Guernsey to Jersey plane crashed into the sea

The Cloud of Iona, a de Havilland Dragon sea plane flying between Guernsey and Jersey, crashed into the sea with two crew and eight passengers onboard.

With high seas and closing fog, there was little hope of finding any survivors. All the same, various aircraft and boats, including the Guernsey lifeboats, spent hours searching through the night and into the next morning for the twin-engined Guernsey Airways plane.

A discovery

By 3 August, various pieces of wreckage, including a door, aileron and parts of the wings had been found at Minquiers Reef. They were confirmed to have come from the missing plane and the search was focused on recovering more of the craft – and the victims.

Within a week, the bodies were starting to wash up on the French coast. The remains of the plane were eventually found by two fishermen on 13 August.

An official inquiry

The Cloud of Iona’s flight between the islands should have taken just half an hour, with the plane touching down in Jersey at 7.30pm. When she hadn’t arrived at St Aubin’s Bay by 7.45, Jersey called Guernsey to see whether the plane had turned back, but Guernsey had nothing to report.

Although the aircraft had a very basic radio, it wasn’t powerful enough to be picked up by any ground stations, of which there was nothing suitable within a radius of 100 miles. The following year, Guernsey Airways was fined £300 for not having fitted its aircraft with the kind of radio approved by the Secretary of State for Air.

Eventually, the remaining bodies washed up. The resulting inquiry, which was conducted in Jersey, found that none of the victims showed any signs of injury from a crash. This suggested that the Cloud of Iona had put down on the sea in a fairly controlled manner and the passengers and crew had drowned after she had broken up. The sea had been rough at the time, with waves of up to 10m (30ft) reported.

Albert Lamy appointed Guernsey Police Chief Officer

Albert Lamy joined Guernsey Police in 1928 and by the start of the occupation had risen to the rank of Clerk Sergeant and Secretary to the Island Police Committee. He was destined to go far further more quickly than he might have imagined.

As he wrote in the introduction to his own report into policing during the Occupation (PDF), “on 30 July 1942 [he] was appointed Acting Inspector (Chief Officer)… [and] had the most unenviable task of leading a depleted police force in an island under German occupation”.

Guernsey Police under Occupation

At the start of the Occupation, Guernsey Police was led by Inspector William Sculper. He had been appointed in 1930 after transferring from the London Metropolitan Police.

However, the Occupation force suspended him on account of his English background in 1942, and deported him with other “foreign”-born residents. Deputy Inspector Langmead took over, but was in the post for less than six months after 18 police offers had been caught, tried and convicted for stealing or receiving food and wood from military stores

Lamy was promoted to Acting Chief Officer; a role that he performed until the end of the Occupation. As recorded in the History of the Guernsey Police Force (PDF), “on 11th December 1945 [he] was awarded the British Empire Medal for services rendered during the occupation”.

The years following Occupation

When Schulper returned after the war, he resumed his old position and Lamy acted as his deputy until January 1946. Lamy was officially made Chief Officer upon Schulper’s retirement.

He was seconded to Southampton for a year in 1947, after which he returned to Guernsey and instituted a programme of modernisation across the island force.

Lamy remained in the role until 1965 when he retired and handed the baton to 49-year-old Chief Inspector Eric Howard. Howard resigned on the grounds of ill-health less than a year later, to be replaced by Inspector Cyril Eley.

Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland

Guernsey bought Herm from the British government for £15,000 on 29 July 1946. The plan had been mooted 12 day earlier. At the time, Herm’s population stood at 30 and Guernsey announced that it intended to open it for visitors.

According to The Times,

The Guernsey States have agreed to purchase the island of Herm from the British Government at a cost of £15,000… the governing principle is the preservation of its natural attractions.

The price would today be worth around £610,000, making it a very worthy investment for Guernsey – and certainly a better option than renting it, as the UK had suggested in April. The Belfast News-Letter reported,

In Guernsey Parliament the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Philip Neame, [had] warned the House that unless Guernsey bought the island there was a danger of a private company establishing a casino and ruining Herm’s ‘fairy-like beauties’. A nudist colony had previously applied to view it.

The 500-acre island had gone on the market in March, less than a year after it had been liberated at the end of the Second World War, throughout which it had been evacuated. At the time, boasted a 9-hole golf course.

The first tenants

Once it had gained possession, the States of Guernsey leased the island to a series of tenants upon the condition that they promoted it as a tourist destination. The first tenant under the new regime was, briefly, AG Jeffries. Jeffries had taken the lease in 1948 but, just the following year, it passed to Major Peter Woods and his wife Jenny. Jenny wrote a book called Our Island Home about the couple’s experiences of renovating the island after moving there.

She outlines how they came to be acquainted with both Jeffries and Herm when Jeffries visited Peter’s parents:

He arrived and brought with him an album full of photographs. He spoke about his island which he said was called Herm, and after coffee was over, opened the album to show his photographs. I drew in my breath sharply as he turned the pages. ‘But I know that island!’ I cried. ‘It’s the one near Sark. I’ve sailed round it and it’s beautiful!’

Although she was raised in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Jenny had frequently holidayed on Sark as a child, and would look across to Herm, which then was occupied by the author Compton Mackenzie.

Jeffries suggested that she and her husband ought to pay it a visit. When they did, they found it in a rotten state. Many of the buildings were close to collapse and, apart from the hotel, seemingly nothing had been renovated since before the war. Nonetheless, aware that they were taking on what would amount to years of hard work, they agreed to buy the lease and organised an overdraft.

They then had to convince the States of Guernsey that they would be worthy tenants – which, over many years, they proved to be. However, Jenny recalls a Guernsey official “gazing speculatively first at Peter then at me, and I was more than a little startled to hear him mutter to himself, ‘You poor people, my heart bleeds for you’.”

Murderer sentenced to death in three hours

Murderer James Ozanne was sentenced to death after a trial lasting just three hours. The 53-year-old labourer had stood accused of shooting his house keeper, 40-year-old widow Clara Ogier, in the head. She had died of her injuries.

Although found guilty, for which the court could only pass a sentence of death, the judge made a strong recommendation for mercy.

His life was spared

His sentence was thus commuted to penal servitude for life two weeks later. He served only nine years of his life sentence and was released on 27 July 1956.

The case had received widespread coverage beyond Guernsey, and the Gloucester Citizen reported, on 16 August, that the auctioneer who was tasked with selling Ozanne’s house had made “constant reminders during the bidding of the urgency for a high price”. He wasn’t just trying to earn himself more commission: “The future of Ozanne’s children Pearl (10) and Harold (15), said the auctioneer, ‘depended entirely on the proceeds of the auction.’ Both children watched the sale.”

The house where the killing had taken place eventually sold for £2100 – and the contents for £46.

Braye du Valle was gifted by the crown

The Braye du Valle, which separated the main part of Guernsey from the Clos du Valle, had been crown property until 1640. On 27 July that year, King Charles I awarded it to Sir Henry de Vic to thank him for his long service.

This was just the first of several changes of hands. Henry de Vic didn’t actually take ownership for another quarter century. Its transfer was held up by the disruption of the English Civil War. Less than fifty years later, it had passed to Henry de Sausmarez. He sold it to a syndicate in 1730, which sold it on once more in 1805 – this time to the British Government.

Uniting the island(s)

That last sale had perhaps the most significant impact on Guernsey as a whole. Without this final transfer of ownership, the Braye du Valle might never have been drained and the land between St Sampson and Grande Havre reclaimed under the direction of John Doyle.

Doyle’s primary motivation in draining the land was that uniting the two parts of Guernsey would make the island easier to defend. In his view, it would have been too easy for French forces, intent on invasion, to land on the northern part and launch attacks from there.

Sold, sold and sold again

The reclaimed land added considerably to Guernsey’s overall area. It was split into seven parts, six of which were sold, with the final part being retained as a military training ground. The sale raised sufficient money to fund the building of several new roads across the island.

Aside from the inlet that forms the harbour at St Sampson, the only physical remnant of the original Braye du Valle is Vale Pond.

Guernsey court escapee was caught again

Derek Plevin escaped from a Guernsey court where he was facing rape charges, and spent 13 days on the run. He was recaptured when he started to suffer from stomach pains and, with little other option, called police to take him to hospital.

He was eventually found guilty of both rape and, because the complainant was his daughter, incest, by a majority decision of the Jurats that heard the case. The court sentenced him to serve six years in prison for the rape and six years of penal servitude for the incest to run concurrently.

He was also sentenced to six months imprisonment, to be served consecutively, after pleading guilty to escaping lawful custody of the Guernsey court.

By the end of the year he’d given notice that he intended to appeal against the rape and incest convictions. He planned to call 12 witnesses, of whom four had appeared at his original trial. His advocate also alleged misdirection in the original trial’s summing-up.

Plevin presented two written statements signed by his daughter. These made it clear that she and her father had never had intercourse. Despite this, she had given evidence at the original trial stating that they had.

The original report

PR Collas, representing Plevin in his appeal, then outlined the unusual nature in which the claim of rape had been made.

Police Sergeant Quertier had been sent to the daughter’s house. She lived there with her mother (Plevin’s wife, who wanted a divorce) and siblings, and Quertier had been asked to deal with an apparently serious incident. When he arrived, he found Plevin’s wife and sister-in-law waiting. It later became apparent that they hadn’t been in the house when the alleged offences had taken place. The summing up of the appeal suggested that “there must be considerable doubt as to whether [the sister-in-law] could have known what had taken place when she made allegations of rape”.

The written record of the appeal (PDF) concludes,

It is, of course, easy in the calm of one’s study to pick holes in the printed record of the hurley-burley of a trial, but in the light of the foregoing considerations we could not feel satisfied that these convictions (which in the circumstances of this case stand or fall together) could be supported, having regard to the evidence and to the criticisms of the direction given to the Jurats; and at the conclusion of the hearing of this Appeal on 20th December 1976 we indicated that these two Appeals should be allowed and that the convictions for rape and incest should be quashed. The Appellant would however continue to remain in custody for a little longer until he had completed his sentence for escape.

The BBC broadcasts from Sark for the first time

The BBC’s series of ambitious outside broadcasts from the Channel Islands drew to a close on 25 July 1956. On that night, it broadcast a 30-minute visit to Sark between 8.25 and 8.55pm. Such irregular timings weren’t unusual in the schedules back then.

Describing Sark as “that small unit of the Channel Islands which is still a purely feudal state”, the Birmingham Daily Post looked forward to the programme and, in particular Richard Dimbleby’s interview of Dame Sibyl Hathaway in her 17th century home, La Seigneurie. The newspaper promised that “she will recall some of her personal experiences of the war years when Sark was occupied by the Germans.”

Two thumbs up for the BBC

This latter point was particularly well received by The Guardian. Its unnamed “Radio Critic” (it was perhaps too soon to think of appointing a television critic) reviewed the programme in the following day’s edition and found it “much better value than the earlier programme about Herm”.

Apparently, this was largely on account of the fact that the earlier programme had had “too many bouts of conventional interviewing and too few views of the island”.

Perhaps the BBC thought the same when it watched it back, for the broadcast from Sark opened with a lengthy film showing the approach to the island. The camera then took viewers up the hill to the village and across La Coupee between Little Sark and Greater Sark.

Dimbleby’s interview was also, said The Guardian, “first rate”:

Mrs Hathaway talked about the island’s history and constitution and then of the German occupation in a crisp and confident way that made one feel the Germans did well to treat her with respect.

Val des Terres was first opened for traffic

The Val des Terres in St Peter Port probably isn’t as old as you think. Work started on cutting it in 1931, and it was opened for traffic four years later, on 24 July 1935.

The Prince of Wales (who later became Edward VIII for less than a year before his abdication) did the honours. He travelled to Guernsey for the first time to snip the ribbon using golden scissors and welcome the traffic onto the road that he named Le Val des Terres. He then walked down the road, which until then had been known simply as “new road”, watched by 6,000 cheering school children.

Mainland interest

Several mainland papers reported on the prince’s visit and quoted his speech. It was, he said, a great pleasure to see the beautiful and fertile island that has been associated with British royalty for so long while acting as a link with our friendly neighbours in France.

The Scotsman described his visit in full, including his carriage journey to the site of the opening:

At St Martin’s the Prince rode under an arch on which hundreds of whirring propellers formed in giant letters the word ‘Welcome’ and on the outskirts of St Peter Port he passed through a shaded tunnel of trees in which hundreds of electric fairy lights twinkled.

As reported by the Northern Daily Mail, “The prince… said that it gave him great pleasure to open the new road ‘constructed by those whom the last tying years have deprived of their normal employment’.”

A five-ton stone at the top of the road commemorates the opening.

The price had arrived at Guernsey on the destroyer, Faulknor, having spent the previous day visiting Jersey. The ship had left Jersey at 1am, and the prince had remained onboard until 11am on the 24th. His journey home was more convoluted. He flew from Guernsey to Calshot in an RAF flying boat, then took a second aircraft from Hamble aerodrome to Sunningdale in Windsor.

Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established

The question of how to connect the various Channel Islands, both to each other and the mainland, has been answered in many ways over the years.

Being so much closer to France than Britain, they were long a target of French raids when the two countries were at war throughout the 1700s and 1800s. At the same time they represented important defensive positions. Rapid, effective communication was therefore key.

This was greatly simplified with the invention of radio, and the opening of the first radio-telephone link between Guernsey and Alderney on 23 July 1927.

This was particularly newsworthy as Alderney, with its large harbour, was acknowledged as one of the most important assets in the British defensive armoury. Indeed, Parliament has debated its importance just 60 years earlier and voted to spend more on the island to maintain its strong defences.

The restrictions of radio

Ultimately, radio telephones are of limited use. They transmit their signal through the air, so are open to interception. The equipment is also centrally located. It’s therefore not possible to roll out an island wide network for direct subscriber-to-subscriber communication.

Nonetheless, radio communication did the job – and continued to do so until what we would now consider to be more conventional communications routes were in place.

Guernsey and Sark had shared a telegraph cable since 1903, which was upgraded to a telephone cable 25 years later. Guernsey and the British mainland were later connected by submarine cable in 1931.

The story of Herm, as recorded in The History of Guernsey by James Marr, is interesting:

In 1909 Prince Blucher, tenant of Herm, enquired about the cost of establishing telephonic communication with Guernsey… in the event no cable was laid. During the tenancy of Mr AG Jeffries a pigeon postal service was provided between Herm and Guernsey for urgent messages, and finally in 1950 the States Telephone Department provided a radio-telephone link with Guernsey. As a result Herm now possesses the smallest automatic public telephone exchange in the world.

Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died

The Reverend Sir John Leale was the second president of Guernsey’s Controlling Committee during the Second World War. He took over after Ambrose Sherwill was removed from the post by the occupying forces.

Born in St Sampson in 1892, he died in St Peter Port, aged 77, on 22 July 1969. As well as leading the Controlling Committee, Leale had served as a Jurat of the Royal Court of Guernsey. He had also been a Methodist minister, in which capacity he served in Manchester following his graduation from Cambridge University. He was knighted in 1945.

Finding a balance

In his position as head of the Controlling Committee, Leale would have faced some difficult decisions when demands were made of him by the occupying forces. When the States of Guernsey released some of its wartime archives in 1993, they revealed that Leale had handed over a list of Jews living on Guernsey in November 1940. The list had been drawn up by the police on the orders of the Bailiff, Victor Carey.

“Mr Carey passed the inspector’s report to the Rev John Leale, president of the Controlling Committee of the States of Guernsey, the civilian body administering the island under the occupation,” reported The Times in 1993. “The names were forwarded to field command headquarters the same day.”

Three Jewish women were deported from Guernsey and died at Auschwitz.

“John Leale was regarded on the island as highly competent and business-like,” reported The Guardian, also in 1993. “He took absolute integrity as his watch-word, according to a local biographer.”

Lasting respect

Leale’s approach to the occupation was one of passive compliance in the interest of not making things more difficult for the island’s residents. He was highly regarded by many by the time the war drew to a close.

Leale even makes an appearance in The Book of Ebenezer Le Page:

He wasn’t warm and loveable as Ambrose [Sherwill] was, nor as reckless, but he was a truly honourable man… [He] wasn’t a man who liked wars, or wanted wars; and he didn’t want us to hate anybody, not even the Germans: but he was like steel in his quiet way to get out of them all he thought was fair for them to let us have. When I think of those who was the heads of Guernsey during the Occupation, I am proud to be a Guernseyman…

Sir John Leale Avenue in St Sampson is named after him. Sir John Leale House was once the headquarters of Guernsey Post.

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The Author

The Sarnian series is written by Nik Rawlinson, who was born in Guernsey and, although he doesn't currently live there, returns regularly. He is a journalist, author and broadcaster working for a wide range of lifestyle titles in the UK and beyond. Find out more at

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The name The Sarnian has two distinct meanings. It's up to the reader to decide which they prefer:

  1. It's the name of the newspaper for which Ollie works
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