WITH whispers in the wind there may be conscription into the armed forces to combat the growing menace of the Beast from the East, the nation could be looking for characters like Hannah Snell.

Who was Hannah Snell? She was only one of the bravest and most resilient soldiers Worcester has ever produced. A stirring example to shrinking violets everywhere.

After joining the army by pretending to be a man, this tough as teak lady managed to maintain her deception by digging out a bullet in her nether regions herself, without any anaesthetic and then self-dressing the wound.

Anyway popping down to A&E wouldn’t have been an option, because this happened in 1748 and the location was Pondicherry in south east India.

Hannah had been born in Friar Street, Worcester in April, 1723 and was a tomboy by inclination. The daughter of a hosier and dyer, she loved playing soldiers when a little girl and formed her own regiment among boys and girls of the neighbourhood, parading them up and down the street.

Initially she did get married and have a child, but the baby died and her husband ran off.

So at the age of 22, Hannah borrowed a male suit and set off to search for her evaporated spouse. The military seemed a good place to look and at Coventry she enlisted in the Duke of Northumberland’s army.

However by the time the troop reached Carlisle she was in trouble, because a sergeant’s wife began to fancy the handsome “young man.” Unfortunately for Hannah the sergeant noticed and took revenge by having what he thought was a rank and file soldier flogged. Hannah maintained her modesty by facing the whipping post and taking the blows on her back. As she was cut down, she clutched her clothes to her front and no-one was any the wiser.

At this point she deserted the Duke’s army and travelled to Portsmouth, still dressed as a man, where she enlisted as a marine in Col. Frazer’s regiment. The regiment was sent to India, where Hannah was involved in several military encounters, being wounded at least 12 times.

At the Battle of Pondicherry, a bullet hit her in the groin, leading to the tale of the self-extraction. However, another version of the story says an Indian woman removed the bullet, but kept the secret. Take your pick.

Whatever the truth, Hannah Snell’s remarkable life was eventually revealed and when she returned to England and an account of her adventures entitled “The Female Soldier” was published in 1750.

She appeared on stage at Sadler’s Wells performing military drills and three portrait artists painted her in masculine dress. In July, 1750 the “Gentleman’s Magazine” featured her life story and included a poem in her honour.

The Duke of Cumberland added her name to the king’s pension list and after the publicity Hannah retired to keep a public house, which she named the Female Warrior.

After that failed, she became an out-pensioner at Chelsea Hospital. In all, Hannah Snell married three times, but eventually went insane and died in Bethlehem Hospital in 1792, aged 69. Her grave is in the grounds of Chelsea Hospital.

A Blue Plaque to honour Hannah has been fixed to the wall of 25, Friar Street, Worcester, which is opposite Tudor House Museum. Together with adjoining New Street, Friar Street has some of the oldest properties in Worcester, several of which would have been there when Hannah was a child.