In 2005, sixty years on, Alderney designated December 15th as Homecoming Day - a public holiday to celebrate the return of the islanders after six years of exile in their own country. (In the picture above, one of the two players on the right may be John McCarthy)

Unlike the other Channel Islands, just about everyone left Alderney when ships arrived offering help, thus giving the Nazis a clear field - to do as they wished with the island.

On Hitler's personal instructions it was turned into a land battleship, a key bulwark of the Atlantic Wall. Four concentration camps (the only ones ever built on British soil) housed thousands of slave labourers from all over Europe (including the Channel Islands) who, in conditions of appalling deprivation, converted the island's picturesque Victorian forts into a Speer-inspired nightmare. No-one knows how many died.

And as the flag was pulled from the plaque that commemorates their struggle, Charlie Greenslade played 'There's No Place Like Home' - on John McCarthy's old cornet!

If only the boat wouldn’t wallow and lurch

D F#m7 Em7 A
If only the sea would be still

For I’m certain I spotted the spire of the church

D A7 D (F#in bass) D
Surviving there, high on the hill

A A(g bass) D (F#bass) D
And all of us islanders huddled on deck

G D A A(G in bass)
All peering ahead through the mire

At houses all ruined and fields all in wreck

D A (G) D
And headlands all concrete and wire


Home, Homecoming Day

We’ve been far too long far away

G A D Bm
Banished and scattered we did all we could

G D Em A
Now we’re coming back as we promised we would

D Em F#m G G
To mend and make do and renew and make good.................

Em A G D
Home, Homecoming Day

Em A G D


So different, so beautiful, five years ago

A rising-lark morning in June

But the wireless is warning that France is laid low

The shadow must fall on us soon

And even the gulls couldn’t drown out the sound

Of gunfire a hand-stretch away

With the Angelus tolling high over the town

We go down to the Butes to parlez


Judge French said, my friends, our choices are stark

We’ve just forks against mortar and shell

With our soldier-lads trapped with the rest at Dunkerque

We must fly or we’ll meet that same Hell

I’ve sent for ship - pray she gets here in time

Now go and pack one bag apiece

And young John McCarthy he’s stood in the line

With his cornet instead of his case


And that’s how we last saw her, our island so fair

With every heart breaking in two

Our animals slaughtered, our cupboards laid bare

And treasures hid quickly from view

And what have they done in the time we’ve been gone?

Such terrible stories we hear

Of slavery, cruelty, torture and pain

And death in our clean island air


Now we’re rounding the breakwater into Braye Bay

A welcoming party we see

The early arrivals and soldiers arrayed

And flags all bedecking the quay

And there’s John McCarthy his cornet in hand

He’s carried it clean through the war

He makes his salute and he strikes up the band

And “No Place Like Home” rolls from the shore*