27th September 1944

“Let em starve,” said Churchill

By late summer of 1944, the war had turned against Germany. As a result, things were getting very uncomfortable in Guernsey, Jersey and Sark. Normandy had been liberated, which effectively cut off the islands from the German supply lines. Food was running short.

With both the locals and the occupiers facing starvation, the German Foreign Ministry sent a message to London via the Red Cross. It offered to evacuate the Channel Islands’ women, children and elderly, so that the only civilians remaining under occupation would be men of fighting age.

Notably, Germany didn’t offer to give up the islands themselves. They perhaps recognised that once the majority were out of the way there should be enough food left to feed those who remained.

Churchill was having none of it. He wrote a memo that included the now infamous line, “Let ’em starve. No fighting. They can rot at their leisure”.

The meaning of the snub

There has been much debate in the years since then whether Churchill was referring solely to the occupying forces, or to the Channel Islanders, too. Either way, the government declined the German offer. Perhaps this was because by leaving them in place the civilians were a further drain on German resources. Maybe it was that the logistics of ensuring safe passage between the islands and the mainland was too much to contemplate.

Or perhaps Churchill was merely being spiteful towards Germany after so many years of war, and had little consideration for the collateral harm it would do to the Channel Islanders.

Either way, things only got worse for the next three months. Finally, in late December, the SS Vega sailed in from Lisbon carrying Red Cross supplies for distribution to the civilians. It was also carrying medical supplies and children’s clothing.

This was just the first of six visits from the Red Cross supply ship between then and liberation on 9 May.


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Other events that occured in September

Channel Television took to the air 1st
A Guernseyman cycled to Herm 2nd
Brecqhou was put up for sale 3rd
Renoir arrived on Guernsey to paint 4th
Ship sinks in St Sampson harbour 5th
The melon king died… long live the melon king 6th
Coronavirus returns to Guernsey 7th
HD Ferries makes its last crossing
6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment fought at the Somme 8th
Guernsey number plate sold for £240,000 9th
Guernsey hosted the second Island Games 10th
Major Guernsey employer Tektronix went public 11th
Guernsey was struck by a hurricane 12th
Schoolboys and teacher went missing off Sark 13th
Guernsey holidaymakers head home itching 14th
The title Baron de Saumarez was created 15th
Missing girl, Jetta, was found on Guernsey 16th
Archaeologists found a porpoise grave 17th
An Islander aircraft crashed in Guernsey 18th
Guernsey commando Hubert Nicolle died 19th
Guernsey and Jersey considered merging 20th
Occupation resister Winifred Green was deported 21st
The Devil’s Rock had its opening night 22nd
The Duke of Connaught visited Guernsey 23rd
Former bailiff Daniel de Lisle Brock died 24th
Occupation president Ambrose Sherwill died 25th
Trudy, Guernsey’s biggest ever import, was installed 26th
“Let em starve,” said Churchill 27th
A Guernsey planning dispute headed to Europe 28th
Herm tenant Major Peter Wood died 29th
Spotlight was broadcast for the first time 30th