CIOS Walk at Blanches Banques

A rare guided tour of the remains of the WW1 camp built by the British for German POWs. Posted 7 June 2012

I had the opportunity yesterday to go on a guided walk around the sand dunes at St Ouen’s Bay. It is a beautiful part of Jersey and a designated Site of Special Interest, due to the unique habitat the dunes provide.

The point of the walk was to show what remained of the World War One POW camp at Blanches Banques. This was a camp for German POWs, built for the British. While the German fortifications from World War Two and the Occupation of the Channel Islands are more well known, Jersey has a very long history. I went along to learn more about World War One.

The camp housed 1500 prisoners, had 48 prisoner huts, and even had a hospital and tennis court. The British garrison manning it was approximately 150 men, separated from their prisoners by guard towers and 10 foot tall barbed wire. For more background on WW1 Jersey Tourism and greatwarci.net have pages explaining it in greater detail.

CIOS President Paul Burnal with Bob Le Sueur

CIOS President Paul Burnal with Bob Le Sueur

Blue Badge guide Martin Walton

Blue Badge guide Martin Walton

It was threatening to rain at the start, then finally did rain during the walk. I was a bit worried about the camera since it got soaked, but here are the photos I took. I guess a little rain didn’t hurt after all.

We arrived at the Blanches Banques car park and headed over to the start of the walk. Several tables were set up with photos and military helmets. Frankly, I forgot to ask what kind of helmets they were. They could be German or British, I haven’t a clue. Wish I had asked now.

The walk was led by guides Martin Walton and Colin Isherwood. They’d gone to the trouble of printing old photographs of the camp, and put up signs at the various points of the camp. All that remains today are some concrete foundations and marker stones.

La Rocco Tower in the distance

La Rocco Tower in the distance

We started with an illustrated talk, describing the layout of the camp and the history since it was constructed. I’ve walked around the dunes just south of here and I never suspected this was anything noteworthy. It looks like some old buildings’ foundations and some odd-shaped walls. It takes an experienced guide to breathe life back in to it and re-create the scene.

Jersey is quite an interesting place with lots to see, so I’m happy to go to events like this. I see Bob Le Sueur about once a week at something like this, so I must be doing something right! He is able to tell of his experiences and memories from WW2 onward, and he knows much of the history from his own experience. This camp predates him by one year, so we were all learning something new.

If this interests you, you can see the planned events for the rest of 2012 on the CIOS Jersey website, or just come to one of the bunker openings and pick up a list to take home, they’re free.

Many thanks to the guides and the people who put together the materials and set everything up, I appreciate it and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

If you want to see more posts like this do visit Jersey Heritage’s blog, they do similar posts. That link is a particularly good one from last year.