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News: Evidence Of German Occupation Excavated On Guernsey

Published 25 August 2011, 17:20

The rare 90P9 armoured infantry observer’s turret prior to be moved to Guernsey’s German Occupation Museum. (Courtesy of Steve Powell/Festung Guernsey)

Towards the end of April 2011 the restoration and preservation group Festung Guernsey was asked by the States of Guernsey Environment Department to investigate an unusual object that had been spotted by a local resident on the common at Grand Havre Bay on the north-eastern coast of Guernsey, reports Paul Bourgaize. The discovery was made after part of the bank bordering the beach at this location had fallen away.

Festung Guernsey is an initiative instigated by professional groups and individuals with an interest in Guernsey’s Second World War fortifications. The organisation’s aim is to make available to interested parties examples of the most important fortifications built on the island by the occupying German forces.

After a first brief inspection of the object at Grand Havre Bay, the Festung Guernsey team concluded that they were looking at a piece of a rare armoured turret. A curved flange was visible with a large nut and section of threaded bolt which were the standard fixings for these turrets. A second visit confirmed that the turret was in fact intact, that it was a very well preserved 90P9 infantry observer’s turret. All of the internal fittings for mounting the optics were still in situ and retained much of their original paint.

It was agreed that the group could remove the turret, but with the turret weighing in at six tons they knew it could be a difficult operation. An 18-ton excavator, expertly handled by Tony Froome of Bob Froome & Sons, was used and a hole was dug behind the turret to allow it to be moved back from the edge of the beach. It then proved possible to lift it out with the excavator’s bucket.

German records do not show a bunker type that would have housed this turret ever existing on Guernsey, so it is assumed that such a construction was planned but never started. By studying RAF wartime aerial reconnaissance photos and fortress engineers’ maps of the area the group noticed a ditch had been dug around part of the bay. This would have been the foundations for a concrete anti-tank wall that had never materialised due to the slowdown in the building programme towards the end of the occupation period. With the ditch still open at liberation in 1945, it must have been seen as a perfect dumping ground for unwanted war material.

The turret was not the only item discovered by the team at Grand Havre Bay. While the planning was in progress to recover the turret, one of the team members noticed another object about 200 yards further along the bay. There was enough of the item exposed to show that it was the chassis and bucket from a 60cm railway tipper truck. These were used in great numbers during the construction of the tunnels and fortifications on Guernsey.

Once again permission was obtained and one month later this too was recovered. The chassis was found to be in reasonable condition and is only missing one wheel bearing. The bucket, however, had been open to the elements and has corroded away in a number of places. Nevertheless, it is thought that it will still be possible to restore the tipper, being only the second complete example on Guernsey.

Since its recovery, the armoured turret has been transported to the island’s German Occupation Museum, where after the outside has been cleaned it will be placed on permanent display.

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