This BAMF lady here, is called Hannah Snell :D
She was born in Worcester in 1723, low class, and married in 1744 to James Snell, who wasn’t exactly the poster boy at being a husband - he got her pregnant, then sold off her possessions to pay for his whores, and eventually ran off and left her and the baby, who died at seven months.
Most people would have remarried, but not Hannah - she dressed up as a man, created the alias James Gray, and JOINED THE ARMY in order to find him.
Now, she joined in 1745, ended up fighting in Scotland due to the Jacobite rebellion at the time, but then ended up being given five hundred lashes for refusing to obey her sergeant (who had ordered her to find a whore for him).
So she deserted, walked from Carlisle (where she was based), to Portsmouth, AND JOINED THE MARINES.
While still pretending to be James Gray.
She spent the next five years sailing round the world, fighting in land and sea battles, and being noted for her bravery under fire, and in one battle (at Pondicherry in India), she was horrifically injured - five shots to one leg, six to the other, and one to the groin.
While lying in the field hospital waiting to be seen, she knew that she’d end up being discovered - so what did she do?
She got an orderly to find her bandages and liniment, and then, using her fingers, dug out the shot, dressed the wound, and when the surgeons came round, she told them she was just shot in the legs.
She was fully healed in three months.
Nothing stopped her, and even with sharing the same sleeping areas as her friends, as her officers (she was the batman for many an officer), even sharing the same bed, she wasn’t found out!
In 1750 however, she was discharged along with her fellow Marines, and once they collected all their money, they went to the pub (as you would).
In the middle of the pub, she stood up, and said to her friends:
“Why gentlemen, James Gray will cast off his skin like a snake and become a new creature. In a word, gentlemen, I am as much a woman as my mother ever was, and my real name is Hannah Snell.”
One of her friends proposed on the spot.
Her friends then persuaded her to apply for a pension from the head of the English army, the Duke of Cumberland. Hannah followed this advice and approached the Duke on 16 June 1750 while he was reviewing troops in St. James’s Park. Surprised by the curious figure standing before him, the Duke accepted a petition from Hannah, which detailed her many adventures.
Within days, news of Hannah’s exploits had trickled into the London press and the public clamoured for more information. Eager to profit from this notoriety, Hannah immediately sold her story to the London publisher, Robert Walker. Her appearances on stage in uniform caused a sensation, and the news of her adventures quickly spread across Britain.
In November 1750, the Royal Chelsea Hospital officially recognised Snell’s military service and granted her a lifetime pension. She lived for another forty years, marrying twice and raising two sons, having a brief run on the stage as a celebrity, and opening her own pub called “The Female Warrior”. In 1791 however, Snell was admitted to the lunatic asylum, Bedlam, where she died six months later.
And the husband who had started this all?
He was pressganged by the Dutch Navy, and died in a bar, penniless :D
Needless to say, these are the days I wish I had a TARDIS so I could find her and FLAIL :D
(Information about her taken from The Female Soldier; Or, The surprising Adventures of Hannah Snell (1st edition), The Augustan Reprint Society, publ. No. 257, Los Angeles, 1989, and http://www.hannahsnell.com/biography.htm . Photo from Google :))