A NEW account of the Occupation defends Islanders against the charge of widespread collaboration. In The Changing Face of the Channel Islands Occupation – Record, History and Myth, author Dr Hazel Knowles Smith seeks to counter a ‘general trend of vilification’ which she believes is prevalent in today’s national press and among UK authors. Her 288-page assessment of the Channel Islands’ five years under German rule concludes that collaboration was rare and the actions of the wartime authorities were perfectly justified in the circumstances. She also agrees with the commonly held view among islanders at the end of the war that it was a mistake for the UK government not to bring suspected collaborators to trial. This, she argues, would have gone some way to quell the controversy that lingers today. Dr Knowles Smith, who comes from Yorkshire and had no link to the islands before her study, save visiting Guernsey as a youngster, says she did not specifically set out to debunk recent books on the Occupation – the best known by Guardian journalist Madeleine Bunting – but that is one of the clear conclusions of her work. Ms Bunting’s 1995 book The Model Occupation caused widespread consternation locally when it claimed that the majority of islanders were ‘more quiescent than other Europeans’ and that collaboration was the norm. But after five years of research, Dr Knowles Smith is in no doubt that Ms Bunting is wrong. ‘I would say, “it’s time, Ms Bunting, to admit that your conclusions were wrong”,’ she said. ‘It is undeniable that there was collaboration, but if you look at reports of the time it was a small percentage of the population.
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