Liberation Day – 9th May

View of Guernsey coast and beach

Each year on May 9th Guernsey celebrates Liberation Day, when on May 9th 1945 British Forces under the command of Brigadier Snow arrived on H.M.S. Bulldog, where the unconditional surrender of the German forces occupying Guernsey was signed by Major General Heine and Guernsey was free once more.

To return to the beginning , on June 28th 1940 , the Luftwaffe, unaware that the Channel Islands were a demilitarised zone, bombed a line of lorries, loaded with tomatoes, awaiting shipment near the harbour, mistaking them for military vehicles. Twenty nine people were killed and others injured. Two days later the occupying Nazi forces arrived, marching through the streets of St Peter Port.

During the next five years islanders suffered from fear, loss of freedom, lack of food and medical supplies, particularly after the D-Day Normandy landings in June 1940 when the Island’s meagre food supplies were cut off entirely. Mass starvation was narrowly avoided by the arrival of the Red Cross ship S.S. Vega, bringing much needed food parcels, in December 1944.

Children celebrating Guernsey Liberation Day

When Brigadier Snow arrived on that first Liberation Day, he was followed shortly afterwards by British soldiers bringing with them additional food and supplies. They were greeted by the beleaguered islanders with wild enthusiasm. All of which explains why Guernsey continues to celebrate Liberation Day and keep it alive in the minds of the younger generation.

2020 being the 75th anniversary, special celebrations had been planned but because Guernsey was in lockdown due to coronavirus these could not take place. However a selection of alternative events were covered by the media, on Facebook and by Radio Guernsey.

The day began with the sounding of the siren at 9.00 a.m. then the Bailiff alone laid a wreath at the War Memorial. Outside the Town Church a short ecumenical service of Thanksgiving was held and was shown on Facebook.

Instead of the grand parade and the funfair planned for the afternoon, Radio Guernsey broadcast music and songs associated with the W.W.2 and a message from the Queen was read by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, Vice Admiral Sir Ian Calder. Other events which had to be cancelled or postponed included an afternoon tea party and an evening concert. The day ended not with the planned firework display against the backdrop of St Peter Port harbour and historical Castle Cornet but with an interesting interview by T.V. historian Dan Snow with Sir Ian Calder.

Images courtesy of VisitGuernsey