The secret paths across Hitler's forgotten Island fortress - five to six day itinerary
Historian Dan Snow’s recent documentary ‘The Islands of Guernsey - The Secrets of Hitler's Island Fortress’ uncovers one of the most important hauls of World War 2 artefacts in the 21st century. Retrace Snow’s journey across the Islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Lihou and visit some of the same sites that are imbued with long lost history and previously untold tales of WWII.
And discover the real James Bond on Sark, a British raid commander that inspired Ian Fleming to create the character for his series of spy novels.
German Occupation Museum, Les Houards, Forest, Guernsey
The German Occupation Museum provides a unique insight into life in Guernsey during the Occupation. A treasure trove of preserved artefacts including local, Freda Oliver’s love letters with German Under Officer Paul Schlimbach. Complete with an authentic recreation of an occupation-era street, exhibitions on maritime history, and Second World War fortifications.
Petit Bot, Forest, Guernsey
Petit Bot is a sheltered cove beach with plenty of rock pools to explore and a charming tea room at the bottom of the valley. This area saw the commencement of Allied forces’ commando raids during the war, but is now a peaceful valley filled with luscious plant life, waterfalls and lots of great walking routes.
Castle Cornet, St Peter Port, Guernsey
Castle Cornet is Guernsey’s sprawling 800 year old castle complete with four museums and four period gardens. Stop by at 12 o’clock to see the scarlet clad castle keepers fire the noon-day gun. Explore the historic fortification, the only place in the British Isles with Henry VIII defences enhanced by Hitler.
Travel by ferry to Sark
The Hogs Back, Sark
October 3rd 1942, 12 British commandos of the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) launched Operation BASALT, raiding Sark with the dual objective of capturing prisoners and offensive reconnaissance. Take a stroll along the Hog’s Back headland and view the exact spot where they scaled the treacherous cliffs at night.
The raid was led by Major Geoffrey Appleyard, who worked alongside Naval Intelligence Officer Ian Fleming. Fleming was so inspired by the SSRF, including the night raid on Sark and other missions, that he went on to write his series of spy novels. The main character, James Bond, is said to be based on Appleyard and three of his SSRF colleagues; one of whom, Major Anders Lassen VC, also took part in the Sark raid.
Return to Guernsey
Causeway to Lihou Island
Fort Hommet, Vazon Bay Headland, Castel, Guernsey
Visit Fort Hommet (named ‘Stutzpunkt Rotenstein’ by the Germans) on the impressive Vazon headland. The Germans added to the fort in 1942, with a 4.7cm anti-tank gun casemate, four 10.5cm casemates, two searchlight bunkers, a machine gun turret bunker, a M19 automatic mortar bunker, a water supply bunker, shelter for 5cm anti-tank gun and a personnel Shelter.
Not all of the fortifications at this site are regularly accessible to the public, but there is lots to explore any time of day.
Take the ferry from St Peter Port and arrive on the scenic Island of Herm. Herm was by-passed by the Germans initially but was later claimed by the Third Reich on July 20th 1940. The Island was used to practise landing from barges in preparation for the invasion of England, under the guise of shooting a propaganda film entitled ‘The Invasion of the Isle of Wight’. The Island was also used by Officers for shooting rabbits and pheasants. Now though Herm is a tranquil Island with white sandy beaches perfect for sunbathing, walking or stopping for a drink in the Mermaid Tavern.
If the tide is right you can walk across the cobbled causeway to Lihou Island, and explore this wild, natural paradise. During the War the Island’s only house was used as target practice and was shelled, causing it to collapse completely. Luckily the 12th century priory was undamaged and its relics still remain. There is also a beautiful tidal rock pool or ‘Venus Pool’ that is deep enough to jump in if you are feeling brave.
Travel by plane or ferry to Alderney
Fort Tourgis, Alderney
Alderney was the only Channel Island to be almost entirely evacuated before the Germans arrived, giving the Occupiers a blank slate to turn the Island into one large integrated fortress of concrete and steel. On 16th May 1945 the Island was returned to the Alderney people. However the Islanders did not return until December 15th; they faced an enormous clean-up operation and the Island functioned as a communal farm during its restoration.
Alderney coastal defences: Fort Tourgis, Alderney
There are five main Victorian forts on Alderney that dominate the Islands’ coastal landscape: Fort Clonque, Fort Albert, Fort Tourgis, Fort Grosnez and Fort Chateau a L’Etoc. Fort Tourgis has undergone extensive conservation work and is an excellent example of how the original Victorian fortifications were adapted by German forces in the Second World War, when Alderney became one of the most heavily fortified sections of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.
Hidden artefacts and artillery, Alderney
Both The Coast Path Challenge and The Mid-Island Walk – will take you near the quarry containing WWII artefacts and artillery, including tank tracks, shell casings and at least one K18 gun plus many more submerged relics in the depths of the York Hill Quarry. Although access to the Quarry is restricted, walking around Alderney there are many reminders that the Island was once inhabited by over 6,000 German soldiers.
Return to Guernsey
For more information about Guernsey during the Occupation please visit.