Spotlight was broadcast for the first time

The launch of Spotlight, the BBC’s local news bulletin covering Guernsey, the wider Channel Islands and the south-west of England, was more of a name change than anything else.

The BBC’s first bulletin for the region was News from the South West. This had launched in 1961 and, within a year, had been re-titled South West at Six.

Spotlight is broadcast from the BBC’s Plymouth headquarters on Seymour Road, which is housed in an extended and converted Victorian villa. Originally called Ingledene, the BBC had purchased the property shortly before the Second World War. Broadcasts made on the site were initially in black and white, but Spotlight converted to colour in 1975.

Guernsey and Jersey opt out from the regular Spotlight programme for the first 12 minutes of each early evening bulletin, and the whole of the local slot that follows the national News at 10. The hyper-local segment is called, perhaps not entirely inventively, BBC Channel Islands. The broadcast comes from the BBC’s studios in St Helier, on Jersey.

A slow start

The BBC’s earliest regional broadcasts for the area, News from the South West, were transmitted on 20 April 1961. It would take more than 30 years for the Channel Islands to get their own dedicated opt-outs. Initially, these were short inserts broadcast in the 1990s. It wasn’t until October 2000 that they were extended to their current length.

The broader Spotlight programme has featured a number of notable journalists over the years. These include war correspondent Kate Adie, former Desert Island Discs presenter Sue Lawley, one-time Top Gear presenter Angela Rippon and late Antiques Roadshow host Hugh Scully.

Spotlight is also the name of an unrelated weekly current affairs programme broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland.

Herm tenant Major Peter Wood died

Born Alexander George Wood in 1915, the New Zealander who would become better known as Peter Wood, tenant of Herm, moved to the UK in his teens.

He served in the Royal Engineers during the Second World War and married his wife, Jenny, shortly after the war was over. They moved to Herm in 1949 as the first long-term tenants of the States of Guernsey’s newly acquired island.

The island was in a terrible state at the time. It had been evacuated during the occupation and left to decay. However, they worked closely with the States to repair and rebuild it. Doing so was a condition of the leasehold agreement they had signed.

Herm’s renovation

Little of the tourist infrastructure that is present on the island today was in place at the time, so they had to renovate both the Manor House (which became their home) and St Trugal’s Chapel. They also established a farm and installed a telephone line back to Guernsey. The Manor wasn’t particularly grand at the time: it was just a two-bedroom cottage, which was completely obscured by weeds.

The couple had two children already when they moved to Herm and four more while living there. In 1980, then aged 65, Peter and Jenny handed over the day-to-day running to their daughter, Pennie, and her husband Adrian. They remained tenants in their own right until 2008 when they sold the lease to John and Julian Singer.

Major Peter died on 29 September 1998. He had been widowed seven years earlier upon Jenny’s death. The two are buried in a joint plot at St Trugal’s Chapel on the island.

A Guernsey planning dispute headed to Europe

What started out as a dispute over a Guernsey shed got far larger than anyone had expected. It blew up into a European ruling on whether or the way the British government had been run for centuries was fair.

When Richard McGonnell applied to turn his Guernsey flower packing shed into a home, the bailiff refused. McGonnell appealed on the grounds that the bailiff wasn’t impartial as he had too many roles. As well as being Guernsey’s most senior judge, he can cast a deciding vote in the island legislature (the States of Guernsey) and sits on its executive.

Was it possible that someone who fulfilled all three roles could act impartially over a matter that overlapped two or more, such as a complaint against the police… or a planning application?

That was what the European Court of Human Rights was asked to decide. Whatever decision they came to would have implications beyond Guernsey. The UK’s own Lord Chancellor occupied a similar position so, naturally, Britain sent representatives to Strasbourg to argue that the status quo should be maintained.

The verdict… and the response

The judges agreed that McGonnell had been denied a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal because the bailiff had been involved in drafting Guernsey’s development plan several years before. That plan had determined what could and could not be done to McGonnell’s shed. Therefore it was unfair that the bailiff should be able to rule on a subsequent planning application concerning the same building.

Crucially, the judges were ruling on a point of law rather than McGonnell’s application to convert his shed. They didn’t say whether the bailiff himself had or had not been fair, only that by someone in that position hearing the case McGonnell’s right to a fair hearing had been violated. This would have been the case in any legal territory. Ergo, it wasn’t only Guernsey but also the United Kingdom that would have to take note.

In London, the Lord Chancellor, who as well as being Britain’s most senior judge also sat in the House of Lords, said he would no longer hear cases where the outcome would either benefit or act against the government.

In 2004, the role of the Bailiff of Guernsey was trimmed to avoid any conflict of interest in cases that could impact the States of Deliberation.

“Let em starve,” said Churchill

By late summer of 1944, the war had turned against Germany. As a result, things were getting very uncomfortable in Guernsey, Jersey and Sark. Normandy had been liberated, which effectively cut off the islands from the German supply lines. Food was running short.

With both the locals and the occupiers facing starvation, the German Foreign Ministry sent a message to London via the Red Cross. It offered to evacuate the Channel Islands’ women, children and elderly, so that the only civilians remaining under occupation would be men of fighting age.

Notably, Germany didn’t offer to give up the islands themselves. They perhaps recognised that once the majority were out of the way there should be enough food left to feed those who remained.

Churchill was having none of it. He wrote a memo that included the now infamous line, “Let ’em starve. No fighting. They can rot at their leisure”.

The meaning of the snub

There has been much debate in the years since then whether Churchill was referring solely to the occupying forces, or to the Channel Islanders, too. Either way, the government declined the German offer. Perhaps this was because by leaving them in place the civilians were a further drain on German resources. Maybe it was that the logistics of ensuring safe passage between the islands and the mainland was too much to contemplate.

Or perhaps Churchill was merely being spiteful towards Germany after so many years of war, and had little consideration for the collateral harm it would do to the Channel Islanders.

Either way, things only got worse for the next three months. Finally, in late December, the SS Vega sailed in from Lisbon carrying Red Cross supplies for distribution to the civilians. It was also carrying medical supplies and children’s clothing.

This was just the first of six visits from the Red Cross supply ship between then and liberation on 9 May.

Trudy, Guernsey’s biggest ever import, was installed

Guernsey Electricity’s power station at St Sampson has been serving the island since the early 1900s. It at first supplemented, and then took over from an existing generating plant in St Peter Port.

However, as Guernsey’s needs have changed, it’s been upgraded several times – including in 2012 when a new turbine called 2D arrived. As the name would suggest (at least to those in the know), this was the second diesel generator for the site’s D hall.

It was shipped in directly to St Sampson harbour. In the process it became the largest single item ever imported into Guernsey.

The £14m generator was brought across from the Netherlands, via Southampton, on a barge called the Terra Marique which, according to the BBC, had previously carried Concorde and a Eurostar train. It arrived at the start of the month but took several weeks to install. It didn’t start generating electricity until the following spring.

Another engine, and new names

Although 2D significantly increased the power station’s generating capacity, it still needed more. Guernsey Electricity also wanted to retire its older, slower generators. So, it made invested in a further turbine, which this time would be known as 3D.

However, in 2017 and with both generators in place, Guernsey Electricity asked islanders to suggest better names for its two diesel engines. They had become so important to the island’s ongoing life, after all. Having sifted through “more than 75 entries”, the panel of five judges settled on Trudy and Freddy.

The clever play on their original names was suggested by Mike Hamon. He worked in the IT department at Guernsey Electricity. The new names were engraved on plates that were fixed to the generators and Hamond was invited to switch on 3D, the newest of the generators.

Occupation president Ambrose Sherwill died

Ambrose Sherwill was Bailiff of Guernsey between 1946 and 1960. He was also the first president of the island’s Controlling Committee during the Occupation.

Sherwill was born on Guernsey on 12 February 1890 and educated at Elizabeth College in St Peter Port. During the First World War he served with the Royal Naval Air Service and was wounded in action three times. His most notable action was at the Battle of Messines in Flanders, Belgium. This was an offensive that forced the Germans to dedicate resources to the area around Flanders. In doing so, the Germans would have fewer resources with which to defend Ypres, giving the Allies a better chance of mounting a campaign from there to capture the land as far as the Belgian coast. His services won him the Military Cross.

Inter-war years

He passed his exams for the English Bar after the end of the war, and was admitted to the Guernsey Royal Court as an Advocate in the early 1920s. All the while, he remained active in the Royal Guernsey Militia until 1928.

He was elected a Deputy to the States of Guernsey for five years from 1921. In 1935 he was appointed His Majesty’s Attorney General.

Controlling Committee presidency

Sherwill was the short-lived first president of the Controlling Committee. This was the group of islanders who were charged with running Guernsey and liaising with the German forces during the occupation. However, he was dismissed when the authorities discovered that he had been aware of the presence of Hubert Nicolle on the island, who was gathering information in advance of the Allies’ Operation Ambassador.

He was imprisoned on the European mainland for the assistance he’d given to Nicolle and Symes when they became stranded on Guernsey during a second raid. When he returned, he did so as a regular citizen, no longer a member of the Controlling Committee.

As he no longer had any political role on the island, he couldn’t avoid being sent to an internment camp in Germany in February 1943 along with other former forces members and islanders born outside of the Channel Islands.

Post-war life

Following the Second World War, he was awarded an OBE in 1945, and knighted four years later. He served as Bailiff between 1946 and 1959 and, the following year, retired to Alderney.

He died of heart failure aged 78.

Former bailiff Daniel de Lisle Brock died

Daniel de Lisle Brock was a staunch supporter of Guernsey’s rights in the face of encroaching influence from London. He was the island’s Bailiff from 1821 until his death on 24 September 1842.

Brock was born in St Peter Port and educated in Guernsey, in Alderney and on the mainland in Richmond. He spent some time in France and was elected a jurat of the Royal Court following his return to Guernsey.

The Royal Court chose him to represent Guernsey’s interests at the Houses of Parliament. There, he argued that the island’s privileges and status should be maintained at a time when England was trying to interfere with Guernsey’s trade.

A tireless defender of Guernsey’s rights

He travelled to London four times on official business between 1804 and 1810. No doubt his efforts – and successes – would still have been in locals’ minds when, 11 years later, he was elected Bailiff. In this new capacity, he returned to London to argue that Guernsey should be exempted from restrictions on the import of corn.

That wasn’t the end of his struggles with the mainland, though. In 1832 he once again went to the capital to demand that Guernsey residents should only be tried in Guernsey courts and, in 1835, to protest against a sudden restriction on the Channel Islands exporting corn to the mainland duty-free.

Few other Bailiffs can be said to have stood up for their homeland quite so vociferously as Brock.

Island improvements

Daniel de Lisle Brock oversaw the printing of Guernsey’s first banknotes, the construction of roads across the island and the Market Building in Town.

He was given a public funeral following his death and was succeeded as Bailiff by John Guille, who continued to defend the rights of the Royal Court throughout his term. Daniel de Lisle Brock appears on the £1 banknote introduced in March 1980, which has an image of the Market Building on the reverse.

The Duke of Connaught visited Guernsey

Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught and brother of reigning monarch King Edward VII, arrived on Guernsey on 23 September 1905. As Inspector General of the Army, he had a number of official duties to perform, not least of which was to unveil the South African War Memorial in St Peter Port.

It had cost just shy of £600 to buy the land, and design, build and erect the memorial. Standing 5.7m (18ft 9in) tall, it was funded by public subscription and depicts two soldiers of the 1899 to 1902 war in South Africa. This campaign is sometimes also known as the Second Boer War.

One of the figures is lying wounded on the floor while his colleague stands over him. The figures are carved from marble and the plinth, which bears the names of the 45 Guernsey men who died in battle, is granite, cut from Vale quarry.

The memorial was designed by W Newbury.

The visit and unveiling

The spot where the Duke of Connaught stepped ashore from his steamer is now marked by a stone at St Peter Port harbour.

He gave a short speech, then inspected the various troops stationed on the island. With that done, he made his way up St Julian’s Avenue for the memorial’s unveiling.

He stayed on Guernsey for five days, which would now be almost unprecedented for a royal visit, and on each day inspected some aspect of the island’s military or its infrastructure, including Castle Cornet and Fort George.

On his final day – a Tuesday – he sailed to Alderney, and from there made his way back to the mainland.

Guernsey’s pubs had been allowed to stay open for an extra hour on the first day of the duke’s visit to celebrate his arrival. Where they usually closed at ten, this was extended to eleven by special ordnance (PDF).

The Devil’s Rock had its opening night

Quick: name a Guernsey film. No points if you said the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as that’s too obvious. If you said The Devil’s Rock, though, take a bow.

Directed by Paul Campion, who also wrote the screenplay with Paul Finch and Brett Ihaka, The Devil’s Rock is set during the Second World War. It tells the story of two New Zealand commandos who are sent to the Channel Islands to destroy German defensive positions so that they will be distracted while the Allies launch the D-Day landings.

However, once they’ve planted their explosives they set about exploring. In doing so, they discover a plot to harness the occult to summon up a demon that will act on the Axis powers’ behalf and, in doing so, win the war for Germany.

Various Guernsey locations are prominent and easily recognisable, including the German Range Finding and Observation Tower MP4 at Pleinmont. However, most of the interiors were filmed at Wrights Hill Fortress back in New Zealand.

The New Zealand-produced film opened in UK cinemas on 8 July and made it to DVD three days later, but didn’t open in its home territory until 22 September 2011.

The Devil’s Rock’s reception

The film hasn’t earned itself entirely glowing reviews. The Guardian gave it two out of five. Its critic, Michael Hann, concluded, “for all the gore and demonic transmogrification, there’s a distinct lack of chills and frights”.

Reviewers on IMDB were overall more positive, giving it 5.7 out of 10. On Rotten Tomatoes it scored a broadly similar 5.6.

Occupation resister Winifred Green was deported

Many people win medals for bravery during wartime. Sadly, Winifred Green was not one of them, although she probably should have done.

With her children, John and Patricia, evacuated to Glasgow, Winifred took at job at the Royal Hotel in St Peter Port. She had started there just before the occupation and couldn’t have known that doing so would put her directly up against the Germans.

When the first troops landed at Guernsey Airport they were taken to the hotel to meet the Bailiff. Once the occupation began in earnest, they made the hotel their initial base of operations.

Winifred’s retort

One of Winifred’s colleagues was an ardent supporter of Hitler. He would often greet her, or finish a conversation, with Heil Hitler. Not willing to put up with it, Winifred would reply with Heil Churchill – a phrase that later became her nickname.

She might have been able to carry on doing this right through the war if it hadn’t been for an outburst over a rice pudding. When her colleague offered her some, only on the condition that she – Winifred – said Heil Hitler, Winifred told him to stuff it: “To hell with Hitler for a rice pudding”.

German solders arrested her a few days later and tried her for “anti-German information”. She admitted what she’d said and was sentenced, on 13 September 1941, to six months’ custody. She had not been allowed a defence representative at the trial.

After a week or two (accounts vary) in Guernsey prison, she was sent to Granville prison, and then moved to Caen Prison.

Indomitable spirit

Although there are accounts of her finding prison life difficult, incarceration seems not to have dulled Winifred’s spirit. She tore away part of her prison blanket and embroidered it “Heil Churchill; RAF; Caen Prison 1941”. When she was released, she sewed this into the lining of her coat and smuggled it back to Guernsey.

A story in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle of 15 May 1945 claims that the chef who is suspected of reporting her was Swiss. He was apparently later caught stealing by the Germans and sentenced to three and a half years in Mannheim prison.

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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

The name

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
  2. The Latin name for Guernsey was Sarnia. Thus, Ollie could be considered to be the Sarnian of the series title

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