Will Britain make Heligoland British again?

Britain acquired the islands of Heligoland during the Napoleonic wars (at the expense of Denmark). In 1890 Britain swapped Heligoland in exchange for territories in Africa near Zanzibar (in present day Kenya) in the Heligoland-Zanzibar-treaty. Now in 1945 Britain (with Heligoland in the British occupation zone) after the surrender of Germany, has the chance to make Heligoland British again. Why didn’t Britain take the chance to formally annex Heligoland?

From Wikikipedia (EN):


Aerial view of the naval base, taken from the south-west c. 1918…

…and a similar view in 2012, showing a large crater at the south end of the island.

From 1945 to 1952 the uninhabited islands fell within the British Occupation zone. On 18 April 1947, the Royal Navy simultaneously detonated 6,700 tonnes of explosives (“Operation Big Bang” or “British Bang”), successfully destroying the island’s principal military installations (namely, the submarine pens, the coastal batteries at the north and south ends of the island and 8½ miles of main storage tunnels) while leaving the town, already damaged by Allied bombing during the Second World War, “looking little worse” (according to an observer quoted in the Guardian newspaper).[37] The destruction of the submarine pens resulted in the creation of the Mittelland crater. The British later used the island, from which the population had been evacuated, as a bombing range. The explosion was one of the biggest single non-nuclear detonations in history.[38][39]

20 pfennig commemorative stamp issued by Deutsche Bundespost to commemorate the 1952 restoration of Helgoland

Return of sovereignty to Germany

On 20 December 1950, two students and a professor from Heidelberg – René Leudesdorff, Georg von Hatzfeld and Hubertus zu Löwenstein – occupied the off-limits island and raised various German, European and local flags.[40] The students were arrested by the soldiers present and brought back to Germany. The event started a movement to restore the islands to West Germany, which gained the support of the West German parliament. On 1 March 1952, Heligoland was returned to German control, and the former inhabitants were allowed to return.[41] The first of March is an official holiday on the island. The German authorities cleared a significant quantity of unexploded ordnance and rebuilt the houses before allowing its citizens to resettle there.

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