500 men pressed

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Terry Hinkley was interested in the piece I wrote about press gangs rounding up men in Portsmouth and Gosport.

He told me about one of the worst cases of men being taken off the streets at a moment’s notice, sometimes never to return home again.

On a Tuesday night in 1809 a ‘hot press’ took place in Gosport commanded by Captain Bowers and men of the Royal Marine Light Infantry stationed at St Vincent Barracks.

The press netted 500 men, but it seems they were soon released as the residents of Gosport threatened to burn the barracks to the ground.

One of the largest of these enforced pressments took place in 1645 when a Lord Goring and his men burst through Forton Gate at 6pm and took all men and boys over the age of 14 for the King’s Army. On his way back to Romsey he emptied Fareham and Titchfield of its finest as well.

Terry tells me that men in what might be later called ‘reserved occupations’ were issued with a yellow card which stopped the press gangs taking them.

Perhaps this is why cowards are called yellow?

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