During the Napoleonic Wars, Okehampton was a parole town, housing Prisoners of War.
During the Napoleonic Wars, between May 1809 and February 1812, 336 prisoners were sent to Okehampton. This included 162 French Navy, 131 Army, 31 ships’ passengers, 3 ships’ boys, 6 wives, 3 children.
Rather than live as we might imagine prisoners to, they made homes for themselves and on occasion, were accompanied by their wives and children.
Another French visitor to the town was a merchant named Huet, a passenger on the French ship ‘La Marche’ when it was captured. At the end of the war he stayed in Okehampton with his wife and three children (Francis William, Caroline Jane, Theodore Felix) working as a tailor and living in Fore Street under the name Hewet (1817 census).
In addition to the archival records that exist for Napoleonic soldiers, there is evidence of soldiers in the town through graffiti. At Okehampton Castle, words can be seen cut into a stone tablet in the Pascina. It’s not very clear but reads:
‘HIC V…T FUIT CAPTIVUS BELLI ( Here V…T was a prisoner of war).
According to a local historian (the late Dr E.H. Young) V…T is believed to be Gilles Vincent, a surgeon on the French ship ‘La Rejoirie’, who was captured on 10th June 1809.