Liberation Day in Guernsey, 1945

Former Royal Marine Recalls Guernsey Liberation Day

Royal Marine veteran Joe Corless was sent to help liberate the Channel Islands on 9 May 1945 - the day after VE Day.

Liberation Day in Guernsey, 1945

A former Royal Marine who helped in the liberation of Guernsey 75 years ago has recalled how "enormously happy and relieved" locals were.

Joe Corless helped liberate the island from Nazi control on 9 May 1945 - the day after 'Victory in Europe' Day (VE Day).

While people across the UK celebrated the end of the war, Mr Corless and his unit were told to "pack [their] kitbags and get ready to liberate the Channel Islands".

Mr Corless arrived at St Peter Port - the capital of Guernsey - in a landing craft and helped distribute food and supplies from the harbour and a Red Cross ship.

The 94-year-old said: "I remember how pleased the islanders were to see us.

“They were so enormously happy and relieved. 

“There was no fighting and it seemed very peaceful, it was a very friendly welcome as I recall.”

The Channel Islands had been occupied by for five years and were the only British territories taken by German forces during the Second World War. 

American Landing Ship helping in the liberation of Guernsey in 1945
Joe Corless helped distribute food and produce in Guernsey on Liberation Day (Picture: Courtesy of Guernsey Museums & Galleries).

Mr Corless was also tasked with taking German troops to prisoner ships before they were transported to prisoner of war camps in Le Harve, France, and in England. 

He said he remembered how “friendly” the German troops were and how they were "equally relieved not to have fought it out”.

Mr Corless recalled one "lucky encounter" when his group came across “40 fully armed German soldiers” coming towards them.

"Our corporal in charge quickly got us to dodge into a churchyard as they passed by," he said.

"Moments later, their officer came along on a cycle, and dropped some papers from under his arm.

"We picked them up for him and he ask us in English if we’d read the German letter.

"None of us did, so he explained that it is the surrender order, which he was going to read out to his men who were heading down to the quay."

Royal Marines Brigadier Jock Fraser, Naval Regional Commander Wales and Western England, praised Mr Corless' “remarkable story” and said he will remember the “sacrifice of his generation" on VE Day.

Cover image: Celebrations in Guernsey on Liberation Day (Picture: Courtesy of Guernsey Museums & Galleries).