Blue Plaque Unveiling in Worcester for Hannah Snell
Worcester Civic Society will be unveiling a blue plaque at 25 Friar Street, Worcester in recognition of Hannah Snell, Britain’s most famous woman soldier.
The ceremony will take place on Monday 21st May 2018 at 12.00 when the plaque will be unveiled by Amanda Houston, the great, great granddaughter of Hannah Snell, and Anthea Abbeyfield Worcester Crown Ladies Probus Group, sponsors of the plaque. All are welcome to attend the ceremony to remember this remarkable former citizen of Worcester.
Hannah Snell was born in Worcester on 23rd April 1723, the daughter of Samuel and Mary Snell. Her parents died when she was 17 and at the age of 20 she married James Summs, a Dutch seaman. Unfortunately he mistreated her, later abandoning her when she became pregnant. After their daughter died in infancy, Hannah determined to track her husband down. Believing that he had been pressed into military service she borrowed a suit of clothes from her brother-in-law, James Gray, assumed his identity and according to her own account, became a soldier in the 6th Regiment of Foot. With advent of the Jacobite Rising in 1746, the regiment marched to Carlisle where Hannah continued her military training. She was often at the centre of fighting and is reported to have received a number of wounds of varying degrees. Incurring the wrath of a Sergeant on one occasion, she was sentenced to 600 lashes of the whip, a harsh punishment for a mere boy but after enduring 500 lashes in silence her commanding officer ordered the end of the punishment.
Believing her husband had gone South, Hannah with her male disguise still intact, deserted and joined Fraser’s Regiment of Marines at Portsmouth. Assigned to the Swallow as Assistant Steward and Cook to the Officers’ mess, she sailed to the East Indies and India and took part in several battles. Suffering a musket shot to the groin, she operated on herself to remove the musket ball so her identity as a woman would not be discovered. Now physically unfit to serve as a marine, she continued her military career as a deck hand. Still seeking her errant husband, Hannah learnt that he had been executed for murder in Genoa, Italy so when the ship returned to England she revealed her true identity. Honourably discharged from the army, she was granted a military pension and her exploits became public knowledge. Selling her story to a London Publisher and appearing on stage to earn an income, she eventually retired to Wapping and opened a public house she named The Female Warrior.
Hannah married twice more, giving birth to two sons by her second husband and marrying again in 1772 after he died. In 1789 she began to show signs of insanity and was admitted to Bedlam Hospital where she died on 8th February 1792 aged 69. She was buried at Chelsea Hospital among other old soldiers.