20 November 2013

Festung Guernsey

Festung Guernsey is a series of 10 books, which provide a unique perspective on the history of the  Channel Islands Occupation. It is a study of the fortifications built by the Germans, written by the occupiers themselves.

In 1944 Lieutenant Colonel Hubner was charged with making a record of the immense fortifications. His team was drawn from the Divisionskartenstelle, the Divisional Cartographic Section, with some fourteen non-commissioned officers working across: drawing, photography, cartography, calligraphy and printing. The result is a stunning and comprehensive picture of the fortifications and a complete guide to their workings.

Festung Guernsey consists of 22 chapters and was originally published as a limited edition of 135, two-volume sets, bound in leather. The original work, being made by hand was only printed on the right hand pages, this means that the publishers have been able to provide a full translation on the left hand page, while retaining the original layout.

This paperback version consists of 10 separate volumes, each consisting of 1,2 or 3 chapters and replicates the page numbering of the original edition. 

The titles published so far are:

  • Part 1 chapters 3.1 & 3.2 
    St Martins Point to St Sampsons

  • Part 2 chapters 3.3, 3.4 & 3.5
    Bordeaux Harbour -  Fort Doyle - Le Houmet
  • Part 3 chapters 3.6, 4.1 & 4.2
    Grandes Rocques - Fort Richmond - Fort Sausmarez
  • Part 4 - chapters 4.3, 4.4 & 4.5
    Rocquaine - Torteval - Corbiere
  • Part 5 - chapters 4.6, 4.7 & 4.8
    Pointe de la Moye - Icart - Fort George
Available from:

14 November 2013

Alderney At War

On 23 June 1940, one week before the German invaders arrived and with just a few hours notice, the island of Alderney was evacuated of all but a handful of its 1,450 inhabitants. During its occupation Alderney became an island fortress and slave labour camp. Alderney at War offers the fullest account ever published of events on the island during the war, as well as an examination of the circumstances leading up to the evacuation and the subsequent fate of the refugees. Brian Bonnard draws on both German and British official records and on the fascinating eye-witness accounts of former Russian, French and islander prisoners, as well as personal diaries and photographs taken by members of the occupying forces. "Alderney at War" is a factual record of this remarkable episode in British history, which is sure to enthrall residents and visitors to the Channel Islands, but its comprehensive coverage of those grim years guarantees it a place alongside any Second World War History.

Table of contents (note - this is from a previous edition published by Sutton)

Prologue: Alderney at Peace, spring 1939

Alderney Evacuated
  • War Begins
  • The Evacuation
  • Exile Begins
  • The Alderney 'Domesday Book'
  • Commerical Alderney
  • Before the Enemy Comes
Alderney Occupied
  • Swastika over Alderney
  • Silence Descends
  • Slave Island
  • Prisoner in Alderney
  • The Slave Workers
  • The Captors
  • The Defences
  • The Enemy under Attack
  • Capitulation
Alderney Relieved
  • The Devastation
  • The Graves
  • The Legacy
  • The Islanders Return
  • The Return Legislation
  • The Settlers
Epilogue: Fifty Years On

Available from:
The History Press

25 October 2013

Mined Where You Walk - The German Occupation of Sark: 1940-45

Mined Where You Walk, by Richard Le Tissier, is one of a number of books I've purchased which provide a detailed overview of the German Occupation of the Channel Isles.

This title focuses on the small island of Sark. Sark in 1940 was a community of fewer than 500 persons. The then Dame of Sark, Mrs Sybil Hathaway, declared her intention to remain in the island and urged others to do likewise. In the event, very few left.

Prior to the Occupation, the Germans had bombed both Guernsey and Jersey causing many casualties. Such hostility, designed to put fear into the hearts of the islanders, did not occur in Sark. Indeed, when initial representatives of the occupiers arrived in Sark from Guernsey, they were welcomed and shared lunch with the Dame. During the war years, there was one German soldier for every two Sarkees; this small community in a confined space had to find ways to co-exist.

Richard Le Tissier recounts how the islanders and their occupiers fared during those years. He relates newsworthy incidents, such as the Commando raids, information on the deportees, and the murder of a German doctor on the island; as well as everyday life for the islanders - who pulled together for survival and in order to raise their spirits.

The author has produced a very well researched title, which provides a comprehensive account of the occupation of Sark, including information on all aspects of life of both the civilian inhabitants, and the occupying forces. If you have an interest in the Occupation of the Channel Islands, I would recommend this book.

The contents of book are:
  • Prelude to Occupation
  • Early Occupation
  • The Screw Tightens
  • Glimpses of the War
  • Another Grim Year
  • Hope on the Horizon
  • The German Garrison
  • A Cold and Hungry Winter
  • Friends of Sark
  • Appendix
Available from:
Seaflower Books

23 October 2013

Fortress Jersey

The Fortress Jersey series were written by D.C. Holmes in the 1970s. Long out of print, I've obtained copies from Ebay, but they can be found on Amazon as well. 

Each of the books is around 70 pages long, and features a large number of photos from Holmes' personal collection relating to the German forces occupying Jersey. They do not contain an extensive amount of text, but the information they contain does provide a comprehensive overview of the topic, including information on specific units, ships, etc. I have detailed the contents for each below.

Fortress Jersey - Part 1 - The German Army in Jersey
  • Infantry
  • 319 Infantry Division
  • MG. Btl 16
  • Ost Btl 643
  • Panzer Abt 213
  • Reichs Arbeit Dienst
  • Artillery
  • Liberation
  • Strength of the German Garrison Jersey November 1944
Available from:

Fortress Jersey - Part 2 - The German Navy in Jersey

  • Naval Command
  • Merchant Shipping
  • Hafenschutzflottille, Gruppe Jersey
  • 2 Vorpostenbootsflottille (2 VP)
  • 46 Hilfminensuchflottille (46 MSF)
  • 24 Minensuchflottille or the 24th Mine Sweeper Flotilla (24 MSF)
  • Marine Artillerie Section 604 (3/MAA 604)
  • Strength of the Kriegsmarine in Jersey November 1944
Available from:

Fortress Jersey - Part 3 - The German Airforce in Jersey

  • Arrival of the Luftwaffe
  • Flak over Jersey (details the Flak Batteries on Jersey)
  • Brief description of Luftwaffe operated guns in Jersey
Available from:

It appears that there were two more publications planned - Part 4 - The Red Cross; and Part 5 - Civilian Life. As far as I can tell, neither were published.

An overdue update...

I haven't been very active at posting to the blog for a while (over a year I've just realised!) due to various reasons, but I thought it was about time to start adding books again.

In the last year I've been carrying out some research for an exhibition which will be taking place at the new Soldiers of Oxfordshire museum in Woodstock, near Oxford. This exhibition will be focusing on Prisoners of War in the Second World War, both men from Oxfordshire who were held overseas, and POWs who were held in camps across the county (the latter is my area of research). As a result, I've been reading quite a lot of books on this topic - many of which are hard to obtain but worth seeking out.

This has made me consider how I'll update the blog over the next few months. I'll be adding titles which relate to specific areas or themes - and would welcome any comments or feedback to tell me what I've missed out. I will not be providing all encompassing lists of books on specific topics, but I do hope to raise the profile of some books that I've found useful and interesting.

The first few posts will cover books that describe aspects of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands. With one exception, these are not memoirs - some do include first person accounts, but mostly they are reference books and narratives covering how the Occupation affected the islands.