Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 5th Regiment of Foot (Northumberlands)

By Ray Foster

Facings: Gosling Green
Lace: Silver


2nd August 1808 (Landed at Mondego Bay from Cork)
PUA 990

This battalion was brigaded with 1/9th & 1/38th under Sir Rowland Hill and engaged at Rolica on 17th August losing Major Emes and Lieutenant Doyle and 44 men on the day, so:

17th August 1808 (after the combat at Rolica)
PAB 944

They are not engaged at Vimeiro, eventually going down to Lisbon, awaiting the reorganisation of the army under Moore and then moving off with that Corps they would show;

15th October 1808 (moving off under Moore)
PUA 893

The brigade is re-shaped with the two other Battalion s going elsewhere and now receiving 1/32nd and 1/91st, with the rest of this army they march up to Sahagun and as winter comes upon them they will show,

19th December (at Sahagun)
PUA 833

There is to be yet another rearrangement of Hill's Brigade, this time 1/91st goes and 2nd & 2/14th join, the great retreat to Corunna which follows has the effect of reducing numbers but at the battle of 16th January at and about that place their losses may only have been slight, however, the previous day it had been fatal for their Colonel, McKenzie who was killed whilst under cannon fire. Figures come down to a number, fit or otherwise who eventually were returned to England.

21st January 1809 (at ports in England)
Disembarked 654

It is known that this battalion did service at Walcheren landing over 1000 men on 29th July 1809, it will be almost three years before they recover from that experience sufficiently to come back to the Peninsula.


Landed at Lisbon on 3rd July 1809, we have no figures available at the time but we know that they wasted no time in marching up to Beresford's Corps on the Portuguese border at Zarza la Major, we also know that these were very young lads, totally new to the "game". They are now a part of Beresford's Portuguese/Brititish corps held about the frontier whilst Wellesley was co-operating with Cuesta down at Talavera. They are briefly mentioned as being north of Alcantara in a brigade under Lightburne around mid-August but will merge with the main army after its return from the Guadiana basin becoming attached to 4th Division for a while on 2nd January 1810, but then, as early as 22nd February 1810 are brigaded into 3rd Division , still under Lightburne. Their first figures come to us at the ridge at Busaco so:

27th September 1810 (at Busaco)
PUA 495

Although 3rd Division are heavily engaged in parts on the day we see that 2/5th are only lightly used suffering only eight casualties in the ranks. The army marched off down into the 'Lines about Torres Vedras with 2/5th losing only a handful in that retirement, it would be reasonable to expect numbers on arrival there to be;

1st November (at Torres Vedras, Colville has replaced Lightburne)
PUA 477

It was mid-March 1811 before the army followed up the French retirement out of Portugal during which 3rd Division and Colville's brigade have a little work in the ejection of Ney's men up the country losing as we are told 33 men between 12th March and into April 1811 these would include Lieutenant Clerke who lost a leg at Redinha and also Lieutenant D Johnson, Ensigns St. Clair & Williams wounded in these enemy rearguard actions. With the benefit of hindsight it is expected that they would have had, as they came out of the 'Lines',

11th March 1811 (leaving Torres Vedras)
PUA 510

After the combat at Sabugal when Massena's army finally retired back into Spain we could expect to have seen,

3rd April (after Sabugal)
PAB 477

Less than a month later the battalion was to come up to Fuentes d Onoro and we have firm figures at that time,

1st May (at Fuentes d Onoro)
PUA 504

The battle, which took place on that field on 3rd-5th April affected numbers in 2/5th very little being not closely involved so:

5th May (after Fuentes')
PAB 497

Some four months later the 3rd Division was positioned out in front of the army, which itself was well dispersed over a wide front looking eastward towards Cuidad Rodrigo where Marmont had assembled a large army whose cavalry units on 25th September of 1811 came on in a great mass having only very light numbers of British/KGL cavalry to ward them off. On this day 2/5th stood at

25th September (at El Bodon)
PUA 462

It is a matter of history that 3rd Division was able by some cool but disciplined manoeuvres, [principally attributed to Captain Dubourdieu of 2/5th who was able to wheel back his company of Grenadiers to protect the Battalion flank when attacked by the enemy cavalry] to extricate themselves from a rather compromised situation and fall back to safety without suffering, in the case of 2/5th any more than 19 men lost, Captain Ramus being amongst the wounded here.

25th September (after the combat at El Bodon)
PAB 443

As the war went into 1812, Colville had left the brigade to take over 4th Division and J Campbell got the job, almost immediately 3rd Division, were employed on the work of putting Cuidad Rodrigo under siege this task bringing the Battalion under fire from the defenders. Lieutenant J Pennington and Ensign Ayshford and Major Grey all being injured hereabouts [the latter on two occasions] along with a number of the humble trench diggers, all progressing until 19th January 1812 when the battalion, led by its Major Ridge found themselves a little to the flank of the main breach assault gaining the inner walls then coming in on the side of this breach. On the lip they were caught in a deadly crossfire of canister and if that was not enough, ran into an exploding mine. Captain McDougal is killed, Captain Dubourdieu has an arm shot off, Lieutenants D Johnson, Mackenzie, and Wylde are severely wounded whilst Ensign Canch [carrying the Colours] Lieutenants Fairtlough & Fitzgerald are lucky to be only slightly injured, in all the battalion would lose 94 men during the storm, with those others lost during the weeks of trench work it is more than likely that when all was over they would be down to;

19th January 1812 (after the storm of Cuidad Rodrigo)
PAB 323

The early days of this year were to involve the battalion in a good deal more activity, not bad when it is remembered that these young lads had started their war as virtual amateurs! So it is then that they were to be found before the walls of that fortress at Badajoz in late March, it can be expected that their numbers have risen slightly as men returned from earlier injuries and sickness. Campbell has the brigade doing their share of the usual digging and trench guard work until the night of the storm of that place, it can be estimated that at that time they might number;

6th April (at the storm of Badajoz)
PUA 340

Once more Major Ridge leads on the battalion, this time first up onto the walls of the castle after others had been forced back. Major Ridge in being so forward was shot and killed but of the battalion itself 43 men were brought down in an assault infamous in its destructive after-effects, Lieutenant Fairtlough had been killed some days earlier as a natural hazard of trench duty, amongst the tally on the night to make up the numbers was, Lieutenant Sedgwick killed, Captain s Bennett & Doyle, Lieutenant J Pennington, & Ensigns Canch and Hopkins all wounded, so:

6th April 1812 (after Badajoz)
PAB 297


During May 1812 the 1st Battalion of the regiment returns from England. Landing at Lisbon they contain in the ranks many men who are still of a sickly constitution, however they make ready to take the field in reasonable time and are to be seen coming up to the army and in 3rd Division by 1st June 1812. This battalion is at least very strong for numbers,it brings to the army prior to the battle at the Arapiles no less than;

15th July (about Salamanca)
PUA 902

At the battle on the Arapiles on 21st July the two battalions of 5th Regt' although a part of the same brigade, still in the hands of J Campbell, acted somewhat apart, 2/5th were not heavily engaged as their casualty count of 24 killed and wounded shows, with Lieutenants Hilliard & O'Dell as a part of the wounded. Not so 1/5th, their war in the Peninsula begins again with them facing a vigorous charge of cavalry from which they flinch until their temporary Division Commander Edward Packenham quietly requests them to close up their formation and take it to the enemy. This they eventually do but on the day were to lose 10 men killed and, out of no less than 116 others wounded came Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Bird, Captain s Murray & Simcockes, Lieutenants Gunn & Macpherson and Ensigns Hamilton & Pratt, so much for taking it to the enemy;

21st July (after the fight on the Arapiles)

1/5th Regiment PAB 776
2/5th Regiment PAB 284

Only a week later these two battalions were officially drafted together, 2nd Battalion s men continuing to act autonomously with 1st Battalion for another two months before the residue of officers and those men who would be required to recruit back in England, plus to be sure those others who had already been found to be unable to stand the rigours of campaigning went off down to Lisbon and home. In the meantime 1/2/5th were to go in company with Clinton's 6th Division up to the Douro while the rest of the Division went down to Madrid. When Wellington returned up north in his attempt to take Burgos we see 1/2/5th going down country to Madrid, all of this in recognition of the still very sickly state of 1st Battalion . So it is that when the overall retirement of the army back onto the old Arapiles position takes place the now re-constituted 1/5th will fall back as a part of Hill's corps and like so many others suffer considerable losses from attrition, this continues as the army falls back all the way to the Portuguese border. Figures for individual battalions are impossible to find during all of this, we only have those for brigades even when the army has settled itself back around Cuidad Rodrigo. The most generous estimate shows them to stand no better than;

29th November (at Cuidad Rodrigo)
PUA 750

The winter and spring of 1813 allows all of the army to have a respite and recover some of their losses, when next we see figures for 1/5th they will still be a part of 3rd Division 2nd Brigade but unlike so many others will have gone down to a very low number;

26th April 1813 (cantoned in Portugal)
PUA 537

During the next two months it comes about that the “organization” is able to redress the problem so that somewhat reinforced they will be all set to begin the march north which culminates in the battle at Vittoria and of course the expulsion of Joseph's army out of Spain. Once again these are Brigade figures but it is possible to estimate that the battalion will have no less than;

25th May 1813 (on the march out of Portugal)
PUA 715

A little under a month later they are to be found on the banks of the Zaddora river below the city of Vittoria, it is getting late and Picton has made his pronouncement as to the dilatory efforts of Dalhousie’s 7th Division and moves across the water by a ford to the left of the bridge of Mendoza. At the village of Margarita 1/5th come up against stern resistance getting into a torrid musket dual where we can expect that Captain Adams and Ensign Bolton are killed, likewise Lieutenant Higgins and Volunteer Rees are mortally wounded and Captain Bateman and Lieutenants Galbraith, Bird & Welsh join the swelling list of killed & wounded, all of which holds them down until others beat back the opposition, regrouping they advance some great distance as the enemy falls into disorder eventually abandoning the field to the victors. We are not told how much involved the battalion was in the great looting which followed but must observe that this is after all the 3rd Division!

21st June 1813 (after Vittoria)
PAB 548

There is to be no great amount of rest for 3rd Division after the battle, Clausel’s Corps is known to be on the loose to the east so that large parts of the army are sent hither and thither up into the region towards Pamplona, the enemy escapes but when all dies down 1/5th with Colville's Brigade and the Division will be found amongst those troops blockading that fortress city. For most of July they remain in this area only moving up to a hill defensive position some five miles north of Pamplona as Marshal Soult the new overall commander of the French in that theatre returns on the offensive at the end of the month. On 30th July the 3rd Division stands well to the right of the British line opposing the highly mobile General Foy, they are on the ground of the battle of Sorauren (on its second day), of fighting they see nothing themselves, their numbers are not recorded even but, having had a few weeks of rest since Vittoria may be on the mend already.

When Soults men are put to flight in the fighting elsewhere, Picton's men have the task of pushing forward to test Foy. As we know that General has the uncanny knack of knowing when to make himself scarce if given the space. He makes his own space to the rear and a run for it, so well that not even his own masters are aware of his destination. The outcome of all of this is that 1/5th and their comrades go chasing into thin air only to pull up at the rim of the Pass of Roncesvalles where yet again they will take a rest. Colville leaves the Brigade and Keane steps in on 8th August while the Division will take up a position at the Pass of Maya.

We hear nothing more of them until early October when another move sees them at Zagaramurdi, by now their numbers will have increased very well but it is only when the CIC decides to mount an attack along the line of the Nivelle a month later that solid figures are presented;

10th November (on the Nivelle)
PUA 704

Keane's Brigade are put in motion early, their objective a group of earthworks north-east of Sare. 1/5th is well to the fore covered initially by the brigade skirmishers, the enemy have erected timber barricades from which they are only ejected after a fierce tussle, however once resistance here is broken the brigade is able to keep going until it takes possession of the works at the bridge at Amotz. This is the first of many break-throughs that day performed by others, 1/5th will record 130 men killed, wounded or missing/prisoner, Captain Clarke & Lieutenant Bird amongst the wounded.

10th November (at the bridge of Amotz)
PAB 574

In the winter of 1813-14 Keane's Brigade will be subjected to a good deal of marching in cold rain and sleet, with lots of icy mud underfoot. 3rd Division seems to be somewhat to the rear when things get under way for the battles of the Nive in December, we are told that the army had a period of cantonment after all of the fighting subsided so, it will be only as the New year begins that we shall see sure figures, so:

16th January 1814 (cantoned about the Nive valley)
PUA 673

By 24th February 1814 1/5th with its companions will be seen on the move against the enemy, they have moved some 50mls to the east on the river Gave. 1/5th Light company and its other Light companies of the Brigade have been sent forward to cross this river at a ford above the bridge on the road to Orthez, having waded over to the enemy bank they have to climb a hill along a narrow way, 1/5th Lieutenant seem to have been at the head because, when the little group reach open ground they are greeted by a fusillade and charge of bayonets from a previously hidden but well formed enemy regiment, for 1/5th this comes down to losing Lieutenant Hopkins killed and Captain Cully & Lieutenant R Pennington amongst 34 men wounded from a corps of perhaps no more than 50 or so men. The general action of Orthez takes place only three days later so that it is as well to show the strength of the battalion on 24th February before this unfortunate combat took place, numbers had for some unknown reason fallen away sharply, however at this time;

24th February 1814 (at the river Gave crossing)
PUA 552

At Orthez the Brigade Light companies, or what is left of them go forward along a hill spur until the well placed enemy and its attendant artillery make matters uncomfortable, Keane's men can only come on in a narrow formation of columns which of course, any Frenchman would tell them was very destructive. The task proves beyond overcoming for several hours each side mounting little attacks that come to nought until a concerted effort at many other points forces the issue. Casualties for the two separate days only come to 74, it can be easily seen that the Light company will be down below operational strength by this;

27th February (after the battle at Orthez)
PAB 512

Figures which come to us only at Divisional level suggest that by the time that 1/5th come up to their allotted space in line at Toulouse six weeks later they will be short by a further 35 or so men. When the numbers for the rest of the Divisions which fought here are examined this loss is not to be seen as unusual, communication lines by now were very long, the weather cold and wet and with an enemy who had moved off at great speed into Toulouse the reading of this part of Wellington's army progress is not comforting stuff. Suffice it to say that on the day of the battle for Toulouse 1/5th were so little engaged as to only be reduced by three men it is best to show their PAB figures, the last we shall see;

10th April 1814 (after the battle at Toulouse)
PAB 474

There will be many a good man lying in hospitals to be picked up on the return march westwards to the Biscay coast and adventures in another field.

PS; Known in the army of the time as Wellington’s Bodyguard, the Northumberlands, had a varied record according to the blending of those young lads of 2nd Battalion who became such tough veterans with the sickly 1st Battalion after their return from Walcheren. Being a part of Picton’s 3rd Division , the largest for brigade numbers amongst 2/83rd, 2/87th and 94th battalions, would by the end have all come up to the standard of the best, real fighters, but look out for the sudden changes of numbers Present Under Arms.

This Regiment was not present at Waterloo.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2009

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