La Valette Underground Military Museum

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     La Valette Underground Military Museum , represents but one of Guernsey ’s 41 tunnel sites started during the German Occupation from 1940 - 1945.


    This legacy from the second world war is typical of the engineering achievements to be left on British soil by the Germans.

     This particular tunnel, designated as a Hohlgang, was conceived and built to be a fuel store for the eventual re-fueling of U-boats. The idea of having this fuel‘farm’underground was to protect it from aerial bombardment as the Germans had experienced some problems with the RAF bombing fuel tanks adjacent to Castle Cornet. The U-Boats, were to have been re-fueled in the bay behind the Aquarium tunnel (which is nearby) and fuel pumped through to the vessels mooring.  The tunnel complex was never completed due to time running out for the Germans as supplies from France were cut off shortly after D-Day on 6th June 1944.  However, the Germans were known to have been engaged in trying to complete the installation up to February of 1945 with what materials they had on the island.


     The fuel tanks which were installed in the tunnel, were designed and built in Bremen ( Germany ) by the Frank Werke. This firm is no longer in business (courtesy of the RAF). However, they were transported to the island in sections. These sections were then welded on site. During this operation there was a fatality as one of the tanks rolled whilst being welded.



     The tunnel complex was built with enforced labor of which some 50 to 80 members of the Organization Todt were actively engaged. The Germans were not known for their generosity towards their ‘Slave Workers’ on this project (as on others) and it is known that men who worked on this tunnel, were often enforced to work for up to 21/2 days at a time without rest and were fed on a meagre ration of cabbage and water.

    The tunnel bays were designed in such a way that if any of the tanks were ruptured or sprung a leak, the whole of the contents could be contained within the pool beneath each tank or alternatively, the oil would be allowed to drain away through the drains which were installed.

    Subsequently during the conversion of the tunnel into the museum, the fire .brigade pumped some 1500 gallons of water through one of the drains at full bore, the drain appeared to take it all within its stride and sucked the lot up!

    After the Occupation, the underground fuel store was almost forgotten, while Guernsey tried to return to normal life.  However, after two years the oil in the tanks was looked at with great interest, as there was an acute shortage of suitable oil for the heating of glass houses.   

   It was during the latter end of 1947 that the fuel tanks were to be removed.  After a cliff fall outside the tunnel, fuel tank No. 3 was destined never to see the light of day. This particular tank was to be a headache to us when the conversion of the tunnel complex was undertaken.

     This museum was some two years in the making! After the idea, came the work to transform a dream into a reality. Not an easy thing to do, considering the condition of the tunnel when the feasibility study was undertaken. After this study (when we had satisfied ourselves that it was not only feasible but financially possible), did the real work start with trying to persuade the authorities that it was a good idea. Initially discussions took place with the States of Guernsey Board of Administration during 1986. The response from the Board was favorable. This then enabled us to negotiate with the States Engineers (to ascertain the structural safety of the tunnel), the Island Development Committee, States Building Control and finally back to the Board of Administration. After the above had taken place, some 12 months had passed us by and already the cost of the conversion had risen!



    Work on the conversion started in earnest during December of 1987 on excavating the tunnel entrances (one to provide a main entrance and the second to provide an emergency exit). It had been decided for reasons of safety, to build an extension to the existing tunnel lining to afford protection in case of falling debris from the cliff face. In addition, steps and vehicle ramps were incorporated into the design and built. The back connecting tunnel between the fuel tank bays had to be completed. This was to enable our prospective visitors to view the unfinished tunnel in safety. While all of this was 'going on', sub contractors were being organized to; completely re-wire the complex, install air conditioning, fit smoke detectors, fit emergency lights, fit the alarm system, fit fire alarms, spray paint the whole interior and of course the one remaining fuel tank had to be 'sorted out'! In order to make the fuel tank safe, it was necessary to pump the remaining 500 gallons of fuel out and fill it with water (to prevent explosive gases from 'lingering). However, the supports underneath the tank were then deemed to be unsafe and so new block support walls had to be built. In order to prevent further rusting of this monumental edifice, it had to be descaled and sprayed with a rust preventative priming paint to arrest the decaying process. After all this of course, the cabinets had to be made and lined, wired up and glazed. Following which dummies had to be dressed, Exposed tunnel lining description cards had to be organized, pieces for uniforms had to be found to complete those that were lacking of something or other and of course the restoration of many of the exhibits which are on display was being undertaken. The original date for opening was to have been during April 1988. However, after some delay the museum finally opened its doors during the last days of August 1988.

Building work in 1944

Workman huts in 1944