21st June 1940

Guernsey’s school children were evacuated

Guernsey’s wartime evacuation hadn’t been a surprise. The island’s teachers had been warned on 18th June that the evacuation of their pupils was a possibility. France had fallen, and the Channel Islands were next in line – yet things still moved more quickly than they might have expected.

The islands had already been demilitarised. All British soldiers stationed on Guernsey had been shipped out, along with their equipment by the 18th. Nobody in the British government informed Germany of this fact, leading to a German bombing operation on the harbour in advance of invasion. This decision may have been made to give the Channel Islands’ children time to leave.

The day after the warning, parents were told to register their children, and informed that a full-scale evacuation would begin on the 20th.

Pupils and teachers first

The pupils and their teachers were to be a priority, with 5000 pupils and 500 teachers shipped out at once. Evacuation continued the following day, 21st June, with the same number departing on ships. A further 7000 were transported to relative safety over the next few days.

It wasn’t only schoolchildren, but women and men of serving age who were also now given the chance to leave. In total 17,000 inhabitants left the island before the Germans’ arrival. A similar evacuation exercise in Jersey led to 23,000 heading for the mainland to wait out the war. On neither island was evacuation compulsory for either children or adults, and many stayed behind throughout the occupation.

As far as possible, the evacuated students were kept together so that they could continue their education among colleagues they already knew. Some went to Cheshire, some to Lancashire, and others to Wales.

It would be five years before they returned to their island home. In the interim, many lost their ability to speak Guernsey’s native language, Guernesiais, which has never fully recovered.


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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