Oundle, Peterborough PE8
In the summer of 1940, Britain stood perilously close to invasion. One by one, the Allied nations of Europe had fallen to the unstoppable German Blitzkrieg, and Hitler had his sights set on Britain. The attack was being exhaustively planned by the Nazis under the codename ‘Operation Sealion’. Yet the promised invasion never happened due to our success in the Battle of Britain, and the prospect of German jackboots on British soil retreated into the realm of collective nightmares – and mainland Britain never had to face the reality of life under the Nazis, nor the compromise and complicity that went along with it.
More than seventy years later, the spectre of what might have been still haunts us in literature with Len Deighton’s SSGB and Robert Harris’s Fatherland. The passing decades have done nothing to dampen our fascination with such tales, and their closest American equivalent, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, has just been adapted into a major new US TV series. Just what would a British occupation have looked like? Except that there’s no need to imagine such a scenario, because for five years during the Second World War fifty-thousand British subjects lived through it.
For the residents of the Channel Islands, occupation wasn’t just the terrifying outcome if the war against the Germans was lost, it was the day-to-day reality of their lives. The story of how these men and women, and their children, coped under such difficult and dangerous circumstances is an important, but neglected, part of our own history of the Second World War. In their stories are reflected the experiences that almost came to pass for the rest of us. This book tells the story of life under Nazi occupation.
‘An absolutely fascinating account of life under German rule in the Channel Islands during the war. As a Guernsey girl I grew up with these stories and recognise family and friends in these pages. Duncan Barrett has done a brilliant job of reflecting the peculiar challenges that existed for those living under occupation. It is an under-told story of an extraordinary time in recent British history.’ Sarah Montague, BBC Radio 4.
Duncan Barrett studied English at Cambridge University and now works as a writer and editor, specialising in biography and memoir. He is also the author of The Sugar Girls, GI Brides, and, The Girls Who Went to War, all of which were top 10 Sunday Times bestsellers.