The last time it happened was in 1797, and then they got nowhere. But this weekend, the French navy will be invading Britain again.
A group of 200 soldiers, backed by 43 vehicles, four helicopters, two landing craft and a new landing catamaran, will be storming ashore in an exercise at Gosport in Hampshire. Their landing follows the arrival of two French warships of an amphibious naval group, the Tonnerre and the Georges Leygues, at Portsmouth Naval Base today.
Presumably they will have more success in carrying out their duties than the previous attempt by their ancestors, when 1400 French troops were set ashore near Fishguard in west Wales during the French Revolutionary War.
It was meant to be a diversionary attack to help a projected French invasion of Ireland, but it quickly collapsed into chaos. The troops wandered around skirmishing with the locals for two days, and getting drunk, and then surrendered en masse to Lord Cawdor and a troop of the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry.
It was the last invasion of mainland Britain by a foreign force.
Glory, it wasn’t.
This weekend their descendants will looking more at efficiency than La Gloire. A French navy spokeswoman said: “Once the vehicles and soldiers disembark, using the landing craft and helicopters, the troops will continue with instruction activities, driver training, live fire exercises and an assault course.
“This kind of manoeuvre is a unique chance for the 134 midshipmen of the French Naval Academy 2010-class embarked onboard the Tonnerre and the Georges Leygues to discover both amphibious and joint operations.”
The French amphibious group left Brest, France, earlier this week for a five-month deployment which will carry on from the UK to territories including the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.