COUNTY YARNS - Sea skirmishes with cutters, brigs, luggers and a yacht

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Cyril and Fred invaded Normandy but of course the Normans had much earlier invaded England.

Indeed, England and France have been at war with each other much more often than we’ve been at peace.

For example, though the Napoleonic Wars with England hadn’t yet started in earnest, in 1796 the coastal waters off Sussex were plagued by French privateers. Three incidents in September of that year were reported in the Sussex Weekly Advertiser.

One concerned the Petit Diable captured off Fairlight by Captain Amos of the Swallow revenue cutter, apparently the third taken by that “very active officer” in the space of 15 days.

Another French vessel actually landed men within a mile of Hastings who proceeded to refill their water casks “with the greatest deliberation”.

Upon re-embarking the French came upon an English brig that they captured. A cutter was speedily manned from Hastings and after a short pursuit, recaptured the brig and carried her into Rye harbour. On 19th September a small French lugger was seen off Seaford. The newspaper reported: “Lord Berkeley very spiritedly ordered a Serjeant’s guard for the purpose of manning his yacht and giving chase. After getting on board with his men, Lord Berkeley was prevented from carrying his design into execution by a great surf through which the vessel could not be got to sea with the dispatch necessary to offer any prospect of coming up with the republican adventurer.”