Sunday, 12 February 2017

Jewels and Jackboots: Hitler's British Channel Islands

Sue and I first went to Jersey on our honeymoon back in 1982. One of the reasons why we did was thanks to the then-current TV show, BERGERAC, which starred John Nettles.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the island, and since then we have returned many times for holidays. We have travelled around it very extensively, and thanks to my interest in military history we have visited almost every German bunker or gun position that is open to the public. It was therefore a great pleasure when my old friend Tony Hawkins recently gave me a copy of John Nettle's book JEWELS AND JACKBOOTS as a birthday present.

JEWELS AND JACKBOOTS: HITLER'S BRITISH CHANNEL ISLANDS (ISBN 978 1 905095 38 4) was written by John Nettles and published in 2012 by Channel Islands Publishing and Jersey War Tunnels. The book's contents include:
  • A Chronology
  • A Prologue: which gives a brief history of how World War II came to the Channel Islands.
  • Chapter 1: The Bombing: Prelude to an occupation.
  • Chapter 2: Betrayal and Buffoonery: How the Germans took over the Islands.
  • Chapter 3: Shaking hands with the Germans: How the civil authorities reacted.
  • Chapter 4: Those that were left: The treatment of Islanders who were left after the evacuations.
  • Chapter 5: Who are these people and why are they here?: Description of the German invading forces and their leaders Lanz, Aufsess, Huffmeier et al.
  • Chapter 6: The Empire strikes back: Commando raids – Nicolle and Symes, the Basalt raid.
  • Chapter 7: Precious little resistance: Those who resisted and those who suffered. Gould, Le Druillenec, Cohu, and Sherwill.
  • Chapter 8: The Jews in the Channel Islands: The Jews. Story of Steiner, Pitz and Grunfeld. Coutance and Pfeffer, Cyril Orange, Carey, Sculpher.
  • Chapter 9: Festung Alderney: Concentration Camps on British soil, Alderney and the slave workers. Pantcheff and war crimes.
  • Chapter 10: It was over: Liberation: Huffmeier's last throw. Revolt in the German ranks and the arrival of the Bulldog.
  • Chapter 11: Crime and Punishment: Those who were guilty.
  • Epilogue
I understand that John Nettles lost some of the friends he had made on Jersey because the book does not gloss over some of the more unpleasant facts about the Occupation. It is still a sore subject in some quarters in the Channel Islands, although with hindsight it is difficult to see how the people who were not evacuated in 1940 before the Germans arrived could have done things very differently. As I once heard an elderly Islander who had been a boy during the Occupation say, 'The Germans had guns and we did not. They controlled everything, and unless we cooperated, we would have starved. We did resist whenever we could, but in most cases it was a passive rather than an active resistance.'

How many of us can say for definite that we would have done otherwise in the same circumstances?


  1. An interesting topic as i was born in Jersey. My grand father who was in the French army in vichy during the occupation was allowed back into the island by the Germans but couldn't go back. He was there during the famine and the liberation. He always mentioned that some of the higher states people were less than saviory during that time and made a lot of money.
    He like all had a horrendous time.

    1. Dannoc,

      I must have visited Jersey nearly thirty times over the years, and whilst I liked the place, I can imagine that it would be very easy to get what I understand is called 'island fever' (i.e. a desire to get away) or 'island complacency' (i.e. a sort of 'we are all right, Jack' attitude to the outside world).

      It sounds as if your grandfather had a difficult time during the war. The Islanders who stayed/were left behind suffered hardships that people in the UK find difficult to understand. They may have had rationing, but at least some things were available to buy, which was not the case on the Islands.

      I suspect that as with most enemy occupations there were those who suffered less than others because they were willing to 'compromise' (a polite name for collaborate, I suppose), especially if there was money to be made.

      Thanks for sharing your grandfather's story.

      All the best,


  2. One does what one can with what one has. Often enough that isn't very much. I'm even inclined to think a certain amount of collaboration ought not to be condemned out of hand. For personal benefit - yes, that is (probably) reprehensible; but if it makes life a bit more tolerable all round, I don't really see anything to criticise.

    I rather liked the Bergerac series, and John Nettles made a fine DCI in the Midsomer Murders as well. Seems that during his stint as Jim Bergerac he become interested in the history of the islands in which the stories were set.

    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      I would like to think that I would only collaborate in order to protect my family, and that I could keep whatever I had to do to the minimum. I am enough of a realist to know what my own priorities would be, and have no illusions that I would become an active resister unless circumstances forced me to do so.

      I understand that John Nettles has a history degree, and that he lived on Jersey during his time as Bergerac. I must admit that I found the earlier Midsomer Murders were better than the later ones, and have given up watching the series since John Nettles 'retired' from the role.

      All the best,