Edouard Touzel

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Carpenter Edouard Touzel (1782-1815), was one of the men who were hailed as heroes after putting out the fire in the powder magazine on Mont de la Ville in 1804.

The son of Edouard Touzel and Esther Le Cordier, he was born in St Helier in 1782, a man of unusual physical strength (in his last illness four men could not hold him in bed, and he had to be fastened with ropes), but according to the Chronique, of a singularly kindly and gentle disposition.

King's birthday celebrations

On 4 June 1804 St Helier was holiday-making in honour of the King's birthday. At noon an immense crowd gathered on the Town Hill. where Fort Regent was being built, to see the Royal Standard hoisted in the presence of the Lieut-Governor and his staff and the royal salute fired. At six o’clock the Lieut-Governor was giving a dinner-party and a ball in the Town below, and Edouard Touzel with his brother Thomas was dismantling the flagstaff on the Hill erected for the mid-day ceremony, when Philippe Lys, the Signals Officer, called to him that the powder-magazine was on fire.

Cannon were still fired by lengths of rope soaked in nitre to make them burn slowly, and a careless gunner of the Invalids had put one of these matches smouldering back into the magazine, in which were 209 barrels of powder and many boxes of cartridges and charged hand-grenades, and here it had set fire to a heap of other matches.

Lys sent Thomas into the Town to fetch the keys and warn the Lieut-Governor, and with Edouard, and a private of the 51st, William Pulteney, rushed to the danger spot. Touzel broke clown the palisade round the magazine, burst two padlocks, and went inside. He heaved out several chests of powder that were close to the fire, and then, "encouraging the others with most gallant words", he flung them armfuls of glowing fuses, which burnt his hands and face, and then extinguished the rest with water which they brought. When the work was almost done, he collapsed overcome by fumes.

He was only just in time. Next day the Constable reported that two boxes filled with horns of powder were found to have been badly charred, and that even the roof-beams were scorched.

Public subscription

Touzel's fellow townsmen were not slow to show their gratitude. A public subscription bought 14 quarters of wheat rente to be paid to him and his descendants for ever. He was made Sergeant-Major of the Town Battalion, and presented with a silver-mounted sword, which he was authorized to wear. And the States voted 5,000 livres (about 500 guineas) to be paid him from the public funds, a similar sum to Lys, and a pension of £12 a year to Pulteney, and presented each with a gold medal suitably inscribed.

"The States feel it their duty", ran the Act, "to pay this tribute of gratitude to these three intrepid men, who, realising that the explosion would certainly demolish part of the Town and destroy many inhabitants, decided without hesitation to risk almost certain death in the heroic hope of saving their fellow-citizens".

For some reason Durell belittles their exploit, describing the Act of the States as "fulsome and ridiculous", and suggesting that the smouldering match would never have reached the powder. "Few persons were acquainted with the true state of things, and these few were equally interested to increase their claim to remuneration by impressing the public with a deep sense of the extreme danger to which they had been exposed". But this was not the opinion of contemporaries. Touzel died 24 May 1815, aged only 55.

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