The first Jerseyman to die in action in World War 1 was Captain Ernest Felix Victor Briard, who was 25 years old when he led his men during the retreat at Mons. But it was to be 19 months before his family learned the truth of what happened to the brave young officer, because it was initially reported that he had been captured and held prisoner of war.
Born in October 1888 Ernest Felix Victor Briard, (known as Victor), was the eldest son of Ernest Briard, Captain RJMA, a partner in the merchant firm Orange and Briard, and Maud Irene Briard (née de Gruchy) of Bulwark House, St Aubin. He was educated at Victoria College and Felsted School in Norfolk.
He went to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1908 and was commissioned, 6 February 1909, into the Norfolk Regiment. He was an accomplished sportsman and having excelled at hockey, cricket and football at school, he went on to represent his regiment in all three sports and represented the Army in hockey.
He was posted to France with the Expeditionary Force on 17 August 1914 and only a week later he was reported missing during the retreat from Mons, which was the first major action for the BEF of the war.
Evening Post reports
Initially it was reported that he was missing and the Evening Post ran a series of reports on what might have happened to the young officer. By October the newspaper announced that he had been wounded and was a prisoner of war.
But no news was received of Captain Briard and in March 1916 the newspaper reported the Mrs Briard had been notified by the War Office that her son had been killed in August 1914 while leading his platoon between Dours and Elouges. His grave was later identified and marked.
Wednesday 2 September 1914
Jersey Officer Reported Missing. We regret to learn that one of the officers reported missing in the list of English casualties in France appears to be the name of Lieutenant E F V Briard of the Norfolk Regiment. The missing officer is the elder son of the late Mr Ernest Briard and Mrs Briard of Bulwark House, St Aubin.
Wednesday 30 September 1914
Wounded and a Prisoner. We are pleased to state that information has been received in the Island that Lieutenant E F V Briard of 1st Norfolk Regiment, who was reported to be wounded and missing on 25 August is now reported to be a Prisoner of War. Needless to say, since the first news was received, Mrs Briard has been passing through a most anxious time and her many friends will be pleased to hear that this suspense is ended and that definite news has been received of her son. The extent of Lieutenant Briard's wounds are not known.
Monday 13 March 1916
Died for His Country. It will be remembered that among the first list of casualties was the name of Lieutenant Ernest Felix Victor Briard, 1st Norfolk regiment, who was stated to be wounded and a prisoner. However, no news has been received of him by his anxious family and a day or two ago Mrs Briard received notification from the War Office to the effect that Lieutenant E F V Briard had been killed in action during the retreat from Mons on 24 August 1914.
The War Office stated that they now have possession of his identification disc and that two Privates, now Prisoners of War in the hands of the enemy, state that they were with him on 24 August during the retreat from Mons and that he was killed while leading his platoon between Dours and Elouges.
The deceased, who was a pupil at Victoria College 1897-1900, was the eldest son of the late Mr Ernest Briard and of Mrs Briard of Bulwark House, St Aubin and was well known as a prominent member of the St Aubins Swimming Club. To the bereaved mother and family we would tender our sincerest condolences.
The demise of this promising young officer, who was but 25 years of age, will be a great loss to the Country and to the Army and the name of Lieutenant Briard will be added to the roll of those of Jerseys sons who have died for their Country.
He is also commemorated on the family memorial at St Brelade’s Parish Church, the Old Victorians memorial and the St Brelade Parish Memorial.
His youngest brother, John Fortescue Briard, 2nd Lieutenant, 1/35 Seikh Light Infantry, died as a result of wounds to the head suffered during the retreat from Kabul on active service in India in 1920, aged 19.
His remaining brother was Laurence Edward Briard, M.C., who served during and after the First World War as a Lieutenant, (later Commander), Royal Indian Marine