Sark’s occupation tours with silver guide Tim Osborne
Although based in Guernsey, I have been conducting German Occupation themed walking tours on the beautiful island of Sark for nearly five years as part of the Visit Guernsey Walking Festival programme.
My interest in World War Two and the Occupation of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark started many years ago when I started to collect items from this period in time. Although a full-time commercial airline pilot, in 2013 I decided to find the time and undertake a Silver Guide tour guide course to enable me to combine my interests and pass my knowledge onto others.
I had Sark in my sights as a place to lead walks and started researching its wartime history; as part of this research, I made contact with Richard Dewe, who is arguably Sark’s expert on the Occupation, and we met up a number of times.
My WW2 Occupation of Sark walk takes place twice a year in May and September and during our day in the island, we walk some six to seven miles. For a very small island, there is lots to see and talk about in connection with the Occupation.
After arriving on the early boat from Guernsey, the morning is taken up with walking the actual route that two infamous Allied Commando raids took place along; these raids resulted in the deaths of three German soldiers and two French Commandos (one of the latter is still buried in Sark’s Cemetery), which further resulted in many deaths of Allied Commandos in Europe. Both Hitler and Churchill had a direct involvement in the first Commando raid ‘Operation Basalt’.
Before lunch, we take a look inside a well preserved German tunnel; this is in remarkable condition constructed into the side of a hill. It was built between 1942 and 1944 by both conscripted and forced European workers and is thought to have been used for storage of some sort.
After a delightful lunch stop at Hathaways – the food is pre-ordered to save time, the next stop is a nearby field where an RAF Lancaster bomber crash-landed one night in 1942 after running out of fuel because of navigation issues after being hit on a raid over Stuttgart. Occasionally, tiny pieces of the aircraft are still found from time to time.
After this, we walk along to the main cemetery where we visit several graves connected to the Occupation, including a French Commando, a young lady who badly broke her leg after leaving a dance in the Island Hall and hurrying trying to beat the curfew, a four year old girl who accidentally stepped onto a mine and the Dame of Sark Sybil Hathaway; this formidable lady steered Sark through the Occupation years and commanded respect from the German troops.
Some ten minutes’ walk from the cemetery, is our final stop at a delightful Guesthouse set in a picturesque area just off the small road. Although quiet and peaceful now, it was the scene of a murder in April 1942. A handsome German medical officer was found dead by his assistant. What starts out as a seemingly easy case to solve, turns out into a complex whodunit! You will have to book on the walk to find out what happened in the end!
After a brief stop at Creux Harbour to look at some remaining German fortifications, we then climb on board the boat for our 50-minute journey back to Guernsey.
The complete walk would not be possible without the permission and continued support from Kevin Delaney and Sark Estate Management. Thanks to Kevin, we are able to access properties that are central to the incredible stories of the Commando raids.
Everyone who has come on this particular walk of mine has thoroughly enjoyed the whole day, taking in breath-taking scenery whilst taking in the many stories of what happened during those dark years of 1940 – 1945. Having said that, Sark fared much better under the German Occupation than the other Channel Islands, where life went on as normally as was possible.
For whatever reason you visit Sark, you cannot miss the incredible beauty and peace of the jewel of the Channel Islands. Further information can be found at: Bailiwick of Guernsey Guild of Accredited Guides (guernseyguidedtours.com) , or Tim can be contacted directly on 07781 121650 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared in the Sark Newspaper : May 6th 2022