Ever since Britain introduced conscription in March 1916, there has been intense local speculation that Jersey would have to do the same. In a landmark sitting this week, the States confirmed that Jersey would indeed have a compulsory military service law. Quite when it will come into force, however, and just who will be affected, remains unclear.
The debate on 3 June took place under the gaze of packed public galleries. The onlookers heard impassioned statements on how many men from Jersey had already contributed to the war as serving soldiers and sailors or, since August 1914, as volunteers. And yet, the Bailiff reminded everyone, ‘Men are wanted. We must avenge the fallen and fill up the gaps.’
However, as Sir William Vernon pointed out, not everyone could go. It was up to the States to decide which men could be spared and which needed to remain in the Island so that day-to-day life could continue. So while the States agreed to the principle of compulsory military service, it was passed to the Defence Committee to draw up a suitable law that balanced the needs of the Britain and those of the Island.
A/E/3 contains comprehensive correspondence on Jersey’s Military Service Act.