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Guernsey (Page 2 of 3)

The Little Chapel

The Little Chapel, shown below, is one of the smallest (if not the) churches in the world. Brother Déodat Antoine came to Les Vauxbelets in 1904 with a group of de la Salle Brothers, a Catholic order dedicated to teaching young people. Brother Déodat built a small chapel here for a monastery, modelled on the Shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes in France. The chapel represents not only a work of art but his lifelong labour of love. He pulled down his first attempt at building a chapel here after it was criticised. His second attempt was so small, that the bishop who visited him to consecrate it could not get in and so that was pulled down as well. The third building, which we see today, was started in 1923. Although built almost single-handedly by Brother Déodat, he returned to France and died shortly after the start of World War II, before it was completed. The Little Chapel is just 5m long by 3m and the Brothers of the Christian Schools, whom Brother Déodat was a member, still bring groups of French Children here for holidays at Les Vauxbelets, the monastery at which the chapel stands.


Nearby is the Guernsey Clockmakers, which also sells a souvenir booklet and Little Chapel gifts. The Little Chapel is maintained entirely by public donations. Although it is free to enter, donations are strongly encouraged - at the time of writing (2016), it is undergoing (seasonal) maintenance repairs and as a result of emergency stabilising work (think Leaning Tower of Pisa), The Little Chapel Foundation is already £150k in debt.

German Occupation Museum

The Museum tells the story of the German Occupation from June 1940 to May 1945. It started out as a collection of souvenirs gathered together by a group of local schoolboys and stored in an attic. One of them, Richard Heaume, became so fascinated by German military artefacts, he enlarged the collection until it became so large and important enough to start a museum. Because the Germans believed the British would make every attempt possible to get the Channel Islands back, their defences included the use of tunnels. It is in these, that Richard Heaume found many of the things on display in the museum. His explorations included hauling a complete field kitchen out of the tunnel under St Saviour's Church, alongside uniforms, helmets and gas masks. The non-profit making Museum was opened in 1966 and has been expanded at various times since. Photos taken from outside and inside it are shown in the thumbnail gallery below, followed by a brief description of the main display rooms.

There are many items on display in the museum and to describe each one of note would be beyond the scope of this web page, so a summary follows. The museum is split into two parts, each leading from the entrance.

The first room in the first part of the museum is the Military Room [Photos 5-7]. Over 12,000 troops were stationed on the island including a military band. Inside this room, it is possible to watch an informative video and on display are weapons, uniforms and band instruments. The next room in the museum is the Equipment Room [Photos 8-11], which includes radios and rangefinders used in the fortifications, an Enigma machine and a plethora of other artefacts. At one end is a dummy German field police officer typing a questionnaire [Photo 11]. The Civilian Room [Photos 12-15] gives the visitor an idea about the day-to-day wartime life of the islanders. Items include documentation, censored newspapers and substitute foodstuffs. Because radios were confiscated, some of the islands secretly made and used crystal sets. Next on show is the. Occupation Kitchen [Photo 16] , depicting a scene from a town household in late 1944.The father of the household is listening to the BBC via a crystal radio in the evening during the nightly curfew. Next is the Fortress Room [Photos 17-22]. The Channel Islands were the most fortified part of the Atlantic Wall. Around Guernsey alone, over 66,000 mines were laid. As well as mines and various items of weaponry on display on this room, there is a cart and track from a light railway which was temporarily used to transport building materials across the island for construction of the German fortifications. Adjoining the Fortress Room are a couple of rooms centred around Prison conditions on the island [Photos 23-28]. Resisting Islanders were imprisoned on the continent. In September 1942, Hitler ordered all non-born islanders to be deported and interned in camps and more were deported in February 1943.

Returning to the entrance, the second part of the museum is first accessed through the Transport Corridor [Photos 29-31]. On display here is a purpose made horse-drawn ambulance (1944) which needed because of petrol rationing. The Germans imported some 700 horses which they also used themselves, although half of them ended up being eaten by the Liberation in May 1945, such was the state of affairs at the end of the war. With that in mind, the next part of the museum takes you through the Tearoom And Garden [Photos 32-34] where the visitor can enjoy refreshments. This then leads through to Occupation Street [Photo 35 onwards]. This is a carefully thought out mock street from wartime St. Peter Port, highlighting points of interest from around the town at that time. It includes a bunker complete with gun, a cafe, a queue outside Pommier in Fountain Street waiting for a ration of meat, Green's cycle shop in Smith Street and through the garage is an extension to the museum containing exhibits relating to transport. Also, down the far end of Occupation Street can be seen the wartime fire appliance Sarnia II is seen outside the fire station at Liberation, the "Laurels" on Candie Road containing Liberation photographs and Maritime Guernsey where the boat 'Morning Glory' is on display [Photo 46]. This boat is typical of the time and due to the possibility of people escaping the island, fishing was strictly controlled.

St Peter's Church


The island of Guernsey is divided into ten parishes. The church shown above (St Peter's) is located in St Pierre du Bois, sometimes known as St Peter in the Wood, a Parish which takes in much of the south-west of the island. The church is quite unusual as it is built at the bottom of a small valley. As a result, the interior of the church is not flat but diagonal in appearance and rises uphill. For the visitor, it is quite difficult not to notice that the slope of the hill is present inside, as well as outside of the building, so during wedding ceremonies here, the bride literally walks ‘up’ the aisle. Whilst cameras sometimes have the effect of making hills look flatter, it is hoped the bottom right photo above illustrates the slope inside. For more information on the church, click Here.

Pleinmont Observation Tower

This unique five storey naval observation tower (thumbnail gallery, below) is located in the very southwest of the island in the Parish of Torteval. During the occupation in World War II, the Germans constructed and used the tower from 1942 to 1945. It formed part of their sea defence system and inside on display are the original rangefinders which are still in working order. Also to be seen here is a reconstructed barrack room and nearby, the restored battery dolmen gun-site, housing the last 22cm gun of its type in Europe.

The tower is open to the public from April to October, Sundays only from 2pm-4.30pm, although check with the local tourist office first. Inside, steps take you up to each of internal levels, whilst to access the roof, the final ascent is via a ladder (see photos above). Situated on a headland, the tower has a breathtaking and commanding view of the south and west coast of Guernsey. Below is a panoramic stitch photograph from atop the tower, facing back inwards towards the rest of the island:

Fort Grey

Fort Grey (above) was built on the site of an earlier smaller castle (the mediaeval Château de Rocquaine), which was demolished in 1803 to make way for it. The new heavily protected fort was built as part of a chain of coastal defences designed to protect Guernsey against possible attack from the French, although it is one of only three Martello towers ever built on the island (the other two - Fort Saumarez and Fort Hommet are featured on page 3). It was named in honour of General Charles, Earl Grey of Howick, K.B., who was the Governor of Guernsey from 1797-1807. However, the concentric design and white tower has led it to be nicknamed 'Cup and Saucer'. Fort Grey was manned by the Guernsey Militia during World War I and during the German occupation in World War II, it served as an anti-aircraft battery. Clearly well constructed in the first place, the Germans made few structural changes to it and so it appears today very much as it would have been when first built. During the post-war years, Fort Grey fell into disuse until it found a new life, officially opening as the Shipwreck Museum in 1976 (or 1975, depending on which sign here you read!). When the museum was created, the arched gateway and steps leading up to and into the fort were built; prior to this, the only access to the inside of the fort had been via ladder, over the walls. Archaeological excavations on the island where the fort stands have shown evidence of possible late Bronze Age human activity here (approx. 9th century BC), as well as from later periods (approx. 100 BC-100 AD).

Inside the outer walls of the fort can be seen the Boreas Cannon [Photos 12-14, above]. in 1807, tragedy struck the ship HMS Boreas when it was wrecked on the nearby Hanois reef. In 1974, the cannon, which bears the arms of George III, was lifted from the seabed by divers and brought to the fort by Royal Navy helicopter. It stands pointing towards the reef. Walking inside the central white tower, the visitor will find the Shipwreck Museum, set out on two levels. Here is an interesting, yet poignant array of artefacts and pictures from tragedies in which people have lost their lives around the island's coasts. The museum tells the story not only of very old shipwrecks, but more modern disasters, including the Elwood Mead, a bulk iron ore carrier on her maiden voyage from Australia and the oil rig Orion, which drifted on to Grandes Rocques after towing ropes broke (both of these were refloated and fortunately no lives were lost).

Guernsey's Roman Ship

Just back over the causeway from Fort Grey and next to the large Guernsey Pearl Shop, is a building housing Guernsey's Roman Ship. It sank in St Peter Port harbour after a fire on board in around 280 AD and is a 'Romano-Celtic' type merchant ship. In 1982, a local diver spotted the remains of a large wreck sticking out from the mud in the harbour , exposed from the propwash of modern ferries. The Guernsey Maritime Trust was formed to rescue the ship and from 1984-1986, archaeologists and local divers excavated the wreck. In 1999, the salvaged timbers were sent to the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth to be treated for conserving and returned to Guernsey in 2015. They are now being preserved here in a controlled temperature and humidity room. With 18m of the bottom of the hull surviving, it is the largest Roman ship which can be found outside the Mediterranean.


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