On this day in history : 21st July 1545 – The French invade the Isle of Wight – but their efforts are thwarted by local forces…. It is the last attempt that France makes to capture the island….

An 1873 illustration of the French landing – James Grant – Public domain

The French had a long history of attacking the Isle of Wight…. This particular last effort took place during the Italian Wars of 1542-1546 – which saw England, France, Spain, Italy and the Low Countries at war with each other….

The French and English had already met in battle twice….once in the Solent and at Bonchurch…. On the 19th of July the English had lost the Mary Rose, King Henry VIII’s flagship…. The English withdrew, hoping to lure the French into the shallow waters at Spithead….but they didn’t take the bait…. Instead they tried to make the English come to them – by invading the Isle of Wight….

A French fleet attacks Bembridge in 1545 – Public domain

The plan was that the French would land at Whitecliff Bay, cross Bembridge Down and attack Sandown…. Meanwhile another landing force would arrive at Bonchurch and march to meet the other troops at Sandown…. However, they were intercepted and engaged in battle….

It was mandatory that all men on the Isle of Wight underwent military training in order to defend the island…. The French had hoped to surprise the English with their attack but their arrival had been anticipated….The local forces had managed to reach the high points of the island – St. Boniface and Bonchurch Downs…. Although the French forces, led by Claude d’Annebault, greatly outnumbered the English, they had little knowledge of the local area…. When faced with the steep slopes they found them difficult to climb….and when they did reach the top they were met by a lot of angry Englishmen!

Bonchurch Down looking over Ventnor

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