German searchlight at Elizabeth Castle

German Searchlight Position at Elizabeth Castle, St. Helier

On the 30th of June 1940, the German army invaded the Channel Islands. Despite the islands not being of huge strategic significance, they were fortified with bunkers, gun positions, and underground tunnel networks to protect against an Allied assault. 

An example is the searchlight position overlooking St. Helier port. You can see the searchlight’s shelter bunker below, but more about that shortly…

Elizabeth Castle searchlight track
The side of Elizabeth Castle that faces inland to the port has various modern additions such as the house and an entrance for a German searchlight bunker as seen on the lower aspect of the photo.

Whilst many bunkers were built from scratch into the coastline as large concrete fortifications, existing structures were also adapted by the invading German army.

Elizabeth Castle on the rock surrounding St. Helier’s port is a classic example. It’s on an island in shallow water that can be walked to when the tide is out.

Here’s another angle of the bunker where a searchlight was stored in during the Second World War….

track to searchlight shelter
From this aspect you can see down the concrete track and rails to the searchlight’s day time shelter.

A brief history of Elizabeth Castle

Construction of Elizabeth Castle started in the 16th century and had various inhabitants in that time. It was first used as a military asset in the English Civil War in the 17th century.

The castle has been witness to some huge moments in history, particularly during World War 2.

rails and track for the searchlight
The searchlight would travel up the rails on the concrete track to a higher point at the castle.

But, before we get to the 20th century, here’s a snippet of what was happening in the 17th.

The castle was first used in a military context during the English Civil War in the 17th century. The Prince of Wales visited the castle in 1646 and again, but now as Charles II in September 1649, staying in the Governor’s House,[2] having been proclaimed King by governor Sir George Carteret, despite the abolition of the monarchy in England, in February 1649. In 1651, a windmill was constructed half-way between Fort Charles and the Lower Ward. In the same year, the Parliamentarian forces landed in Jersey and bombarded the castle with mortars.


The castle’s position was perfect as it allowed for a superb defensive view of St. Helier, so was equipped with multiple cannon positions by the English.

The view is none better than from the top the concrete track and rails that run up from the searchlight’s shelter position… see below.

north east bastion
The searchlight would then be secured into the North East Bastion, offering views over the port.

The castle’s position would also be utilised by the invading Germans in 1940 who modernised Elizabeth Castle with guns, bunkers, and battlements. This would also include measures to let them look out for any possible attack by the Allied forces.

One of these measures was a searchlight. During the occupation of Jersey, German soldiers shone the large floodlight over the entrance to St. Helier harbour from the top of Elizabeth Castle. It was their job to look out for enemy boats and planes.

searchlight steps
The German searchlight operators could access the shelter using the steps.

The German searchlight at Elizabeth Castle was stored in a specially built bombproof bunker at the of a concrete trench and track. It could be wheeled up a concrete track on rails to the North East Bastion platform at the top of the castle.

You can see where the searchlight was stored during the day below…

shelter for searchlight
The German searchlight would spend the day secured in a specially constructed concrete shelter.

As we know, Jersey there was no attempt to re-take Jersey by the Allies until the German surrender at the end of the war, and liberation of the Channel Islands.

German power supply
In this recess in the searchlight shelter you can still see a remaining 1940s German power socket.

The various gun positions, bunkers, and this searchlight at Elizabeth Castle would never be used in anger.  You can see the start of a series of pages I’ve created about the bunkers at the castle, here’s part 1.

iron door
This huge iron door offers another access point to the searchlight position’s shelter.

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Image in header by Dan Marsh

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