WWII German Underground Hospital (Guernsey)
The Channel Islands are British crown dependencies despite being located off the coast of Normandy in Northern France. They speak English, but their road signs have French names. However they are their own flag, their own bank notes and represent themselves at the Commonwealth games.
During WWII however, the islands could never have been any further away from Britain. As the Germans invaded mainland Europe and into Northern France, and by 1940 the islanders in the Channel knew they would likely to be next.
Travel restrictions had been eased for British people to travel to the islands as a way of encouraging holidays and boosting moral. However on June 15th 1940, the British government made a controversial decision that the islands would not be defended from any invasion, and instead, evacuations would take place. Nearly half the island’s populations fled. However, controversially the islands were never declared an Open City, a term used during wars and in line with the Geneva convention to prevent attacks on defenceless areas.
On June 28th 1940, German Reconnaissance flights over the islands spotted a line of trucks parked in the White Rock area of the harbour containing tomatos that were being exported to England. Believing they were military vehicles, they bombed them. 34 people died here that night. The Germans had no idea that the islands had actually been completely demilitarised.
The islands of Guernsey and Jersey were taken very easily. No invasion was necessary. Starting with the small airport here, the islands soon became occupied, and over the next few years would become the most heavily fortified place on earth. 25,000 German soldiers were based on the on these islands, Miles of anti tank walls, over 80 gun batteries, lookout towers and many miles of underground tunnels were built, as the islands became part of Hitler’s plans for an Atlantic Wall, a line of coastal defences stretching across most of mainland Europe and into Norway to keep the Allied forces out. The Channel Islands were the most fortified place on earth during the war.
Strict curfews were brought in, German currency began circulating and radios were confiscated from residents to prevent updates on the war from Britain. Yet, at the same time, incredible stories of friendships and relationships were also forged. The 2018 film, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society covers a lot of these subjects and taboo talking points amongst islanders. It’s estimated that between 60-80 babies were born on the islands that have German biological fathers. The subject was very sensitive and divided the opinions of many islanders.
And that brings us to the hospital. There’s almost 2 miles of reinforced concrete funnels beneath this small village in the middle of the island. It was built entirely by POWs imported from Czechoslovakia, France, Russia and Poland. Many of them did not survive the tough working conditions.
An explosion killed 17 workers during construction, and 6 French prisoners were crushed under a seperate rock fall that killed them instantly. Contrary to popular myth, their remains were not buried within the walls, but it has been suggested that some of the apparitions seen down here may be trapped souls of those who died building this place. An estimated 4,000 slaves died on The Channel Islands during the war.
This was no temporary field hospital. This was a fully functioning hospital complete with operating theatres, wards that could accommodate hundreds of wounded people and even a cinema that would show propaganda films to recovering patients. Secret escape hatches are also still visible, and incomplete tunnels, believed to be part of another hidden entrance so movement in and out could be even more discreet.
It was feared that the island would become a war zone, hence the size of this place. Half of the tunnels was used for the storage of military equipment and ammunition, whilst the hospital operated in the section to the left.
And I hear what you’re thinking. Not many German soldiers died in Guernsey, other than a few isolated incidents, but there are a few extraordinary stories of local islanders being treated here, such as the story of Olive Davies, a young girl with tonsillitis, whom later gave an interview after the war that the German staff were very friendly and made her feel safe.
But things changed in 1944. On the 6th June, the allied forces invaded Normandy and it’s beaches. Thousands of soldiers would die and many more seriously injured on both sides, as the German stronghold in northern France crumbled. Under orders from Hitler himself, hundreds of critically injured German soldiers were evacuated from the area, with around 800 being rushed here, and 600 to a slightly smaller underground hospital on Jersey. In the weeks following D-Day, there were also injuries from German ships being attacked off the seas here and they were too rushed here.
These were life and death cases that needed urgent care. The operating theatre was in full use as amputations were carried out, shrapnel removed and lives saved. And the hospital’s mortuary would have started to fill up
So who haunts this place? I’ve mentioned that people regularly pick up on apparitions of dirty looking slaves, but there are the cliches. A man in Nazi uniform is the most frequently seen ghost. He is seen all around the complex, although I’m not sure how this can be attributed to one soldier…it could be several that people are seeing. Usually however, when spotted, the soldier fades away when approached and witnesses say he looks unaware of his surroundings.
A woman has been seen here. Several mediums have claimed she is a nurse from France that spent time working here, although what happened to her remains a mystery.
Some Googling reveals that people have posted their haunting experiences on TripAdvisor, such as a mist photographed in 2013, and just days after I filmed here, a woman called Jennifer Harris put the hospital on ITV News when she said her hair was pulled violently by an invisible force, and later claimed she would never go back here again, “even for £1 million.”
Footsteps are the most common phenomena as people claim there’s something down here that follows people around.
Visit Guernsey’s Underground Hospital
The hospital is open as a museum for visitors and is one of the top attractions to go and see on the island of Guernsey. It is located in the village of La Vassalerie.
Address: German Undergound Hospital, La Vassalerie, Guernsey, GY6 8XL
Getting there is easy, as a local bus from St Peter Port takes you to St Andrews, and its a 3 minute walk from the bus stop.
The Underground Hospital is open to visitors between April and September 7 days a week, with entry £5 for adults £2.50 for under 15s. In October it is only open Tuesdays to Thursdays.
To visit Guernsey, flights can be booked with local airlines Blue Islands and Aurigny Air, and travel from the UK mainland: London, Southampton, Manchester, Birmingham, Exeter, Bristol as well as from other Channel Islands.
A ferry service operates between Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole and Jersey. British citizens do not require a passport to visit the islands if travelling directly from mainland Britain.
In my video, I also looked inside 2 other WWII German gun batteries – Mirus and Scharnhorst. They are maintained by local based group Festung Guernsey, so credit to them for keeping the history visible.
There are not many paranormal organisations in the Channel Islands, but English based P.I.G.S. do have trips over to the islands. They run events across the south of England, as well as on Jersey and Guernsey.
They also investigate the Mirus Batterie on Guernsey, which is also an incredible place to see.
The island of Jersey also has a similar underground hospital which can also be visited.