Podcast Episode 253: The Dame of Sark

Image: Flickr

In June 1940, German forces took the Channel Islands, a small British dependency off the coast of France. They expected the occupation to go easily, but they hadn’t reckoned on the island of Sark, ruled by an iron-willed noblewoman with a disdain for Nazis. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of Sibyl Hathaway and her indomitable stand against the Germans.

We’ll also overtake an earthquake and puzzle over an inscrutable water pipe.


Raymond Chandler gave 10 rules for writing a detective novel.

In 1495 Leonardo da Vinci designed a mechanical knight.


Sources for our feature on Sybil Hathaway:

Sybil Hathaway, Dame of Sark: An Autobiography, 1961.

Alan and Mary Wood, Islands in Danger: The Story of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands, 1940-1945, 1955.

Gilly Carr, Paul Sanders, and Louise Willmot, Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands, 2014.

Madeleine Bunting, The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands Under German Rule, 1940-1945, 2014.

Roy MacLoughlin, Living With the Enemy: An Outline of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands With First Hand Accounts by People Who Remember the Years 1940 to 1945, 2002.

Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp, Discourse and Defiance Under Nazi Occupation: Guernsey, Channel Islands, 1940-1945, 2013.

Hazel Knowles Smith, The Changing Face of the Channel Islands Occupation: Record, Memory and Myth, 2014.

George Forty, German Occupation of the Channel Islands, 2002.

Paul Sanders, The British Channel Islands Under German Occupation, 1940-1945, 2005.

George Forty, Channel Islands at War: A German Perspective, 2005.

Gilly Carr, “Shining a Light on Dark Tourism: German Bunkers in the British Channel Islands,” Public Archaeology 9:2 (2010), 64-84.

Gillian Carr, “The Archaeology of Occupation and the V-Sign Campaign in the Occupied British Channel Islands,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 14:4 (2010), 575-592.

Gilly Carr, “Occupation Heritage, Commemoration and Memory in Guernsey and Jersey,” History and Memory 24:1 (Spring 2012), 87-117, 178.

Gilly Carr, “Concrete’s Memory: Positioning Ghosts of War in the Channel Islands,” Terrain 69 (April 2018).

Peter Tabb, “‘You and I Will Eat Grass …,'” History Today 55:5 (May 2005), 2-3.

Paul Sanders, “Managing Under Duress: Ethical Leadership, Social Capital and the Civilian Administration of the British Channel Islands During the Nazi Occupation, 1940-1945,” Journal of Business Ethics 93, Supplement 1 (2010), 113-129.

Lucas Reilly, “How the World’s Only Feudal Lord Outclassed the Nazis to Save Her People,” Mental Floss, Nov. 6, 2018.

“Dame of Sark, 90, Ruler of Channel Island, Dead,” New York Times, July 15, 1974.

John Darnton, “St. Helier Journal; Facing Nazis, Upper Lips Were Not Always Stiff,” New York Times, May 6, 1995.

Robert Philpot, “New Film on Nazi Occupation of Channel Islands Prompts Disquieting Questions for Brits,” Times of Israel, April 13, 2017.

Francesca Street, “Radio Tower: Jersey’s Former German WWII Gun Tower Now for Rent,” CNN, Aug. 28, 2018.

Liza Foreman, “The Crazy Medieval Island of Sark,” Daily Beast, Oct. 4, 2014.

Julie Carpenter, “John Nettles: ‘Telling the Truth About Channel Islands Cost Me My Friends,'” Express, Nov. 5, 2012.

Ben Johnson, “Sark, Channel Islands,” Historic UK (accessed June 2, 2019).

William D. Montalbano, “Nazi Occupation in WWII Haunts Islands Off Britain,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 29, 1996.

Graham Heathcote, “Quiet Occupation by German Troops on Britain’s Channel Islands,” Associated Press, May 9, 1995.

William Tuohy, “Britain Files Reveal a Dark Chapter of War Years Nazis Occupied the Channel Islands Until Mid-1945, and Many Residents Collaborated,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 5, 1992, 3.

Marcus Binney, “Release of War Files Reopens the Wounds of Nazi Occupation,” Times, Dec. 2, 1992.

Julia Pascal, “Comment & Analysis: Our Hidden History: Sixty Years After the Deportation of Britons from the Channel Islands, the Suffering Is Neither Acknowledged Nor Compensated,” Guardian, Sept. 5, 2002, 1.23.

Ray Clancy, “War Files Show How Alderney Was Left Alone Against Nazis,” Times, Dec. 2, 1992.

William Montalbano, “Nazi Reports Raise Islands’ Painful Past: Channel Islands’ Invasion Created Moral Dilemmas,” Toronto Star, Dec. 1, 1996, A.8.

Andrew Phillips, “The Ghosts of War,” Maclean’s 106:1 (Jan. 4, 1993), 50-51.

“Taylor: Remembering the Channel Islands Occupation,” Toronto Sun, Nov. 3, 2018.

Rosemary F. Head et al., “Cardiovascular Disease in a Cohort Exposed to the 1940–45 Channel Islands Occupation,” BMC Public Health 8:303 (2008).

Madeleine Bunting, “Living With the Enemy,” The World Today 71:3 (June/July 2015), 10.

Listener mail:

“‘Not on Your Life!’ Says Actress, Flees Spotlight,” Chicago Tribune, Nov. 12, 1993.

“Seismic Waves,” xkcd, April 5, 2010.

Sune Lehmann, “TweetQuake,” Aug. 25, 2011.

Rhett Allain, “Tweet Waves vs. Seismic Waves,” Wired, Aug. 26, 2011.

Javed Anwer, “Delhi Earthquake Proves Twitter Is Faster Than Seismic Waves. Again,” India Today, April 13, 2016.

Brad Plumer, “Tweets Move Faster Than Earthquakes,” Washington Post, Aug. 25, 2011.

Lauren Indvik, “East Coasters Turn to Twitter During Virginia Earthquake,” Mashable, Aug. 23, 2011.

Catharine Smith, “Twitter’s New Ad Claims It’s Faster Than An Earthquake,” Huffington Post, Sept. 1, 2011.

Alex Ward, “Larry the Cat, UK’s ‘Chief Mouser,’ Caused a Brief Headache for Trump’s Security Team,” Vox, June 4, 2019.

Jennifer Ouellette, “No, Someone Hasn’t Cracked the Code of the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript,” Ars Technica, May 15, 2019.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was offered by M. Lobak in the old Soviet popular science magazine Kvant (collected with other such puzzles by Timothy Weber in the excellent 1996 book Quantum Quandaries).

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!