Hannah Snell.

Hannah Snell.

Hannah Snell is one of the most famous British female soldiers, gaining notoriety for dressing as a man in order to serve in the British army. While she was pregnant with her first child her husband walked out on her, sadly her daughter died when she was only one year old. Hannah later heard a rumour that her husband was serving in the military and that’s when she hatched a plan.

She assumed her brother-in-law’s (James Gray) identity: she wore his clothes and she cut her hair short. She found out that her husband and been convicted and executed for murder, however, this did not change her mind. She moved to Portsmouth and joined the British Royal Marines. In 1747 she was aboard the Swallow ship as it set sail to India (via Lisbon) and in 1748 she fought in the Battle of Pondicherry (this siege was carried out by British forces against a French East India Company).

Hannah also took part in the Battle of Devicotta where she was severely wounded. In order to avoid her sex being revealed to the military doctors, she claims that she performed surgery on herself. In 1750 she returned to Britain, it was only after this return that she revealed her true identity to her fellow marines. While initially shocked by the news they encouraged her to request an honourable discharge and a pension from the British Crown. It’s rather surprising, but her request was granted by the Duke of Cumberland and she would receive a lifetime pension.

Hannah decided to make the most of her incredible story; she sold her story to a publisher with the title of The Female Soldier. She also performed on stage in her uniform where she told of her time in the marines as well as singing songs.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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