Muster Roll of The British Legion (or Garibaldi Excursionists) (1860) copy

The British Legion was a voluntary military corps composed of around 800 Englishmen and Scots, who in 1860 made their mind up to join Garibaldi and fight for the unification of Italy together with the Italian Garibaldini against the Bourbon Army of The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Officially they were "Garibaldi Excursionists" to avoid any problems of diplomatic appearance and the departure of the British Legion was financed by the Garibaldi Special Fund Committee, one of the British organisations supporting the unification of Italy.

After having sailed from Great Britain by the ships Melazzo and Emperor, the British Legion landed in Naples on 15 October 1860 and took part in a fight, under the command of John Whitehead Peard in Sant'Angelo up to the wall of Capua, where two volunteers were killed and eight wounded. Even if half of the volunteers were enthusiastic and behaved properly, there were some roughs, principally from Glasgow and London who lacked discipline, so the Legion acquired a name for disorder. The Legion had a short war experience and were replaced by the king’s Army in the final siege of the fortress in Gaeta, where the Bourbon Army surrendered In February 1861.

The George Jacob Holyoake Archive at Bishopsgate Institute includes records relating to the British Legion, including the Muster Roll below. The Archive also includes minutes of the Garibaldi Special Fund Committee, miscellaneous papers and numerous illustrations documenting the progress of the British Legion in Italy.