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The Channel Islands and the Great War
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The Bihets
A Channel Islands Fighting Family

Following the recent Jersey Evening Post article on the publication of my book, "Ours - The Jersey Pals in the First World War", I received a telephone call from someone whose father had served in World War One. Not only that, Peter Bihet announced, he was from a Channel Islands family that contributed no less than eight brothers and sisters to serve king and country. Intrigued, I met Peter to find out more.

The Bihet family originally came to Jersey from France in the 19th Century. Pierre Bihet and his future wife Marie apparently fled to escape a law preventing marriages between Catholics and Protestants. In 1891, they were living in Jersey, but ten years later, in 1901, had moved with their nine children to St Annes in Alderney. In between, for a brief while at least, they must have also lived in Guernsey because one child was born their in 1897. By 1914, when war broke out, the family, or at least some of the children, may have returned to Guernsey.

During the course of the war, eight of the Bihet children served in one capacity or another. After enlisting in March, 1915, Constant, John (Jean) and Arthur joined the Guernsey-raised 9th Divisional Ammunition Column, serving as drivers. John, who later joined a Trench Mortar Battery, lost his life in May, 1917 reportedly due to a misfiring mortar tube. Another brother, Marcel, also served in the Royal Field Artillery, although apparently in a different unit to his three siblings. The final brother, Ernest, was the father of Peter Bihet. Having served in the Royal Navy for several years prior to the war, illness appears to have forced him to leave in 1915. Three Bihet sisters also served their country. Ada worked in the munitions industry while Justine and Louise were nurses, the former with the Red Cross and the latter with the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service. Two of these also had husbands that served in the Army.

Time and other projects preclude a more detailed research of this remarkable family. But it must be something to come back to. Eight members of one family, plus two in-laws all serving together, and with links to Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney - could it be a record?

© 2009 Ian Ronayne

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Courtesy of the Guernsey Press & Priaulx Library