Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

King George’s Martinien: Losses and Senior Officer Casualties in the British Army 1793 to 1815

By Steve Brown

Aristide Martinien’s “Tableaux par Corps et par Batailles des Officiers tues et blesse pendant les guerres de l'Empire 1805-1815” is considered an indispensible guide to French officer casualties by date and regiment. With the exception of John Hall’s “British Officers Killed and Wounded 1808-1814” no such similarly detailed guide exists (to my knowledge), especially for spheres outside Europe.

Much of the following information has been extracted from statistics published in the London Gazette on a regular basis from 1793 to 1815. This has been supplemented by information from other sources, notable Digby Smith and C.B. Norman. The Gazette provided wonderfully detailed reports, but also had a wonderful way of making disasters sound like strategic withdrawals - with attendant less detail to be found.

This article summarises (as well as is possible) casualties on all major actions involving the British Army during the period that the Victorians called the ‘Great War’. Their grandchildren had forgotten this description by 1914, so used the name to describe a later, but no less wide-ranging conflict. I recall reading somewhere that the British Army lost a higher percentage of men in this conflict (proportional to population) than in 1914-1918. That would only hold true if deaths through sickness were included, which were usually several multiples of battle deaths – especially in the West Indies.

Included within are actions from Mexico to Borneo, Denmark to South Africa; no continent is untouched. I nearly included the Irish Insurrection in New South Wales in 1804; however the troops of the New South Wales Corps involved suffered no casualties.

 Senior officer casualties (Major and above) have been shown. It is worth noting that typically many officers did not report minor wounds, so the totals shown may not always be representative. These figures are at best a snapshot in time, usually taken shortly after an action; missing men could subsequently re-appear, wounded men might die days later. So at best, these figures are all approximation.

Legend:

·       Units that received Battle Honours for the actions listed are shown Bold Underlined.

·       Where actions have alternate titles, these are shown in (BRACKETED CAPITALS).

·       Modern geographic locations, where needed to better illustrate the ebb and flow of a campaign, are shown in (Bracketed Lower Case).

·       Off = Officers. OR = Other Ranks (sergeants, corporals, drummers, privates). Bt = Brevet. AG = Adjutant-General. AAG = Assistant Adjutant-General. AQMG = Assistant Quartermaster-General. Where a number appears in brackets after an officer’s name, it is his regiment (usually for officers on detached or staff duties).

Because this article is concerned with the activities of the British Army on campaign, officers have been shown as their (brevet) army rank rather than regiment rank. Honorific titles (Sir, Hon., Lord, etc.) have been left out purely to save space. For consistency, I have taken the liberty of correcting names in line with the spelling used in Army Lists wherever necessary; likewise, it has been required to occasionally correct rank status as per Army Lists, as the Assistant Adjutant-General’s after-action reports didn’t always get them right.

This is a list of casualties, not an order of battle. Units which were present at an action but suffered no losses may not be shown.

This listing has been confined to those units which were officially part of the British Army and were listed in the annual Army Lists. This in no way belittles the contribution of other allied troops (particularly the many fine Portuguese regiments in the Peninsula, or Indian regiments in the service of the HEIC) but was done in order to focus the study as a companion piece to the British Regiments and The Men Who Led Them series.

For the statistically minded, the following might prove interesting;

INFANTRY REGIMENTS WHICH PARTICIPATED IN MOST ACTIONS


1.         65 - 95th Rifles/Rifle Corps
2.         56 - 60th Rifles/Foot
3.         46 - 1st Royal Scots
4.         39 - 27th Enniskillens & 40th Somersets

5.         37 - 52nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry
6.         34 - 23rd Welsh Fuzileers
7.         33 - 43rd Monmouthshire Light Infantry
8.         31 - 3rd Foot Guards & 5th Northumberland Fusiliers
9.         30 – Coldstream Guards, 42nd Black Watch, 71st Highland Light Infantry & 92nd Highlanders
10.       28 – 88th Connaught Rangers

Honourable Mentions:
28th Gloucestershire (27), 45th Nottinghamshire (26), 7th Royal Fuzileers (26), 9th Norfolks (23), 1st Foot Guards (21).

INFANTRY REGIMENTS WITH MOST BATTLE CASUALTIES IN THE PERIOD (approximate, since some data is incomplete)

1.         2847 - 1st Royal Scots
2.         2758 - 95th Rifles
3.         2208 - 1st Foot Guards
4.         2137 - 27th Enniskillens
5.         1972 - 42nd Black Watch
6.         1886 - 40th Somersets
7.         1722 - 92nd Highlanders
8.         1718 - 3rd Foot Guards
9.         1683 - 71st Highland Light Infantry
10.       1607 – Coldstream Foot Guards

Honourable Mentions:
88th Connaught Rangers (1561), 52nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry (1461).

INFANTRY BATTALIONS WITH MOST LOSSES IN A SINGLE ACTION

1.         643 – 1/3rd Buffs – Albuera, 16 May 1811
2.         546 - 1/93rd Highlanders – New Orleans, 8 January 1815
3.         478 – 1/27th Enniskillens – Waterloo, 18 June 1815
4.         428 – 1/57th Middlesex – Albuera, 16 May 1811
5.         414 – 1/42nd Black Watch – Toulouse, 10 April 1814
6.         403 – 1/92nd Highlanders – Maya, 25 July 1813
7.         383 – 2nd KGL Line – Talavera, 27/28 September 1809
8.         366 – 1/61st South Gloucesters – Salamanca, 22 July 1812
9.         361 – 74th Highlanders – Assaye, 23 September 1803
10.       357 – 1/7th Royal Fuzileers – Albuera, 16 May 1811

This list excludes actions where battalions lost a high percentage of men POW in comparison to overall losses.

CAVALRY REGIMENTS WHICH PARTICIPATED IN MOST ACTIONS


1.         27 – 1st Light Dragoons/Hussars KGL
2.         24 – 11th Light Dragoons & 16th Light Dragoons
3.         23 – 14th Light Dragoons
4.         18 – 15th Light Dragoons/Hussars
5.         15 – 7th Light Dragoons/Hussars

Honourable Mentions:
12th Light Dragoons (13), 18th Light Dragoons/Hussars (13), 4th Dragoons (12)

CAVALRY REGIMENTS WITH MOST BATTLE CASUALTIES IN THE PERIOD (approximate, since some data is incomplete)


1.         336 – 1st Dragoons
2.         330 - 1st Light Dragoons/Hussars KGL
3.         315 – 11th Light Dragoons
4.         296 – 1st Dragoon Guards
5.         287 – 23rd Light Dragoons

Honourable Mentions:

15th Light Dragoons/Hussars (257)
7th Light Dragoons/Hussars (245).

CAVALRY REGIMENTS WITH MOST LOSSES IN A SINGLE ACTION

1.         275 – 1st Dragoon Guards – Waterloo, 18 June 1815
2.         217 – 6th Dragoons - Waterloo, 18 June 1815
3.         207 – 23rd Light Dragoons – Talavera, 28 September 1809
4.         199 – 2nd Dragoons – Waterloo, 18 June 1815
5.         194 – 1st Dragoons – Waterloo, 18 June 1815

ACTIONS WITH HIGHEST LOSSES (KW&M) IN THE PERIOD

1.         8558 – Waterloo, 18 June 1815
2.         5368 – Talavera, 27/28 September 1809
3.         4159 – Albuera, 16 May 1811
4.         3318 – Vittoria, 21 June 1813
5.         3077 – Salamanca, 22 July 1812
6.         3017 - Storm of Badajoz, 6/7 April 1812
7.         2629 – Bergen-Op-Zoom, 9 March 1814 (of which 1709 were POW)
8.         2504 – Quatre Bras, 16 June 1815
9.         2106 – Toulouse, 10 April 1814
10.       2006 – New Orleans, 8 January 1815.

Approximately 45,000 British soldiers died of disease in the West Indies in the period, an average of 2,000 per year – more than all the above battles combined. Over 40,000 men were discharged from the Army as ‘unfit for further service’ due to disease and wounds in 1795 and 1796 alone.

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2010

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