The expedition to The Helder (Holland) in
August 1799 necessitated the assembly of a large military force near to
the Kent Coast so that troops could be embarked from Deal, Margate and
Ramsgate. Barham Down was selected as the collection point and
it is probable that most if not all of the cavalry and artillery were
Sir Ralph Abercromby was summoned from
Edinburgh by letter dated 8th June 1799 to take command. There
were four brigades numbering some 10,000 men: -
1st Brigade - Massed Grenadiers and 3/1st
Guards under Major-General D'Oyley.
2nd Brigade - Coldstream Guards and I/3rd Guards under Major-General
3rd Brigade - 2nd, 27th, 29th, 69th and 85th Foot under Major-General
4th Brigade - 2/1st, 25th, 49th, 79th and 92nd Foot under Major-General
Reserve - 23rd and 55th Foot under Colonel Macdonald
Cavalry - 18th Light Dragoons
Artillery - 600 all ranks including drivers.
The 1st Brigade left on 5th August for
embarkation at Ramsgate.
The remaining brigades (except 3rd) left on 6th and 7th August for
embarkation at Deal and Ramsgate.
The 3rd Brigade left about the same time but were embarked at Margate.
During August troops poured into the camp
after being given a bounty of £10-10s-0d to serve in units
overseas. In his history of the British Army, Fortescue writes
"...the militia had been pouring
into the appointed camp at Barham Downs in the uproarious condition which,
in those days, was invariably produced by a large bounty. Such
a sight has rarely been seen in England, even after paying off the
fleet. The possession of £10 filled the majority of men with
a pride which forbade them to walk to the rendezvous.
They rolled up into the camp, riotously
drunk, in post-coaches, post-chaises and six, caravans and every
description of vehicle, leaving the officers to plod on foot with such
luckless men as had already lost or spent their money."
Thousands of these troops left England
never to return. Four soldiers and six children from the camp
were laid to rest in Barham Churchyard. Except for the
recording of baptisms, marriages and deaths from the Barham Down camp in
the church registers there is absolutely nothing in Barham to record the
activities that went on on the fringe of the village during that time.