Eye Film have launched their final Crowdfunder Appeal to raise the funds needed to produce the documentary, Alderney The War Years. This, the final in the trilogy of three telling the story of Alderney during WWII, will focus on the German occupation of the island and will attempt to uncover what went on on the island during the war – using first-hand accounts.
In 2015, Alderney remembered the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the island, with the subsequent German occupation and 70 years from its liberation and the islander’s homecoming. Eye Film ran a successful crowd funding campaign then, through Crowdfunder.co.uk , which resulted in them travelling to Alderney and filming interviews with many islanders, capturing their own unique, very personal stories about the Evacuation on June 23rd 1940 and their Homecoming on December 15th 1945. Two of the films have now been produced and shown on the island, but there is still one more to make, to tell the story of what happened on the island during the Second World War while the islanders were away.
Much has been made of what happened in Jersey and Guernsey during WWII, but few know the story of Alderney. The island, with few witnesses, was to become the only place on British soil with a concentration camp, Lager Sylt, as well as three other labour camps. In total there were over 4,000 forced labourers on the island, with over 3,500 German soldiers. During the 4 years of war the island was transformed into Festung Alderney with five Coastal Artillery Batteries, 22 Anti-Aircraft Batteries, 13 Strongpoints, 12 Resistance Nests, three Defence Lines and 30,000 Landmines, the most fortified island in the World yet – no battle was ever fought.
Whilst their beloved island was rapidly being changed by the occupying forces, most of the islanders were initially sent to Glasgow. After a few weeks, some were settled there and some were dispersed elsewhere throughout the country. Many of the island children ended up in homes where they weren’t discovered by their parents for over 6 months. During this turbulent time, the Alderney Evacuation Committee attempted to keep track of all the islanders so that they could find them when the time came to return home.
Initially during the war, residents of nearby islands Guernsey and Jersey travelled to Alderney to help farm the land to provide a larder for the channel islands. However, once the decision was taken in 1942 to fortify the island, very few people visited Alderney who were not prisoners of war. Eye Film’s MD, Charlie Gauvain says “Our research so far has already unearthed first hand testimony of what it was like on the island, as well as many photographs taken by German soldiers, which have never been seen publicly before.
There has always been a fierce debate as to just what did happen on the island, how many prisoners died as a result of German brutality and the conditions on the island – we want to get to the heart of the story, but we need help to fund our research.”
Please do visit the Crowdfunder page at http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/alderney-the-war-years to see a video about the project.