Posted 7 months ago
I have taken these photographs, they have never been published before, and as such are copyright of Shire Studios. They are of the Nazi underground hospital on the Channel Island of Jersey. They are from our thorough exploration of the Islands' remnants and artifacts of the Second World War when they were occupied by the Nazis. I will post more "interesting" photo's for the WW2 "buffs", but want to post a few when we delved deeper than we should have. They are poignant and set the context for following CW Posts when the meaning can be lost behind the artifacts..... Photo. 4: is very evocative because we thought we were on trails long gone cold when we came accross the commemorative notice just leant against some tools. The half excavated tunnels (where we were) had abandoned tools and personal effects of the guards and slave labourers who had fled the tunnels on liberation by Allied Forces. They had never come back for them, they had no reason to!
The following is some background insight if you wish to delve deeper:
Like invaders down the centuries before them, the forces that occupied Jersey in the 1940s have left an indelible mark not just on the history of the Island but also on its landscape. The most fascinating is undoubtedly the vast underground hospital created by the occupiers when Allied invasion seemed imminent in 1944.
It takes just a few steps into the German Underground Hospital to realise just what a feat of engineering was achieved by forced labourers who were marched from every corner of conquered Europe. A chill is apparent within moments of entering the echoing entrance tunnel.
In October 1941 Berlin ordered that the Channel Islands be made into an impregnable fortresses to become Germany's Gibraltar, never to be surrendered. Work began at once to create an underground fortress where an entire army division could be protected from any assault from sea or air. Planned as a bombproof artillery barracks and ammunition store, this amazing complex was never completed, being converted into a casualty receiving station because of its central location in the Island, in the weeks leading up to D-Day. As Allied invasion loomed, unfinished tunnels were sealed off and sophisticated air-conditioning and central heating systems were installed behind massive gas-proof doors. (I will post pictures of the fascinating "Drager" air purification system in a later CW Post).
The kilometre-long tunnels and galleries were blasted out of brittle shale with gunpowder and handtools and then clad in 6,000 tonnes of concrete, which was poured behind wooden shuttering, removed once the mix had set. Hundreds of forced labourers rounded up by the Organization Todt in France and including refugees from Spain and Morocco, were augmented by Polish and Russian prisoners of war who were treated no better than slaves and dressed in rags. These workers toiled for twelve hours a day, like ants in an underground hell of dust, smoke and falling rock. Serious injury was commonplace with injured workers being pulled from the rockfaces to be replaced by more unfortunates. Surprisingly there were few fatalities; it is believed that less than ten workers and overseers were killed in explosions or cave-ins.
The tunnels are a work of engineering genius. The whole complex was excavated on a slope so that, by an ingenious arrangement of pipes and culverts, it would drain naturally, a system designed to keep the tunnels free of damp and condensation and suitable for storing ammunition. The system still functions today keeping the tunnels, despite their age, amazingly dry.
Fortunately the anticipated invasion (which could have cost thousands of civilian casualties who would not have been catered for in the underground facilities) never took place and the Islands' occupying forces surrendered peacefully on 9 May 1945, a day after the rest of Europe.
Since the 1960s the complex has been progressively and sensitively restored as the definitive museum of the German Occupation of Jersey in a unique setting. Adjacent to the Hospital is an amazing and still largely untouched area: Heavily fortified with anti-aircraft gun positions, crawl trenches, barbed wire entanglements and personnel shelters, since the Liberation the area has been in private ownership and has remained an untouched habitat for trees, plants and wildlife. It is ripe for the attention of Second World War historians and scholars.
We must NEVER forget the sacrifices made on all sides during this world changing conflict!