Royal Marine
Light Infantry Garrison
San Juan Island, 1860-1872
Royal Marine Garrison 1868, by Lieutenant E. A. Porscher, Royal Navy

When Great Britain and the United States in 1859 agreed to a joint occupation of San Juan Island until the water boundary between the two nations could be settled, it was decided that camps would be located on opposite ends of the island.

Shortly after the British and American governments affirmed Lieutenant General Winfield Scott’s proposal to jointly occupy San Juan Island, the Royal Navy started looking for a home for its British Royal Marine Light Infantry contingent.

H.M.S. Satellite in Bellingham Bay


Captain James Prevost, commander of the H.M.S. Satellite, selected the site on Garrison Bay — 15 miles northwest of American Camp — from among seven finalists.  He’d re- membered the bay shore from explorations 2 years earlier as a part of the water boundary commission survey of the island.  At that time, one of his officers, Lieutenant Richard Roche, had commented on seeing abandoned Indian plank houses nestled among a vast shell midden.

Roche described the ground as "well-sheltered, has a good supply of water and grass, and is capable of affording maneuvering ground for any number of men that are likely to be required in that locality..."  He added that a trail, 11 miles long, led from this area to the Hudson’s Bay farm at Bellevue.

Lt. R. Roche

 The marines landed on March 21, 1860.

"23 March 1860 - Landed in a bay completely land-locked, our Camping Ground being on a shell bank - the acumu- lation of years, evidently, as it averaged ten feet high, from thirty-five to forty feet through, by 120 yards long.  It was the work of Indians, as they live very much on a shell-fish called "Clams", and of course deposit the shells just outside their huts, hence the bank I mentioned.  The brush wood grew quite down to the water's edge, in the rear the forest was growing in undisturbed tranquility, yellow Pine, White Pine, cedar, Alder and Willows in the low flat ground are the general features of the North end of the Island."

--- Sergeant William Joy, Royal Marine Light Infantry, describing the landing at Garrison Bay. 


The marines brought along the necessary materials to erect the first building, a commissary about 40 by 20 feet (which still stands).  The camp commander, Captain George Bazalgette, RM, then placed a requisition for "84 tin pan nikins, 36 tin plates, 3 'dishes', 10 camp kettles, 18 lanterns, 1 measures set, and a small quantity of stationery."

Capt. Bazalgette

The command consisted of two sub- alterns (junior officers), an assistant surgeon and 83 noncommissioned officers and men.  After clearing the shore of its thick growth of trees, they erected the commissary and planted a small garden where the formal garden lies today.

Barracks, cooking houses, and other vital structures quickly followed, especially after Rear Admiral R. Lambert Baynes visited in June and pronounced the need for extra pay for the men to prepare the camp for winter.
Rear Admiral
R. Lambert Baynes

"San Juan is almost forgotten.  A company of English Marines have landed on the Northern end of the Island in a mosquito trap as Captain Bazalgette called it." 

--23 April 1860, Joseph Harris
NA Boundary Commission



From The Journal Of Bishop Hills

"Feb 2 1861. - The offer of a passage in the Grappler to the disputed Island of San Juan found me on my Horse this morning at 8 o' clock or soon after, on a very muddy road to Esquimalt harbour.  The gun boat was weighing anchor when I hailed her and we were soon away.  A few hours more and I was comfortably housed in the Quarters of Captain Bazelgetti commanding the detachment of 80 marines in the very snug and very beautiful cove at the north part of the Island.

Captain B. was at the American camp 12 miles off as the gun boat passed the Southern part of the Island and came off immediately, reaching this soon after our arrival.  

American Camp between 1866 and 1870

He describes the American officers as in a state of great excitement, not knowing what to do - Captain Pickett is a Southern, others of his officers are Northerners. They had a feud the other day but this is made up again.  They expect the Dissolution of the Union - know not what will become of them.  One of their troubles is arrear of pay and inability to get even U.S. treasury Bills cashed.  No one has confidence enough or patriotism enough to venture to cash even the Government Bills upon Washington.  The same fate awaited the U.S. Revenue Ship Massachusetts the other day at their own coal mine Bellingham Bay.  The Colliery people refused to supply the coals except for cash and refused a Government Bill.  The officers at the American camp San Juan are very friendly and intimate with the British Officers and they are frequently at each other's quarters.

This evening at 1/2 past 7 I had a gathering of the men and the Crew of the Grappler in a good sized Room - the new Mess Room.  We began with a Hymn which I led and they heartily responded.  Then the Litany.  Then another Hymn.  I then read Daniel 6 and discoursed upon the circumstances and character and prophesy of Daniel.  There was much attention.  We concluded with the Evening Hymn.  The threat of the Den of Lions caused me to speak of death and its fear.  I was enabled to illustrate the subject by an account of a young Serjeant (Campbell) of the 49th Foot killed in the Trenches in the Crimea.  He was a brave soldier and a true soldier of Jesus Christ.  He needed not to fear death.  No doubt Daniel and he knew each other in Heaven.  I saw tears in the eyes of several and trust an impression was left of a lasting sort.  May God grant it.

I found stretched upon his bed (in the Hospital of San Juan) a young man in a very apparently precarious state.  He was however better.  He had had fever.  He was a Roman Catholic.  He told me he never prayed.  He could not read.  I asked him if he had any objection to my reading God's word to him.  "Oh no, I should like it, sir."  I read and explained Col. 3.  He was very attentive.  I showed him how Christ was our life and He alone is our all prevailing intercession and let him set his affection on things above.

The Dinner at the Mess today proved the value of the island so far as support life is concerned.  There was excellent MUTTON fed upon the downs and shapes around.  VENISON which is always to be had for a walk in the early morning.  SALMON and a rich small member of the tribe called OULACHAN in size between a smelt and a herring caught in the bay of the settlement and DUCKS shot nearby - all produced on the Island.

The difficulty of getting their pay and the refusal of merchants to cash treasury Bills makes the American Officers very anxious.  They say they fully expect next month to be paid.  Troops if six months in arrears of pay may disband themselves.  "Here am I,", says Captain Pickett, "of 18 years standing, having served my Country so long, to be cast adrift!".

Cap. George E. Pickett

Feb. 3 Sunday - A lovely morning, clear sky and bright sun.  The beautiful scenery, the placid lake like bay and well ordered quarters of the settlement were the pleasing view from my window.

In the morning ay 1/2 past 10 we had a goodly number of Royal marines and Crew of the Grappler.  I read the Morning prayer.  We sang three Hymns and chanted the venite, Te deum, Jubilate and the glorias.  I preached from that most comprehensive passage Titus 2 11-14.

In the afternoon after visiting and ministering to the patients in the Hospital I met a portion of the seamen and soldiers for a Scripture Exposition.  We sang two Hymns and I read several prayers and then took for our subject the Soldiers of the New testament, the Four Centurions, The Guards of the Synagogue, The centurion on Duty at the Lion, Cornelius and Julius, the soldiers at the Crucifixion and the soldiers who guarded the Apostle Paul in Rome.  Many interesting lessons were to be derived from this investigation and those present took an evident interest which may God have blessed to their Souls.

In the evening at 7 the Evening Prayer was solemnized.  We sung three Hymns, chanted the Name Divinities and the Magnificat.  I preached upon the Circumstances of the Crucifixion from the Text "and sitting down they watched Him there".  Matt 28. 36 considering and commenting upon the things those soldiers did see and hear as they watched the Lord.  I  perform the whole three services the days work was not light.  Yet it was most cheering to my spirit to be able to then gather these neglected Souls of Britain together and speak to them of Jesus and their salvation.  By these four services and sermons last night and today I trust a forcible amount of truth has been left with them and that the seed of the Divine Word thus cast abroad may be blessed by fruits many fold to the glory of our good and Merciful God and the saving of souls.

Feb 4 1861 - Fine day.  Came away from San Juan.  Arrived at Victoria about half past 1.


English Camp as it appeared in the early 1860s, receiving typically southwest winds.


"The San Juan difficulty still remains unsolved and three Marine Officers that I know have been wasting their existence there for three years and still no prospect of relief".

-- Lt. Anderson RE, 2nd May 1862


15 January, 1863.

The English camp presents one of the most lovely views in this part of the world: it is situated in a deep bay,



English Camp British Military Cemetery

 San Juan Island, San Juan County, Washington 

T36N R4W Section 25 

This cemetery belonged to the garrison of the British Royal Marines who occupied a military base here from 1860 to 1872 during a boundary dispute between the United States and Great Britain over the San Juan Islands. When the British forces were evacuated in 1872 they main- tained ownership of this military cemetery, and taxes have been paid to this day by the British and Canadian governments. The cemetery is considered to be an overseas campaign military cemetery. The entire English Camp, together with the American Camp at the other end of the island that was occupied from 1859 to 1874, form the San Juan Island National Historical Park. This boundary dispute, the so-called "Pig War," was the last time that US and British or Canadian military forces were ever deployed anywhere in opposition to each other. Please note that, despite the polite language of the plaque placed a century later, there were no boundary negotiations whatsoever during this period, only an armed standoff eventually resolved by binding mediation of the German Emperor. All transcribed inscriptions are shown exactly as inscribed.

 The following plaque is found beside the cemetery flagpole:

 "English Cemetery

 In memory of seven members of the Royal Marine Light Infantry and one civilian who died, here, during Boundary Negotians 1860-1872 Erected by the University Naval Training Divisions Royal Canadian Navy for the Maritime Museum of B.C. August 1964" 

Graves shown left to right, all inside a neat white picket fence.

 Thomas Riddy (no stone)

 "In memory of G.E. Stewart Corp. Royal Marines L.I. who suddenly departed this life June 1, 1865 Aged 28 years Native of Derby England" 

"In memory of Jos. Ellis and Thos. Riddy Privats R.M.L.I. who were accidently drowned Jany. 4th. 1863 This tabblet is erected by their comrads In the midst of life we are in death 'R. Trendell'" 

"Sacred to the memory of William Davis Pte. 109 Co. R.M.L.I. who was accidentally drowned May 7th 1868 aged 26 years this tablet is erected to his memory by his surviving comrades 'Foster'" 

"Sacred to the memory of William Taylor aged 31 years who was accidentally shot by his brother Jany. 26th. 1868 this tablet is erected by his sorrowing brother 'Foster Victor Jr.'" (n.b. the National Park Service transcription provided gives the inscribed age incorrectly as 34)

 "In memory of 109th. Co. Charles Wood Pte. who died Jan. 8th. 1869 aged 28 years and 27th. Co. James Wensley Pte. who was accidentlly drowned in the adjacent harbour April 7th. 1869. His body was not found "Therefore be ye also ready" Erected as a mark of esteem by their fellow comrades of the above Cos. of the R.M.L.I. 'Foster'" 

Charles Wood (no stone) 


Burials in order of death: 

Ellis, Private Joseph Jan 4, 1863 

Riddy, Private Thomas Jan 4, 1863

Stewart, Corporal G.E. Jun 1, 1865

Taylor, William Jan 26, 1868 

Davis, Private William, 109th Co. May 7, 1868

 Wood, Private Charles, 109th Co. Jan 8, 1869 

Wensley, Private James, 27th Co. Apr 7, 1869 (body not in grave) 

-Taken from:

By 1866 the camp was at its peak for the enlisted men.  One visitor commented:

 "We may remark here that the neatness, cleanliness and good order observable throughout the entire camp were the subject of general observation." 

With the arrival of a new comman- der, Captain William Delacombe, in 1867, the camp received a major face- lift.  New officers’ quarters were built to house the captain and his family as well as the camp’s second in command.  Delacombe also di- rected that a formal garden be con- structed at the base of the hill lead- ing to the officers’ quarters.

Cap. Delacombe and Family

The marines departed in November 1872, following the final boundary decision of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany.  They left behind a facility so solidly built that the Crook family (who purchased the site from the U.S. government) occupied several of the structures for more than 30 years.

Some of the above information is courtesy of:

From the San Juan National Historic Park web site
San Juan
Island NHP

P.O. Box 429
Friday Harbor, WA
(360) 378-2902
(360) 378-2996
Mike Vouri at nps dot gov
For comprehensive information about the National Park Service visit ParkNet