Motto: Garde (I am here; I keep my day)
Seen passing Elizabeth Castle on her way into St Helier Harbour on Monday 10th
July 1939, she arrived to thank the Island of Jersey for contributing towards her
Her stay for several days was a major event and drew most of the island’s
population. Following an official dinner at the Pomme d’Or Hotel and a gala
dance at West Park Pavillion there was a parade through the streets of St Helier
to Springfield Stadium.
The island’s schools were closed and 1,600 pupils were marshalled into the
stadium for the symbolic ceremony. Hundreds of gifts, each of them detailed in the
Evening Post, were presented to the ship’s captain. Listed as number one under
“The Sports Gear” was a “Water Polo Ball” and “sets of Water Polo Caps”
In his speech of acceptance, the captain commented.
“These are very anxious days and you probably realise that the chances of our visit to this island taking place at all were very small only a fortnight ago, but it was the express order of the Admiral that we were able to carry out the programme.”
He went on the mention that in 1342 the islanders contributed a large sum of money to enable the English crown to recapture Guernsey from the French and had shown once again that, in time of national need their generosity, was still impressive. He closed with the following words:
“It cannot be difficult for you to understand the intense pride we feel in our new ship, and this pride is increased by the feeling that we are bound to the Island of Jersey and wherever we go we shall know that anyone who comes on board will see at once what that means.”
It is not recorded what reaction his comments on Jerseymen giving money to release Guernsey from the French received though one suspects there was a deal of ironic applause because of the intense rivalry between the two islands.
In my novel, the swimming and water polo match are fictional but could have taken place at the time stipulated, as there was a gap in the planned schedule. Water polo was a favourite sport in the Royal Navy and rivalry between ships was almost as intense as that between islands!
The ship was ordered on 25th March 1937 and laid down on 28th September that year. Built by Messrs J Samuel White and Company at East
Cowes, she was named and launched by the Bailiff’s wife on 26th September 1938. She was commissioned on 28th April 1939.
HMS Jersey was engaged with distinction in several naval actions in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean but, sadly, struck mines on 4th May 1941 and sank off Valletta, Malta.