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Roussillon Barracks

by Pat Saunders

Written by Pat Saunders, volunteer at The Novium Museum.

There has been a camp on The Broyle (or sometimes called Brylle) since the late 18th century as Britain responded to threats highlighted by the French Revolution. The camp, which started as tented accommodation, developed overtime and by 1803 wooden structures were erected on the site. During the Napoleonic War, French prisoners-of-war were detained at the camp and, in 1814, these prisoners were responsible for the initial building of the flint and brick boundary wall which still remains on the north and east sides of the site.

Various militias were stationed at the camp at different stages in its history. The soldiers camped at the barracks acquired a reputation for making trouble and it soon became clear that they were no longer welcome to attend Sunday worship at St Paul's Church, Northgate. It was instead decided to build a chapel for their use in the north east corner of the barracks.

In 1873 it became the garrison home for the Royal Sussex Regiment and the history of the regiment contributed to the barrack's unusual name. The regiment were formerly known as the 35th Regiment of Foot and had been involved in the Battle of Quebec. During this battle they had defeated the French Royal Roussillon Regiment and had adopted their white feathered plume and incorporated it into their cap badge.  In 1958 the Barracks were renamed Roussillon Barracks. Shortly after in 1961 the Royal Sussex Regiment left the barracks.

In 1963, the barracks became the training base, and home of, The Royal Military Police (RMP). The Queen was invited to lunch after inspecting the barracks in 1978 to mark the centenary of the Royal Military Police formation. This anniversary saw the start of the 'friendly' RMP annual march which continued until 1992.

In 1982, during the Falklands War, Captain Alfredo Astiz - an Argentinian POW - was flown to Britain and held prisoner at the barracks (specifically in The Keep by the west entrance) under the watch of the RMP. He was wanted by the French and Swedish authorities for the 'disappearances' (and presumed murders) of some of their citizens. The UK Government eventually decided they did not have the necessary authority to try him, as the crimes for which he had been accused did not involve British nationals. He was later returned him to Argentina.

In 2005 the Royal Military Police took the decision to move from their longstanding headquarters at Roussillon Barracks to Southwick Park, near Portsmouth. An official closing ceremony and "Beating Retreat" was held on Saturday 10th September 2005. As a result of the move the majority of the barracks became surplus to the Ministry of Defence's requirements and the land was sold off for redevelopment. The Royal Sussex Regiment is commemorated in brick pillars with brass plaques built at the western entrance and the adjacent building named Sussex House.