Celebrating Guernsey’s liberation

Geoff Moore joined events across the island to celebrate Liberation Day, one of the most important dates in Guernsey’s calendar

The air raid warning siren sounded at 9am. However, this invasion of Guernsey was one of tourists for their unique Liberation Day events. Although 84 years ago the island was once subjected to five years of Nazi occupation and those visitors were far from welcome.

This now extremely well-connected English Channel Island provides an almost tropical welcome for any visitors arriving from many UK regional airports. Greeted by numerous palm trees and broad sandy beaches, its maritime climate provides a welcome warmth after a chilly and damp winter.

Liberation Day in Guernsey

May does offer an ideal time for a visit. And Liberation Day on May 9th is a perfect date to include in your stay. I had the chance to sample this huge anniversary in the Guernsey calendar. There were parades, ceremonies, fetes, music and a round island military cavalcade, while a spectacular fireworks display finished the day perfectly.

Next year, 2025 will mark a milestone 80th Liberation Day, where celebrations are likely to be even larger and last around a whole week! So if you’d like to experience this for yourself, start planning now.

But back to this year’s celebrations. After the siren an assembly of Government official and dignitaries lined the harbour in St Peter Port. Following that a military march past and then a church service. Later in the day there is a large military vehicle convoy and cavalcade around the island. This tour finishes alongside the harbour too.

I joined the crowds several deep lining the harbourside made up of both residents and visitors. Around 100 vehicles swept past me bedecked in Guernsey flags and Union Jacks. Flag waving drivers and passengers in period dress  smiling to the crowds lining the streets. Understanding Guernsey’s World War II history is very much part of the experience. 

It’s a day for music concerts in the capital and over the whole island. Parties, fetes and gatherings in every village and community too. After the cavalcade had passed which also included many veteran cars and even highly polished tractors, I was then entertained by a big band concert at the harbour.

Castle Cornet was open with free admission and was a perfect location to take in the many Liberation Day events happening all around it.

As twilight came St Peter Port burst into light and sound, with a huge colourful fireworks display. I viewed it from the La Fregate hotel where I was staying.

Military history

Liberation Day is a day of remembrance too. Plus, a reminder of those five dark years when the occupation controlled a tiny part of the UK.

It may have been small, however the island used up 10% of the total amount of concrete used on the 3,000-mile-long Nazi Atlantic Wall. In all there are nearly 1,000 fortifications on Guernsey. The numerous bunkers and constructions are also now part of the reason that many tourists visit. It’s very hard to miss them as you tour.

Expert tour guide Amanda Johns
Expert tour guide Amanda Johns

Their stories are related by expert guides like for instance Amanda Johns, who gave up her job in finance in order to pass on the island’s history to its visitors. And yes, even many Germans too!

Although just a few miles off the French coast it has heritage from there with many French place and street names. However, it is overwhelmingly pro-British.

Wellness and gastronomy are all part of the Guernsey experience

Military history was my reason for a visit. However, you will certainly find an island with much more to offer any holiday maker. Its sandy, wide and welcoming beaches are spectacular. As is the simple rural charm of the interior. Its seafood is first class.  As is all of the island’s gastronomy too.

When it comes to wellness sea bathing is incredibly popular at most times of the year in the many safe seawater pools around the coast. While, fresh crab, lobster, scallops, sea bass and brill will be straight from the sea and on your plate in hours! Its dairy industry is led by the iconic golden tan coloured Guernsey cattle that thrive on the lush island grass. Their bright yellow butter and cheese produced from very creamy milk are used to great effect by a whole host of talented chefs at work around the island.

One of its leading hotels is called affectionately the ‘OGH’ or Old Government House. In the centre of St Peter Port. This five-star hotel is part of the Red Carnation Group and is a classic and very historic hotel with an extensive spa and an outdoor swimming pool. Whilst staying at the hotel I had the chance to enjoy their opulent rooms, immaculate service and sample treats like a Champagne sundowner on the terrace of their penthouse suite ‘The Governor’s Suite’.

My stay on the island lasted three nights, which gave me plenty of chances to enjoy this ‘gem set in an azure sea’ but with so many beautiful beaches to visit you could easily fill a five or seven night stay. And for any military enthusiasts then you would not find a better place to indulge that passion.

There are 34 sites alone that the local group of volunteers of ‘Festung Guernsey’ list for visitors. The Occupation Museum run by Richard Heaumeis is where his enormous personal collection that started as a child in the 1950’s can be found close to the airport.

Day visits to nearby islands of Herm and Sark are also options. Or perhaps a little more daring, an exciting rib ride in order to view the coastline, its wildlife or military structures with the team from Guernsey Island Rib Voyages. 

This really is a charming, welcoming island where peace now thankfully reigns.

Next steps

To plan and book your holiday to Guernsey call Silver Travel Advisor on 0800 412 5678.


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Geoff Moore

Experienced travel writer, photographer, blogger & videographer

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