The Other Channel Islands

ENGLISH CHANNEL — Most Southern Californians think of Catalina or Anacapa or Santa Rosa islands when hearing or reading “Channel Islands.” But Channel Islands can also refer to the archipelago in the English Channel, located between the French and U.K. coasts. Four primary – and inhabited – islands highlight this European archipelago: Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey and Sark. Other inhabited islands are Herm, Jethou and Brecqhou.

The islands, though not part of the United Kingdom, are Crown dependencies. Norman landowners originally dominated Jersey, the largest and southernmost island. Jersey split from France’s Normandy in 1204. The island, several hundred years later, profited from an economy of cattle, fisheries, potatoes, privateering and smuggling.

Sark, meanwhile, wasn’t really inhabited until the mid-1500s, when the French took over the land. Silver was discovered on the island in the 1830s, briefly fostering a mining population. The island operated under feudal laws as recently as 2008.

Alderney was a strategic military outpost for the British. A breakwater was built just off Alderney, as to defend the Brits from the possibility of French invasion. The breakwater has since chipped away.

The Germans occupied Guernsey during World War II. Guernsey was actually demilitarized during the war, opening the door for Germany to come in and take claim of the island. Germany occupied Guernsey from 1940 to 1945. A German bombing of the island in 1940 saw an attack on St. Peter Port Harbor, where 33 people were killed and 67 injured. A group of tomato lorries were apparently mistaken a military convoy.

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