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ICRC in WW II: working on the Atlantic coastline


How the ICRC helped the population of the German-occupied Channel Islands and civilians in German-controlled coastal towns after D-Day

In June 1940, the British Channel Islands, situated off the coast of Normandy, were occupied by the German army. From 1940 to 1944, the ICRC sent the population parcels supplied by the British Red Cross.

In 1944, however, after the liberation of France, the situation of these islands became alarming. They were still occupied by the German army, which was now cut off from its rear and living entirely off local resources. These resources were all the more inadequate as the most recent harvests had been disastrous.

After obtaining the consent of the German and British authorities, the ICRC brought fresh supplies to the islands on one of its ships, the SS Vega. During the winter of 1944-1945, it made five voyages between Lisbon and the ports of Jersey and Guernsey. Each voyage was accompanied by ICRC delegates, who monitored the distribution of the relief supplies.


 Plight of civilian population  

Meanwhile, after the allied landings in France, the German garrisons in the ports of Lorient, St Nazaire, La Rochelle, Royan and Dunkirk were surrounded by hostile forces, and the civilian population in them faced a difficult situation.

At the request of the French government, the ICRC attempted to bring these people some supplies. To do so, it needed to obtain the consent of the German authorities and negotiate truces enabling its delegates to cross the lines and deliver the relief (by sea, road or railway).

Some 2,300 tonnes of provisions were sent and d istributed in this way, in a total of seven operations.