The Channel Islands (Island Week 4)

Monday, 5th October 2009 by

Island Week 4 should have finished at the end of last week, but we've got a bonus island post before we resume normal service.

Despite being just off the coast of France, the Channel Islands are British Crown dependencies famous for being the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany during WWII, and the centuries-old rivalry between the two principle islands of Guernsey and Jersey.

Although usually considered one unit, the islands are actually made of two distinct administrations, which share very few laws and institutions, named the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey consists of seven inhabited islands, the largest of which is Guernsey itself, and various other islets and rocks. Guernsey was heavily fortified by the occupying Nazis during WWII, much more than was really necessary, and many of these fortifications remain.

Making up part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey is Alderney, a quiet little island to the North, which was almost completely evacuated to mainland Britain prior to the German invasion. 4 concentration camps were built on Alderney, and at least 400 graves have been found.

Sark's odd claim to fame is that it was the last feudal state in Europe. These days, the population of 600 are proud of their traditional ways, which include the complete lack of any cars on the island.

The Bailiwick of Jersey's only inhabited island is just Jersey itself. The lack of VAT charged in Jersey meant that it was, for a time, used by Amazon and Tesco for shipping out cheap DVDs and CDs to the UK.

Jersey and Guernsey's rivalry stems from the English Civil War, when Jersey sided with Royalists and Guernsey sided with Parliament. Each has their own pound notes, police force, and famous breed of cow.

More information on Wikipedia for the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey.

Thanks to James Bridle