The Boston Massacre: 5th March 1770

In the Spring of 1770, the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment went to Boston, to reinforce the Garrison. Although America was still then a British colony, over the last few years the City had been a hot-bed of anti-British and anti-Government feelings, and in early March, disorder increased, with assaults upon soldiers becoming frequent.

On the 5th of March, severe disturbances broke out in the town, with attacks on merchants and barracks throughout the City. Between 7 and 8 p.m. in the evening, large mobs descended on the Custom House, a symbol of unpopular British taxes.

The Massacre

The Custom House, on King Street, was guarded by the 29th, although only one sentry, Private Hugh White, was on patrol outside. The mob closed in, pelting the sentry with snowballs, rocks and pieces of wood. The guard commander, Captain Thomas Preston, saw the attack and called out the rest of the guard – Lieutenant Bassett, a corporal and six men. They lined up to protect both the sentry and the Custom House, which contained a lot of money.

The mob kept closing in, though, now numbering about a hundred people. In another attempt to scare the crowd into leaving, Preston ordered his men to load their muskets and fix their bayonets. Still the mob closed in, shouting insults and threats and hurling missiles at the soldiers. A huge mulatto (half-Negro) man called Crispin Attucks lunged at Captain Preston, glancing off him to hit Private Montgomery, knocking his musket from his hands. Montgomery grabbed it back, but as Attucks got up, he grasped the other end and tried to pull it from his reach. Montgomery, acting through self-defence and confusion (he was dazed, and possibly mistook taunts of “Why don’t you fire?” from the crowd as an order from an officer) pulled his trigger, killing Attucks. The rest of the of the guard then fired too, killing two more people and wounding five, ropemaker Samuel Gray, mariner James Caldwell, died instantly. Samuel Maverick, an apprentice ivory turner, died a few hours later and Patrick Carr, an Irish immigrant, died two weeks later.   The shots temporarily dispersed the crowd.

They soon came back to gather up the killed and wounded, and only Preston’s quick thinking stopped his men, fearing another assault, from firing again. After the incident, dubbed the ‘Boston Massacre’ by anti-British propaganda, the 29th were forced to leave Boston, to prevent revenge attacks, although Captain Preston and his eight men (but not Lieutenant Bassett) were kept behind and arrested on charges of murder.

The Trial

The trial of Preston and his men was embroiled in politics. The obvious solution, acquittal on the grounds that they had fired in self-defence after great provocation, would outrage the people of Boston, but on the other hand, how could the British Government hang its own men for upholding the law by firing on a riotous and traitorous mob?

The solution came in the form of a lawyer called John Adams. A Bostonian, and an anti-British one at that, Adams was persuaded to put aside his own views and defend Preston, who was acquitted, and then his men. In their defence Adams argued eloquently and intelligently, cutting through the emotions and politics surrounding the trail, that they had acted justifiably in self-defence. Despite his own anti-British feelings, he argued that what the soldiers had done was right and within the law, and even natural in such circumstances. The jury acquitted all but Montgomery and Kilroy, who were found guilty of manslaughter, and branded on the thumb.

As they left, even the branded soldiers thanked Adams for his efforts in saving their lives and seeing justice done. One even voiced concern for Adam’s safety after such a pro-British act in such a hostile City, but Adams replied that he would be safe.

He was right. Only a few years later, John Adams would sign the Declaration of Independence, and eventually be 2nd President of the United States of America.

The guard picket:

Captain Thomas Preston, Lieutenant Bassett

John Carrol               Matthew Kilroy       Hugh Montgomery William Wenns

James Hartigan       William McCauley William Warren           Hugh White

Battle of Culloden

The battle of Culloden was the final pitched battle to take place on British soil between the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the British Hanoverian government army led by the Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II.

Charles was the grandson of James II and VII who was exiled following the glorious revolution in 1688 which replaced the Stewart dynasty with his daughter Mary II and his Dutch nephew and Mary’s husband, William III of Orange.

The Duke Of Cumberland.

Believing there was support for a Stuart restoration in both Scotland and England, Charles landed in Scotland on July 1745 raising an army of Scots Jacobite supporters. The Jacobite campaign to restore the Stewart dynasty began with reasonable success, with support from the Scottish Charles Edward’s highland army defeated government troops at Prestonpans in September 1745 and was able to occupy Edinburgh reaching as far south as Derby but failing to gain English support forced them to retreat to Scottish territory in December 1745. The following year despite being on the defensive Charles’s army gained an impressive victory of the government army at Battle of Falkirk won in January 1746.

After the defeat of General Hawley at Falkirk, William Augustus (Duke of Cumberland) was appointed as commander of the government forces in Scotland and based his army in Aberdeen, setting out in April 1746 to engage with Charles’s troops who were located at Inverness.

The two armies eventually met at Culloden with Charles Stuart’s army consisting of 7,000 men – largely formed of Scottish clans and 8000 governmental forces made up of 17 regiments including the 36th Hereford Regiment led by Colonel Flemming.

Painting of Grenadiers – 36th Regiment is on the far right.

The day prior to the battle the Duke of Cumberland’s celebrated his birthday at Nain  during which the Jacobite’s attempted a night attack on Cumberland’s camp, however this ended in complete failure with soldiers  falling far behind and losing themselves in the bog and with dawn close to breaking it was clear the Jacobite forces would not reach Nairn before daylight resulting in the exhausted Scottish clans turning  back tired and exhausted to their former positions on Drummossie Moor. Two hours after they had arrived, they heard news that the British army was on the march and only four miles away. The Highlanders dragged themselves to their feet and formed a line.

What followed was a gruesome and bloody one- hour battle with a swift and decisive victory by Cumberland and the governmental forces. Charles began the battle on the defensive expecting Cumberland to attack, instead the Cumberland’s forces remained stationary using cannons to bombard the Jacobite forces inflicting casualties on the highlanders and wreaking havoc on morale.

Following the bombardment Charles ordered his troops to charge the enemy lines – a tactic which had proved very effective in their previous engagements.

artist impression of the Battle of Culloden.

Cumberland’s secretary, Everard Fawkener describes the charge in a letter in which he writes…

“The rebels then charged towards our right wing, waving their swords in the air and shouting: they hoped to tempt our right wing to leave the battle line and attack them. But His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cumberland, commanded these troops himself and they kept to their line. The rebels then made a mass attack on our left wing: they ran forward, sometimes stopping to fire their pistols and muskets and reload. They were met with fierce musket fire from the British and were almost cut to pieces by our cannon. The whole weight of the rebel attack fell on two battalions of the British left – the Scots Fusiliers and Munro’s. It seemed that the rebels would get round the left wing, but Colonel Wolfe moved up his battalion to stop this. Here the bayonets of the British caused great slaughter of the rebels.

The rebel charge failed, and their army fell back. On the left, the British cavalry rode through gaps which had been made in a stone wall and attacked the rebel right wing which was put to flight with its reserve. The cavalry on the British right also rode round the rebel wing and attacked the enemy from behind. At this, the rebel army fled. The British infantry advanced and gained ground where the rebels had stood. There our men gave three cheers”

By the end of the battle the Charles Stuart had lost between 1000- 1500 men out of his original 5000 strong force in comparison to Cumberland’s forces only suffering 50 dead and another 259 wounded. Charles himself was able to escape the battlefield and, after many adventures, reached France but campaign for a Stuart Monarchy would never happen again.

In regard to the 36th Hereford regiment they suffered only 6 wounded soldiers have very little action during the battle being placed in the second line as the 4th of 7 regiments in formation. Following the battle, the regiment remained under command of Cumberland taking part in the battle of Lauffeld against the French in the following year.

Officer’s of the 36th who took part at the battle of Culloden

Below are the names of the officers who formed the 36th Regiment and took part at the battle of Culloden.

ACKLAND DUDLEY – Lieutenant

ARNOTT WILLIAM – Captain

BROWN ROBERT – Major

BUCKSTON THOMAS – Captain

CHAMIER ROBERT – Captain

CARLETON HUMPHREY – Ensign

DENNY WILLIAM – Captain

DODD GILBERT- Captain

DUDLEY WILLIAM – Lieutenant

DUNCAN ALEXANDER – Ensign

ELRINGTON THOMAS – Ensign

GORE HENRY- Captain/ Lieutenant

HAMILTON ROBERT – Ensign

JACKSON GEORGE – Lieutenant colonel

MATTHEWS JOHN – Ensign

MOREAU PAUL – Ensign

MONTGOMERIE ARCHIBALD 11th EARL OF EGLINTON – Captain

NAPPER (NAPIER) ANDREW – Lieutenant/ Adjutant?

POTTER GEORGE – Ensign

PRICE JOHN – Ensign

REMINGTON GERVAS (JERVAIS) – Captain

RICE JOHN – Ensign (Volunteer)

ROBINSON WILLIAM – Lieutenant/ Adjutant

SKENE (SHEYNE SKEYNE) GEORGE – Ensign

STRONGE BLACHFORD – Ensign

VAUGHAN HENRY – Ensign

VEALE SAMUEL BUCK – Lieutenant

The Worcestershire Regiment’s and the Berlin Blockade 24 June 1948–12 May 1949

As the Second World War came to a close and the Allied Powers took control of the previous Nazi occupied territories, conferences, such as at Yalta and Potsdam, were held to determine how to best divide the region. It was decided that the west of the previously occupied territories would be controlled by the United States, France and Great Britain and the east by the USSR. However, the Western Allies demanded part of Berlin resulting in the City being divided.  As Berlin was located within Soviet occupied Germany Great Britain, the US and France were very much isolated within the Soviet occupied sector.

The sectors of Berlin

On 24th June 1948 the Soviets began an all-out blockade of Berlin while demanding the Western Allies withdraw the newly introduced Deutsche mark from West Berlin. In response, the Western Allies organised an airlift to provided supplies to their sector.

Berlin Airlift

The Worcestershire Regiment had arrived in Berlin on the 31st January 1948 and immediately occupied the Montgomery Barracks a mere eight miles from the Soviet occupied zone. Tensions were notably high an account from the July 1948 edition of “Firm” (the Regimental Magazine) states that: “the past few months in Berlin have been as arduous as any spent by the Battalion since the end of the war” clearly showing the tremulous state of affairs within Berlin. The Worcestershire Regiment were primarily tasked to guard the British sector of Berlin and to prevent Soviet involvement in the region. Their role often would not go without incident, barely a month after the Regiment had occupied the Montgomery Barracks the Soviets had moved their check post into the Western Sector claiming it to be the correct border.  Two companies of the Worcestershire Regiment swiftly encircled them and after twenty-four hours, the Russians left. This incident exemplifies the military and political chess match of the East and the West within Berlin and what the Worcestershire Regiment had to deal this during their time in garrison.

However largely daily life would also go without incident resulting in the majority of the Regiment assigned to guard roles. This was not an overly popular role and can be seen by another extract of Firm where it states: “we have quickly settled down in Kladow to the standard Berlin routine which consists primarily of the art of manufacturing excuses to avoid guards”.  However, tensions were still very much at breaking point, HQ Company are recorded as saying “Berlin has become a beleaguered city and the only means of transport in and out is by air, quite like the war years except there are no bombs”.

Gatow Airport
The C.I.G.S., Viscount Montgomery, inspecting the Band prior to his departure to U.K. He is talking TO B/Sjt. Morgan, M.M., accompanied by B/M. Lt.-Col. R.E.L. Tuckey and Major- General E. O. Herbert, Commandant Berlin Garrison

The Regiment remained in Montgomery Barracks until May 16th 1949 having quashed any Soviet attempts on their sector and moved to Gottingen three days after the Berlin Blockade had been lifted. They were relieved by the 1st Battalion Gorgon Highlanders and it mark the end of the Regiment’s direct involvement in Berlin.

The Storming of Bangalore 21st March 1791

In spring 1791 Lord Cornwallis with a mixed force of British and native troops attempted to capture the fortress of Bangalore from Tippoo Sultan the ruler of Mysore, India.   Arriving before the town on 5 February, Cornwallis found he had insufficient troops to invest the fortress and town so he encamped on the north-eastern side.  Bangalore consisted of a fort proper and a pettah, or fortified town, adjoining to it. It possessed two gates, the Mysore (or southern) and the Delhi (or northern) gate. Tippoo had thrown eight thousand men into the fort, nine thousand into the town, and then had retired with the remainder of his force to a position some six miles to westward. Cornwallis decided that the town should first be carried, in the hope that its position and the supplies hoarded within it would facilitate the siege of the fortress.

Soldiers of 36th Foot at Bangalore

Accordingly at dawn of the 7th March, the 36th Foot and a battalion of Bengal Sepoys moved off to the attack of a gateway on the northern face of the town, four heavy guns following them in support. A flèche which covered the gate was speedily carried with the bayonet.  The storming party then pushed on across the ditch and through the belt of thorn to the inner gate. Here the advance was checked, for the gateway had been built up with masonry upon which field-guns could make no impression; and the party perforce remained halted for some time under a galling fire until the heavy guns could be brought forward. A small breech was made at length; and Lieutenant Ayre being hoisted up by the grenadiers, contrived to creep through it. General Medows, then turned to the grenadiers of the 36th with the words, “Well done. Now, whiskers ! Support the little gentleman.” A few more men managed to crawl after Ayre, and opened a sally-port for the entry of the rest. The garrison was then quickly beaten back under the guns of the fort, and within two hours two-thirds of the town were in possession of the British.

Meanwhile, Tippoo set his whole army in motion as if to turn Cornwallis’s left, at the same detaching six thousand men to reinforce the garrison, which had rallied under the cannon of the fort, and with them to re-take the town. Cornwallis, divining his intention, manoeuvred to foil the turning movement, but lost no time in strengthening his force within the walls. The attack of the Mysoreans upon the town was delivered with unusual spirit and resolution; but after a short exchange of volleys the 36th and 76th, with two Sepoy battalions, cut matters short by clearing the streets with the bayonet. Gathering impetus from success, they swept the enemy out of the town, with a loss of over two thousand killed and wounded. The casualties on the British side amounted to one hundred and thirty, of which no fewer than one hundred occurred among the Europeans. Among the fallen was Lieutenant-Colonel Moorhouse, who was killed while bringing up the heavy guns to the first attack on the gate.

The Orders issued by Lord Cornwallis on the day after the fall of the fortress are preserved in the records of the 36th Foot, and are as follows:

“LORD CORNWALLIS feels the most sensible gratification in congratulating, the officers and soldiers of the army on the honour able issue of the fatigues and dangers they have undergone during the late arduous siege. Their alacrity and firmness in the execution of their various duties, has, perhaps, never been exceeded, and he shall not only think it incumbent on him to represent their “meritorious conduct in the strongest colours, but he shall ever remember it with the sincerest esteem and admiration.”

“The conduct of all the regiments which happened, in their tour, to be on duty that evening, did credit in every respect to their spirit and discipline; but his Lordship desires to offer the tribute of his particular and warmest praise to the European grenadiers and light infantry of the army, and to the THIRTY-SIXTH, Seventy-second, and Seventy-sixth regiments, who led the attack and carried the fortress, and who, by their behaviour on that occasion, furnished a conspicuous proof, that discipline and valour in soldiers, when directed by zeal and capacity in officers, are irresistible.”

The fortress was to fall three weeks later on the 21st March.

 

 

Recent Acquisition

With the generous assistance of the The ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Mercian Regiment Museum we have recently acquired an Officer shoulder belt plate of the 36th Herefordshire Regiment.  This belt plate succeeded the 1800 pattern and was prompted by the plethora of battle honours awarded for the Peninsular War, and the authorisation of the motto “FIRM”, both events occurring in 1816.  The introduction of this plate must therefore be after 1816 when the last four battle honours were granted yet before 1825 when “PYRENEES” and “NIVE” were granted.  This plate shows clear signs that the star has been moved upwards to accommodate the “FIRM” scroll.  Bennet, who originally acquired the badge of Captain Bayley, (Bennet R.W. 1994 “Badges of the Worcestershire Regiment”) mentions only one other example of this type of shoulder belt plate, whose current location is unknown.

Charles Andrew Bayley was first commissioned on the 25th November 1804, as an Ensign of the 41st Regiment of Foot.  On the 26th January 1806 he was a gazetted Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 31st Foot and it was in this capacity that he served in the Peninsular.  He was present at the siege of Badajoz and the Battle of Albuehera and at the action of Arroyo del Molinos for which he received a promotion.  He was gazetted Captain and joined the 36th Foot (the Herefordshire Regiment) on the 15th January 1812.  He joined the 2nd Battalion of the 36th in May and went recruiting in Borrisokane, Ireland.  He was back in Spain in March 1813, but was sick and on leave from October 1813 to May 1814.   He was then appointed Officer in charge of the 36th Depot in Cork. Following the disbandment of the 2nd battalion in 1815 he joined the first battalion in Portsmouth. In 1817 he was posted to Malta.  He became DAQMG Malta in August 1821 and then Military Secretary Corfu in February 1822.  He was appointed military secretary in Malta from May 1824 and then deputy Judge Advocate in Malta in April 1825.   In 1826, he went on half pay until 1841.  On the 23rd November 1841 he was appointed Lt. Colonel Mediterranean and from 1846 to 1850 he was Commander Forces Gozo, Malta.  He died in 1852.

Officer's shoulder belt plate of the 36th Regiment

Officer’s shoulder belt plate of the 36th Regiment

Neuve Chapelle 10th to 13th March 1915

 This was the first major British offensive of the war on the Western front.  The initial assault on 10th March broke through the German line.  During that night elements of the 1st Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment went forward to hold the gap.  They were reinforced by the remainder of the Battalion the next afternoon.

At dawn on the 12th March the German artillery opened up and shortly afterwards attacking infantry loomed through the mist.  “There was a most extra-ordinary hush for a few seconds as we held our fire” said an officer “While they closed in on us.”  Then the Battalion opened a rapid fire.  As the Germans reeled, the Battalion broke from their trenches and charged with the bayonet, pursuing the enemy back beyond their own trenches which the Battalion then occupied and held against several counter-attacks.

Mantania

This painting by Matania of the 1st Battalion at Neuve Chapelle graphically portrays the savage nature of the hand-to-hand fighting

By 10 am it was clear that the position of the Battalion, far in advance of any support, encircled on three sides, and shelled by both enemy and friendly artillery, was not tenable.  As they withdrew in good order, they were decimated by the enemy’s cross-fire, losing amongst others the Commanding Officer and the Adjutant.

wodehouse

Lt. Colonel Wodehouse

 

 

The losses had been severe; 9 officers and 92 men killed, 10 officers and 226 men wounded, and 27 men missing. 

 

 

 

Ever thought about volunteering in a museum?

Volunteers and the Curator discussing drawings from  the collection

Volunteers and the Curator discussing drawings from the collection

The Mercian Regiment Museum, whose public galleries are inside the City Museum on Foregate Street, is seeking volunteers to help at the museum offices and store. The museum is the home of medals, weapons, uniforms, equipment and archives all of which tell the story of The Worcestershire Regiment since its formation in the late seventeenth century. If you are computer literate, help is needed to input data into the digital catalogue of the collection and also to research questions from the public who are seeking information about ancestors who served with the regiment. Naturally, training is available and research follows a set pattern for each enquiry.

This is a fundamental role for the museum as the boom in family history as a hobby in recent years has meant an increase in enquiries and the approaching centenary of The First World War is expected to result in many more people wanting to find out about those who ‘took the King’s shilling’ in that conflict.

If you would like further information, please telephone the curator, John Paddock (01905 721982 Monday to Thursday).

No previous experience in museums is necessary, just a familiarity with basic computer skills and an interest in Worcestershire’s historic heritage. If you are not at home with computers but think that volunteering in a museum would be fun, contact John as there other roles that need willing helpers.

The Battle of Gheluvelt October 31st 1914 "The Worcesters save the Empire"

 The first shock of the German invasion came near to defeating the combined French and British Armies.  The British Army stood to fight at Ypres.  After ten days’ hard fighting, the 2nd Battalion, 350 strong, was the only reserve for the Gheluvelt sector.  The Battalion was then resting in Polygon Wood.  The line at Gheluvelt, attacked by overwhelming numbers, gave way, and the enemy took the Chateau and village.  The situation was very serious, and preparations for a general retirement were made; unless the gap was closed, the Army would be lost, so, more or less as a forlorn hope, the Battalion was ordered to counter-attack.

‘A’ Company advanced to a railway embankment overlooking the village, to prevent the enemy advancing up the Menin Road.  Meanwhile, with lightened kit and extra ammunition, the rest of the Battalion made ready for the attack.  The village was hidden by a ridge, and their aiming mark was the Chateau.  As they advanced, signs of retreat were everywhere; they alone went forward.

The crest of the ridge was covered by the enemy guns, and could be crossed only by a quick rush.  Though over a hundred fell to the storm of shelling  which met their advance, the rest dashed down the slope, forced their way through the hedges and fences and into the Chateau grounds, where they closed with the Germans.

Surprised by the impetuous speed of the attack, the enemy, though far superior in numbers, gave way, and the attackers linked up with the remnants of the South Wales Borderers, who were still holding out.

As a result of the capture of Gheluvelt against terrific odds, and the consequent closing of the gap in the British line, Ypres was held and the Channel ports were saved.  In his despatch describing this action of the 31st October, 1914, the Commander in Chief, Sir John French, said:-

“the rally of the 1st Division and the capture of the village of Gheluvelt at such a time was fraught with momentous consequences.  If any one Unit can be singled out for special praise, it is the Worcestershires.”

The casualties of the Worcestershire Regiment in carrying out this counter attack were 3 officers and 189 other ranks, or 50 percent. of their fighting strength on the day!

The Worcestershire Regiment retake Gheluvelt

The Worcestershire Regiment retake Gheluvelt

 

The Museum acquires a "Brown Bess"

Brown Bess Musket (Accession No. 2013-6)

Brown Bess Musket (Accession No. 2013-6)

The astonishing generosity of one of our Friends has enabled  the Trustees of the Mercian Regiment Museum to purchase an British India Pattern “Brown Bess” flintlock  musket.   It was armed with this pattern of musket that the 29th and 36th Regiments covered themselves in glory during the Peninsular War and in doing so earned the Peninsular battle honours of  Rolica,Vimiero, Corunna, Talavera Albuera, Salamanca, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, Pyrennes and Toulouse.

Detail of the lock

Detail of the lock

The musket’s effective range was between 50 to a hundred yards. The musket fired a lead ball of .75″ calibre (approximately 18mm).  It is 55 ½” long with a 39″ barrel marked with ordnance proof marks. The barrel is equipped with a standing foresight and a plain rear sight. It is equipped with a side action lock which is engraved with a Crown over GR (Georgius Rex) the tail of the lock is stamped “TOWER”.  The lock also bears a crowned broad arrow Board of Ordnance mark.  The musket has a India pattern style full stock, with brass furniture including a plain brass fore-end cap for socket bayonet, three ramrod pipes retaining the original ramrod. The musket has two sling swivels, one mounted from trigger guard, the other above front ramrod tube.

 

Proof marks

Proof marks

Markings on the butt plate

Markings on the butt plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see how a Brown Bess was fired click on the link below

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho-QCmnNMl8

 

The Battle of Busaco 29th September 1810

In May 1810 Marshal Massena took command of the Army of Portugal, with orders from the Emperor Napoleon to capture Lisbon and drive Wellington and his British army out of the Peninsular.

During the winter of 1809/10 Wellington’s engineers had built fortifications across the Lisbon isthmus, known as the Lines of Torres Vedras. As Massena began his advance into Portugal the British and Portuguese Army fell back towards the capital.

Massena captured the Spanish town of Ciudad Rodrigo on the border and on 26th August 1810 he took the Portuguese fortress of Almeida. On 15th September 1810 Massena resumed his advance through Portugal towards Lisbon, harassed by Brigadier General Robert Craufurd’s Light Division.

Wellington, intending to fight a delaying battle, positioned his army at the convent of Busaco. The convent lay on a long high ridge that stretched from the Mondego River for some ten miles to the North. The road to Coimbra and Lisbon climbed up the ridge and passed the convent, while a second lesser road crossed the ridge further south. The ridge rose steeply to 300 metres from the valley in places. A rough track meandered along the top.

The British and Portuguese regiments, including the 29th (Worcestershire) and the 45th (Nottinghamshire) Regiments, were positioned along the ridge with the main concentration at the northern end and the reserves further south.

The Battle of Busaco 29th September 1810
The Battle of Busaco 29th September 1810

Marshal Ney led the French advanced guard towards Busaco on the evening of 25th September 1810. His assessment was that only a British rear-guard held the ridge and that it could be easily driven off by a frontal assault. Massena came forward and agreed with him, ordering the assault for the next morning.

The first attack was carried out by Reynier’s corps, advancing up the lesser southern road, Massena’s assumption being that this would take the French behind the British right flank.  Once Reynier was established on the crest Ney’s corps would advance up the main road to the Busaco convent at the northern end of the ridge. Far from being held by a rearguard, on the ridge were all 50,000 British and Portuguese infantry supported by 60 guns.

Early morning mist hampered the first movements and observations. Heudelet’s division, setting off at 6am, followed the southern road up to the crest of the ridge where they were engaged by the 74th Foot, two Portuguese battalions and 12 guns. The fire fight continued for the whole of the battle, Heudelet’s division refusing to give ground.

Merle’s division reached the crest to the north of Heudelet’s. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Wallace of the 88th Connaught Rangers had seen the French column climbing the hill and hurried his regiment to the threatened point with several companies of the 45th Foot. Wallace led his men in a fierce attack on the French and drove them back down the hill.  Wellington wrote in his dispatches: “I can assure you I never witnessed a more gallant charge”

The final element of Reynier’s attack was carried out by Brigadier Foy who took his brigade to the top of the ridge and remained there until he was driven out by Leith’s British Brigade of the 5th Division, the counter attack being headed by the 9th Foot.  Reynier’s corps suffered 2,000 casualties in its abortive assault.

Ney, from his position further north, thought that Reynier had taken the crest and ordered his corps to begin the assault up the main road to the convent.  Loison’s division advanced up the hill with its left on the road. As it reached the crest, the 43rd and 52nd Foot of Craufurd’s Light Division rose from their positions in the sunken section of the road and poured a volley into the French column at 25 yards. The two light infantry regiments then attacked with the bayonet driving the French back down the hillside. A watching artillery officer described the fight as “carnage”.    Mermet’s division attacking alongside was halted by a Portuguese brigade.

Seeing the failure of all the attacks Massena called off the assault and began a reconnaissance to the north, discovering a road that circumvented the ridge. As the French marched away to the flank, Wellington’s army withdrew south towards Lisbon, having inflicted a serious reverse on Massena’s Army of Portugal.  The French suffered 522 dead, 3,612 wounded, and 364 captured. The Allied losses numbered 200 dead, 1,001 wounded, and 51 missing. The British and Portuguese each lost exactly 626 men.

Masséna then moved off to the right to flank the position, and Wellington, after spending the night in the convent, resumed the retreat of his army into the previously fortified Lines of Torres Vedras. He reached these by 10 October.  After probing the Lines in the Battle of Sobral on 14 October, Masséna found them too strong to attack and withdrew into winter quarters. Deprived of food for his men and harried by Anglo-Portuguese hit-and-run tactics, he lost a further 25,000 men captured or dead from starvation or sickness before he retreated into Spain early in 1811.