in a way which, to say the least, was acceptable to the great majority of the people. Inevitably, it had its critics. It represented fundamental changes from the system of government by committee to which Jerseymen had been accustomed for many generations. That system required that, with very rare exceptions, a committee should be composed of 12 members, ie three Jurats, three Rectors, three Constables and three Deputies, and that the senior Jurat should be president of the committee. In practice, unless he otherwise desired, every member of the States was a member of at least one committee. Under the wartime Council system there were members of the States who were not members of any one of the eight departments and they naturally were disappointed and sometimes critical. But apart from this, the island was constantly alive with rumours, many of them false, which it was impossible for the Council effectively to deny or explain.

But the 'wind of change' had set in and, by the Committee of the States (Jersey) Law, confirmed by Order in Council on 19 February 1946, it was enacted, in effect, that each committee should consist of only seven members of the Assembly, whereof the president should be chosen by the Assembly and the vice-president by the committee. In practice, the Assembly could now choose the president without any regard to seniority of office or service.

With the Liberation, the experiment of a central council of control came to an end, and has, up to this day, not been revived. Further study of this practical experiment of an alternative form of government might well be worthwhile.

It should be recorded, however, that the Constitution of the States was altered by the Assembly of the States (Jersey) Law, which was confirmed by Order in Council of 2 June 1948. The elected members of the Assembly are now the Senators, Constables and Deputies.


During the second period of the Occupation, the Council was faced with two anxieties that merit mention here.

The first was its inability, in spite of constant effort, to obtain any first-hand acknowledgement from the Protecting Power of its appeals for food and other supplies. It is true that at least one written assurance was obtained from the occupying authorities (thanks to the appeals for help which had emanated from the island) to the effect that the dire situation in which Jersey found herself was to the knowledge of the Protecting Power and of the British Government. It would, however, have been an inestimable relief to the Council to have received such news from the Protecting Power itself. It may be that the occupying authority, in this respect, was acting in accordance with international law; but, if that be so, the Council was left in grave doubt - doubt which made it increasingly difficult to satisfy the sorely tried people of Jersey.

The second anxiety arose out of the inability of the Bailiff and of the members of the Council more intimately connected with the matter to have direct access, (even, if need be, in the presence of an observer nominated by the occupying authority) to the representatives of the International Red Cross when the Vega was in the islands. Again it may be that, in this respect, too, the occupying authority was acting in accordance with the Hague Convention. But the Bailiff and the Council were disturbed and disappointed. Such disappointment, however, was perhaps a minor matter when viewed against the magnitude of the help subsequently given by the Red Cross.

It may not be out of place to put on record that, at the Liberation, Jersey sent £125,000 to the Red Cross and St John Fund. This was all voluntarily contributed to the Fund which had been opened in Jersey when the Red Cross carne to the rescue of the island. It was but a small token of the island's gratitude. The Treasurer of the appeal was Norman Allport. The gift was graciously acknowledged by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, Chairman of the Joint Fund, in a personal letter to the Bailiff.

On what did the authority of the civil administration of Jersey during the Occupation rest? The occupying authority had no doubt. In a letter, dated 3 January 1942, to the Bailiff, Colonel Knackfuss complained of the customary use of 'His Majesty's' in the title of some official correspondence. He desired to point out that this was not consistent with conditions which had been created by the Occupation. The British Crown, he added, was not in the position to exercise sovereign authority over the island, and the local administration derived its legal authority from the occupying authority, which itself had made provision for the continued functioning of the local administration (paragraph 2 of the Order of the German Commandant, dated 8 July I940). A right of sanction in matters of legislation had thereby been conferred upon the Bailiff. Thus, both the old administrative authority and that established since the occupation, rested solely on the concession of the occupying authority. Thus wrote Colonel Knackfuss.

The civil administration was not unduly perturbed and matters continued much as before. Legislation passed by the States continued to be first approved by the German Commandant, subsequently sanctioned by the Bailiff, and registered by the Royal Court. Henceforth, however, the Bailiff did not, in this connection, use his lawful title of Lieut-Governor. By the Confirmation of Laws (Jersey) Law, 1945 the Acts, 46 in number, which were still in force and which had been passed by the States during the Occupation, were confirmed by His Majesty in Council.

Throughout the German Occupation, prayers continued to be said for the King and Royal Family in the Courts, the Churches and Chapels. Contracts continued to be registered in the Royal Court (The King's Court) with the traditional preamble of "sous notre soverain Sire George six .... Roi du Royaume Uni de La Grande Bretagne et de l'Irlande du Nord .... " The Procureur-General du Roi continued to prosecute in the Courts in the name of the King, even in the case of prosecutions for offences against German regulations.

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