25th June 1940
First meeting of Guernsey’s Controlling Committee
When Guernsey was demilitarised, and invasion looked increasingly likely, the States established what became known as the Controlling Committee.
Comprising eight islanders with specific portfolios, and headed by Attorney General Ambrose Sherwill, it effectively became Guernsey’s government before and during the German invasion. Why was it required? Because the States had recognised the need for a smaller, more agile body that could make decisions quickly.
Creation and structure
The Committee was created on 21 June 1940, and met for the first time four days later, on the 25th. However, it had a major upset just a few months later when Ambrose Sherwill was deposed as its president.
The Germans discovered that Sherwill had been aware of the presence of Hubert Nicolle and James Symes. These two British soldiers, both of whom had existing knowledge of Guernsey, had been dispatched on a reconnaissance mission. When their boat hadn’t appeared to collect them, they’d found themselves stranded on the island.
Sherwill had denied any knowledge of their presence. He petitioned that the deadline for them to give themselves up be extended so they had the best possible chance of escape. When it was obvious they were trapped, he doctored the uniforms that they wore to surrender, so they wouldn’t be shot as spies.
Sherwill went on trial for his involvement in the cover-up. Although he was not convicted, all of his authority was removed. Thus, had no position on which to rely when, in 1943, the Germans deported anyone from the Channel Islands who had any kind of military background. Had he still been on the Controlling Committee he would have been passed over. As he was not, he was set to Laufen Internment Camp for the rest of the war.
Although Guernsey was liberated on 9 May 1945, the Controlling Committee wasn’t immediately disbanded. Tthe Priaulx Library now holds minutes of its meetings running through to September of that year.
Jurat John Leale, who took over from Sherwill as President of the Controlling Committee was knighted in the honours announced in December 1945. Sherwill was awarded a CBE, and became Bailiff of Guernsey several years later.
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