8th July 1940

First Commando raid of the Second World War

Guernseyman Hubert Nicolle not only carried out the first “Commando” raid of the Second World War – he is also considered by many to be the first Commando of all. First commissioned by the Royal Guernsey Militia, he was an officer in the Hampshire Regiment by the time of his incursion.

His first raid (of two) took place on 8 July 1940, when he landed at Jaonnet Bay by canoe, having been transported to Guernsey by submarine H43. His mission was to gather information about what was happening on the newly occupied island.

According to his obituary in The Independent, he was told “If you do this and are caught we don’t want to know you; you are out on your own. You will be shot and that will be the end of it.” Despite the high stakes, he accepted the mission.

He spent three days on the island and determined that Guernsey was home to 469 German soldiers and that should the Allies launch a full raid on the island it would take 20 minutes for the Germans to respond. On the strength of that report, the wider Commando force mounted Operation Ambassador. This was a disastrous raid on Guernsey on the night of 14 – 15 July 1940. Ambassador achieved none of its aims and resulted in four British deaths.

Nicolle’s second mission

Three days after coming ashore, Nicolle was picked up by submarine and returned to the mainland. He later came back to Guernsey – in September 1940 – on a similar fact-finding mission, but on this occasion didn’t successfully leave the island and he found himself trapped. He was captured, but only after Ambrose Sherwill, first president of Guernsey’s Controlling Committee had done all he could to give him every chance to escape.

As a result, he was sentenced to death as a spy, but eventually this was commuted to imprisonment. He was transferred between several prisoner of war camps, escaped, was captured, and eventually liberated by American forces. That wasn’t the end of his wartime troubles, though: the plane carrying him to Belgium crash landed in Brussels.

He survived, and died on Guernsey on 19 September 1998. A memorial to his first raid was unveiled at Icart on its 70th anniversary.

Memorial stone at Icart

 

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Other events that occured in July

Guernseyman Edward Tupper killed by cannibals 1st
Alderney is occupied by German forces 2nd
Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, dies aged 88 3rd
Guernsey hosted the Island Games 2003 closing ceremony 4th
New coins are minted for Guernsey 5th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum opens 6th
Victor Hugo statue is unveiled in Candie Gardens 7th
First Commando raid of the Second World War 8th
Birth of Sark-based writer Mervyn Peake 9th
Guernsey nurses go on hunger strike 10th
ITV broadcasts first episode of Island at War 11th
A Guernsey man posted himself to Sark 12th
Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death 13th
Victor Hugo plants his United States of Europe oak 14th
Point Law runs aground off Alderney 15th
Racing yacht Westward is blown up off Guernsey
BBC made its first ever Channel Islands broadcast 16th
The Star received some “grave” news 17th
The Guernsey Martyrs were burned at the stake 18th
Prince Charles and Camilla visit Guernsey 19th
President Garcia is re-floated in Saints Bay 20th
Typhoid suspect holidaymaker flies home 21st
Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died 22nd
Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established 23rd
Val des Terres was first opened for traffic 24th
The BBC broadcasts from Sark for the first time 25th
Guernsey court escapee was caught again 26th
Braye du Valle was gifted by the crown 27th
Murderer sentenced to death in three hours 28th
Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland 29th
Albert Lamy appointed Guernsey Police Chief Officer 30th
Guernsey to Jersey plane crashed into the sea 31st