During the Second World War, the Channel
Islands were the only part of the British territory to be occupied by the
In June 1940 almost the entire population
of the island of Alderney was evacuated. Most of the 1,500 residents left on
official evacuation boats sent from mainland Britain.
When the German troops arrived in Alderney
they found it virtually deserted. Following Hitler’s instructions they set to
work fortifying the island to form part of his ‘Atlantic Wall’. Four
concentration camps were built, and forced labour was used to build bunkers,
gun emplacements and air-raid shelters.
The war raged on, until eventually, after
almost five years, the Germans finally surrendered Alderney on May 16th,
1945, seven days after the liberation of sister islands Guernsey and Jersey and
eight days after the Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of
the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third
On the return to their island, Alderney
evacuees had little or no knowledge of what had happened on their tiny island,
some of the evidence however was clear to see, with vast concrete
fortifications and graves marking the numerous prisoners who had perished
there. Many of the island’s buildings were completely derelict due to the fact
that anything wooden, including front doors, had been burned for fuel during
the desperate times.
Over two thousand German prisoners of war were removed from Alderney on 20th May 1945, leaving around 500 Germans to undertake clearing up operations under British military supervision.