16th May 1945
Alderney was liberated at the end of the second world war
Alderney suffered greatly during the second world war. Many of its residents evacuated to the mainland, and those who stayed were moved to Guernsey by the occupying forces. This left the German troops free to build four concentration camps for foreign workers and detainees, largely out of sight.
In all, 3,202 German soldiers were stationed on Alderney during the occupation. They oversaw thousands of Operation Todt workers who had been brought from all over Europe to help build the concrete fortifications that Hitler hoped would allow Germany to hang on to the only parts of British territory it managed to capture.
When Alderney’s own population returned at the end of the war, they found the island greatly changed. Alderney was the most heavily fortified of the Channel Islands, and although the Germans had tried to destroy some of the evidence of what they’d been doing, the scars were everywhere. Many bunkers remain in their original condition. Elsewhere, there are more subtle markers, like the remains of camp gates that have otherwise been knocked down.
Alderney celebrates Homecoming Day every 15 December to mark the date on which a large part of its population returned. However, that was more than six months after its actual liberation, which took place on 16 May 1945 – one week after Guernsey had been liberated.
Liberation of Alderney
On that day, 46-year-old Brigadier Alfred Snow, who had been tasked with leading the liberation of the Channel Islands, sailed to Alderney. He was accompanied by troops and members of the press. His armed trawler landed at Braye Harbour and met with the commandant of Alderney to discuss the German surrender.
Within four days, four fifths of the Germans troops had been sent to prisoner of war camps on the mainland. Just 500 were kept back to help clear up and make good as much of the damage as possible. This included the removal of more than 30,000 mines, which contributed greatly to the delay in bringing Alderney’s residents home.