Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 89th Regiment of Foot

By Ray Foster                                                                                                                                                            

 

Facings: Black                                                                  
Lace: Gold

2/89th

13th October 1810 Landed at Fuengirola                                                                                            
No figures given

This battalion was doomed to be led by its Colonel the rather less than heroic Major General Andrew Lord Blayney on an amphibious adventure on the Mediterranean south coast of Spain about the same time as Wellington was bringing his army down country to rest within the Lines of Torres Vedras in Portugal.

It was a part of an adventurous strategy adopted by the then Governor of Gibraltar, General Colin Campbell in concert with British Admiral Penrose to embarrass the enemy garrison of Malaga and gain some assistance from the Spanish force under General Valdemoro about Ronda in their efforts to draw out the garrison there under General Horace Sebastiani and so take this much prized city if only for a short time. Unfortunately the embarrassment rebounded, it required some exceptional skill in co-ordinating a properly conducted attack using land based disparate units scattered over many miles and well-timed rapid amphibious expertise for any chance of success.

Blayney's force which consisted of four companies of his own Regiment, 2/89th, a number of artillery pieces [variously mentioned as a 25lber and a number of 12lbers], ammunition and gunners, a Spanish infantry battalion [the Imperial de Toledo] and a unit of  French army deserters left Cueta on the Moroccan side of the Gibraltar Straits under Captain Hope of HMS Topaz with HMS Sparrowhawk, several gunboats, brigs and transports and appears to have landed about 20mls from Malaga on an undefended beach at Fuengirola.

The very next day [there is some confusion here as to it being the same day or not, some accounts only say 14th October others immediately upon landing] rather than making warlike demonstrations and being ready to re-embark at short notice Blayney sets about putting this tiny place, held by a company of Polish infantrymen of 4th Infantry Duchy of Warsaw under a formal siege not however putting out piquets or dispatching patrols to feel out the surrounding countryside for any sign of an enemy, rather ridiculous when one considers that his task was to draw this enemy away from Malaga a mere 20 miles along the coast towards him!

As it transpired 2/89th has its 4 companies of men engaged principally in assisting the artillerymen in a bombardment of this insignificant fort when the whole exercise starts to fall apart in disarray.

It seems that much distortion of the truth of matters hereabouts now occurs, we are expected to believe that lingering ashore with no defensive cordon whilst "playing soldiers" Blayney is approached by units of the very enemy that his presence is designed to attract to his direction, however, being of very poor sight himself his Lordship canters up to this body of men, supposing them to be units of friendly Spaniards, he is taken prisoner of course leaving his unsuspecting charges to fend for themselves.

Not at all the case!

In reality that tiny Polish garrison commanded by its Captain Franciszek Mlokosiewicz once under attack has already been quite active, a British 74 gun battleship HMS Rodney arriving with 1/82nd Regiment of Foot in tow has also been plying the Fuengirola fort with shot so that the garrison really had to get pro-active or surrender. 

A little way further along the coast another similar fort has men of the same nation in similar numbers these come forward to co-ordinate a sortie on Blayney’s men and especially on those protecting the guns. They are even able to gather to them a handful of mounted French dragoons, this initiative works so well that for a while the battery is overcome and even used against this warship and other vessels so effectively [sinking one of the gunboats] as to force it to retire out of range, unacceptable of course. A counter-fight ensues around these artillery pieces with confusion all about, the Poles go at it with desperate courage driving off all resistance, so much so that the gallant Blayney himself who certainly knows who is enemy and who is friend by now gets injured, knocked down and captured while all the various elements of his force take discretion rather than valour and rush off for the boats.

Of the 350 officers and men of 4 companies of 2/89th ashore who had been earlier assisting the artillery taking pot-shots at the Fort of Fuengirola no less than 240 were captured or shot down in a fighting melee that became a hurried retirement towards the beach, Ensign/Adjutant George Hopper leader of the Light company being amongst the wounded “left for dead” as he so colourfully explains to become one of these prisoners.

It is also the case that Sebastiani’s men only appeared on the scene the next day, the 16th October so that Blayney’s surrender was to Mlokosiewicz himself who received the French Legion of Honneur for his valiant efforts at Fuengirola on 15th October 1810.

There is no record of 2/89th being engaged in the theatre elsewhere during the Peninsular War so we must leave them to rue their own lack of a "battle honour" and pass from our view.

Neither was this battalion present at Waterloo

It is the case however that 2/89th still under Blayney did go to take part in the Niagara campaign in Canada during 1814 where we learn that ‘now Lieutenant/Adjutant’ George Hopper received multiple wounds on 25th July at Lundys Lane whilst serving with that battalion in that role. Both of these officers here mentioned were only released from French imprisonment at the fall of the ‘Empire’ but the battalion, re-constituted was certainly at Niagara to do its duty 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2010

 

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