It’s hard to believe or imagine in our current age of Health & Safety that large calibre guns were often fired in the suburbs of St. Helier.
In today’s world, the mere mention of anything considered dangerous or noise related would warrant visits by officials armed with reams of forms and lists of required headgear, gloves, clothing and safety equipment, but that was not the case during the Occupation.
On numerous occasions two large calibre field guns would be set-up side by side in Stopford Road, adjacent to what is now the Temple Bars; the butts or stops were established just past the masonic temple, at the junction of Oxford Road. All roads leading into Stopford Road would be sealed off. The image above shows the two large German field guns outside their store in St. Marks lane, with the below image showing the same location today.
The guns would fire large wooden projectiles, the cartridge charge was greatly reduced as the target board was quite close and it was only practice firing and sighting-in, but one can only imagine the deafening noise these guns would have made and you would not want to be struck by one of these projectiles.
When these practices occurred, people living in the immediate vicinity of Stopford road were told to open their windows to prevent glass shattering, many householders did not due to the loud noise the guns made when firing!
German sentries were placed on strategic points stopping people from entering the firing zone. Many of these practices took place mid to late afternoon so coincided with children coming back from School. This sometimes meant that practice was temporary halted to allow the children to cross the road. Three such children who lived in the vicinity at that time were Denis Holmes, John Aubert and David Isherwood. These three boys would cross individually, usually with quite a long time gap between each of them; they would each come up to one of the sentries; the sentry would signal to the gun crew to cease fire, then the young boy would cross the road safely, then a few minutes later the next boy would come along and this process would be repeated until all three boys had crossed Stopford Road.
However when they all decided to repeat this process in reverse, pretending they had forgotten something, the sentry finally realised they were taking the Micky and were told to clear off and in future had to cross as a group or go a different route and walk the long way home.
When practice had finished, the guns were man-handled back into their store, which was a large garage located in St. Marks Lane. Although the garage has since been demolished the surrounding area has changed very little.
Story by Colin & David Isherwood