German Occupation Museum owner in plea for States help

A LACK of promotion and investment in winter tourism has had a devastating impact on the industry, one museum owner has said, as visitor numbers continue to fall.


Richard Heaume has kept the German Occupation Museum open all-year round since it first opened its doors in 1966 – the only museum to do so.

He is now calling for the States to take action and urged other tourist attractions to open during the off-peak season.

Over time, Mr Heaume has seen museum visitors decline from 50,000 a year to just 13,000 last year.

Comments for: "German Occupation Museum owner in plea for States help"


13000 people visit it? That's on average just four or so people per hour. (13000 divided by 365 divided by 8). Considering it's one of Guernsey's main attractions, that's pretty empty.


I have visited this museum many times when on holiday in Guernsey and have always been impressed by the sheer volume of exhibits and the fascinating insights they give. I am absolutely amazed that this collection has to be housed in a building which (no disrespect to the owner) is not really fit for purpose, and is not housed in a more suitable premises and with the exhibits shown in a way more relevant to the times we are living in now! Obviously this would require States help. Recently I visited Jersey and the war tunnels. The difference is striking; as a tourist from the UK, the impression I get is that Guernsey has no interest in promoting the island as a tourist destination or has no idea how to do so.


I think you've got a point. In addition to the building, as one of the island's main attractions I can't help but think the Occupation Museum is located in the wrong place for the current tourist market. Ideally it should be in a prime location, preferably within walking distance of the harbour to encourage some of the cruise ship passengers to go along - instead it's hidden away behind the Forest church.

Somewhere like the old slaughterhouse would be ideal - although of course the big fly in the ointment as always is the cost to get hold of the building and relocate it.

On the subject of travel, the links to the island are expensive but I have to say I travelled on Condor Liberation just after Christmas and it was so smooth I barely knew we were moving. Admittedly we caught a good day as the boat was nearly empty and the sea like a millpond but it was a surprisingly pleasant experience!

Victor Meldrew

The day is rapidly approaching when the owners of the occupation museums at Forest, Vassalerie and La Vallette will, because of age, health or some other reason no longer be able to continue. The cruise liner companies arrange Occupation Tours, but on two occasions last summer I had to decide an alternative venue for a bus full of visitors because one or other of these museums were not open when we arrived. If these places are to continue then the time has come to plan funding or sponsorship; they provide an invaluable insight not only for visitors, but also schools. If our government does not have the money, then private sponsorship is not beyond the means of the larger financial institutions. If Specsavers can put an enormous amount back into this community, then its time to put out the begging hat to some of these other institutions who have been welcomed to Guernsey.


Of course we will bail him out, and also perhaps our hotels, beach cafes, restaurants, Herm Trident, Sark shipping taxis, etc, etc. as they say that they are all suffering from a reduction in visitors.

Nice try but perhaps the fault lies with our terrible travel links to the islands, plus the high costs of getting to, and staying on the island the island.

It's the sign of the times, get over it, or pack it in.


Move it all to the Castle and set up an exhibition there.


Sorry was a little harsh with my last comment. Wouldn't like to see the museum go as it is quite unique. Yes Castle Cornet would be a good idea, and bought by the island to keep it going in the future.


Yes, you were rather! The museum is quite remarkable and I hope it continues in perpetuity. Having visited many times I know Richard quite well and would be very surprised if he was asking for any sort of 'bailout'. I haven't seen the full article but I would imagine he he raising awareness of just how far the number of genuine holidaymakers has fallen.

We have all been victims of the States b.s. machine to the extent that anybody who jumps off a cruise ship for an hour's stroll around Town gets counted as a 'holidaymaker'. Obviously that doesn't allow time for an absorbing half day visit several miles from the harbour.

This is what happens when the States have slept on the job for years - we are deeply in the mire with a useless ferry service and expensive fares by both ferry and plane. As usual, the clowns in charge just look the other way.


The truth is that the Occupation Museum and the Underground Hospital are themselves are stuck in a time warp . The Occupation Museum has so many wonderfully interesting relics. documents and artifacts but they are very poorly displayed. Similarly the Underground Hospital with all of its spooky appeal is nothing more than an empty shell that does not live up to its full potential.

If these really are key attractions for the tourist we need to move with the times. Remember a tourist is not just visiting Guernsey they visit many more places throughout the world. People are more sophisticated and demand more than a few glass cases showing artifacts.

What is frustrating is the potential is there to give tourists a real experience and not necessarily at a huge cash outlay. Imagine using some basic cost effective technology in the Underground Museum such as a sound system - the marching of jack boots and the sounds of war. Projectors in the wards showing slides and movies about the Guernsey war experience.

The Occupation Museum needs more room and again an interactive experience to show the real experiences of the occupation. Modern visual technology is not really that expensive.

Last year we visited beautiful Edinburgh and as we all know the Scots market themselves very well and give the tourist a real experience whilst taking plenty of cash off them. For instance the 'Mary King Close' on the Royal Mile is nothing more than a few rooms and a street now underground. In itself it has no historical merit compared to the occupation but actors and interactive screens such as talking portraits, discreet lighting and a bit of imagination create an interesting, informative fun experience that has people giving fantastic feedback on the internet and guess what - that creates even more business.

Like some many things in Guernsey we are happy to sit back, do nothing and get left behind in an increasingly competitive world. Stand still and you will go backwards.


That is completely inaccurate. To lump the Occupation Museum together with the Underground Hospital is to compare spuds with oranges. One is 'stuck in a time warp' but the Occupation Museum is constantly being updated and expanded. Even now interesting artifacts are being discovered and added to the museum, usually dislayed quite creatively. Unlike you, I suspect, I visit about once a year and am aware of the many and frequent changes.

Saying things like "...a few glass cases showing artifacts.." does it a grave disservice. For example, how about the painstakingly reconstructed 'occupation street'? Maybe they didn't have that in 1980 when you were last there.

Make no mistake the museum is a labour of love, if it wasn't it would have closed years ago. If those figures above are accurate the museum must be taking less than £200 a day. That's before overheads are met, new artifacts are procured, displayed or anybody gets paid. It is never likely to morph into a high tech Disney type attraction but it is still a very worthwhile museum. With the lousy visitor numbers that Guernsey has we should be encouraging people to visit, not deterring them with gloomy and unfair comments like yours.


Beanjar - First and foremost don't make assumptions as during 2016 I visited with different friends, of varying ages, from the UK on four occasions.

The feedback from those visitors was that the amount of artefacts was fantastic and it was interesting. But they felt it was cramped and overcrowded with many displays crammed together. The 'street' was a bit of a non event in their opinion, the cafe poor and generally it was tatty. The TV with video is tiny and old fashioned with poor sound. All in all they felt the whole museum was a little 'Heath Robinson' and that it was not 'hands on enough' A good example of what could be done and please google it is 'Eden Camp' in Yorkshire which is a series of tin huts. It has a concert room and NAAFI selling wartime foods. A good bit of imagination and creativity goes along away.

For instance how about some video diaries from locals who lived during the war, or Germans serving here all giving their impressions of life - before their voices are lost for ever.

History is not just for the academic it needs to be brought to life and people are increasingly wanting more of an 'experience' again think 'Jorvik', 'Beamish Open Air Museum' and many other UK tourist historical attractions that we have to compete against.

There is no doubt that the owners are committed but perhaps they need help. I am not sure what research they do about modern museums and how many they visit.

We don't need a 'Disney experience' because rather than fantasy we have the real thing here but we need to accept that the tourist demands a more modern way of presention and packaging those artefacts and therefore could learn something from them.

You say the museum is struggling - does that not tell you that maybe they need to be doing something different ? I am very supportive of the museum and that why since it opened in 1966 it now needs some forward 21st century thinking.

For a start appropriate disabled access facilities will undoubtedly be needed if the island ever agrees to what the rest of the civilized world signed up for years ago- disability equality.


Why should all places of interest go into. Like the other attractions la Pearla, Bruce Russell, Catherine Best are out of town and have car parking.

Why also put into a modern expensive building, it's by Happy Landings and Airport which sets the scene.

The problem is visitors want to come but Guernsey is expensive and we have not got many hotels or accomodation.

We also have tourism who do not know the right foot from the left.


Spreading stuff out has its merits but cruise ship passengers / day trippers (if they make it!) have a finite amount of time on the island so they won't have time to drive around to all these different places. Having arguably the island's most interesting museum within walking distance of the harbour makes sense.

Like LOCALGUERN1066 says, good museums these days are well designed and are also interactive. Rather than lots of little attractions dotted around the place struggling why not persuade some rich investors to develop a "Guernsey Museum" complex (with States assistance) that encompasses all the island's culture and history and includes the Occupation Museum within it.


Perhaps if they 'don't' see it all in one go they may be tempted to return for a longer stay?

The answer to all successful shows is " leave them wanting more"

Something our tourist board needs to understand.


Following on from my comments yesterday I began to think about the responsibility that the current owners of the museum have to the heritage of our island. In effect they are the custodians of our history and heritage and as such they hold huge amounts of photographs and paper records that over time will simply rot away if they are not stored and kept in a controlled environment. Think of the poor building at the Occupation Museum and I suspect there are few if any concessions to manage the damp atmosphere for example.

I wonder if each and every item they own is photographed, catalogued and backed up as it would be in any local museum in the UK? I doubt it.

Future generations need to know what happened and records need to be preserved for hundreds of years. It is that important.

There is huge world wide interest in World War 2 and the Channel Islands could give a unique, informative experience to visitors as well as making a tasty profit. The States and the private owners need to be working together and show some ambition. As has already been mentioned Jersey are years ahead of us with their tunnel exhibition which is modern and informative.

They also had a whole programme in the 'Walking Through History' Channel 4 series where Tony Robinson spent a few days on their World War 2 Walking Trail as he explored the island and stopped in hotels overnight as he explored the island.

There have been mutterings about the the islands working more closely and surely with all the common war factors of Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney we could come up with a profitable experience for visitors.

Unfortunately it needs creativity, imagination and capital outlay initially. A long term plan is needed.


Some of you people are clearly living in cloud cuckoo land. I would be amazed if the occupation museum was not adequately conserving it's artifacts. One of their comparatively recent ones is a cell door from the Town prison, which played quite an important role in the story of the occupation. Where were you whingers when that was being pulled down? That would have been an interesting attraction for anybody visiting Town, even the cruisers. It was a little jem and the States just destroyed it for no good reason. That's the sort of attitude anybody who wants to preserve Guernsey's history and tourist attractions is up against.

It might be the same outcome if you just pile unfair criticisms on the Occupation Museum instead of giving it credit for still existing and opening every day, let alone constant improvements. How much have you contributed to the museum to pay for all the 'improvements' you envisage, LOCALGUERN1066? Not a lot, I'm guessing.


Beanjar - You are missing the point. I want the museum to survive and thrive but the reality is we all have to move with the times. Mr first car was a Ford Prefect and I thought it was great but things move on and having driven one again last year it was in reality a complete bag of spanners. All successful business have to reinvent themselves and move forward or they will disappear and I don't want the that to happen to the museum. Sometimes they may have to do things they are not entirely comfortable with - anything with a war theme to generate income and keep it going. Surely the first step is to work with our friends on Jersey and Alderney and all the historic attraction owners to have some joined up thinking ?


I would be surprised if you know more about the Occupation Museum than I do. I reckon I am in a better position than you to know whether it has 'moved with the times'. Or even whether it needs to. When was your last visit? Mine was just a couple of months ago. The owner's viewpoint is that his visitor numbers are a quarter of what they were previously due to a lack of people staying on Guernsey. We all know this to be the case.

Guernsey's travel links are appalling and absurdly expensive, the number of hotels has been decimated, there are very few remaining attractions, let alone 'year round' ones. Even our weather has changed for the worse in the last 20 years. The States' response to this is to bang on about how important day visits from cruise ships are. While wasting a fortune mucking about with our lovely harbour. And to keep chucking money at expensive, unrealistic and unproductive advertising campaigns. Rather than get off their backsides and tackle the underlying issues.

None of this is the fault of the Occupation Museum which has soldiered on for 40 years, in spite of what must be disheartening and financially ruinous. It is Mr heaume's dedication that keeps the doors open virtually every day of the year, at no expense to the taxpayer. Whilst he would not have it any other way surely you must realise that there is no money for grandiose schemes? Such as moving to larger premises in Town, have actors re-enact occupation scenes, animatronics or anything else. I know there is active co-operation between all the islands, and has been for decades, via the joint Occupation Society. But really, how can that help to get more visitors onto any of the islands?

Your intentions might be decent, LOCALGUERN1066, but I really don't think you are helping by denigrating the Occupation Museum as it is today. I have visited every 'occupation attraction' throughout the Islands and our museum is by far the most important, detailed and impressive. Yes, it is a little 'low key' and situated just a little off a main thoroughfare. So what? That used to be part of the charm back when Guernsey had some, and a tourist industry.


Beanjar - You say 'I have visited every 'occupation attraction' throughout the Islands and our museum is by far the most important, detailed and impressive' and that is the problem as you are being to insular. What about other attractions off Guernsey - the Jersey tunnels etc which are modern interactive and appealing to the masses.

Tourists are going elsewhere because Guernsey looks inwards rather than outwards and is not willing to accept that the modern tourist wants so many more things to do. Of course the transport links are an issue but once on island it has little to offer the tourist especially if the weather is not good.

Basically on a wet day like today a tourist with their kids would be struggling to entertain themselves. The Cruise ships are currently the tourist life blood of the island and we need to make the experience worth while for them and get their cash by offering something more modern. Does the museum for example have 'meet and greet' staff at the port when they arrive ? Does it offer a good restaurant or play area for visitors to generate more income? The answer is 'no' because the Guernsey mentality is 'we have never done that before, so we will not start now'. Charm is all very well but it will not pay the bills,


It has nothing to do with insularity, LOCALGUERN1066, just practicality.

Obviously I have been to the Jersey War Tunnels, several times. In contrast to the Occupation Museum it is designed as a 'family friendly' experience and the main exhibit is the spacious tunnel system itself. It doesn't have a fraction of the exhibits that our museum does but I have to admit it would probably be more fun for primary school kids to run around in.

It is also run very much along commercial lines rather than as a 'passion project'. The two are really very dissimilar. The War Tunnels charges £12 admittance against just £5 at our Occupation Museum. The War Tunnels close between October and March. So they aren't doing anything at all to help Jersey's tourist industry at the moment. I don't really see how you can hold them up as an example of 'doing it right'. Why not get off your high horse and accept that the Occupation Museum is part of the solution rather than part of the problem?


100% agree with Richard that other attractions should be open during the winter months. Having had visitors from the UK off-season it is downright embarrassing how little there is to do. When the weather is inevitably less hospitable, people expect to be able to visit a few museums. Hauteville House and Castle Cornet should be open at the very least - reduced hours of course, but the option should be there. And not just for visitors either, I enjoy visiting our local museums occasionally too!


Beanjar - You have shot yourself in the foot ! Thats exactly what I said 'family friendly' and 'commercial' is exactly what the museum must be if it is to survive. Yes, it costs more on Jersey but the experience for the average family/cruiser is far better and probably offers better value. Look at the sites I mentioned before in geographically and economically challenged areas 'Jorvic', Beamish and Eden Camp as they have to work hard to attract visitors as well


Your right our Occupation Museum is a 'passion project' and that is its weakness as far as tourism and business is concerned. When those with that 'passion' die there will be nobody to take it up and develop it . There will be a slow decline and death.

However with a compromise of marketing and moving with the times both the 'passionate' and ordinary tourist could enjoy all the museum has to offer. You can't keep it as an exclusive venue for the few it needs to widen its appeal, generate income and offer more.


Talk about flogging an argument to death. OK, so who had more visitors today, then? Family friendly, commercial Jersey War Tunnels WHICH WAS CLOSED, or Guernsey's Occupation Museum which was OPEN as usual? In your myopic little world is there really no room for a place which might not be suitable for toddlers but is an incredibly interesting resource for older teenagers and adults? Does Richard Heaume really have to dress up as a pantomime German soldier to entertain kiddies and satisfy you?

You continue to completely miss the point. The Occupation Museum gets plenty of visitors when there are plenty of tourists. There aren't. That's not the fault of one of the few tourist attractions in Guernsey or Jersey which is open all year round. It is entirely the fault of successive States deputies and ministers who have sat back and looked forward to pay day while our transport links and tourist industry disappeared round the U bend. They don't even bother to open their own museums! Short of sticking up a big sign over Guernsey saying "CANCELLED THROUGH LACK OF INTEREST', could they ruin our tourist industry any more than they have done already?


I think most people have missed the main point... the main message of this article... summed up in the opening four words...

"A lack of promotion..."

Whilst Guernsey Tourism are still banging on about Great Things Happen in Guernsey, ( what a dreadful misleading slogan ), Jersey are promoting their island as a winter break for THIS winter... #theislandbreak

That lead video is designed to push up business during this winter : watch it before it is soon replaced by a Spring 2017 video and then a Summer 2017 version.

Compare that website to : which one looks more inviting ? Even - with its ant-size promotional budget fares pretty well compared to Guernsey's version.

During the winter months, the market is for short stay breaks, during the summer, one should aim for the longer stays : so whether most of the island's attractions are closed during the winter is irrelevant... hotels that are open are offering some great bargains, if one is lucky one can find some good deals on Aurigny or Flybe, and there is still plenty to do during a 2, 3 or 4 night break.

But where is the promotion ?


Of course there is a lack of promotion. I don't even know if Aurigny still operates short breaks because their subsite doesn't seem to work:- They were never proper packages anyway because they did not include transport between airport and accommodation, not even by taxi or a bus pass.

But even if they do still operate, and in winter, there is nothing for tourists to do once they get here. Apart from visit the Occupation Museum every day, even for me that would be a bit much. It would be very easy for the States to open its' 'attractions' on one day a week throughout the year on a rota basis with the intention of having at least one attraction open somewhere every day. Combine this with the idea of selling 'Guernsey Cards' which give tourists free entry at States owned places including Beau Sejour, free bus use and discounts at private attractions, shops and restaurants. Many cities and regions the world already do this, it is a proven success.

This would be so very easy to organise by our Tourist Office but they are probably too busy spending their inflated salaries on holidays elsewhere. They could do it in conjunction with Jersey and Alderney, but again it would require some effort. To date they appear to be only fit for throwing our money at pointless and inappropriate advertising campaigns. e.g.‘Great Things Happen in Guernsey’ - the usual pointless, useless, misleading drivel. Still, its easier than working for a living, eh?


Totally agree with your observations about Aurignybreaks. It seems that they sub-contracted that out to Premier Holidays sometime ago and it has never worked properly. If they can not operate their own package tours operation, ( no harm done if they can not as many airlines only concentrate on their core business ), I would suggest they do like Easyjet does and offer an online booking service through instead - earning commission back which would help the bottom line.

Long-stay visitors do need more activities and attractions to amuse themselves with - but the market for longer-stays is during the Spring, Summer and Autumn months when the days are longer and most tourist sites are open. Island hopping, sad to say, is now limited to just Herm and Sark as Alderney and Jersey have become too expensive and less easy to get to.

But for a long weekend trip, or if one is retired, a mid-week break, one might not be bothered if all or most museums are closed. Fly mid next week or the following weekend from Gatwick and stay three nights in a nice comfy hotel for under 500 quid for two persons including breakfast. Go over that budget a wee bit and you can get a sea-view room at the likes of the Havelet.

Arrive in the evening and have a snack, a drink, maybe a stroll through Town, and then sleep. After breakfast, enjoy a healthy walk around Town enjoying some of the amazing panoramic views from the likes of Blue Mountains, Clarence Battery or the Mignot Plateau. Enjoy a light lunch and then browse the shops, followed by a few drinks and then dinner.

Next day, go for a bus ride out to Jerbourg and walk back to Town, take the ferry to Herm or take a taxi tour or even just use the buses to explore the island, the Little Chapel, coastal views and old forts, castles and German towers. Back in Town for dinner and then a good sleep before a mid-morning flight back home.

Yes... it is not going to be cheap but, barring any serious delays caused by fog or Southern Rail, one can have a wonderful winter break. Pity that did not help much in planning the trip. One could get away to Edinburgh, Jersey, the Lake District and to the continent for the same or even less... but Guernsey still has something to offer and with the weak pound and fears about safety abroad, surely it could attract a lot more short break visitors from the 22 million odd over-50-year-olds in the UK !

Seems that Jersey has the right idea.

Donkey Boiler

The problem is that successive States have shown no interest in our history and heritage, except to find ways to criticise it (eg Bebb), or destroy it. The destruction of the markets (Berry), and demolition of the old prison are prime examples. Jersey's market is a major attraction in St Helier, and our old prison would have been a fantastic tourist attraction with its echoes of Robben Island or Papillon's Devil's Island. Now it's just another development opportunity for an already wealthy developer. Still, the likes of Gavin clearly think that all history is bunkum (like Henry Ford), he's just looking to the future when we'll be happier than ever in 20 years time. Trouble is, we'll be broke (but not Gavin, of course).


I still hold out hope that some visionary developer will take the market building one day and turn it back into a proper fresh market. I never go inside the building these days it as I find it too depressing. It's really shameful what they did to that place.