15th June 1940

The Channel Islands were demilitarised

The British government decided, early in the war, that the Channel Islands were neither defensible after the fall of France, nor of any strategic importance. They were, however, of great propaganda interest to Germany.

As the prospect of a German invasion started to look increasingly likely, British authorities took the decision to demilitarise the islands entirely. This would achieve several things. It would prevent British soldiers and military hardware falling into enemy hands, and also save the islanders from having to live through a bloody fight.

The operation began on 15 June 1940 with the withdrawal of soldiers. On that day, they boarded ships and took their armaments back to the mainland with them. By 19 June, each of the Channel Islands had been entirely demilitarised.

Locals evacuated, too

Once the military evacuation had been completed, notices were posted that women, children and men of serving age would also be given the opportunity of passage to the mainland. Those who took up the offer described scenes of near chaos once they arrived in England. A run on the island’s finances led to the banks limiting withdrawals to just £10 per person per day. Shops were giving away their stock, cars were abandoned in St Peter Port and the petrol controller escaped in his own boat.

Despite this, 25,000 locals remained on Guernsey when the German forces arrived.

Unfortunately, although the British authorities officially announced that they had taken the decision to demilitarise by the evening of 28 June, the Germans were seemingly unaware or, if they’d heard the announcement, were distrusting. Naturally cautious that they would face resistance, they bombed the harbours at St Helier, Jersey and St Peter Port just a few hours later in advance of coming ashore. This led to around 30 deaths in Guernsey alone.

 

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Other events that occured in June

Cricketer Charles Grieve died in Shropshire 1st
St Johns undertook its first Guernsey rescue 2nd
Bailiff John Guille died in Plymouth 3rd
GUNS writer Joseph John Gillingham was deported 4th
First arrests were made at Guernsey Airport 5th
Jethou was put on the market 6th
The king and queen celebrated Guernsey’s liberation 7th
Occupying forces confiscated Guernsey’s radios 8th
Guernsey Railway company ceased operations 9th
Guernsey welcomed its first steam ship 10th
Laura Kennington kicks off Channel Islands triathlon 11th
Dame Sibyl became a dame again 12th
Guernsey voted to legalise local abortions 13th
Victor Hugo’s house is opened to the public 14th
The Channel Islands were demilitarised 15th
Guernsey was invaded by Colorado beetles 16th
States Telephone Department was established 17th
Pollet guest house fire claimed its third victim 18th
Aurigny founder Derrick Bailey died 19th
Guernsey joined the Football Association 20th
Guernsey’s school children were evacuated 21st
Guernsey celebrated Queen Victoria’s jubilee 22nd
Princess Elizabeth opened Guernsey’s hospital 23rd
Guernsey chose England over France 24th
First meeting of Guernsey’s Controlling Committee 25th
Guernsey bought Fort Grey from the War Office 26th
Guernsey coffee trader William Le Lacheur died 27th
G-JOEY completes his last flight 28th
Guernsey suffered its first and only air raid
The Star was published for the first time 29th
Two deserters were shot after landing on Guernsey 30th