21st March 1783
Soldiers staged a mutiny at Fort George
Fort George may now be a housing development, but the castle that stood there saw action twice.
Late in the Second World War, it was heavily bombarded by the RAF. They were trying to inflict the maximum damage they could on the occupying forces – and they succeeded.
The other time it saw bloodshed was 21 March 1783, when the threat came from closer to home.
Fort George was the home of the 104th Regiment. The Regiment hadn’t long been formed when the arrival of a new batch of soldiers from the 83th Regiment in Portsmouth bolstered their numbers.
Mutiny at Fort George
While the 104th was just finding its feet, the introduction of the 83rd upset a delicate balance. It could be that the fort was suddenly over-crowded, but whatever the cause, the men demanded that its gates be left open. That way they’d be allowed to come and go as they chose.
The commanders agreed, but a few days later – on 21st March – violence broke out. The soldier ambushed their officers while they were having dinner. The officers took cover in the mess hall, but the rebels went to an upper floor from which they could fire down on them. The officers ran, and all but two escaped through the fort gates which were, rather conveniently, left wide open. The fort was left in the hands of around 600 rebel soldiers.
Fort George retaken
Clearly it couldn’t be left in what was technically enemy hands, so the officers returned with the Guernsey Militia and the Royal Irish. They took positions behind a hedge around 100m from Fort George. Major Mawbey, who was commanding the Militia and Royal Irish, sent a demand that the rebels surrender, but the rebels refused and fired on the Governor.
The Militia and Royal Irish fired back. They worked their way around the castle until the rebels were surrounded. The rebels continued the fight using muskets, but they were outnumbered and had no choice but to surrender if they wanted to get out alive.
The 104th Regiment was broken up after the incident, to ensure it could never happen again.
What else happened in Guernsey in March?
A body on a beach, an impossible alibi and an unstoppable race against time!
Check out the first book in The Sarnian series, set on the Channel Island of Guernsey.