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  • Alderney fortifications
  • Alderney World War II
  • Fort Clonque, Alderney

The Occupation of Alderney during World War II

Alderney’s history is evident from the moment you step onto its soil. The beautiful and tranquil landscape is dotted with forts and bunkers. Headlands, teeming with wildlife and pretty flowers contrast with concrete austere buildings. Situated only 8 miles from France, the tiny island had been a prime spot for military interventions from Victorian times but when World War II took hold, Victorian forts were turned over to German Occupation. The Alderney Occupation proved to be a bleak period in the history of the Channel Islands.

A de-militarised and evacuated zone

On 28 June 1940 both Guernsey and Jersey suffered fatalities and civilian injuries when the harbours of St Peter Port and St Helier were bombed. In the weeks leading up to this, Churchill had declared British troops were to be removed from the islands and they were de-militarised. He failed to inform Hitler, who seeing the islands as strategic in his plan to build an Atlantic Wall and good for propaganda, swiftly moved in his troops. In the confusion before this, each island took its own decision as to whether evacuation was necessary. All but 12 inhabitants fled Alderney, mostly to the mainland. Guernsey boats picked up all but 7 of the other inhabitants on the following days. On 2 July, German troops occupied Alderney.

Alderney as a German Military Base

Alderney was heavily fortified using 4,000 forced labour workers. Four camps were built, including SS Lager Sylt, the only Nazi concentration camp on British land. It is estimated over 700 people died on the island. By 1944, over 3,200 German troops were also based there. Conditions were poor and when the islanders eventually returned on 15 December 1945, their beautiful island lay in ruins. Houses had been ripped apart and doors used as firewood. Land mines were scattered everywhere.

Alderney restored

On 8 May, the Channel Islands began to be surrendered. Jersey and Guernsey celebrate Liberation Day on 9 May, Sark on 10 May and Alderney people recognise 16 May as the day their island was returned to them. However, 15 December is celebrated as a public holiday as the date when the islanders began to return and the enormous clear up operation began. For the subsequent 2 years, Alderney ran as a communal farm and slowly the island was repaired.

Visit and find out more

To find out more about how Alderney was affected by the Occupation come and visit! Browse our accommodation pages and keep an eye on our Blog pages for dates when related Occupation and Liberation events may be happening.

photo of main street in Alderney

World War II legacies

  • 13 Strong points
  • 5 Coastal Batteries
  • 22 Anti-aircraft Batteries
  • 12 Resistance Nests
  • 3 Defence Lines

The camps of Lagers Helgoland, Norderney, Borkum and Sylt are not generally commemorated by the islanders although it is known a network of tunnels exists beneath the entrances. Contact Visit Alderney for more information about which fortifications and bunkers can be visited.