Combat of El Bodon, 25 September 1811

Combat of El Bodon, 25 September 1811

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Combat of El Bodon, 25 September 1811

The combat of El Bodon of 25 September 1811 was a lucky escape for the British and Portuguese army on the Spanish border in the autumn of 1811. Wellington had been blockading Ciudad Rodrigo since August, but he was not strong enough to risk besieging the place, in the knowledge that if pushed the French could raise a much larger army to raise the siege. Even the blockade would eventually provoke a French response, and so Wellington picked out a strong position to fight a defensive position, at Fuento Guinaldo, fourteen miles to the south west of Ciudad Rodrigo.

The French response came at the end of September. Marshal Marmont, command of the Army of Portugal, and General Dorsenne, commander of the Army of the North, combined their forces to produce a field army around 58,000 strong (with 52,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry). On 22 September Marmont appeared at Tamames, twenty miles to the east of Ciudad Rodrigo, while Dorsenne was a few miles further north at San Muñoz.

At this point Wellington had 46,000 men (including 41,000 infantry and 3,100 cavalry) facing Ciudad Rodrigo. His army was spread out in an arc to the west and south of Ciudad Rodrigo. At the left of the line were the 1st and 6th Divisions, under the command of General Graham, west of the town, on the River Azava (or Azaba). Wellington and the 4th Division were at Fuento Guinaldo, ten miles to the south, at the south western tip of the line. Next in line was the 3rd Division, at El Bodon, six miles north of Wellington, and almost half way to Ciudad. Finally the Light Division was posted at Martiago, another three miles to the east and almost due south of the town.

This deployment exposed each fragment of Wellington’s army to the risk of a crushing defeat before reinforcements could reach them. It also made it almost impossible for Wellington to concentrate his army at Fuente Guinaldo without interference, for the French could easily thrust into the gap between the widely separated left and right wings. Wellington left his troops in this dangerous position because he did not believe that the French intended to advance beyond Ciudad Rodrigo.

The French cavalry established contact with the blockaded town on 23 September, and on the next day half of the French infantry appeared on the plains outside the town. On 25 September Marmont decided to try and discover if Wellington was preparing for a regular siege. He sent out two large cavalry forces to investigate the areas west and south of the town. Both ran into Wellington’s men. The western thrust was repulsed at Carpio, without serious fighting, but the southern thrust came close to causing a major disaster.

The force sent south consisted of two brigades of dragoons and two brigades of light horse, under the command of General Montbrun. The only infantry involved was Thiébault’s division, which was moved onto the southern bank of the Agueda, into a position close to the town, where it could support the cavalry if needed.

Montbrun’s cavalry easily broke through Wellington’s cavalry screen (here made up of Alton’s brigade), and then found itself in the middle of Picton’s 3rd Division. Picton had not had time to concentrate his divison, and so his infantry was stretched out along a six mile front, in four separate clusters, each two or three battalions strong. The nearest support was the 4th Division, a further six miles to the south west.

Marmont had no way to know how vulnerable the 3rd Division was at this point, and assumed that Wellington would have reserves close by. He ordered Montbrun to pick one of the isolated parts of the 3rd Division and force his way past it in an attempt to discover the main force he believed must be close by.

Montbrun decided to attack along the road from Ciudad Rodrigo to Fuente Guinaldo (this road does not appear on modern maps, which show a road that runs from Ciudad to El Boden, and then on to Fuento Guinaldo, presumably to avoid the high ground involved in this fight). This road was defended by part of Colville’s brigade – the 1/5th and 77th Foot and the 21st Portuguese, posted on a plateau at the top of a steep slope. If the French cavalry could push its way past this force quickly, then the eastern half of the 3rd Division (the 1/45th and 1/88th at El Boden and the 74th and three companies of the 5/60th at Pastores, on the Agueda) would have been trapped.

Montbrun had 2,500 cavalry to attack a British force of 1,000 infantry, 500 cavalry and two batteries of field artillery, although the British did have the advantage of defending the high ground. Montbrun decided to attack in three columns. His left and centre columns attacked the 500 men of Alten’s cavalry, while the right column attacked the Portuguese artillery and the 1/5th foot.

Both of these attacks failed. Despite being outnumbered by around two-to-one, Alten’s cavalry were able to use the slope to their advantage to prevent the French from reaching the plateau, launched a series of charges against the most advanced French troops, forcing them to retreat, before themselves withdrawing back up the slope. The colonel of the Hussars of the King’s German Legion involved in this fight reported that the French made forty separate attacks, while each of the British and German regiments involved made eight or nine charges.

The column attacking the guns met with more initial success. Despite coming under heavy fire from the Portuguese guns, the dragoons managed to reach their position, capturing four guns. While the French cavalry was still disordered amongst the guns, Major Ridge of the 1/5th ordered his men to advance in line. The dragoons faced three volleys of musketry before fleeing back down the hill.

After the repulse of this frontal assault, Montbrun decided to send one his brigades around the right of the allied position, into the gap between the road and El Boden. This move forced the British to retreat, but it came too late, for the troops at El Boden and Pastores had already escaped.

Montbrun continued to attack the small British force throughout the retreat. They were retreating with the artillery at the head of their column, followed by the 21st Portuguese, marching a square, then the 5th and 77th Foot in a single square, and with the remaining cavalry in the rear.

The French cavalry soon drove off the cavalry rearguard, leaving the square of the 5th and 77th vulnerable to attack. Montbrun’s men attacked it from three sides at once, but without success. The British cavalry then charged the disordered French horse, and forced them to retreat, winning half-an-hour of peace for the retreating infantry.

By now the troops retreating from the fight on the hill had caught up with Picton and the troops from El Bodon and the three battalions from the west. For the rest of the march the 21st Portuguese and 5th and 77th formed a rearguard, still marching in their two squares, while the rest of Picton’s men remained in their columns. The French harassed the retreating columns, but Montbrun was no longer willing to risk further cavalry charges. Instead he attempted to bring his horse artillery into use, and on several occasions managed to fire on the British column.

The French were eventually forced to retire when the 3rd Division came close to the fortified camp at Fuente Guinaldo and Wellington sent out more cavalry to support the retreating column.

The combat of El Boden cost the British and Portuguese 149 casualties, 68 of them in the cavalry (13 dead, 50 wounded and 5 missing). The total French losses were not reported, but 13 officers were killed or wounded, suggesting a total loss of around 200 men.

The danger was not yet over. By the end of the day Marmont had 20,000 men over the Aqueda, with the rest of his army close behind. Wellington only had the 3rd and 4th Divisions, Pack’s Portuguese brigade and part of his cavalry at Fuente Guinaldo, a total of around 15,000 men. It would take most of the next day for the Light Division to arrive, while the 13,000 men from the British left never reached the camp, but despite this Marmont refused to attack. It would appear that the French defeats at Bussaco and Fuentes de Oñoro had made Marmont unwilling to attack Wellington in a prepared position.

On the night of 26 September Wellington evacuated Fuente Guinaldo, well aware that his position was not as strong as the French believed, and made for his second defensive position, inside Portugal. By the end of 27 September Wellington’s army was concentrated around Alfayates, although only after having fought a rear-guard action at Aldea de Ponte.

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À l'issue des batailles de Fuentes de Oñoro (du 3 au 5 mai 1811 ) et d'Albuera ( 16 mai ), l'armée anglo-portugaise met le siège devant Badajoz avant qu'une contre-offensive française ne l'oblige à rétrograder sur Elvas. Le maréchal Auguste Marmont, commandant en chef l'armée française du Portugal, positionne ses troupes autour de Navalmoral d'où il peut soutenir à la fois Badajoz et Ciudad Rodrigo. Dix semaines s'écoulent sans qu'un mouvement offensif ne soit tenté de part et d'autre. Marmont en profite pour réorganiser et compléter ses forces, fortement diminuées après l'échec de l'invasion du Portugal et la bataille de Fuentes de Oñoro [ 1 ] .

De son côté, le marquis de Wellington projette de s'emparer des deux villes de Badajoz et Ciudad Rodrigo afin de contrôler les deux principales routes d'invasion. Il lui est cependant difficile de mettre en œuvre des opérations d'envergure sans le soutien des armées espagnoles [ 2 ] . Privé de cet appui, il communique sa décision de tenter une attaque sur Ciudad Rodrigo, mais précise qu'il abandonnera l'opération si la réaction française se montre à la hauteur. En outre, le commandant britannique sait qu'il ne peut pas non plus compter sur des renforts en provenance d'Estrémadure, où le général Hill avec 16 000 hommes fixe le corps de Drouet d'Erlon devant Badajoz [ 3 ] .

Le choix de Wellington d'attaquer Ciudad Rodrigo plutôt que Badajoz s'explique par trois raisons :

  • il bénéficie au nord du soutien des milices portugaises, lui donnant la possibilité d'entreprendre avec elles des opérations subsidiaires
  • le relief montagneux du terrain lui est doublement favorable, d'une part en lui offrant de solides positions défensives et d'autre part en réduisant l'efficacité de la cavalerie française, plus nombreuse que la sienne
  • en attirant Marmont vers le nord, Wellington le sépare du même coup de Soult, en Andalousie, maintenant ainsi à distance les deux principales armées françaises du secteur — l'armée du Nord, bien que numériquement importante, étant dans l'incapacité de soutenir Marmont [ 4 ] .

Face à la supériorité de son adversaire, et dans l'attente de son train de siège (artillerie et matériel du génie), Wellington se borne à isoler Ciudad Rodrigo en empêchant toute communication avec l'extérieur. Le blocus commence le 11 août 1811 . Le 12, Wellington établit son quartier-général à Fuenteguinaldo, alors que les forces non engagées dans les opérations de siège restent cantonnées à l'arrière. La coupure des lignes de communication entre Ciudad Rodrigo et Salamanque n'entraîne aucune réaction immédiate de la part des Français. La cité assiégée a en effet été ravitaillée deux jours avant l'arrivée des Anglo-Espagnols et dispose de provisions jusqu'à début octobre. Un courrier intercepté le 16 septembre précise qu'un convoi de vivres est prêt à quitter Salamanque le 21, tandis que des dépêches également tombées aux mains des assiégeants informent que l'armée du Nord et l'armée du Portugal sont en train d'effectuer leur jonction, donnant une importante supériorité numérique aux Français.

Dans ces conditions, Wellington est déterminé à ne pas bouger de Ciudad Rodrigo plus que nécessaire pour préserver ses forces. Son armée étant suffisamment forte pour livrer bataille en rase campagne, le général en chef a bien l'intention de tirer parti des montagnes environnantes et a déjà fait construire des retranchements à Fuenteguinaldo ainsi qu'à Rendo et Alfaiates, non loin de Sabugal.

El Bodón (voir carte) est un petit village situé à environ 15 km au sud-ouest de Ciudad Rodrigo, installé sur un plateau entourant la ville et où transite la route reliant Ciudad Rodrigo à Fuenteguinaldo. À cet endroit, aussi bien à l'est qu'au sud et à l'ouest, le terrain en pente offre une position dominante à un éventuel occupant.

Ordre de bataille français Modifier

Les troupes françaises présentes dans la région, en plus de la garnison de Ciudad Rodrigo, appartiennent à l'armée du Portugal commandée par le maréchal Marmont et à l'armée du Nord dirigée par le général Dorsenne. Les effectifs en présence de ces deux armées se montent à 27 500 hommes pour Marmont et 29 000 hommes pour Dorsenne, formant un total disponible de 56 500 soldats.

Armée du Portugal Modifier

Cette armée, au commandement de laquelle Marmont a remplacé le maréchal Masséna, comprend six divisions d'infanterie, deux brigades de cavalerie légère et une division de dragons. Sa composition est la suivante [ 5 ] :

Maréchal Auguste-Frédéric-Louis Viesse de Marmont, commandant en chef — 32 467 fantassins, 3 341 cavaliers et 2 875 artilleurs, hommes du train et sapeurs

  • Division Maximilien Sébastien Foy — 12 bataillons d'infanterie, 5 541 hommes
  • Division Bertrand Clauzel — 12 bataillons d'infanterie, 6 501 hommes
  • Division Claude François Ferey — 11 bataillons d'infanterie, 5 072 hommes
  • Division Jacques Thomas Sarrut — 9 bataillons d'infanterie, 4 922 hommes
  • Division Antoine Louis Popon de Maucune — 12 bataillons d'infanterie, 5 049 hommes
  • Division Antoine François Brenier de Montmorand — 9 bataillons d'infanterie, 5 332 hommes
  • Brigade de cavalerie légère : général de brigade Auguste Étienne Marie Gourlez de Lamotte — 4 régiments, 613 hommes [ 6 ]

Armée du Nord Modifier

L'armée commandée par le général de division Jean Marie Pierre Dorsenne est à ce moment la plus grande armée française dans la péninsule espagnole, avec 88 442 hommes disponibles en date du 15 juillet . Cependant, la majeure partie d'entre eux sont utilisés à la garnison des places du nord de l'Espagne, si bien que Dorsenne ne peut mobiliser que 27 000 fantassins et 2 000 cavaliers pour appuyer Marmont [ 7 ] .

Ordre de bataille anglo-portugais Modifier

Wellington aligne près de 46 000 hommes, dont 17 000 Portugais. Sa cavalerie comprend au total 3 100 sabres incluant 900 Portugais. L'historien britannique Charles Oman remarque que la faiblesse relative des effectifs s'explique par le nombre de malades [ 8 ] , en prenant l'exemple des bataillons arrivés à Lisbonne au mois de juin, forts d'entre 700 et 800 hommes, et réduits en septembre à 400 ou 500 soldats : ainsi, le 40 e Regiment of Foot compte, au 15 septembre , 513 malades sur un effectif théorique de 791 hommes. En cas d'affrontement, Wellington peut réunir les troupes suivantes [ 9 ] :

    ) : lieutenant-généralThomas Graham — 4 926 hommes — 3 brigades, 5 277 hommes
    • Brigade A : lieutenant-colonel Wallace, commandant par intérim en remplacement du major-général Henry MacKinnon — 2 141 hommes
      • 1 er bataillon du 45 e Regiment of Foot — 1 bataillon
      • 1 er bataillon du 74 e Regiment of Foot — 1 bataillon
      • 1 er bataillon du 88 e Regiment of Foot — 1 bataillon
      • 5 e bataillon du 60 e Regiment of Foot — 3 compagnies
      • 2 e bataillon du 5 e Regiment of Foot — 1 bataillon
      • 77 e Regiment of Foot — 1 bataillon
      • 1 er et 2 e bataillons du régiment d'infanterie n o 9, lieutenant-colonel Charles Sutton — 2 bataillons
      • 1 er et 2 e bataillons du régiment d'infanterie n o 21, lieutenant-colonel José Joaquim Champalimaud — 2 bataillons
        britannique — 3 batteries
    • Artillerie de campagne — 1 batterie de la King's German Legion et 5 batteries portugaises
    • Un contingent militaire français, mêlant des troupes de l'armée du Portugal et de l'armée du Nord, s'approche de Ciudad Rodrigo afin d'assurer le ravitaillement de la place et forcer les assiégeants à lever le blocus. Envoyée en avant-garde, la cavalerie arrive sous les murs de la ville le 23 septembre où elle est rejointe par l'infanterie le lendemain. Devant l'arrivée des Français, les éléments de cavalerie britanniques positionnés au nord de l'Águeda se retirent vers le sud en laissant ouverte la route de Salamanque. Dans le même temps, les 1 re et 6 e divisions britanniques s'avancent sur Carpio de Azaba pour couvrir celle d'Almeida Wellington et la 4 e division restent à Fuenteguinaldo tandis que la 3 e occupe Pastores et El Bodón. La Light Division (« division légère ») se trouve à Martiago. Un rideau de cavalerie protège l'ensemble, avec la division portugaise Madden sur le cours inférieur de l'Águeda, la brigade Anson sur la route de Carpio, et enfin la brigade Alten sur le cours supérieur de l'Águeda entre Carpio et Pastores [ 12 ] .

      Ne croyant pas les Français capables de pousser au-delà de Ciudad Rodrigo, le général en chef britannique a imprudemment dispersé ses troupes, donnant à ses adversaires la possibilité de s'immiscer dans les intervalles entre les différentes unités et ainsi empêcher leur concentration à Fuenteguinaldo. Les troupes françaises tâtent le dispositif de Wellington, ce qui donne lieu à quelques accrochages sans grandes conséquences aux alentours de Carpio. Cependant, la situation s'aggrave rapidement dans le secteur d'El Bodón, où se trouve la 3 e division [ 13 ] .

      Lors des combats entre Carpio et El Bodón, les Alliés ont perdu 151 hommes (dont 12 à Carpio), essentiellement parmi les hussards de la King's German Legion. Les pertes de la cavalerie française ne sont pas connues avec précision mais Oman les estime à au moins 200 hommes [ 17 ] .

      Colonel Michael Childers

      El Bodon 1811
      In his letters, Childers wrote that there was much sickness in Wellington's army, 19,000 including 800 officers. The army was near the town of Ciudad Rodrigo on 25th September 1811. Childers' squadron along with another squadron of the 11th led by Captain Ridout and a squadron of German Hussars were placed on the heights to the left of El Bodon. French cavalry charged across the plain from Ciudad Rodrigo and up the hill under fire from the 5th and 77th Foot and Portugese artillery. As they approached the heights, the 11th and the German hussars charged down at them repeatedly. Childers describes how his own squadron charged 8 times within the space of an hour. By the time the last charge was made they were down to only 20 men and had trouble pulling out of the melee. They fled at the gallop for almost a mile, saved by musket fire from the 5th and 77th. The battle of El Bodon was a landmark in the history of the regiment. The strength of the 11th was very much reduced by sickness before the battle started, two thirds of the officers were unable to take part. Ten men were killed and 21 wounded, including Lt-Col Cumming, the CO. The courageous conduct of Michael Childers and TQMS Hall were singled out for particular praise.

      Waterloo 1815
      Childers was a Major at Waterloo and in an incident at Hougoumont, he brought up his squadron behind a Belgian regiment to stop them deserting. This was observed by Wellington himself who expressed his gratitude. The regiment was commanded by Lt-Col A Money who had fought in Egypt in 1801. They broke a French infantry square after an exhausting day's fighting. the casualties for the 11th were, killed10 privates, one sergeant, one officer and 17 horses. Wounded30 rank and file, 4 sergeants, 2 trumpeters, 4 officers and 38 horses. Childers was promoted to Lt-Col.


      Formation Edit

      The regiment was raised in Glasgow by Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell for service in India as the 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot in October 1787. [1] In accordance with the Declaratory Act 1788 the cost of raising the regiment was recharged to East India Company on the basis that the act required that expenses "should be defrayed out of the revenues" arising there. [2] The regiment embarked for India in February 1789 [3] and took part in the siege of Bangalore in February 1791 [4] and the siege of Seringapatam in February 1792 during the Third Anglo-Mysore War. [5]

      The regiment also saw action at the Battle of Mallavelly in March 1799 and went on to form part of the storming party at the siege of Seringapatam in April 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. [6] It subsequently saw action at skirmishes in spring 1803 during the First Anglo-Maratha War [7] and went on to fight at the Battle of Assaye in April 1803 during the Second Anglo-Maratha War: at Assaye the regiment suffered terrible losses under a hail of cannon fire. [8] From a strength of about 500, the 74th lost ten officers killed and seven wounded, and 124 other ranks killed and 270 wounded. [9] The regiment went to fight at the Battle of Argaon in November 1803 [10] and the Capture of Gawilghur in December 1803. [10] It returned to England in February 1806 [11] and then lost its Highland status due to recruiting difficulties, becoming the 74th Regiment of Foot in April 1809. [12]

      Napoleonic Wars Edit

      The regiment embarked for Portugal in January 1810 for service in the Peninsular War. [13] It saw action at the Battle of Bussaco in September 1810, [14] the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro in May 1811 [15] and the Battle of El Bodón in September 1811, [16] before further combat at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812, [17] the siege of Badajoz in March 1812 [18] and the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812. [19] It also fought at the siege of Burgos in September 1812 [20] and the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813. [21] It then pursued the French army into France and saw action at the Battle of the Pyrenees in July 1813, [22] the Battle of Nivelle in November 1813 [23] and the Battle of the Nive in December 1813. [24] After that it fought at the Battle of Orthez in February 1814 [25] and the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814 [26] before embarking for Ireland in June 1814. [27]

      The Victoria era Edit

      The regiment embarked from Ireland for Halifax, Nova Scotia in May 1818: on arrival units were detached for service in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador and Saint John, New Brunswick. [28] The regiment moved on to Bermuda in August 1828 and then returned home in December 1829. [29] The regiment embarked for Barbados in September 1834 and, after arrival there, moved on to Grenada in December 1834. [30] The regiment transferred to Antigua in November 1835: it was then split into two formations which were deployed to Dominica and to Saint Lucia in February 1837. [30] The regiment moved on to Quebec in Canada in May 1841 [31] before embarking for home and landing at Deal in March 1845. [32] Later that year it reverted to its earlier name as the 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot. [12] The commanding officer, Colonel Eyre Crabbe, was able to assure the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, the Duke of Wellington, "that throughout the varied services and changes of so many years, a strong national feeling, and a connection with Scotland by recruiting, had been constantly maintained." [33]

      The regiment then sailed to the Cape Colony in 1851 to take part in the Eighth Xhosa War. [34] In 1852 a detachment from the regiment departed Simon's Town aboard the troopship HMS Birkenhead bound for Port Elizabeth. At two o'clock in the morning on 28 February 1852, the ship struck rocks at Danger Point, just off Gansbaai. The troops assembled on deck, and allowed the women and children to board the lifeboats first, but then stood firm as the ship sank when told by officers that jumping overboard and swimming to the lifeboats would mostly likely upset those boats and endanger the civilian passengers. 357 men drowned. [35] The regiment's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Seton, together with one of his ensigns and forty-eight of his other ranks, were among those that perished. [36]

      The regiment embarked for India in 1854 and helped to suppress the Indian Rebellion in 1857 before returning home in 1864. [34] It was deployed to Gibraltar in 1868, to Malta in 1872 and to the Straits Settlements in 1876. [34] It went on to Hong Kong in 1878 before returning to the Straits Settlements in 1879 and returning home in 1880. [34]

      As part of the Cardwell Reforms of the 1870s, where single-battalion regiments were linked together to share a single depot and recruiting district in the United Kingdom, the 74th was linked with the 26th (Cameronian) Regiment of Foot, and assigned to district no. 59 at Hamilton Barracks. [37] On 1 July 1881 the Childers Reforms came into effect and the regiment amalgamated with the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot to become the 2nd battalion, Highland Light Infantry. [12]

      Battle of Tel-el-Kebir

      Combatants at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir: An Anglo-Indian Army against the Egyptian Army.

      Commanders at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir: Lieutenant General Sir Garnet Wolseley against Ahmed Arabi Bey.

      Size of the armies at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir: The Egyptian army was probably around 20,000 troops with 60 guns. The British and Indian force comprised 11,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 45 guns.

      Ahmed Arabi Bey, Egyptian commander at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Uniforms, arms and equipment at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir: The British infantry was armed with the single shot breech-loading Martini-Henry rifle and bayonet. The war marked a distinct change in the British Army’s approach to campaign dress. The main body of the infantry started the war in scarlet tunics and blue woollen trousers, with white equipment and tropical helmets. The importance of being less visible was soon brought home to the regiments and tunics were dyed drab and the pipe clay washed off equipment. Several regiments fought in blue tunics, the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Royal Artillery and the Royal Horse Guards. The King’s Royal Rifle Corps fought in rifle green tunics and trousers. The Highland regiments fought in kilts, other than the Highland Light Infantry and the 72 nd Highlanders (1 st Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders – see below). The Indian Army regiments all wore drab or grey uniforms.

      1st Life Guards in the Charge at Kassassin: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Harry Payne

      The Egyptian troops wore Turkish uniforms of white tunic and trousers, spats and fezzes and were armed with single shot Remington rifles.

      7th Dragoon Guards in Home Service uniform: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Orlando Norie

      Winner of the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir: The British and Indian Army.

      British Regiments at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:
      N/A Battery, Royal Horse Artillery
      1 st Life Guards
      2 nd Life Guards
      Royal Horse Guards
      4 th Dragoon Guards
      7 th Dragoon Guards
      19 th Hussars
      3 batteries of the Royal Artillery: N/2, A/1 and D/1.

      5 th and 6 th Batteries of the Royal Artillery, siege artillery
      Royal Engineers: pontoon and telegraph troops, 8th and 17th Companies.
      2 nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards
      2 nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards

      1 st Battalion, Scots Guards
      2 nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment

      Arabi with Egyptian troops: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      2 nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
      1 st Battalion, Black Watch
      3 rd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps
      2 nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
      2 nd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry
      1 st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers
      1 st Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders
      1 st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders
      1 st Battalion, Cameron Highlanders

      Indian Regiments at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:
      2 nd Bengal Cavalry (Gardner’s Horse)
      6 th (King Edward’s Own) Bengal Cavalry
      13 th Bengal Cavalry (Watson’s Horse)
      2 nd Queen’s Own Sappers and Miners
      7 th Bengal Infantry (Rajputs)
      20 th (Brownlow’s) Punjab Infantry
      29 th Bombay Infantry (Baluchis)

      13th Bengal Cavalry at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Account of the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir: Egypt in the late 19 th Century, ruled by the Khedive, remained a nominal part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Britain and France maintained a substantial interest in the country due to the Suez Canal, in which both countries invested heavily and which provided the most direct route to their Asian colonies India and Australia for Britain and Indochina for France. In the 1870s, Egypt, through mismanagement and corruption, lurched towards financial collapse and political instability. Britain and France installed a commission to supervise Egypt’s government. In 1881, Colonel Ahmed Arabi Bey, a native Egyptian officer of the Egyptian Army, with other Egyptian officers launched a revolt against the Khedive and the British and French. A British naval squadron under Admiral Seymour bombarded the defences of Alexandria, Egypt’s main port on the northern coast, on 11 th July 1882. A British military force assembled under Lieutenant General Sir Garnet Wolseley to invade Egypt, with the purpose of capturing Cairo and restoring the Khedive as nominal ruler with Anglo-French control of the country.

      1st Scots Guards landing at Alexandria before the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      The leading elements of the British force landed at Alexandria in the second week of August 1882. The aims of the force were to secure the Suez Canal that ran north-south in the East of Egypt and then to march on Cairo, the capital of the country, which the rebels were threatening to destroy in the event of an invasion.

      Map of the Kafre El Dawwar reconnaissance on 5th August 1882: map by John Fawkes

      2nd Coldstream Guards leaving London for Egypt: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      An Anglo-Indian force (comprising both British and Indian regiments) was sent from India to join the British contingent on the Suez Canal.

      On 5 th August 1882 Major General Alison conducted a reconnaissance up the Alexandria to Cairo railway line to probe the fortified line built by General Arabi at Kafre El Dawwar.

      The landing at Alexandria was a feint. General Wolseley concealed his true plan from everyone except his immediate staff, which was to land at Ismailia, midway down the Suez Canal and to march west to Cairo, attacking Arabi’s army in its positions at Tel-El-Kebir on the railway and main irrigation canal.

      The British contingent landed at Ismailia around 20 th August 1882, securing the local barracks and canal facilities, while the Anglo-Indian contingent came up the canal from the Persian Gulf in the South.

      At 4am on 24 th August 1882, General Wolseley’s army marched out of Ismailia, along the line of the railway, moving west towards Cairo, to attack Arabi’s army at the town of Tel-El-Kebir.

      Arabi’s army had in the meanwhile dammed the irrigation canal that ran alongside the railway, with the aim of cutting off the water supply to Wolseley’s army and the town of Ismailia.

      General Graham’s brigade was pushed forward to Kassassin, where there was a lock on the irrigation canal. Graham’s brigade adopted a position across the railway line and the canal.

      Royal Navy steam pinnace and soldiers clearing the dammed stream: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Late on 24 th August 1882, an Egyptian force, comprising guns and infantry, appeared to the north of Graham’s position. Graham engaged them. Seeing that the Egyptians’ flank was exposed, Graham directed Major General Drury-Lowe to attack the Egyptians with the cavalry brigade.

      Map of the Tel-el-Kebir campaign, showing Wolseley’s advance from Ismailia to Tel-el-Kebir: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: map by John Fawkes

      Drury-Lowe lead forward his mounted force, comprising a composite regiment of Household Cavalry (a squadron from each of the 1 st Life Guards, 2 nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards, the ‘Blues’) and 7 th Dragoon Guards with four guns of N/A Battery, Royal Horse Artillery.

      Highland Brigade assaulting the Egyptian entrenchments at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Drury-Lowe was aided in reaching the battle line by the gun flashes in the gathering darkness. The first fire was opened by the Egyptians. Drury-Lowe engaged them with his guns and then launched the Household Cavalry in a charge. The Egyptian infantry were swept away and their guns abandoned and captured in the ‘Moonlight Charge’ of the Battle of Kassassin.

      Charge of the Household Cavalry at Kassassin: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by J. Richards

      Informed of this success, Graham returned to his positions at Kassassin. General Sir Garnet Wolseley completed the build-up of his army around the Kassassin position by 12 th September 1882. Arabi’s Egyptian army lay at Tel-El-Kebir some ten miles distant. Tel-El-Kebir comprised a small town to the south of the line of the canal and the Cairo-Ismailia railway, that ran parallel and to the north of the canal.

      Map of the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: map by John Fawkes

      Over the preceding weeks, the Egyptian army of some 20,000 soldiers with 59 guns, some of them modern German Krupp-made weapons, had built a length of entrenchment, starting with redoubts at the canal and railway and stretching north some three miles to the end of a raised section of ground. A second section of entrenchment covered the Egyptian camp to the rear.

      Highlanders advancing at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Richard Caton Woodville

      General Wolseley resolved to attack the Egyptian line at dawn on 13 th September 1882, following a night approach march. His army formed up with the Second Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Edward Hamley, on the left the Highland Brigade leading with the second brigade of the Division in reserve immediately to its rear. The First Division took the right, with Major General Graham’s brigade to the front and the Guards Brigade, commanded by the Duke of Connaught, in reserve. The guns, commanded by Colonel Goodenough, advanced in the area between the two reserve brigades. The cavalry brigade commanded by Major General Drury-Lowe, augmented to a division by the addition of the Indian mounted regiments, took the right of the army, conforming to the Guards Brigade, its role being to sweep around the Egyptian flank, once the infantry had stormed the entrenchments and make for Cairo, to prevent the destruction of the Egyptian capital by Arabi’s rebels.

      Drury-Lowe’s cavalry at Kassassin: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Christopher Clark

      The Indian brigade was to advance along the canal/railway line on the south side, to clear the Egyptian redoubts in that area and take the town of Tel-El-Kebir, before moving on to the next station up the line, Zag-a-Zig.

      13th Bengal Cavalry at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      The direction of the night-time advance was to be supervised by Lieutenant Rawson, Royal Navy, navigating by the stars from the left flank.

      The night march to the entrenchments went surprisingly smoothly, except that the advancing army drifted to its right. Dawn broke with the Highland Brigade (Black Watch, HLI, Camerons and Gordons), leading the British left, within 150 yards of the Egyptian line. A heavy fire immediately broke out. The four regiments of the Highland Brigade, led by its commander, Major General Allison and General Hamley, the Divisional Commander, stormed into the entrenchments, the two centre regiments, the Gordons and Camerons leading.

      Black Watch at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Alphonse de Neuville

      The Black Watch on the right of the brigade found the resistance hard to overcome, until supported by 3 rd Battalion the King’s Royal Rifle Corps from the divisional reserve. On the left the Highland Light Infantry were unable to break into the entrenchments, until re-inforced by the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry from the reserve brigade.

      On the right, General Graham’s brigade met heavy resistance but drove the Egyptians from their trenches with the support of guns from the centre.

      ‘Bringing up the guns’ at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by John Charlton

      Following the success of the infantry attack, General Drury-Lowe took his cavalry division in a sweep around the Egyptian left flank and rode down the Egyptian rear towards the bridge crossing the canal into Tel-El-Kebir, accelerating the rout of the retreating Egyptian troops.

      Black Watch storming the Eqyptian lines at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Henri Dupray

      To the south of the canal, the Seaforth Highlanders (part of the Indian brigade) attacked the Egyptian redoubt, while the 20 th Punjabis (Brownlow’s) moved around the Egyptian right flank and stormed a village from which fire was being directed, both battalions supported by 7 th Bengal Native Infantry and 29 th Bombay Native Infantry.

      Highland Light Infantry assaulting the Egyptian entrenchments at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Harry Payne

      The Indian brigade then moved into the town of Tel-El-Kebir. The action was finished with the Egyptian army in rout.

      Following the battle, the cavalry division secured Cairo on 14 th September 1882 and accepted the surrender of Arabi. On 25 th September 1882, the Khedive re-entered his capital escorted by British and Indian troops.

      4th Dragoon Guards at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Thomas Seccombe

      Casualties at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:
      The Egyptians are said to have suffered 2,000 dead and an unquantified number of wounded. 66 guns were captured.

      Medical treatment camp after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      The British and Indian casualties were: 9 officers and 48 non-commissioned ranks killed and 27 officers and 353 non-commissioned ranks wounded. 22 men were reported missing.

      Egyptian prisoners after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Follow-up to the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:
      The Egyptian War began Britain’s involvement in Egypt and the Sudan, leading to the campaign in the Sudan to attempt the rescue of General Gordon in 1898. British troops finally left Egypt and the Sudan after the Second World War.

      Lieutenant General Sir Garnet Wolseley after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Lady Butler

      Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:

      Egypt and Sudan Campaign Medal 1882 with clasp for the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War and the Khedive’s Star

      Khedive Star and Tel el Kebir clasp awarded to 361 Trumpeter Sundar Singh of 2nd Bengal Cavalry

      • Campaign medals for the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:
        The troops involved in the Egyptian campaign received the British medal for Egypt, 1882, with the clasp, where appropriate, ‘Tel-El-Kebir’. They also received the Khedive’s bronze star from the Khedive of Egypt.
      • While planning the campaign in London, General Wolseley said he would win the war in a battle fought in the area of Tel-El-Kebir around the middle of September 1882, which is exactly what happened.
      • Lieutenant General Sir Edward Hamley, commanding the Second Division, was a veteran of the Crimean War, having had horses shot under him at the Battle of the Alma and the Battle of Inkerman. A Royal Artillery officer, General Hamley wrote a popular history of the Crimean War.
      • The reconnaissance to Kafre El Dawwar from Alexandria on 5 th August 1882 used the ‘armoured train’, equipped with a naval gun, designed and constructed by Captain Jackie Fisher RN of HMS Inflexible, later First Sea Lord in the opening years of the First World War.
      • For some reason, a correspondent from the Kolnische Zeitung accompanied the British army. He wrote of the army: ‘… The private soldiers vary much more than ours. There are among them old and young, weak and strong. In general, the strong predominate. Many of them are splendid men, with muscles like those of the ‘dying gladiator’. The uniform is the red tunic and Indian mud-coloured helmet. The Household Cavalry, Rifles, Marines and Artillery do not wear red tunics. All, however, wear the sun helmet, which is of a beautiful shape, but an ugly colour.

      Indian Cavalry entering Cairo after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Surprising the sabotage of a bridge by Egyptian troops: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Richard Caton Woodville

      They also wear a flannel shirt and needlessly warm woollen trousers. The little wooden water-bottle that each soldier carries at his belt appears very practical, as the water keeps cooler than in flasks of tin…..The Hussars and Dragoons are to be distinguished only by their leggings, as they also wear red tunics and helmets. The Indian Cavalry look well in their uniform which resembles that of the Cossacks. They carry lances their pointed shoes are in the style of the fifteenth century. All these men have gipsy faces with beautiful fiery eyes. They move with a cat-like softness, peculiar to all southern Asiatics. These Indians know better than anyone else how to forage and steal. Among the British officers, especially the Guards, are crowds of lords with £10,000 a year and more, but without knowing it beforehand, no one would find out…. They have almost unlimited liberty as regards uniform when not on duty. If it is difficult for the Continental European to distinguish between German regiments, it is more so when British officers not on duty wear the half military, half civilian costume. They appear in yellow leather lace-boots and gaiters, fancy coats, broad belts, gigantic revolver-pockets, scarfs, etc….As far as I was able to judge, they did not trouble themselves much about their men….

      Royal Marine Light Infantry return to Chatham after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      13th Duke of Connaught’s Own Bengal Cavalry: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Harry Payne

      British Army Medical Staff after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      2nd Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      1st Gordon Highlanders: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Gatling Gun team from HMS Monarch at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      Soldiers from 20th Bengal (Punjabi) Infantry: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      2nd Highland Light Infantry: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      N/2 ‘Broken Wheel’ Battery Royal Artillery: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War

      References for the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:

      War on the Nile by Michael Barthorp

      History of British Cavalry Volume 3: 1872-1898 by the Marquess of Anglesey

      British ‘Moonlight’ Cavalry Charge at Kassassin: Battle of Tel-el-Kebir on 13th September 1882 in the Egyptian War: picture by Henry Ganz

      The previous battle in the British Battles sequence is the Battle of Ulundi

      The next battle of the Egypt and Sudan War of 1882 is the Battle of El Teb


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      Bicentennial Celebration of the battle of El Bodón

      The towns of Fuenteguinaldo and The Bodón already have prepared the program of events to commemorate wanting weekend 23, 24 and 25 September the 200 Years of Combat The Bodón. In this battle of the Revolutionary War soldiers soldiers of the British infantry, pese a [&hellip]

      The 11th Light Dragoons in the Peninsula War

      On 4th May 1811, the 11th Light Dragoons sailed from Plymouth, bound for Portugal and the war against Napoleon. On 30th May, Colonel Henry Cumming, 32 officers, 36 sergeants, eight trumpeters and 642 men arrived at Lisbon to fight in the Peninsula War during which they were to win fame and honour. They were also to earn a nickname which lasted until amalgamation in 1992, was readopted thereafter and is still familiar to many today.

      The Regiment’s first action was not a success: a poorly placed outpost under Captain Benjamin Lutyens was surprised on 22nd June by a large French force over four times their strength. They fought hard but were forced to retire towards another body of cavalry whom Lutyens took for Portuguese allies but they were in fact French. Lutyens and his men were cut off and in the ensuing scramble, eight men were killed and 22 wounded, while two officers and 75 men were taken prisoner, many of them wounded.

      While the Eleventh showed their inexperience of war, they also demonstrated their bravery, having fought against overwhelming odds for three hours and caused many French casualties.

      It was on 15th August 1811 that another incident took place, possibly indicating the Eleventh’s lack of experience. A patrol of 10 men under Lieutenant Frederick Wood was surprised and captured by the French. Tradition has it that the men were in a cherry orchard and were not paying full attention to their military duties. The nickname The Cherrypickers was, however, always proudly borne by the 11th Hussars in later years! Wood was later to be severely wounded at the Battle of Waterloo.

      The first major battle for the Eleventh was on 25th September, when, at El Bodon, they held the heights against repeated French attacks. Outnumbered, by some accounts, 10 to one, the Regiment charged over 20 times against the French attackers, suffering casualties of 10 killed and 21 wounded. The Eleventh had made their reputation an officer of the 16th Light Dragoons writing: “The conduct of the Eleventh Light Dragoons was such as must stamp them as soldiers doing their duty in a critical situation.”

      Throughout 1812 the Eleventh were always active, notably at the Battle of Salamanca in July and the subsequent pursuit of the French, and the entry to Valladolid on 31st July. On 6th September a squadron of the Eleventh, under Lieutenant Colonel Sleigh, crossed the River Douro near the town of Boccillo, and surprised a French post. The British cavalry commander, Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton, witnessed this from across the river and praised the action of the Eleventh by describing it as “… the quickest thing he ever saw cavalry do”.

      Unfortunately the British advance which was halted at Burgos, turned into a rapid withdrawal during which the Regiment lost 50 men killed or wounded, and 40 horses. During this time they also won the praise of the Duke of Wellington for their steadfastness in action.

      However, when the army went into winter quarters in October 1812 it was decided the Eleventh were so reduced by casualties and sickness that they should return home and in March 1813 the 11th Light Dragoons passed their horses to other regiments. On 4th June they sailed from Lisbon, arriving at Portsmouth on the 17th and then on to Cork. The 11th Light Dragoons had suffered casualties of 417 men and 555 horses but the Regiment had won the Battle Honours “Salamanca” and “Peninsula” – and that famous nickname!

      Title: A magnetocaloric study of the magnetostructural transitions in NiCrCombat of El Bodon, 25 September 1811 - History,[nobr][H1toH2] Combat of El Bodon, 25 September 1811 - History

      Auction: 19001 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
      Lot: 591

      Pair: Lieutenant G. Butcher, 11th Light Dragoons

      Military General Service 1793-1814, 1 clasp, Salamanca (G. Butcher, Serjt. Major, 11th Lt. Dragns.) Waterloo 1815 (Reg. Serj. Maj. G. Butcher, 11th Reg. Light Dragoons), replacement integral straight bar suspension, the first nearly extremely fine, the second with edge bruising and light contact marks, therefore nearly very fine (2)

      A. A. Payne Collection, 1908.
      Mackenzie Collection, 1934.
      Baldwin's, February 1954.

      George Butcher was born at Woodbridge, Suffolk in October 1784. He enlisted into the 11th Light Dragoons at Ipswich on 30 December 1799, aged 15. The Muster Rolls of 1800 show him serving in Captain Sleigh's Troop. Butcher was rapidly promoted, rising to Sergeant by 1805 (see WO 25/783).

      Stationed at Hythe, Kent in 1804-5, at the height of the invasion scare, the 11th then saw service in Ireland at Cork, Clonmel and Dublin. In 1809 they were involved in the capture of the renegade British soldier and Highwayman William Brennan, whose capture is celebrated in the ballad "Bold Brennan on the Moor". The 11th embarked for the Peninsula at Plymouth in April 1811 with a strength of 725 officers and men. Shortly after landing in Portugal they were ambushed by French patrols at San Martin de Trebejo, near Badajoz. Forced to take cover in a cherry orchard, the Regiment's nickname became 'The Cherrypickers'. A fierce cavalry action followed at El Bodon near Cuidad Rodrigo on 25 September, in which the 11th charged repeatedly and routed the French after heavy losses. Butcher was present at the Battle of Salamanca on 22 July 1812.

      The Regiment returned to England in June 1813. Butcher was promoted to Troop Sergeant-Major in September 1814 and Regimental Sergeant-Major in January 1815, serving in this important rank during the Waterloo Campaign. Part of Vandeleur's Brigade, the 11th fought at Genappe during the withdrawal from Quatre Bras on 17 June, and made a brave counter-charge against French lancers pursuing the Union Brigade at 2.30 p.m. during the Battle of Waterloo. The Union Brigade, exhausted after their famous charge against D'Erlon's Corps, would almost certainly have been annihilated without Vandeleur's intervention. Butcher remained with the Regiment during the occupation of Paris. In recognition of his services he was commissioned a Cornet in the 11th Light Dragoons on 12 October, becoming Adjutant of the Regiment that same day (WO 12/988).

      Advancing to Lieutenant on 8 November 1818, he served in India with the Regiment from February 1819. He was on leave in Europe during the siege and capture of Bhurtpoor, though the Regimental History records him as being present. He returned to England in 1829, and was promoted to Captain in November 1834. He retired on 14 March 1837 after 37 years with the Colours (or rather, the Guidon). He married Ann Benson at Marlesford, Suffolk on 6 January 1832, fathering four children sold with copied service papers and clasp confirmation.

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