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Hannah Snell – The First Female Royal Marine?


Hannah Snell lays claim to being the first women to serve on active service with the Royal Marines, over 250 years before women were officially allowed to do so.

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This is the story of Hannah Snell, Britain’s secret female soldier.

Born in Worcester in 1723, Hannah Snell dressed up as a man and joined the British army in her early 20’s.
Going by the name of James Grey, her regiment was marching north to face the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) when they reached Carlisle Castle.

It was here that she received 500 lashes for insubordination.
Amazingly, she was able to cover up the fact that she was a woman.
But, maybe unsurprisingly, she decided enough was enough and deserted.

She might have deserted the 6th Regiment of Foot, but she didn’t desert the military.
Making her way to Portsmouth she enlisted in the Royal Marines.

Her adventures with the Royal Marines took her first to Mauritius and then to India.
It was in India that Hannah Snell fought in both the battles of Pondicherry (1748) and Devicotta (1749). it was in this last battle, fighting alongside Robert Clive (Clive of India) that she was wounded by a musket ball in the groin.

Rather than going to a surgeon for medical assistance (with the risk of being exposed as an imposter), she operated on herself, removing the musket ball with her bare fingers.

On her arrival back in England she finally told her comrades her true identity.
Far from being outraged, the men encouraged her to petition the head of the army, The Duke of Cumberland, for a pension.
She did just that and the Duke, recognising both her service and the fact that she had been wounded in battle, agreed.

If you are confused about how the head of the army became involved when the Royal Marines are part of the Royal Navy, please note that they only officially became part of the Royal Navy in 1755.

Her story became a sensation. She wrote an autobiography and appeared in stage shows.
With her new found fame & fortune she bought a pub in Wapping (London) which was probably called The Female Warrior, although other accounts suggest that it was called The Widow in Masquerade.

In later life, Hannah ended up in the Bethlem Hospital in London, otherwise known as Bedlam.
She died there in 1792 and is buried at the Old Burial Ground, the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Hannah Snell can lay claim to being the first (recorded) woman to serve in the Royal Marines.

A plaque has been placed on the wall of the house where she was born in Friar Street, Worcester.

#hannahsnell #britishhistory #royalmarines

0:00 Introduction
1:14 Hannah Snell
2:56 Becomes James Grey
4:25 Joins Royal Marines
6:43 Battle of Pondicherry
7:32 Battle of Devicotta
8:47 He is a She
10:10 Fame & Fortune
11:17 A Place in Military History
12:04 The History Chap

Sources for this story include: Worcester News,, National Army Museum, Royal Museum Greenwich, Wikipedia.

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My name is Chris Green and I love to share stories from British history. Not just because they are interesting but because, good or bad, they have shaped the world we live in today.

History should not be stuffy or a long list of dates or kings & queens.
So rather than lectures or Youtube animations, I tell stories that bring the past to life.

My aim is to be chat as if I were having a coffee or meal with you. Jean in Maryland, USA recently wrote: “Chris, is the history teacher I wish I had at school!”

Just for the record, I do have a history degree in Medieval & Modern history from the University of Birmingham.

Disclaimer: All opinions and comments expressed in the ‘Comments’ section do not reflect the opinions of Chris Green Communication Ltd t/a The History Chap. All opinions and comments should contribute to the dialogue. Chris Green Communication Ltd does not condone written attacks, insults, racism, sexism, extremism, violence or otherwise questionable comments or material in the ‘Comments’ section, and reserves the right to delete any comment violating this rule or to block any poster from the channel.


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