The history of St Aubin's Fort

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This article by Norman Rybot was first published in the 1948 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

The fort from the air

Who was St Aubin?

When the Société Jersiaise visited Saint Aubin's Fort on 14 August 1934, and were generously entertained there by the tenant, Mr Lionel Cox, I had to confess when addressing our members that I knew nothing of the Saint whose name was attached to the Fort, to the bay in which the fort stands and to the haven and village which the fort protects.

I could find no mention of Saint Aubin in the Cartulaire des Iles Anglo-Normandes; nor, as far as I knew, did our society possess any records showing that an ecclesiastical building or establishment, bearing Saint Aubin's name, had ever existed in Jersey before the year 1737, when Mr Peter Meade made his survey.

Our Honorary Librarian, the Rev G R Balleine, however, has recently found a reasonable solution of the mystery.

Writing in The Pilot for November 1946, he dealt with the question "Who was Saint Aubin?" and came to the conclusion that our Saint Aubin must have been the Saint Aubin, Bishop of Angers, who had died in the year 550.

This holy man acquired such merit during his lifetime, as well as during his miraculous reappearance at a critical moment some four centuries later, that his patronage is still claimed by no fewer than 60 villages in France - six of which lie within the diocese of Coutances.

In the face of this, we may rule out Saint Alban of England as a rival claimant to the patronage of our fort, bay, port and village.

Islet

The islet of Saint Aubin is a flattish reef composed of very ancient indurated shale or mudstone which, though easily smashed, is useless for building purposes. At low tide this reef lies high-and-dry on the sands when it resembles in plan an indented oblong measuring about three hundred yards from east to west and about two hundred yards from north to south.

A thin sandy soil supporting a sparse and hardy vegetation probably covered much of the upper parts of the reef when its only inhabitants were gulls, terns, oyster-catchers and pipits.

Its importance to man, however, lies in the fact that it forms a natural breakwater to a strand, and it is from this fact, which must have been early appreciated, that Saint Aubin's village gradually developed from a mere huddle of poor fishermen's huts into a small but thriving town of solid buildings.

From a 1545 map of Jersey in the British Museum

1542-1643

To enquire fully into the causes which led to the reformation of the defences of Jersey and the setting up of our small tower would necessitate the making of a survey of the military situation in western Europe covering the period in which the development of the firearm was revolutionising the art of war.

In the never-ending contest of projectile versus protection, the projectile, for the time being, was obtaining the mastery. Mediaeval castles were crumbling under the shock of its blows, and the knight who, trusting in the impenetrability of his armour, had heretofore waded cheerfully into the thick of the fray, was now beginning to loiter without intent on its outskirts.

Though Henry VIII relied on the bow, the bill and the lance to win his land battles, he early realised that ordnance had its uses in certain circumstances; and seeing that the coasts of his southern counties so frequently suffered from French descents, he decided to protect their most vulnerable ports by erecting a number of small round forts armed with cannon.

These forts were not devised to withstand sieges. They were intended merely to delay or hold up an enemy while the local forces were concentrating. Here then was the raison d'être of Saint Aubin's Tower.

Like its English brethren, our tower was one storey high and provided with embrasures for ordnance. Its roof parapet, however, may not have been crenellated for the use of arquebusiers.

Unlike them, moreover, only its southern side was rounded for the deflection of projectiles, possibly in the belief that it was only from that direction that cannon-shot would strike it. It differed also in its masonry.

Here in Jersey was no limestone that could be sawn into neat and convenient blocks. Local produce in the shape of sea-stones, or rough angular fragments of red granite, had to be carted out from the shore along the sandbank formed by the tide-meet, or floated out in boats and barges at high water and delivered to the masons at work on the reef.

The ancient masonry, mellowed by age, still forms the lower half of the present tower. That of the upper half, which was added in later centuries, is colder in tone and composed mostly of grey Mont Mado granite, cut and fitted with mathematical accuracy.

Meade's map of St Aubin in May 1737

Edward Seymour

It was during the governorship (1537-50) of Sir Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, later Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of the Realm, that a determined effort was made to render Jersey immune from invasion by strengthening the defences and organising its manpower for war.

As a preliminary move towards the attainment of this object, the Earl, who had ever in mind the prosperity and safety of his island, wrote a letter on 23 December 1541 to the Jurats and inhabitants of Jersey and directed his Lieutenant, Henry Cornish, to deliver it to the States.

As the King's Majesty had been pleased to summon his High Court of Parliament to assemble at Westminster on 10 January 1542, the Earl willed and required the inhabitants of Jersey to elect and send over two of their most discreet and experienced persons to represent the island as burgesses in this Parliament.

The letter, however, was not delivered to the States until 16 January, the very day on which Parliament was due to assemble.

Though the action, if any, taken by the States on this occasion is not recorded, it is evident from the records of their three ensuing meetings that defence measures, including the purchase by each parish of 20 francs worth of gunpowder, occupied the attention of the members.

Parish committees

At their last meeting during the year 1542, they directed each parish to appoint a committee of three or four delegates to advise them as to what should be done for the common weal and safety of the island.

The Lieutenant of the Castle, the Bailiff, the Jurats and the States of Jersey then issued orders, with the advice and approval of the members of the parish committees; firstly, that the completion of the building of St Aubin's Tower should be accomplished with all diligence; secondly that each parish should raise voluntary subscriptions to cover all expenses; and thirdly that an account of the moneys so raised, or promised, should be rendered to the Royal Court within the next few days.

From Popinjay's 1563 map in the British Museum

Governor's letter

Thus we gather that by the end of 1542, not only was St Aubin's Tower said to be approaching completion; but also that the people of Jersey were beginning to realise that the English government expected them to pay the whole or most of the cost arising from the reorganisation of the defences of their island. Some of them in fact, were already refusing or withholding payment, with a result that the exasperated governor eventually saw fit to despatch the following extraordinary letter:

"To my loving friends the Bailiff, Jurats and Curates of the Isle of Jersey and to every of them. After my hearty commendations. Whereas I am informed that divers of the inhabitants of the Isle there, neither regarding their duties of allegiance nor yet their own wealth, commodities, nor safeguard, do show themselves rather like brute beasts than men in refusing to be contributors, according to their rates and abilities, to such sums of money and other charges as from time to time have been thought requisite by the grave and discreet persons of the same, to be levied and employed for the defence of the whole country.
”I, not a little marvelling at the same, their folly and obstinacy for reformation: and due punishment from henceforth to be had on like offenders: have thought good to will and require you and nevertheless to charge and command you that ye, condescending together, not only devise what is to be done for the safeguard thereof and for the encounter and repulse of the enemies, if they should attempt to annoy the same; but also according to your former orders do establish, at the charge of the whole country, four sufficient and able men to be and remain continually at St Aubin's Tower, being appointed with ordnance and munition for the preservation thereof and the better defence of the said country.
”And you, together with my Lieutenant, are to tax and rate what and how much every parish shall bear from time to time, according to their abilities, as well for the payment of wages to the said four men as all other necessary charges. Willing and charging you also that after such taxation and order taken by you (in case any person do obstinately refuse and withstand the accomplishment thereof) that upon probation and conviction of the same misdemeanour by sufficient testimony before you, the Bailiff and Jurats, then to convict him or them, so offending, to straight ward; there to remain till he shall have contented and paid the same taxation and also received such further punishment as may be a terror to others that perchance might show themselves like offenders.
”Also that you forthwith consult together, and dividing the Isle into sundry quarters for the better preservation thereof, Appointing to every quarter one special man to be Captain of the same: and all the inhabitants within the precinct thereof to resort to such place as ye shall, by beacons or other tokens, perceive the enemy approach. And so joining together under his and their leadings, to set forth in their best array as the said Captain and Captains shall appoint them to withstand the malice of the enemies from time to time as occasion shall require; for I have given my said Lieutenant in commandment, as to his duty doth appertain, not upon any such occasion to depart from his charge, but continually to remain in and upon the same that he may render a good accompt thereof."

The Earl then continues in the same circumlocutionary manner to state his instructions for the purchase and distribution of powder and munitions.

"And thus; not doubting your conformities in all the premises, and the rather for that the same doth and shall redound chiefly to your own wealth, benefits and surety, I bid you heartily farewell.
Your loving friend
Edward Hertford
At London, the xxxth of January 1546.
The tower

Other fortifications

Lest it should appear from statements already made that St Aubin's Tower was the only or most important fortification which had engaged the attention of the Tudor military reformers, I must make it clear that such was not the case. The great stronghold in the east of the island, Gorey Castle, was still "the King's Castle in the island of Jersey" and still retained the prestige and glamour it had acquired during the preceeding three and a half centuries.

Its towers and battlements, however, had not been designed to accommodate cannons and moreover, and as usual, were badly in need of repair. Further, and what was now more serious, they were dominated by Le Mont Saint Nicolas opposite.

The conversion of Mont Orgueil Castle into an uptodate fortress proved to be a very slow and very expensive business. Being also of doubtful tactical advantage, it was very nearly abandoned before it was completed. In fact it was only through the good offices of Sir Walter Ralegh, Governor of Jersey from 1600 to 1603, that it was saved from demolition.

Meanwhile engineer Paul Ivy, on the Islet of Saint Helier, had perfected the work which became known to the people of Jersey as Le Chateau de l'Islet or Le Neuf Chateau. Ralegh for his part "ventured to christen it Fort Isabella bellissima", Elizabeth being then in her 71st year.

Growth in trade

The expansion of sea-borne trade brought ships in increasing numbers to St Aubin's Bay, either for commercial purposes or for temporary refuge in foul weather. Vessels which came to trade floated into the havens of St Helier or St Aubin on the flood and lay aground on the sands when the tide ebbed. Their cargoes were then discharged into carts,

Weather-bound ships, or those awaiting cargoes, anchored in the roads midway between Elizabeth Castle and Noirmont promontory.

Of the two ports in St Aubin's Bay, that of St Aubin, during the 16th and 17th centuries, was undoubtedly the busier and consequently the maintenance of the garrison and armament of the Tower should not have been neglected.

Three of the "four sufficient and able men" who, in conformity with the Govcrnor's letter of 30 January 1546, had evidently been chosen to garrison St Aubin’s Tower, were withdrawn by an order of the Lieut-Governor and the States, dated 30 June of the same year. The fourth man, William Howell, was to be left in charge of the place and receive the same pay as he had formerly been given.

The artillery, powder and other gear appertaining to the tower, were to be listed and removed to Edouard Dumaresq's house, now known as La Haule Manor. No reasons were given for this move; but it is possible that the tower was unfit for human habitation and that exposure to the sea air was detrimental alike to the guns and their ammunition.

An early drawing of the fort

Financial worries

The raising of money for the maintenance of guns and gunners was a source of continual trouble to the parish Constables who, though backed by the authority of the States, often found it exceedingly difficult to prise from the pockets of their parishioners the sums due from them for this purpose. The behaviour of these tax-dodgers was described by the Constables as "pernicious contumacy”.

If the Constables entirely failed to effect an extraction, things went hard with them, as the following record shows:-

"March the 8th, 1550. With regard to matters connected with St Aubin's Tower and the payment of its gunners, the States authorise Jurats Edward Dumaresq and Laurens Hamptonne to supervise the business and imprison in the Castle any Constable who fails to produce the sums that are due."

In 1553 the States ordered the parishes to subscribe £12, (English), to put the artillery of the island in a serviceable condition and to build a house in Saint Aubin where the guns of that district could be stored.

Nine years later it was recorded that a house of this nature had been built on the property of one Francois Becquet at the village wharf or ‘’Docque’’. Becquet had orders to hand over the key of the house to "the gunners of the Castle and island if in wartime they were sent to St Aubin's haven for the defence of the country".

Parish commitment

In 1573 the States required each parish to maintain at its own charges two men daily at St Aubin’s haven to look after the guns, their pay being fixed at six 'sterlings' a day. At the outbreak of war, or on an emergency, two extra men were to be entertained at the same rate; but it had to be understood that in times of profound peace these men would not be required. It must not be supposed that military activities were confined solely to the gunners during this period; for the recently formed parish companies were also being stung into action from time time to time by the States. The men of these companies, who were known as companions, were ordered, weather permitting to discharge their hackbuts, bows and arbalists every Sunday. The careless companion who failed to participate in this martial exercise, however, was liable to be fined five sous by his constable.

In spite of threats and penalties it is evident that the officials who were responsible for carrying out the numerous orders issued by the States from 1540 onwards, preferred evasion to obedience. They too, without a doubt, believed in the old army adage : "It is better to incur a slight reprimand than to perform an arduous duty".

As the century grew older, war clouds began to gather, and by 1587 it was an open secret that Spain had determined on the conquest of England and was mobilising "the richest spoils of Mexico and the stoutest hearts in Spain" to attain that object. The spirited action of Sir Francis Drake along the Spanish coasts delayed the departure of the Armada but did not prevent it; and the States of Jersey, assembling on 22 January 1588, announced that "on account of the rumours of preparations for war which are taking place on all sides, it is found expedient and necessary to repair all the fortifications round the coast and to establish others at threatened spots. On each of the islets of Saint Helier and Saint Aubin a platform or battery was to be sited to bear upon the anchorages."

Special arrangements were made to raise money for the wages of the workers and the cost of the work and if this did not suffice, the States were to raise more.

In addition, the States were of opinion that muskets, demi-culverins or sakers should be provided and the work was to be accomplished at top speed.

Gateway arch keystone

Invasion fears

Though the Armada, hounded along by the English fleet, had passed up-Channel to its doom towards the end of July 1588; the States still felt that it was beyond their powers to cope with the dangers of the situation and at their meeting of 24 March 1590, passed the following resolution :-

"On account of the wars, commotions and rebellions which exist in the towns and provinces of neighbouring nations and give rise to infinite dangers, plunderings and pillages, the States of this Island have found it expedient and necessary to represent to Her Majesty, our Sovereign Lady the Queen, and to her noble and discreet Council, our lack of armament and defences, and to implore her aid, so that a suitable remedy may be found alike for the benefit of Her Majesty's service, and the safety, welfare and advantage of this Island."

Sir Philippe de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, and Hugh Lempriere were deputed to deliver this petition to the Council.

Probably aware that years would pass - actually seven years passed - before their petition was answered, the States determined that their order of 22 January 1588 should be carried out, at any rate in so far as St Aubin's Tower was concerned.

"As to the reparations on St Aubin's islet", they said, "six parishes in the first instance will assist. One day's labour under the direction and command of the Seigneur de Saint Ouen will be required of every person in the parishes of St Ouen, St Brelade, St Lawrence, St Peter, St Mary and St John. And because the delivery of stone to that place is difficult, the States order that each of the boats belonging to St Aubin's haven shall carry one load of stone thereto. Every foreign vessel which arrives will also have to transport one boat-load to the Islet, or in default shall suffer either the loss of their goods and apparel, or such other punishment as the Seigneur de Saint Ouen shall inflict. Carters who absent themselves will be fined three groats, and labourers one groat."

Though the nature of the work performed at the tower under these trying conditions is not known, planks formed part of it, "as per" Adrian Valpy's bill, paid by the States on 12 May 1591.

Attack warnings

Between 1597 and 1603 no less than eight official warnings of possible attacks by roving fleets of Spanish, Dunkirk, or Italian galleys reached our harassed States from London, and on each of these alarming occasions the grave and discreet persons who composed that busy body issued new orders for the defence of their never-ready island.

When Sir Walter Raleigh, the Governor, announced that he was about to visit Jersey and enquire into the manpower and armament of the island, the States on the eve of his arrival, decided that as St Aubin's Tower was a place of importance in wartime and an outpost fronting the enemy, it should not be without a good guard. They therefore appointed four men of the parish of Saint Peter and four of Saint Brelade to keep watch and ward there, under the gunner, until further orders. Two of the men from each parish were to be arquebusiers.

Panic at the approach of a General's Inspection is evidently no new thing and sometimes resembles a panic produced by the threat of invasion. For example, the invasion scare of 30 August 1600 resulted in the sudden despatch to our tower of six men each from St Brelade and St Peter and two from St Ouen.

Captain Rainsford

Rumours of invasion, especially during the unsuccessful wars with France and Spain between the years 1625 and 1628, continued to alarm the island, worry the States and supply the tower with temporary garrisons. Nevertheless, obstruction on the part of the Constables, reminiscent of that vilified by Hertford in January 1546, continucd - as is shown by the following abstract taken from "The Calendar of State Papers. Domestic. Charles 1. Addenda.":

"8 July 1630, Jersey. Captain Francis Rainsford to the Privy Council. Losses experienced by the inhabitants of Jersey from the Biscay men-of-war infesting the coast. Measures adopted for their protection. The difficulties which have arisen to prevent their execution. Regulations for the setting of the watches. Upon this disobedience of the inhabitants to my instructions, and their neglect of His Majesty's service and their own security, I sent a warrant for the constables and called the constable of St Lawrence to give an account why he neglected the service and slighted my commands, but I could receive no other satisfaction from him but that he was bound to maintain the privileges of his parish, and contested with me that they were not bound to do any duty at the tower, neither would they now begin.

Upon this stubborn and mutinous reply I committed him to the Castle as an example to deter others. But ... upon his confinement, most of his parish, with all the constables and some of the justices, came to visit him as a martyr and one who had unjustly suffered for the maintenance of their privileges and liberty."

Rainsford was Lieut-Governor of Jersey until 1633.

A cross-section through the tower

Summary of defences

Before passing on to the next chapter, it will be as well to offer a summary of the reformation of the island’s defences carried out during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, and under the successive governorships of Edward Seymour (1537-1550), Sir Anthony Paulet (1550-1571), Sir Hugh Paulet (1571-1588), Sir Amyas Paulet (1590-1600), Sir Walter Ralegh (1600-1603), and Sir John Peyton (1603-1630):

  • Gorey Castle: Transformed unsatisfactorily from an ancient bow-and-arrow stronghold into a fire-arm fortress. Insufficiently garrisoned.
  • Elizabeth Castle. An entirely new fort. Insufficiently garrisoned.
  • Saint Aubin's Tower. Inadequately armed and garrisoned and deficient in magazines, stores and water supply.
  • Coast defence Bulwarks or redoubts. One at Bouley Bay. One at Saint Ouen's Bay. One at Saint Aubin and one at Bel Royal. Each, except the last, armed with one saker which generally lay on the ground owing to the decay of its carriage.
  • Regular Garrison from England. About 50 men distributed between the two castles and of no great military value.
  • Local Troops consisting of 12 Parish Companies of about one hundred men each. Indifferently armed and trained. Later organised into groups of four parishes. Each parish possessed two light field guns, the last survivor of which stands neglected on German cart wheels at the foot of Beaumont Hill.
  • Alarm precautions : Beacons and tocsin, and the firing of cannon.

1643-1651

During the first eight months of the Civil War in Jersey the Parliamentary party had the upper hand and were blockading their opponents in Elizabeth and Gorey Castles.

Saint Aubin's Tower, now 100 years old, made its first acquaintance with war when two Parliamentary frigates chased a Royalist privateer into St Aubin's Bay. The crew of the privateer, after seizing the tower, overset its three small guns and having smashed their carriages, sailed across to Elizabeth Castle, where they lay safely at anchor under the protection of the castle ordnance.

A few days later, Sir Philip de Carteret, the Royalist commander, having satisfied himself that the Parliamentary frigates had gone for good, caused the broken carriages and one of the guns to be brought over to his Castle lest they should be removed by his enemies ashore.

For the next four months the tower, being of no tactical use to either side, remained unoccupied and unarmed. In the meanwhile the local Parliamentary party, finding themselves unequal to the task of capturing the castles, sought aid from London.

Military commander wanted

Their delegate to Westminster, Jean Herault, had instructions to tell Parliament that though they required no English troops to help them, their own being of excellent quality, they did need a military Lieut-Governor to direct operations. If, moreover, he brought with him some cannon, small arms and ammunition, they would raise no objections.

The answer to this request arrived at St Aubin on 26 August 1643, in the persons of Major Leonard Lydcott, his bride, his mother-in-law, his father, his brother, three captains, three lieutenants, half-a-dozen soldiers and some male and female servants.

"And there", writes Jean Chevalier, "you have the train which came with Lydcott to conquer the Castles of Jersey". "If he had brought three hundred men with him", he adds, "they would have had the island under their thumbs and would have kept possession of it - as Lydcott was shortly to discover for himself."

The new Lieut-Governor was in command of the island for nearly three months and many events of importance in the history of Jersey took place during that period. As far, however, as our tower is directly concerned, we can only claim one of them which was thus and tersely recorded by Jean Chevalier:-

"About now, (9 October 1643), St Aubin's Tower was repaired and surrounded with bulwarks. The watch-house also was repaired and the two cannons remounted. A lieutenant named Brand was placed in command by the Lieut-Governor and a garrison of local soldiers was installed to defend it for the Parliament in case it should be attacked. It was intended also to use it as a prison for "refractories" , otherwise, Royalists.

King George's Gate

Conversion to fort

By the building of this outer line of defence, the place became a fort, and a fort it has remained ever since. The watch-house was presumably the small building on the roof of the Tower shown in the drawing.

"Barely a month after St Aubin's Tower had been promoted to the status of fort, the Parliamentary front in Jersey began to crack. Lydcott, now fully aware of the unreliability of the local troops and of the mischievous influence exercised by their bigoted spiritual leaders, had despatched his brother to seek reinforcements from England, and none had arrived.

It was the desertion of four of his English officers and the arrival at the castles of men and supplies sent from Saint Malo by Captain George Carteret, that finally convinced Lydcott and his civilian colleagues that the game was up. And so, when the news of the capture of St Aubin's Fort reached them they emulated the action of the Boojum and "softly and suddenly vanished away ".

The capture of the fort was accomplished by a number of Saint Breladais royalists who, on the afternoon of 21 November, drifted in to the tower by ones and twos to gossip with the garrison while Brand was dining ashore. At a given signal tbese men pounced upon and mastered their unwary hosts and then mounting to the roof of the tower, discharged their matchlocks into the air to let Elizabeth Castle and their friends on land know that their ruse had succeeded.

Brand, at his dinner, had barely time to draw his sword, when an inrush of men overwhelmed and disarmed him. He was then led back, a prisoner, to the post from which he had so improperly absented himself; after which, he and his captured garrison were transferred to Elizabeth Castle, where they were detained for a time and then set free.

Royalist rule

The short-lived ascendancy of the Parliamentary party was succeeded by eight years of Royalist rule under the vigorous Sir George Carteret, Bailiff and Lieut-Governor, who, aware that one day he would have to face the might of Republican England, did all he could while time permitted, to make the island impregnable.

By parochial musters and inspections; by watch and ward duties round the coastline; and by occasional sham fights and grand reviews, he tried to instill into his unwilling fellow-countrymen some elementary knowledge of a subject which Chevalier politely calls "the Military Art".

The backbone of Sir George's little army, however, was composed of regular troops, horse and foot, of many nationalIties. These men remained faithful to him after the disaster in St Ouen's Bay and formed the garrison of Elizabeth Castle which eventually was forced to surrender on 15 December 1651. Meanwhile, to balance his budget and pay for his regulars, Sir George resorted to many irregular expedients, among the most lucrative of which figured his fleet of piratical frigates, based on the haven of Saint Aubin.

To ensure the safety of the ships as well as that of their prizes and the loot stored inthe village cellars, the strengthening and rearming of Saint Aubin's Fort should have become a matter of prime importance. As early as February 1645 the States had made an official visit to the place and decided that something ought to be done.

Thirteen months later, as nothing had been done, Sir George reintroduced the subject and stated that the tower must be repaired and new batteries built round about it. In agreeing to this demand, the States decreed that the island should bear the cost of the work and that each parish "tresor" should contribute ten ecus thereto, the ecu being half-a-crown.

The fort in 1906

Charles II

On the evening of 16 April 1646, the Proud Black Eagle and two other ships from the Scilly Isles sailed quietly into Saint Aubin’s Bay, bearing the 16-year-old Prince Charles and some 300 of his nobles, gentry and followers. If ever it were necessary for Sir George to complete the long neglected defences of Jersey, this was the moment; for in addition to being responsible for the safety of His Sacred Majesty’s island he was now also responsible for the safety of His Sacred Majesty's Sacred Son.

Once again therefore, it was decided to do something at Saint Aubin's Fort; and with the encouragement of the Prince, who subscribed fifty pistoles and promised more, work recommenced.

Moreover the Prince and his Council, unwilling that the island should bear the cost, ordered that the money raised from the parishes should be refunded, if it had been received.

Chevalier's journal

On 12 May 1646 the Prince with his lords and captains paid a visit to the place and after that, says Chevalier,

"Many men, at ten sous a day, were set to work there. The tower was repaired and the rock on its eastern side was scarped for the insertion of a new door. The old door, which was on its western side and, in wartime would have been exposed to cannon fire from the shore, was blocked up. Other work was done inside. The bulwarks round about were repaired and cannons were mounted in them. The tower was heightened and its lower embrasures closed, so that a storeroom and magazine might be constructed within. Other embrasures for guns were made higher up. A mass of earth was carted to the works and stones were collected on the spot. Lime also was provided for the building of the tower. The Prince's fifty pistoles were expended ere the work was scarce commenced, nevertheless much material had been carried there."

In 1647, Chevalier refers back to this work and to the Act of 15 March 1645, which had authorized it:

"In virtue of the Act" he writes, "labourers, carts and wagons were sent to Saint Aubin's Tower to make bulwarks there. The carts fetched earth from Saint Lawrence's marsh, and stone was quarried on the spot. In this manner the making of a strong structure was intended. All the old buildings which had been set up there in Mr Lydcott's time were dismantled."

In and after May, however, those parishes which were subject to the ‘’Douvres du Chateau’’ were ordered to work there, seeing that they had not performed this obligation in 1643, when Sir Philip de Carteret was blockaded in Elizabeth Castle by the islanders.

In spite of the building operations recorded off and on since 1643, it would be rash to assume that Saint Aubin's Fort was really completed in 1647.

Workers criticised

To believe that, indeed, would be to believe that the islanders' will to work had changed for the better since 1636, when Sir Philip de Carteret, directing the work in Elizabeth Castle, wrote the following memorable words: "The slothfulness of the workmen and the backwardness of the labourers doth impose upon me an intolerable pains and trouble."

Continuing with Chevalier s account of the works in progress during 1647. we note

  • The height of the Tower was increased by two brace and that a stone pillar was built within it to support the roof
  • John Dean was appointed Captain of the Fort and went to live in the tower in a room specially prepared for him
  • Another room in the tower was specially fitted to serve as a magazine
  • The garrison was increased and more cannons mounted, planks having been supplied for their platforms.

Sir George also had procured from Granville an alarm bell, weighing 47 pounds, to hang in the watch-house on the top of the tower.

Chevalier then remarks that though the tower was strongly situated, it would not be able to withstand a long siege. "Sea water in plenty was there, it is true", he says, "but for those who preferred fresh drinking water, there was none, other than that stored in barrels. And if an enemy held the land, the tower would have to be succoured by sea from Elizabeth Castle, under cover of darkness, an operation fraught with danger because boats, launched by the enemy, would most surely interfere with it."

In view of all this it seems hard to accept Chevalier's statement, under date of 24 July 1650, that "in this year also Sir George commenced to enclose within walls of masonry the area in which Saint Aubin's Tower stands. The work was supervised by Captain Sausmarez of Guernsey, who was in command of the said Tower".

Ouless painting from 1847 looking down on St Aubin and its fort

English and Irish garrison

The garrison of the tower during that summer, and while the masons were still at work, was composed of English and Irish troops. When news came of Cromwell's victory at Dunbar, however, the strength of the garrison was increased by a dozen local soldiers - one being furnished by each parish and paid at the rate of fifty sous a week.

As time went on the news from England worsened and on 25 July 1651 Sir George informed the States that he had received a despatch from the Duke of York and Lord Jermyn, in Paris, that an expeditionary force was being assembled in England for the invasion of Jersey. The Duke offered to raise a body of 300 French and Swiss troops and send them over to reinforce the garrison of the island. The States, scenting more taxation, rejected this offer. They had enough young men of their own. All they now needed was a number of regular officers to train them.

In August, two precautionary measures were taken against the corning storm. Five ships were ordered to bring supplies and munitions from Saint Malo and a day of fast, prayer and intercession was appointed for Sunday the tenth. Everyone was to be present in church that day from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon singing psalms, praying and listening to sermons.

As if distrustful of the efficacy of this latter performance, Sir George also ordered his sea-scouts to patrol the coasts of Sark and Guernsey to watch for the approach of the enemy. Out again on 3 October, they again reported "no enemy in sight". Meanwhile the works at Saint Aubin's Fort had been completed and armed with twelve guns. Its garrison remained at full strength.

States declaration

On 10 October Sir George took yet another precaution. He ordered every member of the States to sign a declaration that they would defend the island on the King's behalf to the last drop of their blood. He also requested every well-to-do person in Jersey to bake biscuits, so that when the invasion carne, rich and poor would share and share alike.

In the night of 20/21 October 1651 the Parliamentary forces landed in Saint Ouen's Bay. The Militia, who had long been tired of the whole business, disbanded themselves, while Sir George and his regulars, after fighting a short rearguard action, withdrew to Elizabeth Castle.

A few hours later Saint Aubin's Fort was abandoned to the enemy, for its local men had mutinied saying that the place was untenable through lack of food and water. Its regulars then took to their boats and made for Elizabeth Castle.

Sir George’s privateers

As the chief object of the Fort was to protect the vessels which lay in the haven, some reference to the ships and their crews which made Saint Aubin their base, must be made.

It was during the years 1643 to 1651 that the port rose from poverty to affluence mainly through the nefarious operations of Sir George Carteret's privateers, which were known to some as ships of the Royal Navy and to others as "The Jersey Pyrates ".

The doings of this flotilla provided Sir George and other adventurers with much wealth, and Jean Chevalier with a great deal of copy for his Journal. They also inspired our godly journalist frequently to quote the Jewish scriptures and moralise on the iniquities committed by his fellow men and the calamitous nature of the times.

The fortunes of the flotilla fluctuated, of course, from time to time; but by following a policy of attacking the weak and avoiding the strong, the pirates succeeded in bringing many a valuable prize in to Saint Aubin, where Sir George's Court of Admiralty adjudged them to be lawful prizes, or otherwise.

It is from the existence of this Court that a house in Saint Aubin still bears the name of The Old Court House - - which has given rise to the belief that the village was once the seat of the Royal Court and therefore the capital of the island.

When a ship and her cargo bad been judged a lawful prize, an auction sale - after being advertised with tap of drum in Saint Helier - would be held in Saint Aubin, and thither would congregate on the appointed day many a local merchant and foreign speculator.

One of the most valuable prizes ever taken appears to have been a Parliamentary supply ship on her way from Loudon to Londonderry in February, 1647.

Though only of 90 tons burden, she was reckoned to be worth £15,000. Here is a list of her cargo:

30 barrels of gunpowder: 500 muskets, 500 pistols, 500 carbines, 500 swords and shoulder belts: 500 ready-made suits of clothes, 36 bales of cloth, saddles, boots, bridles and spurs, two small bronze cannons, 450 pairs of shoes, 500 linen shirts, socks, a quantity of red coats, five cases of surgical instruments, musket cases, wheat, a good quantity of peas, sacks of rice, barrels of butter, cheese, sun-dried raisins, chestnuts and other commodities.

As a rule, only one or two privateers at a time sallied forth in search of prey, but on 18 July 1650, no less than six, convoying two supply boats, set off to provision Castle Cornet. As these six small vessels bore names which were famous or infamous in those days, I give them herewith:

The Raceboat of 14 guns: The Francois of 18: the Patrice of 14 : the Pierre of 19: the Marie of 10 and the Lady of four. It is interesting to note that the Lady was adventured or financed by Sir George's lady and her friends.
The fort in 1840

Jersey pirates?

Turning now to the officers and crews of the privateers, I take the opportunity of pointing out that the phrase "Jersey pirates" is misleading, seeing that there were very few Jerseymen amongst them. It would, in fact, be more accurate to call them Royalist pirates operating from Jersey.

Of the score of captains mentioned by Chevalier, about a dozen were Englishmen who bore typical English names. The rest were Flemings, Ostenders, Dunkirkers and the like.

The crews were a rough lot of rascals of many nationalities, who were merciless and cruel in their treatment of prisoners, and never failed to squander in riotous living the shares they received when their prizes were sold. The excessive intake of strong liquor by men such as these led to many a breach of the public peace in the taverns of Saint Aubin and the occasional shedding of blood in its streets.

Manual Clement

The Royalist Lieutenant who succeeded the unwary Brand in the command of Saint Aubin’s Fort was a genltleman most inappropriately named Manuel Clement. This officer had distinguished himself in Sir Philip de Carteret's first sortie from Elizabeth Castle and had also been a member of the party which had captured Saint Aubin's Tower in November 1643.

On the afternoon of 7 December 1646, this Manuel Clement and one Michael Jenkinson, the master mriner of Sir George's galley, sat carousing in a tavern, and being well primed with strong drink, very naturally fell into a dispute over the bill.

Jenkinson, in his anger, flung his money on the table and made for the door saying he would pay no more. Clement, drawing his sword, rushed after him and shouted "Come back. Come back !” But dusk was falling and Jenkinson, having far to go, took no notice of this invitation, whereon Clement ran him through without more ado and left him dead in the gutter.

As there were no witnesses of this brutal deed, Clement would have been wise to hold his tongue; but he needs must return to the tavern and blab.

And so, on his own confession, the Constable and his centeniers seized him for murder and led him away to the prison criminal in Gorey Castle, there to await his trial. Chevalier states that Clement, in spite of his good record, would certainly have paid the penalty; but the ways of the law in those days were somewhat slow and by 6 March of the following year, Clement still awaited trial. The night of 6 March 1647 was a very dark one, and into it Clement the murderer privily withdrew. Nor, though all the ports were watched, was he ever seen again.

Janson Garet

The Clement-Jenkinson affair, however, was not the first of its kind; for one of an even more gruesome nature had already taken place some six weeks earlier. This was a stabbing affray between a big powerful Fleming named Janson Garet and a half-breed Portuguese named Andre Laurens.

I shall spare the reader the horrible details of this business and merely state that the Fleming was killed by the half-breed who, however, received such terrible injuries that three months elapsed before he could be brought to trial. The jury of 24 then found that he had acted in self-defence and he was acquitted. Later he was expelled from the island.

The fort in 1680

1680 military report

This sumptuously-bound and attractive report, which is preserved in the Department of Manuscripts, British Museum, is entitled :

"The present state of Guernsey with a short accompt of Jersey, and the forts belonging to the said islands. By Colonell George Legge, Lieutennant Generall of His Majesty's Ordnance. Anno Domini MDCLXXX.

Although Legge, as senior officer, takes the credit for this achievement, Master Gunner Thomas Phillips supplied the plans and illustrations, and Captain Richard Leake was responsible for details of armaments and criticisms of their state and efficacy.

Of Phillips' illustrations it may be said that their artistic merit is more to be admired than their military accuracy, especially in regard to his plans, from which he omits the references so carefully prepared by Leake.

Phillips' largest drawing in the Jersey series is a panorama of Saint Aubin's bay which measures 54 by 20 inches. His illustration of Saint Aubin's Fort, measures 11½ by 19 inches.

The English of the report also has its attractions, as the following three examples show:

”Some short observations upon the Island of Jersey for ye better intelligence of the Mapp of the said Island and more particulerly about the landing places. For the landing of an enemy there is a shoare about the middle of the said bay called St Laurence Bulworks where there might be something done towards the preventing It is in that Bay of St Aubins that Sir Thomas Morgan did undertake to build a Peere adjoining to the Tower of St Aubins which is almost finished, where vessells that drawes about 8 foot comes in a little more than halfe flood ".

The second deals with Saint Aubin's Fort itself, introducing the subject thus:

”An Accompt of the Ordnance and Carriages of St Alban's Fort in His Majesty's Island of Jersey taken by "Captain Richard Leake Master Gunner of England, by Order of the Honoble Colonell George Legge with ye Opinion of ye said Capt Leake what Alteration or Addition may be at the same".

The Accompt ends with these words:

"St Albans Fort is in indifferent repaire the walls being built with Stone and Loome and Pointed with Lime and Sand Mortar is of no great Strength but is only for defending ye vessells in the New Peere under the said Forts Command. Without the Fort upon the Rocks there is required a Battery to be made for the Command of the Bay between Elizabeth Castle and the said St Alban's Fort."

(This Battery was later known as the Eastward Battery).

In Leake's description of the Fort's armament, the type, length, weight, and position of each piece is given together with the nature and condition of its carriage (stand carriage or ship's carriage).

In a separate column, Leake recommends certain alterations in the armament of each platform or battery, but as Phillips omitted to note on his plan the positions of these platforms, I must leave the reader to place them for himself.

Here is a list of them:

Facing the Towne. Flanking the Peere. Flanking the Road comeing in to the Peere. Faceing the Gate. Flanking the Gate coming in. Faceing the Road. Flanking the Peere and the Towne. Flanking the Point coming into the Road."

The Towne is Saint Aubin's village, and the Road the anchorage.

The Fort's ordnance was all of iron, and consisted of the following pieces:

Four demi-culverins averaging 9 feet in length and rather over a ton in weight. Seven sakers 7 feet long and 15 cwt in weight. One falcon of 14 cwt and of 4 feet in length, and one three-pounder, 7 feet long and 11 cwt in weight. Total 13 guns.

Leake states that two of the demi-culverins and nine carriages were unserviceable. An account of Phillips' services and death will be found in ‘’The Dictionary of National Biography’’.

Fort pier

The construction of a pier at Saint Aubin's Fort had been under consideration for quite half a century before any active work was begun.

By 1680 its core or foundation had been made, thanks to the energy and initiative of Sir Thomas Morgan, Governor of Jersey from 1665 to 1679. Morgan had arranged for the financing and planning of the undertaking in 1673 and for the prosecution of the work in case of his death.

Though small jetties may have existed previously elsewhere along the coasts, no building on such a huge scale had ever before been attempted in Jersey.

I quote Lieut-Bailiff Jean Poingdcstre on the subject:

"I should here alsoe mention ye Peere which is making at ye Fort of St Albins, a peece for Eternity; if you consider ye breadth materialls and workemanshipp. It will be time enough to give an accompt of it, when by God's favour it shall be finished."

As Poingdestre died in 1691, nine years before the pier was finished, his accompt was never written.

Dumaresq survey

Jurat Philip Dumaresq in his A Survey of the Island of Jersey 1685, writes:

"There is a Peere almost finished adjoining to the North-East point of this small Island; which will be about thirty feet high at the head, some three hundred feet long and above thirty broad: Here all the shipping of the Island resort, it being the principal Harbour: the conveniency whereof has occasioned a small Town, called St Aubin to be built (consisting of about four-score houses) that daily increases, and would much more, but that the same high hill that commands the said fort, hinders it."

The line of wharfs or quays along the north edge of the islet had been partly built by 1742 and was completed by the end of the century.

It is interesting to compare the rough masonry of the pier with the well-cut blocks of later date at the head of the slipway.

The east screen wall had been built, therefore, before 1680. The west screen wall was erected early in the eighteenth century.

These walls served to protect the shipping in the fort harbour from the weather, as well as to screen it from an enemy in the roads.

1742 plan

Georgian fort

During the Georgian period, England and France were embroiled in no less than five major wars, each of which had some indirect effect on the efficiency of the Militia, the growth of the fortifications and the strength of the regular garrison of the island.

First there was the War of the Austrian Succession, 1741 to 1748. Then the Seven Years War, 1756 to 1763. Then the War of 1778 to 1783, in which France helped the revolting American Colonies to gain their independence; and lastly the great French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars which raged, with occasional breathers, from 1793 to 1815.

As if aware that trouble was brewing, the Board of Ordnance decided in 1730 to repair, and if necessary rebuild, the fortifications of Jersey. The record of the reception given by the States to the board's engineer on 25 August 1730, runs as follows:

”John Henry Bastide, Gentleman officer and engineer engaged for the reparation of this Island’ s fortresses by the Lords Commissioner of the ordnance of our Sovereign Lord the King of Great Britain, etc., has this day read to the States certain directions given him by the Lords Commissioner concerning the repairing of the Bulwarks and Guard Houses round this Island and the mounting in them of the Cannons and their carriages, etc, which the Lords Commissioner intend to send over when Mr Bastide certifies that the reparations have been completed.
” The States having considered the matter, resolved to issue the necessary orders immediately. At the same time, they desired Mr Bastide to convey to Milords their gratitude and thanks. They also desired Mr Bastide to inform Milords that they were about to give effect to their resolution."

Bastide must have been on duty in the archipelago for a dozen years or more. The chief memorial of his skill and industry is his work in Elizabeth Castle which, though altered in parts by the reformers of 1838, and savaged here and there by the Germans, still survives in some of the bastions and curtain walls of the Lower Ward.

The western sally port with its fine brick arch (1734) is his, as is also the east sally port of 173I, which leads downward from the north-cast corner of the Barrack Square.

The work carried out by him in Saint Aubin's Fort is, with the exception of King George II's Gateway, not so conspicuous owing to the reconstructions and alterations made between 1837 and 1840. It may, however, be detected in the southern defences, notably in the truncated sentry turret at the tip of the central bastion. Three of these turrets have survived intact in Elizabeth Castle.

1742 plan

The 1742 plan represents the fort as it was when Bastide had finished his work there. If compared with Phillips 1680 plan, it will be seen that the enclosure marked "Gardens" is now (1742) occupied by a Suttling House or Canteen.

The building west of the guard house, meanwhile, has disappeared. The 13 gun embrasures along the walls probably occupy the same positions that they occupied in 1680. The Barracks in the 1742 plan is another name for the ancient Tower.

Between 1737 and 1739 Bastide made plans of Castle Cornet and Alderney. He also made a series of panoramic sketches which eventually, as copper engravings, was published by J Tinney at the Golden Lion in Fleet Street, under the title of ‘’A General and Particular Prospectus of the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Arm and Jethou, drawn on the spot by J Bastide and finished by C Lempriere’’.

At the moment the most interesting of these to us is the engraving described as the"Prospect of the Fort. Harbour and Town of St Aubins in Jersey". As in the case of all the others, it is signed “J Bastide, Delin: C Lernpriere, Perfecit and W H Toms, Sculp".

The engraving bears the following note:

"St Aubin's Fort and Peer where a 6th Rate just floats at a dead neep and 200 Tun Ships at all times."

While acknowledging the skill of the perfecter and engraver, I cannot but wonder if all the details of the original sketch were faithfully reproduced by them. The question is raised in connection with the fort's tower, the top of which appears in the engraving to project as if resting on corbels. I can fmd no proof that an architectural feature of this kind ever existed there.

Saint Aubin's Fort, in spite of the warlike nature of the times, now drops out of the news. Its garrisons no doubt grumbled from time to time at the inadequate water supply and want of accommodation but, on the other hand, they must have found consolation and relaxation in observing the movements of the ships which crowded the harbour, or in sharing with the matelots some of the simple pleasures in which 'Jack ashore' has ever delighted.

The armament of the Fort in 1801 was stated to be six 24-pounders; seven 6-pounders and one 8-inch howitzer.

1838 to 1940

Extract from the Inspector General of Fortifications' observations upon Lt-Colonel Oldfield’s plans and Sections for the Repair and Reform of St Aubyn's Fort, Jersey :-

"The position of St Aubyn's Fort is a favorable point in the defence of the Bay of St Heliers, both on account of its bearing on the most sheltered part of the anchorage and the collateral aid it affords for the defence of the shore where landing might be attempted. It moreover effectually covers the little Harbor of St Aubyns from desultory attack. The existing work is, however, of a very imperfect construction, small capacity and low Profile, which defects could not be wholly remedied but at a considerable expense. - 1 January 1838.”

The application of steam power to shipping had a profound effect on the tactical situation of Jersey; for whereas formerly the fate of an invasion hung on the state of the wind and tides, an invader could now act, within reason, independently of the forces of nature. To meet these changed conditions, the coastal defence of the island was strengthened in the third decade of the 19th century by modifying or perfecting the already existing fortifications, and by creating entirely new ones.

Among those in the first category were Elizabeth Castle, Saint Aubin's Fort, and the old Martello towers; whilst in the second was the chain of small forts which extends along the north coast from Rozel in the east to Plemont in the west.

The chief features of the new constructions, with the exception of those inserted in the Martellos, was the mounting of guns on traversing platforms, designed to command sea approaches and anchorages; and the provision of loopholed curtain walls, designed to dominate by musketry fire the immediate land and shore approaches to the forts themselves.

The changes carried out in Saint Aubin's Fort may therefore be summed up under those two heads: the mounting of guns on traversing platforms mainly to command the anchorage or roads in Saint Aubin's Bay; and the provision of loopholes from which a concentrated flanking musketry fire could be directed agamst all attempted coup-de-main and escalade.

The new system, as applied to our fort, demanded a stronger garrison; and a stronger garrison, in turn, demanded more barrack accommodation and extra water tanks and magazines.

A sketch plan of the fort in 1948. A - the tower; B - NW bastion; C - Magazine; D - North Bastion; E - NE Bastion; F- King George II's Gate; G - Former barracks and cannten; H - Latrines; J - former barrack; K, L, M - German defences

Structural changes

Many of these structural changes may easily be detected by anyone who visits the fort today; for the newer masonry, which consists largely of neatly fitted blocks of grey Mont Mado granite, contrasts sharply with the ancient rubble of the Tudors, the irregular stonework of the Stuarts and the red granite courses of George II's engineers.

In spite of German alterations, the 1838-1840 work is still specially noticeable in the three gun positions which form the southern front of the fort and in the two gun positions in the north-west and north-east angles, the last named being directly above the fort's gateway.

It will also be seen in the upper part of the tower and in the four surviving machicoulis galleries, which project from its parapet. Originally there were seven of them, but later, when it was decided to place a heavy traversing gun on the roof of the tower, three of them were destroyed. The stumps of their corbels are still visible in the surface of the wall.

Another very important reform was the reconstruction of all the interior arrangements in the Tower. A massive central pillar of Mont Mado granite was made to support the new floors and roof. In the basement, which was excavated to hold a tank for 14 hogsheads of water and a magazine for 90 barrels of powder, it is four and a half feet thick.

In the room above it is four feet thick, and in the top room three feet six inches. Ladders and trap-doors provide means of communication from basement to roof. From base to top the pillar measures about 23 feet. The tower walls were cased with brick nine inches thick - an addition which gave to the eastern wall of the tower an average thickness of six feet three inches, and to the western wall a thickness of five feet.

The south wall or apse of the tower now became six feet thick, while the north wall became seven. Each loophole in these walls was provided with a glazed oaken frame. Other improvements in the tower were the provision of a reconstructed entrance door and the installation of a fireplace.

It was estimated that under war conditions the tower would be able to accommodate 30 men, a number which might suffice "to work the six guns proposed to be mounted in the lower emplacements, but would form a very inadequate garrison for a post having such a large contour to defend."

Extra accommodation

Extra accommodation for a garrison on a war footing had therefore to be provided within the area of the lower work, as distinct from the tower. As, however, the fort was abandoned as obsolete long before any war occurred, this accommodation was never required.

One of the chief disabilities from which the old contour, or enceinte, suffered was its want of elevation and this, of course, exposed it to the danger of escalade. To remedy this, the height of the parapets had to be raised where possible and the rock at the foot of the walls subjected to further escarpment.

The officers responsible for the repair and partial reform of Saint Aubin's Fort during the years 1838-1840 were:

  • F W Mulcaster, Inspector General of Fortifications.
  • J. Oldfield. Lt-Col CRE Jersey, and his successor
  • H G Jones, Major CRE Jersey.

A record of their work will be found on the keystone of the interior arch of the fort gateway. The stone bears the words: "The defences of this Fort reformed in the year 1839."

A 1948 drawing

1840 report

I close this part with a copy of the report by Lt-Col F English, RE, dated 9 November, 1840.

Present state

In good repair. The reform of its defence was completed m March 1840. The Keep and Lower Platform are in a state to receive the Armament. The former is loopholed and has Machicoulis.

Situation

About 500 yards from the beach at the Town of St Aubin and 1450 yards from Tower No 3 (Beaumont). The Fort is constructed on a rock 22 feet above high water mark, isolated at half tide. It is exposed to the high ground westward above St Aubin, and towards Le Boue at the distance of 700 to 1,000 yards.

Object of the work

One of the fortified posts for the protection of the shipping taking shelter in the Great Roads, or St Aubin's Bay. It commands the entrance, pier, harbour and the west shore from St Aubin's Town to Point Le Boue, and to within 7 or 800 yards of Noirmont Tower.

Armament

Five 24 Prs, and three 8-inch Mortars have been proposed as the Armament. They are not on the spot.

Bomb-proof cover

In the keep for one officer and 30 men, and in the old magazine of the lower works for ten men if not required for Ammunition.

Magazine

Dry: one in the keep for 90 Barrels and that in the lower work will contain 160 Barrels.

Water

The tank in the tower will contain 4476 gallons.

Proposed additions

The parapets require to be strengthened at some points. The breastwork for two guns to the eastward to be converted into a battery for two heavy guns, on traversing platforms, well scarped and flanked, and enclosed in the rear by a loopholed wall. The wall in the rear of the battery (proposed to be loopholed), belongs to the States.

The main entrance is somewhat exposed to the sea side. It is proposed to enclose it in front by a strong loopholed wall in the form of a demi-bastion, which will contribute to the defence of the gateway, give a flank to the shore, where the landing from boats is perfectly easy and protect the communication with the eastern battery.

Barracks

Bombproof, for three officers and 100 men. The expense of this addition will be £368 and £840 for the new Barrack.

1840-1940

The story of our fort during this period is easily told, for within 40 years of its great reform its armament had been withdrawn and its garrison had dwindled to a caretaker. When the caretaker in turn was relieved of his duties, a succession of private individuals leased the place from the War Office and finally it was acquired by the States of Jersey.

Its last tenant before the outbreak of the Second World War was Mr Lionel Cox who, during the course of many years, converted it into a summer 'plaisance' of real charm.

1940-1948

In their five years tenure, the Herrenvolk transformed Jersey into a fortress of enormous strength. They not only constructed their defence works in positions never before occupied by exponents of "The Military Art", but they also made use of all the tactical sites which in times past had played their part in the war story of the island.

Saint Aubin's Fort, of course, was one of these, and here the Germans moved in with their concrete, guns, ammunition, barbed wire, mines, telephones, electrical plant and the thousand and one other appliances which soldiers now consider necessary for the proper conduct and prosecution of their profession.

Being unable to describe in suitable terms the work executed by the Germans in our fort, I applied to Major J C M Manley, RA for help, and the very next day received the welcome and valuable information which now follow :

  • Fig 1 on the 1948 plan - Ferro-concrete strong point containing air-conditioned barracks for a mortar detachment. The position of the mortar is a concrete emplacement at the western end of the building and is reached by a short flight of steps which gives access from the men's quarters. Passages also lead out onto the quay area as well as through the wall of the north-west bastion into the interior of the fort. Exits and quarters are protected by steel blast-proof doors. The mortar is sited for all-round fire; but is intended mainly to command the approaches leading in from the sea towards the concrete causeway. The roof, ten or 12 feet thick, is rounded-off at the edges as a precaution against damage by shell fire.
  • Fig 3 - Ferro-concrete casemate armed with a 105 mm French gun on a pivot mounting. The mounting is fitted with an armoured shield which traverses with the mounting and thus secures the embrasure against the entrance of hostile shells. The gun had the typical horizontal sliding wedge breech-block, but this, with its firing mechanism, has of course been removed. Round the gun platform are appropriate recesses for expense and reserve ammunition. Sleeping and living accommodation in air-conditioned blast-proof quarters are provided for the gun detachment.

On the west side of the entrance to this casemate is a smaller casemate for a heavy type of the German .300 Vickers Pattern gun, (Spandau manufacture). This gun commanded the quay area as well as the approach from the slipway. The eastern part of the casemate contains another mortar emplacement which is entered from the quay area by steps and a monkey ladder.

This mortar could fire all round, either against an enemy landing on the rocks to the south, or trying to land in the sheltered anchorage to the north, or passing to land on La Haule beach. Fragments of shale cover the casemate's roof, and hooks along its seaward edge show where the camouflage netting was stretched over the embrasure.

  • Fig 4 - The old eastward battery, was used by the Germans either for a Bofors or a medium-heavy AA gun. They removed the old pivot and racer and cut down the original wall sufficiently to allow of a field of fire and provide some protection for the gun detachment. The concrete shell-recesses are German additions.
  • Fig 5 - At the north end of the fort pier is a French Renault tank-turret gun mounted to command the sea approaches to Saint Aubin's harbour and La Haule beach. These small calibre weapons have an extreme effective range of about 1,000 yards.
  • 1948 sketch plan K - This is a searchlight position for use against landing parties. The searchlight, which was mounted on a wheeled platform running on rails, could be run out either to the east or the west to illuminate the seaward side of the defences or detect vessels trying to enter Saint Aubin's Bay. The generating plant for this light and for the whole rort was situated in the small room on the north side of the tunnel within the fort gateway.
  • K - A French Renault tank-turret gun is mounted here as an anti landing-craft armament. Beside and below it, are recesses for ammunition.

Major Manley informs me that he inspected the whole armament of the island in company with the officers of the Liberation Forces who were specially detailed for that duty. They had with them Lieutnant Hans Dreager, the German armament officer, who proved most helpful and informative. The shabby and derelict state in which Saint Aubin's Fort now finds itself is due mainly to neglect on the part of the Military and Civil authorities during and after the demilitarization of the island in 1945-46.

While it would have been impossible to prevent the mischievous and the marauder from gaining access to the hundreds of German military posts, batteries, shelters, magazines and the like scattered all over the island, it would not have been impossible to insure this ancient fortress against outrage.

The Fort, which still lies wide open to the public, now contains little that is destructible. From its tower the doors, loophole frames, and ladders have long since disappeared; though there remain parts of the flooring of the rooms to tempt any hooligan who possesses a hammer, or a crowbar, or a box of matches. The massive door in King George's Gateway has so far defied the hand of the destroyer, though it is still at the mercy of the carver of initials, or the hurler of boulders.

The latter also, I fear, will presently discover the surviving slates on the roof of the magazine. He is at liberty to deal with them at his leisure. Of the rusting barbed wire, the weeds and the insecure masonry I shall say nothing: nor dare I hope that another Lionel Cox will ever be found to undertake a restoration.

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