Bailiwick of Guernsey
The Bailiwick of Guernsey includes the islands of Alderney, Guernsey, Herm, Sark, and some other smaller islands.
Map from the 1627 “Miniature Speed Atlas” of England Sotland Ireland and Wales, with maps by Pieter van den Keere
Rising sea levels transformed Guernsey first into the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the emergent English Channel, then, around 6000 B.C., into an island when it and other promontories were cut off from continental Europe.
At this time, Neolithic farmers settled the coasts and created the dolmens and menhirs that dot the islands. The island of Guernsey contains three sculpted menhirs of great archaeological interest; the dolmen known as L’Autel du Dehus also contains a dolmen deity.
During their migration to Brittany, the Britons occupied the Lenur Islands (former name of the Channel Islands) including Sarnia or Lisia (Guernsey) and Angia (Jersey). It was formerly thought that the Island’s original name was Sarnia, but recent research indicates that may have been the Latin name for Sark; although Sarnia remains the island’s traditional designation. Coming from the Kingdom of Gwent, Saint Sampson (abbot of Dol, in Brittany) is credited with the introduction of Christianity to Guernsey.
In 933 the islands, formerly under the control of the kingdom, then Duchy of Brittany were annexed by the Duchy of Normandy. The island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Duchy of Normandy. In the islands, Elizabeth II’s traditional title as head of state is Duke of Normandy.
During the Middle Ages the island was repeatedly attacked by French pirates and naval forces, especially during the Hundred Years War when the island was occupied by the French on several occasions, the first being in 1339.
In 1372 the island was invaded by Aragonese mercenaries under the command of Owain Lawgoch (remembered as Yvon de Galles), who was in the pay of the French king. Lawgoch and his dark-haired mercenaries were later absorbed into Guernsey legend as an invasion by fairies from across the sea.
During the English Civil War, Guernsey sided with Parliament, while Jersey remained Royalist. Guernsey’s decision was mainly related to the higher proportion of Calvinists and other Reformed churches, as well as Charles I’s refusal to take up the case of some Guernsey seamen who had been captured by the Barbary corsairs. The allegiance was not total, however, there were a few Royalist uprisings in the Southwest of the island, while Castle Cornet was occupied by the then Governor, Sir Peter Osbourne, and Royalist troops. Castle Cornet was the last Royalist stronghold to capitulate, in 1651.
During the wars with France and Spain during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Guernsey ship owners and sea captains exploited their proximity to mainland Europe, applying for Letters of Marque and turning their merchantmen into privateers.
The nineteenth century saw a dramatic increase in prosperity of the island, due to its success in the global maritime trade, and the rise of the stone industry. One notable Guernseyman, William Le Lacheur, established the Costa Rican coffee trade with Europe.
During World War I approximately 3,000 island men served in the British Expeditionary Force. Of these, about 1,000 served in the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry regiment which was formed from the Royal Guernsey Militia in 1916.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey was occupied by German troops in World War II. Before the occupation, many Guernsey children were evacuated to England to live with relatives or strangers during the war. Some children were never re-united with their families. During the occupation, some people from Guernsey were deported by the Germans to camps in the southwest of Germany, notably to Biberach an der Riß and interned in the Lindele Camp (“Lager Lindele”). There was also a concentration camp built in Alderney where forced labourers, predominantly from Eastern Europe, were kept. It was the only concentration camp built on British soil and is commemorated on memorials under the Alderney’s name in French: ‘Aurigny’.
According to some reports, Guernsey was the second most heavily fortified island in occupied Europe during WWII with German defences dotted all round the coast and German additions to Castle Cornet. Certainly, the Channel Islands as a whole were the most fortified area in occupied Europe. Most of the German fortifications still remain intact and the majority of them are open for the public to explore (some having been renovated) with the exception of the Mirus Battery and some privately owned bunkers.
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There is no specific mailing list for Guernsey. There is a list for the Channel Islands with covers both Jersey and Guernsey.
Topic: the Channel Islands (Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey) which lie off the Normandy coast of France.
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