LOOKING BACK: September 1963

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Let private enterprise run Fort Regent? Now there’s an idea…

JEP September 7 1963. Fort Regent

The question of what to do with the Fort has been a recurring topic of debate over the years with Tamba Park entrepreneur Jonathan Ruff the latest in a long line of people to put forward a vision for the 19th-century fortress.

Back in 1963 it was the Jersey Hotel and Guest House Association and the Jersey Chamber of Commerce – both concerned with the tourism industry – calling for a new approach to the site. At that time, the Fort was being used as a coal store to supply the nearby power station.

The Chamber of Commerce discussed tourism ‘and its paramount importance to the commercial life of the Island’ at its agm, concluding: ‘The Council endorsed the view which has many times been expressed, of the urgent need to spend money now, to ensure a continuance of popularity in the future.

‘Nothing could more suitably stress this need than the disastrous weather conditions experienced this summer [the weather in August 1963 had been the worst since 1931] and the urgency which arises for the provision of amusement facilities for children and adults under such conditions, as well as amenities which will foster the class of holiday- maker which the Island requires.’

The Chamber went on to say it had written to the States urging them to provide such amenities immediately and ‘further urged that the development of Fort Regent be permitted by private enterprise…as this is the only means by which development can be effected in the foreseeable future’.

The Committee of the Jersey Hotel and Guest House Association had also been pressing for action on the Fort for some time and expressed similar sentiments to the Chamber of Commerce.
The Evening Post leader weighed into the debate: ‘As long ago as last December the Evening Post strongly advocated the development of the Fort by private enterprise. To the die-hard Jerseyman, for whom the thought of handing over any part of Jersey’s soil to a private body is akin to treason, there is of course the complete answer. The Fort would never be sold. It would be leased on terms advantageous to the Island.’
However, it would be another four years before the States took the decision to develop the Fort as a leisure complex. The swimming pool was built in 1971 and Fort Regent was roofed over in 1974.

On 6 September 1963, exactly 20 years after he had left the Island, the Kommandant of the German occupying forces, Graf von Schmettow, returned
to Jersey on holiday with his family. He is pictured right with his daughter looking at a photograph of himself taken in Jersey in 1942.
A Silesian aristocrat whose father had been a personal friend of the Kaiser, von Schmettow had served continuously in the German army for 30 years before coming to Jersey in 1940, losing a lung when gassed on the Western Front.

He is described in the Evening Post report of 1963 as always protesting ‘whenever necessary against automatically applying all measures for Occupied France to the Channel Islands’ and that his ‘continual pleas for favoured treatment for the Channel Islands became something of a joke’.
Von Schmettow’s ‘generally humane conduct during the years of hostilities’ clearly made it possible for Major Hugh Baker of 4/5 TA Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment, to feel he could invite him to a reception on board HMS Bossington on hearing that he was on holiday in the Island.

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