18th November 1940
German forces confiscated Guernsey’s radios
When the war started to turn against Germany, the decision was made – in 1942 – to confiscate all of the private radios on Guernsey. However, this wasn’t the first time that the wireless sets had been taken. Two years earlier, in November 1940, they had been taken for the first time after Hubert Nicolle had become stranded on the island gathering information.
The significance of confiscating the radios apparently wasn’t lost on those whose sets were taken away. Ruth Ozanne kept comprehensive diaries throughout the occupation. In Life in Occupied Guernsey, edited by William Parker, she writes,
Alas! My wireless was taken away this morning leaving a horrible blank. Anyhow we know how well the Greeks are doing and how they are threatening Coritza. We have also heard of the great British victory by the navy Air Arm over the Italian fleet at Taranto. So we feel very cheerful. Sir Philip Joubert, too, was most heartening in his last talk. We think it is a healthy sign that we are not allowed our wireless as the Germans cannot afford to let their men hear the truth as so many of them have been listening to the British news.
By the 21st she was “missing our wireless horribly”. On the 23rd, “all sorts of rumours are about now that we have no wireless”. The most serious of these, perhaps, was the one that England itself was saying that victory was “uncertain”.
The truth will out
If the Germans wanted to control the flow of information through the confiscation, it certainly looked like they’d succeeded – at least in the early days.
However, the problem for the German authorities wasn’t so much the locals listening to the news, but their own men. Ozanne noted that the troops were dissatisfied by what they were hearing, which she looked upon as some form of recompense for the loss of the radios.
The problem, of course, was that without hearing the stories from a reliable authority like the BBC, there was no way of knowing whether the tidbits that were passed around from person to person were true.
Of course, this was rectified later in the occupation with the establishment of GUNS, the Guernsey Underground News Sheet, which contained summaries of the BBC news that had been gathered via an illicit radio. Unfortunately, the team behind the news-sheet was betrayed, arrested and deported to prisons in mainland Europe.