Jemima Nicholas was the heroine of The Battle of Fishguard, did you even know there was a Battle of Fishguard?
It was the last invasion of mainland Britain, it was an invasion by Revolutionary France fortunately it only lasted three days, from 22nd to 24th February 1797.
It appears that 1,400 troops landed at Fishguard, they were made up of 600 French regular soldiers and 800 irregulars, being republicans, deserters, convicts and Royalist prisoners, an undisciplined group. As soon as the irregulars landed on British soil, they deserted, well, initially they began by looting local villages and hamlets, and then everything collapsed when they discovered the locals’ supply of wine! (A Portuguese ship had been wrecked on the coast several weeks previously.)
This was Jemima Nicholas’s moment. She tricked the French into surrendering. She did this by getting all the local women to put on cloaks and wear high black steeple-crowned hats, the aim being to make them look like soldiers. She then marched them up and down a hill. It worked; the French commander thought his soldiers were outnumbered. It is also claimed that she then single handily captured twelve French soldiers using a pitchfork, locking them inside St. Mary’s church!
The result was that after a few brief clashes with our hastily assembled forces and, of course, Jemima’s motley band, the invading French commander, Colonel William Tate, imagining that he was facing overwhelming numbers, surrendered unconditionally on the 24th February.
For this reason Jemima has been included in the list of 100+ Welsh women who have made a significant contribution to Welsh life.
The Fishguard Arts Society commissioned “The Last Invasion Tapestry” for the 200th anniversary of the invasion, which tells her story. It is a 100- foot- long tapestry, which can be found its own gallery in the library at the Fishguard Town Hall.