Britain’s Last Invasion, The Battle of Fishguard 1797

A short and ramshackled invasion attempt that is a surprising story with an important influence on British Fleet development. The author has recounted one of the little known events in British military history that had implications far beyond events at Fishguard. – Highly Recommended

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NAME: Britain's Last Invasion, The Battle of Fishguard 1797
FILE: R2895
AUTHOR: Phil Carradice
PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 217
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: French Revolutionary War, Fishguard, armed incursion, Women of 
Fishguard, defence improvements, militia, Royal Navy, Coast Guard, Fensibles

ISBN: 1-52674-326-4

IMAGE: B2895.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y6b6bzun
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: A short and ramshackled invasion attempt that is a surprising story 
with an important influence on British Fleet development. The author has 
recounted one of the little known events in British military history that had 
implications far beyond events at Fishguard.  –   Highly Recommended

The French Revolutionary War stands deep in the shadow of the Napoleonic Wars. 
This incident is full of surprises and it is surprising that no one else has attempted 
to recount the story. As invasions go, it was a pretty half-cocked undertaking that 
says more about the confusion and chaos of Revolutionary France than about 
British military preparations. However, the event did have some major implications, 
in terms of the introduction of paper money and the development of the British Fleet.

One of the comfortable myths of British history is that the sea acts as a handy moat 
which an enemy cannot cross. The reality is that Britain has a very long coast line 
where nowhere is more than seventy miles from the coast. This provides many 
locations where an unauthorized landing can take place and where a determined 
enemy could advance rapidly into the centre of Britain. In the 18th Century, there 
was no national or coastal system of semaphore signalling. The Royal Navy had 
introduced a system linking its Southern ports to the Admiralty, although this was 
more to provide news of ships arriving and leaving on Admiralty business than 
providing an early warning system of invasion.

The French Revolution started in an unplanned way based on a series of riots by 
a population that was ill-fed and ruled with little consideration. Once started, it 
rapidly expanded and some deeply unpleasant individuals began to take control, 
only to be cut down in their turn and eventually replaced by Napoleon's imperial 
rule that put Europe in flames and threatened its monarchies. In 1997, France was 
still in a stage of chaos and found itself opposed by Britain. It was assumed by 
France's revolutionary leaders that Ireland was ripe for revolution and that this 
could be encouraged by the landing of a small French force of less than 2,000. 
At the time there were plans and attempts at a series of adventures that stood little 
chance of success.

In the case of Fishguard, it was a matter of a chaotic landing on the Pembrokeshire 
coast close to Fishguard by a French Legion of 1,400 drunken and out of control 
soldiers. As an invasion, it stood little chance of achieving anything of any 
importance for the French, but it was a very useful reminder to the British that 
preparation for war had to consider all threats and that the coast was potentially 
vulnerable. As it was, the drunken French soldiers wandered about damaging 
churches and threatening the small local Welsh population. The Welshmen fled 
but their women stood firm and the French were soon contained and captured. 
The lessons for the British were not from the events as much as from the potential, 
had the French landed a disciplined and well-equipped force with a specific and 
credible military plan.

From the Fishguard incident, the Royal Navy took a long hard look at its 
organization and preparedness which resulted in it becoming significantly more 
capable before Napoleon brought order and capability to the French military. It 
also began a process of overhauling and strengthening the local defences around 
the coast. The Dad's Army of Fensibles was improved and attention was paid to 
the militia which had been little more than a hunting club for farmers and 
landowners in many parts of Britain. However, the real needs were not fully met 
and generations since have suffered the same ill-preparedness in protection of the
coastline and the maintenance of an adequate military force. The basic challenge 
is in the British desire for democracy that is little understood in Europe. From 
Magna Carta, Britons have been wary of standing armies and internal defences 
because of their potential to be turned against the population by a despot. In 
modern times there is the example of an out-of-touch French President attempting 
to brutally put down dissent in a pre-cursor to what the EU Army may be used for 
against the people by Eurocrats.

The author has produced a very readable account of the events around and 
developing from the French landing at Fishguard. There is a photo=plate section 
illustration that presents rare and unexpected images in a very interesting collection.