Tag Archives: Alderney

Braye Beach (and farewell to the Channel Islands)

Friday 17th August 2018, 10.35am (day 2,549)

Braye beach, 17/8/18

Yesterday’s rather sombre subject matter was matched by the Thursday weather on Alderney, but the sun returned today to brighten up our last day in the Channel Islands: we had breakfast here, lunch in Guernsey and dinner at home, in Hebden Bridge. The general family consensus was that we could take or leave Guernsey, but the smaller islands we visited, Sark and Alderney, do tempt one into fantasies of retiring from the world to island life. It’s places like Braye beach — almost empty on a glorious August morning — that particularly encourage this.

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Lager Sylt entrance (lest we forget)

Thursday 16th August 2018, 2.30pm (day 2,548)

Lager Sylt gates, 16/8/18

Unlike the other Channel Islands, Alderney was completely evacuated in June 1940, eight days before the Germans arrived to occupy it for the next five years. Because of the lack of a civilian population, they pretty much did what they liked here, fortifying the island to an immense degree (to the extent that the Alderney garrison did not surrender until 16th May 1945, a whole week after VE Day). The labour that this required was undertaken mostly by Russian POWs, who were housed in four camps, or lager, each named after German North Sea islands. Lager Sylt was the camp for Jews, run by the SS, and along with nearby Lager Nordeney was thus the only concentration camp — so far — to have been built on British soil. 400 graves of prisoners have been identified on Alderney but many more are estimated to have died here. The only remaining sign of any of the camps are these old concrete gate posts, on the edge of the airport, and the small plaque affixed thereon, fading text declaring that this was the entrance to Lager Sylt.

World War 2 too often gets treated as some big nostalgia kick. But it’s worth remembering that all those years, all that effort and suffering and hardship, was fought for poor bastards like those prisoners, to stop this kind of thing ever happening again.  As time passes and the ruins moulder away, there’s a risk that some people are forgetting this.

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Seagull portrait, Alderney

Wednesday 15th August 2018, 6.50pm (day 2,547)

Seagull portrait, 15/8/18

For the second time on this holiday a seagull demands I do its close-ups. Could I (or it) have asked for better light? We are now on Alderney, a 15-minute flight north of Guernsey on a tiny plane on which we were three of only five passengers. Like Sark, but unlike on Guernsey, the sun shone and there is a palpable feeling of otherness, separateness, on this little isle which the bigger one didn’t really have. Two more days away to come.

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