During the Napoleontic war it was difficult to avoid the clashes when you were out at sea .
Between 1793 and 1815 approximately one-quarter of a million prisonersof war were held in Britain.
At Chatham between 1803 and 1814 there were approximately 90,000
Though officers were treated with greater consideration, the majority of men were
held in prisons, mostly in major ports that also contained the chief naval bases and royal
dockyards, like Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Chatham.
In addition to land-based prisons,
these ports had prison ships or hulks moored in their harbours, since the supply of
prisoners always outstripped available accommodation.
More mysteriously, six
Frenchmen, held at Chatham and taken on a French prize to HMS Dido in Danish
territorial waters, asked to be sent to Denmark when their release was requested by the
Danish minister in London in October 1793.
They were put aboard a British warship
bound for Denmark, though in the course of the investigation one man was found to be
William Price was kept to be tried for serving on an enemy privateer, the
punishment for which was death.
Sometimes mistakes occurred and individuals suffered.
Thirteen Hanoverians, allies of Britain, were still being held at Chatham over a year after
capture on a whaler.11. Great Britain, Public Record Office (PRO),
Admiralty (ADM) 103/56-79/81, Registers of
Prisoners of War held at Chatham, 1803-1814;
ADM 103/41 -42/409-419, Registers of Prisoners of
War held at Bristol/Stapleton, 1793-1814; AD M
103/221-224, Registers of Prisoners of War held at
Liverpool, 1793-1801; ADM 103/455-465, Registers
of Prisoners of War held at Yarmouth, 1793-
1801 ; ADM 103/315-380, Registers of Prisoners of
War held at Portsmouth, 1793-1814; ADM 103/
268-314, Registers of Prisoners of War held at Plymouth,
These are cumulative, estimated
figures based upon a preliminary survey of the
As yet I cannot provide figures for
prisoners held in depots and in hulks, but further
research will clarify this point.