The Sea Fencibles were a British naval militia, mostly volunteers, that was formed in 1793 to act as an anti-invasion force in coastal waters.
The Sea Fencibles were active during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) and Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815). They were usually fishermen or local residents along the coast, under the command of retired or serving naval officers.
Who created Sea Fencibles?
They were the brainchild of Admiral Sir Home Popham (1762-1820), who, while in Flanders in 1793, organised a group of local fishermen into a marine militia to defend their coast. Proving successful, he suggested that Britain form its own similar militia, to defend the English coastline from French invasion.
What did Sea Fencibles do?
Most Sea Fencibles were volunteers – much like the British Home Guard during the Second World War (1939–1945). In the event of an alarm, the men would head to a rendezvous point and then go on to patrol a specific length of coast. They would also assist with coastal signal stations, man small boats and act as a lifeboat service.
There Sea Fencibles never engaged in active duty, although there are a few accounts of them helping to fight off lone French vessels near the English coastline. They were disbanded at the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815.