Achtung Minen! Guernsey

Bomb Disposal
ISBN 1-903953-87-1
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by Henry Beckingham
The history of the German minefields on Guernsey 1940-45, told by the man in charge of removing them.

This book provides a wealth of information about the essential work of mine clearance which needed to be undertaken after the cessation of hostilities by skilled bomb disposal experts such as Henry Beckingham who, at a young age, was given the considerable responsibility of supervising the clearance of all the mines laid on the island of Guernsey during the Nazi occupation. His description of how this was achieved will be a valuable resource for historians, researchers and students interested in the history of the Channel Islands during the Second World War.

This book records an interesting chapter in the history of the island of Guernsey. Whilst under German occupation from 1941-45, on Hitler’s personal instructions, the Channel Islands were strongly fortified in order to repel the attacks by Allied forces which were fully anticipated. These defensive measures involved the laying of thousands of mines and other explosive devices on the beaches to deter a seaborne invasion and on open ground to deter airborne troops or gliders, a task that on Guernsey was carried out by the men of No.1 Pioneer Battalion of the 319th Infantry Division of the German Armed Forces.

When liberation finally came in 1945, the British authorities faced the daunting prospect of clearing the islands of all their deadly defensive devices, a task for which special units of the Royal Engineers were drafted in. The author of this book, Henry Beckingham, then a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, was already a seasoned expert in bomb disposal, despite his tender years, and was put in charge of bomb disposal operations on the island. Under his command and supervised by his experienced team of Sappers of 24 Bomb Disposal Platoon RE, the men of No.1 Pioneer Battalion, now prisoners of war, were set to work to clear the thousands of obstacles they had so laboriously installed during the previous five years.

It is a credit to the skill and courage of these men, both British and German, that the mine clearance was successfully completed with minimal loss of life despite the considerable size of the labour force which, at its peak, numbered 1,780 German POWs and 300 civilians.

The intriguing story of how the mines were laid and the remarkable feat of safely removing them all after the end of hostilities is told in full within the pages of this historically valuable book, illustrated with many photographs and maps.

details softback | 170 x 250mm | 128 pages | b/w photos