English Camp

Parade grounds and barracks at English Camp
Royal Marine Barracks at English Camp


English Camp

When Great Britain and the United States in 1859 agreed to a joint occupation of San Juan Island until the water boundary between the two nations could be settled, it was decided that camps would be located on opposite ends of the island.

Shortly after the British and American governments affirmed Lieutenant General Winfield Scott’s proposal to jointly occupy San Juan Island, the Royal Navy started looking for a home for its British Royal Marine Light Infantry contingent.

Capt. James Prevost, commander of H.M.S. Satellite, selected the site on Garrison Bay — 15 miles northwest of American Camp — from among seven finalists. He’d remembered the bay shore from explorations two years earlier as a part of the water boundary commission survey of the island. At that time, one of his officers, Lieutenant Richard Roche, had commented on seeing abandoned Indian plank houses nestled among a vast shell midden.

Roche described the ground as "well-sheltered, has a good supply of water and grass, and is capable of affording maneuvering ground for any number of men that are likely to be required in that locality..." He added that a trail, 11 miles long, led from this area to the Hudson’s Bay farm at Bellevue.

The marines landed on March 23, 1860. They brought along the necessary materials to erect the first building, a commissary (or storehouse) about 40 by 20 feet (which still stands). The camp commander, Captain George Bazalgette, RM, then placed a requisition for "84 tin pannikins, 36 tin plates, 3 'dishes', 10 camp kettles, 18 lanterns, 1 measures set, and a small quantity of stationery."

The command consisted of two subalterns (junior officers), an assistant surgeon and 83 noncommissioned officers and men. After clearing the shore of its thick growth of trees, they erected the commissary and planted a small garden where the formal garden lies today.

Barracks, cooking houses and other vital structures quickly followed, especially after Rear Admiral R. Lambert Baynes visited in June and pronounced the need for extra pay for the men to prepare the camp for winter. By 1866 the camp was at its peak for the enlisted men. One visitor commented: "We may remark here that the neatness, cleanliness and good order observable throughout the entire camp were the subject of general observation."

With the arrival of a new commander, Captain William Delacombe, in 1867, the camp received a major facelift. New officers' quarters were built to house the captain and his family as well as the camp's second in command. Delacombe also directed that a formal garden be constructed at the base of the hill leading to the officers' quarters.

The marines departed in November 1872, following the final boundary decision of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. They left behind a facility so solidly built that the Crook family (who purchased the site from the U.S. government) occupied several of the structures for more than 30 years.

Last updated: April 14, 2021

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