The King's Soldiers

Placentia, Newfoundland

In the mid-seventeenth century, the British and French both felt a mounting need to establish permanent naval bases near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland so that their cod fishermen could stop to provision their boats and seek protection against enemy ships. In 1651 Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of Great Britain, appointed a governor to St. John's on the eastern shore of the island.

The harbour of Placentia, in southeastern Newfoundland, was already used by French fishermen and seemed like the ideal place for the France of Louis XIV to establish its own base. The first colony was founded in 1660 and provided with a small garrison in 1662. However, the soldiers soon mutinied, killing the governor, Du Perron, and pillaging the fort, before murdering each other. The eight survivors set out for the British settlements, so that when ships from France brought out about 20 colonists and soldiers the following year, they found the colony in ruins and the fort abandoned. More soldiers arrived in 1667, but thereafter the garrison seems to have become virtually nonexistent. The base struggled along in this condition until the arrival of more troops in 1687.