Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 2nd Regiment of Foot (Queens Royal)     

By Ray Foster

Facings: Dark Blue 
Lace: Silver

This was a single battalion Regiment                                                                                                                                                                                     

Landed at Maceira Bay under Acland 20th August 1808 from Harwich                                                     
PUA 731                                                                                                                                                                                        

This battalion is not engaged at the battle of Vimeiro but when Moore arrives will go down to Lisbon as the negotiations of Cintra are being transacted. When Moore has brought together a force able to act in the field we see this unit going with Sir John Hope first of all to the frontier fortress of Badajoz via Elvas. They have already shed a number of the less able and no doubt others who are seemingly always able to find a task 'back at base', so:

15th October (at Badajoz)                                                                                                                                   
PUA 666                                                  

This early army, having little or no good knowledge of the country through which they were to be travelling was to send off its artillery and heavy equipment by a circuitous route via Badajoz in order to reach Salamanca and rejoin the main force there, 2nd was a part of the escort which accompanied this detachment arriving there yet again a little lighter in number;

19th December (at Salamanca)                                                                                                                          
PUA 616                                       

Winter is already upon the army and after some indecision on Moore's part they take a lunge forward at Soult's corps in the north east then, a rapid defensive leap back as Napoleon himself takes a sudden interest in this new British force. The whole exercise turns into a dismal retreat with Moore, rather than chance a risky defensive action at any strong terrain decides on a march to Corunna all, of course, in the dead of winter, and an embarkation to friendly shores.

2nd are to be found in 2nd Division under Sir John Hope and with Rowland Hill's 2nd Brigade.  We discover that this brigade was little used on 16th January 1809 when the army was forced to turn to face the enemy at Corunna and fight a general action.

It remains to observe that amongst the men put aboard the transports would be an unknown number of sick, injured and the fit men, these all, when landed back in England would number;

21st-22nd January 1809 (at ports in England)   Disembarked 461                    

The tale of woe continues as 2nd are a part of that force sent from England to the lowlands at Walcheren during the summer of 1809. It is only our concern to know that the survivors of this sorry expedition who returned to the Peninsula would carry with them for many a long day the malignant fevers of that place.

On 5th March 1811 the battalion returns to Lisbon, it is brought into marching order there then brigaded with 1/36th under Colonel Burne of that battalion as a part of a new Division having been formed under A Campbell. First figures are only available as the Division comes up to the Fuentes d Onoro position, it is;

1st May 1811 (at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                                                  
PUA 558                                                                                                                                                                            

This brigade of 6th Division has little to do on the two days of battle and we can only expect that they would quietly go about their business until we see them once more, this time at a strong defensive position about Fuente Guinaldo close to the border;

15th September 1811 (at Fuente Guinaldo)                                                                                                    
PUA 543                                    

They are not engaged in any of the combats that have already occurred in the run up to this time and are able to march off eventually to winter quarters.  Going into 1812 the 6th Division, will lose Campbell who takes a post in India, Burne steps in for a short period and then Henry Clinton gets the job. When Wellington starts his offensive against the two border fortresses of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz he sends Graham down into Estremadura with a strong field force, amongst which we shall see 2nd Foot.  It is all marching and countermarching until Badajoz has fallen, going as far afield as the Sierra Morena in the direction of Cordova and only back to the main army after 6th April, very worn and weary.  It will be full summer before we see 2nd in action against the enemy, and if we study the foregoing it will be almost a first for these men!  The army has confronted Marmont's men and already done a fair amount of marching, we find 2nd Regiment' in front of the Forts by Salamanca where the Light companyis used in an action to take one of these fortifications, so:

23rd June 1812 (at San Cayatano Fort)                                                                                                             
PUA 430                                 

The company lose 17 men this day, and its full complement of officers, Captain Colquhoun and Lieutenant  Mathews are killed and its Ensign  Garrett is wounded, quite a sad loss from a companyof such small number to begin with.  Worse is yet to come!

Both contending armies have a long period of march and countermarch with little effect until on 22nd July the French Marshal Marmont quite late in the day makes a fatal error of judgment bringing on a battle at and about the hills known as the Arapiles to the south of Salamanca.

Clinton's 6th Division is kept in reserve for the first phases of the clash and it is only when Clausel is seen to be making a bid for a tactical advantage, breaking the line where 4th Division and Pack's Portuguese had been involved in some furious action that Wellington called them up. Hinde of 1/32nd has the brigade that day driving forward and pushing Clausel's men back onto a defensive line held by Ferey Division.  Clinton's advance has already been a bloody affair but when the 6th Division are brought up to meet this last defence they are treated to a veritable sheet of flame and fire, complete with lead and iron, of course. As dusk approaches the enemy is painfully driven back into a wooded area, outflanked and is forced to give back until the whole thing peters out.  The 6th Division is a shattered remnant of its former self, one could almost say that 2nd Regiment had been lucky!

Lieutenant Colonel Kingsbury has been un-horsed and wounded as have Major Graham, Captain Scott & Lieutenants Gordon, Hudson, and Williams. Ensign Dinwoody is dead as are thirteen of the ranks, and another eighty-nine wounded.  After it was all over and heads were counted they would stand at:

22nd July (at the Arapiles)                                                                                                                                   
PAB 299                                                                                            

When the army sets off down to occupy Madrid Clinton and his men are left behind to gather themselves together but to follow the defeated enemy slowly up country as far as the Douro at and about Cuellar. They have a month or so to make some sort of a recovery before Wellington returns with a medium force taking all up to the northeast where Clausel has retreated to Burgos. Having left a garrison in the castle there it becomes necessary for the army to put the place under siege and attempt to take it.

Not so simple as it turns out, Clinton's men are set to provide a part of the containing force around the far perimeter holding back any possible incursions. The various attempts to storm the place are all defeated in their turn and Wellington is finally compelled to give up the game as strong forces are massed against him, off they go on yet another miserable retreat.  It is only possible to discover figures treating this period by Divisions and only when the whole army has returned to the border about Cuidad Rodrigo.

It seems that 2nd Regiment may have done much better than some and received returnees from sickness and convalescence because after all of the well recorded horrors of this retreat the figures suggest that they will have no less than;

29th November 1812 (at Cuidad Rodrigo)                                                                                                      
PUA 315                                 

These are the last figures we shall see for this single battalion regiment.  Wellington had for some time been resisting the calls from his masters in England to send home those units which had fallen to unsustainable numbers, his argument stood on his opinion that just one of these depleted units was far better able to manage itself in the field than a host of 'new' battalions most of which bore the malarial fevers previously mentioned and to make matters worse were slow to understand that an army led by Wellington was like no other and certainly life in the Peninsula was unique also.  He had limited success in his protests, suffice it to say however that 2nd Regiment  although down past its viable numbers was retained. On 6th December 1812 2nd Regiment' was joined with 2/53rd, another survivor of Ferey’s “last stand” and became 2nd Provisional’s to join 4th Division where we shall find them in their own good time under this new title.

Note: This Royal titled Regiment being without a 2nd Battalion to fall back on for replacements was a classic example of the faults inherent in that form of organization. It is significant that the CIC held on to these men to the end, being deemed to be of good veteran status however, it is noticeable going through their experiences after being amalgamated with 2/53rd that they supplied very few reinforcements to 2nd Provisional Battalion’s figures. Average again one would say.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2009


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