Requisition of land and buildings

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A rudimentary map showing fields below the western end of the Airport runway which were requisitioned

From the earliest days of the German Occupation the occupying troops began to requisition properties, homes and land for a variety of purposes, and also took whatever else they wanted, whether it belonged to commercial organisations or private individuals [1]

Immediately after their arrival in the summer of 1940, the Germans took over hotels, which were otherwise unoccupied, as accommodation for troops. In some respects this worked to the advantage of the general population, because the tourism industry, which had enjoyed a boom during the late 1930s, came to a standstill with the arrival of the Germans and a substantial number of hotels and guest houses were empty and could accommodate large numbers of the invaders, limiting the need to requisition private homes.

But large country houses were not immune to the German's grasp, and many were taken over to house officers and their staff. Furniture and household equipment were transferred at will from one location to another, and meticulous record keeping ensured that the majority of these moves were diligently documented.


As the Germans settled in, the next phase of their requisition of land and property was the compulsory acquisition of any building which was in the firing line of artillery positioned to defend the island's coastline. Family homes were demolished, the bungalows which lined the coast along the length of Grouville Bay, St Ouen's Bay, Ouaisne and other locations disappeared one after the other (never to return after the war's end). And progressively fields were acquired to allow the construction of more substantial defensive installations.

Every acquisition of such land was meticulously recorded. In many cases farmers were permitted to continue to harvest their potatoes and other crops until work commenced on the construction of bunkers and other defences. In some instances this work never started and there were frequent attempts to return unwanted land to agricultural use.

Landowners were naturally incensed at the 'theft' of their property and particularly so when they saw the start of construction work and the movement of soil which would never allow their fields to be returned to their previous use.


The occupiers also requestioned thousands of cars and other motor vehicles. Some had been left behind by evacuees, some could simply not be used by their owners because of a shortage of fuel, and some models were particularly attractive to the German troops. Many vehicles were shipped out of the island to be used in France, and few of their owners received compensation amounting to anything like their true value.


... and the rest

After their arrival in 1940, the Germans may have imported military equipment by the boatload, but it quickly became obvious that they had brought little or nothing in the way of requirements to sustain a large military garrison, nor their civil administration of occupied territory.

So they took everything they needed, or wanted, from the island's population. And with typical Teutonic efficiency, they ensured that every item was meticulously catalogued by the States Essential Commodities department.

Hundreds of requisition forms are now in the safe keeping of Jersey Archive, and in 2023 they scanned them and made them available in their online catalogue. They show the enormous variety of items requisitioned by the occupying forces. Whether it was kitchen equipment, a carpet for a hospital ward, a typewriter for office staff or a billiard table for the entertainment of the troops, the Germans knew where to find what they wanted, and issued orders for its removal.

The location of some items was obvious - the Germans took over empty hotels for accommodation, and set about moving items from one premises to another, each carefully catalogued, down to the last chef's jacket, tin opener, carving knife, carpet brush, kettle and dozen rolls of toilet paper.

Typewriters, radios and bicycles

Among the most frequently requisitioned items were typewriters, radios and bicycles; the largest included two billiard tables, one taken from the Merton Hotel to Villa Millbrook, and another from the Royal Yacht Hotel to the Mayfair Hotel, for the enjoyment of German officers in their billets.

Portelet Holiday Camp appears to have been extremely well stocked for the 1940 summer season which never materialised, but the Germans changed that by moving countless items to their confiscated premises across the island. The camp features on many requisition forms, providing kitchen equipment and bedding for use in other hotels and carving knives, a tin opener and chefs' jackets, among other things, to St Ouen's Manor.

Quite how the Germans knew where to find typewriters and other essential office equipment in private homes is uncertain, but find them they did, some in the first month of Occupation, and then sent the Honorary Police to do their bidding and 'liberate' what they wanted. Typewriters were also acquired from retailers and a school of typing, and, even though islanders were to be banned from listening to their radios and forced to hand them in, the Germans made sure that they could listen to news from home on the latest radiograms removed from dealers who otherwise had no customers.

Not everything went direct from original owner to where the Germans wanted it. There was a central holding depot at Beau Sejour, Gloster Terrace, 45 Rouge Bouillon. There are nearly 200 requisition orders, out of the 1,200 revealed by Jersey Archive, which record the movement of property in and out of there. We have not so far been able to establish exactly how this depot was administered and the degree to which States officials helped the occupying forces, but among the requisition documents are those, including the one pictured here on the left, which indicate that this was a States property. And this record indicates that some items seized from Chateau Plaisir on the orders of the Germans were then put to use by the States to furnish a Red Cross Letter Office.

Under international law 'seizure', 'requisition' and 'expropriation' of property during enemy occupation of territory in wartime have different meanings

It is also not clear to what extent those whose property was requisitioned were compensated, and by whom. Under international law, requisition is distinct from seizure and presupposes that owners will be compensated for the loss of their belongings. The requisition forms include the stipulation that owners should supply information regarding the wholesale price of their goods, which may have had some meaning for shops supplying new items, but will have had little relevance for individuals who were required to hand over a used typewriter or bicycle, or hoteliers, who no longer had access to their properties from which carpets and kitchen equipment were taken.

Requisition documents

Images of various land and building requisition documents [2]

Books of requisition forms

These and hundreds of other requisition forms can be accessed by subscribers to the Jersey Heritage online catalogue, using the reference D/AU/V9

The story of a requisitioned typewriter

The paper trail showing the requisitioning of a typewriter from Wholesale Supplies, on 27 July 1940, less than four weeks after the start of the Occupation. The removal of the typewriter, which was similar to that pictured here, by Centenier P Laurie was officially recorded in October 1940. The business was not compensated for its loss which, valued at £30, was worth the equivalent of over £2,000 at 2023 values.

The documents here include a request that Centenier Laurie be allowed access to the closed business to take the typewriter for use by the German forces, and representative Mr J Willcox's agreement.

Fast forward to July 1946 when, over a year after the end of the Occupation, the typewriter was located and returned to its owner. There is no indication of what condition it was in, and presumably it could no longer be sold at its original price.

Fast forward to 2023 and these typewriters are still widely available on auction sites, but at prices in the region of £200, it would not have been worthwhile keeping it for 80 years to cash in on a sale.

Notes and references

  1. Effectively the Germans took whatever they wanted, and in most cases offered little or no compensation at the time. Many islanders who suffered losses applied for and were granted compensation under post-war schemes administered by the British Government and the States
  2. These documents are held by Jersey Archive. Visit The Archive online catalogue for more information. A subscription may be needed to view some of the site's content
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