Liberation Day 1945

The following are extracts are from A Liberation Diary that was published in the 1985 Liberation Celebrations souvenir programme.

Monday 7 May 1945

Unconditional surrender of the German High Command.  All active operations to cease at 00:01 hours on the 9th May.  (That is, at one minute past midnight on the night of 8th/9th May.)  Nevertheless, at a morning meeting with the German authorities, Jurat John Leale (President of the Controlling Committee) receives a formal complaint about ‘provocative’ Union Jacks seem flying in Town.


Fearing that Vice Admiral Huffmeier (the German commander of the Channel Islands) might decide to fight on alone, Southern Command sends another signal, proposing a rendezvous for a German representative to sign the instrument of surrender.  A rendezvous is agreed for noon on the 8th May, four miles south of Les Hanois.

Wednesday 9 May 1045

Shortly after 7am several copies of the unconditional surrender document are signed by Generalmajor Hewine on the quarterdeck of HMS Bulldog, which has been lying off St. Peter Port for some hours.  At 8.45am the first advance party lands at the New Jetty.


Meanwhile Brigadier Snow, with the other advance party aboard HMS Beagle, goes to Jersey for the surrender of the German garrison there.  The remainder of the ‘Omelet’ advance party – about 200 men – comes ashore to prepare for the main ‘Nestegg’ force.

The value of liberty

On 23 May 1945, two weeks after the Liberation, Jurat John Leale, President of the Controlling Committee during the Occupation, presented a report to the States of Guernsey which was printed in the Guernsey Press and subsequently reprinted in booklet form so that all islanders could know what he had said.


In well over 20,000 words Jurat Leale gave a masterly account of the work and negotiations undertaken by his Committee, explaining many of the difficulties with which they contended during the five years of Occupation.  He ended with a paragraph which is still worth remembering today – by people of all nations:


“From the Occupation of this Island by German forces, grim though the experience has been, we have all doubtless learned salutary lessons.  But there is one that I think we have been taught above all others and it is this: Never in the past have we valued liberty as we shall value it in the future.


“If that thought dominates our political, social and industrial lives, then good may yet come out of evil.  If because of our trials we realise, as we have never realised before, the meaning of freedom to the human spirit, then those cruel years from 1940 to 1945 will not after all have been wasted, but, on the contrary, out of the wreckage of the weary and seemingly useless years, we shall have rescued, and indeed refined that conception of life which alone entitles us to bear the name of men.”

Tuesday 8 May 1945

Two destroyers, HMS Bulldog and HMS Beagle, leave Plymouth at 10am carrying Brigadier A.E. Snow – in charge of “Nestegg” operation – together with small landing parties of 2 officers and 20 men for each main island.


At 10.30am in the Royal Court House, Korvettekapitan Reich and Baron von Aufsess officially tell the Guernsey authorities that the war is over.


At noon, a hastily assembled meeting at the States formally hears that the war is over and flags may be flown and Thanksgiving Services held after Mr Churchill’s broadcast at 3pm.  Also at noon the British destroyers rendezvous off the Hanois with a German minesweeping trawler and discover that Huffmeier has sent a junior naval officer – Kapitanleutnant Armin Zimmerman – authorized only to discuss armistice terms.


Brigadier Snow sends him back with a copy of the surrender document and a message to Huffmeier that he, or his properly accredited representative must come prepared to sign the unconditional surrender.  As he leaves, Zimmerman warns that since the ceasefire does not come into force until after midnight, the destroyers will be fired upon by shore batteries if they remain where they are.  Rear Admiral C G Stuart has been ordered not to take any unnecessary risks and therefore withdraws to a safe distance until a new rendezvous is arranged for midnight.


At 3pm the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, broadcasts the news that all German land, sea and air forces have surrendered.  “Active operations will cease at one minute after midnight tonight and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.  (In the event, they are not freed until the next day.)


That evening a huge bonfire is seen burning on Sark, giving rise to some fears for the safety of the local people and their property.  Sometime after midnight, Generalmajor Heine, second in command of the Channel Islands, goes aboard HMS Bulldog.  Brigadier Snow informs Southern Command that the surrender document will be signed at dawn and that ‘Operation Omelet’ should be initiated immediately.

Thursday 10 May 1945

The liberating forces are unable to contact Sark by telephone, so a small party under Col. Allen arrives to arrange the German garrison’s surrender.  Because of a shortage of manpower, all the British party returns to Guernsey, leaving Mrs Hathaway in charge of the Germans, who are now prisoners of war.  It transpires that Tuesday night’s bonfire was purely a local celebration.

Eye witnesses

Bert Gould, Guernsey resident

Among the first eye-witnesses of the landing of the British troops was Special Constable Bert Gould.  At 5am on the morning on 9 May 1945 he had a phone call from the police, warning him to be on duty at the entrance of the White Rock with his fellow Special Constable Rex Cowley. They were to guard the main gate to prevent anyone from going on to the jetty, because all the cranes were mined and it was potentially very dangerous.


Eventually they saw a group of servicemen marching along the White Rock towards them … this was the first of the Liberation Force led by the late Rex Ferbrache.  “What struck me was that they were so smart” recalls Bert who was more than a little conscious of his own appearance after five years of Occupation shortages.  The excitement of the welcoming crowds proved too much for Bert and Rex Cowley, for they were unable to stop a surge forward as the soldiers were mobbed by the ecstatic islanders.  Flowers were showered on the advance party