Philippe Fall (1736-1811) replaced Moyse Corbet as Lieut-Governor of Jersey after the Battle of Jersey, but when invasion again threatened when war with France resumed in 1793 the role of Commander in Chief was given to another officer while Fall remained nominally Lieut-Governor.
Born Philippe Falle, he was the son of Clement Falle, a Captain in the Militia South Regiment, and Jeanne Le Geyt, daughter of Lieut-Bailiff Philippe.
He was born in St Helier and baptised in the Town Church.
He must have left the island to join the Army and in 1767 he was back in Jersey as a Captain in the 67th Foot on half pay. For reasons unknown he changed the spelling of his name to Fall.
He became prominent in local politics on the anti-Lempriere side. Messervy notes in his Journal: “Monsieur Fall, a Captain on half pay, is one of the grumblers and petitioners".
In 1770 he became Adjutant-General of the Militia, and in 1772 one of the Receivers-General. On 5 October 1781, a few months after Moyse Corbet had been removed court-martial, Fall was appointed Lieut-Governor. In 1783 he was promoted to Lt-Colonel.
The problems of his 13 years in office might have baffled a stronger man. The island was fiercely divided into factions by the Charlot versus Magot feud. The French Revolution flooded it with Royalist refugees, causing serious food and coal shortages. The ever-increasing threat of war with France made it imperative to strengthen the fortifications but the States could not raise the money. The Militia was inefficient and undisciplined. In 1792 there were ugly clashes between the farmers and the English troops, who were helping themselves to fruit and poultry. The States declared:
- "The most inveterate animosities prevail; fatal encounters have already taken place ; every breast beats with apprehensions of the most direful events".
In January 1793, when war was inevitable, the Government did not trust Fall's military capacity, so James Henry Craig, Colonel of the 16th, was made Commander-in-Chief. Fall was promoted Colonel, and received a tactful letter from Dundas:
- "From the variety of matters connected with the civil government every moment of your time must be occupied. His Majesty has therefore thought right that an officer who might appropriate all his time to military objects should take Chief Command of the troops. His Majesty has no doubt from the zeal you have always manifested for his service that you will readily co-operate with him in every measure judged necessary by him for resisting any hostile attempts. The training of the Militia is an object which Col Craig will be instructed particularly to attend to".
Problem for States
But this division of authority raised difficult problems. Who would now represent the King in the States? Craig suggested that he should only be summoned when military matters were discussed, and that on other occasions Fall should retain his seat. But the States replied that the separation of the civil and military powers of the Governor was "unknown to the Constitution, and would involve serious inconveniences", and that, "though convinced by experience of the zeal which the Lieut-Governor has always shown for the well-being of the country", they "could not in conformity with the Constitution receive him to sit in the States".
The demarcation of powers evidently proved difficult to adjust. Letters in the Record Office reveal Fall dealing with matters that would seem to be clearly within the province of the Commander-in-Chief. In January 1795 he reported that he has handed over Mont Orgueil to Philippe d'Auvergne, and transferred the Company of Invalids from the Castle to Fort Henry.
In February he complained that the plans for the new barracks show no provision for heating. In March he wrote: "I shall soon resume the drill of the Militia".
There must have been much overlapping. With d’Auvergne, too, his first cousin, who was in command of the flotilla at Gorey, there was friction. A French Royalist wrote: "Our chief embarrassment is the obstacles which Monsieur Fall puts in the way of the wise ideas of the Duke of Bouillon".
Fall specially resented the fact that the relief of the refugees had been placed in d’Auvergne's hands.
Toward the end of 1795 his health broke down. In December there were complaints about his prolonged absence from the island. In the Société Jersiaise Library there is a letter from Lyme, Dorset, dated 11 June 1796, in which he asks for extension of sick-leave:
- "I am apprehensive that in the course of my long illness I have through want of recollection, of which indeed I have been totally deprived, been guilty of neglect of duty. As yet I have found but little alteration for the better".
When Lord Townsend hecame Governor, he did not renew Fall's appointment, but in October 1797 gave the Lieut-Governorship to General Gordon, the Commander-in-Chief, thus once more uniting the two sets of duties. Later Fall settled in Southampton, where he died childless in 1811. He is buried in the catacombs of All Saints' Church, which also contain the bodies of Major-General James Dauvergne and Circumnavigator Philip de Carteret.