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My parents fell in love with Jersey the first time we visited and we've been frequent visitors ever since. It might only be a small island but there is plenty to do and see. The German Underground Hospital is only one of those things and it really is worth a visit.
~~ Background ~~
In 1941, there were orders for Jersey to be turned into an underground fortress - somewhere where they would be safe from any kind of attack. Captured labourers were forced to work 12 hours a day on minimum resources to make this happen. It wasn't just the people of Jersey who were forced to labour, but others were brought it from European countries without a choice. It was originally built to store ammunition and to act as n artillary repair facility. In 1944, fearing attack, the Germans turned it into an Underground Hospital for casualties that might come as a result.
These are no ordinary tunnels as they are well thought out in every way. The tunnels were made by explosions using gunpowder and then covered in concrete. The tunnels were built at a slight slope in order to keep them moisture free - the slope allowing any water to drain away. It was important to keep them dry so they could store weapons and ammunition along with hospital equipment and anything else they may need to fight and win. They even thought through the location is terms of termperature so it would remain the same all year round.
~~ My Opinion ~~
The underground hospital has now been turned into a museum and reopened to the public and anything that could be naturally restored has been. It is a stark reminder to the people of Jersey of a time most want to forget. The people of Jersey remember the men by a simple plaque:
"Under these conditions men of many nations laboured to construct this hospital. Those who survived will never forget; those who did not will never be forgotten." (There might be a wrong word here but i've visited so many times i'm pretty sure it's correct).
I think that fact that they have remembered it in such a way speaks volumes. The second world war was a horrific time for many and this hospital only goes to show some of the things the people of Jersey encountered.
When my parents first mentioned the idea of visiting here, i have to admit i wasn't at all interested. The idea of visiting a place that reminds you of hard times and death never really appeals to me but i thought i'd give it a go. After all, you can always leave again it is isn't your cup of tea.
You enter the underground hospital straight into the tunnels that they would have built and i have to say it was extremely eerie. As you continue on, you can see the reality that people faced when this was being built - not only for the labourers but for everyone involved. The tunnels are quite small so you can imagine the smoke and dust that would have caused severe coughing fits from the labourers who had no choice but to work or be beaten.
As you walk down the tunnel, you can feel the slope it was built on and to this day, it seems to work. The air is dry and the hospital doesn't seem to have suffered from any moisture damage like you would expect. The temperature was supposed to remain constant all year round, but we found it quite cold throughout most of it. This is probably because they were counting on cramped conditions, not just tourists visiting an attraction.
There are artifacts, texts and recordings throughout the hospital along with reconstructed hospital beds, operating theatres and other pieces of interest throughout and i can assure you that you won't be bored in here. One thing i didn't expect was sound effects and it surprised me that they had gone this far. It's very emotional to hear the sounds and it actually made me want to leave - the stark reality of the conditions really hits home.
It's not all one big tunnel so there are numerous things to see. The room that once held the operating table has been recontstructed - there are others but this one stands out the most. In places that didn't contain anything or that couldn't be restored, exhibitions have been set up to show Jersey life and the occupation of Jersey.
~~ Location ~~
It is located in St Lawrence in Jersey and it's easy to get there by car or by bus.
~~ Admission ~~
Admission is expensive at around £9 each but it's well worth the money. There is also a cafe on site which isn't that expensive and serves good food/snacks which you'll need after visiting the hospital.
~~ My Verdict ~~
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who's interested in history - especially world war 2. It does have an eerie feeling to it and it's not something you forget in a hurry either so if you get quite upset by things, i'd give this one a miss. Although admission is very pricey, they make it a very worthwhile experience and i don't think my review has done it justice. This will take you on a roller coaster on emotions and you'll think yourself very lucky that you weren't involved in any of it.
~~ Extra Bits ~~
Just a couple of pieces of information for anyone who is thinking of visiting. I think it's only open from March until Novemeber so you might want to check opening if you're holidaying outside of those times.
Wear a jumper! It can be especially cold within the tunnels and a vest top (yes, i was mad) definitely doesn't do it! The toilets are also especially cold so be prepared!
I have visited Jersey three times now and on the last occasion as I was a lot older than my previous visits I decided that I wanted to visit the German Underground Hospital.
I have always been interested in history and had studied World War 1 and World War 2 at school so I found this of particular interest, however somewhat saddened me that I was actually going to visit a place that was occupied by the Germans, and was something that I had never done before.
The Underground Hospital is based is St Lawrence in Jersey and has now been restored into a similar state as it was back in the 1940's and re-opened as a museum. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Jersey. Jersey was occupied by the German's in 1940. The Hospital was built by the people of Jersey, and other European countries, where the Germans had moved them to make the Underground Tunnels. Initially it was built as an artillery repair facility and in 1944, it was turned into a hospital for casualties.
When you walk up to the tunnel, it does have an eerieness about it. It is open and you can see straight down the tunnel and at the entrance it has a big red cross above it. As you start to walk down the tunnel it does slope down and the further you start to go down, the colder it gets, whether that is because it is actualy cold I don't know or whether it is psychological relating to the place and what actually happened in there.
The museum is full of various different tunnels that all interlink into each other. IN majority of the places there originally wasn't nothing there and they have been turned into exhibitions relating the occupation of Jersey itself, however it does have certain rooms in which they have made to look exactly how they were back in the 1940's including rooms like the Operating Theatre. It also has secured what was part of a unfinished tunnel.
As you walk around, in a lot of the places they do play sound effects which is quite disturbing in its own right and I did get saddened by this.
The Tunnels also have a Garden that you can go into which is more settled and tranquil, but again it is sad to walk around as they have plaques of the names of the people that died as a consequence of the German invasion.
Its a worthwhile attraction to visit in Jersey and costs in and around the region of £10 to get in. The do have a cafe in there, however I did not go into this and they do have a souvenir shop as do all attractions.
An underground hospital complex built during the German occupation.