Walter Benest, Constable of St Brelade 1937-1945
Walter Benest was born in Trinity on 17 November 1883, the son of George John Benest and Eliza (nee Amy). He had two brothers, an older one, Emile, and a younger Snowden, who became Constable of Trinity.
He married Emma Margaret Le Boutillier, of St Brelade, and settled in the parish, living at La Sergente, La Moye. They had two daughters.
He first entered the honorary service of St Brelade at the age of 35, when he was elected Inspector of Roads in 1918. He served as Vingtenier for La Moye from 1925 to 1931 and was then elected Constable in 1937, an office he held until 1945, when he declined re-election. He was at the head of the administration of the parish all through the difficult time of the German Occupation of the Island.
Although the 1901 Census shows he was a solicitor’s clerk aged 17, he turned away from that profession and became a very successful grower at La Moye. He was also connected with the Free Churches of the Island all his life and was a trustee of Ebenezer Chapel, Trinity, and also of Tabor Chapel, St Brelade, where he had first sung a solo in the choir, and later filled the position of organist for many years. He was, as was said by the Reverend Underwood, “a man who loved music”.
He was also very interested in the recording of rainfall, and was ever ready with the figures from his gauge at La Sergente.
Walter Benest died, aged 68, on 18 August 1951, after a short period of ill health spent in a nursing home, during which his condition gradually became worse, culminating in his death, and leaving behind his wife and two daughters.
His funeral service was held at Ebenezer Chapel, with an interment following in St Brelade’s Cemetery. The service at Ebenezer Chapel Trinity was filled with islanders from all walks of life. The service was conducted by the Rev John Dodd, with the address given by the Rev G W Underwood. There was a strong contingent of advocates, solicitors and solicitor’s clerks from Hill Street. The Rev W G Tabb, Rector of St Brelade, was also present in his capacity as Vice-Dean, as the Dean was out of the Island.
In his address Mr Underwood said that they had met to pay their last respect to one who was very well known indeed to the people of the island. He had been a great servant of the island and of the Parish of St Brelade in particular. He was Constable during the difficult years of the Occupation, when he had to make many difficult decisions, many of which were odious to him but necessary, and he carried them according to his conscience, unheeding of what people might think of him.
From the main road to St Brelade’s Church lych gate were lined on each side 120 Scouts paying tribute to the man who had always been a good friend to the Scouting movement. Every year many different troops from England had come to enjoy their summer camps at La Sergente, and the visiting troops under canvas there were also present to pay tribute at the funeral. The troops present were the 8th Jersey All Saints Troop, the 1st Chesham Boys Troop, the 1st Little Heath Troop, nine Sea Scouts and the 1st Sunbury Troop.
The municipality of St Brelade and many other friends met at the church for the committal service in the old cemetery, despite a heavy rain shower falling just prior to the arrival of the cortege. The pathway from lych gate to graveside was lined by members of the municipality of St Brelade, headed by Mr H E Le Rossignol, the Constable. Also at the internment were over 150 mourners, including Lady Coutanche, Major General N G Hand, Island Commissioner of Boy Scouts, and Constables of St Ouen, Trinity, St Peter, St Saviour and St Lawrence, the Rev G.R. Balleine, Ralph Vibert, and Mr and Mrs Edmund Blampied.