The Channel Islands, while nearer to France than the UK, enjoy a unique constitution being subject to the Crown but not Parliament (they are a 'Royal Peculiar'). While the population are not obliged to fight unless the Islands are threatened, over 8,000 Islanders served King and Country. Of these one-fifth never returned – the highest fatality rate of any area of Great Britain.
In addition, 2000 French residents were conscripted into the French Army. Pre 1914 large numbers had settled in Canada to pursue fishing, boat building and farming. Yet more fought with the Canadian Army.
The departure of so many men had a serious affect on agriculture and potato growing in particular which had both an economic impact and caused shortages for export to GB.
We learn how defences were established to prevent invasion which was a real threat. The French developed a large seaplane base in Guernsey as part of the anti-U-boat war. A POW camp was built and, despite being unusually luxurious, many Germans attempted to escape.
The book covers the social changes that war brought; in particular the work of women both on the mainland and in voluntary services in France and at home. Many interesting characters emerge; Prince Blucher who owned the island of Herm and whose son served in the Guernsey Militia, the Dame of Sark's service in the VAD; Lawrence of Arabia; Elinor Glyn, socialite and sex symbol, became war correspondent for the News of the World.
Twenty-two years later the Channel Islands saw war at first hand an a former German POW became the first Kommandant.
The author paints a varied tableau of events and personalities in what is a fascinating and never previously told story.
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