On the 30th of June 1940, the German Army landed in Jersey. They were to occupy the Channel Islands for five years. Whilst Jersey wasn’t of huge strategic importance, they were determined to hang on to it, believing the British would attempt to recapture it.
Because of this, the Germans built miles and miles of fortifications. Many of these structures still exist to this day and if you visit Jersey, you can’t fail to see the various bunkers and fortified positions as you go about your day.
One such fortification was what are commonly referred to as the Jersey War Tunnels (aka Hohlgangsanlage 8). The tunnels were built initially as an underground air raid shelter to protect German troops from air raids, but towards the end of the war, were re-purposed into an underground hospital.
I was lucky enough to visit the German underground hospital in Jersey in 2021 where I took lots of photos. If you want to learn more, and see my photos of the underground hospital tunnels, keep on scrolling down.
When were the Jersey War tunnels built?
Construction on the Jersey War Tunnels started in 1941 but was never actually finished. When you visit the underground hospital, you will be able to see tunnels areas that were never completed.
The reason the German underground hospital (aka the Jersey War Tunnels) was built was on a directive from Hitler in October in 1941. He wanted the entire Channel Islands protected as part of the Atlantic Wall, so work started on Hohlgangsanlage 8 that year.
What were the Jersey War tunnels used for?
The Jersey War Tunnels were initially built to be used as large air raid shelters for the German troops. They feared that the island would come under attack from the Allies, so the tunnels were bored into the hill to a depth of 50 metres deep and 300 metres in to offer protection from any bombing raids.
However, by 1943, the Germans could see that the Allies were likely going to plan an invasion of Europe. This had the potential to be a catastrophic and wide-ranging next stage of the war, with fears of many casualties.
Because of this, the German army decided to convert Hohlgangsanlage 8 into an underground hospital instead, but more about that in the next section.
Why did the Germans build an underground hospital in Jersey?
As the Second World War progressed into 1943, the Germans could see a very real threat of the Allies invading Europe to take back the countries occupied, including the Channel Islands and Jersey.
To mitigate the possible huge loss of life and injuries this would cause, the German leadership decided to convert Hohlgangsanlage 8 into a casualty clearing station and emergency hospital.
The hospital would have 500 beds, full air conditioning, heating, and operating theatre.
Who built the Jersey War Tunnels?
The Jersey War Tunnels were built by a combination of forced labour brought in from areas such as the Ukraine and Russia. This manpower was supplemented by labourers from Organisation Todt, plus Jersey locals who were said to be paid 4 times their normal wage to help build the tunnels.
It’s important to not forget the forced slave labour workers used to build the German underground hospital. The Nazis treated the Slav races with utter contempt, considering them to be ‘untermenschen’ (sub-human).
In total, Hohlgangsanlage 8 was built using 5,000 workers, many of whom were forced to work 12 hour shifts. The conditions were not good, with reports of fatalities.
How long are the Jersey War Tunnels?
The Jersey War Tunnels are over 1,000 metres in total, running at 50 metres deep underground, and 300 meters into the hillside.
How long does Jersey War Tunnels take to visit?
I can only talk from personal experience, but when we visited the tunnels, we stopped to read every display in all the rooms. By doing so, it took us 2 hours in total to visit and walk through the entire tunnel system from start to finish.
You can spend longer there if you wish, as outside of the tunnel system there is a new building which has a cafe, small activity area, and an escape rooms experience.
We bought ourselves a coffee and walked around the back of the area onto the hill where we found plaques in the ground to commemorate Jersey people who had died during the occupation.
If you want to visit the Jersey War Tunnels, they are open 7 days a week during the Spring and Summer seasons. The site is situated 4 miles north-west of St Helier, in the country parish of St Lawrence.