16th December 1927
Occupation author Michael Ginns is born
Were it not for Jersey-born Michael Ginns, we would know a lot less not only about the Channel Islands’ occupation but also the fortifications built by the occupying forces. As Gilly Carr explains in her book, Legacies of Occupation: Heritage, Memory and Archaeology in the Channel Islands, in 1986 “Michael Ginns… wrote a 72-page report arguing for the official preservation and designation of 15 German fortifications in the island as Sites of Special Interest (SSI). This followed a report written earlier that was used to get permission to restore the command bunker at Noirmont”.
Not only a report, but also a film. His obituary, posted to the Channel Islands Occupation Society website reveals that “Michael was also responsible (with David Bishop) for producing ‘Scars on the Landscape’ in 1977 – an iconic ciné film (and later video) that called for the recognition of the historical significance and value of the German fortifications alongside the Island’s romanticised castles and round towers. He felt that, rather than lie buried and forgotten, these concrete relics should be preserved and properly interpreted for the benefit of future generations.”
The Channel Islands Occupation Society, of which Ginns was a founding member, was thus given custody of the bunker at Noirmont, which was opened for visits from the general public. It was an immediate success. Despite not being fully restored at that point, locals and visitors alike flocked to the site, and Ginns recounts in Carr’s book how there would still be a queue of 200 waiting to get in at closing time.
A prolific author
Ginns wrote many books himself and, when he died on 2 February 2017, he left behind a significant body of work documenting the effects of the occupation on the Channel Islands.
During the war he had been held at Bad Wurzach, where he’d been sent with several hundred Channel Islanders, aged just 14, in retaliation for British internment of German subjects in Persia. In the years following the war, he was a leading light in the successful campaign to have Bad Wurzach twinned with St Helier and, in 1995, he was awarded an MBE for services to the public.
FREE Jersey history newsletter
Don't miss our weekly update on Jersey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.