Liberation Day in Channel Islands
Celebrated as a national day in both Guernsey and Jersey, Liberation Day is a holiday that’s observed on May 9th. It’s a day that commemorates the liberation of the Channel Islands on May 9th, 1945. This date marked the end of the occupation of the islands by Nazi Germany. However, it should be noted that this holiday isn’t celebrated on the same day for the smaller Channel Islands. On Sark, the holiday is observed on May 10th because that’s when the Nazi occupation officially ended on that island.
And in Alderney, the emphasis isn’t placed on this holiday but is instead placed on Homecoming Day. That is a day that occurs in December and celebrates when the evacuated citizens of Alderney returned to the island after WWII.
The History Of Liberation Day
On the 9th of May in 1945, Great Britain sent the Royal Navy’s HMS Bulldog to St. Peter Port in Guernsey and German forces ended up surrendering aboard the ship at dawn. British forces then made landfall and were greeted by happy, malnourished islanders. The islanders greeted the liberating Royal Navy with patriotic songs, particularly “Sarnia-Cherie,” the unofficial anthem of Guernsey.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Beagle ended up arriving in Jersey on the same day to accept the surrender of occupying forces stationed there. Naval officers Sub Lieutenant R Milne and Surgeon Lieutenant Ronald McDonald were greeted by the harbor master and escorted to the harbor master’s office. The two naval officers then proceeded to raise the Union Jack.
The Union flag was then raised at the Pomme d’Or Hotel in Saint Heller, Jersey. Ever since 1995, this event has been re-enacted. On May 10th, 1945, Sark was liberated, and this was followed by the surrendering of German troops in Alderney on May 16th, 1945. Speaking of Alderney, this island doesn’t place as much emphasis on Liberation Day as it does Homecoming Day.
That’s because prior to the Nazi occupation of the island in 1940, the island’s entire population had been relocated to Britain. Homecoming Day is the holiday that commemorates the islander’s return to Alderney in December of 1945. It took this long for islanders to return to the island because the Germans had fortified the island and it took 7 months to make it safe for civilians.
Observing Liberation Day
In Jersey, thanks to the Public Holidays and Bank Holidays Act of 1952, and the Public Holidays and Bank Holidays Act of 2010, Liberation Day is a holiday if it falls on any day from Monday through Saturday. It’s not a public holiday if it falls on a Sunday. When it’s observed as a public holiday, banks, businesses, and schools are closed and many people take time to observe one of the official ceremonies.
In Guernsey, there are no statutory entitlements in employment law for public holidays. Even so, Liberation Day is observed as a public holiday. Since 1995, most official ceremonies of this holiday are observed in and around Liberation Square in Saint Helier, Jersey at the location of the original Harbour Master’s Office and at the Pomme D’Or Hotel. These are attended by the general public, as well as clergy and officials of Jersey.
In Guernsey, there’s usually a cavalcade of military vehicles and tractors that round the island from Torteval Church all the way to the Quay. Of course, there are other celebrations on this day as well, but the nature of those celebrations may change from one year to the next.