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Summary

True-life recollections from the Channel Islanders who were the only British subjects to live under Nazi rule in WWII. 

The new book from the Sunday Times best-selling author of Sugar Girls

In the summer of 1940, Britain stood perilously close to invasion. One by one, the nations of Europe had fallen to the unstoppable German Blitzkrieg, and Hitler’s sights were set on the English coast. And yet, following the success of the Battle of Britain, the promised invasion never came. The prospect of German jackboots landing on British soil retreated into the realm of collective nightmares. But the spectre of what might have been is one that has haunted us down the decades, finding expression in counterfactual history and outlandish fictions. What would a British occupation have looked like?   

The answer lies closer to home than we think, in the experiences of the Channel Islanders - the only British people to bear the full brunt of German Occupation. For five years, our nightmares became their everyday reality. The people of Guernsey, Jersey and Sark got to know the enemy as those on the mainland never could, watching in horror as their towns and villages were suddenly draped in Swastika flags, their cinemas began showing Nazi propaganda films and Wehrmacht soldiers goose-stepped down their high streets.  

Those who resisted the regime, such as the brave men and women who set up underground newspapers or sheltered slave labourers, encountered the full force of Nazi brutality. But in the main, the Channel Islands occupation was a ‘model’ one, a prototype for how the Fuhrer planned to run mainland Britain. As a result, the stories of the islanders are not all misery and terror. Many, in fact are rather funny - tales of plucky individuals trying to get by in almost impossible circumstances, and keeping their spirits up however they could. Unlike their compatriots on the mainland, the islanders had no Blitz to contend with, but they met the thousand other challenges the war brought with a similar indomitable spirit. The story of the Channel Islands during the war is the history that could so nearly have come to pass for the rest of us. Based on interviews with over a hundred islanders who lived through it, this book tells that story from beginning to end, opening the lid on life in Hitler’s British Isles.
 

©2018 Duncan Barrett (P)2018 Simon & Schuster UK
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"An absolutely fascinating account of life under German rule in the Channel Islands during the war. As a Guernsey girl I grew up with these stories and recognise family and friends in these pages. Duncan Barrett has done a brilliant job of reflecting the peculiar challenges that existed for those living under occupation. It is an under-told story of an extraordinary time in recent British history." (Sarah Montague, The Today Programme presenter)

What listeners say about Hitler's British Isles

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Outstanding insight

Highly recommended, very informative and emotive stories from both sides of the occupation which I had little knowledge of before listening to this. Excellent narrative from Duncan Barrett. Has made me want to visit the islands and tour the occupation areas.

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Forgotten history

The German Occupation of the Channel Islands (or Anglo-Norman Islands) is more or less a footnote in the history of WWII. It was even a minor detail at the time, except for those involved. Churchill left the islands pretty much to their fate, except for a few ill planned sorties which made life worse for the islanders, and liberating the islands was low priority.
This book is well worth a go.

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Must listen too

Excellent excellent must listen to this book if you are interested in World War II narrator very good at telling the story

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Very moving.

I have enjoyed listening to this account of my home of Jersey and the other Channel Islands life under the occupation of 5 long years. As a boy I did hear stories from Grandparents that were very similar to some of them told by Duncan. The last chapter was very moving, having known people that were there.
Worth having in the library especially if you're local to the Channel Islands as I am.

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Awful narration

Only listened for a few minutes before returning. The narrator spoilt it for me by trying to do accents which made it sound like an episode from 'Allo 'Allo. Would have made a good listen otherwise.

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Fascinating

I have been to the Channel Islands on holidays and immediately fell in love with them, the fascination of the abandoned German structures was partly to blame, as well as the stories of the locals who lived through the occupation. This book has helped to paint the full picture. Beautifully written and narrated.

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Outstanding

A gripping assembly of moving and sometimes funny anecdotes, notwithstanding a few dodgy pronunciations of local names!

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Every history buff needs this book!

I wasn’t sure what I had selected when I purchased this. I’m so glad I did though. The Channel Islands were occupied during the entire war and this is not spoken about much in history class. So in fact British soil was occupied- mainly because they were abandoned by the mainland. If I was an islander I would have been furious!

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  • 09-08-18

A forgotten history

I don’t think you can say it’s an enjoyable listen because the subject was a sad one. The only part of Britain taken and occupied in wartime. I learnt a great deal of the make do and survive that was all part of the islands life. I hadn’t realised how close they came to starvation and then as the tables turned the same fete for the German soldiers. It really was a sorry situation as our troops could not be risked to take them back. Heart breaking for the islanders to feel they were being sacrificed and forgotten.

The narration was a little surprising at first but I did get used to it and it did make it clear who views were being recounted.

I listen to audible as I would a radio in the kitchen. My son twenty one year old son really surprised me commenting while in the room that he hadn’t realised the Channel Islands were captured. As the author says it doesn’t seem to be mentioned. A very interesting listen.