Records Open to the Public at Jersey Archive – January 2017
On 1st January 2017 Jersey Heritage opened over 150 new records to the public for the first time. The records have been closed to public access for periods of 30, 75 and 100 years and include; inquest notes on the German air raids at La Rocque and Albert Pier, remission of a prison sentences for bigamy during the First World War on condition that the individual re-joins the army, internment of Italian nationals during the Second World War and the minutes of the Committee in charge of the Public Asylum during the early decades of the 20th century.
Linda Romeril, Archives and Collections Director at Jersey Heritage said; ‘Once again Jersey Heritage is able to open many more fascinating documents to the public. These records help us tell the stories of our Island and the people who lived here.’
She continued, ‘We are currently at a point in time where records closed for 100 years date from the First World War period and records closed for 75 years date from the Second World War period. These two global conflicts had a significant impact on Jersey people and their lives and many of the records released this year can help shed light on the activities and events of those challenging times.’
Of particular interest this year are the inquest notes taken by H V Benest, Acting Viscount in the year 1940. The volume includes one inquest that gives us some additional details into the events leading up to the Occupation of the Island in July 1940. The inquest is that of Bienaime Vrac who was born on 22nd July 1893 in St Helier and was working at the Airport in June 1940.
On the 19th June 1940, the inquest shows that a number of French planes were flying through the airport stopping to refuel in the Island and carrying Officer’s fleeing occupied Europe. Mr Vrac had been told to pick up some documents that were ‘flying about’ and take them back to the French Officer of the French plane to see if they were of any importance. Mr Vrac gave the papers to the Officer and, whilst stepping away, was caught by the propeller of a plane that was readying for departure.
Only a few days earlier on 17th June a plane evacuating Charles de Gaulle from Bordeaux had also stopped in the Island to refuel before flying on to London. The book also records the inquests into those killed during the air raids at La Rocque Harbour and the Albert Pier just prior to the Occupation of the Island.
The records are now open for the public to view at the Jersey Archive. On Saturday 21st January there will be a free talk about the records that have been opened for the first time in 2017. The talk will take place at Jersey Archive at 10am and the Archive will be open from 9-1 that morning.
D/AV/G1/4, R R Lempriere, Viscount’s Correspondence, 1907 – 1916
Today the Viscount’s section carries out a number of functions including enforcement, jury list preparation and assize jury functions and coroner’s functions. Many of these functions can be seen in the correspondence of R R Lempriere who was the Viscount in Jersey 100 years ago.
The letter book starts with a letter from the Viscount to the Under Secretary of State dated 22nd January 1907. The letter is to inform the Under Secretary that the States have, ‘this day by a unanimous vote, tabled a one clause bill abolishing public executions and directing in future that they should be carried out within the prison.’
A/D3/39 Papers regarding the Petition of Frederick John Smith sentenced to one year in prison for Bigamy in 1915
In 1915 Frederick John Smith petitioned the Lieutenant Governor for remission of his sentence. The petition was passed on to the Home Office with a recommendation for ‘favourable consideration’. Smith had been a member of the armed forces and had offered to re-join the army. Remission of his sentence is granted as long as he does ‘communicate and see a recruiting officer and in the event of his being accepted he may be forthwith released.’
Smith was accepted for re-enlistment and was released and posted to Kingston, the depot of his regiment, The East Surreys.
B/D/B1/8, Bailiff’s Outgoing Correspondence, 1910 – 1916
This volume contains copies of letters written by the Bailiff of Jersey, William Henry Venables Vernon and sent to recipients such as the Privy Council, the Home Office, the Lieutenant Governor, members of the States of Jersey and members of local schools and societies.
The volume covers the first two years of the First World War and is an interesting balance of the importance of life carrying on, with bills passed on education and vice consuls appointed, against the impact of the war in Jersey and the importance of the local militia.
In one letter, dated 3rd May 1915, sent to J A Pease MP, President of the Board of Education, the Bailiff writes about the visit of HM Inspector of Schools forthcoming visit to the Island for his annual inspection of local elementary schools. The Bailiff welcomes the inspection visit but feels the need to point out that….
‘The Present conditions of war and work are, of course highly inconvenient and somewhat detrimental to primary education as several of our best school buildings are occupied by the military and many of our teachers have joined the Army. Again, the potato cropping, lifting and shipping off – being the staple industry of Jersey and requiring much juvenile labour in spring and summer time – school attendance necessarily suffers.’
D/AP/K/7/5, Internment Papers of Pasquale Lino Leoni, 1940
Pasquale Lino Leoni was an Italian National who first came to Jersey in 1932 to work in domestic service and then came back on a seasonal basis to work in various hotels.
In 1940 after the outbreak of the Second World War Pasquale become one of a number of Italian and German nationals to be interned at the Grouville Internment Camp in June 1940. On the 21st June, just prior to the Occupation Pasquale left for England and, alongside 12 other Jersey internees was transferred to the internment camps in the Isle of Man.
A letter in Pasquale’s file from the Camp gives evidence of his involvement with the Fascist party in Jersey which his brother Arturo was secretary and organiser of. The party was formed in Jersey in 1936 after the Abyssinian crisis made Italian nationals unpopular in the Island.
Pasquale is described as ‘self-respecting, well behaved and polite’ and ‘a staunch believer in fascism’. The file notes that ‘He has always been convinced, and still is, of an Axis Victory and he had a blind faith that in that event Italy will be well-treated by her partner.’
By October 1944 the camp sergeant notes that Pasquale is no longer sure that fascism ‘was a good thing, after all.’ The brothers eventually return to Italy in 1945.
C/B/A1/6, Agricultural Committee Minute Book, November 1940 – December 1941
As we would expect the minute book of the Agricultural Committee from the period 1940 to 1941 contains a considerable amount of information on the production of crops, setting of prices and implications of the German Occupation on agriculture in the Island.
In November 1940 we can see Mr P C Binet of Le Coin, St Ouen, appealing to the Committee for assistance after land that he owns and cultivates was requisitioned by the German Authorities. Mr Binet is told to submit an amended claim for compensation to the Authorities. As early as November 1940 we can see that rationing is a key concern for the Committee with rationing of animal feed being discussed at Committee meetings
Whilst exports of crops to the UK obviously ceased, the minutes from 1940 show that in October and November tomatoes were shipped to the German Authorities for a sum of £26 6d.
As we move through the book we can see items such as the 1942 cropping plan being raised for discussion. The plan proposes the following crops and numbers of vergees:
Barley 300 vergees
Rye 300 vergees
Wheat 11,200 vergees
Oats 3,600 vergees
Early potatoes 5,130 vergees
Seed for 1943 2,500 vergees
Late Varieties 1,500 vergees
Mangolds 3,320 vergees
Hay and Grazing 12,000 vergees
This gives a total of 39,850 vergees of land under cultivation. The RJAHS website gives the current amount of land under cultivation at 36,500 vergees – the main difference being that during the Occupation period there were over 1,000 holdings and now there are fewer than 100 commercial farms in the Island.
C/C/W1/4, Public Asylum Committee Minutes, September 1906 – December 1916
The minutes of the Committee for the Administration of the Public Asylum contain the details of the running of the Asylum (St Saviour’s Hospital), the numbers of inhabitants and the treatment of those in the Island suffering from Mental Health issues at the start of the 20th century. This is obviously an area in which treatment and public opinion has changed significantly over the past 100 years and the volume and words used can sometimes make difficult reading through our modern eyes.
The first committee minutes in the volume show us the number of individuals who were living at the institution; in September 1906 there were 113 women and 80 men. The book includes the names of individual’s entering and leaving the institution and records any deaths that have taken place. In some cases the reason for entry to the institution is given though in many this is merely recorded as ‘alienation mental’.
The volume also includes appointment of staff and accounts with individuals and companies for provision of goods and services. These include John Jones for supplying hardware and A Roden for earthenware.
As well as running the institution the Committee also appear to have had a role in supervising and advising on those who had mental health issues but were living at home. In May 1906 the Committee pay a visit to people with ‘alienation mental’ in the Parishes in the West of the Island. The volume lists the individuals visited, their home address and the names of their careers, the Committee finds that all the individuals are being well looked after.