The Press!

The Press!

“Look out! It’s the Press” used to be a familiar cry in Bideford and Appledore. Not a nasty newspaper reporter but the Press Gang. A captain, two lieutenants and two squads of men were stationed hereabouts. They maintained an almost permanent watch on all vessels arriving at Appledore and Bideford quays.

Although it was generally accepted that men serving in a vessel should not be pressed it did not seem to apply to American merchant ships.

Because of their generally better food and conditions they attracted some of the best crews. Such vessels were often raided at sea by Royal Naval captains robbing them of men to the point that, unaided, they could not make further progress or enter port.

Recruits should not be under 17 or over 40, under five feet four inches tall, without shoes, or be known papist. Officers receiving recruits to pay twenty shillings to the parish or town officials for every man produced. Such men to be enlisted for five years. Volunteers to be paid £3 and serve for three years or the duration of the war should that be longer’.

Whom I wonder paid the twenty shillings for Richard Hobbs? Aged seventeen he was pressed on Bideford Quay in seventeen eighty-five. He served on the Thunderer 74 at Trafalgar.

Roger Sugar

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