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What is the history behind Liberation Day?

Liberation Day

Liberation Day is a notable date that appears on our promotional calendars, but it might not mean much to people outside of the Channel Islands.

When is Liberation Day?

Taking place on 9th May each year, it is recognised as a national holiday in Jersey and Guernsey and it forms a key part of the history of the islands. But what is Liberation Day and why is it observed?

Celebrating freedom from occupation

This annual event commemorates the day when the Channel Islands were liberated from occupation by German forces after five years during World War II. It is a time when the islanders remember the harsh days of German occupation. But it is also a day to celebrate their freedom through parades, official ceremonies and other festivities.

Liberation Day

During World War II, the Channel Islands, consisting of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, were left undefended by British forces. Located 80 miles south of the English coast, the islands are not part of the UK but are dependencies of the British crown. When it transpired that the islands would be invaded by German troops, the inhabitants were faced with difficult choices. Should they evacuate to England or remain on the islands, living under German rule? Subsequently, around 30,000 of the islands’ 104,000 residents were evacuated to the UK before the invasion took place at the end of June and beginning of July 1940.

From 30 June 1940 until 9 May 1945, the civilians of the Channel Islands lived under German occupation. They faced shortages of food, fuel and medicine, as well as increasing restrictions on their daily lives. Fortifications and concentration camps were built, businesses were closed, jobs were lost and curfews were imposed. The winter of 1944 to 1945 was particularly harsh. A great deal of the population had to rely on food parcels from the Red Cross to ward off starvation.

Red Cross Parcel for Liberation Day

An official announcement

The liberation of the Channel Islands was announced on 8 May 1945 by the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. On 9 May 1945, British forces landed on the shores of Jersey and Guernsey, liberating both islands, while Sark was freed the following day. The population of Alderney had been completely evacuated and so the island was occupied by German troops, who surrendered on 16 May. A declaration of unconditional surrender was signed on 10 May.

Liberation Day was officially added to our calendars as a public holiday in 1952. It is celebrated in Jersey and Guernsey on 9th May, while the residents of Sark commemorate the event on 10 May. Alderney holds its own celebration, Homecoming Day, on 15 December.

Liberation Day: facts and figures

From iconic acts to ingenious sculptures, here are some interesting facts you may or may not know about this notable calendar date in the Channel Islands.

A triumphant act

The Pomme d’Or Hotel in St Helier, Jersey, plays a key role in the Liberation Day celebrations. During World War II, it was commandeered by the German troops and used as the headquarters for their navy. On the morning of 9th March 1945, when British troops landed in Jersey to liberate the island, the Union Jack flag was hoisted triumphantly from the balcony of the hotel. Every year on Liberation Day, this iconic scene is re-enacted at the hotel.

Pomme d'Or for Liberation Day

Celebrations and cavalcades

In St Helier, the Liberation Day celebrations include parades, live music and firework displays. Similar events take place in Guernsey, mainly on the St Peter Port seafront. The main event is the Liberation Day Cavalcade, which is a parade of military vehicles and vintage cars.

50 layers for 50 years

The Liberation Monument in St Peter Port, Guernsey, was unveiled on 9 May 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the occupation. It consists of 50 layers of granite, each representing the 50 years since the island was liberated in 1945. The monument takes the form of a sundial. It is carefully constructed so that it casts a shadow pointing to a series of inscriptions that tell the story of the Liberation, hour by hour. Precise astronomical calculations were made to determine the timing and position of the shadow.

Liberation monument

The victory arch

St Helier also has a Liberation Monument, which was commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of the occupation. The bronze sculpture, created by Philip Jackson, depicts a group of islanders and a liberating soldier holding up a flag. This creates a "victory arch” that people can walk through. It is encircled by 12 fountains, representing the 12 parishes of the island.

For the residents of the Channel Islands, Liberation Day commemorates the resilience and triumph of the human spirit over adversity. This historic day in our calendars continues to be a time of celebration, mixed with reflection and gratitude.

Bunting for Liberation Day

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