Resistance Trail Guernsey

Created by Dr Gilly Carr, this Resistance Trail is designed to introduce visitors and locals alike to some of the more well-known and important people and sites in Guernsey who and which gained their importance because of their association with acts of protest, defiance and resistance during the German occupation of 1940-1945. While we have selected only ten sites, there are literally hundreds of stories of resistance against the occupiers which still circulate in the Island. Some of them are told only within the families concerned and others are written down in books of the Occupation. In making this Resistance Trail, we believe that some of the more important stories should be made more visible in the landscape and marked for posterity. We hope that you enjoy visiting these sites and learning more about Guernsey’s occupation history!

Marie Ozanne's Blue Plaque in Guernsey

The Resistance Memorial, St Peter Port harbour.
This memorial, unveiled in May 2015, is dedicated to the ‘Guernsey 8’: the eight people from the island who died in German-controlled prisons, labour camps and concentration camps in France and Germany for acts of protest, defiance and resistance. Marie Ozanne is the only person on this memorial who died just after her release from Guernsey prison on medical grounds. She is buried in the Vale churchyard. The others all died abroad, and the bodies of some of them have been missing for 70 years. Sidney Ashcroft was located in September 2015 and Joseph Gillingham in March 2016. Percy Miller is buried in Frankfurt-am-Main and Charles Machon in Hamlin. The body of Louis Symes is still missing and John Ingrouille’s body was brought home to Guernsey in 1946. His grave can be visited in the Vale cemetery. The name of the eighth person on this memorial, whose body lies in a communal grave in Augsburg, has not yet been engraved at the wishes of his family. He is Herbert Smith, who is buried in Augsberg in Germany, along with other former prisoners. The ‘offences’ of the Guernsey 8 were varied: they included illicitly listening to the radio after such acts were banned; writing and circulating an underground news letter; stealing from the Germans; protesting at their orders; sheltering a commando; and allegedly threatening to fight the Germans with a large resistance army. Some of these offences were typical of what others were doing. Some were unique in the Channel Islands. All on this memorial paid with their lives.

GUNS Blue Plaque, the Bordage, St Peter Port
‘Guernsey’s Underground News Service’ was the brainchild of Charles Machon, a linotype operator at The Star newspaper. It was set up as a direct result of the German order confiscating all radios, which came in June 1942. Although many islanders kept their radio sets in secret, discovery could and did lead to death in a Nazi prison or concentration camp. GUNS was typed up and printed in this building, the former location of the Star newspaper, as well as in other locations. Charles Machon recruited a number of islanders to help him at different times: Joseph and Henrietta Gillingham, Frank Falla, Ernest Legg and Cecil Duquemin. Hubert Lanyon was the main distributer of GUNS in Sark. Other men in Guernsey were involved in distribution but, after an informer betrayed them, Joseph Gillingham, Machon, Falla, Legg and Duquemin were arrested and deported. The men were sent to a variety of Nazi prisons in Germany, all eventually split up apart from Falla and Legg. Machon and Gillingham died in prison. Machon’s body was recently located in Hamlin graveyard and Gillingham was found in Halle graveyard in March 2016 after a 70-year search. The story of GUNS is told in Frank Falla’s 1967 book The Silent War.

Site of Guernsey's former prison, St Peter Port
On this spot is the location of Guernsey’s former prison. During the German Occupation, part of it was taken over by the Germans. Islanders who committed acts of protest, defiance or resistance against the Germans were imprisoned here. These people called themselves 'political prisoners'. Typical offences against the Germans included listening to the radio after these had been confiscated in June 1942; spreading the BBC news; dealing on the black market when food grew scarce, even though this was often the only way to get enough to eat; being out after curfew; stealing from the Germans; or otherwise breaking any one of their rules. As one Guernseyman observed, one could get arrested for breathing in when one should have been breathing out. People who committed more serious offences were sent to Jersey to have their court-martial, and sometimes imprisoned there. Most were interrogated and tried in Guernsey, in the Royal Court. Most of those who received a sentence of longer than three months were deported to a prison on the continent. While most deported people were sent to prisons in France, such as Caen, St-Lô, or one of the several prisons in Paris, those who had committed the most serious of offences were sent either directly to Germany for forced labour, or sent to Germany after a period of imprisonment in France. The longer the sentence and the later in the war people were convicted, the less chance they had of coming back alive. In total, around 1300 Channel Islanders were imprisoned in Guernsey and Jersey jails during the Occupation. Between 200 and 250 people were deported to continental prisons and labour or concentration camps. Out of all of those deported, 38 people from the Channel Islands did not return: the Jersey 21, 7 of the Guernsey 8 (Marie Ozanne died in Guernsey), and three Jewish women who were deported from Guernsey to France, and from France to Auschwitz.

Grange Lodge, St Peter Port, site of the Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret Field Police)
One of the more controversial events of the Occupation was the arrest and deportation of over half of the Guernsey police force in the spring of 1942. 18 policemen were alleged to have been involved in the theft of food and alcohol from German depots, and from local stores who, the policemen argued, were preferentially dealing with or supplying the German troops. This stolen food was then redistributed among members of the population in great need and who were starving. The theft of German property was considered by many occupied peoples in Europe as fair game. The BBC had broadcast to occupied peoples encouraging them to indulge in such theft and sabotage, and this was part of the policemen’s defence. They saw themselves as patriotic latter-day Robin Hoods. When the men were taken into custody by the Germans, they were beaten up and mentally and physically abused during their interrogations here at Grange Lodge, the HQ of the Feldkommandantur and the Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret Field Police, the closest equivalent of the Gestapo in the Channel Islands). They were forced to sign confessions. The men were tried by both German court-martial and by the Royal Court and received sentences of up to 4 ½ years hard labour. They were deported in June 1942 to a variety of different prisons in France and then labour and concentration camps in Germany. One man, Kingston Bailey, ended up in Dachau, and another group was sent to the terrible labour camp of Neuoffingen where one was killed by a guard. Most of those who survived suffered for the rest of their lives with PTSD and physical disabilities. Their wartime convictions by the Royal Court were never overturned.

Frank Falla's House, Brock Road, St Peter Port
Frank Falla was a member of the Guernsey Underground News Service, and was deported in June 1944 for his resistance work. He was sent to Frankfurt and Naumberg prisons. He was liberated by American troops and returned to Guernsey later in the summer of 1945. He wrote articles to the Guernsey Press and Jersey Evening Post to let Islanders know how terrible these Nazi prisons were and the circumstances of death of a number of Islanders incarcerated in them. He set up annual reunions for survivors of Nazi prisons after the war and was chosen to represent the Channel Islands is a European-wide reunion of resisters in Belgium in 1946. In the 1960s, Falla helped islanders who had been deported to Nazi prisons and camps get compensation for Nazi persecution. He campaigned to MPs in Westminster and helped the Foreign Office track down Channel Islander survivors of camps and prisons. This video explains why he should be remembered today.

Marie Ozanne's house, Le Dehus Lane, Vale, Guernsey
Major Marie Ozanne of the Salvation Army was an intelligent and courageous woman who was prepared to stand up – and, if necessary, die - for her religious convictions. Her behaviour was, she believed, ‘a question of conscience’. She continued to wear her Salvation Army uniform and preach in public after the Salvation Army and its uniform was banned. She befriended and fed foreign workers of the Organisation Todt in the Island when this was forbidden. She wrote regular letters to the German Feldkommandantur to protest, among other things, at the way that foreign workers were being treated, and to protest about the persecution of the Jews. What made Marie Ozanne unique in the Channel Islands is that her opposition to the Germans was not clandestine but open, made in direct challenge to their rule rather than in secret. She was arrested in September 1942 and spent 6 weeks in prison. She died of a stomach abscess in February 1943, aged 37, after her release. The clean, white headstone of her grave stands out from the others in the Vale churchyard. The blue plaque on the house where she grew up, once called Torcamp Place, was erected in 2013, on the 70th anniversary of her death.

The Charybdis Graves at the Foulon Cemetery, St Peter Port, Guernsey
One of the most widespread uses of patriotic colours as a form of symbolic resistance was seen in November 1943. This was in a period when the occupiers were arresting people for such acts of symbolic resistance. On the night of 23/24 October 1943, the British light cruiser HMS Charybdis was sunk by German torpedoes. By November, 41 bodies of Royal Naval personnel had been washed up on the beaches of Guernsey, Jersey and Sark. They were buried with full military honours. In Guernsey, around 5,000 people – more than 20% of the population – attended the funerals at the Foulon cemetery as a display of loyalty to Britain and as a demonstration of where their true feelings lay. Large numbers of people sent flowers tied with red, white and blue ribbons and rosettes, and around 900 wreaths were counted. The Germans were so taken aback at this display of patriotism that the subsequent funeral in Jersey was a private affair although many thousands of people were said to have lined the route to the cemetery. Every year on 'Charybdis Day', Guernsey holds a ceremony to remember those who drowned.

John Ingrouille's Grave, Vale Churchyard, Guernsey
John Ingrouille was 20 years old when he was arrested. He was denounced by a local woman and her daughter, who testified against him at his trial in Jersey and, it is believed, Germany. He was found guilty of treason and espionage at his trial in Jersey in March 1941 and was sent to Berlin, where he was accused of ‘organising armed resistance’ of hundreds of men – a ludicrous allegation probably made by the Guernsey woman out of spite after Ingrouille found out that she was having a relationship with a German soldier. Ingrouille was sentenced to five years hard labour. Although he endured and survived Berlin Moabit and Brandenburg prisons, he died of tuberculosis in a Displaced Persons camp in Brussels in June 1945, before he could get home. His body was brought back to Guernsey and is buried in the Vale churchyard. John’s parents were given a small sum of compensation by the German government in the mid-1960s, which they spent on a stained glass window in the Vale church in memory of their son. This window, of the crucified Christ, can be seen today.

St Sampson's Harbour, Guernsey. The Escape of Captain Noyon.
In the autumn of 1944, the food situation in the Channel Islands was absolutely desperate. Although things had been bad before the Allied invasion of Normandy, now that the islands were cut off from France, no more trips could be made to Granville to buy rations from the French to feed the local people. By the autumn, rations for the civilian population were at starvation levels, and the Germans were requisitioning more and more food. By October 1944, the Germans declared that it would no longer be their responsibility to feed the islanders. The Bailiffs of Guernsey and Jersey were anxious that London should learn of their position and send help via the International Red Cross as soon as possible. But how would that message be sent? A letter had already been written by the Bailiff of Guernsey in July 1944, but it was intercepted by the Germans, who would not allow any such communications. In the end, a group of private individuals including Dr Alastair Rose and Violet Courtvriend, decided to collect all the evidence they could find relating to the food shortages and health, including an official States report, and correspondence between the occupiers and local authorities, and smuggled the information to London. On 3 November 1944, Captain Fred Noyon, one of their number and a retired master mariner, escaped from the island in a fishing boat with a fisherman named Endicott. The trip was successful and they got to London, via Cherbourg, on 12 November 1944. The information they brought added to what London already knew. Soon after Christmas 1944, the Red Cross ship, the SS Vega, arrived in the Channel Islands to save the population from starvation.

The Commandos Memorial, Icart, Guernsey
On 8 July 1940, the first British commando to arrive in the occupied island landed here, at Le Jaonnet Bay. His name was Hubert Nicolle, a Guernseyman who had joined the Royal Hampshire regiment. This was not to be his only mission. On 4 September 1940, he and fellow Guernseyman, Jimmy Symes, landed in another raid but missed their rendezvous to return to England. Now stranded in the island, they contacted their families and friends who sheltered them for six weeks. Realising that they would eventually be caught, which would endanger their families, they planned to surrender. The plan was that they would pretend to be soldiers who had not managed to leave the island before the Germans arrived, rather than newly-arrived commandos. They trusted that they would then be treated as POWs and taken to POW camps (as had been the case for two earlier stranded commandos who had tried the same ruse) rather than shot as spies. President of the Controlling Committee, Ambrose Sherwill, was in on the game and got the Germans to agree to an amnesty for all British military personnel. However, after the surrender of Nicolle and Symes, the Germans reneged on the agreement. Sherwill and the 15 family members and friends involved in sheltering the commandos were arrested, deported, and split between Caen prison and the notorious Cherche-Midi prison in Paris for a sentence which lasted until the end of December 1940. The two commandos were, eventually, sent on to POW camps, but Jimmy Symes’ father, Louis Symes, died in Cherche-Midi days before his release.

Want to learn more? We recommend this book, which discusses all of the stories in this resistance trail and more:

Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation 1940-1945’ by Gilly Carr, Paul Sanders and Louise Willmot, published by Bloomsbury Academic (2014).