This powder horn (used to hold gunpowder for muskets) is made from bone, elaborately carved to commemorate the defeat of the French invasion of Wales in 1797. This invasion was part of over 20 years of war between the United Kingdom and France, which finally ended with the Battle of Waterloo. It was the last time that foreign troops succeeded in landing in Britain.

On February 22nd 1797, 1,400 French troops landed near the town of Fishguard, believing the Welsh would revolt against English rule and join their French Revolutionary cause. This was part of a planned triple invasion. The French tried to land troops in Ireland and near Newcastle at the same time, but were thwarted by terrible storms. The invaders, led by an Irish-American Colonel, William Tate, hoped to march on Bristol and inspire a Welsh revolution.

However, the population of Fishguard immediately organised against the invaders. Many Britons were horrified by the chaos of the French Revolution, and feared the idea of this chaos reaching the UK. Exaggerated stories of atrocities committed by revolutionaries were spread by newspapers and political cartoons. The French also angered the Welsh locals by seizing their food and wine. The British quickly assembled an army of volunteer militia, army reservists, and sailors to fight the invasion.

After three days of skirmishing, with both sides afraid of attacking in case they were outnumbered, Colonel Tate surrendered his French troops on the morning of the 24th February. Just 33 soldiers had been killed in the fighting, and the remaining 1,360 French troops were disarmed and marched to imprisonment in Haverfordwest.

This powder horn demonstrates the popular enthusiasm over the Battle of Fishguard. The design on this powder horn is beautifully scrimshawed into bone. It was owned by a Welsh soldier in the Castle Martin Yeomanry – one of the volunteer militias that helped defeat the invasion.

The Battle of Fishguard is often called “the last invasion of Britain”. As the wars against France stretched on, Napoleon made his own plans to invade the UK – plans that were finally dashed by his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

Find it here

This object is in the collection of Firing Line: The Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier