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Hannah Snell

Hannah SnellHannah Snell (1723-1792) was a lady who served in the Royal Navy and left memoirs of her experiences.

She was born in Worcester, England and reportedly loved to play soldier as a child, and when her husband James Summs disappeared after the death of their daughter, she decided to borrow a military outfit, use her brother’s name, James Grey, and seek him out. She joined the Royal Marines and sailed to India aboard HMS Swallow where she fought in mud-filled trenches at the siege of Pondicherry. She claims to have been severely injured in the battle.

She finally found out that her husband had been hanged for murder in 1570 and then revealed her gender. She petitioned the Duke of Cumberland, the head of the army, for her pension and also sold her story to London publisher Robert Walker who published her account, The Female Soldier, in two different editions. She was honorably discharged and the Royal Hospital, Chelsea officially recognized Snell's military service and granted her a pension in 1750, a rare thing in those days.

She travelled around England talking about her exploits, published a book and performed on stage thus becoming a small time celebrity almost overnight. She married twice more and produced at least two sons. Sadly in the last years of her life she supposedly lost her mind and was committed to the insane asylum in Bedlam.

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