Sinking of The Rochdale and The Prince of Wales - Military Background

Military Background

In July 1807, following military successes, Napoleon signed the Treaties of Tilsit with Russia and Prussia leaving him master of central and eastern Europe. He then turned his attention westward to Spain and Portugal. The British government was alarmed. Soldiers were recruited to defend England's coast and to intervene in Spain (see Peninsular War) under Wellington.

Fear of an invasion of Ireland was further increased by the building of Martello Towers on the southern and eastern coasts and watchtowers on the other coastlines.

French troops had invaded Ireland on 22 August 1798, under General Humbert, establishing the short-lived Republic of Connacht. On that occasion the Mayo Militia was ingloriously defeated in what became known as the Races of Castlebar. In 1807 many members of the North Mayo and South Mayo Militias volunteered and were lost from the Prince of Wales. They joined the 97th Regiment of Foot, the Minorca Regiment, which was known as the “Queens Own Germans” as it was initially formed from Swiss and German mercenaries. (In 1816, the 97th was renumbered as the 96th).

The North Cork militia was active in suppressing the Irish Rebellion of 1798. They suffered a defeat at the Battle of Oulart Hill. In 1807, while most joined the 18th Regiment of Foot so many members of the North Cork Militia volunteered that they had to be dispersed over 25 different regiments.

They joined the British Army for a shilling a week and three meals a day - an alternative to terrible poverty.

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