[MR] Wikipedia: French Invasion of England, 1545

Garth Groff via Atlantia atlantia at seahorse.atlantia.sca.org
Fri Jul 21 02:49:07 PDT 2017

Noble Friends,

On this date in 1545, French troops landed in force on the Isle of Wight 
during their attempted invasion of England.

England and France were at drawn daggers, so to speak, over the Italian 
War of 1542-1546. The French assembled a fleet of over 300 ships and 
50,000 men, hoping to first crush the English fleet at Southampton, and 
then move their massive army toward London. The French fleet was 
composed of both sailing ships and galleys, the latter being able to 
operate in the confined Portsmouth harbor without the need of sail. A 
French armada of 128 ships entered the Solent (the channel between 
Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight) and bottled up the becalmed English 
fleet in the harbor. Here the galleys, many manned by convicted 
criminals and rather suicidal gun crews, began picking away at the 
English ships. Then the wind briefly rose and the English fleet got 
underway. It was on 19 July that the English ship MARY ROSE heeled over 
and sunk, probably due to incompetent seamanship and open gun ports at 
the waterline. The French claim the ship was sunk by their cannon fire.

On 21 July, hoping to draw the English fleet into a decisive battle or 
establish a permanent base for a mainland attack, the French made a 
heavily armed landing from their galleys on Wight and began to sweep 
away the outnumbered English defenders. The French took some small forts 
and burned towns and farms. According to Alexander McKee in his book 
KING HENRY VIII'S MARY ROSE, small English forces armed with longbows 
retreated into the bush and harassed the French. They created terror by 
dropping volleys of arrows into the French camps, then retreating before 
the French could respond, though there also were several pitched battles.

The French quickly realized they had put themselves in dangerous 
position. Though outnumbered, the militia English continued resist 
French advances. Their galleys were stuck on the Wight beaches, and on 
24 July the wind freshened and turned to favor the English. The French 
galleys would be easy targets, their soldiers marooned, and their 
sailing ships caught downwind of the advancing English fleet. That day 
the French evacuated their forces from Wight and limped home.

Here is the Wikipedia article, sadly simplified and lacking the French 
decision to retreat: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_invasion_of_the_Isle_of_Wight .

Wikipedia claims this was the last invasion of English soil. Not so. In 
February 1797 a French force of some 1,400 troops supported by four 
warships landed in Wales, hoping to fuel an insurrection against the 
English as a diversion. The French troops were opposed by several local 
militia units, and Welsh locals who flocked to the militias with 
makeshift weapons. There was some skirmishing and a few casualties on 
both sides. The French force, over half being unreliable conscripts and 
released convicts, began to disintegrate. Two of their ships were taken 
by the English and the other two driven off. On 24 February 1797 the 
marooned French force surrendered: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fishguard . All this is, of 
course, well beyond our period of interest, but I mention it here to 
show you have to filter and crosscheck your sources, even Wikipedia.

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge

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