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An Account of His Majesty’s De Meuron Regiment Chapter 7: The Campaigns in Mysore

An Account of His Majesty’s De Meuron Regiment Chapter 7: The Campaigns in Mysore

An Account of His Majesty’s De Meuron Regiment 1795-1816

Chapter 7: The Campaigns in Mysore

In June 1799, Lord Harris had warned of risings by ‘formidable banditti,’ principally referring to a rebel, Dhoondia Waugh, or Dhondia Wagh, the self-proclaimed, ‘King of the Two Worlds’ with 20,000 troops and Poligars, or Polygars, threatening the territory of the Nizam of Hyderabad. On 7th May 1800, Wellesley wrote a despatch to Major Munro, ‘I think on the whole we are not in the most thriving condition in this country; Polygars, Nairs, and Moplas in arms on all sides of us; an army full of disaffection and discontent amounting to Lord knows what…[1] He spoke true enough, the Poligars were to cause considerable trouble for the East India Company army in terms of cost, troops and time well into 1805. The Moplahs were principally Mohammedans and just one of the tribal peoples who never accepted British rule, often fomenting major rebellions and assassinations of British officials up to the 1920s.[2] Nairs were not a tribal people but described as a ‘Hindu collective of castes’ around Travancore and Kerala with strong military traditions, rebelling against the British, up to their final revolt in 1809, after which they were disarmed and disinclined to make further trouble.

Wellesley’s instructions dated 24th May 1800, from Josiah Webbe, a senior civil servant at Madras, regarding Dhoondia Waugh, a Hindu convert to Islam, could not have been more precise; ‘You are to pursue Dhoondia Waugh wherever you may find him and to hang him on the first tree. For this purpose, you are to receive immediate authority to enter the Mahratta territory’.[3] Wellesley mounted a full-scale campaign against Dhoondia Waugh, comprising of seven infantry battalions, two European, including a detachment of 216 men of the De Meuron Regiment and five Native battalions and five regiments of cavalry, three European and two Native. Wellesley’s organised logistical transport system enabled him to move well across desolate areas, though on 30th June he wrote to the Adjutant General Barry Close, that he was a day later than planned in crossing the River Toombnuddra, and its sudden rise had delayed him on the south bank for ten days. As no supplies could be brought in, the army including the detachment from the De Meuron Regiment, was now held up and his troops had eaten most of the corn they carried with them. The British also deployed their Maratha allies against Dhoondiah, but the Marathas suffered a defeat at his hands on 30th June 1800. Wellesley was becoming uncertain about his success against such a fleetfooted bandit and had told the Adjutant General Barry Close, in pessimistic terms, ‘I shall never catch him’.[4] However, Dhoondiah’s fortresses were systematically taken and Wellesley finally caught up with him on 10th September at Conaghull, some 700 miles from Seringapatam, close to the borders of the Nizams State of Hyderabad. Even though he had 5,000 cavalrymen strongly posted, Dhoondia failed to realise that ‘his enemy was so close behind him’.[5] The De Meuron detachment fought in the action against the Poligar chief, in which he was defeated and reported killed.

In an act of kindly sentiment, before he finally left India, Wellesley arranged for the sum of 1,000 pagodas to be retained by a magistrate at Seringapatam, to ensure that Salabut Khan, the infant son of Dhoondiah Waugh, received an education and maintenance until adulthood, though Khan died of cholera in 1822.[6]

After the death of Tippoo and Dhoondiah, Seringapatam district was administered by the Madras Presidency from 1800 but rebellions continued and were far from a new phenomenon in Mysore, Malabar, Karnataka or elsewhere in the south and west of India.

Colonel Patrick Agnew, Madras Army, together with Captains G. Bernard, Anton Zweifel, and Lieutenant Elias Wolff [7] of HM’s De Meuron Regiment, were engaged against Poligars at Madura and Tinnevelley during August 1800 . Lieutenant Wolff died on 17th September 1801, at Shuleveram, while serving in a detachment under Lieutenant Col. Innes against Poligars.[8]

Captain Jean Jacques Bolle, Commandant of the De Meuron depot in London,[9] wrote to Lieutenant General Lord Harris, on 14th October 1800, regarding the subject of Lieutenant Henry Droz. He had entered the regiment as a non-commissioned Quartermaster and was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in 1788, a Lieutenant in 1791, and been granted permission to retire on half pay by his regimental commander, Colonel Charles de Meuron, by virtue of ‘Droz’s age and infirmities’. Bolle informed General Harris, now back in England, that the War Office required an additional certificate, ‘….from General Harris, giving the reason for which he granted that favour to Lieutenant Droz’. [10]

The De Meuron Regiment was still in garrison at Seringapatam and the Army List 1801 shows the following officers of the De Meuron Regiment and date of appointment:


Colonel, Charles Daniel, Count de Meuron, 30 March 1795,

British Army rank of Major General.[1]

Lieutenant Colonels:

a) Pierre Meuron-Bullot 30 March 1795

b) Henry David de Meuron 25 Sept.1798


a) Pierre Lardy 25 Sept. 1798

b) Francis Piachaud 25 Sept. 1798,


Louis Bernard 30 March 1795

Anton. Conrad Zweiful 19 Sept. 1796

Jean Francois Meyer 25 May 1797

Joseph Tonzel 25 Sept 1798

Joseph George Senn ditto

Joseph Thomas Bärr ditto

Captain Lieutenant Nicholas Jules de Bergeon 13 Dec. 1787


Henry de Meuron Bayard.  30 March 1795

Elie. Fred. Wolff.                          Ditto

Henry de La Harpe.                        ditto

Henry de Meuron D’Orbe.             ditto

Louis de Pury.                                 ditto

Pierre David Guissant.            19 Dec.1796

C. de Meuron Tribolet.            22 Jan 1797[2]

Jean Fred. De Montmollin.           ditto

Elie Merckel.                            25 May 1797

Charles Bugnon.                      25 Sept. 1798

Alexander Dardel.                   25 Sept. 1798

Chas. Phillip de Bosset.[3]               ditto

Benoit J. Műl. de Friedberg.   21 May 1798

Jeans Jacques Gachter.[4]           31 March 1799

C. Em. May Dufisdorf.                  ditto

Louis de Bosset D’Oberurff

Abraham Louis Peteres

Alexander Lequin

Frederick Jaques Frederick Matthey

Jean Pierre Sam. Fauche

Rodolphe Amedee May


Charles Samuel Witel. 2 April 1799.

Charles Pelichody (Pillichody)

Charles de Rham

Antoine Courant

Charles de Meuron

Francois Lewis de Meuron

Protais D’ Oret Dorsennens

Frederick Sandoz.

Quartermaster: Henry Kerns.

Chaplain: Jacq. Louis de Pasquier 1 Jan 1798[1]

Surgeon: Chas. P. de Caudemont. 14 Oct 1795, left the regiment 1804.

Fifty-one additional new recruits for the regiment arrived by ship at Madras on 26th July 1801, except that two recruits, J. D. Grenier and F. Koenig, were both convicted of murder in separate incidents during 1801, and executed by the civil authorities.

Lieutenant Colonel Meuron-Bullot, in early September 1801, marched the new recruits from Madras the 300 miles to Seringapatam, Mysore in forty days, though three of the new recruits died en-route.

The regiment was to remain at Seringapatam for almost four years, although regimental detachments served at different times and in various locations; 431 officers and troops at Fort St George, Madras, 227 with Wellesley in the field during further campaigns in Mysore, 14 troops at Arnee, 57 at Vellore, and the detachment of 20 men in Bengal, prior to leaving for the campaign in Egypt.[16]

On the 18th October 1801, Wellesley noted the arrival of the De Meuron Regiment troops at Seringapatam and on 25th October 1801, wrote to Lieutenant General Stuart stating that he has sent ‘one more battalion with five companies of Europeans and the flank companies of the De Meuron Regiment’ to assist in the suppression of the Bullum Rajah.[17]

Brigadier Pierre Frederick de Meuron, had left India for Europe on 3rd March 1801, and Lieutenant Colonel Meuron-Bullot, as the senior Lieutenant Colonel logically would have now been in command. But he had not participated in the campaigns in Mysore, remaining sick and incapacitated at Vellore, and it is unclear when he resumed to full duty. During his absence Lieutenant Colonel Meuron-Motiers, commanded the regiment and received a letter from Wellesley on 13th November 1801, informing him that during any absences of Wellesley, on tours of inspection or in the field, de Meuron-Motiers was to command at Seringapatam.

Whether or not Wellesley would have been aware of Pierre Frederick de Meuron’s personal comments over the regiment’s most senior Lieutenant Colonel Meuron-Bullot, there is no suggestion before this time of Wellesley holding any reservations about the deployment of the regiment, but that was about to change.

Writing about the De Meuron Regiment, on 24th November 1801 Wellesley wrote:

Lieutenant Colonel Boles has called the 77th into Malabar, however, much as I may respect the regiment De Meuron, I conceive from what I have seen of them that they are little calculated for this species of service.[18]

He repeated his view in a letter to Lieutenant Colonel Robertson, dated 25th November 1801, expressing his reluctance relating to the deployment of the De Meuron Regiment;

I have this day received a letter from General Stuart, in which he informs me that he has ordered the 77th Regiment into this country; and at the same time desired me to take the regiment De Meuron into the field instead of the 77th as the commanding officer of that corps has reported it to be unfit for service. The General however has left this matter entirely to my discretion; and I acknowledge, as I look upon my friends of the De Meuron, not to be very fit for jungle warfare, (author’s emphasis) I shall be under the disagreeable necessity of taking to the field with a proportion of the 77th notwithstanding……..[19]

The issue of the Swiss regiment’s suitability for service in India, possibly based on the regiment’s age profile, did not go away and eventually resulted in their return to Europe. It was during this period that a suggestion was being considered for the three Swiss regiments serving under the Crown, namely Watteville and De Meuron, to be amalgamated into a single Swiss Brigade. The idea was not taken up.[20]

Pierre Frederic de Meuron, had left India for Europe in March 1801 on the Eden Castle, and is not shown in the Army List for that year although promoted to Lieutenant General on 1st January 1805.[21] At least one officer, Lieutenant George Alexandre Dardel, [22] accompanied de Meuron to Europe, and was later given the task of recruiting for the regiment in Sweden, though only one recruit was enlisted. There may have been some small comfort for the Swedish recruit by the presence of seven Danish nationals who were later recorded on a muster roll. The Danes may have been enlisted from Tranquebar, a Danish enclave established in 1620, and 120 miles south of Pondicherry. During 1801 the authorities in Tranquebar requested the assistance of two companies of the De Meuron regiment commanded by Captain Bernard, in order to confront Danish troops who had mutinied but they surrendered to the De Meuron troops without a shot being fired. The two companies remained in Tranquebar for six weeks before returning to Madras.[23]

On 5th January 1802, Colonel de Meuron-Motiers, received a letter from Wellesley informing him that he would be in command at Seringapatam while Wellesley continued the campaign against rebellious Rajahs. Given his reservations about the regiment, it is interesting to note that accompanying Wellesley on the expedition was Major Pierre Lardy together with a force of 3,000 infantry, including 73rd and 77th regiments of foot, Native regiments, 500 Pioneers, ten guns and four mortars[24] and a detachment of 240 De Meuron troops under Captain Bernard now returned from  Tranquebar. Wellesley’s objective was an attack against the recalcitrant Rajah of Bullum, near Arakeery, on the borders of Mysore and Kanara. The Rajah had been besieged and attacked twice before in 1800, each time escaping and resuming his predatory excursions. Upon arrival at Arakeery, Wellesley divided his force into three columns; in the left column, commanded by Major English with detachments from 77th Regiment, 2nd battalion 10th Madras Infantry, De Meuron Regiment and a party of Pioneers. The column on the right by Lieutenant-Colonel Spry, the Centre column under under Lieutenant Colonel Cuppage with 5th Cavalry, artillery, detachments from HM’s 77th Regiment, De Meuron Regiment, and 1/5th Foot. Also present were a unit of Mysore troops. [25]

On the 16th, in the morning I made the attacks as soon as the fog had cleared away. Two of the Divisions which attacked from entirely opposite sides of the forest arrived at the village of Arakeery at the same moment, and commanded by Colonel A. Cuppage. The Rajah of Mysore’s troops (under Lieut. Colonel McAllister) attacked from the forest near to the great attack made by our troops and were of essential service in covering our right flank. The cavalry (Company and Rajah’s) occupied all the open ground to cut off fugitives. The forest was everywhere strongly fortified in the Polygar style, but particularly at the place which I attacked, being the same which Tolfrey and Montressor attacked before. However, we have lost but few men no officer touched; one European of de Meuron is killed.[26]

The Rajah of Bullum was defeated and later captured. Wellesley wrote to the Adjutant General, Barry Close, from his camp at Hassen 13th February 1802;

We took the Rajah on the 9th and hanged him and six followers on 10th and matters are brought to such a settlement, that I have broke up the detachment and am returning to Seringapatam. The fortifications around all the villages are destroyed and the Company’s Pioneers remain to complete the work with a small light detachment under Captain M’Farlane, to keep alive the terror which we have inspired…..[27]

In a letter to the Deputy Adjutant General on the 10th February, Wellesley used a more delicate phrase, M’Farlane’s troops ‘will serve to keep up the impression we have made….’ though the elements of ‘terror’ to the local populace no doubt continued to be served by the presence of Captain M’Farlane and his men.[28] After the campaign against the Rajah of Bullum, Wellesley appears to have suffered another bout of fever.

During 11th October 1802, at Pananamaram, Wynaad, Captain John Pile Dickenson, Lieutenant Alexander Maxwell and 24 Sepoys of the Bombay Army, were killed and 30 wounded in clashes with a body of 400 Nairs of Kerala Varma, the Pazhassie or Pyche Rajah, still at large and regarded as in rebellion.[29] A Captain Robert Lewis[30] on 16th October 1802, sent Arthur Wellesley an account of what had occurred when the Pazhassie Rajah’s force had attacked the Bombay detachment and set fire to the garrison barracks and accommodation.[31] Wellesley had sent a detachment of 33rd Regiment and Madras Infantry troops towards Wynaad but the Nairs had already been attacked and suffered losses by 1st/8th Regiment on 12th November. The De Meuron Regiment had not accompanied these troops and in a dispatch dated 13th November 1802, Wellesley states he had decided to leave the De Meuron Regiment in garrison placements within Mysore, one battalion at Seringapatam, one in Chittledroog, five Company’s in Nuggur and five Company’s at Nundydroog.[32]

Obviously, Wellesley had reservations about deploying the De Meuron regiment, but these are slightly surprising, given that the regiment had been deployed in jungle style warfare against the Kandyans’ in Ceylon between 1788-1795 and more recently in India.

Whatever had occurred which gave rise to his reservations about their deployment, Wellesley however held no doubts that the regiment, ‘was for good conduct, discipline and other military qualities not surpassed by any other English regiment’.[33]

In a much later memorandum Wellesley expressed the view that a lack of confidence in the regiment existed among the native troops, because significantly ‘they had been bought into service’. Another author stated the regiment ‘was regarded with disdain’ by the native sepoys who considered it a ‘hired slave corps‘.[34]

During the insurrections after the war against Tippoo Sahib, an earlier expedition against another Poligar Rajah had been despatched with a company detachment of the De Meuron Regiment. Described as a painful campaign which lasted seven months against the Bilagi or Bilghy Rajah, from the northern area of Karanataka. He was eventually captured and imprisoned at Seringapatam, where the De Meuron company remained in garrison.

The Bilghy Rajah, detained under guard at Seringapatam, escaped custody on 16th May 1801, with the connivance of a Native Havildar, who deserted with him. The Rajah was later recaptured some 20 miles from Seringapatam and those who apprehended him were rewarded by Wellesley with 50 Pagodas. An enquiry was conducted into the circumstances of both the Rajah’s detention and escape. [35] That Autumn, the De Meuron Regiment were still guarding certain ‘state’ prisoners at Seringapatam, including the Rajah.

The Rajah remained in custody until Lieutenant Colonel H. D. de Meuron-Motiers, having already been in correspondence with Wellesley regarding the Rajah, received two letters from the Deputy Adjutant General, on behalf of Wellesley, regarding the security of state prisoners.

The D.A.G to Lieutenant Col. de Meuron, Seringapatam. 26th Feb. 1804

The Hon. Major General Wellesley has just now received your letter of the 18th inst. and being particularly busy has not time to write to you himself. He has therefore desired me to request that you will direct the engineer to erect the wall which you have deemed necessary between the post office and the place in which the Bilghy Rajah is confined and you will report to government that you have done so without waiting for their orders as a matter of urgent necessity, the expense whereof will be trifling. The engineer should at the same time forward his estimate of the expense to the proper office.

The D.A.G to Lieutenant Col. De Meuron, Seringapatam 28th Feb 1804, drawing attention to the regime under which the Rajah was detained;

The Hon. Major General Wellesley has observed in the minutes of Major Symons report into the plot for the escape of the Bilghy Rajah from his confinement at Seringapatam, that strangers were allowed to visit and remain with him during the night, that he was allowed to converse with whomsoever he chose and even that he has taken off his irons at times.

The General therefore desires you will give the utmost particular orders that no strangers may be permitted to go into the place of confinement of the Bilghy Rajah and that neither he nor any of the State prisoners at Seringapatam may be allowed to converse with any person whatever and further that they may all be handcuffed as well as fettered, with strong irons. The handcuffs only to be taken off by a non-commissioned officer of the guards over them when they are at victuals or their necessary occasions and immediately replaced when these are over. The sentinels must also be directed to examine the irons on all prisoners at every relief and to report immediately if they are the least out of order.[36]

The guard was also strengthened on the late Tippoo Sultan’s family, requiring 536 men of the De Meuron Regiment being sent to Vellore.

The Maratha confederacy, comprising of powerful leaders and chiefs, fell out amongst themselves during October 1802, resulting in a brief period of internecine war. This resulted in the defeat of the Maratha’s hereditary leader, the Peishwa, Bajee Rao II, by forces chiefly led by Jeswant Holkar, supported by Daulat Rao Scindiah and the Rajah of Berar. The Peishwa promptly fled to Bombay where a treaty drawn up between himself and the East India Company committed the British to his support, and the British consequently being dragged, not altogether unwillingly, into a war between 1803-1805 with the Peishwa’s Maratha enemy confederates. For this purpose, a subsidiary force was formed at Ahmednuggur, of not less than six thousand regular infantry, field-artillery and European artillery-men, to be permanently stationed in the Peishwa’s dominions. The De Meuron Regiment supplied one individual for the subsidiary force which is alluded to in later a letter from the Deputy Adjutant General on behalf of Wellesley to Colonel de Meuron-Motiers, dated 2nd July 1804, who approves of;

…your having sent a steady corporal of artillery in charge of the invalids sent up to Chittledroog, and he authorises the payment of the corporals batta or the issue of provisions whilst he is absent on that service. Directions will be given for the issue of family certificates to the recovered men of the corps composing of the men serving in the subsidiary force serving with His Highness the Peshwa. [37]

As the likelihood of war with the Marathas drew closer  in 1802, yet before any commencement of hostilities, Lieutenant Colonel Meuron-Bullot, now back with the regiment after a lengthy period of sickness received an order to prepare for the forthcoming campaign from Major General Arthur Wellesley, still Governor of Seringapatam. Meuron-Bullot responded by pointing out to Wellesley that the equipment and armament of his regiment were in poor condition, and Wellesley, acting quickly had four companies of the regiment equipped with what he had ‘found best on the spot’. [38]  The De Meuron companies were to be deployed with other troops against the Maratha Confederacy leader, Dowlat Rao Scindiah. Unfortunately, there is no further information about the identity, name of the corps or regiment the De Meuron companies were supposedly incorporated with.

Some of the regiment were back at Fort St. George, Madras by February 1802, and inspected by General Gerard Lake; An evening ball, hosted by the regiment later that month, was attended by General Lake and the Governor of Madras, 2nd Lord and Lady Clive.

Pierre Frederic de Meuron had been succeeded as the De Meuron Regiment’s commanding officer in India, by Jean Pierre de Meuron- Bullot, promoted Colonel on 29 April 1802,[39] and now returned from sick leave at Vellore, found himself on the sharp end of Arthur Wellesley’s pen, in correspondence dated 1st September 1802:

I have had the honour to receive your letter of 31st and its enclosures. Only two days ago you transmitted a certificate of the bad state of health of Lieutenant de Muller which I desired might accompany the general return to headquarters of the regiment under your command.

You have now thought proper, notwithstanding the certificate that Lieutenant Baron De Muller is unfit for duty on account of his bad health, to desire that he may have unlimited leave to remain in Madras in charge of the regimental stores of the regiment de Meuron. Let me observe – 1st. That it is not usual to employ officers to take charge of the stores at Madras that being always performed by non-commissioned officers; 2ndly. That it is not usual to give officers unlimited leave of absence. 3rdly; That it is not usual to employ upon duty any officer whose health is certified to be in such a state that he is unable to do duty. For all these reasons I decline to forward your application; And I beg that if you should think proper to send it yourself, you will transmit with a copy of this letter.

I have &c

Arthur Wellesley.[40]

Lieutenant Joseph Muller, Baron de Friedberg, had joined the regiment in 1796 as an Ensign and during 1801-2, was engaged in the campaign against the Poligars. His ill health is not identified but he returned to Europe on ill health grounds in 1805 and transferred to the De Froberg Regiment, on promotion to Captain during 1806.[41]

The De Meuron Regiment was complimented by Wellesley in General Orders on 26th October 1802. ‘Colonel Wellesley was much pleased with the performance of the regiment De Meuron at the inspection, and it appears that the officers of that corps have taken much pains to make it perfect. Col. Wellesley will make a favourable report on its state of discipline to the commander-in-chief.’[42]

Twelve months later whilst Wellesley celebrated his great victory over the Marathas at Assaye on 23rd September 1803, during the 2nd Anglo-Maratha War, the De Meuron Regiment in garrison at Seringapatam, were about to mourn a significant loss. The regiment’s Colonel, Jean Pierre de Meuron-Bullot, together with his daughter and Lieutenant Mark Holbourn, 34th Regiment[43] were drowned on 20th October 1803, when a small craft, taking them to board a larger vessel bound for Europe, upset off Madras. Meuron-Bullot was buried in St Mary’s Church, Fort St George, Madras, alongside a number of the regiment’s other graves. The first fort built on the site was in 1639, surviving a Mughal siege in 1702, a Maratha siege in 1741 and two attacks by the French, the last in 1758, after which Fort St. George was substantially rebuilt. The first church was built in 1678.[44] One of the graves at St. Mary’s is that of Lieutenant Louis de Pury, a De Meuron veteran of Seringapatam, who had been killed in a duel with a fellow officer, Captain Alexandre Lequin, demonstrating that matters of honour could still cost lives and duelling not totally suppressed. Lequin who had joined the regiment in 1797, subsequently appeared before a court martial on March 31st, 1802, for the killing of Lieutenant de Pury in a duel, and was reduced to the ranks and expelled from the service.

The Poligars created more trouble in the Hyderabad State upon the death of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the succession of his 15 years old son, Sikander Jah, Asaf Jah III, in August 1803. Colonels Agnew and Montressor with a force, which included companies of the De Meuron Regiment under Captains’ Conrad Zweifel and Georges Bernard, marched into Hyderabad, the largest of India’s Princely States, to ensure the security of the new heir.

Henry-David Meuron-Motiers succeeded to the command and as previously mentioned, the regiment was visited during February 1804, at Seringapatam by George Annesley, 2nd Earl of Mountnorris, who styled himself Lord Valentia.[45] He stayed with the officers for four days and described their accommodation: ‘I dined with Colonel de Meuron (Motiers) who has invited all his officers to meet me. He resides in a part of the Palace of Hyder. The State Room is painted in green which seems to have been the favourite colour of that chief. It joins on one side the harem and opens on the other to the public’.

All the palace and fort buildings had been turned into official’s offices, a barracks and hospital, for European troops and the Surgeon’s residence. Lieutenant George Elers, 12th Regiment, greeted William Wybrow, a regimental Surgeon and conducted introductions for Wybrow, on his arrival at Madras in 1804. William Wybrow joined the regiment on 9th February 1804 but left on 21st October 1807.[46]

A Lieutenant Louis Guillaume de Courten, who had a decade of military experience as an officer in Piedmontese service and Swiss émigré corps was commissioned as an Ensign into the regiment on 24th February 1803, and appointed a Lieutenant two days later. He was less than impressed with India, the regiment, his duties and particularly unimpressed by his new commanding officer Meuron-Motiers. In writing to his brother on 20th March 1804, he bemoaned the country, which he acknowledged excited the admiration and jealousy of the whole of Europe, but his duties were too harsh, because he had to stand guard once a week, often three times in two weeks. He described the regiment as about 550 strong, made up of ‘old men and invalids’, and was pessimistic that the regiment would survive very much longer in the British army. His especial ire however was reserved for Meuron-Motiers, whom he described, ‘our new commander is a first class original … he is a ridiculous, angry man, over meticulous and only happy when he can upset and torment his regiment’.[47]

De Courten returned to Europe with the regiment in 1806, served in the Mediterranean and resigned his commission in 1811and died in 1842.  Within a few months of De Courten’s comment, a second tragedy struck the regiment when Courten’s especial ‘bête noire’, Colonel H. D. de Meuron-Motiers, accidentally drowned in the River Cauvery at Seringapatam on 23rd September 1804, and was buried in the Garrison cemetery.

The issue of the De Meuron Regiment’s suitability to remain in India was raised again by Wellesley when obliquely he refers to it in a letter to Captain Sydenham, dated Seringapatam 1st December 1804;

Tell the Governor General that I spoke to Lord William about sending away the Meuron Regiment. He agrees with me that we could spare the corps more conveniently than any other; but we cannot spare that corps until it be replaced by another European regiment to come to the Madras establishment. If this war with Holkar should ever be finished I shall prevail upon Mr Duncan to send a corps from Guzerat, which will enable Lord William to send away the Meuron Regiment.[48]

Wellesley had spoken to Lord William Bentinck, Governor of Madras, and with the 2nd Anglo-Maratha War still not yet over, appears prepared to remove the De Meuron Regiment from India. He writes on 21st January 1805, that HM’s 77th Regiment would be placed on garrison duties at Seringapatam, and the De Meuron Regiment would return to Madras, an inference that the regiment’s days in India were numbered.

Other reasons for Wellesley’s view might be found in his later Memorandum of 1805, commenting on a plan to exchange Indian sepoys with troops from the West Indies. Wellesley commented;

I had under my command for some years the Swiss Regiment De Meuron, which for good conduct discipline and other military qualities was not surpassed by the other English Regiments. But the Natives heard that they were foreigners, that they had been bought into service and had no confidence in them.

He went on to say that given the view held by the Indian Sepoy, what possible respect or confidence could be expected from them, should a proposal of deploying West Indian troops in India be adopted. The proposal does not appear to have been considered further nor implemented. [49]

During August 1805, the regimental strength had stood at 707 men, but once it had been decided that the De Meuron regiment was to leave Seringapatam that September, fifty of the regiment transferred to the East India Company’s Artillery and with other losses the regiment was reduced to 618. On 20th September, the regiment marched for Madras, leaving a detachment at Tripassore and reached Fort St George in thirty-five days. During the march the Commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Lardy, encountered some difficulty with his officers, compelling him to report, Lieutenants E. May and de Meuron-Renaud for having insulted Captain Henri-Louis De La Harpe. No further action was taken, as De La Harpe, had already been under arrest for eleven months on some undisclosed matter, and eventually transferred to the 3rd Ceylon Regiment, together with a number of men whose service engagement with the De Meuron Regiment had expired.

The detachment from Tripassore, reunited with their colleagues on 1st January 1806 at Madras, the same day that orders arrived for the Regiment to return to Europe. Those who wished to remain in India were given the option to re-enlist into other regiments. Thirty-eight NCO’s and 250 men took the option to re-muster and remain in India and a further 133 men applied to join the East India Company’s Artillery.[50] Years later the return minute from the Court of Directors dated 6th April 1809, confirmed the transfer and stated;

…in consideration of the long and faithful services of the Regiment de Meuron under the British Government in India, and of the deficient state of your artillery corps, we do not object to the transfer of a part of that regiment to the corps alluded to notwithstanding our disinclination, on general principles, to any large proportion of foreigners being admitted into that corps. [51]

The ‘deficient state’ of the Company Artillery Corp, had been alluded to in August 1798, when a table indicating the inadequacies of the 2nd battalion of the East India Company’s artillery showed that 35 Foreign troops, mainly German, Swiss and other Europeans were men of ‘very bad character, persistent deserters, worn out, much under size, of irregular conduct or ruptured’ and judged to be unfit for service. There were also seven British subjects similarly deemed unfit.[52]

The regiment left behind some 300 graves and memorials to both De Meuron Regiment soldiers, officers, their wives and children. At least one British subject has a memorial, John Reynolds, the Paymaster, appointed on 24 May 800 and died on 22 September 1802 aged 44 years. More poignantly there are memorials erected to at least two officers’ children and one to ‘Naizer Rattan a native girl from Tallenga died 1st December 1803 aged 22 years, by her good friend A. Mieville, Qr. Mstr. Sergeant of HM De Meuron Regiment.[53] In 2007 the De Meuron family paid three million rupees for a substantial restoration of the memorials and cemetery by local workmen.

The De Meuron Regiment was reduced to a core of 35 officers, sixteen sergeants and 116 men, when on 11th February 1806, under the Adjutant, Lieutenant Charles de Rham,[54] they boarded the East India Company ships Admiral Gardner, Devonshire, and Metcalfe, to return to Europe. Left behind were nineteen ‘enfants de troupe’, the children or orphans of non-commissioned officers or rank and file, who were placed in an orphan’s asylum or the older children granted a subsistence allowance for three months.

Pay and Muster Records 25th May to 24th June 1806, completed partway through the journey at St. Helena, shows the regimental strength three months after leaving India.[55]


Rank Name Remarks
Meuron Bayard’s Company
Captain Henry de Meuron-Bayard Light Company
Lieutenant Emmanuel May
        “ Louis de Boisnet Absent
Sergeant Nicholas Bourgnon
Corporal David Dombre
Jacob Keller
Francis Schneitzgebel
Privates Jean Brommnerd
Bernard Boschen
Peter Kricks
Jean Marine sick
Jacques Stehly
Samuel Vonderfliet
Jacob Wild sick, remained in Colombo
Valentin Scheibner sick, remained in Madras
Meuron D’Orbes Company
Captain H. De Meuron

D’ Orbe

Grenadier Company
Lieutenant Charles de Rham
Sergeants Francis Laroche
Benedict Necherle
John Vonlingen sick
Lauren Morel
Corporals Auguste Merlens
Charles Zech
John Gerke
Privates John Hesse
Michel Kapsarinko
Conn. Messier
Matthieu Paulus
Jacques Reicour
Montmoulin’s Company
Captain J.J. Montmoulin
Lieutenant F. De Meuron-Renaud absent
       “ Samuel de Meuron absent
       “ J. B. Cappel absent
Corporals Leonard Kuhn
John Lang
Antoine Benoit sick
Privates Henry Borel
D. Fabritzuis
John Sage
Francis Lesage
Alexandre Medgous
John Marinel
Nicholas Mitteaux sick
Peter Spanjard
Samuel Fribout sick
Jean Vanborey
Adrienne Madenburg sick
De La Harpe’s Company
Captain De La Harpe absent
Lieutenant Samuel Fauche      “
        “ Louis de Lentzbourg       “
 Sergeant Charles Lammers
Corporals Leonard Bedoux
Privates Jean Bommer
Joseph Hommel
Jacob Moltzer
Jean Nicaise
David Ferret sick
Lewis Senn sick
De Courten’s Company
Captain L. Guilleme de Courtens absent
Lieutenant Lewis Pillchody
Stanislas Schultz
Sergeant Major J. Vreesweg
Quartermaster Sergeant Albert Linth
Sergeant Frederich Kreulhier sick
      “ Michel Wendling
Corporals Leonard Boesley seconded to regt. hospital
Michel Jacobson
Rudolphe Vickser sick, remained in Colombo
Peter Meichler           “
John Vaneck
Merckel’s Company
Captain Elias Merckel
Lieutenant P. O. D’orsonnens
       “ Florian Sprechter
J. Dufour
Sergeant J. Reneicke
Corporals H. Waser Seconded to regt. hospital
Francis Bonmabe sick
Privates Joseph Decker sick
Chris. Kolinckner
Jean Martinus
Benedict Roesch
Bernard Sturby
William Weinantz sick
Joseph Vondebocard sick, remained at Madras
     Bars Company
Captain John Thomas Bars (Baers)
Lieutenant F. Matthey absent
       “ Fredusein Frauller (sic) Fridolin Freuller absent
 Sergeants Frederick Kielelmeyer absent
George Mergendaller
Cornelius Hendricks sick
Corporals John Sommerfeld
Christophe Fister
Martin Domnel
Privates John Haas Seconded regt. hospital
Laurent Lutz Sick at Newport
Marc Martin           “
John Champenois
John Schrein sick
Magnus Walter
Guisant’s Company
Captain D. Guisant
Lieutenant Antoine Courant
F. L Bourgeois
Sergeant Jacob Borer
Corporals Vincent Lanne
Auguste Muller
Privates J. Degraf
Andre Houbert
Jean Tappe
Louis Laporte sick
Francis Schnetman sick
D. Selbz
Auguste Tegelmeyer
Joseph Vitry sick
Wilhelm Wilhelms sick
Frederick Faller Sick, remained in Madras
De Bergeons Company
Captain Nicholas Jules de Bergeon absent
Lieutenant Charles Willel (Wittel or Vitel)⃰ absent
Andre Sprecher
Corporal Caspar Ader Sick at Newport
John Ammdor AWOL
Anthony Chappe
Francois Dupperel
Gabriel Moser
Francis Stoope
Dardel’s Company
Captain Alexandre Dardel
Lieutenant Rodolphe May
Sergeant J. Waldschmidtt
Corporals P. Filantois
J. Reccordon
A. Jacob
Drummer D. Hermanus
Privates Thomas Dreisson
John Hatton AWOL
Albert Mievielle sick
Charles Wisar
Ambrose Wittman
Jerome Wessier Sick, remained in Madras

⃰The Charles Willel recorded above in Captain Bergeon’s company is probably the same as the French name Vitel, occasionally written in German as, Witel or Wittel. There is no record of a ‘Willel’ in the register of officers 1781-1816.[56] Charles ‘Wittel’ or Vitel and Captain Nicholas Jules De Bergeon are shown as absent and it is likely that Charles Vitel was en route home to Paris at this time and Bergeon had received six months advance in pay and was one of two officers who had elected to remain in India. He retired on half pay in April 1807, and later appointed Paymaster to an Invalid Company at Chingleput.[57] Remaining in India, he died in 1831/2 and was buried in the English Cemetery at Pondicherry.[58]

Captain Louis Senn (mistakenly written as Lenn in the National Archive) was another officer who opted to remain in India, and was also in receipt of six month’s pay in advance.[59] Francois-Louis Senn joined the regiment as a Cadet in 1787, promoted 2nd Lieutenant that year, Lieutenant 1788, Captain-Lieutenant 1793, Captain 1798. He fought at Seringapatam and during the Mysore campaign. For some strange reason he is shown as Private Lewis Senn in the return for April 1806. After remaining in India, Senn commanded a Company of Sepoy Invalids of the Ceylon Regiment, he was buried at the fort at Palitoopane, Ceylon in 1814.[60]

On the journey to Europe, the regiment was escorted by the warships HMS Hindostan and Tremendous with stops at Colombo, and St. Helena and finally disembarked at Greenwich. The regiment now in need of recruits, reorganisation and improvement moved to the Foreign Depot at Lymington on the Solent in Hampshire, before moving onto the Isle of Wight for ten days and then into camp at Guernsey on 24th September 1806. During this stay, a Swiss artist Gabriel Lory, (the Younger) painted a water colour of a cottage occupied by Captain Pierre Henry de Meuron D’Orbe and his daughter, Henriette who later married Lory.

The regimental strength had reduced to 120 men, including non-commissioned officers and unidentified, ‘dubious elements threatening to desert and canvassing others to do so’.[61]

During the same period two officers, Captains T. Baer and P. Donzel, the latter appears to have absent from the regiment during 1806 -1807, were both retired, five Lieutenants resigned their commissions and transferred to other regiments. Lieutenant (Baron) Muller de Friedberg obtained a captaincy in the Regiment de Froberg, F. de Freuller passed to the Chasseurs Britanniques,[62] Florian Sprecher is shown as a Lieutenant in the Regiment de Watteville and then to the King’s German Legion, in 1809, as is Louis Pillichody who joined the De Meuron Regiment in 1803, and obtained a Lieutenant’s commission in the Watteville Regiment on 4th March 1807.[63] Charles Pillichody transferred to the 24th Dragoons Regiment although he is not shown in the 1808 army list,[64] and Louis Xavier de Lentzbourg transferred to the Royal Regiment of Malta in December 1807 on promotion to captain.[65]

The officers, with the exception of Pillichody, transferred on promotion, although perhaps false promises on pay and promotion may have attracted Lieutenant Muller de Friedberg to the Regiment de Froberg.[66] This regiment was a British unit formed in 1803, comprised of European recruits and stationed in Malta. Allegations of lies and false promises probably sparked the mutiny which occurred in April 1807, resulting in 30 executions and the regiment being disbanded.

During his time living in London, Pierre Frederic de Meuron, learned of the death on 4th April 1806, of his brother Charles Daniel. Charles Daniel de Meuron had retired to Neuchatel, Switzerland to live in comfortable circumstances though on his death, dissenting voices were raised in Neuchatel, against according a public funeral with military honours to a British General.

In May 1807, the Regiment was stationed at Gosport, Hants, before being posted to Gibraltar for a short spell and where a number of Piedmontese and German troops, mostly deserters from Napoleon’s army, joined the regiment.[67] A large number of deserters, those that had not already been recruited, but still wished to fight against Napoleon were sent to the Foreign Depot at Lymington, Hants, opposite the Isle of Wight, where they were allocated to other units of the British Army.[68]

In June 1807, Captain Francois de Meuron-Bayard replaced Pierre Donzel as Major, who was placed on half pay until 1822. On 6th August that year, the regiment received twenty-two new drums to replace thirteen which had been ‘lost’ on campaign in India and which the British government had previously refused to pay for.[69]



Memorial to Lieut. Colonel H. D. de Meuron 1804 (Photo by Author 2018)



[1] J. Gurwood, Wellington’s Despatches in India, Vol. I p.114;

[2] C. Wood, Historical Background to the Moplah Rebellions 1836-1919. JSTOR Social Scientist Vol. 3, No. 1 (Aug., 1974), pp. 5-33

[3] R. Muir, Wellington, the Path to Victory 1769-1814, (London: Yale University Press, 2015) p.94;

  1. Gurwood, Wellington’s Despatches (London: Furnival & Parker, 1844) p.104-105. Webbe to Wellington.

[4] R. Muir, Wellington, the Path to Victory 1769-1814, (London: Yale University Press, 2015) p.95

[5] D. Howell, War Without Pity, The Letters of Lieutenant Col. V. Blacker, (Warwick: Helion & Co. 2018) pp.27-28, & 80. Dhoondiah Waugh had been released by the British from imprisonment in Tippoo Sultan’s dungeons at Seringapatam 1799. Later as a cover for his freebooting or self – appointed ‘military governor status’ he adopted an anti-British rhetoric to encourage adherents.

M Howard, Wellington and the British Army Campaigns in India, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword 2020,) p.68-71

[6] R. Holmes, Wellington, The Iron Duke (London: Harper Collins, 2002) p.7

[7] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron.  Georges Louis Bernard, entered as a Lieutenant 1781, Captain-Lieutenant 1787, retired from service as a Lieutenant Colonel, 1807; Anton Conrad Zweifel entered the regiment in 1787 as Captain-Lieutenant, Major 1803 and on retirement sold his commission to Major W. Wauchope.

[8] Wolff had joined the regiment as a cadet in 1790, Ensign in 1791 and Lieutenant 1794 and fought at Seringapatam: H. Yule & A.C. Burnell, Hobson Jobson, A Glossary of Anglo-Indian Words, (London: J. Murray,1903) A reprint. Poligar a term peculiar to the Madras Presidency and indicating a subordinate feudal chief of predatory habits.

[9]  TNA WO 25/677-I

[10] Kent County Council, Lord Harris Archives ref U624/716-1

[11] London Gazette 24 August 1799 p.848

[12] Charles de Meuron Tribolet took leave in 1801 and resigned his commission in 1802.

[14] J. Gacheter married Suzanne, dau. of Lt., Col. H Meuron Motiers, 1806 and served as ADC to General David Baird at Copenhagen. Died in 1840.

[15] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron, Not found.

[16] Kent County Council Lord Harris Archives U624/614/12

[17] J. Gurwood, Supplementary Dispatches and Memorandum of Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington 1797-1805, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1858) p.601

[18] J. Gurwood, Dispatches of Arthur Duke of Wellington 1797-1805 India (London: J. Murray 1854) Vol. III. p.302; [18]

[19]  J. Gurwood, Supplementary Dispatches and Memorandum of Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington 1797-1805, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1858) p.629; M. Howard, Wellington and the British Army’s Campaigns in India, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2020) p.7

[20] A. Nicholls, Wellington’s Switzers, (Huntingdon: K. Trotman Publishing, 2015) pp.57-58, citing HRO 38M49/3/4/50-52.

[21] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron, pp.319-320.

[22] He probably ‘recruited’ a wife during his visit as he was married in Sweden 1808.

[23] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron, p.190. Tranquebar was sold to the British in 1845.

[24] Supplementary Dispatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, Edited by his Son, the Duke of Wellington (London: J. Murray, 1858) Vol. III p.33;

[25] W. J. Wilson, History of the Madras Army, (Madras: E. Keys Govt Press, 1883.) 4 Vols, Vol III, p.53

[26] Duke of Wellington, Supplementary Despatches and Memorandum of Field Marshal, The Duke of Wellington, India 1797-1803, (London: John Murray, 1859) Vol. III pp.33-34

[27] Duke of Wellington, Supplementary Despatches and Memorandum of Field Marshal, The Duke of Wellington, India 1797-1803, (London: John Murray, 1859) Vol. III p.89

[28] Duke of Wellington, Supplementary Despatches and Memorandum of Field Marshal, The Duke of Wellington, India 1797-1803, (London: John Murray, 1859) Vol. III. p.88

[29] Division of the Chief of Staff, Intelligence Branch, 1908, Wellington’s Campaigns in India p36-37

[30] Dodwell & Miles Alphabetical List. Bombay Army: Robert Lewis, Cadet 1782, Ensign 1785, Lieutenant 1790, Captain 1800, Major 1806, Lieutenant Col. 1811, Col; Commandant 1819, Maj. Gen, 1840, died London 1837.


[32] Supplementary Dispatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, Edited by his Son, the Duke of Wellington (London: J. Murray, 1858) Vol. III p.389

[33] J. Gurwood Dispatches of Arthur Duke of Wellington 1797-1805 India (London: Parker Furnival & Parker, 1844) Vol. II p.1469

[34] J. Gurwood Dispatches of Arthur Duke of Wellington 1797-1805 India (London: Parker Furnival & Parker, 1844) Vol. II p.1469; R. Yaple, THE AUXILIARIES; FOREIGN AND MISCELLANEOUS REGIMENTS IN THE BRITISH ARMY 1802 – 1817 SAHR Vol 50 no. 201 Spring 1972, pp.15-16; M. Howard, Wellington and the British Army’s Campaigns in India, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2020) p.7

[35] J. Gurwood, Supplementary Dispatches and Memorandum of Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington 1797-1805, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1858) p.397-398

[36] J. Gurwood, The Dispatches of Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington during his various Campaigns, (London: Parker Furnival & Parker, 1844) A New Edition in 8 Volumes, Vol. II pp.1069-1070

[37] J. Gurwood Dispatches of Arthur Duke of Wellington 1797-1805 India (London: Parker Furnival & Parker, 1844) Vol. II p.1257

[38] G. de Meuron Le Regiment Meuron, p.190-191. There appears to be no copy of this letter in Wellington’s correspondence/dispatches.

[39] The very officer described 2 years previously by  Pierre Frederick de Meuron as having ‘weaknesses in the head.’

[40] J. Gurwood, (ed.) Despatches of Arthur Duke of Wellington 1797-1805 India (London: J. Murray 1854) 3 vols. Vol. I There is no further update.

[41] TNA WO 25/756/15

[42] J. Gurwood (ed.) Despatches of Arthur Duke of Wellington 1797-1805 India (London: J. Murray 1845) 8 Vols, Vol. I p.302

[43] Army List 1801, Holbourn was a Lieutenant in 34th (Cumberland) Regiment of Foot commissioned in 1799. The 34th founded in 1702, had arrived in India 1802, and remained for nearly twenty years, particularly in actions against the Marathas.

[44] S. Toy, The Strongholds of India, (London: W. Heinemann, 1957) pp.20-22

[45] Lord Valentia, Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt, in the years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806, (London: W. Miller 1809 in three volumes). A British Peer and Politician. His journals contain many descriptions of his military visits, characters and incidents during his tour of India. Vol. I pp. 358-378. See previous fn.

[46] Lord Monson & G. Leveson Gower, Memoirs of George Elers, (London: Wm. Heinemann 1903) p.162

[47] Archive of the Courten Family at Swiss Cantonal Archive Valais;

  1. De Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron, pp. 193-194, 372.

[48] J. Gurwood The Dispatches of Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington during his various Campaigns India, (London: J. Murray, 1837) 3 Vols, Vol III. p.554

[49] J. Gurwood, The Dispatches of Field Marshal, The Duke of Wellington during his various Campaigns, (London: Parker Furnival & Parker, 1844) A New Edition in 8 Volumes, Vol. II p.1469, see previous fn.

[50] British Library General Reference 12275.aa.19. Calcutta Review 1903: Division of the Chief of Staff, Intelligence Branch, 1908.p.7 Wellingtons Campaigns in India, mistakenly states that the De Meuron Regiment was disbanded in 1808 after the transfer of the 133 men.

[51] British Library Africa and Asia Collection, IOR/Z/E/4/39/A2430, IOR/E/4/902

[52] Africa & Asia Collection IOR/F/4/78 22nd January 1800.

[53] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron, p.288

[54] National Archive H1826 D5 and; G. de Meuron Le Regiment Meuron, p.326, refers to Charles de Rham, 1782-1821 Ensign 1799, Lieutenant1802 and Captain- Adjutant 1810 in the De Meuron Regiment until the regiment’s disbandment. He was ADC to Baird at Copenhagen in 1808, and to a number of other Generals, served in India, England, Malta and Sicily and for 18 months taught languages at High Wycombe Military College founded in 1799-1820. He returned to Switzerland on half pay after disbandment.

[55] TNA &, Canada and British Army Muster and Pay Roll 25 May -24 June 1806. WO/12/11960/200-205

[56] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron App. VI. pp.299-332

[57] British Library, Africa & Asia Collection, IOR/E/4/920, pp.442-443

[58] WO 25/756/69

[59] British Library, Africa & Asia Collection, IOR/F/4/234/5396

[60] J. Lewis, A List of Inscriptions of the Tombs and Monuments in Ceylon, (Colombo, Ceylon: H. Cottle 1913) p.404. There are fifteen references to ‘De Meuron’ in this volume.

[61] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron, p.198

[62] A British unit founded in May 1801 and comprised of French emigres or non-British volunteers. Fought in Egypt and Peninsular Wars disbanded 1814;

[63] Watteville Regiment, a Swiss mercenary unit founded May 1801 and serving with the Austrian army. Utilised fully into the British service after 1801, fought at Maida 1806 and in Canada 1812 before disbandment.

[64] TNA,

[65] Founded in 1804 ostensibly for service abroad. Suffered casualties and capture in Capri 1808. Disbanded 1811. Lentzbourg was awarded £100 wound pension sustained at Capri Oct. 1808.

[66] TNA WO1/293 April 1807, TNA WO1/305 July 1807.

[67] J. Cotton, His Majesty’s Regiment De Meuron, General Reference Mss 12275/aa/19; TNA WO 25/677-II records 103 recruitments at Gibraltar in 1807/1808

[68] D. S. Gray,, PRISONERS, WANDERERS, AND DESERTERS: Recruiting for the King’s German Legion, 1803-1815 Vol. 53, No. 215 (AUTUMN 1975), pp. 148-158 (11 pages)

[69] G. de Meuron, Le Regiment Meuron, p.201