Guernsey / Museum
Occupied for almost five years by German forces in June 1940, the Islands of Guernsey are strategically located in the English Channel between England and northern France. La Valette Museum is situated within a German tunnel complex and exhibits include the German Occupation and subsequent Liberation of the Islands of Guernsey.
Believing the Channel Islands held enormous propaganda value, Hitler laid down a directive that they be made into “impregnable fortresses”. Huge quantities of concrete, weapons and men were transported to the Islands, making them the most heavily fortified place on earth. By 1944, the Channel Islands had ‘more guns than 600 miles of the Normandy Coast’. Forced labour camps were set up, with ‘slave’ workers and Operation Todt workers from Europe often treated poorly; some, sadly, lost their lives from exhaustion.
La Valette Underground Military Museum is situated in a German underground tunnel complex constructed by these workers. This particular tunnel was built as a fuel store for German U-boats, but was never finished. Work on the conversion of the tunnels into a Museum started in late 1987 and took two years to complete.
In late May 1944, in the build-up to the invasion of France, Allied Forces planned to destroy all long range radar installations in the vicinity of northern France. The Freya radar site which was located at Fort George, just along from this museum, was particularly significant, as it covered the area to the west of the Normandy beaches.
As a decoy, an RAF bombing raid on Guernsey took place on 3 June 1944 by 439 Squadrons. It ultimately failed and so a second raid took place on 5 June with eight typhoons from 439 Tiger Squadron, each carrying two nose-fused (instantaneous) 500lb high capacity bombs. All bombs were dropped. However, in the intense flak, Flight Lieutenant John Saville’s aircraft was hit, with a large explosion reported in the sea just offshore.
There were multiple casualties and 8 Allied aircraft lost. This resulted in the Allied Forces deciding to bypass the Islands in the D-Day Landings due to their heavy fortification.