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28 October 2014

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You are in: Jersey > History > Local History > War in Jersey

War in Jersey

Read about the history of wars in the island.


Wars have always been a major aspect of Jersey history. From skirmishes between the people who had already settled on Jersey and the Vikings who wanted to take possession of the island for themselves, through to the occupation of the island by German forces  during the Second World War.

During the 9th Century Jersey was plundered again and again. Houses and chapels were burnt down, and the Neolithic tombs were raided for treasure.

These raids continued until 911 AD when France purchased peace with the Vikings.

Military significance

In 1066 William of Normandy captured England when he won the Battle of Hastings bringing England under the same Norman rule as Jersey and the other Channel Islands.

From 1204 onwards Jersey became an important military post between France and England. Mont Orgueil was built by the English as a Royal fortress and military base.

There was great unrest in Jersey for the next 120 years, mainly because of political oppression and interference with the ancient customs of the island.

The Hundred Years War & War of the Roses

From 1337 to 1453 England and France were at war, and because of its position Jersey was exposed to constant attacks. It was even occupied during 1380.
Grosnez Castle was probably built about this time, but was merely a moat, a gatehouse and a wall.

Once the Hundred Years War had ended, Jersey had a brief respite of peace for 2 years, until 1455 when the War of the Roses flared up. The war lasted until 1484, and Jersey was once again occupied - this time for seven years, until England reclaimed the island in 1468.

The threat of war

In 1593 it was decided that a new castle needed to be built, because of the threat of the Spanish and the French. Work commenced on the construction of Elizabeth Castle in St Aubins Bay.

In 1627 Philippe de Carteret became Bailiff, and enlarged Elizabeth Castle to more than double its size.

The English Civil War

Jersey had been peaceful for 10 years before the start of the Civil War in 1642.

Although the war had little to do with Jersey, the island was drawn into the struggle.

Philippe de Carteret tried to stay neutral, but his nephew George was an ardent Royalist whilst the sympathy of the islanders was with parliament.

When Philippe de Carteret became ill and died in 1643, George de Carteret took over. George was determined to hold the island for the king, but the Parliamentarians recaptured Jersey in 1651.

Battle of Jersey

The 18th century was another period of political tension between Britain and France, and Jersey once again became a military standpoint.

There were two attempted invasions during this time. In 1779 the Prince of Nassau was prevented from landing, but in 1781 French soldiers captured St. Helier in a dawn raid.

They were defeated by the British troops led by Major Peirson, who was killed during the battle. This episode became known as The Battle of Jersey.

Secret networks

This war was followed by the Napoleonic wars, which lasted until 1815. There were two underground networks operating during this time.

One was led by James d'Auvergne, who worked for the French royalists. The other network was in close contact with Napoleon, and they constantly monitored d'Auvergne until the war ended.

World War I and after

When the First World War broke out, 300 Jerseymen volunteered for service. Later, another 3,000 were called up. Jersey was considered so safe that a Prisoner of War camp for 1,500 Germans existed at Blanches Banques.

Despite the war, the island itself remained largely undisturbed. The first 40 years of the 20th century were prosperous and peaceful.

The Societe Jersiaise began their archaeological digs during this half of the century, and uncovered many spectacular finds.

In 1937, St. Peter's Airport opened, meaning that Jersey was now only an hour from London. The island's links with England were greatly strengthened.

The outbreak of war in 1939 came as a shock to most islanders, who expected the experience of the previous war to be repeated.

last updated: 18/04/2008 at 15:05
created: 18/04/2008

You are in: Jersey > History > Local History > War in Jersey

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