Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 30th Regiment of Foot (The Cambridgeshire’s)      

By Ray Foster

Facings: Pale Yellow                                                  


5th April 1809 (landed at Lisbon) 
PUA 698

This was one of those 2nd battalions quickly assembled and sent out to the Peninsula to fill that gap left by Moore's departure. In consequence of their perceived "irregularity" they were soon sent off by sea transport down to Gibraltar, however it is not long before they move again, this time to Cadiz where yet again they are not seen to be needed and after all of this return to Lisbon by October of 1810, their numbers are estimated at:

6th October 1810 (at the lines of Torres Vedras)                                                                                             
PUA 635

When the army stirs itself into action coming out of the lines 2/30th can be seen as a part of a brigade under Colonel Charles Egerton of 2/44th and, when they are up in the line at Fuentes d Onoro in May will show;

1st May 1811 (at Fuentes d Onoro)                                                                                                      
PUA 507

Being a part of 5th Division under Major General James Dunlop there is very little work for them in the two days of battle ahead losing but 4 men on 5th May. This then is a much unseasoned unit even so late in proceedings, there is to be a continuation of that disturbing slide down in numbers during their stay in the Caya valley, a rather malarial area where some battalions had much sickness, 2/30th it seems not to be excepted! By mid-September then:

15th September (at Fuente Guinaldo)                                                                                                                
PUA 388

When the winter comes and the army has some time to rest there is nothing to show that this battalion increases its numbers to any degree, but neither does it go down further either. Missing the siege and storm of Cuidad Rodrigo the Division will come to Badajoz in late March and in early April 2/30th will face its first real taste of full on fighting.

The 5th Division have the task of mounting a secondary attack by escalade on the walls of the San Vincente bastion some way to the left of the main breaches. There have been a few changes in command at both Division level and at Brigade. Major General James Leith now has the Division and Colonel George T Walker of 50th Reg't the Brigade and in they go with their scaling ladders. It is not possible to say by which order the attackers came up onto the top of the walls but, the casualty list as usual tells its own tale, 1/4th their comrades, with 2/44th in the brigade had the greater proportion in this fight the other two having an equal share of the remainder. We are aware that the brigade advanced some way along the walls and were in a confused struggle for a while, Walker was wounded and it was another battalion belonging to Leith's 1st Brigade which saved them on the ramparts after a running fight back towards the San Vincente bastion where their attack had first started. Once the enemy counter-attack had been stopped the whole mass of the British infantry hereabouts swarmed along the ramparts and got down into the town as well, this finished off all resistance within the great fortress and so, Badajoz was won!

When the looting and burning was all over 2/30th would return to order, Major /Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Gray had taken a mortal wound dying the next day, Captains Thomas Chambers, John Hitchen,  Richard Machell, Lieutenants Andrew Baillie, Parke Neville and Ensign John Pratt and 86 of the men had been wounded, 38 killed, a total of 131 casualties:                     

6th April 1812 (after the storm of Badajoz)                                                                                                           
PAB 257

Walker having been badly wounded the Brigade it seems had for a while no commander, so that it is likely that Lieutenant Colonel Francis Brooke of 4th Regiment may have had the work. There was to be a short rest before the army once more took the offensive moving on Marshal Auguste Marmont's army going into the rolling plains about Salamanca, there was a return to the colours of almost 100 men which, for a while ensured that 2/30th might stave off that ever-present threat of being sent down from the army to recruit.

When next they appear Major General William Pringle has the Brigade in hand, they are on the field north of Salamanca and the brigade has had a welcome addition to its ranks, 1/4th has joined, numbers also begin to look a little more promising than three months earlier at:

15th July 1812 (about Salamanca)                                                                                                       
PUA 349

A week later having performed many rapid marches Pringle has his men ready for action by the Arapiles, 2/30th are fortunately in second line which is just as well for this rather fragile battalion. In the great attack and pursuit of the soon to be beaten enemy their casualties are kept down to a minimum at 27, Lieutenant Garvey being counted amongst the wounded, so:

22nd July (after the battle on the Arapiles)                                                                                                       
PAB 322

Having first had a week or two celebrating the great victory down at Madrid 5th Division is called up to go north with Wellington as far as Burgos, the job it appears is to be a part of the screening force about that place while others knock themselves about against its walls. It seems that Lieutenant Neville has offered his services as a siege engineer getting himself badly wounded plying that dangerous trade, this on 4th October. The weather turns nasty morale sinks as all are subjected to a siege operation that turns up nothing but failure the thing being thrown up as the enemy brings down from the north large numbers of troops to threaten the whole enterprise. At Villa Muriel on the Carrion river on 25th October 2/30th are to be seen as a part of the rearguard and roughed up by the enemy for their trouble, they will lose several of their light coy' who are cut off and taken prisoner whilst as many as 50 men are lost this day.  Captain Hitchen, Lieutenants Matthias Andrews, George Brisac and John Rumley, Ensigns Henry Beere, George Modden and Francis Tincombe all being amongst those wounded.

Their misadventures continue as the army is pressed back onto the old positions about the Arapiles, this by 15th November, only to worsen as they retire back into the safety of the Portuguese frontier, no food, shelter or relief from the wintry conditions which have made the roads a quagmire. It is hardly surprising then that when heads are counted back behind the line of the Agueda this 2nd battalion has reduced to:

29th November 1812 (at Cuidad Rodrigo)                                                                                                        
PUA 230

Only a week later they receive into their battalion ranks an even smaller 2nd battalion the 2/44th whose numbers have collapsed dramatically, even when put together it is hard for them to be able to muster more than 350 present under arms!

They now have the title of 4th Provisional Battalion.    Going into winter quarters they, rather than increase their numbers, appear to run down even more so that when the rest of the army is preparing to mount its summer campaign to eject the French out of Spain this tiny unit, (in April they could only show a combined total of 300 PUA) is broken up and sent down from Lamego and by 10th May 1813 is ordered home to recruit thus ending its Peninsula experience.

Note: There is little to be found in praise of the 2nd Cambridgeshire’s, a unit that never had a ‘moment of glory” to take away with it. At Villa Muriel the officers certainly fronted up but it must be said that very few infantry battalions involved in the retreat from Burgos would want to advertise their record during that depressing episode.

This battalion is present at the field of Waterloo with Colin Halkett, they, as La Haye Sainte is lost, stand and fight close to collapse, their near destruction amongst the general confusion, retreat, return and final survival here finds this tiny unfashionable corps no more glory than in its Peninsular days.   


Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2011

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