Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Germans land at Leith - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1746

Recently during this series of ‘On This Day’ we have been comparing events from seventy years ago during the Second World War, and two hundred and sixty five years ago during the ’45 Rebellion.

We have mentioned the landing of some German spies in Banffshire in 1940 and for this ‘On this Day’ I have chosen another day when Germans sailed across the North Sea to land on our shore.

In early 1746 things weren’t going well for King George II. In Flanders his troops were struggling against the French army. In Britain he had limited resources to put down the Jacobites, and to make matters worse for him a force of 6,000 Dutch troops under his command in the UK could not be used in the fight against the Jacobites.

The Dutchmen had been captured at Tournai in June 1745 and paroled by the French on the promise they wouldn’t fight France or her allies again during the current European war.

Neither George II nor the Dutch republic wanted to waste good troops so George hired the Dutch soldiers and swapped them for British troops within the UK which could then be sent to fight the French on the continent.

That meant that when the Jacobites were marching south to Derby they should have been met by a large force of Dutch troops. However the French had formally allied themselves with the Jacobites on 24th October 1745 by signing a Treaty at Fontainebleau. With a stroke of a pen the Jacobite army in Scotland became an official ally of France, and the Dutch troops could not fight against them; they could only stand aside as the Jacobites marched past them.

George now had thousands of foreign soldiers in Britain he couldn’t use. He didn’t want to recall British troops from Europe so he looked around for other soldiers he could hire.

He had the good fortune to find them on his Hanoverian doorstep in Hesse-Kassel in the Rhineland of Germany.

Like the Dutch the Hessians had a large number of paroled troops they couldn’t use. Luckily for George the Hessians had been paroled by the Austrians and not the French, so George was able to hire them to fight against the Jacobites.

And that is why on today’s date in 1746 six thousand German soldiers under the command of Prince Frederick of Hesse arrived at Leith docks to serve in the Duke of Cumberland’s Army.

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