1st May 1779

France fails to invade Jersey

France had long had its eyes on Jersey before it finally made its move. Britain had known as much, too, and had planned for such an occasion.

Britain and France were both tied up in the American Revolutionary War (War of Independence), but on opposing sides. Britain wanted to retain its 13 colonies across the Atlantic while France saw a significant potential upside to supporting those colonies in their attempts to break free from Britain.

France sees an opportunity

The colonies had declared themselves free of Britain, and adopted the name the United States of America, in part because they were being taxed without gaining any political representation in return, which ultimately led to the so-called Boston Tea Party, when American patriots threw a cargo of tea into Boston Harbour.

So, France may have seen no downside to invading a British territory closer to home – Jersey – when the two were already sworn enemies.

It sent five large ships to St Ouen, but they were spotted in time for the 78th Regiment of Foot and Jersey Militia to arrive at St Ouen and repel them, helped by the fact that the tide was against the French ships.

However, the French weren’t easily put off and just two years later they tried again. Although more successful on that occasion, they still didn’t manage to hold the island for more than a few hours.


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