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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

The vey expensive Royal Military Canal near Hythe

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The vey expensive Royal Military Canal near Hythe

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » April 1st, 2017, 7:48 am

A controversial Royal Military Canal which cost £234,310 to build, and was designed to protect the south of England from French invasion, became obsolete by the time it was completed in 1808.

Even in 1822, the radical journalist William Cobbett observed: “Those armies who had so often crossed the Rhine and the Danube were to be kept back by a canal 30 feet wide at most!”

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Re: The vey expensive Royal Military Canal near Hythe

Postby PaulD » April 1st, 2017, 8:35 am

There is a very detailed book about it: "The Royal Military Canal" by P.A.L. Vine, Amberley Publishing, 2010
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Re: The vey expensive Royal Military Canal near Hythe

Postby jf42 » April 2nd, 2017, 11:06 am

FBC-Elvas, Portugal wrote:

Even in 1822, the radical journalist William Cobbett observed: “Those armies who had so often crossed the Rhine and the Danube were to be kept back by a canal 30 feet wide at most!”




"Obstacles should be covered by fire."

Was it really intended simply to act as a moat? At any given point it might have given the Invading force a headache, although the French were on record as simply leaping in to canals and wading across the shoulder height water, and without entrenchments, or some sort of parapet, the stout defenders would have provided suitable targets for the attacker's artillery.

Presumably the contractors did well out of it...
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Re: The vey expensive Royal Military Canal near Hythe

Postby jf42 » April 2nd, 2017, 11:26 am

In partial answer to my own question, the answer is no, the canal was intended to aid rapid flooding of Romney Marshes, thought to the most likely landing point for any French invasion. With regards to its use as a defensive feature:

"The excavated soil would be piled on to the northern bank to make a parapet, behind which troops could be positioned and moved out of sight of the enemy. The canal would also have ‘kinks’ to allow enfilading fire along the length of the canal, if the enemy attempted to cross it."

"The total length of the canal would be 28 miles, of which 22.5 miles had to be dug. It was estimated that it would be completed by June 1805 and cost £200,000."

"Pitt met with the landowners on October 24 at the New Hall, Dymchurch and explained that the canal would not only help to defend their country but would be a major drainage system for the winter, and a reservoir for the summer and would greatly improve conditions on the Marsh. They were persuaded. Pitt was popular with the locals, who referred to the canal as ‘Mr Pitt’s Ditch’."

The contractors proved venal and incompetent in the face of adverse weather and flooding. Rennie, the engineer, proved unequal to the task of managing the project. When, after six months work had stalled with only six miles dug, the job was put in the hands of the Quartermaster General's department, but nonetheless was not completed until 1809 (only £34,000 over budget..... ).

http://www.royalmilitarycanal.com/pages/history.asp
Last edited by jf42 on April 3rd, 2017, 7:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The vey expensive Royal Military Canal near Hythe

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » April 2nd, 2017, 2:06 pm

Super Jack, this added information. Thanks.

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Re: The vey expensive Royal Military Canal near Hythe

Postby jf42 » April 2nd, 2017, 10:23 pm

I am tempted to go and have nose around. I am due a pilgrimage to Hythe
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