About this programme
In 1793, the revolutionary government in Paris issued the infamous orders to execute King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Two weeks later, on 1 February, the French republic declared war on its implacable enemies in Britain and for the next decade the country braced itself for invasion.
The British defences were woefully inadequate, and in 1794 Parliament bought a large piece of land at Shorncliffe, near Sandgate in Kent ¿ an obvious point for invasion by a French army. From this part of the coast, the locals could see the fires burning in Napoleon's camp, just 20 miles away, when he assembled his 'Army of England' after seizing power in France in 1799.
Colonel William Twiss, a military engineer given the task of fortifying this part of the coast, drew up plans for a grand redoubt at Shorncliffe. The site became the home of the Green Jackets, the rifle regiment formed in 1800, whose soldiers were trained to act as skirmishers during the Napoleonic wars; and the Light Infantry Brigades, who were trained by Sir John Moore.
Until this time, English troops had been trained under a regime of harsh discipline and deployed in rigid formations to confront the enemy with volleys of musket fire. The new light infantry troops were intelligent, active and hardy men, treated with respect by their officers. Sir John Moore became a national hero, whose skill in light infantry training is still recognised today.
Time Team investigated the history of the Shorncliffe Redoubt, piecing together how its design and use as a training ground for light infantry troops helped to develop the modern army and defend the coast against invasion by 'the old enemy'.