Jersey Rifle Association

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This article by F A L de Gruchy was first published in the 1955 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Volunteer movement

The Jersey National Rifle Association was the outcome of the volunteer movement originated in 1858 as a reply to threats of war from France. The JNRA, now the JRA, took shape first on 20 July 1861, when a meeting was held at the Lyric Hall, Jersey, under the presidency of Colonel Le Couteur. The avowed object of the JNRA was to "promote emulation in the use of the rifle".

The Royal Jersey Militia, composed then of five regiments of six battalions, artillery, cavalry and sappers, is believed to be the oldest regiment of the British Army, and was the first Militia regiment to bear a battle honour on their Colours, to wit "Jersey 1781". Therefore it is natural to find that the original council had for its executive officers a senior Militia colonel as president, the Officers Commanding the various Militia regiments as vice-presidents, as well as the secretaries of the various rifle clubs then in the island. The council furthermore included the musketry instructors of the various Militia units.

Grouville Common shooting

HE the Lieut-Governor, Major-General Douglas, was appointed patron, a precedent which has since been followed. The first range was on Gorey Common in the east of the island, and had targets at 600 yards. This was suitable for the "Snider", but later on the advent of the "Martini" made the range unsafe, and gradually Gorey Common was replaced by Les Platons in the north and Crabbé range on the north-west of the island; later also by Les Landes on the west coast, which had an excellent 1,000 yards range, and Blanches Banques.

The life of the Association falls into three main periods: 1861 to 1915, when actual war training temporarily suspended its functions; 1923 to 1941, when its activities were resumed after the First World War and continued until the unfortunate German occupation caused temporary disbandment. This period saw the change of the once strong Militia brigade formed by conscription into a small detachment of volunteer Militiamen. These crossed to England on the eve of the German occupation and were absorbed in the Hampshire Regiment.

1946 to 1952 saw the second revival of the Association, which is now in a flourishing state, with teams being dispatched each year to the Imperial Meeting at Bisley, and matches against the NRA and Devon County RA, besides, of course, matches with our sister island of Guernsey.

1861-1914

Turning to the period 1861 to 1914, the earliest records are of prize meetings between 1883 and 1886. In 1885 the Annual Prize Meeting took place on Gorey Common in August, the awards consisting of twelve silver cups, £270 in cash and 120 prizes in kind. We have a record of the Jersey versus Guernsey match in 1887, seven shots per man being fired at 200, 500 and 600 yards. The Jersey captain was Major Philip Robin and the Guernsey Mr J B Randell. Guernsey won by 699 to 671.

Records and minute books were regularly kept from 1886. We read that at its meeting of 27 December 1886, the council regretted the lack of enthusiasm shown at the annual meeting and the inter-insular match. It was noted that membership had fallen off from 185 in 1882 to 81 in 1886. Finances were difficult, although the States of Jersey were giving £100 per annum subsidy to the association, because of a fmancial crisis and bad potato season. However, the generosity of Major Philip Robin had permitted an island Militia team to visit Wimbledon to compete, though unsuccessfully, in the Kolapore Cup, and Battery Sgt-Major Gaudin, RJA, won the Prince of Wales prize of £100.

The annual meeting took place at Gorey Common. The Governor and the Bailiff presented handsome cups, and the colonels commanding regiments all presented prizes. Capt St Leger was camp commandant, and Capts Collas and Le Gros were range officers during the meeting, whilst Dr A Le Rossignol, Royal Jersey Militia, organized the medical services. These details are given as they show the type of meetings which have continued, with unavoidable breaks during the wars, continuously throughout Jersey history, down to the present time. There are no longer Militia officers, but there are many retired officers and men who, having served in Her Majesty's Forces, are continuing the good work today.

The association carried out its tasks steadily from year to year. Old Jersey names are indissolubly associated with its history, such as those of Lt-Colonels Le Rossignol James Godfray, De La Taste, Le Brun, Major Ereaut, Capts Robin, Falla, etc. Teams competed regularly at Wimbledon and later at Bisley; the match against Guernsey became an annual affair. Handsome trophies and prizes were offered to and gratefully accepted by the association. The original military character of the organization is illustrated by the copy of a resolution passed by the council in April 1889, and sent to the commanding officers of each Militia regiment.

"The Jersey NRA being a national and to a great extent a military institution, the council think it their duty to beg of the OCs of each of the regiments of the Royal Jersey Militia to use their influence with the officers of their respective corps in order to influence them to become subscribing members of the Association."

In January 1894, at a special general meeting, the association became known as the Jersey Rifle Association, the name which it bears today. There were then at least six leading rifle clubs in the island, who sent their delegates to the JRA. These were the four Royal Militia Clubs, the Kolapore Club and the Jersey Rifle Club, which is to day the Island Club and affiliated with the JRA.

Regulations for prize meetings were modelled on Bisley rules and all points of major dispute referred to the NRA, by whose decision the JRA invariably abided, and Bisley targets were adopted.

In the South African War many Jersey officers and men who were members of the Association went on service. In 1905 the important Jersey Kolapore Rifle Club was absorbed by the JRA., who received all its trophies.

In 1907 cadets of Victoria College for purpose of competitions received the privilege of being considered as Militiamen.

In 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913 the States withdrew their annual subsidy of £50 to the association, and also the States Cup for the Militia. In spite of this handicap the JRA continued its activities, though prize meetings were cut down in some cases from four days to two. During these flourishing times this action of the States seems to have been influenced by that pacifism which prevailed in many quarters on the eve of the 1914 war.

The last council meeting, of which there is a record in 1914, was held on 20 April, when it was decided to hold no annual prize meeting in 1914, as the annual meeting in 1913 had been run at a loss. Minor shoots were held. The names of those present at this meeting include the many who fought, as well as some who fell, in the 1914-18 war. The names include Colonel Stocker, who commanded the contingent of the Royal Jersey Militia, which went to France in 1914, and became D Company, Royal Irish Rifles. The JRA thus functioned no more until after the war, and this brings the first period 1861-1915 to a close.

1923-1940

So we arrive at the second period, 1923-1940. On 27 January 1923 a general meeting, with Colonel Stocker in the chair, was held at St Heller's Arsenal. It was the result of the painstaking efforts of Mr Snowden Benest, who was elected secretary of the revived Jersey Rifle Association. A strong council was elected, which included Dr E Marett, J D Arthur, J Renouf, W Egre, J B Michel, C R. Gruchy, F B Le Cocq and our present admirable secretary and fine shot, E F Le Gresley.

This was done most successfully. The patrons included C E Malet de Carteret, the uncle of the present Seigneur of St Ouen, Guy Malet de Carteret, who is now president of the JRA and well known at Bisley. During this year the JRA renewed affiliation with the NRA. The association recommenced all the old activities most successfully. Some of the best shots of those days are on the JRA council today and are regular shooting members. I refer particularly to F S Nicolle and to J D Arthur. When the Militia grant was withdrawn by HM Government, and the Militia became a voluntary organization much reduced in size, practice shoots were held more frequendy on the excellent range at Les Landes with good firing points at 900 and 1,OOO yards. From 1928 onwards until 1939 inclusive the Annual Prize Meeting was held there. In 1925 all local subsidiary rifle clubs, with the exception of the ever-existent local twelve island parish rifle clubs, were formed into the Jersey Rifle Club.

The object set forth in the rules of foundation was To affiliate to the NRA, and to assist its members to obtain such honours and facilities as to enable them to compete at Bisley in the Astor County Cup, Donegall Cup and any other competitions open to them. The officials of the Jersey Rifle Club have in principle been chiefly those of the Association. Inter-insular shoots with Guernsey were resumed annually as from 1926, and both teams competed for the Perpetual Challenge Cup, presented by the Lieut-Governors of Jersey and Guernsey, when Bisley rules and regulations were adopted in every particular.

In 1927 the association chose a specially designed badge which has only this year been modified. The base was navy blue, with in the centre the shield of the Jersey Coat of Arms, three leopards on a crimson field, with 1861 (date of foundation) on either side, and crossed rifles above the shield. From 1923 onwards, moreover, the States resumed yearly by vote their subsidy to the JRA. The annual dinner, honoured with the presence of the Lieut-Governor and the Bailiff, was held regularly exactly as we hold it today, and this function, at which the prizes are presented, is invariably an outstanding success. Members of the JRA in the King's Hundred during this period included J Renouf, C R Gruchy and E F Le Gresley. Centuries were quite frequently made on the home ranges. Those who equalled or topped the century at this time include F J Nicolle, Mrs Mallett, J D Arthur and C C Mallett. Eight parish clubs were holding prize meetings. Shooting took place regularly at 900 and 1,000 yards at Les Landes.

In 1931 Jersey won the Astor Rifle Cup, and the British Hundred roll for that year included the names of C Mallett, A J Mourant, J Renouf and E F Le Gresley.

In early 1933 the North London Rifle Club visited Jersey, and Jersey won a match in which Wagstaffe made a score of 102. In 1934 E F Le Gresley was elected secretary. His work for the association is now famous. He followed up his election by winning a place in the King's Hundred in 1934, 1936 and 1946. The year 1934 saw the death of one of the most distinguished members of the association, W T Marett, in whose memory the Marett Perpetual Trophy has been instituted. In 1940 the Jersey Rifle Association was in full swing, though many members were serving in HM Forces.

Shortly before the German Occupation all rifles were handed in, prior to Jersey being declared an "open area" for reasons quite beyond the control of the States of Jersey, or the people of Jersey. The reduced Militia under Colonel Vatcher went to England, where it was absorbed for war purposes in other units, chiefly the Hampshire Regiment. It is fitting in this connection to mention that in the 1914-18 war the roll of Honour of Jersey men serving in HM Forces is surpassed proportionally for area by no district in the United Kingdom. Similarly in the 1939-45 war Jersey and Guernsey sent more than their natural quota to war, and some 10,000 of the inhabitants of our Norman Islands were serving in HM Forces. During this war we mention with regret the loss of two young and promising members of the Association, Majors J S Crill and T C Godfray, both killed on active service.

Today our trophies include the Crill Memorial Trophy, presented by one of our vice-presidents, Mr S G Crill, in memory of his son. Both officers had been members of the 1938 Kolapore team, and also regular members of the inter-insular match team.

1946 to date

We now arrive at the final period, from 1946 inclusive to the present time. After the recovery of the islands in 1945 and their delivery from the German occupation, E F Le Gresley inaugurated forthwith a move to revive the JRA. At an early meeting Guy Malet de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, an old Oxford shot, was elected president of the council. Very soon a strong team of officials emerged, who have the honour of having resurrected the now flourishing association. These were Jurat Guy Malet de Carteret, E F Le Gresley, secretary, and A J Benest, the treasurer. The Lieut-Governor, Sir Edward Grassett, took an active part in putting the Jersey Rifle Association on its legs again. Furthermore the Island Defence Committee, under Major Le Masurier and later under Colonel Collas, their president and our patron, gave the JRA their full support and resumed the annual subsidy.

Les Landes range was not in a fit state to use, but the present Crabbé range was swiftly got going again. Rifles and ammunition were obtained from the NRA, and the annual prize meeting in 1946 held at Crabbe was an outstanding success. A team shot in the Kolapore at Bisley and E F Le Gresley reached the King's Hundred. Sixteen cups and prizes were shot for by individuals and six challenge cups by teams. From 1947 inclusive we have been honoured by an annual visit of a NRA team. Of the six shoots held since 1947 the NRA have won four and the JRA two. In 1951 both sides scored 1,066, the NRA winning on the count out, as they made the higher score at the longest range, 600 yards. Taking the matches between the NRA and JRA since 1935, the NRA holds eight wins against the JRA three.

From 1947, when the Devon County Rifle Association visited Jersey, we have had an annual match with the DCRA, each team visiting the other association on alternate years. We are now all-square with three wins. It may be mentioned that these meetings are the occasions of the greatest mutual hospitality both as regards the NRA and the DCRA.

Inter-insular matches were resumed with Guernsey in 1947. These have all taken place in Jersey, as Guernsey has still only a 200 yards range at its disposal. Nevertheless scores are even, three wins each since the Liberation. This year saw a Jersey win. We had the pleasure of welcoming as our guest the Lieut-Governor of Guernsey, Sir Philip Neame, the famous Indian shot, and captain of the Guernsey team. At lunch we were honoured with the presence of both Sir Edward Grassett and Sir Philip Neame. Sir Edward Grassett presented the Perpetual Trophy to Jurat Guy Malet de Carteret, captain of the Jersey team, at the conclusion of the match. This inter-insular match takes place during our annual prize meeting and we much hope that next year Guernsey will have their own range.

Our Crabbé range has been much improved and 500 and 600 yards points enlarged. For this work we have to thank chiefly J F Rowland, one of the most hard-working members of the association. Since 1926 Jersey has won eleven inter-insular matches to Guernsey's nine. In 1950 and 1951 the Jersey Rifle Club won the Astor Cup with the same aggregate 572 each year, and the same margin over the second competing club. There have been other individual successes at Bisley. The club is going strong, and the membership today stands at some 75 shooting members and also eight juniors from the Victoria College Cadet Corps nominated by Colonel Eden, their Commandant, who won the States Cup this year.

In this year, 1953, a combined Jersey/Devon team, consisting of five shooting members of each riflea ssociation, toured the West Indies and Caribbean and shot with much success against rifle teams from Barbados, Canada, Trinidad, British Guiana, Jamaica, and a combined British/West Indian Team. The tour was a great success, and the members can congratulate themselves on playing their part in fostering good British Empire relations.

As we go to press news has come in that Jersey in this month of July 1955 has won the Astor Cup at Bisley.

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