Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 9th Regiment of Foot (East Norfolks)
Landed at Mondego Bay 2nd August 1808 (from Cork)
This battalion is involved early at the combat at Rolica on 17th August losing no less than 72 men that day, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart is dead and Major Molle, Captain Sankey and Lieutenant Nicholls wounded, so:
17th August (after Rolica)
Landed at Maceira Bay 19th August 1808 (from Ramsgate)
Both 1st & 2nd 9th were present at the battle at Vimiero but in different brigades, 1/9th having no casualties that day being with Hill's reserve. 2/9th played only a minor role with Anstruther but did lose Lieutenant Taylor and about 20 men so:
21st August (after Vimiero)
1/9th following this combat are reinforced by another party which during October will see their figures rise by over 180 men, when they become a part of Moore's army to no less than;
15th October (at Lisbon)
Meanwhile 2/9th have been set aside to become a part of General Cradock's little corps given the task of securing the Portuguese frontier fortresses where we shall pick up their adventures in their own good time.
1/9th then will march up to Salamanca with Beresford, there are already signs of a harsh winter to come, having reached that place during November we next see them at Sahagun it is late December and somewhat mysteriously numbers have fallen by no less than 340 men to;
19th December (at Sahagun)
It could be that on 15th October that PUA figure of 945 was overstated, maybe some of these were absent 'on command', however, these numbers are not seen to be made up in the ensuing retreat to Corunna although they do in fact only decrease by a further 34 men as a result of that dismal march. The battalion is one of those turned off down the wrong road at Lugo towards Compostella on 5th January in atrocious weather having to return to resume the right path after a 20 mile detour. Only their doctor is used at the battle at Corunna on 16th January 1809, Assistant Surgeon Fiddes being severely wounded whilst going about his trade, the battalion will land in England thus;
22nd January 1809 (at ports in England) 1/9th
It is no comfort to know that this battalion was to go on the disastrous Walcheren expedition, they will return!
Meanwhile what of 2/9th? Cradock has them on the march up to Almeida via Abrantes early in 1809, they cannot have remained there too long however because they are called back to Lisbon and sent off down to Cadiz with two other battalions as a part of a civil authority initiative. The Spanish at Cadiz refuse to allow this little brigade to land so off they go again back to Lisbon during March 1809 nicely in time to be there when Wellesley lands. That General soon puts together an army to go north intent on running at Soult and his men at Oporto. On 3rd May then we see 2/9th brigaded under Cameron off on a campaign, its first since Vimiero, they have with the colours;
3rd May 1809 (at Lisbon)
It is not revealed just how long 2/9th stayed with this army, we are told that by the end of May off they went down to Lisbon and by transport to Gibraltar this time, certainly they had not had enough chance to actually meet the enemy face to face, we shall not see them again in Portugal but, will in less than two years see at least a few of them, and heroically too elsewhere.
1/9th have survived the malarial swamps at Walcheren to return to Lisbon arriving there by 31st March 1810, they are shipped up the Tagus to Thomar then march up to Abrantes having been first gazetted as a part of a 2nd Division brigade, this is rapidly changed during August and eventually settles under Leith as a part of 1st Brigade 5th Division , our first sight of them is on the ridge at Busaco;
27th September 1810 (at Busaco)
With losses on the day at just 24 men and Lieutenant Lindsay having an arm shot off;
27th September (after Busaco)
Having retired back to the lines at Torres Vedras they will pick up some of their sick returnees and:
1st November (at Torres Vedras)
In order to keep the regimental history in chronological order we must now return to the fortunes of 2/9th who stay at Gibraltar until late February 1811 when their two flank companies and a number of centre company volunteers, (or picked men) are lent to General Graham who is to mount an attack on Victor's force at and about Cadiz. In company with a seaborne corps from the Cadiz garrison they land by Tarifa and make slow progress along with La Pena's Spaniards to Barrosa where they are caught in an ambush due to some sloppy scouting. Having been collected into a battalion of flank companies under Colonel Browne they are sent on a backtracking suicide mission to force back the French who have just secured the high ground to the rear. It is an almost impossible job, uphill in a scattered thin line against formed columns advancing down upon them. The enemy make the fatal error of pausing to get off a telling volley, they get one in return that is much more telling, the odds however are far too much against this form of combat being able to be sustained. It is only possible to get at the casualties suffered in this unequal contest by assessing them through the collective 44% rate, which they received before reinforcements, came to their aid.
I have estimated that of a presence on the day at:
5th March 1811 (at Barrosa)
2/9th [flank companies]
They would lose no less than 78 men, certainly Captain Godwin lost a hand and Lieutenant Seward in charge of the light company up there with Browne was severely injured as was Lieutenant Taylor and Lieutenant Robertson a little less so,
5th March 1811 (after Barrosa)
2/9th [flank companies]
This battalion is not seen again other than to see its remnants return to Gibraltar. It can be expected that when these men re-assembled at Gibraltar the battalion would struggle to maintain figures up to 600, any potential excess would go towards the 1st battalion.
The battalion is able to winter over in comparative comfort, it is now a part of 5th Division where it will remain for all of its service in this war, it is brigaded with 3/1st and 38th Regiments who will also stick together throughout. Together they arrive at the field of Fuentes d Onoro and will stand at:
1st May 1811 (at Fuentes d Onoro)
Casualties over the two-day combat are only 4 men and it is four months before we again see them standing to arms with a head count;
15th September (at Fuente Guinaldo)
The army falls back into its Portuguese border cantonments for the early winter period and when other divisions are called upon to put under siege, and to storm the fortresses of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz 1/9th remains untouched, so that when Leith takes them up to the great Salamanca "marching contest" we can expect to see;
15th July 1812 (about Salamanca)
On the day of the battle at the Arapiles the Brigade is led by Colonel Greville of 38th Regiment, Andrew Hay their designated Brigadier being absent, 1/9th are in first line alongside 3/1st and, by a lucky chance of war are only moderately hit by the incoming cannon-fire as the Division gets the order to attack. As they come to closer quarters the enemy musketry thins the line as is to be expected but it is soon the case that this enemy before them will be driven off, and finally rout back as the action becomes general.
The battalion this day will count only 3 men killed but a further 43 wounded of which, Lieutenant Ackland, Volunteer Perry and the redoubtable Assistant Surgeon Fiddes, so:
22nd July (after the Arapiles)
Both Leith and Greville having been wounded at the Arapiles the Division and the Brigade are temporarily held by Hulse from 6th Division as they march off down to Madrid for a little R&R, this is not for very long, Wellington decides to split his army which results in 5th Division marching yet again this time all the way up north to Burgos. This is a very sad little venture on Wellington's part, a total failure militarily and, as it turned out, not a great boost for morale either. Hulse' men are only used for screening off the siege area excepting that Lieutenant Dumaresq and Captain Kenny volunteer for more active duty at the siege, Kenny is mortally wounded and Dumaresq seriously, Hulse takes ill and dies so that at Brigade level Colonel JS Barnes of 3/1st does the work.
When the CIC decides on a retreat in late October all fall back going south by west until we see the Lieutenant company ' of 1/9th caught in an action at Villa Muriel, they are out skirmishing as a part of the rearguard when they become outflanked by a unit of French cavalry who sweep them up taking Lieutenant Whitley and another 33 of them prisoner. There were appreciable casualties here Captain Ackland, Lieutenants Curzon, Ford, Taylor and Ross-Lewin all wounded but, since the whole army was on retreat and there were to be many more losses by attrition alone to add to the score it will be best to put the lot together when they reach a safe haven in Portugal. The story is well told elsewhere as to the trials of this retreat, foul weather, non-existent commissariat, mud and mire everywhere but, at last the army is back behind the Agueda and numbers are counted. Estimating from some very garbled returns it can be expected that 1/9th would look no better than;
29th November (behind the Agueda)
The winter of 1812/13 leaves both sides in the Peninsula on the defensive, Wellington has the task of re-constituting his much depleted, battered and worn army by the inclusion of large drafts and hospital returnees who, by early spring of 1813 more than re-fill the ranks, the enemy are brought to the understanding that nothing more is to be forthcoming from France since the destruction of the Grande Armee in Russia. Figures come to us [SD] during this recovery period so:
26th April 1813 (cantoned in Portugal)
So it is then that as the early green feed begins to cover the ground the offensive falls to the British and their Allies in the shape of a great sweeping march north all the way up to the banks of the Zadorra River by Vittoria. Andrew Hay has returned to command the Brigade, it is late June already and, as a part of Graham's Corps the Division is well north by the bridge at Gamorra Mayor.
1/9th are in very strong number but not heavily engaged, it can only be surmised that their part would be played out by the light company ' skirmishing along the banks of the river and any further damage caused by stray passing cannonballs which perhaps found Ass'Surg'Fiddes, once again wounded in the field.
21st June 1813 (at Vittoria)
21st June 1813 (after the battle)
When the dust has settled, and after a short rest 5th Division is sent up the Grande Chaussee following others whose job was to evict Foy's Division and other remnants of King Joseph's army out of the country; all went well enough until the fortress town of San Sebasti an was reached. This strongly held bastion stands on a short spit of land jutting out into the sea, approachable only from a narrow low lying stretch of land, it showed all the signs of being a tough nut to crack and so it turned out!
By 17th July sufficient battering had taken place for a dash to be made at the outworks of San Bartolome, Lieutenant Robertson had already died of a mortal wound the previous day but Brigadier Hay gets six companies of 'volunteers' from 1/9th to lead off the rush, the job is so well done that, having ejected the little garrison they push on to the suburbs of San Martin where they are checked, it is likely that it is here that Lieutenant Ruse was injured and Lieutenant Thornton killed so:
17th July (at San Sebastian)
17th July (after the assault at San Bartolome)
Having cleared the way by this for serious battering work to go ahead it is only a week or so later that an assault on the walls is planned. Not very well though, it seems. Hay's Brigade are to be in the lead but on this occasion it will be their comrades 3/1st who feel the brunt with 1/38th in close support. It does seem that 1/9th have received a small reinforcement by some means just prior to this event, no matter the approach run is a murderous affair, 1/9th only being able to get forward by a narrow access pathway threading over and through seaweed strewn rocks and deep pools, they cannot properly support the attack in any great number so that the whole thing fizzles out as the leaders are shot to pieces.
As late arrivals the loss to 1/9th is minimal, 25 men killed and wounded, although amongst these is Captain Woodham dead’ Lieutenant Campbell severely wounded and Captain Jervoise slightly and dawn is only just breaking!
25th July (after the first assault at San Sebastian)
In the small hours of 27th July an amphibious landing is made on Santa Clara Isle in the southern harbour of San Sebastian capturing that tiny rock and its garrison, amongst the attackers a fragment from 1/9th, Lieutenant Chadwick is mortally wounded here and Captain Cameron takes a severe wound also, we are not told how many others of this doughty band belonged to 1/9th nor their casualty list.
A full month passes by before the walls are to be attacked again, the officers of 5th Division being adamant that this is 'their job' and so, it is. It is the last day of August and, for quite a number of 5th Division members, their last ever! Here we are then, the same breaches in the same walls to be attacked again in the same way. The 5th Division has two chiefs, Oswald who was commanding until only two days earlier has been superseded by Leith, just returned from England recovered from his Arapiles wounds. Oswald volunteers his services and is accepted on board, Andrew Hay has the Brigade, which is held back in reserve to be fed in as required. The previous narrow path is no longer a problem a restricting seawall having been blasted away some days earlier.
At about 11am it all begins, others leading out until virtually all the reserves are 'used up' a nice military term for killed and wounded, , by this time Oswald has been carried to the rear with a wound to the face, Leith is soldiering on with a similar injury and the fierce contest has come down to who can stand it longest. Graham is credited with allowing the artillerymen to re-open fire, this time at the tops of the curtain walls crushing any sharpshooters game enough to stay exposed, it seems to do the trick insofar as to make the defenders more cautious so that when Hay leads out the remaining wing of the 1/9th into the body-strewn upper breaches they are able to carry the assault over the last points of resistance into the town itself.
It will be here that 1/9th collects its heaviest casualties, Leith has sustained a multiple fracture to an arm from shell splinters, Lieutenant Colonel Craufurd is killed as are Lieutenants Fraser and Ross-Lewin with Ensign Morrant, Captain Ferrars, Lieutenants Ogle and Shelton severely wounded and Lieutenant Colonel Cameron and Lieutenants Dale and Macadam also brought down. The role of 1/9th appears to have been that of making the last breakthrough followed by one of those victorious chase-and-fight-and-chase-again combats, not without further loss however. On the day they have 51 men killed outright and 115 injured whilst it is left to Andrew Hay to make what he can of the chaos in the town, he being the most senior officer still standing. It is not a pretty sight, fires are raging almost everywhere, of his own troops it appears that 1/9th kept some semblance of order whilst hell had broken loose all about them, so that by the next day they will still show respectable numbers at:
1st September 1813 (after the second assault at San
There follows a period of recovery time at the seacoast end of Wellington's line whereby 1/9th, and others will receive a few returnees and perhaps small drafts.
It is to be at the crossing of the Bidassoa a week into October when next we see 1/9th in action, Hay has taken over the Division in the absence of the two incumbents so that Greville of 38th has the Brigade, we are told that on the day of the crossing 1/9th are led by their recovered Colonel , yet another Cameron, their regular leader Lieutenant Colonel Craufurd now dead. Numbers on this attack are not given but, they may well have risen to well over 600 so:
7th October (crossing the Bidassoa)
5th Division are to cross well downstream as the left flank attack, the river is low and fords well known, the enemy at the other side is poorly distributed and their pickets somewhat slack, Greville's men are across in no time without a hand laid on them and proceed forwards pushing away the weak opposition, 1/9th are able to advance well over a mile through a 'soft spot' until they reach the Cafe Republicain where an enemy battalion holds them up only briefly before once more going ahead into the rear/flank of a larger unit being hustled back by 1st Division . There is serious work to be done at the Croix de Bouquets where most of the casualties this day would be incurred. Attacking entrenched positions the losses for the day will be brought up to 8 men killed and 74 wounded of which latter were Captain Jervoise, Lieutenants Brookes, Campbell, Dale, Le Mesurier, Macadam Sheppard and Sterling with Ensign Nash.
Interestingly the majority of these officers had been hit in the legs! Having taken this last position they are ordered to stand down, having achieved all that had been asked of them:
7th October (at Croix de Bouquets)
Some ten days later there is a shuffling of battalions to strengthen 5th Division after its San Sebastian losses, 2/47th a unit originally brought up from Cadiz by Skerrett is shifted out of 2nd Brigade into Greville's Brigade , then for the first time in many months we are treated to solid figures by battalion.
It is at the battles at the Nivelle in November and yet again 1/9th has been able to bring a good number of men back to the colours.
10th November (at the Nivelle)
At the Nivelle the whole Division still under Hay occupied the far left flank almost to the seashore it was only to be used as a false attack with the task of holding a corps of the enemy in place whilst others in the centre and left did the business.
Casualties on the day then were very minor all as a result of fitful skirmishing by both sides, so little as to be only recorded by brigade, a handful of light-infantrymen which included Captain Siborne [a wound which gave so much trouble that it saw him off some six years later].
A month later however things are to be much different; Soult's army has fallen back into and about the great arsenal at Bayonne and so well positioned as to presume to once more try the offensive.
The left wing of Wellington's army to which 5th Division now seems to be well committed has a new Corps commander in Sir John Hope, fresh from England and very "superior" in rank, if nothing else!
Hay still has the Division and Greville the Brigade the fun begins for them on 9th December, I hold the figures at the last count where it seems most likely to be so:
9th December 1813 (at Anglet)
Hope's task this day was to send out sufficient forces to discover the enemy's strength out on the far left, 5th Division sent out its brigades as far as Anglet with little opposition, Soult was still pondering his own plan of attack on the 9th Dec' and just had enough presence to hold off the advancing Brits', all of this was merely to discover who was where and at what strength, so that, at the end of the day Hope sent all of his forward troops back to their original start positions, 1/9th had perhaps been engaged only enough to incur a handful of casualties.
On the 10th Dec' things became slightly more serious, we are now at Barrouillet, the fighting has been in progress for some time already before Greville can get his brigade into action. They had been a full three miles to the rear at Guethary when the alarm was raised. Soult's men were in full cry across this whole sector, an area with many small woods and thickets through which it was possible to penetrate.
When Greville put 1/9th into the action they, in holding their position were almost surrounded by troops coming out of this cover, they were compelled to give ground by the expedient of going full about and charging the enemy in their rear, they rallied back onto the side of the large Chateau at Barrouillet fighting a confused defensive action until 1st Division with Aylmer's "chocolate soldiers" came upon the scene.
This was too much for Foy's men who had already had a very busy day of it and everyone settled back to count the cost.
This is far from the end of it, when the next day dawns there are to be two distinct fights for Greville's men, in the morning the CIC asks Hope to send forward 5th Division Greville Brigade to lean on the French in order to keep them at a respectable distance from Barrouillet, all goes well until the staff officer Colonel Delancy allows 1/9th to advance too far into hostile territory, they are heavily hustled back from the little hamlet of Pucho losing men captured and of course a goodly number killed and wounded, before stability was restored.
In the afternoon on Soult's side all of this activity is taken as being far too cavalier and a serious attack is once more launched against this front. On this occasion the greater part of 5th Division is thrown into disorder and scattered about this wooded countryside, 1/9th no less than its comrades. They were to be seen on the main Chausée to the left of the position about Barrouillet much reduced but putting up as much resistance as one could expect from a unit whose numbers had gone down by more than 35% in the three days.
Extricating individual casualties for each of these three days of confused action is not possible, we can however draw out the officers hit, Major Gomm acting on the Staff is the only one wounded on 9th December, Lieutenant Le Mesurier and Ensign Bolton are killed and Captain Siborne, Lieutenants Brookes, Dallas and Watkins injured on the 10th December leaving Ensigns Holmes and Storey to be brought down on the 11th December so:
11th December (after the actions at Anglet-Barrouillet)
It is rather fortunate that once this battle has subsided events elsewhere force Soult back onto the defensive leaving Sir John Hope's Corps to gather itself together and repair its losses. The winter is now well advanced and this Western Wing is asked to conduct a blockade of the Bayonne fortress. Since the city stood on both banks of the Ardour it would be necessary to gain the northern banks if this blockade was to be established. In the time when Wellington and Soult were locked in their manœuvres going ever more eastward Hope and his men were to bridge the Ardour and eventually encircle the defences of Bayonne.
We receive confirmed figures for all of the individual battalions of the army going into the New Year but only the briefest of information as to their doings in the final months of the war, so:
16th January 1814 (in quarters by the Biscay coast)
We do know however that when the whole thing should properly have been over that scurrilous commandant at Bayonne, General Thouvenot brought a large party of men out of the walls to mount a massive sortie against the men in the trench positions at the district of St Etienne bringing on an utterly useless fight which settled the final account for many of those involved, on both sides.
It is not possible to divine the numbers of men present and under arms for 1/9th when all of this came about but we do have an animated account of the proceedings. Colville has command of the 5th Division leaving Andrew Hay to revert back to Brigadier so that, on the night in question there he is, by mere chance at the works about St Etienne. It was 14th April 1814 and 1/9th though not mentioned in the account must have been close enough since they lost 2 men killed and 8 wounded. The Brigadier lost his life that night and Corps Commander Sir John, somewhat humiliatingly was captured.
A sad way to win a war!
PS; The East Norfolk’s once recovered from their Walcheren experiences, fit well enough into Andrew Hay’s brigade, always as good for numbers as any of the others, solid journeymen.
This regiment was not present at Waterloo.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2010
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