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Britain's Last Invasion (Hardback)

The Battle of Fishguard 1797

British History P&S History 18th Century

By Phil Carradice
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 217
Illustrations: 30
ISBN: 9781526743268
Published: 25th April 2019



History Hit

An article written by the author for Dan Snow's History Hit: 'When Was the Last Time Britain was Invaded?'

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The history of Britain has been shaped by those who have invaded this small isle: the Romans, Vikings and Norman Conquest all moulded our society and culture. Surprisingly, the last time mainland Britain was ever invaded was not Duke William’s victory at Hastings in 1066 or even the Bloodless Revolution of 1688. It was, in fact, in February 1797 when 1,400 drunken and out-of-control French soldiers from the Legion Noire landed on the north coast of Pembrokeshire near Fishguard.

With ‘Britain’s Last Invasion’ dive in to the Battle of Fishguard, a military invasion of Great Britain by Revolutionary France. The little-known ‘invasion’ consisted mainly of drunken Frenchmen rampaging around the area, burning churches and terrorising the locals. The role and courage of the women of Fishguard is revealed: when the men fled, the women stayed fast. Learn how the town cobbler Jemima Nicholas – armed with only a pitchfork – captured twelve enemy soldiers.

The attempted invasion lasted just three days, but had ramifications that we are still dealing with today. Following the attempt, the government recognised the need to strengthen the British fleet, a policy that lasted for over a hundred years and almost certainly helped prevent Napoleon’s later planned invasion.

Phil Carradice has put together a well considered and approachable book on a somewhat obscure and little known event in British history. It is the kind of book that anyone who has visited or knows the area or who just has a general interest in British history can quickly appreciate even without knowing about the Revolutionary era in detail. He gives more than enough for you to understand the context of the events but without weighing down the reader with too much superfluous information. It is definitely not a chore to read this book, the language is clear, concise and he communicates the core concepts in a non-condescending manner. He does a good job at weaving local legends in and out of the story and giving context to why they may have arisen in the first place and why they have continued to enchant and be part of the story ever since... Phil Carradice has shone his torch on this three day invasion of a corner of Wales but has lit up so much more in the process.

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The British Empire

I have read a number of books and articles written by Phil Carradice before as he writes a lot about Welsh events and parts of history, his work is always very written, clear and researched. So I looked forward to reading this piece of work and I should probably say here that I live in Fishguard and have done for the past 7 years. This event, the invasion in the grand scheme of things is a very minor event but having lived in Fishguard for a while it is actually a big deal and all the primary schools cover the event in some way.

In a nutshell a few ships landed in Fishguard with French soldiers on board, half of them gave up because they weren’t ‘proper’ soldiers and gave up. The rest were kind of hoodwinked into thinking the British force was bigger than they thought and so they all surrendered. Now this is all very well explained and we have excellent detail, I would happily recommend this to others as it is a balanced, accurate account. For an event that is not very well known nationwide it was an excellent read, and anyone new to the subject would enjoy it very much.

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UK Historian

This is an excellent account of the last (to date!) time hostile foreign troops landed on British soil.

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History of War

A well told and stirring tale using a lot of contemporary accounts, of a small yet remarkable episode overshadowed by the greater canvas of the Napoleonic wars.

The Nelson Dispatch

Featured in

The Nelson Dispatch

"The book is a well told and stirring tale using a lot of contemporary accounts, of a small yet remarkable episode overshadowed by the greater canvas of the Napoleonic wars."

The Nelson Dispatch

As featured by

Ships Monthly, December 2019

As featured in

The Bookseller, October 2019

Excellently written, by a talented writer, with some great illustration, this informative and entertaining deserves a wide audience.

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Hellbound, Steve Earles

Combined with an illustrative black and white plate section in the middle, this is an interesting and entertaining look at the ill-advised invasion.

The Armourer, September 2019

As a broadcaster and a prolific author one might expect this book to be an entertaining read – and indeed it is. Looking at the extensive bibliography which includes numerous primary sources it is clear that the author has gone to considerable lengths to compile a definitive account. The combination of exciting story-telling and meticulous research marks this book out as a worthwhile and enjoyable read. Do just that and then walk the ground. You won’t be disappointed.

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Walking the Battlefields, Phil Curme

This is an excellent read and will be of great interest to a broad range of readers from Napoleonic war historians, Welsh history and for those just interested in a great and unusual yarn. One is constantly reminded of the Clausewitz dictum that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. But what was the plan?

Robert Bartlett review, 2019

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.

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The material he has gathered is informative and entertaining.

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Books Monthly

About Phil Carradice

Phil Carradice is a well-known novelist, poet and historian. He has written well over 60 books, the most recent being Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor and Bloody Mary, both for Pen and Sword, and the novel Stargazers (Accent). He broadcasts regularly on radio and television and is regarded as one of the best creative writing teachers in Wales.

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