DEATH BY FIRING SQUAD
Walkers on Plymouth
Hoe may notice a cross embedded in the pathway that runs between the Promenade and Citadel
Road with the number '3' engraved upon it. It lies on a line between the
Prejoma Clock in the Hoe Lodge Gardens and the
Plymouth Naval Memorial.
This simple cross is said to mark the spot at which three Royal Marines
were put to death by a firing squad 'for mutiny and sedition'.
In its issue dated Monday July
10th 1797, the "Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury" reported the event:
'PLYMOUTH, July 8 - On Wednesday morning an
express arrived here from the War-Office, with a warrant for the execution of Lee, Coffy,
and Branning, three marines who were last week tried by a General Court-Martial, and found
guilty of an attempt to excite a mutiny among the marine corps at Stone-house Barracks; and on Thursday at 12
o'clock the troops at this place and in the neighbourhood, consisting of the Sussex
fencible cavalry, four companies of the royal artillery, the Lancashire, East Devon and
Essex regiments of militia, the 25th regiment of foot, royal independent invalids, and
Plymouth volunteers, assembled on the Hoe, and formed in a half circle in order to witness
the execution. McGennis, another marine tried for a similar crime, and sentenced to
receive 1000 lashes, and to be afterwards transported to Botany Bay for life, was brought
on the ground soon after twelve o'clock, and received 500 lashes, and then conveyed back
to Stone-house Barracks'.
'At half past one o'clock, Lee, Coffy and
Branning were marched from the citadel under the escort
of a party of marines, with a coffin before each, preceded by the band of that corps
playing the Dead March in Saul. The former was attended by the Rev. Dr. Hawker; and
the two latter by a Roman Catholic priest, who after praying with them near an hour,
quitted them, and they all three knelt on their coffins for a few minutes, when an officer
of marines came and drew the caps over their faces, and a party of twenty marines
immediately came down and put a period to their existence by discharging the contents of
their muskets through their bodies, after which all the regiments marched round them in
solemn procession, the whole forming, perhaps, one one of the most awful scenes that the
human eye ever witnessed. They all behaved in a manner becoming their melancholy
situation, and apparently very resigned and penitent. About thirty thousand people
were supposed to be present at the execution'.
July 8th was a Saturday and the day of the
execution was thus Thursday July 6th 1797.
sketch plan of the site of the execution it appears that the three Marines
were set facing towards the north. In front of them was the firing
party, under Lieutenant White, behind whom was Major General Campbell,
president of the Court Martial.
indicates that Lee had two priests in attendance, The Reverend Hawker, the
vicar of Charles Church, and also the Reverend Williams of the Dock Chapel.
Fathers Elyzz and Places were in attendance upon the the other two.
Regiment of Foot, the Royal Lancashire Regiment and the Plymouth Volunteers
were positioned to the west and the Royal Artillery and Artificers, Corps of
Marines and Royal Invalids were on the eastern side. It would appear
from the report above that the number of troops in attendance was greatly
increased from those in the plan.
 "Plymouth", The Sherborne & Yeovil
Mercury, Sherborne, July 10th
 Plan of the execution site
held by the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, Plymouth, accession