Bailiwick of Guernsey, English Channel, Normandy

Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey (gurn-zee; French: Bailliage de Guernesey, is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.

The Bailiwick, as a governing entity, embraces not only all 10 parishes on the Island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Herm, Jethou,Burhou, and Lihou and their islet possessions. The Bailiwick of Guernsey also administers some aspects of two nearby crown dependencies (Alderney and Sark), and the island of Brecqhou.

Although its defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom, the Bailiwick of Guernsey is not part of the UK; and while it participates in the Common Travel Area, it is not part of the European Union.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is included (along with the Bailiwick of Jersey) in the grouping known as the Channel Islands.


The name of Guernsey, as that of neighbouring Jersey, is of Old Norse origin. The second element of Guernsey (-ey) is the Old Norse for "island". The first element is uncertain, traditionally taken to mean "green," but perhaps rather representing an Old Norse personal name, possibly Grani's.


Rising sea levels caused by prehistoric global warming transformed Guernsey from being the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the emergent English Channel around 6000 BC, into an island when it and other promontories were cut off from continental Europe.

At this time, Neolithic farmers settled the coasts and built the dolmens and menhirs that dot the islands. The island of Guernsey contains three sculpted menhirs of great archaeological interest; the dolmen known as L'Autel du Dehus also contains a dolmen deity known as Le Gardien du Tombeau.

During their migration to Brittany, the Britons occupied the Lenur Islands (former name of the Channel Islands including Sarnia or Lisia(Guernsey) and Angia (Jersey). It was formerly thought that the island's original name was Sarnia, but recent research indicates that might have been the Latin name for Sark; although Sarnia remains the island's traditional designation. Coming from the Kingdom of Gwent, SaintSampson (abbot of Dol, in Brittany) is credited with the introduction of Christianity to Guernsey.

In 933 the islands, formerly under the control of William I, then Duchy of Brittany were annexed by the Duchy of Normandy. The island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Duchy of Normandy. In the islands, Elizabeth II's traditional title as head of state is Duke of Normandy.

During the Middle Ages the island was repeatedly attacked by continental pirates and naval forces, especially during the Hundred Years War when the island was occupied by the Capetians on several occasions, the first being in 1339.

In 1372 the island was invaded by Aragonese mercenaries under the command of Owain Lawgoch (remembered as Yvon de Galles), who was in the pay of the French king. Lawgoch and his dark-haired mercenaries were later absorbed into Guernsey legend as an invasion byfairies from across the sea.

During the English Civil War, Guernsey sided with Parliament, while Jersey remained Royalist.Guernsey's decision was mainly related to the higher proportion ofCalvinists and other Reformed churches, as well as Charles I's refusal to take up the case of some Guernsey seamen who had been captured by the Barbary corsairs. The allegiance was not total, however; there were a few Royalist uprisings in the southwest of the island, while Castle Cornet was occupied by the Governor, Sir Peter Osborne, and Royalist troops. Castle Cornet, which had been built to protect Guernsey, was turned on by the town of St. Peter Port, who constantly bombarded it. It was the last Royalist stronghold to capitulate, in 1651, and was also the focus of a failed invasion attempt by Louis XIV of France in 1704.

During the wars with France and Spain during the 17th and 18th centuries, Guernsey shipowners and sea captains exploited their proximity to mainland Europe, applying for Letters of Marque and turning their merchantmen into privateers.

By the beginning of the 18th century Guernsey's residents were starting to settle in North America. The 19th century saw a dramatic increase in prosperity of the island, due to its success in the global maritime trade, and the rise of the stone industry. One notable Guernseyman, William Le Lacheur, established the Costa Rican coffee trade with Europe.

During World War I approximately 3,000 island men served in the British Expeditionary Force. Of these, about 1,000 served in the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry regiment which was formed from the Royal Guernsey Militia in 1916.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey was occupied by German troops in World War II. Before the occupation, many Guernsey children were evacuated to England to live with relatives or strangers during the war. Some children were never reunited with their families.

During the occupation, some people from Guernsey were deported by the Germans to camps in the southwest of Germany, notably to Biberach an der Riß and interned in the Lindele Camp ("Lager Lindele"). There was also a concentration camp built in Alderney where forced labourers, predominantly from Eastern Europe, were kept. It was the only concentration camp built on British soil and is commemorated on memorials under Alderney's name in French: 'Aurigny'. Among those deported was Ambrose (later Sir Ambrose) Sherwill, who, as the President of the States Controlling Committee, was de facto head of the civilian population. Sir Ambrose, who was Guernsey-born, had served in the British Army during the First World War and later became Bailiff of Guernsey.

Certain laws were passed at the insistence of the occupying forces; for example, a reward was offered to informants who reported anyone for painting "V-for Victory" signs on walls and buildings, a practice that had become popular among islanders who wished to express their loyalty to Britain.

Three islanders of Jewish descent were deported to Auschwitz, never to return.

Guernsey was very heavily fortified during World War II by 4x Russian 305mm guns made in 1911 out of all proportion to its strategic value. There are German defences visible all round the coast and additions were made to Castle Cornet and a windmill. Hitler became obsessed with the idea that the Allies would try to regain the islands at any price, and over 20% of the material that went into the Atlantic Wall was committed to the Channel Islands. 47,000 sq m of concrete were used on gun bases. Most of the German fortifications remain intact; although the majority of them are on private property, several are open to the public.



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