15th December 1945

Alderney’s evacuees return to their island

Alderney was evacuated during the Second World War. On 23 June 1940, the church bells rang to notify residents that the six Royal Navy ships that would take 1500 of them to the mainland were approaching Braye Harbour. They had an hour to gather their belongings and assemble, with no way of knowing for sure whether they would ever see the island again.

The Alderney residents were landed at Weymouth, from which most took trains north to Glasgow where they waited out the war. Unfortunately this didn’t put them out of reach of the Luftwaffe, which bombed the city extensively in 1941.

Evacuation wasn’t compulsory – at least at first – and 12 Alderney residents chose to stay behind. However, when the Germans arrived 10 days after the evacuation had begun, those who remained had no choice in the matter. They were shipped across to Guernsey and Alderney became a prison island.

Return to Alderney

Not everyone chose to return to Alderney but the first 80 of those who did travelled overnight from Southampton on a vehicle transporter that had been used during the war. They stepped ashore on 15 December – five years after they’d been sent away and seven months after liberation – and found an island very different to the one they remembered.

Many buildings had been destroyed, and four concentration camps had been built in their place. Although the camps had been demolished before the end of the war, evidence of their existence was still clear. The island was so damaged by the ravages of the conflict that for two years after its residents returned, its only chance of survival was to be run as a communal farm.

Since 2005, December 15th has been an annual public holiday on Alderney, to mark what’s now known as Homecoming Day.


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Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st