An Unexpected Bond
Cast: Lily James, Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay
Director: Mike Newell
Genre: Drama, History, Romance
Running Time: 123 minutes
Synopsis: Based on the internationally bestselling novel of the same name, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society tells the story of Juliet Ashton (Lily James), a free-spirited, successful writer living in post-war London.
Despite the success of her recent novel and support from her dear friend and publisher Sidney (Matthew Goode), she struggles to find inspiration for her writing after the harsh experiences of the war. Poised to accept a proposal from Mark Reynolds (Glen Powell), a dashing American GI, she receives an unexpected letter from a Guernsey farmer named Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman). Juliet impulsively leaves for Guernsey, where she hopes to write about the curiously named book club that Dawsey has written to her about, formed by his fellow islanders under the German occupation in WW2. Juliet is charmed by the island and inspired by the members shared love of literature. As a lifelong bond forms between this unlikely group of friends, Juliet soon realises that the society are hiding a heartbreaking secret, which they are afraid she may bring to the surface. As Juliet and Dawsey become close, she begins to unravel what happened during the difficult years under the occupation and starts to understand why they are so afraid to tell her their story. Her fate now intertwined with the society, Juliet must decide how to help her new friends and follow her heart, knowing that her life may change in ways she had never expected.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Release Date: April 19th, 2018
About The Production
It is late at night on Guernsey, one of the small chain of Channel Islands suspended in the sea between France and England. It is 1941 and the island, a UK territory, is under Nazi Occupation. Among the many crimes the German soldiers are committing is the theft of the island's livestock to feed their army on the continent and the imposition of a crippling curfew for Guernsey's near-starving inhabitants.
In defiance of both of these, four friends, Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), Eben (Tom Courtenay), Isola (Katherine Parkinson) and Dawsey (Michiel Huisman) are winding their way merrily home down a dark country path. They are a little drunk it's true, but mostly they are happy to be in each other's company. After months of hunger and isolation and fear, they have spent a precious night of laughter and conversation together at the home of Amelia (Penelope Wilton), feasting on an illicit pig, boldly hidden from the Nazis by her.
A blinding headlight terrifies the friends into silence. A group of German soldiers wielding machine guns prepare to arrest the group for being out after dark until Elizabeth offers the suggestion the friends are merely returning home from a meeting of their book club. She fumbles around for a name, coming up with the unlikely sounding Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The latter is an unhappy example of the kind of culinary delicacies the islanders have been forced to create during the Occupation, including one that accompanied the delicious roasted pork earlier that evening. Although the Society is clearly not on the Nazi's list of approved groups, when the contents of Eben's stomach ends up splashing their shiny boots the disgusted soldiers weary of the group and decide to leave them to it. They make it clear the club must register their curiously named group with the German authorities in the morning.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is born. The islanders eagerly take the opportunity to meet regularly to discuss whatever books they can lay their hands on, relishing a book's ability to whisk them away from what has become a bleak and brutal existence. But like pretty much everything else on the island, even after the Germans are gone, books - and bookshops - are gone too. So much so that once the war is over Dawsey spots a name and an English address written inside a book he has read and enjoyed called The Selected Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb, he decides to write to the young woman. Dawsey simply asks if she knows of a London book shop that might stock any further books by Charles Lamb.
The free-spirited Juliet (Lily James) is living a rather grand life in London in 1946. The city is beginning to emerge from the dreary wartime years, although it's hard to disguise the many gaping holes where houses used to stand and lives gaily led. But the colour is returning. Just the sight of fresh paint is a cause for delight, and unfeasibly glamorous American GIs fill the jazz clubs throughout the town. Juliet is in love with one, the dashing Mark Reynolds (Glen Powell) and is poised to accept his proposal of marriage and move to a new life in the US.
Juliet is a sought-after journalist and writer, but her first book, a critical biography of Anne Bronte, sold just 28 copies. Her follow up is a collection of humorous essays about the wartime musings of a heroic little man called Izzy Bickerstaff, which has been published with much greater success by her beloved friend Sidney (Matthew Goode). The two are close and it was to Sidney who Juliet turned to following the harrowing death of her parents during the Blitz.
But Juliet is bored of the flippant Izzy and uncomfortable with the financial success his book has brought her. She is unable to shake the feeling it is at odds with the terrible suffering she sees Londoners still experiencing all around her. She wants to write again in her own voice but, although fondly encouraged by Sidney, she is struggling to find inspiration.
The letter from Dawsey is a welcome distraction. Something about his description of the book club moves her and he has a turn of phrase that makes her laugh. She sends him another book written by Lamb and they begin to write to each other.
When Juliet makes an impulsive decision to visit Guernsey, much to the dismay of Mark and against the advice of Sidney, she is charmed by the island and relishes the company of the book club members. She is inspired by their love of literature, and their passionate opinions. But their welcome is guarded and they greet her with a mixture of enchantment and uncertainty. Their founder, the headstrong Elizabeth, is nowhere to be seen. Amelia, at whose home they meet, keeps Juliet at arm's length and refuses to let her write about them. But as Juliet begins to unravel what happened during those terrible years of Occupation, she begins to realise why the group is so afraid to tell her their story. She understands she has a very big decision to make. Not just about the book club but about her own life too.
About the production
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is one of the longer titles in film history – and director Mike Newell loves it for precisely this reason. 'You decode the title against the story of the film, and you do that as you go along," he explains. 'It amuses me that it is quoted three times in the first two minutes! I find that funny. It's idiosyncratic and it leads you into an idiosyncratic experience."
Saying the title in full, often at speed, became a running joke among the cast.
'It took me forever to be able to say it," admits Dutch actor Michiel Huisman who plays Dawsey. 'We were all calling it -Guernsey' on set for a while, but then we went back to the full title - and I kind of love it. I asked a few people to say it for me, and suddenly it became like a melody instead of all these words."
Retaining the title in its full glory also honours the spirit of the best-selling book of the same name on which the film is based. Published in 2008, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society was co-authored by US writer Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows, and consists entirely of letters. Shaffer visited Guernsey, one of the string of Channel Islands, not part of the UK but feels very English and is a Crown Dependency.
Shaffer was entranced by the island and intrigued by the islanders' dramatic experiences during the Second World War.
She became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1976. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there as a heavy fog descended and no boats or planes were permitted to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to clear, she came across a book called Jersey Under the Jack-Boot, and so her fascination with the Channel Isles began. Many years later, when goaded by her own literary club to write a book, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey.
'Like most Americans Mary Ann had no idea the Channel Islands had been occupied by the Germans during War," says Annie Barrows, who is Shaffer's niece. 'She became fascinated by the story of the occupation and the people who had lived through it. She spent the next 20 years of her life researching the subject."
In 2006, Shaffer's manuscript was accepted for publication. However she became gravely ill before it was finished. Barrows stepped in.
'Mary Ann called me and said, -You're the other writer in this family. Will you finish this book for me?'" Barrows recalls. 'I sat down to read it, and I was thrilled by it. It was like listening to Mary Ann talk and there was nothing more interesting than listening to Mary Ann talk.''
'There was a lot of work to do on it," she continues. 'I thought it was impossible until I sat down to write. Two hours in, I thought to myself, -This is not impossible. This is going to be wonderful.'"
Aunt and niece had always been close. 'I saw Mary Ann all my life, pretty much," Barrows says. 'Every other day at least. I knew how she would tell this story. When I began to write, I could hear it. I could hear what the next sentence was going to be even if it wasn't there."
Barrows remembers Shaffer vividly describing the people she had met in Guernsey. Shaffer died in February 2008 a few months before the novel was published. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society went on to become the number one- selling paperback on the New York Times' bestseller list and a firm favourite among US book groups.
However, the book had come to the attention of US film producer Paula Mazur even before its literary success. At galley stage it had first caught the eye of Miami-based independent bookseller Mitchell Kaplan, who reads books very early, often before publication, and very much wanted to make movies. He had been looking for a filmmaker with whom to have that conversation. Kaplan's sister was Marcy Ross, president of Skydance TV, and she introduced him to Mazur.
Mazur's producing credits included Lily Tomlin's The Search for Science Of Intelligent Life in The Universe, Jessie Nelson's Corrina, Corrina and Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. At the time she met Kaplan in 2008, she had just co-written and produced a feature adaptation of Wendy Orr's children's book Nim's Island for Walden Media. Mazur was looking to work on the adaptation of further literary properties and the tip off from Kaplan about a yet unpublished book with incredible cinematic potential came at the right time.
'I thought the characters were unique, well-voiced and specific," Mazur says of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. 'They were funny, and there was a real originality to them."
She was invigorated by the challenge of taking an epistolary novel, a novel of letters, one that took place in two time periods – 1946, with flashbacks to the war years 1940-45-- and making a compelling story from it.
'I think one of the reasons the book did so well was that readers were truly moved by the fact this group could get through the war by leaning on each other, by having a book group and by reading," Mazur suggests. 'This felt like a really inspiring story to make into a movie."
Together Mazur and Kaplan optioned the film rights and formed their new Los Angeles-based film and TV production outfit, the Mazur/Kaplan Company. Their partnership combines Kaplan's ability to spot potential screen gems at the manuscript stage with Mazur's Hollywood smarts.
In addition to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, they have produced an adaptation of Les Standford's -The Man Who Invented Christmas', directed by Bharat Nalluri and starring Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer, which was released theatrically in late 2017. Further projects in the works include an adaptation of A.S.A Harrison's -The Silent Wife' and Jennifer Niven's -All The Bright Places'.
From page to screen
Working from a script by acclaimed writer-director Don Roos (Single White Female, The Opposite Of Sex), a US studio initially boarded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but withdrew just weeks ahead of principal photography. Mazur entirely reconfigured the project and UK distributor STUDIOCANAL initially boarded the project in 2013. Shortly thereafter Mazur brought in BAFTA-winning producers Graham Broadbent and Pete Czernin of London-based Blueprint Films, whose credits include In Bruges, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. At that point, UK screenwriter Kevin Hood came on to write a preliminary script.
New York based writer-director Thomas Bezucha, whose credits include The Family Stone, worked on a new draft of the script and BAFTA-winning filmmaker Mike Newell signed on as director.
Newell, it was universally agreed, was the ideal talent to bring this unconventional, complex novel to the screen. With a history of directing a variety of successful films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Enchanted April and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the veteran film-maker had demonstrated his flair for comedy, romance and adventure – all aspects of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
It also helped that Newell had a personal feel for the period depicted in the film. He was born in 1942, and grew up in St. Albans, 20 miles north of London in the post-war era. Newell instantly responded to Bezucha's script.
'Thomas had somehow found a way of getting into the private recesses of Juliet's imagination," he explains.
The film of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society shot for eight weeks in the UK from March 2017. As the story is set in 1940s Guernsey, the production team wanted to shoot as much as possible on the island itself. (The success of the book has helped boost tourism on the island and visitors are taken to locations mentioned in its pages.) But it was logistically an unrealistic endeavour.
Producer Paula Mazur speaks of this process: ''Prior to the film's production we did extensive location scouting on the island of Guernsey working very closely with Visit Guernsey, States of Guernsey, Marketing and Tourism to find suitable shooting locations. Due to the period setting a very specific look was needed to recreate 1940s Guernsey both during and just after the occupation. We filmed the original WW2 look out towers from the Island that are hugely iconic Guernsey landmarks. However, despite an enormous amount of effort from all parties it was eventually decided it was logistically unrealistic to try and transform modern day Guernsey for the full production, in order to accurately depict the historical period in which the story is set.
'We shot photographs of the island, which we've incorporated into the film. The islanders were immensely generous and helpful," Newell explains. 'But the problem about filming there is everything would have had to be brought in, by boats, across the English Channel, cameras, lights, everything."
'Guernsey and Jersey and have become very prosperous in the last 50 years because of the offshore banking industry, and they've changed," Newell continues. 'We only found two places that fulfilled the brief of what they might have looked like in the 1940s."
Locations matching Guernsey's lush countryside and magnificent coastline were found on the south coast of the UK mainland, in Cornwall and Devon. The crew either constructed or used computer graphics to depict archetypal Guernsey landmarks, including the concrete observation towers the occupying German forces built into its landscape. Dawsey's farm was recreated on a farm in Buckinghamshire, just west of London.
Production designer James Merifield and costume designer Charlotte Walter are key players in leading the charge to get the look and feel of 1940s Guernsey, as well as post-war London.
"I loved the script," says Merifield. 'There are so many lovely, extraordinary worlds to create. There are the big broad strokes of creating war-torn London, as well as war-torn Guernsey."
Merifield and Newell went on a fact-finding mission to the island to help recreate the island as it would have looked and felt under Nazi occupation.
"I start with research," says Merifield of how he prefers to work. 'Our trip to Guernsey was very revealing. We could see the extraordinary towers, built out of tons of concrete that was shipped onto the island and built by prisoners of war to create these fortresses along the entire coastline."
For costume designer Charlotte Walter, the 1940s is a rich period in which to dress characters and so working on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society immediately appealed.
"And it's a story about a girl who goes from London to Guernsey," says Walter of what she responded to in the script. 'It's about doing the costumes but making them look like real clothes that just happen to be 1940s clothes."
Walter worked with members of her local Women's Institute group to hand knit items from 1940s patterns to recreate era detail. "I gave them the wool and the pattern and an original 1940s pattern and they [would give me] back a beautiful child's jumper, or a hat or a waistcoat, and it's exactly as it would have been in the 1940s," she explains. "They knitted socks, gloves and balaclavas. It's all those details that are fascinating to create but also instantly makes somebody look real."
The Society comes to life
Rising UK star Lily James, best known for her lead role in Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella for the Walt Disney Company in 2015, plays Juliet, the young writer through whose eyes the story is told. Newell was impressed by James' ability to play Juliet as an independent young woman living in the 1940s who nonetheless has a real contemporary resonance. He was convinced by James after seeing her perform on stage as another Juliet, this time in Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet.
'She was marvelous," he enthuses. 'She's technically gifted and can show an enormous range of emotions very subtly."
This quality, he felt, was vital for the film: 'This is a romance but it's also a complicated story," he says.
Producer Graham Broadbent agrees: 'Lily is luminous on screen and has enormous charisma. You simply want to watch her and that's a great movie star quality. She also feels modern. And what we didn't want to make a film that felt old-fashioned."
James herself jumped at the chance to play Juliet Ashton and cried the first time she read the script. 'I'm very rarely moved to tears when I read a script. But the characters just get under your skin without your realising it. They were vivid, and there was a strong heart to the story.
'Then I read the book, which I really loved, and I really wanted to work with Mike Newell. He was passionate about the project, which was very infectious."
James says she was very moved by the scene in which Juliet writes a letter to the Guernsey book club to tell them she'd been searching for a family. 'They are a collection of people you wouldn't necessarily see together," she says. 'The war forced people to club together in ways they wouldn't have done before. And in this mismatched group there's such passion and optimism.
'These people became a family to her. And she writes a whole book about them."
When the cast were rehearsing their scenes together, Newell encouraged them to talk over one another to ensure it felt naturally chaotic in the manner of people who know and love each other well.
'When these people get together all hell breaks loose!" laughs James. 'And for the first time in her life I think Juliet feels it matters. Suddenly she's with these people and she laughs properly for the first time. She debates and fights and…...she cares. I hope people will watch the film and think: 'I wish I was in that book club.'
'It's not your classic love story, or your classic war film. It's an intriguing piece."
Dutch actor Michiel Huisman, best known for his role as Daario Naharis in HBO's Game of Thrones, was cast as Dawsey, the Guernsey farmer who writes to Juliet in London after finding her name in a book.
'Michiel came through Los Angeles, where I live, and I met him," Mazur recalls. 'And I said, -I will do anything to get him in this movie'. He was Dawsey. He's so soulful, so real – and so wonderful to look at!"
'One of the things I love about his relationship with Juliet is its randomness and coincidence," Huisman reflects. 'Dawsey is trying to get hold of more books, but there's almost none on the island. So he writes a letter to someone in London who left her address on the inside cover of a book he owns. And that's Juliet Ashton.
'It's not until they meet each other that something grows between them. At first these two people seem to be complete opposites. She arrives, she's a writer from London, he's a farmer from the island who's never travelled beyond it. But somehow, they grow closer and closer together.
'Dawsey is a composed man who lives a sort of isolated existence. Out of nowhere he is forced to take on the responsibility of Elizabeth's child. He doesn't even question it. By taking the child in, he agrees that he'll take care of that child as if it were his own. I thought that was very remarkable."
When he first heard about the role, Huisman admits, 'I didn't even know where Guernsey was situated. So there was a lot of research to do."
He came to think of Dawsey as the unofficial mayor of Guernsey. 'He's one of those people that a lot of people around him rely on," says Huisman of his character. "He's someone who can fix things, and he knows a lot about the island and its land. He's a very fun and interesting character to play.
'The romance with Juliet is something that takes Dawsey by surprise. He lives by himself, he takes care of a child that is someone else's. I don't think he's particularly thinking about meeting someone. So when he meets Juliet and she turns out to be the woman he had a connection with through those letters, it just starts to open up a whole new part of him." Newell believes securing Huisman for the role was a real coup. He had screen-tested British actors who wanted to play Dawsey as a more macho character.
'Michiel's absolutely secure in his masculinity. He's Dutch, he knows farming - and he can handle a pig!" guffaws Newell. 'He's a terrific actor and gorgeous looking. Juliet feels Dawsey understands her in a way she isn't normally understood. He gets her number in a way people usually don't. And Michiel conveyed that."
James says she loved working with her co-star. 'Michiel is incredibly kind, but he also has this rooted quality and a feeling of experience and depth. He happens to be incredibly handsome, but he doesn't rely on his looks. He absolutely has the heart and soul of Dawsey."
Although he enjoyed the romantic and comedic aspects of the story, for Huisman it was very important to underline the devastating impact of the hardships suffered by the characters through the years of wartime and occupation, even in seemingly quite small ways.
'We wore clothes that were slightly too big to show those years when people were suffering from hunger," he explains.
The third major character in the story is Elizabeth McKenna, played by Jessica Brown Findlay. The acclaimed UK actor first came to prominence playing Lady Sybil Branson in the BBC TV series Downton Abbey. Elizabeth is the founding member of the Society and the one who comes up with its strange name. But when the story is discovered by Juliet, Elizabeth has disappeared.
'I was excited at being able to play someone who had such a vivid nature," says Brown Findlay of Elizabeth. 'She has this sense of danger about her and she cannot stop herself from speaking her mind. When she sees injustice she can't help but try to do something about it without regard for her own safety, and whether or not it will have an effect on others.
'I was really excited to be part of a story that is about what happens in the wake of storming through people's lives like that. Some people might find Elizabeth heroic, and she is. But she leaves behind so much, a daughter, and a group of people who are also deeply troubled and who then experienced additional loss because of what she did. But she has to act in the way she believes is right and that kind of frustrating brilliance and fearlessness was really attractive to me."
Mazur is full of praise for the commitment Brown Findlay shows in portraying such a complex character as Elizabeth. 'Jessica is…a human being on fire!" she says. 'She has this electric personality. And because the character of Elizabeth is a firebrand, we felt Jessica could bring great depth and truth to the role."
Brown Findlay was deeply affected by the story's depiction of the illicit book club meetings on Guernsey: 'A lot of the books they read are about the human condition, what it is to be human, vulnerable, scared, in love, heartbroken, all those things. It's very close to Elizabeth's heart. And then Juliet comes in and is able to give life to all that. The members of the book group didn't necessarily realise their own lives were a brilliant story."
The film's supporting cast boasts some of the UK's leading actors. The Olivier award- winning Penelope Wilton, star of stage, film and television, plays Amelia, the member of the book club who is the most uneasy about Juliet's arrival on Guernsey. Wilton says she loved the film's title and relished playing a character who shared one of her own personal passions, reading.
"The [film] title amused me because of its length and also potato peeling and literary society," says Wilton. "I read the book and it's a wonderful correspondence between the young man in Jersey and Juliet, this young journalist in London. You get to know them through this correspondence of letters and also it's based on a truth."
The resilience shown by the islanders during a terrible time and the fact Guernsey was the only part of Britain that was occupied during the war also made Wilton pause. "It was only a stone's throw away from the UK mainland," says Wilton. "It was a story that really about the war that hadn't been told."
James was thrilled to be working with Wilton for the first time. 'She's an actress who on the one hand can break your heart, and then at the flip of a coin you're in absolute hysterics," says James. 'She plays Amelia as so restrained and so anguished, but who is also longing to open up again."
The versatile Katherine Parkinson, a BAFTA TV winning actor for her role in The IT Crowd, plays the eccentric Isola, the book club member in whom Juliet finds a lasting friend. "I remember being sent the script while I was working at the Vaudeville Theatre," says Parkinson. "I was reading the script in my dressing room and I knew straight away that I wanted to do it."
Parkinson embraced the story in its entirety. "I loved that it felt like romance, a historical drama, a sort of character piece, a comedy, it felt like everything."
She also enjoyed that it was not sentimental and that the comedy shone through the characters.
"I was also really excited about working with Mike Newell because I met him years ago and he saw me in my first acting job in a play," says Parkinson.
BAFTA-winning actor Tom Courtenay, most recently seen on the big screen in Andrew Haigh's 45 Years, stars as Eben, the local postmaster and a member of the book club. His grandson was among those evacuated from the occupied island by boat, away from imminent danger.
Courtenay's character is an amalgam of three men in the original novel, a fisherman, a postmaster and the original creator of the recipe for Potato Peel Pie. As the film's Eben he encompasses all three.
"I thought the script had a great charm to it," says Courtenay. 'I liked the main idea that literature and art will, through its power, overcome tyranny. That's the central message, really.
The pie, as it turns out, consists of nothing but potato peel. But for the islanders it was one way to keep hunger at bay.
'I had never heard of a potato peel pie," says Newell of Eben's creation, which is true to a real dish cooked up by the islanders during the Second World War. 'I can see why they were invented, because people in Guernsey were starved, the occupiers had taken away most of the food, so you wouldn't throw away anything you could eat. And you could eat potato peel."
Guernsey Occupation – The Facts
Dr Jason Monaghan, Head of Heritage Services for States of Guernsey is an expert on the occupation and relays some of the key facts of the German occupation of the Channel Islands: British and French armies fighting Nazi Germany suffered a stunning defeat in May 1940. France surrendered to the Germans and was occupied by their armies, allowing Luftwaffe aircraft to set up bases on the French coasts. This meant that Channel Islands could not be defended, so British troops withdrew and the islands were -de-militarised'. This became clear to the enemy too late to prevent an attack by Luftwaffe bombers on St Peter Port harbour on 28 June. The 23 people killed are commemorated by a monument on the White Rock.
All but a handful of people from Alderney were evacuated to England, plus 17,000 people from Guernsey, leaving 25,000 behind. The German army drew up plans for an invasion of the islands, but on June 30th, a pilot from the Luftwaffe landed his plane at Guernsey airport and found that the island was really undefended. Guernsey surrendered to the invaders on the following day.
For the rest of the war, the islands were occupied by the enemy. Resistance was out of the question in such a small place, when there was one soldier for every two islanders. Those who dared defy the Germans were sent to prison camps and three Jewish women were taken away by the Nazis, meeting their deaths at Auschwitz. Two Guernsey-born soldiers sent here to spy only just avoided being shot when the German commander von Schmettow decided they should instead be treated as prisoners of war. Radios were confiscated and people were banned from going on the beaches.
Fishing boats could only go out with a guard aboard to stop the men escaping. Guernsey however escaped most of the cruelty and destruction suffered by other countries in Europe. Adolf Hitler wanted to use the Occupation of the Channel Islands to show the British people how civilised the Germans could be. Some soldiers were relieved to be in a place where there was no fighting and some even came back after the war was over.
The Germans were determined that the British would not recapture the Channel Islands, so brought in up to 37,000 soldiers with artillery, aircraft, ships and tanks. They ringed the island with concrete bunkers, trenches, towers and artillery positions - some of which can still be visited. Slave labourers from Russia and occupied Europe were used to build these fortifications and many died of ill-treatment. The fortifications were however never needed. The British only launched a few small attacks on the islands using commandoes and bombers, mainly aimed at annoying the Germans and finding out information. A big invasion was planned, but fortunately never carried out as Guernsey would have been left in ruins and lots of its people killed.
During 1942 and 1943, some 2,000 Channel Islanders were deported to camps in Germany. Guernsey deportees mainly went to Biberach, and sat out the war behind barbed wire. For the people left behind, things became darker as the war dragged on. Everyday things like bicycle tyres and children's toys were impossible to find. Food became in short supply and the crime rate increased. In June 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy and began to recapture France. From that point on the Germans in the island were cut off, as was the supply of food, coal and medicines. In the winter that followed, both the islanders and the occupiers were close to starvation, even eating seaweed. Only the arrival of Red Cross food parcels on board the ship -Vega' saved them.
On 8th May 1945 the war in Europe ended and the British sent HMS Bulldog to Guernsey to receive the surrender of the German forces. On May 9th, British soldiers from -Force 135' landed and took back control of the island. The Occupation holds an important place in the minds of islanders and May 9th is now celebrated as Liberation Day.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Release Date: April 19th, 2018