General Helier Touzel

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General Helier Touzel


Lieut-General Helier Touzel 1843.jpg

A drawing, by J Hammond, of Helier Touzel in 1843, when he was a colonel


Despite being possibly the highest ranking Jerseyman ever to serve in the Army and having the claim to have been the 'founder' of Victoria College, General Helier Touzel is something fo an enigma, and far less is known about him than might be expected


An 1860 painting of General Touzel, given to Victoria College by his granddaughter

Helier Touzel rose to the rank of full General in the Army in 1854. Although Jerseymen are known to have risen to the equivalent rank in the Navy and Royal Air Force, we are not aware of any other full General - one rank below Field Marshal, the highest - born in the island.

It was Helier Touzel who, after playing a part in the visit to Jersey by Queen Victoria in 1846, was the loudest voice pressing for this visit to be commemorated by the establishment of the school which was named after her.

Birth

Helier Touzel was born in 1779 into an affluent branch of the Touzel family, whose genealogy can be traced, in the eastern parish of St Clement, back to at least 1480. Our family tree - Descendants of George Touzel - takes his lineage back to 1570. He was the son of another Helier Touzel, who had settled in Grouville and then in St Saviour, and of Jeanne, nee Le Couteur, the daughter of Philippe Le Couteur of Le Nord, formerly Constable of St John. A first cousin of his mother was Lieut-General John Le Couteur, who had married the daughter of Sir John Dumaresq, Lieut-Bailiff of Jersey. It was thus no doubt determined, not long after his birth, that the younger Helier Touzel should have a military career.

Army career

He was commissioned into the 63rd Regiment of Foot, which returned to Europe from the West Indes in 1799 and took part in campaigns in the Netherlands and Portugal before returning to the West Indies from 1808 until 1819. In 1811 he was made Inspector of Militia in Jersey. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1811, at the age of thirty-two. It is not clear whether this post, effectively entailing command of the Militia, necessitated his full-time residence in the island, but with no indication of his having served elsewhere in the Army after 1811, it was, possibly, a full-time position.

He must have been in Jersey in 1817 and 1821 because he was appointed Deputy Governor at least twice. The first occasion was in 1817, when he was sworn in to deputise in the temporary absence of the Lieut-Governor Sir Hugh Mackay Gordon. He was again appointed in 1821, when Sir Hugh was promoted and left his post. The new Lieut-Governor, Sir Colin Halkett, arrived to take up office five weeks later. Helier Touzel was appointed Deputy Governor again, as Halkett's stand-in, in 1823 and in May 1824. This appointment was regularly renewed until June 1836, which meant that he may have been called on to deputise for Sir Colin Halkett (1821-1830), Sir William Thornton (1830-1835) and Sir Archibald Campbell (1835-1838).

His appointment as Deputy Governor over a prolonged period does not necessarily imply residence throughout that time. He would have had to be present in the island when acting as stand-in for an absent Lieut-Governor, but not necessarily at intervening times. Neither Halkett, Thornton nor Campbell had other military commands during their periods of office in Jersey, so Helier Touzel may not have been called on to stand in for them with any frequency.

Distinguished service rewards

There is a record in the Navy and Military Gazette of Major-General Touzel receiving, along with others of the same rank, rewards for distinguished service in 1844. These rewards appear to have been £200 each. Although it is extremely difficult to estimate what that would be worth today, it was the equivalent of at least £20,000. The citation indicates that Major-General Touzel had been on full pay for 42 years and had served in Jamaica, elsewhere in the West Indies, Holland, the Coast of France, Spain and in the expedition to Walcheren.

The expedition was a disastrous British campaign in the Netherlands in 1809, which led to thousands of deaths and illness among the invading troops. The second in command of the British force in its later stages was Lieut-General George Don who was also Lieut-Governor of Jersey at the time.

If the list of service in the Navy and Military Gazette is chronological, it suggests that General Touzel was not involved in any further campaigns after Walcheren and that his appointment as Inspector of Militia in Jersey was a key point in his career, bringing him back to his native island to replace Major-General John Le Couteur, who had held the position since 1799.

Promotions

Helier Touzel rose steadily through the ranks:

  • 2nd Lieutenant - February 1795 (aged 15)
  • Lieutenant - December 1795 (16)
  • Captain - August 1804 (23)
  • Major - July 1808 (29)
  • Lt-Colonel - July 1811 (32)
  • Colonel - May 1825 (46)
  • Major-General - January 1837 (57)
  • Lieut-General - November 1846 (67)
  • General - June 1854 (75)

The promotions to general rank probably came too late for him to have been actively involved in the Army at the time. It seems that his service in Jersey in one role or another was rewarded by these promotions. He is shown in a list of Militia Officers in the 1837 Royal Almanac as Inspector of Militia, still with the rank of Colonel, but this publication will have gone to press before his promotion to Major General. He is not mentioned as part of the military establishment in the 1852 British Press Almanac. At that time, as a Lieut-General, he outranked the Lieut-Governor, Major-General Sir James Reynett.

Somewhat unusually he does not seem to have received any civilian or other honours. At the time of his appointment as General, on 20 June 1854 he was one of the few holders of that rank who was not a member of the nobility, had not been knighted, or made a Companion of the Bath or received a similar honour. This was the year when the Crimean War started and no fewer than 81 Generals were appointed on 20 June. Today the Army has just one full General, who is Chief of the General Staff. There are references in Army lists to General Touzel having received a 'reward for distinguished or meritorious service' but it is not clear when, or whether this was his promotion to General or some other additional reward.

A list of appointments for Helier Touzel and his fellow generals, showing his career progression

Receiver-General in Jersey

Helier Touzel was appointed on a number of occasions as HM Receiver-General in Jersey, which would suggest that he was resident in Jersey at the time, or at least not away for prolonged periods of active service in the Army. The first appointment was in 1814. He held the position jointly with Thomas Le Breton jnr, who would later become Bailiff. In 1823 Touzel was appointed jointly with Matthieu Amiraux. In 1852 he was appointed sole Receiver-General of Her Majesty`s Revenues in Jersey. He was already 73 at this time, so the sole appointment could hardly have coincided with no longer being on active service.

As Receiver General he was in attendance when Queen Victoria paid the first official visit by a reigning monarch to the island in 1846. The island determined to institute a major project to commemorate this visit, and the three options under consideration were a promenade with the Queen’s statue in the centre, a lighthouse at the point where Victoria had landed and the construction of a new school.

The plan put forward by Laurens Baudains at the end of the 16th century to build a new college in St Helier was resurrected and strongly supported by General Touzel. Public opinion initially favoured the promenade, but Touzel persisted in his demands for a college, and it was eventually unanimously approved by the Assembly of Governor, Bailiff and Jurats. [1]

He resigned as Receiver-General, due to increasing age, in 1863.

Royal Commissions

In 1848 Touzel gave evidence to a Royal Commission investigating various aspects of island life. He drew attention to a division between St Helier and the country parishes over the allocation of finances:

”Whatever sum of money is applied to the improvement of the town is so much withdrawn from the country; forgetting that every improvement in the town improves themselves. There is a degree of jealousy unaccountable between the country parishes and the town. It is very difficult to persuade the country parishes that it is to their advantage to improve the town”.

He gave evidence to a further Royal Commission in 1860, when one of the major issues was the composition and operation of the Royal Court. He strongly supported the view that the Bailiff and Attorney-General should receive fixed salaries, and not obtain their income through fees.

Family

Helier Touzel married Catherine Moulson in Wigan, Lancashire, in 1804. At this point in his career he was clearly being moved around by the Army because his daughter Jane was born in Ireland in 1806, his son, another Helier, in Dublin in 1808 and his second son Thomas Percival, in St Helier in 1813. His son Helier became Rector of Martyrs Worthy, Hampshire. Thomas Percival, who lived at Georgetown House, near Plaisance, St Saviour, was a Lt-Colonel in the 27th Regiment of Foot, having previously served in the 7th Huzzars. He was, in his retirement from the regular army, Adjutant-General and Inspector of Musketry, Royal Jersey Militia and ADC to the Lieutenant-Governor. He had at one time been Military Secretary to Sir Archibald Campbell.

D'Hautree

Helier Touzel bought D’Hautrée, a property on St Saviour's Hill, close to the parish church and Government House, in December 1812, from Major-General William Robertson. He lived there until shortly before his death, ultimately with his daughter Jane and four servants. It was originally his intention to leave the property to Jane, with a financial settlement to his sons, but in 1863 he changed his mind and sold the property. Such was Jane's attachment to the house that in July 1866, the year after her father’s death, she bought it back, and lived in the house for another 27 years until her death in 1893.

It is not known what caused Helier Touzel to change his will, but he had married for a second time in 1862, three years after the death of his first wife. The marriage took place at St Giles, Camberwell, and was to Elizabeth Jane Grant, daughter of Major James Murray Grant.

Obituary

Despite Helier Touzel's senior rank and standing in the community, we have been unable to find any notice of his death in 1865, nor a formal obituary. On the day of his funeral - 13 March 1865 - the Jersey Times published this anonymous appreciation:

"The remains of the late General Touzel were deposited this morning in the family vaults in St Saviour’s Churchyard. The funeral was, in accordance with his own written wishes, strictly private. The deceased General was ever a warm friend to everything that concerned the prosperity of his native Island: Victoria College will remain as a monument of his persevering attempts for its welfare. Though he cared little for what people said or thought of him, when following a course which he believed to be right, few men had more sensitive and delicate feelings. His latter years were passed, as the writer of this notice had good opportunity of knowing, in the enjoyment of domestic happiness; in carrying out a course of kindness towards the many who enjoyed his constant friendship; and in looking forward to that rest which he humbly expected through the merits of his God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. From a Correspondent."

There are few mentions of General Touzel in books covering the history of 19th century Jersey, save for the occasional reference to his support for the establishment of Victoria College. Although his name appears in the original list of individuals who were to be included in George Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey, he does not appear in this work.

One reference to him suggests that he was, at some point, president of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society.

Notes and references

  1. Suggestions that the assembly was divided in its support for the College proposal appear to be wide of the mark. The Bailiff did exercise his casting vote in favour of the project, but only on the question of how much land should be purchased for the project. He added his support to the plan involving a greater area of land
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