Fact of the day: 22nd February

On this day in 1797 the last invasion of Great Britain began.

The Battle of Fishguard was a military invasion of Great Britain by Revolutionary France during the War of the First Coalition. The brief campaign, which took place between 22 February and 24 February 1797, was the most recent effort by a foreign force that was able to land on Britain, and thus is often referred to as the “last invasion of Britain.”

The invasion was the plan of General Lazare Hoche. He proposed to land 15,000 French troops in Ireland to support Theobald Wolfe Tone and the Irish Republicans at Bantry Bay. As a diversionary attack to draw away British reinforcements, two smaller forces would land at Great Britain, one in northern England near Newcastle and another in Wales. The overall aim was to start an uprising against the English using the deep-rooted patriotism and nationalist pride in the Celtic regions of Britain, and march onwards to Bristol, Chester, Liverpool and finally London.

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In December 1796, Hoche’s expedition arrived at Bantry Bay, but was scattered and badly hit by atrocious weather. After being unable to land a single soldier, Hoche decided to set sail and return to France. In January 1797, poor weather in the North Sea along with outbreaks of mutiny and indiscipline also stopped the attacking force on Newcastle, and they too returned to France. However, the third part of the plan went ahead, and on 16 February a force of four French warships left Brest flying Russian colours and headed for Britain.

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