Academics and historians from both sides of the Channel came together to look back through history at Anglo-French relations between 1689 and 1918 at the Henry Euler Memorial Trust Symposium held from 5th – 6th September 2019.
The Trust was set up in 2006 by the late Mary Euler who with her husband Henry sailed regularly to Alderney in the 1950’s becoming regular visitors to the island over the next two decades. Henry who died in 1971, served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War, so when Mary moved to Alderney in 1983, she was determined to set up a trust in his memory that would be dedicated to Alderney’s maritime history and heritage.
The perspectives of the symposium and the collaboration being built up with outstanding academic bodies in France and England aim to build strong foundations and encourage future exploration of all periods in their shared history.
Since its inception, the Trust has achieved much including purchasing important maritime pieces of art that are now on display on the island. From 2014, the trust has also funded a five-year agreement with Kings College London as a second base for a continuing programme of its national research through the Laughton Naval History Unit at the Department of War Studies and since 2017 a two-year agreement with Lille University together with a consortium of French regional universities and the Service Historique de la Defense in Paris and Cherbourg. Chef de Service, Pierre Laugeay joined the symposium.
Alongside an extensive programme over two days, each session had one speaker from the French side and one from the English with a moderator; there was also a fascinating exhibition on display of Alderney and the Channel Islands through the ages conceived by SHD-Cherbourg.
The Symposium has been in preparation for some time. Thanks to their agreement with Kings College London, the Henry Euler Memorial Trust have been able to engage leading French historians within the naval maritime sphere, under the direction of Jean de Preneuf, and bring them together.
One of the trustees and an historian himself, Colin Partridge OBE, played an integral role in the organisation of this event and says, “The Trustees of The Henry Euler Memorial Trust are delighted at the outcome of the Alderney International Maritime History Symposium. It successfully achieved their primary objective of presenting the Trust as a committed contributor to the historiography of the Channel Islands and was received with great acclaim by the Trust’s official UK and French partners.”
Andrew Lambert is Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London. Described as ‘the outstanding British naval historian of his generation’, his acclaimed history of the Royal Navy, ‘War at Sea’, was broadcast on BBC2. Andrew says, “Much of what we are doing is bringing together two different views of world history – the French and the British view and in the middle, is the Channel Islands view and very specifically Alderney. Therefore, we are bringing all those views together in one place. Each session speakers were paired to develop an understanding, bringing the two sides of the debate together. History is a debate without end; it is how we understand the process of how we have arrived where we are today and the processes that are changing everything. It is not fixed. The great harbour in Braye, built to establish British dominance and protect trade, is the pivot point for the entire British navy in the 19th century. It was never used for war because it worked, and persuaded the French they would not win a war. So, this region is enormously important as the cycle of Anglo-French wars begin. The Channel Islands became central to Britain’s trading position.”
Marc Michel said, “Due to the quality and success of the manifestation everyone is expecting us to organise other symposiums related to Channel Islands maritime History in the future, and everybody hopes this one will not end as a single shot. Our participants, British or French, are familiar with Symposiums all over the Academic World. But several, like Andrew Lambert and Eric Saunier have expressed that, this was by far the best organisation they had ever encountered.”
Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder KBE CB, Lieutenant-Governor of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and patron of the Trust, welcomed everyone to the Symposium with a recorded video message:
“The purpose of these two agreements is to place the maritime history of Alderney and the Channel Islands in a proper European context, backed up by an exchange of views, a comprehensive bibliography of source material and the publication of learned papers. The culmination of these agreements is the first maritime symposium in Alderney. It covers the time frame 1689 to 1918, a period during which Alderney and the Channel Islands featured regularly in the unfolding strategic saga through peace and war. The fields of interest that lie within the Trust’s mandate are many. There is a role for everyone to play exploring these subjects and the Trustees wish to encourage the widest possible participation.”