Tuesday 8 May 2018

23rd Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers)

Here are 90 men of the Royal Welch, part of a square of the whole regiment I have been working on.

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers was a battle-hardened regiment whose battle honours included Coruna, Martinique, Albuera, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vitoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes and Toulouse. Amongst those men who lived to receive their MGS medals in 1848 claims for 10 or more clasps were not uncommon.

Despite their heritage, this “Welsh” regiment contained twice as many Englishmen as Welshmen. The known places of origin amount to as follows:
English   407
Welsh     190
Irish         62
Scots         5
Other         2

When Byng’s Guards moved forward to reinforce Hougoumont their place in the line was taken by the 23rd who formed square.  The regiment remained in this position all day sustaining repeated cavalry attack and one infantry advance.

Obscured from view here (his pike is just visable from the rear rank) is Serjeant Ingham, from Kenyon, Lancs who had enlisted in 1807 aged 23.  He served in the Peninsula and during the storming of Badajoz carried the wounded Major General Colville from the breach. So began a cycle of promotion and reduction (he was demoted to Private at least three times) which lasted over his 20 years service.

Here was can see Lieutenant Harry Palmer.giving orders in the midst of the ranks. He was born circa 1793, the son of a reverend in County Longford and commissioned in 1808. Upon quitting the army in 1819 he followed his father, and grandfather, into the church.  He was posted as a chaplain to the colony in Freetown, in Sierra Leone where he soon died aged 30 leaving a young widow.

In the foreground the wounded man is Private James Brockley, from Manchester, who served 26 years in the Regiment.  By Waterloo he was a veteran of six Peninsula battles and had been wounded in the shoulder at Badajoz. At Waterloo he was wounded again, this time in the leg, but continued to served until 1836.  His conduct on discharge was listed as “excellent”.  He never married and, in 1861, became an In-Pensioner at Chelsea.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

71st Highland Light Infantry

Here are 2 companies of the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot, part of Adam's Light Brigade at Waterloo. Spared Quatre Bras, the Brigade were fresh at Waterloo and, along with the 52nd and 95th, an extremely experienced veteran unit.

The 71st had been fighting Napoleon at Rolica in 1808 and since then had seen action at Vimeiro, throughout the Coruna campaign, Fuentes D'Onor, Vitoria, the Pyrenees, Nive, Nivelle, Orthes, and Toulouse. At Waterloo they had a nominal role of 841 (of whom around 760 would probably have been in the field). I have therefore gone with companies of 60 other ranks plus officers, serjeants and buglers. 

Although their record of service was one of the finest in the British Army, and their behaviour at Waterloo in general superb, it would seem that the long years of fighting had taken their toll and many of the men were at breaking point.  After years of hard fighting and terrible hardship in the Peninsula to be asked to continue in some new theatre of war without respite was asking too much of some men. One soldier had written of his feelings upon returning from Spain only to be boarded on a ship to America, “I wanted but a few months to be free. I sought my discharge, but was refused. I was almost tempted to desert. I lamented my becoming a soldier” Such sentiments cannot have been unusual.  In the occupation of Paris following Waterloo 12 men who had fought at Waterloo deserted.

Despite the title “Highland” this regiment was not “Scottish” in the way of the 42nd, 79th or 92nd; the 71st had abandoned the kilt for trousers and the bonnet for the shako, albeit adorned with a tartan band.  Furthermore, the proportion of Scotsmen was not so great, the proportion being:

Scottish 59%
Irish        34%
English    6%

"Highland" was also pretty unrepresentative of most of the Scotsmen in the battalion, the majority of whom were from Glasgow or Edinburgh.

So, 120 down, another 640 to go. 

p.s. I've recently been very distracted by the lovely new Perry brothers Chasseurs a Cheval. I've now got lots of spare pre-1812 torsos and hungarian boot legs. If anybody has spare 1815 torsos and overall legs please get in touch (info@waterloomen.com) and we can swap!