Nancy Perriam

Nancy Perriam, one of the few navy women to have left a written record, gives a rare glimpse into women's activity while the ship was under fire. Powder Monkey Ann (Nancy) Perriam born in Littleham Exmouth fought in the battles of L'Orient 1795, Cape St. Vincent 1795, the Nile 1798 under Rear Admiral Sir James Saumarez and Admirals Bridport, Lord Jarvis and Lord Nelson. She served with her husband aboard HMS. Orion, and her function was "to make and mend the captain's clothes." On February 14, 1797, she recalled, she had begun work on a flannel shirt when she heard the rumble of guns. Battle had been joined with a French ship off Cape St. Vincent. She immediately put down her sewing and began carrying gunpowder instead. When she was no longer needed at that post, she went down to the cockpit to help the surgeon. A year later, she followed the same pattern at the Battle of the Nile. A seaman at that battle who was assigned to a station below decks later stated, "I saw little of this action. Any information we got was from the boys and women who carried the powder . . . I was much indebted to the Gunner's wife, who gave her husband and me a drink of wine now and then, which lessened our fatigue much." Nancy Perriam is one of only four woman awarded a pension, by the Navy, of £10 a year. Nancy died in Exmouth aged 93 years.

Nancy Perriam
 
Oh Nancy Perriam
Bold  Nancy Perriam
She went to sea with the Royal Navy
As Brave as any man
 
On a man of war
She served her time
Her hands were tough as leather
Enlistment was her chosen path
Come fair or stormy weather
 
They signed her up
Showed her the ropes
And berthed her by a canon
Your job will be as a Powder Monkey
For guns five, six and seven
 
At Aboukir
The battle of the Nile
Trafalger and the Lisbon blockade
She fed those guns from the magazine
To blast the French fusillade  
 
With musket shot
And battle all about
She got on with her work
She never cried nor tried to hide
No duties did she shirk
 
She lived her life
In toil and strife
Through choking smoke and gunfire
In shrieking noise and cannon blast
Shipmates died beside her
 
So raise your voice
And raise a cheer
For Exmouth’s fearless sailor
We’re proud to tell her story here
For there was no one braver
 
© John Wokersien with the last verse from Martin John Nicholls   August 2008