German fortifications

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German fortifications

This article was first published in the 1951 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

After the Liberation the Lieut-Governor presented to the Museum a photostat of Hitler's secret Orders for the fortification of the Channel Islands. Two members, Father Burdo and Kate Nowlan, made a translation of them.

In the top right-hand corner is scribbled in ink a rather illegible word, which Father Burdo thinks is Versengen (to be burnt), but which Miss Nowlan reads as Weisungen (Instruction). The document is stamped with a rubber stamp "CHEF SACHE" (Top Secret). To be delivered solely by the hand of an Officer.

It runs: The Fuhrer and Supreme Commander of the Forces. Fuhrer's Headquarters. 20.1O.41.

Fortification and defence of the English Channel Islands

1 English operations on a large scale against the territories occupied by us in the west are, now as before, unlikely. But under pressure of the situation in the east, and for reasons of politics and propaganda, small scale operations must at any moment be reckoned with, particularly an attempt to regain possession of the Channel Islands, which are important to us for the protection of our sea communications.
2 Counter-measures in the Channel Islands must ensure that any English attack fails before a landing is effected, whether it be attempted by sea or air or by both simultaneously. The possibility of the enemy taking advantage of bad visibility to make a surprise landing must be borne in mind. Emergency measures for strengthening the defences have already been ordered. All branches of the forces stationed in the Islands are placed under the orders of the Commandant of the Islands, except the air forces.
3 With regard to the permanent fortifying of the Islands to convert them into an impregnable fortress (which must be pressed forward at maximum speed) I give the following orders:
(a) The High Command of the Army is responsible for the fortifications as a whole and will incorporate in the overall programme the constructions needed for the Navy and Air Force. The strength of the fortifications and the order in which they are built will be based on the principles and practical knowledge derived from the building of the Western Wall.
(b) For the Army it is urgent to provide a close network of emplacements, as far as possible with flanking fire, which must be well-concealed (sufficient for guns of the size required to pierce 100 mm armour plate) for defence against tanks which may be landed from flat-bottomed boats ; accommodation for mobile diversion parties and armoured cars; accommodation for ample stores of ammunition, including that for the Navy and Air Force; incorporation of minefields into the defence system. The total number of buildings estimated as necessary must be reported.
(c) The Navy has for the safeguarding of the sea-approaches 3 batteries of the heaviest type, one in Guernsey and two on the French coast ; and furthermore it will eventually have with the help of the Army light and medium coastal batteries on the islands themselves and on the French coast suitable for firing on targets at sea, so that the whole Bay may be protected.
(d) For the Air Force strong points must be created with searchlights sufficient to accommodate such anti-aircraft units as are needed for the protection of all important constructions.
(e) Foreign labour, especially Russian and Spanish but also French, may be used for the building operations.
4 Another order will follow for the deportation to the Continent of all Englishmen who are not native islanders, ie who were not born in the Islands.
5 The progress of the fortification must be reported to me on the 1st of each month through the Com-in-Chf, Army, directed to the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, Staff of the Fuhrer. Division L.
(Signed) A H (ie Adolf Hitler).

Deportation decision

One interesting point is revealed by the above document. When the big deportation of British-born residents took place, considerable scepticism was felt about the regret expressed by the local German authorities and their assurance that it was only carried out by direct orders from Headquarters. We see now that Hitler had decided on it as early as 20 October 1941, though it was not begun till 15 September 1942.

Wasted resource

The uselessness of these vast building operations was revealed when the end came. Miss Nowlan has kindly added to our library a book published in Germany in 1949, Invasion, by General Hans Speidel, Chief of Staff to Rommel, when he was Commander in Chief in the West. He writes:

"The group of British islands before St Malo were to be transformed on an eight-year plan into an impregnable fortress. This was Hitler's will. In the Spring of 1944 there were on this group of small islands 11 heavy batteries with 38 strong-points ready for use, whereas at the same period the whole front from Dieppe to St Nazaire, a stretch of coast over 1,ooo kilometres long, possessed only the same number of batteries and 37 strongpoints. The strength of the garrison of the Islands, it had been decided, was to be one whole division supported by an anti-aircraft regiment and a tank regiment. Rommel was a sharp opponent of the fortifying of the Channel Islands and recommended the withdrawal of the useless, stalemated garrison. After the Allies first landing Rommel made frantic appeals that these troops might be withdrawn to reinforce him; but he was told, according to Intelligence Reports from higher authorities, an attack on the Channel Islands by 40 to 50 Commando groups, approximating in strength to a Division, is daily expected. As the situation worsened Rommel again recommended the withdrawal of the troops from the Islands for the reinforcement of the Normandy front. In the Islands was the whole of the 319th Division, about 35,000 men in all who, in May 1945, had to surrender without having struck a blow. Already in 1944 the ordinary soldier with his unerring instinct for the bald truth and in humorous recognition of its probable fate had dubbed the 319th the 'Canada Division'."
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