The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia)
The Royal Jersey Militia

The linking of the Jersey Field Squadron to the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers reflects their similar evolution - from Militia origins into the Territorial Army Royal Engineers.

The Channel Islands have always been at risk from raids by pirates and, after the loss of Normandy, also needed protection from France. In 1337 Edward III ordered "all his faithful peoples of the islands" to be levied into companies, precisely defined, for possible war with France - and this is seen as the first evidence of a militia. There were several pirate raids on Jersey at that time, and in 1549 a serious French invasion attempt was beaten off.

In the English Civil War most of the inhabitants were for Parliament, but the Carteret family in Elizabeth Castle was staunchly Royalist - housing the Prince of Wales for a time and, after the execution of Charles I, proclaiming him King Charles II. (For this they were later awarded the territory of New Jersey in America.) So a Parliamentary force arrived to besiege the castle, which surrendered after the ammunition store was hit and blew up. The Militia itself was not greatly involved in the Civil War.

The most dramatic invasion came in 1781 during war with France over the American colonies. Though two French ships foundered on rocks a third put about 600 men ashore. Led by Baron de Rullecourt they moved quickly in the night, surprised the Governor, and coerced him into signing a surrender. But Captain Mulcaster of the Royal Engineers in Elizabeth Castle, and young Major Peirson commanding the garrison on the island, ignored this. Peirson called out the Militia, and marched his own men into St Helier. There was a short battle in the main square, in which the Militia gave support. The invaders were routed - but Peirson and de Rullecourt lost their lives. On the 50th anniversary of this action the Jersey Militia became “Royal”.

Within a few years the Militia faced a very different snag as, after a visit by John Wesley, Jersey fervently accepted Methodism. Many militiamen then objected to being drilled after church on a Sunday - so eventually they were allowed to train on a weekday.
The nineteenth century was peaceful under the protection of the Royal Navy. In World War One the British garrison was withdrawn, leaving the Militia to guard the island, including German prisoners of war. Another 300 members of the Militia joined the Royal Irish Rifles and fought on the Western Front in France.

Stacks Image 288
The Death of Major Peirson - by J S Copley

In World War Two defence of the Channel Islands was impossible after the fall of France, so the Militia was withdrawn and joined the Royal Hampshires. The civilian population who stayed on endured an oppressive occupation and severe food shortage.

Jersey did not adopt National Service after the War and, after centuries of service, the Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey was disbanded; their colours hang in the parish church of St Helier.

However in 1988 a new Jersey Field Squadron Royal Engineers (Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey) TA was formed as a contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom. The Squadron is based in a traditional 19th century barrack block - and also occupies the adjacent Martello tower.