Militia reviews

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A painting, thought to be by de la Taste, of a Militia Review at Bel Royal
A photograph of a Militia Review on Gorey Common, where the event was held after the introduction of the railway enabled the crowds to get there

One of the major events of the year in Victorian times was the annual review of the island's Royal Militia. This had previously been held on 29 May to remember the restoration of Charles II, but during the reign of Queen Victoria it was moved to her birthday, 24 May.

All three regiments of the Militia and the resident regular battalion participated in the grand parade, which was held on the beach in St Aubin's Bay, either at Bel Royal or close by, and also on occasions on Gorey Common.

The regular battalion stationed in the island led the march past the Lieut-Governor, followed by the artillery and the West, East and Town Regiments of the Militia.

George Quesnel Larbalestier (1851-1933) wrote in his Reminiscences of the 1870 Review:

"The assembly point for the North Regiment, nicknamed Les Russes, was at the foor of Water Lane (now called Wellington Road), St Saviour. The gallant militiamen for the most part arrived at the rendezvous in unsprung boxcarts. A number of the men were above the age limit of sixty-five years as they were so proud of serving that they did not wish to retire. After assembling at 8.30 am the Regiment marched off at the due time for St Aubin's sands. The townsfolk turned out to see the regiment pass through the town. The regimental band, owing to lack of practice, drew uncomplimentary comments from the populace, as apparently did the somewhat unkempt appearance of many of the men. It was not surprising the appearance of the country regiments caused considerable amusement when marching through the streets of the town, as the uniforms were handed to the men with little regard to the fit of the tunic or the white trousers".

Another contemporary account highlighted the importance of the day to the community:

"A general review by the Lieut-Governor is looked forward to with pleasure, and the latter occasion is one which affords a treat to all classes of the community. At an early hour the roads are crowded with merry groups, dressed in their best, hastening to the spot where the review is to take place. The country damsels are proud of seeing their lovers set off by their military attire, and when the men are dismissed it is amusing to see the careful wife or the attentive sweetheart produce from the depth of her pocket, or from a hand basket, a light cap, or wide-awake, top replace the heavy shako, while the young sons and brothers, not yet old enough to be enrolled, dsipute who shall have the honour of bearing the weighty musket. The review is generally over by noon, and those who are industrious may return to their work. Most of the men, however, particularly the unmarried ones, prefer making a thorough holiday of it, and for the rest of the afternoon the streets of the town are filled with groups of merry-makers; the public houses ply a brisk trade, and the evening is often far advanced before the joyous groups think of returning to their own homes.
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