In 1794, 300 gunners of the Royal Irish Artillery landed in Martinique as part of an expedition led by General Grey and Admiral Jervis designed to remove the French controlling presence in the West Indies. Two years later, after battles and diseases had taken their toll, they numbered just 40. Despite their skill and gallantry, most died and were buried away from their homeland. A post-mortem is overdue: deaths should always be properly respected and remembered.
This first volume traces the build-up to that campaign. The French Revolution of 1789 transformed the fabric of society, rebuilding it around new attitudes to freedom and community, and also triggered political upheaval and strife, which culminated in war being declared between France and Great Britain in 1793. In addition to sending troops to the Continent, the British sought economic advantage in a way that was already traditional, waging war in the colonies. But the turmoil in France had affected its colonies too, resulting in a short-lived abolition of slavery. So when, confronted with many naval and military needs and insufficient British artillery to meet requirements, Irish gunners were taken from Ireland to further that purpose, recently emancipated people became a component of the forces arraigned against them.
The second volume in this two-volume history goes on to tell the story of the campaign itself.