The Occupation 1940 - 1945
The hardships that the people of Guernsey suffered during the five years that the German army occupied the island have been exhaustively documented elsewhere. Therefore, here it is intended to recognise that suffering, and to restrict comment to those matters that will help in an understanding of the difficult conditions under which the Board and staff worked during this period.
Although the possibility of hostilities between Germany and other European nations had long been foreseen, the possibility that Guernsey would be occupied was unforeseen until much nearer the time that it occurred. On the morning of June 21st, after the evacuation of non-essential personnel had been ordered and the island demilitarised, the Bailiff convened by telephone a special meeting of the States of Deliberation. The meeting, held at 3.00 p.m. on the same day, appointed a Controlling Committee, which would have the executive and administrative powers normally exercised by of the States. It would meet under the presidency of HM Procureur Mr A. J Sherwill. Thus, when the German forces landed in St Peter Port, there was existing machinery in place for the day to day running of the island, and for communicating with the German authorities.
On the day following the arrival of German troops on June 30th the commandant issued his first set of orders. They included the all-embracing No. 3, "All orders given by the military authorities are to be strictly obeyed", and another order setting the exchange rate at 5 reichmarks to the pound, a rate that only lasted for a few days. The next day the orders were expanded, to include one that prohibited any increase in the price of a commodity without the consent of the commandant. These orders were issued by the commandant, "By virtue of the powers conferred on me by the Führer and Supreme Chief of the army".
The occupying authorities also took an early opportunity to order that clocks should be changed to German time, which was one hour ahead of local time. Although it was not until nearly a year later that, on June 24th 1941 an order was issued making driving on the right side of the road compulsory, from the start of the occupation the German personnel adopted the continental practice. For the electricity undertaking the main effect of this last order fell upon Major Barritt Hills. In November 1940 the German authorities granted him a concession to use a motor vehicle. They had requisitioned a black 12 hp Wolseley saloon, with a chrome radiator, from a resident who had been evacuated. It was sold to the SEB for £200 and Major Barritt Hills was allowed to use it, and to keep it at his home, Gorselands in the Village de Putron.
The machinery for giving effect to the policies and directives of Berlin was the organisation known as Feldkommandantur 515 (Field Command 515 or FK 515). This organisation included a separate branch responsible for the administration of the civil government that was headed by the Kreigverwaltungsrat (KVR) or War Administrator. The FK515 was formed in Munich in September 1939 for the purpose, amongst other things, of ensuring that the government of occupied territories was carried out efficiently. The Nebenstelle (sub-office) for Guernsey was established at the Grange Lodge Hotel. It was accountable to the district headquarters in Jersey, which was part of the FK515 Area A, located in the French Départment de la Manche, and based in St Germain. This accountability structure of the occupying organisation was complicated by the arrival in November 1941 of a unit of the Organisation Todt (OT), code-named Gustav in Guernsey. Although the OT had its own chain of command running back to Berlin, in Guernsey the senior army officer, the Feldkommandant, downgraded to Platzkommandant in May 1944, had overall responsibility for the island. An authority that was not always readily accepted by the OT.
Dr Fritz Todt, an engineer, had formed the OT to carry out construction work on buildings and roads on behalf of the armed forces. In the nineteen thirties he had been responsible for the construction of the German autobahns and went on to control the construction industry in the Third Reich. He was charged with designing and constructing the Atlantic Wall and started by building permanent fortifications along the Belgian and French coasts. He was killed in an aircraft explosion on the 8th February 1942 and was succeeded by the architect Albert Speer.
Before the occupation of the island the objective of the undertaking had been to increase sales of electricity, by extending the supply to more of the community and by encouraging the use of more appliances. As from June 30th 1940 maintenance of minimal services to the 6,200 consumers became the prime consideration, notwithstanding the detrimental effect this would have on the undertaking's efficiency and finances. The supply of fuel oil would be the major problem and, although a full service could be maintained from existing stocks until the end of the year, after that there would be no supply of electricity unless more oil was received.
On instructions from the German command in July, Major Barritt Hills and Mr. R G Luxton, the managers of the electricity and gas supply undertakings respectively, produced a report on the position, and a strategy for dealing with worsening conditions. Their report centred on the need to maintain the most vital services for as long as possible. To this end they recommended that there should be emergency stock levels established for both oil and coal. In the event of stocks falling to these levels, the supply to the general public would be cut off, and the emergency stocks would be used for the maintenance of vital services, such as the hospitals and water purification. A substantial proportion of the stock of coal and paraffin should be allocated to the gas and electricity undertakings respectively.
Turning to conservation measures, the report went on to recommend that there should be no duplication of supplies of light or power to any property. Furthermore, the use of appliances for heating water for baths and sinks, the use of radios, vacuum cleaners, tea and coffee making appliances and ventilation apparatus should all be prohibited. Only one source of space heating should be allowed and electric space heaters should be banned whenever there was a usable fireplace in the room. Consideration should also be given to closing shops early and to discontinuing the supply of electricity from midnight to 6 am. To reduce the impact of the proposals the report recommended that advice be given to the public on measures that could be taken to alleviate the situation. It suggested boiling vegetables in the oven when other food was being cooked and introducing communal cooking facilities. A suggestion had been put forward that a surcharge should be added to bills for electricity and gas when the consumption exceeded that of the previous year by specified amounts. The managers considered this to be impracticable and, in the case of electricity, contrary to the 1933 Electricity Law; accordingly they rejected it.
The German Commandant would not approve the proposal to close the power station during the night, but on August 1st an order was published forbidding the use of space heating appliances where there was a grate in the room that would burn coal or wood. Heating water by electricity for baths was forbidden, as was the use of electric lifts. Electric fires and radiators were specifically banned. The manager was authorised to put out of action all electrical equipment whose use was forbidden and, where possible, to collect it and store it with the Control of Essential Commodities Committee at the Ladies College. Cinemas were allowed to open on four days a week only. In October 1940 two small cargoes of diesel oil, one of 188 tons and the other of 66 tons, arrived. These, coupled with the reduced consumption, led the manager to report, in January 1941, that he had stocks of fuel adequate to meet the reduced demand up to May of that year.
Notwithstanding these restrictions on the use of electrical appliances, in November 1940 the SEB contracting section was ordered to wire the house 'Bonamy,' the FeldKommandant's residence, with 26 plugs and sockets, 6 lights, an electric cooker and extensions to the out-houses. This project was only a part of the work of the contracting section on premises used as military establishments and billeting accommodation.
Once the measures to restrict the consumption of electricity had been approved, attention turned to formulating emergency plans for providing electricity if, for whatever reason, the power station could not operate. Late in July 1940 experiments were carried out to generate electricity from waste, using the Guernsey Railway Company's Refuse Destructor Steam and Electricity Generating Plant, at Hougue à la Perre tram sheds. This plant by this time was some forty years old; it had been designed to burn five thousand tons of refuse annually, to produce four hundred and fifty to five hundred units of electricity per day. Unfortunately, under the prevailing conditions the calorific value of the refuse was so low that even after a quantity of waste paper, cardboard and wood refuse was added, it still had to be mixed with a more combustible material to raise the output to a reasonable level. The committee for the Control of Essential Commodities released ten tons of coal for the experiment, but the results were not encouraging. However, it was considered that, if it became necessary to close the power station, the plant could be used to keep the Marais irrigation system and Lowlands pumping station in operation. Accordingly 500 tons of steam coal were set aside at the plant site as an emergency reserve.
The Controlling Committee asked for a further report, this time to include the effect on island life should the generation of electricity become impossible. Major Barritt Hills reported in January 1941, that although alternative arrangements could be made for pumping water using privately owned generators, there would not be sufficient power to treat it. At the harbour the only source for unloading ships would be the ship's derricks and manual labour. Hospitals without light would be difficult to run and the mental hospital virtually impossible. There would be no way to use the X-ray equipment or to carry out any other electrical diagnoses or treatments.
In the private sector some 4,000 domestic premises would be affected, and of these between 400 and 500 used electric cookers. The prospects of finding alternative means for cooking were not good. About 2,000 commercial premises would be without power, and probably put out of business. The output from bakeries would be seriously reduced by lack of power for dough mixing. Newspapers would be replaced by hand typeset news bulletins and the dairy output would be reduced as the milk would have to be separated by hand. For the health services, cesspits would not be emptied and drains would overflow creating a serious risk of disease. The report went on to draw attention to the effect of a serious curtailment of electricity on the occupying forces. The cessation of power supplies would cut off sites such as Fort George, the Airport, Beaucamps and Les Vauxbelets. It would reduce the effectiveness of wireless communications, and would put out of commission alarm circuits, beacons, searchlights and the lighting in gun pits and dugouts.
The report continued by identifying methods of generating electricity that did not use oil. Although the plant to be used for this was not under the control of the Electricity Board, it could be brought into use in an emergency. The Guernsey Railway Co. Refuse Destructor plant was capable of producing about 45 kW. At the Charroterie Steam Mills, the only plant in the island capable of milling flour would have surplus capacity as a result of the reduced quantity of wheat available. Its steam engine and boiler could be used to drive a 65hp, dc motor from Griffith's Quarry, operated as a dynamo to generate another 45 kW. Together these two sources would be sufficient to meet the vital services connected to the dc network. Huelin's plant, at the North Quay burned wood refuse, and could supply 50 kW ac. By using a standby transformer the output could feed the King's Mills pumping station, the States Dairy and the Telephone Department's emergency battery charging plant at St. Martin's.
In conclusion the report estimated that it would take several weeks to put these proposals into practise. Extra supplies of coal would be needed, and extra costs would be incurred. The potential output of the dc plant was only 85kW whereas the essential load was 145 kW. A system of rationing following a strict timetable would be necessary to match the plant available with the requirements of the various services, and, once the supply from the power station ceased, there would be no electricity available for any other requirements, civilian or military.
In April 1941 a resident of St. Saviour's parish put forward a proposal for generating electricity using his"Doulieu Emergency Motor". He claimed that the equipment which he had designed, would provide a constant supply of power that would be more than sufficient to meet the needs of the States Water Board's pumping stations, without using oil. It was described as a secret process, but an examination by the managers of the electricity and water undertakings, revealed that it was nothing more than a water wheel, and the estimated power output so small as to be of no practical use.
In February 1941 the Star newspaper recorded what it believed was the first case of a person being charged in the magistrate's court, with interfering with the SEB's power lines and apparatus. This charge was coupled with others of abstracting or wasting electricity, and of unlawfully using a radiator, in a room where there was a fireplace. The culprits were two women, who protested that the fireplace was not useable, and consequently they were acquitted on this charge. They further claimed that the interference with the electric lines and apparatus was not carried out by them, or with their knowledge. It had been done before they took possession of the house, and this charge was withdrawn. They did, however, admit that they knew that the meter had been bypassed, and were fined ten shillings for this offence.
The amount of electricity used by the Germans in properties occupied solely by the military, the extra usage in private houses in which army personnel were billeted, and in communal services such as bakeries or workshops used by the army, cannot be quantified with any degree of accuracy. There were many unauthorised and unknown connections, unmetered premises and areas that were out of bounds to meter readers. However, in the first quarter of 1941 the measured German consumption was 25% of total sales. This percentage remained constant over the next two quarters, but with the arrival of the OT unit in August the German share jumped in the last quarter to 52%.
On March 6th 1941 the president of the Electricity Board confirmed to the commandant that, if no more oil arrived the supply of electricity would cease at the beginning of May. The following day an order was issued instructing that lights must not be used during the hours of the curfew, 11pm to 7am. The situation was alleviated for a short while when, on April 15th a small cargo of 98 tons of oil arrived on the Naptha II.
The German authorities had, in the meantime, suggested that the diesel plant in both power stations should be converted to run on town gas that could be produced from the more readily obtainable coal. Both the gas and electricity managers were sceptical. Whilst the Gas Company was reasonably distanced from Les Amballes, the plant in the power station there was old and, not only would it deteriorate quickly but its output would be reduced if fuelled with gas. Insofar as St Sampson's was concerned the gas mains from St. Peter Port were loaded to full capacity.
An engineer, Herr Felix Lehner, representing Messrs. Kloeckner-Humboldt-Deutz, was sent by the German authorities to look into the matter in April 1941. He agreed that, in the case of St Sampson's, the use of town gas was impractical due to the type of engines in use. However, he held to the view that the three Diesel sets in Les Amballes could be converted to run on gas. In doing so he acknowledged that such conversion should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary since two of the machines were now thirty years old. The proposed conversion involved re-commissioning an idle gasometer at the old gasworks site, situated some 220 metres from Les Amballes power station. The production of gas at their new works in the Bouet commenced in December 1882 but the gasometer had been retained when the Les Amballes premises were sold in 1893. It was proposed to install a ten-inch diameter pipe from the gasometer to the Diesel plant, but the Gas Company did not have sufficient pipe to carry out the project. Nevertheless, in May the German authorities ruled that the conversion should go ahead. The president of the Controlling Committee was instructed to write to the Société Générale de Constructions Méchanique (SGCM), Le Courneuve Seine, to order the necessary pipe, and other equipment needed to transfer the gas, and to modify the generators.
It is interesting to note that in Jersey a similar exercise to convert Diesel plant to run on town gas using the same Deutz system was being investigated. The Jersey Electricity Company (JEC) was instructed to place an order for the necessary parts, also with SGCM. On April 18th 1942, when the parts were still undelivered, Dr. Casper informed the JEC that; "a higher authority had decided that the conversion of the Diesel engines to gas shall not be proceeded with", a decision that was, however, reversed 6 months later. Work proceeded during the early months of 1943 on No.1 Mirrlees 580 kW set at the Jersey power station and was finally converted in April to generate electricity from town gas. By September 1943, the Jersey No.2 engine had also been converted. This machine was of the same type and size as No.1 but there were initial problems in paralleling the two sets when running on gas. The problem was eventually resolved and in October the Jersey plant ran, intermittently, on gas in excess of 61 hours. Generating costs were estimated to be reduced by one half penny per unit. After November 1943, there was no further reference to the generation of electricity from gas in Jersey. By this time, the activities of the OT were scaling down in both islands and electricity demand fell. There is no evidence to suggest that the three Diesel engines in Guernsey were converted to generate from gas.
By early May 1941 only five weeks supply of fuel oil remained. Major Barritt Hills reported to the controlling committee that the stock of fuel oil would soon run out, leaving only the emergency supplies. To maintain the electricity supply at its present level, he would need 75 tons per month through the summer and 90 tons per month during the winter. As predicted, by June 18th the emergency reserve of fuel had indeed been broached. After issuing 7½ tons to the Water Board, in accordance with the German's instructions, only 83 tons of usable oil remained, whereas it had been decided that 100 tons should be kept for emergencies. In the autumn, regular supplies of both fuel and lubricating oils became available. Restrictions on civilian consumption remained however, and the number of units sold in the year fell short of 3.4 million, of which the Germans used about one half.
Early in 1942 a report was prepared on the protection of plant and equipment against damage from splinters and bomb blast. It showed that at the power station all main switchgear and generating plant was enclosed by steel and corrugated iron and shielded by sandbags. The remaining plant was protected by steel and brick structures. Protective measures had been taken at the outdoor substations in St Peter Port, but it was considered that such precautions were not necessary in the rural areas as, being inter-linked, damage to any one substation would not necessarily mean an interruption to the supply in the area. An exception to this was made in the case of the substation at the airport. The sandbags surrounding the Albert pier substation had deteriorated and required 1220 replacements.
The supplies of oil that were arriving in the early months of 1942 were not always of an acceptable grade and calorific value. In particular, heavy oil was sometimes brought in, and to enable this to be used the military authorities instructed that it should be mixed with light oil in equal parts. Major Barritt Hills protested that this would do considerable damage to his plant, pointing to the fact that in Jersey it had caused trouble. He therefore sought and obtained permission to use his discretion, and found that a mixture in the proportion 25:75 heavy to light was satisfactory.
Despite the earlier objections to it, the rapidly escalating cost of fuel led to a 20% surcharge being imposed on all bills with effect from February 1941. The provisions of article 10 of the 1933 Law limited the average price at which electricity could be sold to 6½d, and to overcome this obstacle the provisions were suspended by decree. By the following year this tariff again proved inadequate to meet the full costs of running the undertaking. As from the meter readings for the June quarter of 1942, the 20% surcharge was abolished and new rates imposed. The lighting flat rate unit charge became 9d, heating flat rate 5d and the two-part tariff unit charge 4d. The sliding scale for power supplies was abolished and all units were charged at the rate of 2½d.
The prohibitions on the use of appliances, rationing and the increased cost of electricity had the effect of drastically reducing consumption. As a result, for many consumers the quantity of electricity available was so limited that, the fixed charge in the two-part tariff made the average cost per unit too expensive, and many changed to the flat rate.
In addition to the other difficulties experienced at this time, there were continuous incidents of malpractice in matters connected with the electricity systems and installations, by military and OT personnel. The latter in particular, were guilty, amongst other things, of making unauthorised connections to the mains, and using shoddy materials and inferior methods. In June 1942, Major Barritt Hills was instructed to undertake the work of jointing to the SEB network the high and low voltage cables that the Germans were laying from the Vale Mill to a new substation at Bordeaux. On examination it was found that the high voltage cable was below the required standard for connection to the existing 6.6kV mains. In addition the ends of the cable had been cut and not sealed against the absorption of moisture, consequently the manager advised the commandant that the Board were not prepared to accept responsibility for any subsequent failure of the supply.
In Kings Mills, two houses were found to have been connected to the mains by a line attached to a gas bracket, and St Saviour's hotel had been connected with another overhead line. A railway was being constructed from St. Peter Port to Manuelle's quarry. Steel pins had been driven into the road to mark the position of the rails, but the position of the electricity cables had not been ascertained before the work started. Major Barritt Hills warned the commandant that this omission could result in the loss of power to the whole island, and shortly afterwards, damage to a cable outside the Royal Hotel blacked out one half of St Peter Port. In yet another incident the foundations of an anti-aircraft gun emplacement were set out in such a way that they boxed in a feeder pillar supplying power to cranes in the harbour, making access for maintenance impossible.
The annual report for the year 1942 drew attention to a number of occurrences that, in more normal times would have been considered intolerable. It recorded that the running hours of the generating plant at Les Amballes power station had been considerably reduced following the demolition of a cooling tower, that had been removed because it obstructed the view of gun battery crews. At the time tin and white metal for relining the main bearings was unobtainable; therefore there were no means of repairing the extra wear and tear. The situation continued until the following autumn when a new cooling tower became operational. The report also noted that some substations were becoming overloaded, but there were no larger items of plant available. Rectifier bulbs were failing but again, replacements ordered from Germany were caught up in a long waiting list. Added to these problems there were incidents of damage to underground cables during German construction work on their light railway and drainage schemes. The cumulative effect of these incidents was an unacceptable number of outages to which the report drew attention.
As the distribution system at this time comprised both dc and ac supplies the failure of rectifier bulbs constituted a problem, which continued throughout the occupation. In November 1941 the last spare mercury arc rectifier bulb was installed in Albecq substation to replace one damaged by overload, blamed on the illegal use of electric fires and radiators in German billets. Replacements were requested from Siemens of Berlin, but before they arrived St George's substation rectifier suffered the same fate. Making connections with neighbouring substations restored a temporary supply, but this put them all at risk from overloading. Of the four replacement bulbs ordered, only one had arrived by August 1942. This was put into St George's substation, but it was pointed out to the commandant that with the coming of winter, there was a considerable risk of an outage if no more replacements came forward. In December the Richmond substation rectifier failed. In June 1943 there were still no spares in stock. Rosaire substation was out of action, and whilst this was no problem in the summer months, it would be needed to meet the winter load. Replacements arrived one at a time and the tale of woe continued in November when the Manuelle's Quarry substation rectifier bulb failed.
Late 1942 saw another contentious matter come to a head. This time it was the question of who should pay for the electricity used by the occupying forces. The Haigh Convention required that the cost of providing purely military services should be met by the occupying forces, whilst billeting costs, which included the cost of supplying electricity to the sites, should be met by the occupied authorities. At this time the Germans were having problems getting sufficient money to pay their bills. On January 11th 1943, in reply to a request for clarification from the president of the controlling committee, the FeldKommandant ruled that the States should pay the cost of all the electricity consumed by the army and the OT. The single exception to this was that the OT would pay two-thirds of the cost of current supplied to the harbour. The decision was retrospective to the beginning of November 1942.
Major Barritt Hills protested to the controlling committee that the loss of revenue would be extremely serious. By this time the army and the OT were consuming 74% of the total units sold, consequently, if this arrangement were to continue throughout the year there would be a loss of £110,000. Many of the items included in ' billeting services' were beyond the limits of those that would usually be considered as 'just and reasonable'. It was not until December of 1943 that the army headquarters in St. Germain varied the local order and ruled that the OT should pay for all of it's consumption. In addition 25% of the cost of the consumption by the armed forces should be paid by the army, at the rate of 0.20 reichmarks per kilowatt-hour. By this time the financial position of the German forces had deteriorated even further. One unit was refusing to pay its bills, whilst others were paying very late, often with small denomination notes that took the Boards' staff three to four hours to count.
In order to ascertain the consumption of the occupying forces, Major Barritt Hills had earlier requested a list of buildings that they occupied so that he could arrange, insofar as stocks allowed, to have meters installed and periodically read. The Feldkommandant's order AZ 207 of June 10th 1942 prohibited the Board's staff from entering premises under military occupation for the purpose of reading meters. The December 1943 letter from army headquarters, that settled the matter of payment for electricity, further ruled that an assessment of consumption by the armed forces should be made on the basis already adopted in Jersey. There, similar problems had arisen, the German authorities being reluctant to allow meter readers access to the buildings that they occupied. The problem had been resolved by the adoption of a formula whereby the total number of units generated, would be reduced by an agreed percentage to arrive at an assessed total sales figure. From this would be deducted the total of the readings of the civilian meters, leaving the remainder as the German forces consumption; of this the military authorities would pay one quarter.
While this was going on there was friction between the military authorities and the OT. The latter, for some time, had been making connections to the mains, and using electricity from them, without arranging for a supply of oil with which to generate the extra units consumed. Under the arrangements with the controlling committee, the OT was required to arrange for the delivery of the oil needed to meet it's needs, but the cost would be met by the SEB. The FeldKommandant advised the OT that it was the army's responsibility for ensuring that the operation of the electricity undertaking was efficient. Consequently, it was his duty to make certain that the plant and distribution network did not become overloaded, and that an adequate supply of fuel was available. The OT had been using a connected load of 461 kilowatts for months at its new headquarters in Saumarez Park, but had not provided the fuel for the electricity consumed. In the last four weeks alone it consumed 36,000 units. The discovery of this unauthorised connection prompted action by the military authorities and led to the issue of an order that no connections were to be made to the mains without their express permission.
The early months of 1943 brought further restrictions on electricity consumption. In April 1943, the FeldKommandant expressed the view that the quantity of oil used at the power station was excessive. It was demonstrated to him that the consumption of oil per kilowatt-hour generated was quite normal, it was the extra units generated that were causing the rise in fuel consumption. The statistics showed that, during the quarter ending December 1942, the military establishment had consumed 60% of the total sold. The OT had consumed a further 11% and the billeting services 2%. The occupying forces were therefore using nearly 75% of all of the units produced. The consumption at the prison demonstrated the difference in approach to rationing between the civilian population and the military. In one quarter, the wing taken over by the German forces at the prison had consumed 4,102 units, whereas the rest of the prison, under civilian control, had consumed only 709 units. The German prisoners outnumbered the civilians by a ratio of 3:1, whereas electricity consumed was in the ratio of nearly 6:1. It was pointed out that the staff of the undertaking was not in a position to control this consumption. A few weeks later Major Barritt Hills produced a list of houses occupied by army personnel, where he suspected that cookers or heaters were being used. He followed this up, in August, with a list of some 700 houses where German troops were billeted, showing the electricity consumed in each of the houses was excessive.
It was deemed necessary, in 1943, to approve an ordinance that would allow the Electricity Board to modify the stringent safety measures called for in the wiring regulations. The object of the amendment was to protect the Board from any claim that might arise from accidents in houses that, although at the time occupied by civilians, had previously been used as billets by the Germans who had installed sub-standard wiring.
Further restrictions on the use of electricity were introduced on October 26th 1943 when the committee for the Control of Essential Commodities announced the basic ration for the winter period, November to March 1944. Four units were allowed per household per week, with an extra allowance for cooking where no other means were available. This supplement, of between sixteen and forty-five units per week, varied according to the number of people in the house. There was another additional allowance for pumps. The committee issued ration cards for both supplements from the Ladies College. The special allowances for refrigerators, toasters, heaters and irons were withdrawn.
In response to a request from the German authorities, Major Barritt Hills submitted a report in May 1943 on the extent to which an emergency supply could be made available from Les Amballes power station if St Sampson's power station was put out of action. He listed nine premises, which he considered constituted the minimum emergency services. Five of them had a total dc connected load of 225kW and four had an ac connected load of 205kW. The three generating sets at Les Amballes could provide 420kW dc, but after allowing for the losses necessary to run dc/ac converting plant at the substations there would be a shortfall of some 60%. Although diversity in the load could possibly take care of this shortfall, operating a system under these conditions would stretch it to the limit.
It is not known precisely when the largest scheme, for reducing the power stations reliance on oil was first suggested. Also it is a matter of conjecture as to the extent to which the fear of the loss of St Sampson's power station influenced the decision, but by late 1943 the project had reached an advanced stage of development. In October of that year, an invoice for coal 'delivered to OT electricity works' was misdirected to the Board's offices. This suggested that trials of coal fired generating plant were imminent. A RAF aerial reconnaissance photograph, taken in October 1943 but not seen in Guernsey until many years later, showed the station buildings to be substantially complete. It also showed the German railway that ran along Les Banques, and a spur line that entered the power station site from the Gas Company's premises. The manager of the SEB was officially made aware of the project in November 1943, when he was asked to prepare a report on the feasibility of taking over and running the plant.
His study of the plans of the project was followed by a joint inspection with the president of the SEB that resulted in a report for the Board setting out the nature and extent of the installation. The generating plant was housed in two separate engine halls, one containing three producer gas fired generating sets, fuelled by anthracite, and the other a steam turbine-alternator supplied from a tube boiler fired by coal. A substantial reinforced concrete switch house joined the two halls, with a 100,000-gallon open cooling water tank structure on the roof. The power station was located on some 4.25 vergees of land forming part of the Jamouneau Estate in the Petit Bouet, situated to the East of the Gas Company site. It incorporated a large field, which at that time had been used to grow potatoes. These were quickly harvested in the summer of 1942 so that the OT could prepare the site prior to commencing work on the foundations in the early part of 1943. A cooling water dam was constructed in Belle Greve Bay, and pipes for carrying seawater to the holding tank on the switch-house roof were laid underground to the new site. Parts of the dam wall were still visible at low water more than fifty years later.
The gas-fired plant, with a rated output of 720 kilowatts, was due to be commissioned by the end of 1943. The rated output of the steam set was 1,080 kilowatts, and it was to be ready by about April 1944. On the basis of his personal experience with similar plants over a long period, Major Barritt Hills expressed the view that 500 kilowatts and 1,000 kilowatts respectively, would be a more realistic estimate of the capacity of the two sections. This was less than the maximum demand of the island on most days of the year. Consequently, even when both sections of the Bouet power station were operating, it would not be possible to avoid using oil, by closing St Sampson's power station completely, unless further restrictions were placed on the supply of electricity. To avoid this it was suggested that the three power stations should be placed under one control, and the distribution systems interconnected. It was estimated that to operate the new power station, sixteen men would be required in each section, including the operation of the coal-handling plant that was still to be installed. This estimate assumed that adequate mechanical coal-handling plant would be made available. Additional personnel would be needed for the maintenance of the plant and for the transport of coal and ash. By way of comparison, fifteen men at the St Sampson's power station were producing three times the potential output of the Bouet power station. Of these fifteen, five fitters carried out additional work on plant outside St Sampson's.
Major Barritt Hills described the German station as a "war time emergency plant, assembled from such makeshift materials as are procurable". The use of seawater for cooling would, he added, introduce the potential for damage. He could not predict the extent of the risk as, to his knowledge, seawater had not previously been used for cooling in a gas producer plant, other than for cooling the gas scrubbers. Even this had only been tried after the existing steel casings had been replaced with cast iron units. He also foresaw problems with vraic accumulation in the main cooling dam on the foreshore of Les Banques. He concluded that, if both the German authorities and the controlling committee accepted the risks he had set out, he with his staff could operate the new station. It could result in a saving of £38,000 a year, based on the current price of oil at £56 per ton, and of coal at £4.
The Board accepted the recommendations and advised the controlling committee accordingly. On November 19th 1943, the Feld Kommandant instructed that men should be sent immediately to be trained in operating the completed part of the station, the gas generator sets. On January 25th 1944 it was reported that the staff had completed training, but the plant was still not ready to run, a considerable amount of work remained to be done. Three months later, on May 2nd a letter from the Army command in St. Germain ordered that the station at the Bouet should be taken over by the SEB at a time yet to be determined. The letter further requested Major Barritt Hills to appoint the necessary personnel without delay. It appears that the date for the proposed take over was never set, for although the power station generated electricity for the use of the German forces and the OT, there are no records to suggest that any electricity was fed into the SEB network.
The January 1943 decision on the payment for power supplied to premises occupied by the Germans left unresolved the problem as to which of the States organisations should carry the burden. If payment for the force's consumption was left as a shortfall in revenue on the Board's account, it would seriously affect their financial position. On the other hand the States treasury was little better situated to meet the cost, although it was clearly one that should be borne by the general revenue account. A compromise was reached whereby the States would make up the difference between the total revenue of the undertaking and its expenditure. This arrangement was applied retrospectively to the year 1942, but when the accounts for 1943 were available, the full impact of the formula on the long term finances of the undertaking became apparent. If the formula adopted for 1942 continued to be applied no reserve could be accumulated to pay for reconstruction of the undertaking, after the war. It was therefore agreed that the sum paid by the States should be increased by 25%.
The difficulty in finding the money to keep all the services of the States operating at their reduced level persisted throughout the occupation. For the SEB the indications were apparent during the first month of the occupation and to offset the reduction in income the salaries and wages of all staff were reduced as from August 1st 1940. They were partially re-instated in mid 1943, but it was not before January 1945 that the full cuts were restored. In the autumn of 1941 the Board agreed to repay, before it was due, £18,000 of its temporary loans in order to assist the States with its financial problems. The Board further agreed, early in the following year, to employ some of the unemployed persons in the island to demolish unoccupied houses alongside St Sampson's power station, to make space for extensions that would be needed after the war. The net result of the exceptional arrangements made during the occupation is illustrated by the financial state of the undertaking at the end of 1945. Although there was by this time an excess of assets over liabilities of nearly £5,000, the pension fund balance was below the actuarial assessment of the liability by more than twice that amount.
The statistics show that in 1943 the number of units sold exceeded 7½ million, the highest of the occupation period and the highest to that date. Of these about a third were charged to civilian users. It would have been difficult to produce the electricity required, with the generating plant then available, without the significant change in the pattern of demand, which created greater diversity. Whereas in 1939, sales were 5.7 million units, the maximum demand had been 2.87 MW and the load factor 27%. In 1943, with sales of 7.5 million units, the maximum demand fell to 2.25 MW, causing the load factor to rise to 44%. This level was not reached in peacetime until 1965.
Early in 1944, Mr F.H. De la Rue replaced Frederick Hill-Cottingham as president of the States Electricity Board. Mr De la Rue continued to act in this capacity until April 1945, when he retired due to ill health, and was succeeded by Mr. Richard (Dick) H. Johns.
January 1944 saw a slight easing of electricity rationing from the severe limits imposed in the previous October. The basic lighting allowance for households of six or more persons, went up from four to six kilowatt-hours per week, but there was no relaxing the prohibition on the use of electric fires. This extra allowance for lighting did not last long however, and in early May the basic ration was reduced to 2½ kilowatt-hours per week. The supply for cooking was rationed on a sliding scale, the ceiling being for a household of thirteen. These households were previously limited to 57 kilowatt-hours per week, but this was reduced to 40 kilowatt-hours.
This reversion of the rationing policy was due to the order, issued on May 25th 1944 by the German authorities in St. Germain, that the allotment of diesel oil to the island would be reduced by 50%. To accomplish this instructions were issued that the curfew, and other restrictions on the use of electricity, should be strictly enforced. There would be more frequent checking to enforce the curfew, and a stricter application of the penalties for infringements. The German authorities expected that these measures would reduce the fuel consumption to 25 tons of fuel oil per week. There were a number of prosecutions for misuse of power and special investigations of premises in which consumption appeared high. This latter served a double purpose as it revealed more unauthorised connections and installations by the German personnel. The effect on sales, of the increased ration of electricity in the early part of the year, was more than offset by the limitations that followed the reduction in the diesel oil allocation. Only 4.3 million units were sold during the year, some 60% of the quantity sold in 1943.
The instances of disregard for the safety and security of electrical installations that have already been mentioned continued throughout the occupation. Infringements came to light where Germans, billeted in houses with no power supply, had run wires across the road to houses that were supplied. One of the most serious cases of disregard of safety requirements concerned the substation at Fort George. Not only was it broken into, some switchgear removed, new connections made and a time switch installed, but it had been left unlocked and in a dangerous state. Another serious case was discovered at the substation at Les Banques. There a window had been forced, and metal cases of ammunition stored inside in such a way that the door could not be opened, thus blocking access to the high voltage switchgear inside. Despite the commandant's orders forbidding unauthorised entry into substations, this last episode was the third case of forced entry to substations in a matter of a few days.
Soon after eight o'clock in the morning of June 19th 1944, three aircraft dropped bombs on St Peter Port harbour. Although it was rumoured that they were attacking a submarine in the harbour, there was a popular theory circulating that it was a mistaken attack by planes returning from a raid over France. A heavy calibre bomb fell on the inner harbour, causing considerable damage to the shopping centre, including the Board's offices at 25 High Street. Although most of the damage was to the rear of the building facing the harbour, the blast also blew out the showroom window, as well as windows in the offices facing the High Street. The windows and doors on the harbour side were blown in, and the roof and many of the ceilings and partition walls damaged. The main office was so badly affected that it had to be evacuated, and the staff moved to temporary accommodation at 6 - 8 Lefebvre Street, rented for £32 per annum. It was not possible to set about the task of repairing the building due to lack of materials, instead the premises were made wind and watertight pending the end of the occupation. Some members of the male staff continued to work from the offices, but most of the activities were conducted from Lefebvre Street. An architect was appointed to draw up plans and drawings for the reconstruction of the premises, so that they could be put in hand as soon as circumstances permitted.
The allied armies landed in Normandy in June 1944 consequently, from that date cargoes of oil from France became increasingly susceptible to interruption. In August a meeting was held, with an officer from the St. Germain Area Headquarters, to discuss the deteriorating prospects for oil deliveries. He was advised that there was only sixteen weeks supply of oil left, and that in the last quarter of 1943, only 11% of electricity generated went to the civilian population. With the corresponding quarter for 1944 rapidly approaching, there was little left in the civilian ration to be cut, tighter rationing would therefore save little fuel. The only substantial savings that could be made would be by closing the power station through the night. The Headquarters' representative said he would have to consider this proposal. In September the 209 households using electric cookers were asked to confirm that they had no other cooking facilities available. Seventy-nine replied that they had, but only for boiling. Many of these households used their cookers only once a week, others less than that. There were 3,806 households rationed to 1½ units per week. In November the Electricity Controller, on behalf of the Control of Essential Commodities Committee, published a notice banning the use of electric cookers completely, and instructing the SEB to disconnect all of them. The order also notified the public that electricity would, in future, only be available from 6pm to 10pm, except for thirteen of the most vital services. There were a number of specific and general requests for exemption from the ruling including organisations that also did work for the armed forces, such as dentists and chemists. The plea that should have been given the most serious consideration came from the Emergency Hospital Committee. The members were particularly concerned that this restriction would limit the number of operations that could be performed, and that it would severely restrict the operation of the laundry.
As the Allied forces advanced further across France, the importation of all commodities became ever more difficult. The conditions in which the local community existed were such that they could not have been sustained for a long period without suffering serious consequences. In September 1944 Dr A. N. Symons, the Medical Services Officer, advised the Controlling Committee that unless help arrived soon the health of the population would be in a dangerous state.
By this time there was clear evidence that the German authorities in the island were beginning to appreciate the difficult situation in which they were placed. On September 18th 1944 Herr Zachau, from Platzkommanantur, advised Major Barritt Hills that the German authorities were considering steps to put military objectives, such as the electricity undertaking, out of action if the allied forces invaded the island. He was aware that the restrictions on the use of electricity meant that the installed capacity of generating plant was in excess of immediate requirements, but he was reluctant to destroy this excess plant and invited the manager to suggest alternative ways of achieving the objective.
Major Barritt Hills asked whether this suggestion was put forward because the Germans recognised that, in the event of an attack they would be unlikely to escape from the island, and that they wished to avoid taking any extreme actions that could lead to repercussions later. Herr Zachau's reply gave the clear impression that this was in fact the case and action was agreed on a suggestion put forward by Major Barritt Hills. The fuel pumps or pump valves of the three generators at Les Amballes power station, and of the plant considered to be in excess of requirements at St Sampson's power station, would be packed ready for removal at short notice. They would remain at the St Sampson's power station for so long as the German sentries remained on guard there. The day after these discussions took place the German authorities gave instructions that the proposed procedure should be implemented. An armed guard had been on duty at the power station for the last three years of the occupation, presumably to guard against sabotage of important instruments, but he also maintained a half-hourly log of the quantity of fuel used.
In January 1945 Oberst Von Helldorf, Chief-of-Staff to Von Schmettow the island commander, wrote to the Bailiff regarding the rumours that the measures being taken by the occupying powers to alleviate the conditions of the civilian population were inadequate. He listed the steps that were being taken, and went on to point out that conditions in Guernsey compared favourably with those in France. He reported that, after long delays and repeated enquiries in England, the first International Red Cross ship had arrived and that the representatives were in the process of ascertaining the position in the islands.
The Vega had arrived from Lisbon on December 27th 1944. In addition to observers, it carried more than 42,000 Red Cross standard prisoner of war parcels donated by the International Red Cross in Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain. The ship also carried invalid parcels from St. John's Prisoner of War Fund, medical supplies and consignments of essential commodities such as flour, soap and clothing, but no fuel. The general situation of the adult civilian population, which at this time was around 20,000, was deteriorating. On January 19th the Platzkommandantur in St Helier, ordered that all stocks of lubricating oil, in excess of one litre, whether used or unused, must be handed in to the Civil Transport Service. The electricity supply to the dairy was disconnected, and on January 20th an order was published restricting the sale of separated milk to those entitled, to ½ pint per day.
When, on February 1st, there was still no news of the Vega returning with more parcels and supplies, the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey sent a message to the International Red Cross via the Germans, appealing for more stocks of flour. Existing stocks in the Islands were only expected to last for another ten days. Jersey also requested grain, but this was of no use in Guernsey as there was no electricity with which to mill it. In Jersey the JEC was operating the German built power station. The Vega arrived on February 7th. but again there was no fuel. By February 20th there were rumours that electricity would be completely cut off. A few days later these rumours were confirmed when the ultimate order on electricity was published, "By Order of the German forces the present restricted supply for the general public will terminate completely on and after Monday next 28th inst". The accompanying notice in the Star explained that this action was taken to extend the time in which the electricity supply would be available for essential services, which included the water supply. Despite this, on March 10th a further notice announced that, due to lack of diesel for pumping, water consumption was reduced to that required for drinking and cooking only. On March 12th the supply was further restricted due to lack of electricity for pumping and purification. From that date water was only available between the hours of 08.30 and 10.30 am, and between 6.00 and 7.00 pm. By the end of March the availability of electricity for even essential services was becoming more limited. A Gazette Officielle notice advised that owing to lack of fuel for the laundry, persons entering the Emergency Hospital should bring their own sheets and pillow slips. At this time the hospital was supplied with electricity from 6pm to 10pm only.
In April a cargo of coal arrived from which the Gas Company was required to produce coke, equal to 20% of the weight of the coal. The first 100 tons of coke was to be used for the civilian population, the remainder was to be used in the gas producer plant at the OT power station in the Bouet, to generate electricity for essential civilian services. None was to be used for German combative purposes. However in response to a request from the German authorities, a small amount of gas was allocated to the German hospital. To ensure that the policy was carried out the International Red Cross officials required that the Germans should provide all relevant information, and that joint discussions should be held to determine which of the essential civilian services should be connected to the OT mains.
The Vega paid its fifth and final visit to the island on May 3rd 1945; over the five months period it had brought in 4,000 tons of food, without which the population of Guernsey would have starved. Five days later, on May 8th a proclamation was issued stating "the German occupation, which we have endured since June 30th 1940, is now ended". The Star published the news in a special edition of the newspaper, which, under the banner headline 'the War is over for Guernsey', announced that the Germans had confirmed to the Bailiff, at 10 am that morning, that the war was over in the Channel Islands as well as elsewhere. On Sunday May 13th vehicular traffic reverted to driving on the left-hand side of the road, and by May 15th nearly sixty ships had brought in the first relief stores. A few days later the rationing of electricity came to an end and on May 24th all restrictions on the use of water were lifted.
The effect of the occupation on the finances of the undertaking has been noted already, the few following statistics illustrate one of the major causes of this.
|Year||Units generated||Fuel cost (£)||Cost per unit (d)|
The fuel cost per unit generated of 3.66d(1.525p) was not reached again until after the oil shocks of the seventies.