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EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY

JERSEY THROUGH THE EYES OF THOSE WHO WERE THERE

In the age of the ‘soundbite’ journalists don’t have time to sit down and interview at length those who have a story to tell (writes Alastair Layzell). Yet there can be few things more important than recording the memories of the men and women who are able to say: ‘I was there.’ For those I interviewed – many of them in their nineties – time has not dimmed their recollections of events that defined Jersey in the twentieth century. 

Robert de la Haye (97) recalls joining the staff of the Airport a few months after it opened in 1937. Bob Le Sueur (98) reflects on the German Occupation of the Channel Islands (1940-1945) during which he sheltered a Russian slave-worker. Leslie Rebindaine (93) looks back on a long career at the Tourism Department, when holidaymakers were the Island’s principal industry. Iris Le Feuvre (90) talks about becoming Jersey’s first woman connétable. And, Colin Powell looks back on fifty years of advising the States on everything from entering the Common Market to dealing with BREXIT.

All have one thing in common: they have been eyewitnesses to history.

The young Bob Le Sueur shown on this Occupation identity card (above) became Bob Le Sueur MBE. The card tells us that he was an insurance clerk working in St Helier. But behind the bald facts lies the story of a man who defied the occupiers by sheltering a Russian slave-worker and who, at the age of 98, remembers those years as if they were yesterday...

Colin Powell CBE became Jersey’s Economic Adviser in 1969. His first task was to work with the Finance & Economic Committee under its president, Senator Cyril Le Marquand. During fifty years of public service Colin Powell was Chief Adviser to the States and, later, Chairman of the Jersey Financial Services Commission. He continued to advise politicians on international affairs. Shortly before his death in 2019, Colin Powell talked about his long association with Jersey and the industry that has come to define it: Finance. 

"He was the architect of Jersey as an international finance centre. He saw the future.’"
- Colin Powell on Cyril Le Marquand

"I am clear that he made a very substantial contribution to international standards in the financial world as well as making a most positive economic impact upon the City of London and in Jersey.  We are the poorer for his passing, but his contribution to this Island's life and future will mean that he is long remembered as a great 'Jersey Man'."

- Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton
Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey

Opposite: Colin Powell CBE painted by Jason Butler, commissioned by Jersey Heritage in 2009.

From the JEP Archives comes a photograph of record. Both Philip Bailhache, on the right, and William Bailhache (left) would hold the ancient office of Bailiff of Jersey. Both would be knighted. And they would continue a tradition of public service set by their father Lester Vivian Bailhache (middle), a Jurat of the Royal Court who became Lieutenant-Bailiff. Sir Philip Bailhache looks back over a career that covers fifty years…

Monsignor Nicholas France MBE poses for the camera a month before he leaves Jersey, after nearly twenty years as its Roman Catholic Dean (1999 – 2018). His legacy is the creation of a single Island-wide parish and the renovation of St Thomas’s in Val Plaisant – known as Jersey’s Catholic ‘cathedral.’ His position in Island life gave him a unique perspective on the community…

- Robert de la Haye on Jersey Airport 1937

Robert de la Haye joined the staff of Jersey Airport in August 1937, five months after its opening. Over the following three years he saw the airport operation at first-hand before being evacuated as the Germans neared Jersey in June 1940. He was aboard one of the last Jersey Airways’ aeroplanes to leave the Island. With Leslie Rebindaine, Robert de la Haye is one of the last survivors of the original staff... 

"IT WAS MUCH MORE RELAXED THEN. SECURITY DIDN'T COME INTO IT!’"

Leslie Rebindaine joined the staff of Jersey Airport in 1939 and witnessed the arrival of German troops in July 1940. Later, he worked at the States’ Treasury but, in 1948, he moved to the Tourism Department. He was to stay there for almost forty years, rising to become Chief Executive…

Bernard Gardiner flew Hurricanes in the Royal Air Force before transferring to the Hawker Typhoon, a single-seater fighter-bomber. He saw action over France after D-Day and, when peace broke out, was recruited by Welshman Maldwyn Thomas for a new airline he was starting in Jersey. Jersey Airlines put the Channel Islands on the tourist map and Bernard Gardiner became its chief pilot…

 

One man has done more than any other to record the maritime history of Jersey in the twentieth century. Kevin Le Scelleur’s unbroken log – complete with photographs – started in the 1930s. It has given him a unique view of life at sea in and around the Channel Islands…

Leo Harris’s father, a successful garage owner, brought his wife and two sons to Jersey from Edinburgh before the Second World War to escape the threat of German bombing raids. He opened the Marina Hotel at Havre des Pas - which is how the Harris family came to be trapped in Jersey when German troops arrived in July 1940. Leo and his older brother, Francis, saw the Occupation through the eyes of youngsters but things turned serious in 1944 when Francis was imprisoned for helping himself to a German rifle. He was not released until Liberation Day, 9th May 1945…

For much of the twentieth century West Park Pavilion was at the centre of Jersey’s social life. Many will remember the children’s Christmas parties – some of them organised by a young dancing teacher, Valerie Guy. ‘Miss Guy’ – as she came to be known to thousands of budding dancers who passed through her hands in the following seventy years – founded her own school, The Jersey Academy of Dancing…