THE POSTAL HISTORY OF THE OCCUPATION PERIOD 1940-1944
German forces occupied the Channel Islands on 1 July 1940, and from that moment no direct mail service could operate between the islands and England. From that date until liberation in May 1945, four different postal services operated within, into or from the Channel Islands.
Local Mail Service
The Channel Islanders were allowed to send letters within the Channel Islands. This service could still use British stamps. However, further supplies of English stamps could not be obtained during the Occupation period.
The first consequence of this appeared in Guernsey, as by December 1940, stocks of the 1d stamp were nearly exhausted, and so locally designed and printed stamps were issued. These showed the Arms of the Islands. There were 3 values – ½d (green), 1d (red) and 2½d (blue). There were many different printings of these stamps resulting in a fascinating range of shades. Examples of these stamps on cover are still easy to find, and thus an interesting collection can be made of these stamps used on local advertising envelopes.
Similarly Jersey initially issued ½d green and 1d red Arms stamps. Then in 1943 Jersey issued a set of 6 stamps showing views of the Island based on designs of Edmund Blampied, the famous Jersey artist. The values were ½d green, 1d red, 1½d brown, 2d orange, 2½d blue and 3d violet.
At several times during the Occupation, supplies of stamps were temporarily exhausted, and on such occasions, special PAID hand stamps in different values were applied in red at the Guernsey and Jersey Head Post offices. These can make a fascinating addition to your collection.
The registration service was in use throughout the Occupation. The registered letter rate was 5½d. Registered covers can be found for the main Post Offices and the smaller sub Post offices. Supplies of registration labels had come from London prior to the Occupation. However, no further supplies were available from England during the Occupation. When stocks of registration labels ran out at the Guernsey Head Post office, labels from closed sub Post Offices were used. Thus, examples of GUERNSEY 4, GUERNSEY 5, GUERNSEY 8 and Guernsey 7 labels can be found used on mail from the Guernsey Head Post Office during the Occupation. In April 1944, Guernsey employed a violet registration hand stamp for such mail. Similarly, the SARK Post Office ran out of registration labels towards the end of the occupation. Then ′HERM′ registration labels were used with the word ′HERM′ crossed out and SARK inserted in manuscript. Only a very small quantity of these Herm/Sark labels have been recorded on cover.
When stocks of registration labels in Jersey were exhausted, the Jersey Post Office introduced unframed hand stamps coded ´A´, ´B´ or ´C´ followed by up to 4 digits.
Towards the end of the Occupation period, paper and consequently envelopes became in very short supply, and some envelopes were re-used twice or even three times. Many ingenious people made their own envelopes from either tomato wrapping paper or even from brown bags!
Prior to the Occupation, the Island of Alderney was evacuated because of its close proximity to France. Consequently, its Post Office was closed throughout the Occupation.
Working parties were sent over from Guernsey to Alderney for short periods. Some correspondence is known from these working parties to their families in Guernsey. Such mail just received a Guernsey Postmark on its arrival in Guernsey.
Red Cross Message Service
The only way Islanders could send messages to their relatives in England or other unoccupied countries was through the International Red Cross. These messages were typed on special forms provided by the German Red Cross. These were sent via the local Red Cross Message bureau. Similarly the Islanders were able to receive messages from England, on forms provided by the British Red Cross. There was space on the back of the form for the Islanders to reply. These forms typically took complex routes to reach their destination, which can make their study a fascinating subject for collection.
For more information please see ′The Red Cross Civilian Postal Message Scheme with the Channel Islands, 1940-45′ by D. Gurney.
German Feldpost System
Mail to and from the German troops on the Islands was sent through the German Feldpost system, with a Feldpost Office on Guernsey and another one on Jersey. German soldiers were allowed to send mail free of charge. Islanders could also use this service to write to friends in occupied territories such as France. For this service, only German stamps could be used. These were cancelled with a standard German Feldpost postmark. Channel Islands stamps were not valid for this service. Similarly covers from France and Germany into the Islands are very collectable.
A word of caution: covers are known with both Channel Islands and German stamps on; these are philatelic, and as such are of little value.
Internee Mail service
During late 1942 and 1943, Islanders of British nationality were deported from the Channel Islands to Internment camps in Germany. These Internees could write to the Channel Islands or to their relatives in England on special Internee cards or letter sheets. Naturally mail was also sent from the Channel Islands and England to these camps. Items of mail from this service can form a fascinating collection.