Preparations Against Napoleonic Invasion

Preparations Against Napoleonic Invasion, 1804

Though the French invasion was expected in the South-East, on the coasts nearest to the great base at Boulogne, careful preparations were made in Dorset and elsewhere to mobilise men and resources. The warning system of signal posts on the most prominent points of the shore-line, and of beacons on the highest hills inland, was designed to alarm the whole county in a few minutes. Back from the coast, places were appointed as depots to which provisions were to be carried; and detailed plans were made so that everyone knew what he had to do and how much transport and supplies each district must provide.

Besides the regular troops and militia encamped on the range of hills behind the coast, a volunteer force of 1867 Infantry, 506 Cavalry, and 821 ‘Sea Fencibles’ was ready to assemble at local centres. No large-scale defence schemes like the Military Canal and martello towers of the South-East were undertaken, but batteries were built or strengthened to protect the harbours at Lyme, Weymouth, and Poole, and the anchorage in Swanage Bay. The alarms and excitements of the period are described in Hardy’s Trumpet Major.