bunker at Elizabeth Castle

German Bunkers & Gun Positions at Elizabeth Castle in St. Helier in Jersey (Part 1)

In October of 2021 I was lucky enough to make a trip to Jersey. It’s a self-governing British Crown Dependency and is the largest of the Channel Islands situated off the northwest coast of France

The German invasion

The Germans invaded and occupied Jersey from June 1940 to May 1945. The island has a huge number of leftover bunkers and fortifications from the German occupation. They constructed multiple bunkers and gun positions, including some built into existing structures such as Elizabeth Castle. 

German bunker
The first German bunker on Elizabeth Castle is recessed into the ground and has earth piled up the sides.

Elizabeth Castle’s rich history

Elizabeth Castle was built in the 16th century on a rocky islet in St. Aubin’s Bay, just off the port of the St. Helier on the south of the Island. It has helped to defend Jersey for over 400 years and has been witness to so much military history. 

gun position entrance
The walls in the entrance to the bunker are approximately 5 feet thick.

When the tide is out, you can walk to Elizabeth Castle to explore the history, or when the tide is, you will need to take an 8-minute ferry journey over via an amphibious vehicle. 

entrance to the bunker
There is a small arms embrasure to the right of the entrance.

German bunkers on Elizabeth Island

Once there you can explore the battlements that date back to the 1590s, see old cannon positions, and as you might have guessed, explore German bunkers and fortifications built there during the Second World War. 

close up of firing hole
Close up of the entrance firing position.

From what I can gather, the fortification work at Elizabeth Castle was completed by using forced labour, and also paid local workers, similar to how the underground hospital I’ve previously documented was. 

bunker corridor
Entering the bunker, you are faced with a corridor with small rooms off to the left and right.

The Germans added lots of fortification features to the castle

There are lots of aspects to see here from World War 2, so much so that I’ve decided to split my photos into a series of different pages.

This page you are on now shows you the external and internal views of the German bunker on the lower section of the castle.

bunker doorway
Inside one of the smaller rooms you can see how thick the walls are and the iron door in place.

The main gun room is accessed by walking all the way to the end room of the bunker. It offers commanding views over the west of the sea from the islet.

It uses an almost identical position to where a cannon was placed 100 years prior to the German invasion.

bunker door
The iron doors to the bunker rooms would have been heavily secured.

The gun position in the bunker

This German gun position offers an excellent view out over the sea, so would have let them keep an eye out for any possible invaders. The bunker has various supporting rooms for the troops and munitions. 

You can see that view over the sea lower down the page.

German gun on Elizabeth island
The main gun position is in the end bunker room overlooking the sea to the west.

There was also a searchlight position built into the castle, and if you want to see how that worked, please browse to my page which shows the searchlight bunker photos.

small hole lookout
Another embrasure as a look out, and possible for small arms.

None of the fortification and bunkers on Jersey were ever used in anger though. The invasion from the Allies to re-take the Channel Islands never came.

This was despite the German fearing that Britain was likely to try and take back the Channel Islands. It never actually happened.

bunker room
This is another one of the rooms in the bunker.

The Allies advance through Europe

As the Allies advanced through Europe after D-Day in June 1944, hope amongst Jersey residents must have been high that their liberation was to come quickly. However, they would have to wait almost another year for freedom.

bunker entrance
Looking back out of the bunker towards the entrance.

Life on Jersey was already tough enough under German control, but it was to get even tougher as German supply lines to the Channel Islands were cut off. A lack of food almost brought starvation to the island.

bunker entrance
Another view of the bunker entrance in the castle grounds.

Thankfully the islanders were saved when a Red Cross ship arrived with much needed supplies in late December, 1944.

castle exterior view
This view of the castle shows you well the German fortifications blended into the castle design.

The liberation of Jersey in 1945

Finally the end was in sight. On the 8th of May 1945, the German Army told the Jersey islanders that war was over. At 3pm that afternoon, Churchill made a radio announcement:

Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, but in the interests of saving lives the “Cease fire” began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.

This cannon position pre-dates World War 2, but shares the same westerly view of the sea that the German bunker and gun position does.

British troops arrived not long after and the liberation of Jersey was declared.

As for Elizabeth Island’s bunkers, and other fortifications in Jersey, I will leave the last word to Wikipedia:

The abandoned German equipment and fortifications posed a serious safety risk and there were many accidents after the occupation resulting in several deaths. Many of the bunkers, batteries and tunnels can still be seen today. After the occupation, the islanders used some of the fortifications for other purposes, but most were stripped out in scrap drives and left abandoned.

The ones at Elizabeth Island were not filled in, and can still be seen today in their restored state.

Read more about Elizabeth Castle’s German bunkers…

Please now read Part 2 in this series of the Elizabeth Island bunker photos.

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