Fishguard 1797: The Further Adventures of The Black Legion

As discussed in the first part of this series, the Last Invasion of Britain occurred on 22nd February 1797, when some 1,200-1,400 men of La Seconde Légion des Francs, known as La Légion Noire (‘The Black Legion’), under the command of the Irish-American Chef de Brigade William S Tate, landed near Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, on the western tip of Wales.  The invasion caused widespread fear and panic across the entire country, even causing a run on the Bank of England!  Nevertheless, a swift response by local Yeomanry, Militia, Naval, Customs Service and Volunteer Infantry forces (as well as armed civilians, including the Welsh Warrior Women of legend), allied to masterful bluff on the part of Lord Cawdor (the British commanding officer), led to the French surrender on 24th February, followed by the ceremonial laying-down of arms on the 25th.

However, the historical sequence of events as described in Part 1 could so easily have followed several different paths – none of them good for the British.

The French had clearly hoped to foment insurrection and revolution in Wales and came with 1,900 extra sets of arms and equipment with which to equip local volunteers.  However, the planned-for revolution never materialised.  This was despite North Pembrokeshire being one of the poorest areas in Britain, where corn-riots were commonplace and where non-conformist religion (particularly the Welsh Baptist movement) challenged the authority of Church & State.  The desire for revolution was probably suppressed due to a combination of ingrained fear of the French caused by centuries of propaganda and war, fear of reprisal by the ruling and land-owning classes and the British State, and finally, fear of the invaders themselves, who did themselves no favours by resorting to robbery, murder and rape as soon as they had landed.

The swift reaction by the local Militia, Yeomanry, Naval and Volunteer forces also undoubtedly helped convince the locals that the invasion was going to be defeated.  Patriotism also unquestionably played a large part; the general attitude seems to have been that as bad as things were in West Wales, the French still had no right interfering!  However, within a generation or two, the same part of the country suffered near-constant rioting, culminating in the insurrection of the ‘Rebecca Riots’ of the 1830s & 40s.

If we suspend disbelief for a moment and consider what might have happened for the want of a good meal and some decent troops, we can see that the British Army was desperately thin on the ground in western Britain.  There were hardly any regular troops present and they were on ‘peacetime’ manning, which was roughly half-strength of wartime manning (i.e. around 370 men in an infantry battalion instead of 800 men).  Even the units on active service in Ireland seem to have been at half-strength!

Aside from the Cardiganshire Militia, ALL Welsh Militia regiments were deployed to eastern or northern England and aside from the Bristol Garrison, those units marching to Fishguard were doing so under their own initiative and were doing so in piecemeal fashion.  There was little attempt to coordinate a response or to concentrate an army to meet the invasion and do so would probably have taken weeks, during which time the Black Legion would have been rampaging across Wales and possibly fomenting insurrection.

While we’re some way off creating a fully-fledged wargames campaign for the post-Fishguard ‘March of the Black Legion’, here’s what we’ve been able to discover regarding the British troops that may have been brought to bear against the invaders.  As usual, the strengths and stats are based on those found in ‘British Grenadier’ wargames rules, at a ratio of 1:5, where one figure represents five men:

The Bristol & Severn Military District

General Rooke’s Bristol and Severn Military District is the largest formation that we have been able to identify as immediately reacting to the Fishguard landings. General Rooke was certainly the most senior officer known to have responded and would have taken command of the immediate aftermath of a British defeat at Fishguard. In fact, he arrived from Bristol only two days after the French surrender and did indeed assume command of the ‘clean-up’ operations.

However, General Rooke died shortly afterwards – an event that might have caused havoc, had it happened mid-campaign against a resurgent French invasion and Welsh insurrection.

The Bristol Garrison and the local Volunteers had actually already been mobilised prior to the Fishguard landings, due to Castagnier’s fleet causing trouble off Ilfracombe. As soon as news was received of the French landings at Fishguard, General Rooke ordered the local Volunteers to assume responsibility for Bristol, while the garrison (Royal Bucks Militia and Suffolk Provisional Cavalry) and the 13th Foot (recently returned from the West Indies and stationed at Bath) embarked on ships for Tenby in Pembrokeshire. However, by the time they were embarked, news was then received of the French surrender and they were stood-down, though Rooke and his staff continued to Tenby and then to Fishguard.

Also present at Bristol was a Royal Navy frigate squadron under the command of Commodore, Sir Edward Pellew and this gives us an excellent opportunity to include Pellew’s fictitious sidekick, Horatio Hornblower (and friends)…


C-in-C: Lieutenant General James Rooke, GOC Bristol Garrison & Severn District [Average]

ADC: Captain, Lord Edward Somerset (15th (King’s) Light Dragoons)
ADC: Captain-Adjutant T Stanhope Badcock (Royal Buckinghamshire (The King’s Own) Militia)

Royal Navy Contingent – Commodore, Sir Edward Pellew [Excellent]
Marine Detachment – Major William Edrington                                             12 Figures     Line
Royal Navy Crews – Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower                                     20 Figures    Line
Royal Navy Skirmishers – Lieutenant William Bush                                       6 Figures      Line
Royal Navy Guns (9 pdrs) – Lieutenant Archie Kennedy                               2 Guns           Line

Bristol Garrison – Colonel George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, The Marquess of Buckingham (Royal Buckinghamshire (The King’s Own) Militia) [Poor]

Directly Under The Marquis of Buckingham’s Command
Suffolk Provisional Cavalry – Lieutenant-Colonel John Bourland               9 Figures  Militia

Royal Buckinghamshire (The King’s Own) Militia – Lt Col Benjamin Way [Average]
Left Wing, Royal Bucks (King’s Own) Militia – Captain William Pigott      24 Figures 2nd Line
Right Wing, Royal Bucks (King’s Own) Militia – Major John E Fremantle 24 Figures 2nd Line
Flank Companies, Royal Bucks (KO) Militia – Captain William Loftin        12 Figures Line
Regimental Artillery Detachment (3-pounder)                                                  1 Gun     2nd Line

13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot – Lt Col, The Hon. Charles Colville [Excellent]
Left Wing, 13th Foot – Major Edward Scott                                                       40 Figures   Line
Right Wing, 13th Foot – Major George Kinaird Dada                                      40 Figures   Line
Flank Companies, 13th Foot – Captain John Keane                                         20 Figures   Elite

The Suffolk Provisional Cavalry were part of a short-lived experiment in creating a mounted version of the county Militia regiments.  Gentlemen who owned more than ten horses were required to provide one man to the county Provisional Cavalry Regiment.  This proved deeply unpopular (even more so than the hated Militia Ballot) and the Provisional Cavalry Regiments remained under-manned and of very poor quality, with all six regiments being disbanded or converted to Fencible Cavalry Regiments in 1800 (the Suffolks were one of the regiments converted to Fencibles).

Cork Garrison

As discussed in the account of the Battle of Fishguard, Lord Milford sent a Revenue Service lugger Valiant to Cork, to seek military assistance from Admiral Kingsmill and the Cork Garrison.  Unfortunately, history does not record if any assistance was forthcoming, but they were potentially the closest major British military force to Fishguard.  It seems highly likely that Admiral Kingsmill would have sent assistance, but the French collapse was so rapid that the assistance was probably cancelled before it could be assembled.  However, in our alternate history, we need to look at what assistance would have been available in the event of a French victory at Fishguard.

The majority of the Cork garrison comprised loyalist Irish Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteer forces.  None of these would have been available, as they were prevented by law from deploying to mainland Britain.  There was a core of regular Royal Navy and Army units, as well as Scottish and Irish Fencibles which could have been sent to Wales, but it needs to be considered that there was an ongoing insurgency in Ireland that required their presence, as well as a constant threat of French naval action and invasion.  Indeed, the Cork Garrison had only recently returned from an expedition to oppose the threatened French landing at Bantry Bay, the previous December.

The primary response to the French invasion of Wales would probably have been a Royal Navy landing force of very similar composition to that actually employed at Fishguard or our hypothetical force for Commodore Pellew (above). However, any Army response would have been taken from one of these deployable units:

C-in-C Ireland: General Sir Ralph Abercromby
C-in-C Cork: Admiral, Sir Robert Brice Kingsmill

30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot – Lt Col Thomas Clarke
2nd Argyllshire Regiment of Fencible Infantry – Lt Col Henry Mord Clavering
1st Irish Regiment of Fencible Cavalry (‘Roden’s Dragoons’ or ‘Roden’s Foxhunters’) – Lord Jocelyn
2nd Irish Regiment of Fencible Cavalry – Lord Glentworth

We don’t have much information regarding the strength or quality of these units, but it is generally understood that the strength was still that of ‘peacetime’ units, so roughly 370-400 men for infantry regiments (organised into ten companies) and 100-2oo men for the cavalry (usually organised into four troops).

Other Troops

Carmarthenshire Yeomanry Cavalry – Major George Talbot, Lord Dynevor
Troop of Major George Talbot, Lord Dunevor             6 Figures Militia
Troop of Captain John George Phillips                         6 Figures Militia

This regiment managed to reach Fishguard in time to witness the French surrender on the 25th. It is probably their sky-blue jackets that are depicted in the famous painting of the surrender.

Pembroke Yeomanry Cavalry
Dungleddy Troop – Major John Lloyd 6 Figures Militia

The actions of this troop (headquartered at Picton Castle near Haverfordwest) during the emergency is strangely unrecorded. Some officers of the troop certainly served as ADCs to Cawdor during the emergency, but the rest of the troop is curiously absent from all accounts, even though it was only a half-day’s march from Fishguard and far closer than Cawdor’s troop (it also did not have the obstacle of the Cleddau Estuary to cross). It is possible that the troop existed only ‘on paper’.

New Romney (Duke of York’s Own) Fencible Cavalry – Colonel Cholmeley Dering [Average]
Troop of Lt Col J W Head Brydges                                                                  9 Figures  2nd Line
Troop of Major Edward Barnard                                                                     9 Figures  2nd Line
Troop of Captain S Egerton Brydges                                                              9 Figures  2nd Line
Troop of Captain Edward Taylor                                                                     9 Figures  2nd Line

The New Romney Fencibles were very swift to respond. Based at the time in Worcester, they marched the 61 miles to Llandovery on the first day of their march and had reached Carmarthen when news of the surrender was received (Four troops were recorded by Captain Frederick Jones (an invalided East India Company officer) as passing through Brecon on 27th February 1797) .  They were later commended for their remarkably rapid response to the French invasion.  They then proceeded to Fishguard and took possession of the prisoners of war, escorting the senior officers back to London.

Legion of Towyn Volunteers
Infantry Company – Captain Edward Corbet                                              12 Figures  Militia
Light Dragoon Troop – Lieutenant Owen Owen                                         4 Figures   Militia
Artillery Detachment (2pdr ‘Butterfly’ Gun) – Ensign John Davies       1 Gun       Militia

Corbet’s Towyn Volunteers was a long-established unit that was very swift to respond. They had reached Aberaeron when news of the French surrender arrived. Captain Corbet paid for the Light Dragoons and artillery out of his own pocket and it is largely thanks to him that news of the invasion spread so quickly; We’ve included the Light Dragoons here, but in reality they were used as couriers to spread word of the invasion far and wide.

Brecknock Volunteer Infantry
Company of Captain Henry Allen                                                                   12 Figures     Militia

Based in Brecon, Captain Allen’s Volunteers had reached LLandovery by the time that news of the French surrender was received.

Tivy-Side Volunteer Infantry – Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lloyd, Lord of Cemaes [Average]
Company of Captain William Lewis                                                               12 Figures     Levy
Company of Captain William Owen Brigstocke                                           12 Figures     Levy
Company of Captain James Nathan Taylor                                                  12 Figures     Levy
Company of Captain Llewellyn Parry                                                             12 Figures     Militia

Like the Loyal Haverfordwest Volunteers, this unit did not exist prior to the French landing and was frantically raised in the days that followed. The four companies seem to have been raised at the towns of Cardigan, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul and Lampeter.

Swansea Royal Volunteer Infantry – Major John Beavan [Average]
Company of Captain William Jones                                                              12 Figures     Militia
Company of Captain John Landeg                                                                12 Figures     Militia
Company of Captain-Lieutenant J W Mansfield                                        12 Figures     Militia

During the panic caused by Castagnier’s sortie into the Bristol Channel and bombardment of Ilfracombe, the Swansea Volunteers were called out to repel any landing. However, they were mistakenly sent to Rhosili Bay at the end of the Gower Peninsula (a half-day’s march west of Swansea) in reaction to a false invasion report, so wasted time in getting to Fishguard. Nevertheless, they were well on the way to Fishguard when news was received of the French surrender.

Staffordshire (The King’s Own) Militia – Colonel Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge [Excellent]
Left Wing, Staffordshire (King’s Own) Militia – Lt Col Walter Sneyd    24 Figures   2nd Line
Right Wing, Staffordshire (King’s Own) Militia – Major Edward Disbrowe 24 Figures   2nd Line
Flank Companies, Staffordshire Militia – Captain Rowland Mainwaring 12 Figures Line

The Staffordshire (The King’s Own) Militia were the King’s favourite Militia regiment, probably due to their renowned regimental band.  As a consequence, their usual posting was Windsor Castle.  However, we have been unable to discover where they were posted when they received the invasion alarm.  Nevertheless, the Staffordshire Militia were reported by Captain Frederick Jones to have passed through Brecon, en route to Fishguard, on 1st March 1797.  They returned that way on 14th March.

Colonel, Lord Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, was fully-titled Henry Bayly, Baronet Plas Newydd, Lord Paget and Earl of Uxbridge.  He also held the title of Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire and held the honorary Vice-Admiralcies for Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and North Wales.  He should not be confused with his much more famous son, Lord Henry William Paget, who succeeded his father as Earl of Uxbridge upon the former’s death in 1812 and became the Duke of Wellington’s cavalry commander and second-in-command at Waterloo in 1815, famously losing his leg in that battle and later becoming Marquis of Anglesey.

Anglesey Militia – Major George Arthur Paget
Company of Captain William Lewis Hughes 16 figures 2nd Line
Company of Lieutenant Bodychan Sparrow 16 figures 2nd Line

The Anglesey Militia was stationed at this time in Liverpoool. Note that the Commanding Officer was the son of Lord Uxbridge and was the younger brother of the Uxbridge of Waterloo fame.

Oswestry Yeomanry Cavalry (Oswestry Rangers)
Troop of Captain William Owen                                                                       6 Figures       Militia

Gloucestershire Yeomanry Cavalry – Major Powell Snell
Troop of Captain Richard Hippersely                                                             6 Figures       Militia
Troop of Captain Humphrey Austen                                                               6 Figures       Militia
Troop of Captain Robert Morris                                                                       6 Figures       Militia

Herefordshire Yeomanry Cavalry
Troop of Captain, The Right Honourable Thomas Harley                          6 Figures       Militia
Troop of Captain, Sir George Cornewall, 2nd Baronet                                6 Figures       Militia

Wrexham Yeomanry Cavalry
Troop of Captain John Leache                                                                          6 Figures       Militia

Worcester Yeomanry Cavalry – Major, Hon. John Somers Cocks
Troop of Captain Thomas Spooner                                                                  9 Figures       Militia

Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry
Troop of Captain William Cludde                                                                    6 Figures       Militia

Flintshire Volunteer Infantry
Company of Captain Edward Ommaney Wrench                                        16 Figures     Militia

Merthyr Tydfil Volunteers – Mr Richard Crawshay
1st Company                                                                                                        30 figures       Levy
2nd Company                                                                                                      30 figures       Levy
3rd Company                                                                                                       30 figures       Levy

Mr Richard Crawshay, owner of the Merthyr Tydfil Ironworks, ‘volunteered’ around 1,000 of his workers to form an unofficial militia, who were largely armed with pikes made from pike-heads and bayonets manufactured by his company. However, it is not clear how this large force was meant to be led, fed and supplied, not to mention how much enthusiasm his workers had for being conscripted, so one wonders how far the Merthyr Volunteers would have got! In the event, news of the French surrender was received before this mighty army left Merthyr.  Nevertheless, the story of the Merthyr Volunteers is probably typical of dozens of similar unofficial militias who set out for Fishguard but went unrecorded.


1. Note that in most cases, the list of officers for each regiment is known, but not the exact allocation within the regiment.  Consequently, we’ve allocated officers to sub-units within their regiments for ‘local colour’.  Note that Militia, Yeomanry, Fencible and Volunteer regiments frequently had a plethora of senior ranks that far outweighed the size and importance of the regiment!  The New Romney Fencible Cavalry for example, had only four troops, but was officered by a full Colonel, a Lieutenant-Colonel, a Major, four Captains, five Lieutenants and six Cornets!

2. The Flank Companies (or portions thereof) of the Militia, 13th Foot, 30th Foot and Argyllshire Fencibles may skirmish, as may the Royal Navy Skirmishers, Marines, Brecon Volunteers, Flintshire Volunteers and up to one company of the Swansea Volunteers and/or Tivyside Volunteers.

3. The Towyn Volunteer Legion had acquired its 2pdr to assist with riot-control; something it was rather effective at!  However, it was rather ancient and if it rolls a double-one, it will blow up.  This actually happened during a gun drill later in 1797.  This will inflict a ‘Risk to General’ on any officer attached to the gun and will also invoke a Brigade Morale Test.

4. The Marines, 13th Foot , 30th Foot, Fencibles and Militia are the only regiments to gain the +1 ‘British in Line’ bonuses for firing and mêlée.

5. Royal Navy crews fighting as infantry may deploy in Open Order.

6. Curiously, both the Staffordshire and Royal Buckinghamshire Militia held the title ‘The King’s Own’.

Uniforms, Modelling & Painting

Carmarthenshire Yeomanry

Carmarthenshire Yeomanry Officer’s Dolman

Carmarthen Town Museum has rather attractive surviving uniforms from the Carmarthenshire Yeomanry (of an officer and a trumpeter), which makes research somewhat easier than for most other regiments in this campaign. Dolmans were ‘French Grey’ (a mix of blue and white fibres more akin to sky-blue and typically worn by Light Dragoon regiments posted to tropical climes), with red collar and cuffs, with white lace and cords. Officers’ lace was silver. All other details of headgear, equipment, etc were as for the Pembroke Yeomanry.

Carmarthenshire Yeomanry Trumpeter’s Dolman

Carmarthenshire Yeomanry Trumpeters had white dolmans with French Grey (sky-blue) collar and cuffs and mixed white/crimson cords across the chest and around the collar and cuffs. French Grey shoulder-wings were worn which were strangely rectangular rather than the usual crescent-shape, with white lace and white/crimson striped fringed edging. There were four strips of silver lace, edged white and crimson, running down each sleeve, with two inverted lace chevrons at the elbow and another just above the cuff. The chevrons each had a crimson/white striped fringed lower edge. Trumpet cords were mixed sky blue & yellow.

13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot

The 13th Foot had yellow facings, with square-ended lace loops arranged in pairs. Lace was white, with a thin, straight red stripe. Officers had silver metalwork and lace.

As the new single-breasted, Austrian-style coat was only just coming into Regular Army service during 1797, it is certain that the regiment was still wearing the old, cutaway-fronted 1768 Pattern coat in February 1797, though modified with standing collars, rather than the original folded-down collars. It was also usual by this period to hook the lapels together, so that they appeared to meet across the chest. The eight Centre Companies wore woollen ‘tufts’ at the ends of their shoulder-straps, while the Light and Grenadier Companies wore fringed ‘wings’. Breeches and waistcoats were white, though the Light Company would have worn red waistcoats. Belts were pipe-clayed white, though the Light Company may have worn black belts.

The 13th Foot had been issued with round-hats for its earlier service in the Caribbean and did so again in Egypt, but would presumably have been issued with home-service regulation cocked-hats upon its return from the Tropics in 1795. The 1796 Pattern cocked-hat was slightly larger than the earlier 1768 Pattern and had white pull-cords and tassel at the right-hand corner. The hats were plain black and no longer had the lace edging of earlier fashions. Cut-feather plumes were worn by SNCOs and officers, which were white-over-red for the Centre Companies, white for the Grenadier Company and green for the Light Company. Some regiments also issued the rank-and-file with woollen hackles in the same colours, while others even issued feather plumes to all ranks. However, round-hats (with or without bearskin crests and plumes) were very fashionable among officers of the period, even if they weren’t regulation issue for home service. Bearskin caps were still retained by the Grenadiers for full-dress. Some regiments of the period also issued their Light and Grenadier Companies with round-hats, often crested with bear-skin in a manner similar to the Light Dragoon ‘Tarleton’ helmet. Some even issued their Light Companies with Tarleton helmets or the old Light Infantry Cap. Unfortunately we have as yet been unable to identify the exact details of headgear for the 13th Foot. Shakos were not issued until 1800.

One recorded uniform oddity for the 13th Foot is that the NCOs were authorised to wear their sashes over the shoulder, in the old style of officers that was only still practiced by Highland regiments in the 1790s, in commemoration of the Battle of Culloden, where all the officers were dead or wounded and the NCOs led the regiment.

This plate of the 61st Foot in 1792 shows the typical uniform of the British Infantry during the 1790s, until the introduction of closed-fronted jackets in 1797.  This uniform is essentially identical to that of the 13th Foot.  However, the cocked hat became rather larger (and plumed) in 1794.

30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot

The general uniform details described above for the 13th Foot would also have applied to the 30th Foot.  The regiment had pale yellow facings, with singly-spaced bastion-shaped lace loops and silver officers’ metalwork.

Part of the regiment was serving as marines and fought at Cape St Vincent in 1797, though the main part of the regiment was based at Bandon in Ireland, under command of the Cork Garrison.

Scottish Fencibles of the 1790s

2nd Argyllshire Fencible Infantry

These wore standard Highland dress uniform, which at this time was essentially indistinguishable from that worn during the American War of Independence, except that the collars were now upright. Headgear was the blue Highland Bonnet with a ‘diced’ band and black ostrich-feathers. Facings for this regiment were yellow and the regimental tartan was the standard Government (‘Black Watch’) sett, worn with a white ‘purse’ (i.e. sporran). In the field, men could sometimes wear (typically white) overall trousers. Close-fitting trousers and Tarleton helmets were popular items for officers.

Royal Buckinghamshire (The King’s Own) Militia

In 1793 the Buckinghamshire Militia had a rather ornate uniform of red coats with yellow cuffs, lapels and falling collars, which were edged in a strip of lace rather than with the usual lace buttonhole loops. Turn-backs were white. Officers’ metalwork was silver. Centre Companies had bicornes with red-over-white plumes (red-over-white-over-red for Sergeant-Majors), as well as elite company-style wings which only had lace around the edges. Breeches and waistcoats were white, while belts were pipe-clayed white. Black gaiters were worn, which came up to just beneath the knee.

The Grenadier Company had unusual short, black leather mitre caps (rather like earlier light infantry caps), which had fur at the back. The mitre front was edged with a double row of brass strip. Officers appear to have worn regulation fur grenadier caps. A red feather plume was worn on the left side. The grenadiers’ wings were edged in lace, with a red & white fringed lower edge, with an unusual design of three connected, circular lace loops (like ‘ooo’, but touching each other) in the centre of the wing. To complete the grenadier ensemble, a brass match-case was worn on the breast of the pouch belt.

We have been unable to discover a description or painting of Light Company uniform, though if a Light Company existed its uniform probably conformed to the usual pattern of lace shoulder-wings, red waistcoats, black leather belts and some sort of light infantry cap or round-hat with green plume.

Drummers wore the same red coats as the rank-and-file, though with yellow wings, edged white and with a white fringed lower edge. Four downward-pointing, white-edged yellow chevrons were worn on each sleeve. There were no connecting strips of lace down the arm seams. Drummers’ headgear was a short, fusilier-style fur cap with a yellow turban and a red-over-white plume on the left side. The Drum Major wore a heavily-laced coat in reversed colours, with either a fur grenadier cap, or a silver-laced bicorne with a red or white egret-feather edge.

Most unusually, the Buckinghamshire Militia in 1793 also had a band composed of black Africans or West Indians. Their bizarre uniform comprised a short-sleeved, short yellow jacket with red collar, cuffs and wings, with red & white lace, worn over a white, long-sleeved waistcoat, white gaiter-trousers and red ankle-boots. Headgear was either a white turban with yellow-over-black (one source says black-over-yellow) plume, or a black, peakless stovepipe cap with yellow headband, silver cords and a large silver, semi-circular plate on the front.

The Buckinghamshire Militia was conferred ‘Royal’ status at some point between 1793 and 1797 and should therefore have changed to the ‘Royal format of dark blue facings with gold officers’ metalwork. However, in 1815 the artist Hamilton Smith depicted the Royal Buckinghamshire Militia with blue facings and square-ended lace buttonholes arranged in pairs. The officers had silver metalwork and lace. This regiment clearly did not conform to the regulations! The Royal Buckinghamshire Militia might therefore have been wearing either uniform in 1797, or maybe even a third, unrecorded uniform? The Pembrokeshire Militia had no fewer than four uniform changes during the same period.

The regiment definitely carried colours, as is proved by a painting of an officer carrying the Regimental Colour of the regiment. The colour conforms to the regulation pattern, being of the facing colour, with a small Union Flag in the canton. The central device for the colours of most Militia regiments was the Arms of the Lord Lieutenant for the county and the Buckinghamshire Militia seem to have followed suit, as the central device on the Regimental Colour is a heraldic escutcheon. The Lord Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire at this time was George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham. The central device was surrounded by the regulation ‘Union Wreath’ of roses and thistles.

A series of drawings of the Buckinghamshire Militia made in 1793 show a Battalion gun-crew from the regiment going through gun-drills. The gun was a 3-pounder and the crewmen were depicted wearing standard Buckinghamshire Militia Centre Company uniform, though their instructor belonged to the Royal Artillery and wore the Royal Artillery uniform of blue coat, faced red and laced yellow, with a round-hat.

Needless to say, finding figures to exactly replicate this regiment is going to be difficult. Foundry British Infantry in 1768 Pattern uniform for the American War of Independence are probably the closest match.

Staffordshire (The King’s Own) Militia

The Staffordshire Militia wore regulation red coats with yellow lapels, cuffs and standing collars. The regiment’s coats did not have lace decoration. Officers’ metalwork was silver. Turn-backs were white. Small-clothes were white, though it is probable that the Light Company had red waistcoats. Belts were pipe-clayed white.

The Centre Companies had cocked-hats without lace. Given their high-status posting at Windsor Castle, they may have been issued with the larger, 1796 Pattern hat (shown in an officer’s portrait from 1797). A painting from 1800 shows officers and NCOs wearing white-over-red cut-feather plumes. It is not known if the rank-and-file had any hat decoration.

The Grenadier Company was issued with bearskins. A painting from 1804 shows these to be decorated with brass front-plates, white cords and a white plume worn on the left-side. However, it is not possible to tell if these decorations were worn in 1797. The Grenadiers had lace shoulder-wings.

We have been unable to discover a description or painting of Light Company uniform, though if a Light Company existed its uniform probably conformed to the usual pattern of lace shoulder-wings, red waistcoats, black leather belts and some sort of light infantry cap or round-hat with green plume.

Musicians wore ‘reversed colours’ of yellow coats with red lapels, cuffs, turn-backs and standing collars. The only lace decoration was on the (red) shoulder-wings. Hat-plumes were yellow, though the drum-major had a red plume.

Regimental colours were probably of the regulation pattern. Most known Militia colours of the period were decorated with the arms of the county’s Lord Lieutenant, which in this case was Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford.

To model this regiment, we would opt for Redoubt British Infantry in Bicorne from their ‘Wellington in India’ range, or maybe Foundry AWI British Infantry.

Anglesey Militia

Red coats with dark blue facings and square-ended buttonhole lace loops arranged in pairs. Officers’ metal colour is not recorded. Hamilton describes the regiment as wearing ‘light infantry caps’, though Owen records cocked hats.

The King’s Colour was the usual Union Flag design, with a central wreath surrounding the regimental title. The Regimental Colour was of dark blue silk, with the Union Flag in the canton. As with all other recorded Welsh Militia regiments, the central device on the Regimental Colour during this period was the arms of the Lord Lieutenant, who at this time was Henry Bayly Paget, 1st Earl of Uxbridge.

New Romney (Duke of York’s Own) Fencible Cavalry

Unfortunately, our research has so far been unable to turn up any exact uniform details for the New Romney Fencible Cavalry, but generally the Fencible Cavalry had light dragoon–style uniforms – either in the early 1790s style of light dragoon coatee, with a cutaway front and criss-cross lace on the breast, or in the more modern style, with dolman.

Coats/dolmans/jackets were mostly red, though some regiments wore blue. In most cases, Fencible Cavalry dolmans/jackets seem to have lacked the usual hussar braid (probably as a war economy measure). Dolmans/jackets without braid retained the three vertical rows or buttons and would sometimes have a rectangular ‘frame’ of lace strip around the breast. In all cases, all ranks seem to have worn chain wings at the shoulders. Some of the regiments that fought in Ireland were later allowed to wear the blue dolman of the regular Light Dragoons. The New Romney Fencibles did go to Ireland in 1798, but had not done so by 1797.

We have not found any descriptions or illustrations of Fencible horse-furniture and all paintings/engravings/sketches of mounted subjects show simple saddles without even a blanket, let alone a shabraque. It is entirely possible that shabraques were simply not issued; this would be entirely in keeping with the war austerity measures being implemented at the time. Regular British cavalry of the period certainly did not use shabraques in the field and there is no reason to suppose that their Fencible and Yeomanry comrades did things any differently.

Pictured here are some example Fencible uniforms from the late 1790s: 1. An officer of the Hampshire Fencible Cavalry in blue, unbraided jacket. 2. An officer of the Cinque Ports Fencible Cavalry (close neighbours of the New Romney Fencibles) in red braided dolman, with a blue (privately-purchased and non-regulation), fur-lined pelisse. 3. An officer of an unidentified regiment in plain red jacket. 4. A Quartermaster of the Pembrokeshire Fencible Cavalry in full dress (note the lace ‘frame’ around the breast-braid – some regiments retained the ‘frame’ even when they deleted the braid).

Perry and Front Rank British Light Dragoons in Tarleton helmet are a perfect match for Fencibles in the full, Braided dolman. However, we are unaware of any currently-available figures that are suitable for Fencible, Provisional or Yeomanry Cavalry in unbraided jackets.

1st Irish Fencible Cavalry

(Also known as ‘Roden’s Dragoons’ or ‘Roden’s Foxhunters’)

These wore blue Light Dragoon uniforms (one source describes them as ‘bright blue’) with Tarleton helmets, a white-over-red plume, ‘hussar-braid’ and white breeches. Facings were recorded as white. The button/braid colour was white (silver for officers).

2nd Irish Fencible Cavalry

These wore the same uniform as the 1st Irish Fencible Cavalry, though facings were yellow, which was also repeated on the ‘turban’ of the Tarleton helmet.

Suffolk Provisional Cavalry

I’ve edited this entry, as when first written, we knew absolutely nothing about Provisional Cavalry uniforms beyond a single surviving Tarleton helmet.  However, this superb website has produced a wealth of research on the subject.

No specific uniform has been identified for the Suffolk Provisional Cavalry, but all known Provisional Cavalry uniforms are of a standard pattern, being a very dark green version of the Light Dragoon dolman, with scarlet collar, scarlet pointed cuffs, all edged in white lace, with white hussar-braid and white metal buttons (silver lace, braid and buttons for officers).  Some regiments may have dispensed with the hussar braid.  Breeches and overalls were also dark green and some show black lace down the seam.  Headgear was the usual crested Tarleton helmet with scarlet or dark green turban and white-over-red or red-over-white plume on the left side.  Horse furniture was usually just a saddle and valise, which seems to have consisted of a simple dark green roll, showing the rolled scarlet cloak at the open ends.

As with the Fencibles, Front Rank or Perry British Light Dragoons are a good match for cavalry in full, braided dolman. However, we are unaware of any currently-available figures that are suitable for Fencible/Provisional/Yeomanry Cavalry in unbraided jackets.

Worcestershire Yeomanry

The Worcester Yeomanry wore fully-braided red jackets with black facings.  Officers had gold braid and shoulder-wings, while other ranks had white braid with brass buttons.  Tarleton helmets were worn with black turbans, white-over-red plume and brass fittings.  Officers had helmets with leopard-skin turbans.

Gloucestershire Yeomanry

The only reference we can find to the uniform of the Gloucestershire Yeomanry of the period is a paragraph regarding the formation of the first (Cheltenham) troop in 1794:

“… The uniform chosen for the troop was practically the same as that worn by the regular light dragoons of the period, and consisted of a blue jacket with white braid, white leather breeches, half boots, sash and belt, black leather helmet with red and white feather at the side.”

The Volunteer Infantry Corps

The uniforms of the Brecknock Volunteers, Tivy-Side Volunteers, Swansea Volunteers, Flintshire Volunteers and Towyn Volunteer Legion are not known.  However the Towyn Volunteer uniforms are basically described as being ‘red and blue’; this might mean red coats with blue facings, or blue coats with red facings or red coats for the infantry and blue coats for the artillery and dragoon sections, etc, etc.

Fishguard 1797 Bibliography

Yeomanry Wars: The History of the Yeomanry, Volunteer & Volunteer Association Cavalry – A Civilian Tradition from 1794 – Peter Athawes

British Army Officers Who Served in the American Revolution 1775-1783 – Steven M Baule & Stephen Gilbert

British Regiments and the Men Who Led Them (Article) – Steve Brown

The Last Invasion: The Story of the French Landing in Wales – Phil Carradice

The Last Invasion: Fishguard 1797 (Article) – Dr David Chandler

French Revolutionary Infantry 1789-1802 – Terry Crowdy

Historique Abrege des Campagnes du 61ème Régiment d’Infanterie – Emile Espérandieu

A Historical Tour Through Pembrokeshire – Richard Fenton

Les Soldats de la Revolution Française – Liliane & Fred Funcken

Uniforms of the French Revolutionary Wars 1789-1802 – P Haythornthwaite & C Warner

The Pembroke Yeomanry – Lieutenant Colonel R L Howell MBE TD DL

The Pembroke Yeomanry Story (Article) – John Ingledew

Pembrokeshire Folk Tales – Brian John

Fishguard Fiasco: An Account of the Last Invasion of Britain – John S Kinross

The Battle of Fishguard: The Last Invasion of Great Britain (Article) – Jon Latimer

The Last Invasion of Britain – Commander E H Stuart Jones RN

The History of Little England Beyond Wales – Edward Laws

A History of the Uniforms of the British Army (Vols. 3, 4 & 5) – Cecil C P Lawson

Fastes de la Légion d’Honneur &c (Vol. 5) – Lievyns, Verdot & Bégat

The Forgotten Army: Fencible Regiments of Great Britain 1793-1816 (Article) – Ron McGuigan

A History of the Welsh Militia & Volunteer Corps 1757-1908 Vol.1: Anglesey & Caernarfonshire – Bryn Owen

A History of the Welsh Militia & Volunteer Corps 1757-1908 Vol.2: The Glamorganshire Regiments of Militia (Part 1) – Bryn Owen

A History of the Welsh Militia & Volunteer Corps 1757-1908 Vol. 3: Glamorgan (Part 2) – Volunteers & Local Militia 1796-1816 and Yeomanry Cavalry 1808-1831 – Bryn Owen

A History of the Welsh Militia & Volunteer Corps 1757-1908 Vol. 4: Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire & Cardiganshire (Part 1) – Regiments of Militia – Bryn Owen

A History of the Welsh Militia & Volunteer Corps 1757-1908 Vol 5: Denbighshire and Flintshire Regiments of Militia (Part 1) – Bryn Owen

A History of the Welsh Militia & Volunteer Corps 1757-1908 Vol 6: The Montgomeryshire Regiments of Militia, Volunteers & Yeomanry Cavalry – Bryn Owen

Merioneth Volunteers and Local Militia During The Napoleonic Wars (1795-1816) – Hugh J Owen

Armies of the Irish Rebellion 1798 – Stuart Reid

Histoire de l’Armée et de Tous Les Régiments &c (Vol. 3) – Pascal, Le Comte, Brahaut & Sicard

A Military History of Bristol during The Revolutionary War 1793-1802 (Article) – John Penny

History of the Pembroke Yeomanry – Major General Pugh

Command of the Ocean – N A M Rodgers

The Descent of the French on Pembrokeshire – David Salmon

Kings Cutters: The Revenue Service and the War against Smuggling – Graham Smith

Britain’s Last Invasion: Fishguard 1797 – Professor J E ‘Teddy’ Thomas

1796-1798 : Trois Tentatives d’Invasion Françaises en Irlande (Article) – Dr Gabriel Vital-Durand

The List of Officers of Militia, Yeomanry & Volunteers &c, 22nd April 1797 – War Office Publication

An Authentic Account of the Invasion by the French Troops on Cerrig Gwastad Point, Near Fishguard, on Wednesday 22nd February 1797, and Their Surrender to the Forces of His Britannic Majesty on Goodwick Sands on Friday 24th February – H L Williams

The Yeomanry Cavalry of Gloucestershire and Monmouth – W H Wyndham Quin

Other Sources

Fishguard Invasion Commemorative Map, 20th March 1797

Fishguard Invasion Centenary Map of 1897

The Bryn Owen Papers – Sadly Bryn Owen passed away before he complete his master-work on the Welsh Militia & Volunteer Corps and he was never able to publish the critical book which would have covered the Yeomanry and Volunteer regiments of Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire.  However, the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth retains his research papers and notes for the unpublished volumes.

Uniforms of the Fishguard Invasion – Plate by Rick Scollins, published in Military Modelling Magazine

New York Public Library Digital Gallery – Plates of British 1790s Yeomanry & Volunteer regiments (unfortunately this collection does not include Welsh regiments, but it does give an excellent overall impression of British volunteer uniforms of the period)

Pembroke Yeomanry

The Pembrokeshire Museum Service Uniform Collection

Carnet de la Sabretache – French military history review

The Pembroke Yeomanry Collection

The Fishguard Invasion Tapestry

The Carmarthenshire Museum Service Uniform Collection

The Records of the Legion of Towyn Volunteers

The Diary of James Jones of the Loyal Haverfordwest Volunteers

The Diary of Captain Frederick Jones of Brecon

Worcester Yeomanry Cavalry Living History –

This Re-Illuminated School of Mars – Notes On The Provisional Cavalry 1797-1800


The authors would like to thank:

‘Eclaireur’ for his encouragement and advice in this project.

Brendan Morrissey for his additional research into the British officers present at Fishguard who had fought in the American War of Independence.

Steven H Smith for researching the French sources regarding La Légion Noire/Rouge and for providing additional information on the Yeomanry, Volunteer, Fencible and Militia regiments.

 Catriona Hilditch of the Pembrokeshire Museum Service, for her kind assistance in finding uniform information for the Pembrokeshire Volunteer, Militia and Yeomanry regiments and for allowing us access to the museum service’s store-rooms.

Alex Hancock of the Pembrokeshire Museum Service, for her patience and help in rummaging for obscure bits of old uniforms while having to put up with the authors’ ‘interesting’ points of interest at each ‘exciting’ new find…  She deserves to keep the Military Cross we found…

Major Martin James of 224 (Pembroke Yeomanry) Squadron, Royal Logistics Corps (Volunteers) for his help and advice.

Martyn Jones for his kind loan of the 1897 Invasion Centenary Map.

Martin Everett, curator of the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh Regiment, for his assistance in researching the Volunteer corps.

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