Bailiff's Chambers Occupation Archive

Scope and Content

The Occupation of Jersey by German Forces during the Second World War commenced on the 1 July 1940. The Occupation was to last for nearly five years and eventually ended on the 9 May 1945, Liberation Day. The Bailiff of Jersey, Sir Alexander Coutanche held a key position within the local government of Jersey during the Occupation. The Bailiffs files record in detail the administration of the Island during this period and the relationship between the local authorities and the German civil authorities. The Bailiff was the head of the Superior Council, which was established on the 24 June 1940 and acted as a buffer between the occupying army and the civil population. The Superior Council consisted of the Presidents of each of the States of Jersey Departments and the Crown Officers. The collection contains over 2,500 separate items and covers areas such as; imports and exports, licensing, entertainment, deportees, departmental orders and correspondence, requisitioning, the Red Cross, police and prosecutions, rationing and war graves.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Moncrieff Coutanche was born on 09/05/1892, one of four children of Adolphus Coutanche, Notary Public, and Ina Finlayson. He was educated at Jersey High School, La Chasse Preparatory School, Victoria College and the University of Caen (which later honored him with an honorary doctorate in law) and went to Carlisle and Griegson's London Academy, intending to join the Indian police force, but was turned down because of a heart murmur. He then decided to become a lawyer. In the First World War he served at the Assistant Adjutant-General and Quartermaster General's Office, then worked at a munitions factory in Birmingham, and finally volunteered for the War Claims Commission, where he was posted to Belgium, served as a Lieutenant, and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and made Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Couronne. He left the army 1920 as a Captain. After a briefly returning to London, he came back to Jersey and entered the States in 1922. In 1924 he married Ruth Sophia Joan Gore, and a year later they had a son, John Alexander. In 1925 he became Solicitor General, and settled the matter of Imperial contributions by Jersey and Guernsey to the cost of the First World War. In 1932 he became Attorney General - the first to make an address for the prosecution in English, after introducing the necessary legislation - and on 27/08/1935 was sworn in as Bailiff. When it became clear in 1940 that Jersey would be occupied, the Lieutenant Governor was recalled to England along with all British troops in the Island and the Bailiff was sworn in as civil governor. Throughout the occupation he carried out the difficult task of continuing to govern the Island under the occupying forces, which he later summed up with the simple phrase 'I protested'. He was knighted in 1946 in recognition of his service and leadership during this time. He was active in the implementation of Reform Bill in 1948, which reformed the number of States Members and how they were elected. In 1949 he created the position of Deputy Bailiff, as the duties of being president of the States and judge of all divisions of the Royal Court were proving too much for one person (Cecil Harrison was the first to fill this position). At the celebration of Alexander Coutanche's silver jubilee as Bailiff 1960, a portrait painted by James Gunn RA and commissioned by the States was unveiled and hung in the Royal Court. On his retirement in 1962 he was made a life peer with the title Lord Coutanche of Saint Brelade in the Island of Jersey and the City of Westminster. He died on 08/12/1973, and was buried in St Brelade.


The files were arranged by the Bailiff's Chambers. The original order has been maintained when cataloguing.

Access Information

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Custodial History

The war files have had an eventful life before being transferred to the Jersey Archive. Over a two month period in the autumn of 1991 these files were stolen from the States Building. The theft was discovered in November as the individuals involved tried to sell the papers to dealers on the Continent and in America. A two year police investigation recovered about 93% of the files, however it was never certain just what files there were in the first place nor can the possibility be ignored that some of the contents of the files have been removed and not recovered.

Geographical Names