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 Sea Fencibles 
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Post Sea Fencibles
I don't know much about the Sea Fencibles and while searching for other items, I came across the following in THE TIMES, of Jan 14, 1799 in a letter from Edw. Buller of Dartmouth

" ..... that the brig Susannah left this port .. for Torbay .. and was captured while at anchor of West Down Head by the French privateer L'Hereux Spectaculeur, mounting fourteen guns. The Brixham Sea Fencibles whilst perceiving an armed vessel, concluded her to be an enemy; and from her boarding the brig, supposed she had captured her; in consequence of which went off in a boat armed with pikes and musquets, succeeded in recapturing the Brig, which on their appearance was deserted by the Frenchmen, whom they also pursued and took......"

In the issue of March 13, the same year, is mention of:

".....a small cutter was observed boarding two brigs 8 or 9 miles from the North Foreland .... I sent an orderly Dragoon to the Admiral at Deal, not knowing the force of the privateer. The moment the capture was perceived, 40 or 50 of the Sea Defencibles pushed off in three boats .... and re-captured the two brigs, the privateer having made off......"

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Sun May 15, 2005 3:07 pm
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Post Sea Fencibles, Naval Militia, and the Naval Reserve
Sea Fencibles were the brain child of Admiral Sir Home Popham (1762-1820). While in Flanders in 1793, he organised a group of fishermen into a naval militia and when an invasion of England by the French seemed imminent, he suggested in 1798 that a similar corps was formed in this country.

The Sea Fencibles were volunteers, usually fishermen or local residents, commanded by serving or retired naval officers – in the event of an alarm, the men would make to a rendevous point and proceed to patrol a specific length of coast. They would also assist with coastal signal stations and would man small boats. They were finally disbanded at the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815. They were granted an exclusion from impressment.

Sea Fencibles began in the US about 1808 as state organizations. In 1813, Congress established United States Sea Fencible units in Boston, New York, Philedelphia, Baltimore, and Norfolk. In 1813 the Congressional statute was repealed.

Sea Fencibles continued in numerous coastal states until the end of the 19th Century when the whole concept was expanded to naval militia and ultimately to the naval reserve just before WWI.

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Wed Oct 26, 2005 4:50 pm
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A snippet from THE TIMES, Feb 13 1804:


" ....While the Cromer Sea Fencibles were exercising the great guns some days since, a ball struck Capt.Tremlett's foot, and broke the leg of Mr Smith, surgeon, who was walking on the cliff at a considerable distance from the battery. ..."

Thankfully a walk along the cliffs at Cromer is a good deal safer these days as long as you watch your step!

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Thu Oct 27, 2005 1:54 pm
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Post Re: Sea Fencibles, Naval Militia, and the Naval Reserve
CAPTCaltrop wrote:
Sea Fencibles were the brain child of Admiral Sir Home Popham (1762-1820). While in Flanders in 1793, he organised a group of fishermen into a naval militia and when an invasion of England by the French seemed imminent, he suggested in 1798 that a similar corps was formed in this country.

Here are a few additional details about Home Popham’s plan to add to that information already posted by CAPTCaltrop. Information was taken from "A Damned Cunning Fellow: The Eventful Life of Read-Admiral Sir Home Popham" by Hugh Popham.

In 1798 he submitted to the Admiralty his `Outline of a Plan as an Auxiliary Defence of the Coast of England against invasion, by the Establishment of Sea Fencibles'. The gist of the idea comes in the third paragraph: `It is accordingly proposed to enroll the seamen and seafaring men resident in the towns and villages on the coast, and train [them] to artillery, with a positive assurance that they are never to be called out, unless for actual service, or for the purpose of exercising.

The coast of England that could be reached from France by a flotilla was divided into sections and a captain and commander was put in charge of each section of beaches. The men were paid a shilling a day when on duty. Many of these local seamen had their own boats and all knew the local waters intimately. Popham had to get special permission to use the local smugglers as part of the defense forces.

Once established, the Sea Fencibles were to man 'doggers, galliots and other flat vessels fitted to carry two or more long heavy guns, manned with an officer and twelve people', and to undertake general coastal protection and `attack or annoy small Privateers, or retake any vessels that may have fallen into the enemy's hands. They would be supplied with provisions, and be entitled to prize money. They could also be used to man the coastal forts.

In addition, the defenders were issued with half pikes as personal arms.

Popham's Sea Fencibles plan was accepted by the British government and Popham himself was appointed to head up the district from Beachy Head to Deal.

If you are interested in exactly what Popham did in Flanders, this same book has some very good details.

Don


Tue May 16, 2006 12:11 pm
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The Times, October 5 1803:

" .... Captain G Blake of the Royal Navy attended at Berkeley, to receive the names of such persons as were desirous of enrolling themselves as Sea Fencibles; when every owner, master, towman, and fisherman, most readily came forward, and entered, and made an offer of all their vessels and boats for the use of Government....the day following the Berkeley Volunteers assembled...in the most patriotic and spirited manner, with their hats decorated with sprigs of oak and laurel gilded..."

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Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:44 am
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From The Times October 31, 1803:

" .... on Tuesday, the town of Cromer was up in arms, on the circumstance of two strange sail appearing off the battery. The guns were immediately armed by Volunteers, the Sea Fencibles collected up their pikes, &c and nine or ten guns were armed before the ship sent a boat on shore. They proved to be an English privateer, with a Russian galliot ....."

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Tue Oct 23, 2007 12:45 pm
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From The Times, of July 18, 1805:


" .... the establishment of the Sea Fencibles is about to undergo a complete revision, by which means it is expected that a great number of useful hands will be procured for the service of the navy, who have hitherto been exempted ....."



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Sun Feb 10, 2008 2:04 pm
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From The Times, of July 18, 1805:

" .... it has long been a matter of regret that the vessels which are occasionally taken from the smugglers should be broken up and destroyed. The vessels are in general chef-d'œuvres in marine architecture. It is now said the Government intends to appropriate a number of them to the use of the Sea Fencibles; and that several of these vessels are already fitted up for that purpose on the coasts of Kent and Sussex. ....."



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Mon Feb 11, 2008 11:02 am
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Mil,

This was one of the government measures intended to suppress smuggling during the Napoleanic Wars, and I believe it was laid down that any smuggling craft was to be cut into three pieces. Another regulation was that small vessels, other than naval or customs craft, were to have fixed bowsprits, ie. they could not be run in or out to increase the sail area. There were also other rules, but you can be sure that the smugglers either ignored them - or managed to get around them in one way or another!

As regards the Sea Fencibles, I suppose they might be looked on as the marine branch of the 'Dad's Army' of their day, although of course rather more serious! (For those outside the UK who might not know of it, this was a long running tv comedy programme based on the Home Guard of the Second World War). My father was in the Home Guard in London during the War (he being in a reserved occupation, which meant he could not join up) and he had a few stories to tell. Your post from the Times about Captain Tremlett and Surgeon Smith being injured by your own side, rather than the enemy, reminded me of one of them. My father, being a sergeant, was instructing some of the men in how to handle a rifle when one of them accidentally (at least he thought so) went off and a bullet went whizzing past his ear. Just shows that some things don't change that much!

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Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:30 am
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...thanks for your response with the information, Kester.

Ref. the Home Guard, I likened them to the Sea Fencibles, too, in a post in the Scuttle Butt - read here - where you will see that my dear late Dad served in the Home Guard, too. He related many a tale, as well, and said that the real Dad's Army was a lot more comical than that in the TV series. :lol:


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Thu Feb 14, 2008 11:27 am
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As a reservist in my fifties I suppose I am one of the successors to Dad's Army.

I was recalled for service in Afghanistan (apparently that country's name is a bad word, so read "the Hindu Kush") in 2002. I wouldn't underestimate the lethality of Dad's Army, er, Dad's Navy.

Age and guile will prevail over youth and exuberance every time.

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Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:28 pm
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From The Times, October 22nd, 1803:

".... A large supply of pikes is ordered to be sent to the several Officers commanding Sea Fencibles, to be distributed in the event of an enemy landing ......"


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Sun Jun 22, 2008 9:24 am
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The Times, January 9th, 1804:

" ... The arrival of Admiral Philip at Deal, on Friday last, was for the purpose of mustering the Sea Fencibles at that place. Government has given orders to the Admiral, to visit every place at which the Sea Fencibles are established, for the purpose of examining into their discipline and effective strength. ..."



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Wed Jan 07, 2009 1:58 pm
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The Times, March 1st, 1805:

" ... Admiral Phillips had yesterday a long interview with the Board of Admiralty, when he presented an account of his surveys of the Sea-Fencibles on the different parts of the Coast. ...."



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The Times, September 18, 1804:

" ... MARGATE, September 16 ..... The protections were all, last night, withdrawn from the Sea Fencibles, which exposed them to the impress, and has occasioned a considerable sensation. ...."


..... I bet it did! Did that situation continue, I wonder; does anyone know?


.

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