Hannah Snell

Cross-Dressing Sailors

 

Hannah Snell

Women were excluded from joining the Royal Navy until the introduction of uniformed women’s services in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But this didn’t stop some women going undercover. Hannah Snell (1723-1792) served for four and a half years in the Royal Marines as a man named ‘James Gray’. She dressed in men’s clothing and managed to hide her true identity, even when she was badly wounded during the siege of Pondicherry in 1748. When she returned to Britain she revealed her true identity and became a celebrity, appearing on the London stage dressed in her uniform. Unusually, her military career was officially recognised and she was granted a pension by the Royal Chelsea Hospital.

Nelson's funeral barge

The funeral barge used to transport Nelson’s body down the Thames is preserved at the NMRN.