Wednesday 6 June 2012

Royal Artillery - Sandham's battery

Decided to award myself a holiday from the endless seas of scarlet and have a look at some artillery for a change. Like my infantry, I prefer to have units with either all their shakos in covers or all without. I can't imagine any serjeant majors ever standing for a mishmash, no matter how pressing the circumstances. So this is one of my covered shako batteries.
Since my research in the Guards archive I have also looked at bareheaded figures in a new light as, there in the quartermasters' notebooks, there are lists of those men who had lost their caps in battle (a surprisingly small number) and the consequent deductions from their pay! Only if a man was listed as "seriously wounded in battle" does it seem he might exempted from payment. As a result I try to give my bareheaded figures a shako in their hands, I'm pretty sure they'd have been hanging on to them at all costs!

So here's Sandham's battery in its infancy - I've put together about four foot batteries so far although I'm lacking a lot of the necessary detachments of horses and drivers from the Royal Artillery Drivers.  Figures are a mix of Victrix, Perry, and Foundry. Thank god for Victrix! Their artillery sets have made this all possible as I would never have been able to afford all those caissons otherwise.
I love putting batteries together and having each gun doing something different, too many are firing here and I'll change that. As I understand it, guns took turns to fire with several often standing waiting rather than the great synchronised salvoes of popular myth.

One thing I find hard to explain is the nominal strength of artillery batteries - for Waterloo each battery of RA was over 100 men - Sandham's, for example, lists 109 men to receive the Waterloo medal. If each gun had a crew of 5 men, that makes 30 and even with a couple of dozen extra helpers it;'s hard to see how the number rises above 50.  It's not as if the others were riding the horses and carts - that was the job of the RA Drivers (who themselves seem to be hugely overmanned - over 1000 men at Waterloo).
Equally odd is the lack of casualties among the artillery - Sandham's battery lost 3 men killed in the battle, (with perhaps 2 others dying of wounds later in July and September). When you consider the RA's positions during the battle, in the thick of infantry units which were decimated, it's hard to explain the trifling losses among the gunners.  But perhaps that's a topic for another day.

Wiping his brow (above) is Gunner John Barlow from Roston, Staffs. He was a Peninsula veteran and had been wounded in the neck by a shell splinter at Badajoz. In 1844, aged 57, he was admitted to Royal Hospital Chelsea to be an in-pensioner, his application accompanied by a letter of recommendation from Sandham.  

Sorry about the terrible lighting, it really is the grimmest "summer" day and the light is like mid-winter.

There are two mounted officers (Perry figs) - Captain Charles F. Sandham and 2nd Captain William Henry Stopford.
Sandham's battery was stationed in the centre of the allied artillery line between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte, between Kuhlmann and Lloyd, and fired from this position all day.   Towards evening it was attacked in its left flank by Cuirassiers and, with Kuhlmann’s battery,  thrown back in confusion. The two batteries regrouped a short distance to the rear and were brought forward to their original position by Lieutenant-Colonel Adye.


  1. Wow, this is really going to look neat when they are all painted up and based.


  2. Cor! Will look great. What are you using for the horses, as there are none in the Victrix set?


  3. "One thing I find hard to explain is the nominal strength of artillery batteries - for Waterloo each battery of RA was over 100 men - Sandham's, for example, lists 109 men to receive the Waterloo medal. If each gun had a crew of 5 men, that makes 30 and even with a couple of dozen extra helpers it;'s hard to see how the number rises above 50."

    Actually your numbers are wrong - you are correct in that the main firing of the gun was down to five men (sponger, loader, ventman, lanyardman, commander) - but there were several additional crew who supported these five: water bucket carrier, two men to carry charges and roundshot to the loader, charge holder (who carried the powder charges in a canvas bag for ready use)and the last guy held the limber horses. A further five men could be drafted in to help manhandle the guns or replace casualties.

    Horse artillery was essentially the same, except as the crew rode into action you needed men to hold the horses while the gun crews worked the guns.

  4. Indeed, British gun detachments were meant to be autonomous, so had to have enough muscle to haul the gun back into position after each shot. The French had fewer artillerymen, but continued the 18th C. practice of drafting in help from the infantry.

    So each of Sandham's guns would have had 10 men attached to it. The remaining 30+ may have included reserves and the specialists (farriers, wheelwrights, saddlers, drummer). As for the drivers, I'm not familiar with the procedure of nominations for the Waterloo Medal: Were they nominated through a different channel, or by the battery commander under whose orders they'd have been serving? The latter would easily bring the number over 100.

    The comparatively low number of casualties would appear to result from the Duke's orders to shelter in neighbouring squares during cavalry charges. Counter-battery fire at long range, as may have been employed by the French, was known to be less than effective: Unless you scored a lucky hit on a caisson, it would tended to punish the horse teams as the bigger and more visible target more than the gun crews themselves.

    - Once again I stand in awe at your dedication, which puts my own puny efforts at commemorating Waterloo (a game at brigade level) rather to shame!

  5. Thanks for the kind words gents!
    BigRedBat - the horses are a mix of Foundry which I got off ebay, Perrys, and even a few Hinchliffe which seem, in this context at least, to blend in fine.

    LittleArmies - many thanks for the info, and for your kind plug on TMP!

    Musketier - I think the RAD submitted every member of the regiment from Ostend to Waterloo for a Waterloo medal! With no precedent, every adjutant interpreted the order differently - some ommitted casualties, some included men absent from the battle... some listed them alphabetically, others listed them by company or troop - 1,182 men of the RAD received a Waterloo medal which is crazy when you consider there were only 10 batteries (60 guns) including KGL. With 3 drivers per gun that makes 180 men plus, say, the same again for farriers, wheelwrights etc. So a generous estimate of those present with at the battle might not be more than 360. Yet 1,182 got the medal.

  6. Hello Lord Hill,
    As Musketier says, British gun batteries were designed to be capable of autonomous action. They therefore included the personnel and equipment to allow them to do this.

    A typical battery would, as well as the six guns and limbers, also have a wagon for hauling spare wheels, a forge cart, two wagons for food and personal gear, four to six ammunition wagons and a spare limber or two.

    Doing this in 1:1 for Waterloo might be expensive! The Perries do a forge cart and ammunition wagon in their metal range - the ammunition wagon and team to haul it £21.00, while the forge cart is £10.50.


  7. Hi Malc - I have the Perry forge, my long-suffering girlfriend got it for me for Christmas! I'm tempted by the Perry wagon teams, but pretty much everything I have comes from ebay - it's a slow process! Thanks for the info though, I should try and do at least one battery with all the trimmings you've listed.

  8. Happy 200th Birthday Waterloo! My great (x4) grandfather was Captain Charles Freeman Sandham and its so great to see his troops in miniature.

  9. My 3rd great grandfather, John Oliver, was Sandham's Company Sjt at Waterloo. I have his records including a Muster Roll from October 1815. Barry Oliver, Sydney Australia