In June 1940, during WWII’s sophomore year, Adolf Hitler turned considerable attention to a line of tiny islands off the coast of Normandy, along the body of water between the UK and France we know as the English Channel.
In fact, “considerable attention” is a gross understatement. Hitler strove to fortify the Channel Islands at a scale and with a grandiosity the world had never seen before.
Occupying the Channel Islands
Luckily for the Axis powers, Winston Churchill considered the Channel Islands of measly strategic significance - too small to use even as military launchpads. As a result, they were left wide open for German forces to move in and begin implementing Hitler’s grand plan.
Unfortunately, Hitler had no idea the islands were demilitarised and launched a needless offensive on unarmed Channel Islanders, who would never have had any choice but to relent. Either way, the German flag was swiftly planted.
The grand plan
The Channel Islands are comprised of four land masses. The bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, and the smaller islands of Sark and Alderney (the latter of which eventually earned the code name "Adolf").
Unconcerned with strategic importance, Hitler saw something in the sun-kissed islands that not many understood. The idea was that the Channel would serve as a post-war haven for Axis soldiers and play a major part in the future of his thousand-year Reich.
The Führer obsessed over on-island construction well into the war, even when Russia demanded more of his attention.
After naming a proxy commander of the Channel Islands, and commissioning architects and engineers to find new and innovative methods of battle-proofing land, the Führer’s constructional insanity was well under way.
Thousands upon thousands of tons of steel and concrete were shipped over for an above- and below-ground building campaign. A network of roads and rails soon snaked through the two largest islands, used primarily to transport more materials and wartime resources.
Infrastructure, however, was only the beginning.
Feats of engineering
Let’s start off with what the eye could see. Tower forts loomed over the populous, each one strategically placed and riddled with hidden machine gun dug-outs positioned to pick-off anyone who dared to approach on land.
Beneath the land’s surface was another story altogether. 8.6 million cubic feet of rock was mined from the earth in order to build some 50 kilometres of tunnels and bunkers that could be used to transport resources.
Not to mention the mammoth gun stations…
Four oversized gun stations were built to house the latest technology in oversized guns. The two most significant were disguised to resemble English cottages. Each gun was 45 metres high, weighed 51 tons and could swivel at two degrees per second, which meant it took three minutes for them to do a 360. Once in position, they could hit any approaching ship up to 45 kilometres away.
It was what lay beneath these gun stations, however, that was undeniably impressive. In addition to the tunnels and bunkers, underground sat ammunition stores, generators, heating and ventilation systems, and perhaps most bafflingly, accommodation for up to 72 soldiers.
In the modern-day Channel Islands, these stations now resemble man-made craters and the underground networks are now equipment graveyards.
To find out exactly how these graveyards came to be, watch season 3 of Nazi Megastructures on Sunday 19 March at 5:30pm on SBS.