Family of Scots soldier travel to Guernsey to mark Liberation Day

Sergeant-Major Robert Shaw from Glasgow was part of the operation to liberate the Channel Islands from the Germans.

Sergeant-Major Robert Shaw first British soldier to land on Guernsey to liberate island from Germans
Hero: Sergeant-Major Robert Shaw was the first British soldier to land on Guernsey.

In the spring of 1945, a Scottish soldier made his way onto Guernsey on a motorcycle, ready to liberate the Channel island which had been occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. 

Sergeant-Major Robert Shaw was part of Task Force 135, the British Military Contingent that liberated the island as part of the operation Nestegg exercise.

The first to disembark and followed by a convoy of armoured vehicles, Mr Shaw reportedly said he “met no opposition whatsoever except for the mobbing of the soldiers by the hilariously enthusiastic population”.

Mr Shaw, who hailed from Springburn in Glasgow, soon came across a young local boy called John Rault who was cycling on the right side of the road,

The soldier told him to instead “cycle on the British side of the road”, concerned the youngster would be hit by the other vehicles behind him. 

During his time in Guernsey, Mr Shaw utilised his skills as a trained motor mechanic and used the local Ash’s Garage to help repair vehicles. 

He remarked that he was interested to see how vehicles had been converted to charcoal burning units to overcome the shortage of petrol and worked with German troops in the garage. 

After the war ended, Mr Shaw went on to marry an English wartime nurse called Esme Collinson and started a family in Glasgow.

Some 47 years later in 1992, Mr Shaw returned to Guernsey to receive commemorative Liberation medallions with a number of other war veterans. 

After the local newspaper ran the story, a now-adult John Rault got in touch with Mr Shaw and the pair reconciled on the island, staying in touch until Mr Shaw passed away in 2005 aged 89. 

Mr Shaw's family want to keep his incredible story alive. Email
Mr Shaw’s family want to keep his incredible story alive.

Now Mr Shaw’s family have gathered in Guernsey and Jersey for the postponed VE day celebrations to mark 77 years since the end of the war. 

Mr Shaw’s three children and four grandchildren had initially planned to travel to the Channel Islands for the 75th anniversary celebrations however these were cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.

This year’s celebrations will be attended by the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day, celebrates the formal acceptance by the Allies of the Second World War of Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces.

Known as Liberation Day in Guernsey and Jersey on May 9, the two islands were the only United Kingdom territories to be occupied by the German Forces.

The day is marked as a bank holiday in the Channel Islands. 

Mr Shaw’s son Martin Shaw said: “My father was so proud of being part of such a historic moment in liberating the island of Guernsey after the war. 

“He talked about this moment throughout his whole life and he was thrilled to be invited back in 1992 to receive an official commemorative medallion with 170 surviving veterans of Task Force 135. 

“The fact he managed to reconnect with the very little boy he stopped all those years ago was just magical for him. 

“Visiting Guernsey as a family in his memory this year will be such a special moment for us to be together and remember all those that fought with him in the war.”

The Shaw family hope to reconnect with John Rault’s family during their time in the Channel Islands, in a bid to maintain the link forged almost 80 years ago between Scotland and Guernsey.