The Happy Donegal

By Paul Martinovich

Helion recently published my biography of Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm (1768-1838), entitled The Sea is my Element. This Scottish sailor spent his entire active career at sea, commanding half a dozen ships as a captain, and then flying his admiral’s flag aboard several others. Mark Myers’ painting on the cover of the book depicts the ship with which he was most closely associated, HMS Donegal, as she races through stormy seas to join the British fleet after Trafalgar.

Like many ships in the Royal Navy, the Donegal was a prize, a ship captured from the French and transformed into a Royal Navy asset. A large 74-gun ship built to a very successful design by the naval architect Jacques-Noël Sané, she had been launched in 1794 at the Mediterranean naval base of Toulon. Initially named Barras, after an important political figure in Revolutionary France,as the political winds changed her name changed as well, ending up as Hoche, commemorating a famous revolutionary general who had died in 1797. The shipwas captured in 1798 by a British squadron as she attempted to land a force of French soldiers on the northern coast of Ireland to assist the Irish insurgents seeking to overthrow the British connection.

Since the ship was quite new and had suffered relatively little damage in the battle, she was purchased into the Royal Navy, and given the name Donegal to commemorate the location of her capture. As was customary, the ship was refitted to British standards: her masts and rigging were altered to make them more robust, and the French guns were replaced with slightly smaller British ones. At the same time the dockyard installed a new figurehead, portraying a fierce, kilted Irish warrior.

HMS Donegal re-joining the fleet after Trafalgar (Original artwork by Mark Myers)

When rearmed the ship carried thirty 32-pounder guns on the lower deck and thirty 18-pounders on the upper deck, along with sixteen 12-pounders and eight close-range carronades fore and aft. In all, she could fire an 850-pound broadside at an enemy ship. By comparison, at Waterloo Wellington’s forces had a total of about 160 guns firing shot totalling roughly 1600 lbs. So the Donegal’s armament (remembering she had two broadsides) was more powerful than all the artillery of the allied army in the culminating battle of the Napoleonic Wars. These ships were massively-armed floating gun batteries, capable of inflicting enormous destruction on enemy vessels.

Between her commissioning in late 1802 and early 1805, the Donegal was commanded by Sir Richard Strachan, who had made his name as a frigate commander in the French Revolutionary War. The ship formed an important unit of Lord Nelson’s Mediterranean Fleet watching the French fleet at Toulon, and in 1804 captured a Spanish frigate. By January 1805, the rigours of blockade and storm had taken their toll of Strachan’s health, and he asked Nelson to be allowed to return to Britain to recover. Rather than lose a valuable warship, the admiral agreed that Captain Pulteney Malcolm, who had been sitting at anchor in the Bay of Naples for 14 months, could switch ships with Strachan. This allowed Malcolm, who had been pestering Nelson for a more active role, to join the fleet off Toulon in the Donegal, while Strachan took Malcolm’s ship, the leaky Renown, back to a British dockyard for repairs.

Thus began Pulteney Malcolm’s six years in command of one of the finest two-deckers in the Royal Navy. The ship was widely agreed to be among the most handsome in the fleet, and Malcolm took great pride in her appearance. For instance, in September 1810 he decided to have the crew paint the Donegal, but was upset that it rained soon after, streaking the wet paint. As he told his wife, it made his ship look like ‘a painted hag, returning by daylight from a fashionable party’. He claimed that he would be ‘as anxious to repair her charms on the return of sunshine, as the Lady would be before she makes her appearance in the world’. Sailors often attributed human characteristics to their ships.

Captain Pulteney Malcolm by Smart

Appropriately enough, many of her 640 crew were Irishmen—Malcolm delighted in their activity, though he regretted their tendency to get drunk whenever the opportunity presented itself. His style of man-management was both intelligent and humane. Punishments on board the Donegal were limited—only the captain could award floggings, since, as he said, he also had the power to mitigate such penalties. Malcolm was proud that he had never ordered a man court-martialled, and that many of his ex-shipmates approached him for assistance after they had left the vessel. He also encouraged competition with other ships in the squadron, to keep the men healthy and on their toes, fostering what today would be called ‘unit cohesion’. This approach explains why the ship received the nickname ‘the happy Donegal’ during Malcolm’s time in command.

This period (1805-1811) represented the height of the naval war against France, and the ship was involved in a number of dramatic events, as well as the protracted, grinding task of blockade. In the first few months of Malcolm’s command, the Donegal took part in Nelson’s long chase of the enemy Combined Fleet across the Atlantic and back, and came very close to participating in the Battle of Trafalgar, being the last big ship to leave the British fleet before the battle, and the first one to return. A few months later, she played a prominent role in the Battle of San Domingo, being instrumental in the capture of two French ships-of-the-line. Years of strenuous activity followed, as the ship and her crew blockaded the French ports of l’Orient and Cherbourg, were present at the Battle of Basque Roads, and landed the future Duke of Wellington and his army on the shores of Portugal. Throughout this time, Malcolm had only two, relatively brief periods of leave. During the first, when the Donegal was temporarily commanded by his friend (and ex-Bounty mutineer) Peter Heywood, she helped drive three French frigates ashore at Sables d’Olonne near Rochefort. During Malcolm’s second leave, the ship was used to transport the Marquess Wellesley (Wellington’s older brother) to and from Spain, requiring the crew to spend several months anchored in Cadiz harbour, waiting for the diplomat to complete his assignment.

By the spring of 1811, the Donegal needed a major repair. This would require her to be decommissioned, with her officers and crew being discharged and sent to other ships. Malcolm was sorry to leave his home of six years, but recognized that the work was overdue. After waiting a year or so in reserve at Portsmouth, she was moved around to Chatham for a ‘middling repair’, which cost over £50,000, and took about 18 months. This substantial investment (about two-thirds the cost of building a new ship) indicates the Admiralty believed the Donegal to be a valuable asset, with years of useful life ahead of her. However, by the time she emerged from the dockyard, the war was over, and her services were not needed. The ship spent the next 14 years in reserve, mostly at anchor in the backwaters of Sheerness, awaiting the next call to arms.

This came in 1829, when, after a £21,000 refit, she was recommissioned as a guardship, essentially a vessel manned and ready to go to sea at short notice. In 1832, Pulteney Malcolm walked her quarterdeck once again, but now as a vice admiral in command of the Channel squadron, which was used to conduct trials of new ship designs. Despite a reputation for speed, the Donegal proved rather slower than more modern ships, but this was partly attributed to the growth of weed on her hull since her last docking. She remained Malcolm’s flagship throughout the summer of 1832, and then again when he re-joined the ship for a difficult six months commanding an Anglo-French squadron blockading the Dutch coastline. This was his last encounter with the vessel in which he had made his reputation, but she soldiered on in active service for another ten years, finally going to the breakers in 1845. Malcolm did not live to see the end of his ship, since he had died in 1838, after a career of nearly 60 years, mostly spent at sea. The Royal Navy named two later warships Donegal, but neither became as famous as Malcolm’s ‘happy Donegal’.

The Sea is my Element: The eventful life of Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm 1768-1838 is available to purchase here.

Re-assessing the Grand Old Duke

By Philip Ball

HRH The Duke of York (NYPL)

Personally, I am very glad that the French Revolutionary Wars are finally increasing in prominence, as they surely are with the From Reason to Revolution series. As a schoolboy and undergraduate I studied the Revolution itself but the wars it occasioned were always something that was going on elsewhere; to be manipulated by the various political factions in the National Assembly or a threat to the existence of the newly fledged Republic. The wars themselves rarely got a mention. I always thought this was odd as the Napoleonic Wars which came immediately afterwards are immensely popular with writers, wargamers, and those with an interest in history. The French Revolutionary Wars involved many of the same characters as those later wars, colourful costumes, a plethora of set piece battles, and can hardly be bettered for sheer drama. The great victories thrown away through folly, the brilliance and ineptitude shown in equal measure by both sides, and the chaotic unpredictability of the French Republic at war make for an exciting area of study.

Whilst working at the Museum of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment I came across reference to the Helder campaign.  This, I read, was a campaign fought by the British army alongside Russian allies, to provoke a counter revolution in the Netherlands. Two battalions of the regiment had fought in this campaign but I had never heard of it and could find little written about it. So, I was drawn to this period through a lack of information, the exploration of something familiar and yet unknown. I later wrote my Masters dissertation on the failure of the Helder campaign and was moved to research the Duke of York’s previous campaign; that fought in Flanders 1793-95. This, as it turned out, was quite a large subject and is known to us today largely through the nursery rhyme ‘The Grand old Duke of York’, so I felt that this was a large gap in the history of the period which needed filling.

The Duke of York, as the nursery rhyme would imply, did little to enhance his military reputation in the course of this campaign which, like the later one, ended in an ignominious withdrawal on the part of British forces and the surrender of the Netherlands to French forces. There have been attempts in recent years to revive the reputation of the Duke of York; to paint him as an early Eisenhower, holding coalitions together with his diplomacy and a general able to defeat his enemy when allowed to exercise independent command. Unfortunately there is little evidence of any of this when we look closely at the conduct of this operation. As the famous Gillray cartoon, ‘Fatigues of the Campaign in Flanders’, suggests, York seems to have lived well on campaign (he was accompanied by a vast retinue of cooks and liveried footmen) while his troops struggled with supply issues. An English lady visiting the Duke said that he was constantly surrounded by a coterie of young staff officers and rarely dined with the commanders of his army which did not endear him to them or give him the opportunity to discuss issues with the army. When the outgoing Hanoverian commander, Marshal Freytag went to report to his Elector (George III of England) York wrote a very telling letter to his father, the King, saying that he wasn’t to believe anything the old veteran said about York being perpetually drunk.

‘Fatigues of the Campaign in Flanders’, Cartoon by James Gillray (Public Domain)

York didn’t spend very much time with his army and when it wasn’t actually on the march he tended to find comfortable quarters away from camp. At the battle of Beaumont the army had to wait, drawn up to repel the French attackers, while York was fetched from his bed. It is not unsurprising therefore that the army, which is said by some to have been the worst to have ever left England, suffered some problems with indiscipline.  In  a war that was being pitched to the British taxpayer and the world in general as a crusade against the beastly excesses of republicanism, the British army committed a number of atrocities against the civilians it was supposed to be saving and upset almost as many allies as its commander did.

York’s biggest failing as a commander was perhaps the way in which acted towards his allies. In the later Helder campaign he was accused of being loudly critical of his Russian allies and it seems he was no different in Flanders. A young man, son of the King, fond of drink and rowdy company, he probably saw nothing wrong with his behaviour but his letters home are full of contempt for his allies, whom he blamed for every mishap he encountered.

This book has a number of themes but perhaps the central one is the difficulty of keeping coalitions together. The force that York was part of consisted of; troops of the Austrian Empire; Germans, Hungarians, Croats and Slavs, the Prussians and the Dutch, as well as various mercenary troops in the pay of Britain. All of the states involved had different motivations for being in the coalition and hoped for different things from the war. The various contingents were commanded by professional and experienced soldiers who doubtless resented York’s, widely broadcast criticism.

Whilst the personal feelings of the commanders did not have as much effect on the future of the coalition as the manoeuvring of their political masters, it almost certainly affected relations between the armies. Some commentators have even alleged that Austrian generals deliberately abandoned York to his fate at the Battle of Tourcoing due to their personal antipathy towards him. Remarkable as this is, by the end of the campaign the Dutch, the very nation that the British contingent had been sent to defend, were exhibiting more sympathy to the invading French than to their erstwhile allies and began negotiations while the British were still in the country.

So, this is a tale of personalities and alliances; it is also an account of a large number of battles. The campaign in Flanders seems to have been extraordinarily hard-fought: although the battles achieved little as the action see-sawed across Flanders, some towns changing hands several times, there were lots of them. For me one of the most interesting parts of this story is phenomenon of the republican war machine; the genesis of total war. This is a period that holds an almost mythological status in the annals of French military history; the ragged, starving, but ideological armies, led by men soon to be household names (Carnot, Jourdan, Vandamme, Macdonald, Bernadotte and Bonaparte to name a few) saved the republic from autocratic forces bent on its destruction.  What we see is the entire resources of a nation flung with abandon against its enemies. This book examines the effectiveness of the forces they raised and casts a critical light on the legends.   

‘Le désagrément d’être joli garçon’ (Anne S.K. Brown Collection)

After two years of bloody but fruitless campaigning the coalition failed. The vast hydra-like forces of the French Republic wore down the allies’ will to fight. Although generally successful on the field, the coalition lacked the clarity of vision to concentrate its efforts and was overwhelmed by French numbers and aggression. Numerous defeats did not seem to dent the republican war machine and as the coalition foundered it returned to the offensive.  The Prussians went back to pick over the carcass of Poland, the Austrians fell back to their own territory, and the Dutch surrendered, becoming a satellite of France until 1814. York was removed from his post and sent home to command the army from Whitehall while his men endured one of those harrowing retreats which dot the landscape of British military history.  They would return eventually, but spent most of the war nibbling at the rind of France in limited amphibious operations.

Neither Up Nor Down is part of our From Reason to Revolution 1721-1815 series, and can be ordered from the Helion & Company website here.

Delivery to EU – VAT, Customs and other charges

Since 1st January 2021, the UK has no longer been a member of the EU. This means that deliveries to EU countries are now subject to the receiving EU country’s rules and regulations for purchases from outside the EU. This is similar to what has always been the case for buying goods from, say, USA.

The EU has further changed its regulations from 1st July 2021, bringing more, smaller purchases within their VAT regulations and making them subject to charges.

The effect of this is that buyers of UK goods may now have to pay VAT, Customs duties and a handling charge imposed by the buyer’s country’s postal service. Previously, none of these charges would have been applicable. Goods passing through the buyer’s country’s Customs in this way may also be delivered more slowly.

There is a new mechanism – the EU VAT One Stop Shop (OSS) – that is intended to let sellers from outside the EU charge VAT according to the rates in the buyer’s country when goods are purchased. This requires the seller to store and charge different VAT rates for each country they are selling to in the EU. There are other bureaucratic steps necessary, as well as modifying websites, to enable this.

An alternative is for the UK seller to have an agent/distributor in any EU country, from whom all EU purchases would be made by buyers. As this would be inside the EU, external charges would not apply, although the buyer’s country’s VAT rate probably would apply.

Helion is investigating both of the above options – OSS and an EU distributor – but it will take some time to get any arrangements put in place. There are currently substantial delays in getting the OSS set up, both on the UK and EU sides, and an agent/distributor is a long-term business partnership that cannot be put in place overnight. As a relatively small business, Helion does not have the resources to focus purely on this issue in the short term.

Quite a lot of UK sellers have ceased supplying to EU countries altogether. Helion does not intend to do this, but buyers should be aware that their own country may well charge them VAT, Customs duties and a handling fee from now on for purchases from Helion.

The Eagle Falters: Napoleon’s Psychological Burdens

By Ed Coss

Our recent From Reason to Revolution title The Sword and the Spirit, edited by Zack White, is based on papers given at the 2019 BCMH ‘War and Peace in the Age of Napoleon’ conference. In one of the keynote papers at the conference, and in the opening chapter of the book, historian Dr Ed Coss outlined the findings of a collaborative psychological analysis of Napoleon Bonaparte. In this blog post, Dr Coss outlines the methodology that the team pursued and gives an outline of the conclusions drawn.

Napoleon Bonaparte is presumed to be, and almost always presented historically as, a stable genius, somehow unfettered by personal quirks and nearly immune to the psychological trauma of nearly two consecutive decades at war. A careful examination of his words, and those who heard and recorded them, by five trained American Army psychologists casts serious doubt on this portrayal. Their independent appraisals were surprisingly aligned. These mental health professionals agreed that Napoleon seemed to exhibit behaviours consistent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Depression (possibly bi-polar), and maladies possibly related to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).    

This exploration began as a series of conversations among mental health clinicians who also happened to be my students in military history. As we examined Napoleon’s behaviors and decisions, particularly in Spain and Russia, the psychologists began to wonder whether or not Napoleon had been impacted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We initially assumed that this was the case. We resolved to put a team together and begin an appraisal.

For this study, it was decided to allow the five trained psychologists to read and independently interpret primary source historical material that I gathered. A decision was made to limit this research to either Napoleon’s words or those of the men who were in the room with him. As the psychologists investigated and appraised the available first-person accounts, consistent behavioral indicators appeared to emerge. Napoleon, as it turned out, met only 3 of 24 standards for PTSD, according to the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Napoleon seems to have had few to none of the dreams, flashbacks, or distress when presented certain stimuli related to the battlefield. Napoleon gave the impression that he was free of almost all relevant symptoms. This surprised the team. Upon reflection, however, what we had overlooked was that his near-total lack of empathy acted to shield Napoleon from the kinds of sadness, regret, and guilt that most soldiers experience. This human failing, this inability, according to Psychology Today, to ‘experience another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own’ and which is ‘crucial for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately’ protected Napoleon’s psyche. Thus, we were wrong in our initial diagnosis.

Any clinical assessment of Napoleon without actually conversing with him and so many years removed from his era has limitations, of course. The American Psychological Association, in fact, explicitly warns mental health professionals that it is unethical to offer public psychological assessments of anyone not in their care (or for any patient). The exception is when analyzing historical figures, and those examinations have guidelines. This ethical challenge needs be acknowledged at the outset, so as to allay concerns that the methods used herein to examine the psychology of the historical figure of Napoleon were questionable, whimsical in nature, or that the psychologists and the author have in any way attempted to bypass mental health or historical standards in the commission of this work.

As the psychologists independently read and assessed the more than 400 historical comments or personal interactions related to Napoleon, the team unanimously concluded that he strongly exhibited behaviours consistent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, meeting the criteria in seven of nine categories, two more than the DSM-5 requires for identifying someone with this disorder. This conclusion came only after sharing assessments, careful debate, and the recognition of the limits of this study, acknowledging that the team members were never in the room with Napoleon and that the appraisal could never be definitive. Still, the names of his seven qualifying categories capture clearly the kinds of telling behaviours that are part and parcel of this disorder and were, most likely, exhibited nearly every day by Napoleon: Grandiose; Fantasies of unlimited success, love…; Believes he/she is special; Has a sense of entitlement; Interpersonally exploitative; Lack Empathy; Arrogant.

Moreover, the clinicians all believed that Napoleon’s behaviours appeared to align with someone struggling with Major Depression.  Because all these behavioural episodes seem to align with those delineated in the DSM-5 for bipolar-depression or Major Depressive Disorder, it would be fair to speculate that Napoleon may have struggled with one or both of these mental illnesses for much of his adult life. Thus, Napoleon may have experienced a series of unpredictable emotional highs and lows, alternating manic episodes of varying degrees with depressive experiences and self doubt.

The team was also surprised that Napoleon’s two instances of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the result of two accidents involving horses, have not been considered by scholar’s assessing Napoleon’s decision making and conduct. This is especially true of Napoleon’s coup of 18 Brumaire, which saw Napoleon overthrow the Directory, but only barely and after serious missteps; the coup occurred just ten days after Napoleon’s first TBI incident. The APA’s guidelines state that in addition to ‘neurocognitive deficits, there may be associated neurophysiological, emotional, and behavioural complications.’

Altogether, these mental health disorders impacted Napoleon every day of his adult life. It would seem that these individual and collective debilitations likely inhibited Napoleon to a greater degree than has been surmised. This is a matter of no small import to readers examining Napoleon’s behaviours on the 200th anniversary of his death. It is hoped that the chapter will give the reader pause and cause him/her to reconsider Napoleon’s mental health and its impact on his words and actions.

Dr Ed Coss is emeritus professor of military history, United States Army Command and General Staff College. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Army’s Civilian Educator of the Year in 2010. Coss is a Member of the British Commission for Military History and the Society of Military History. He is also a Trustee of the Napoleonic and Revolutionary War Graves Charity. He is the author of All for the King’s Shilling: The British Soldier under Wellington, 1808–1814 (2010) and contributing author to The Context of Military Environments: An Agenda for Basic Research on Social and Organizational Factors Relevant to Small Units (2014); European Armies of the French Revolution, 1789–1802 (2015); and Technology, Violence, and War (2019).

For a Parliament Freely Chosen

By Andrew Abram

The story of the discovery on 23 August 1659 of the fugitive Sir George Booth by the innkeeper of the Red Lion in Newport Pagnell, dressed as ‘Mrs Dorothy’, and his arrest and confinement in the Tower of London ‘close prisoner for high treason, in levying war against the Parliament and Commonwealth’, might be found in the pages of a historical novel. However, three weeks earlier Booth had led an armed revolt in Cheshire. Having been let into Chester on 2 August by the city authorities – the military garrison seeking safety in the castle – he mustered an estimated 3,000 horse and foot, ‘well mounted and armed, with drums beating, colours flying and trumpets sounding’ on Rowton Heath. Booth delivered his manifesto or Declaration, which roused his men and appealed for others to join the cause.

Sir George Booth of Dunham Massey (1622-84) leader of the armed rebellion in Cheshire (National Portrait Gallery)

My first book published by Helion in 2020, More Like Lions than Men, was a study of the Parliamentarian forces in Cheshire commanded by Sir William Brereton. Knowing about the military and political events of 1659, I noticed that other than a trickle of journal articles on the rising’s causes – mainly produced to mark its 300th anniversary – no comprehensive study existed. Also, more general narratives made little headway into the wider objectives of its leaders and participants. Such works have been chiefly reconstructed from the biased accounts of the victors, whereas a body of manuscript and printed sources remained untapped by many writers.

The main aims then, were to challenge notions that the rising was (a) a local event, poorly led, organised, and executed by Booth and his supporters; and (b) a failed attempt at restoring the Stuart monarchy. I was interested to understand, from the perspective of historical sources, the motivations its leaders (mainly Presbyterians, some who had fought for Parliament during the civil wars, and former royalists), and how they articulated these in a broad sense. In his manifesto Booth made no mention of the exiled Charles II, focusing instead on the untrustworthy Rump Parliament in governing the country through army interference. In calling for a free parliament, Booth asserted that without this freedom there could be no settled basis for religion, liberty and property.

Booth’s rank and file (it has been argued) came from his friends and pressed tenantry. However, though extensive evidence for their recruitment, arming and organization is wanting, many were officers of proven ability – including Myddelton, Colonel Henry Brooke and the Welsh royalist Sir John Owen – who had experience of leading troops in civil wars. Some of the lower ranks were also military veterans, although others were new to the rigour of war. Booth – a leading member of a Presbyterian gentry family that dominated Cheshire politics in the early-modern period – had been a colonel in Sir William Brereton’s Parliamentarian army and described by Sir John Meldrum in 1644 as ‘a young gentleman of great expectation’. But his increasing opposition to Brereton lessened his effectiveness, and he resigned his commission the following year.

Chester Castle (Thomas Tennant, Tour of Wales, 1778)

Even though the government response was rapid and proportional, Booth’s greatest problem was the disastrous failure of intelligence gathering and poor tactical awareness by himself and his senior commanders. Apparently oblivious to the arrival of Lambert’s veteran brigade in Nantwich on 15 August, after a forced march from London of nine days, through ‘very unseasonable’ weather, they were also stunned by the landing of 6,000 troops from Ireland at Beaumaris commanded by Colonel Jerome Sankey. Though Booth had an estimated 5,000 men under arms, his forces were split between Chester (where most of the horse was), and Warrington (where the bulk of the foot remained), some two day’s march away. Such unpreparedness is surprising, given that news of Lambert’s movements had reached Cheshire a week before. Likewise, Booth knew by 7 August that his position was increasingly isolated because much of the promised assistance from other parts of the country had failed to materialize. Exactly what he was trying to accomplish is hard to know, but a rift had already occurred with his subordinates over the rebellion’s strategic aims.

Reality soon kicked in. Following the first contact with Lambert’s scouts in the fields around Tarporley on 17 August, Booth sought negotiation. He told the major-general that he was ‘surprised to see him at the head of an army against him, who had only declared for a free parliament, offering to confer on an accommodation’. Nevertheless, Lambert was resolute, he was ordered to force the rebels into submission, and bloodshed could only be prevented by the laying down of their arms. Most probably, the declaration for the King by Myddelton at Wrexham a few days earlier had added fuel to the fire. The cry of Booth’s men was ‘Have at all’, and the Parliament’s ‘God with us’.

The seventeenth-century topography of Winnington Bridge is somewhat masked by alterations to the River Weaver, the industrial facilities of nearby Northwich, and modern housing developments. It is possible, nonetheless, to identify the main features of the battlefield from contemporary accounts and (where viable) field walking.

Broken and enclosed terrain around Hartford Green, 1.5 miles southwest of Winnington Bridge, where Lambert’s soldiers cleared bodies of rebel musketeers prior to the main battle (author’s photograph)

The fight was swift and one-sided. Booth fled with some cavalry to Chester (via Lancashire). Liverpool and Chester were seized the following day, but Sir George had gone. Of Winnington Bridge, Lambert reported, the rebels ‘were quickly beat, and put to a total rout, throwing down arms and colours, and we had the pursuit of them a great way in lanes and enclosures. Their foot are all broke and disbursed. If it had been a champion country, few of them had escaped to carry home news’. A royalist correspondent would report, ‘Sir George Booth … is poorly come off, and all his glorious pretext of a free parliament and the subjects’ liberty, which in his forehead he carried, is all ended under a wench’s petticoat, which makes many conclude him to be either a fool, knave or coward’.

The north bank of the Weaver, over which the rebels were driven by Colonel John Hewson’s regiment of foot, seconded by Lambert’s and Colonel Swallow’s horse (author’s photograph)

You can buy For a Parliament Freely Chosen: The Rebellion of Sir George Booth, 1659 here.

The Story of Surgeon Henry Milburne Part II

By John Marsden

The city of Astorga, with its magnificent cathedral, convents, monasteries and other fine buildings, both civic and private, offered the perfect sanctuary to the Army of the Left, whose erstwhile commander in chief, General Blake, had been recently replaced by the Marqués de la Romana. The new commander in chief had been coordinating his movements with Sir John Moore since the 15th November, as both men sought to evade the converging French armies by reaching Astorga in the foothills of the Galician mountains where the British commander thought he might be able to make a stand, having by then secured his escape route to Corunna. La Romana was to the north of Moore’s two columns as the allies retreated, the British general having asked him to destroy the bridge over the Esla at Mansilla de las Mulas before continuing on his westerly retirement. Unfortunately, the marqués’s exhausted and poorly equipped men were surprised by Soult when he made a dash for Mansilla, scattering the demoralised Spaniards and capturing the bridge intact. Those soldiers of La Romana who were able to regroup then set their faces towards Astorga. 

As mentioned above, the sick and wounded of La Romana’s army had already begun to trickle into Astorga before Milburne arrived, and his first task was to assess the condition of the casualties whilst at the same time making an inventory of the various buildings and medical supplies available, all of which he would need as he began to organise a system of hospitals. In his narrative of the campaign, written after his escape to England, he described how the frostbitten and wounded of the Spanish Army of the Left were crowded together with the rest of the men, without any attempt to separate them from those with contagious conditions, such as the strain of typhus which was sweeping through their ranks. Most of the casualties he discovered lying on the bare floors of the buildings in which they had sought shelter, or under the arches of open piazzas in and around the centre of the city. Some were still lying in the carts which had been used to convey them to Astorga.

Milburne soon came to recognise the lack of surgical care available to those in need of it, readily discernible by the number of unattended and undressed wounds he encountered. His first priority was to attend to these casualties of the fighting, but his main concern was directed towards the isolation of the sick in an effort to contain the outbreak of typhus previously referred to. He sought out Lieutenant General Fraser, commander of the British troops already at Astorga, and impressed upon him the need to take action designed to avoid the contagion taking hold amongst Moore’s troops, who were expected within the city at any moment. He suggested to the general that the Spanish sick be moved and concentrated in marked buildings; any accommodation thus cleared was to be disinfected and made ready for occupation by those of the wounded who were free from disease. In response Fraser wrote to the Junta de Astorga, requesting them to grant special powers to Milburne for removing the sick to places outside the city walls. They responded by investing full authority in him, assigning the city’s comptroller, Don Josef Orm and a local surgeon, Sr. Tardio, to the task of assisting the British surgeon in his work to examine and classify all of the sick and wounded. Once this had been completed the patients were assigned to the appropriate buildings.

To add to Milburne’s work, on 29 December the French prisoners taken by the British during the recent fighting at Benavente began to arrive at Astorga, many of them wounded and requiring the attention of the British surgeon and his Spanish assistants. On the following day Sir John Moore arrived at the city, only to leave on the 31st with the reserve of his army and its rear–guard of cavalry, all en-route to Villafranca del Bierzo. Moore had by then abandoned his plan to stop the French on the frontier of Galicia. La Romana also entered the city on the 30th.

When the British marched away Milburne placed his services, his stock of medicines and his surgical instruments at the disposal of the Spanish, but the French arrived at the gates of Astorga before he was able to organise the care of those left behind. Desperate to avoid capture, the surgeon was forced to make his own escape towards Villafranca, taking as much of his stock with him as he could cram into the saddlebags of a pair of mules procured for him by the Junta de Astorga.

Milburne caught up with Moore’s rear–guard at Manzanal and continued with it to Bembibre, where he was lightly wounded as the French cavalry skirmished with its British counterpart. Soon, as the weather worsened and his animals fell sick, he was forced to abandon his medical equipment and follow in the wake of the army as it entered the mountains of Galicia. As he did so he was to witness many scenes of suffering and despair along the road to Corunna, as the severe conditions took their toll of British soldiers, Spanish muleteers and various camp followers, including the wives and children of British troops.

Finally, on 10 or 11 January, the army arrived at Corunna, but the naval transports required to convey it to England were not yet anchored in the harbour, instead, they were still at Vigo and had to be sent for. This meant that Moore was forced to prepare a defensive perimeter outside the town to protect the embarkation points to be used when the fleet arrived. Inside the town the British Artillery and Engineers began to improve its batteries and fortifications with the willing assistance of Spanish troops and civilians. Looking on, the surgeon was full of praise for the efforts of the Spaniards, at one point witnessing two young women armed with sabres and dressed as soldiers, helping with the work.

On the 14 January the fleet of British warships and transports arrived, allowing the evacuation of the army to commence. On the following day the French began their attack upon Corunna, and during the next few days the surgeon was to become a close observer of the fighting, often placing himself in the British front line. In the early morning of the 17th, the last of the British units still on the battlefield began their withdrawal and most of them were aboard ship before daybreak, the French being somewhat hesitant to follow up after the mauling they had received during the fighting. They had failed achieved the victory they were expecting. With a small rear-guard under the command of Beresford manning the port defences along with a number of their Spanish allies, the French, once they had stirred themselves and attempted to approach the harbour, were halted by the spirited exertions of the mainly Spanish defenders, thus allowing the men of Beresford’s force to embark without molestation, Rear Admiral de Courcy eventually announcing that: ‘… the army has been embarked to the last man’.

Retaining his status as a private citizen attached to the Spanish Army, Milburne was forced to apply for passage to England aboard a ship of the Royal Navy, and in doing so offered his surgical expertise to Dr. Shepter, Inspector of Hospitals, who provided him with a letter of introduction to Staff Surgeon Taggart, the man responsible for the sick and wounded aboard the hospital ship, Alfred, along with his Assistant Surgeon Roe. The Alfred set sail for Plymouth in the early hours of 19 January 1809 and arrived there late on the following day, taking advantage of some apparently highly favourable winds.

In his letter to Castlereagh, which he included in his publication, A Narrative of Circumstances Attending the Retreat of the British Army Under the Command of the Late Lieut. Gen. Sir John Moore, from which much of the information comprising this article was taken, Milburne included a return of the sick and wounded aboard the Alfred as she sailed for home. She was just one of many ships bearing casualties to England, and his detailed list of the sick and injured is included below. It will provide the reader with some idea of the general condition of the army after its gruelling winter retreat across northern Spain, and it may be worth reflecting upon how the Spanish troops, whose experiences were said to have been somewhat worse than those of the British, had suffered during the campaign:

List of Casualties aboard the Alfred

Cases of dysentery:     68

Cases of fever:            56

Wounded:                   36

Trifling complaints:    20

Convalescents:            77

————————————

Total:                            257

 

Little is known of Milburne after his return to England, but in her book, British Liberators in the Age of Napoleon (2013) Graciela Iglesias Rogers makes an interesting note, stating that he was with Whittingham’s division in Mallorca (1810) and Menorca (1811) and eventually attained the rank of Inspector of the Spanish Royal Hospitals in the Balearics. One of the issues Milburne became involved with during his time with Whittingham related to two of the Royal Navy’s ships, HMS Invincible and the famous HMS Temeraire which, on arriving at the islands in August 1811, were required by the authorities to go into quarantine at Mahon in Menorca as a precaution against the possibility of their crews spreading yellow fever amongst the local population. Milburne visited the sick aboard the ships and declared their ailments to be non-contagious, a view he later set forth in an article published in the Diario de Palma, as stated by Rogers in her book. This instigated a public row fought out in the press between Milburne and a local Spanish doctor, who used the Semanario de Menorca to voice his opposition to the British surgeon’s pronouncements. One of the accusations made against him was that he was placing the interests of his compatriots above those of the island’s population, when insisting that the sick from the ships be transferred to hospitals ashore. To which Milburne replied that he was acting ‘not as the friend of a particular society, but of the entire human race’.  Things settled down when the Royal Navy, perhaps realising the delicacy of the situation, afforded partial compliance with the demands of the islands’ governors by leaving. On inspection of the logs belonging to Invincible and Temeraire for the months of August and September 1811, it is possible to find several references to the sick amongst their crew, as well as the recordings of the death of several sailors, the majority belonging to HMS Temeraire

Whether Milburne ever returned to England after the war or decided to live out his days in Mediterranean climes is as yet unknown, but it is difficult to imagine that someone with such a zest for life did not find a suitable outlet for his energies during the ensuing peace. Perhaps he lies buried in a Balearic cemetery just waiting to be discovered – or to be left in peace, far from controversy’s reach.

Read the Story of Surgeon Henry Milburne Part I here.

Napoleon’s Stolen Army: How the Royal Navy Rescued a Spanish Army in the Baltic is available to buy here.

The Story of Surgeon Henry Milburne Part I

By John Marsden

It was whilst researching the story of the Marqués de la Romana´s Denmark expedition that I came across the interesting but little–known story of army surgeon, Henry Milburne, who, due to a particular set of circumstances, came to be in the Spanish city of Astorga in December 1808 when the British, Spanish, and French armies descended upon it.

Once La Romana’s force had been returned to Spain in the autumn of 1808, it was thrust into the battles then raging in the north–east of the country as Napoleon’s grand counter offensive gathered speed. Marching towards the oncoming French divisions was the British expeditionary force led by Sir John Moore, hoping to be able to block the enemy advance alongside their Spanish allies. Unfortunately, such a prospect began to fade from their vision before they had an opportunity to come to grips with their adversary, as they learned that the Spanish armies in their front had simply melted away as the various French army corps overran them. Reluctant to throw in the towel at such an early stage of his Spanish adventure, Moore decided to launch a strike at the lengthening lines of French communications, but, once warned by La Romana of Napoleon’s plan to entrap him, the British commander in chief was forced to join the general withdrawal of the Spanish armies.

As he retreated across northern Spain, Moore realised that he was going to require unfettered access to the royal highway leading to Corunna, so he asked La Romana to keep his army away from it, expecting him to remain to the north of his British allies as they each retreated towards Galicia. Pressed closely by the French, the Spaniards failed to comply with Moore’s somewhat haughty request as the worsening winter conditions forced them to make for the little walled city of Astorga, which lay directly in the path of Moore’s army. It was there during the last few days of 1808 that the two armies met. By chance, Henry Milburne, who had earlier relinquished his commission as an army surgeon, was at Astorga as the British and Spanish approached, and we may now examine the story of this somewhat enigmatic character which, like the story of La Romana’s Denmark expedition itself, is little known; both examples highlighting the possibility of the existence of other hidden tales lying forgotten or as yet undiscovered amongst the archives of the Peninsular War. 

It would seem that Henry Milburne began his medical career as a humble assistant surgeon, whilst serving with the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot, and there is an entry recording his commission in Colonel William Johnstone’s List of commissioned officers who served in the medical services of the British army: ‘2407 Henry Milburne, A. S. (Assistant Surgeon) 52F [52nd regt. of foot] 4th Aug. 1804 [date of commission]’. The 52nd raised a second battalion in that year, which might explain their need for a new assistant surgeon at the time. Intriguingly, there is also an entry for Milburne in Drew’s Roll, a list of army officers who served with the British army medical corps during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, it reads: ‘2407 Henry Milburne. A.S. 52F 4 Aug. 1804. Res[igned] before 14 Mar. 1805. H. M. [Hospital Mate] previous to being commissioned’. Despite his apparent resignation, it would seem that at some time between 1804 and 1808, Milburne may have transferred to the York Rangers, as Johnstone’s List contains a further entry for him as follows: ‘3869 Henry Milburne. A.S. Royal York Rangers. 28th July 1808. Superseded 1808’, indicating that he was commissioned in the York Rangers on 28 July 1808. (Note, the entry number, 3869, seems to be a mis-type for the intended 2869).

Whatever the early details may show, it was during his army service that Milburne developed an interest in the diseases typically contracted by soldiers in the course of their service, as well as the gunshot wounds they suffered when confronting an enemy on the battlefield. Perhaps it was his interest in the former subject that caused him to seek service with a regiment designated to serve in the tropics, such as the York Rangers. However, there is the faint possibility that there were two people with the name of Henry Milburne serving as an army medic in the early 19th century, one with the 52nd, the other with the York Rangers. If indeed they refer to the same person, then the record suggests there was a gap of over three years in his time as an army medic, between leaving the 52nd and joining the York Rangers, unless, that is, he spent some or most of that time with the York Rangers as a hospital mate, as suggested in Drew’s roll.

Britain’s first expeditionary force to the Iberian Peninsula disembarked in Portugal during August 1808, and it would seem that, whilst at home in England or in Africa with the York Rangers, Milburne became a supporter of the Spanish cause, and felt that the possibility of gaining some field experience in the Iberian Peninsula might allow him the opportunity for acquiring some first-hand knowledge of the subjects mentioned above.

The 1/52nd and the 2/52nd were two of the units making up Wellington’s force in 1808, so if Milburne was an assistant surgeon with the regiment he should have gone to Portugal with it; obviously he did not, as our story will show. This fact may confirm that he had left the 52nd by then – to join the York Rangers perhaps? Whatever the case, eager for adventure, he applied for a position with the Peninsular Army. His application was refused but, determined to serve in Spain and Portugal, he decided to appeal to the Spanish authorities via the offices of Don JoséMaría Queipo de Llano, Conde de Toreno, who, in his position as a Deputy in the semi-autonomous parliament of Asturias, had made his way to London in the wake of the Spanish uprising against the French, hoping to obtain help for his beleaguered country from the British Government. Queipo de Llano was either unable or unwilling to help the aspiring medic, so Milburne turned to the British ambassador to Spain, (either John Hookham Frere or Charles Stuart, both of whom held the post that year) asking him to make an approach to other members of the Asturian delegation in London on his behalf. The ambassador took up Milburne’s case and communicated with Don Juan Ruiz de Apodaca and Don Adrian Jacome. As a result, Milburne’s request was made known to Don Juan de Arejula, then Surgeon to the Army of Andalucia, who seems to have acceded to it, as Milburne was eventually to be provided with passage to Spain aboard one of the Royal Navy’s ships.

Before leaving for Spain in his status as a private citizen, Milburne was provided with some letters of introduction, absolute necessities having given up his army commission. Such documents may have helped him to meet with Sir William Gordon Duff, MP for Worcester and partner in the counting house of his uncle, James Duff, consul at Cadiz. Duff had recently donated the sum of £1,000 in aid of the ‘Spanish Patriots’ and happened to be searching for a surgeon willing to serve with a regiment being raised in Cadiz by his business partner, the Malaga-born ‘Colonel’ Juan Murphy, who, said Duff, had ‘raised, clothed, armed and equipped a legion of 2,000 men at his own private expense’, which went by the name of the Regimiento de Infanteria Voluntarios de España.

On 28 November 1808, Milburne sailed for Spain aboard the sloop HMS Primrose, disembarking at Corunna on 10 December whence he set off for Madrid after obtaining a passport to travel from Galicia, and having the luck to fall in along the way with an officer belonging to the 15th Light Dragoons, Captain Thackwell. On arriving at Astorga on 27 December he heard that Murphy and his entire regiment had been captured by the French at El Escorial, thus depriving him of an important contact and indicating to him that it would be unsafe to continue towards Madrid whilst Sir John Moore’s army was beating a precipitate retreat towards Astorga, with the French in close pursuit.

It did not take the surgeon long to become aware of the large number of Spanish troops then present in Astorga. These were men belonging to Spain’s Army of the Left, which had recently suffered some heavy defeats at the hands of the French, and had fallen back along the roads of northern Spain in appalling weather with the soon to be dismissed General Blake at their head. Many of them were suffering from a form of typhus, and a large number of soldiers bore festering wounds inflicted during the recent fighting in the region of Biscay. This, combined with a lack of rations and their state of near nakedness – many of them unshod – meant that a significant number were in urgent need of medical attention. Milburne felt his chance had come and immediately made an offer of his medical services to the Spanish Army, which was accepted without hesitation.

Read the Story of Surgeon Henry Milburne Part II here.

Cold War Berlin An Island City

By Andrew Long

My interest in the Cold War began back in 1986 when I visited West Berlin on, of all things, an orchestra tour. We were playing a series of concerts in the city and on a day off we made the trip through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin. We’d already been warned not to muck about as we crossed the border and that was reinforced when a sub-machine gun toting border guard made their way along the aisle of our coach, carefully checking everyone’s passport. Despite having an official guide showing us all the ‘good’ bits, it was clear to all that the East was very different to the West.

Roll on 30 years and having finally escaped from a career in marketing, I began researching the Cold War as a hobby. If my parents’ generation had been influenced by the Second World War, my generation’s collective consciousness had been formed by the Cold War, and I realised that I had some big gaps in my understanding of that key conflict. Some months into my research, I began to notice that one city was being mentioned more than any other, and that city was Berlin. I was obviously aware of the Berlin Wall but didn’t really understand how it came about and how it famously came down in November 1989, only three years after my orchestral tour.

With all roads seemingly leading to Berlin, I figured that building a timeline would be a good place to start. I hasten to add that I’ve no academic training in history, and actually gave the subject up at the age of 14, so I was literally learning on the go. Over time, scholarly articles and reference books showed me the methodology I needed to adopt, my timeline alerted me to many events, organisations, personalities that needed further investigation, and the project snowballed from there. In terms of source material, my own bookshelves are groaning under the weight of hundreds of books on the Cold War, supplemented by more from my local library which kindly purchased many obscure titles for me. Living in the far south west of the United Kingdom, I’m not able to travel up to London very easily, and not being associated with a particular academic institution, you have to get very creative with finding good material. Thankfully you can access some academic journals online and it’s possible to access a lot of fascinating original documents on-line, if you know where to look. Certainly, the Americans are very good at digitising primary source material, an area in which the UK lags far behind.

After a while, various themes began to appear in my research, and I began to consider whether they could be structured into a book. Using some of my old skills, I researched possible publishers and put my thoughts down in the form of a pitch. I had used LinkedIn a lot, a sort of professional social network, in the past and used it to seek out and ‘cyber-stalk’ publishers, editorial directors and commissioning editors in half a dozen or so target organisations.

And that’s how I came to be sitting in my favourite café on a cold and miserable Friday afternoon in November 2019, messaging my target list on LinkedIn. Tom Cooper from Helion, who would become my editor, responded positively and with a lot of his help and advice, my proposal was forwarded to Duncan Rogers, Helion’s owner, and by Christmas I had my first publishing contract.

I am very grateful to Tom, who invested a lot of time introducing me to the strange world of publishing and helping shape and sell my proposal to Duncan. I began with the idea of a single volume covering Berlin’s role in the Cold War, but Tom steered me to Helion’s @War series, which tackle important areas of military history, but in smaller ‘bite-size’ pieces, and my Berlin story went from what would have been a huge, over ambitious and prohibitively expensive project into five smaller and more manageable books.

  • Cold War Berlin: An Island City Volume 1, The Birth of the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift, 1945-1950
  • Cold War Berlin: An Island City Volume 2, Scar across a city – the Berlin Wall, 1950-1961
  • Cold War Berlin: An Island City Volume 3, Cold War Battlefield, NATO vs The Warsaw Pact 1945-1990
  • Cold War Berlin: An Island City Volume 4, The Decline and Fall of the Wall and the Soviet Union, 1985 to 1990
  • Cold War Berlin: An Island City Volume 5, In the Shadow of the Wall, the East German Police State, 1946-1990

The @War series, and in particular the Europe@War series, which is relevant to my work, is the ideal format for a new author. The dreaded blank sheet of paper is replaced by a well proven and successful formula, which helps structure your thoughts.

Firstly, the series demands academic standard research and quality writing, which is presented in a very accessible format. The A4 page size means that photos, maps, charts and tables can be large for maximum clarity and impact. Helion encourage lots of images, which may scare some authors, but I was pleased that I could support the narrative with numerous visual cues in line with the text. The @War books have black and white images throughout, plus a colour section which follows a common format: colour profiles showing aircraft or vehicles relevant to the text, colour illustrations showing military uniforms and lovely big colour maps. The books are also printed on glossy paper, which improves the resolution of the images – particularly useful when your images are 70+ years old and often in poor condition. That said, searching for suitable images was probably the hardest part of the process as many libraries hide behind very expensive paywalls.

With help from Tom and latterly Andy Miles from Helion, plus a talented group of artists, cartographers and researchers, Cold War Berlin: An Island City Volume 1 made its way to market, launching in March 2021, some fifteen months after that wet Friday afternoon in the café. It’s been a fascinating journey and the skills and techniques I picked up en route will hopefully make writing Volume 2 and future publications much easier for me, and the great team at Helion.

Cold War Berlin An Island City Volume 1 : The Birth of the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift, 1945-1950

Cold War Berlin: An Island City Volume 1: The Birth of the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift, 1945-1950 is available to buy here.

A Moonlight Massacre – The Real End of Third Ypres

By Michael LoCicero

Overlooked by most campaign histories of the Third Battle of Ypres (31 July-10 November 1917), the Night Operation on the Passchendaele Ridge, 2 December 1917 remains a forgotten tailpiece to the controversial Anglo-French offensive. Based on an extensive array of British and German sources, many previously unpublished, and supported by numerous illustrations and maps, A Moonlight Massacre is the first full account of the tragic affair and an important re-interpretation of the discussion surrounding Third Ypres.

The operation having been ordered by British Second Army, its subordinate VIII Corps and II Corps were tasked with overseeing an attack north and north-west of Passchendaele village. The objective, a necessary preliminary to a proposed series of attacks astride Passchendaele Ridge during the winter of 1917-18, was to make a short advance from the dangerously exposed Passchendaele Salient on a 2,870-yard front. On the right, 8th Division (left formation of VIII Corps) would assault the formidable Venison Trench defences with a single infantry brigade; on the left, the neighbouring 32nd Division (right formation of II Corps), employing a reinforced infantry brigade, was to prolong the left flank by seizing Hill 52 and Vat Cottages Ridge. The short advance would, if successful, open out the west side of the salient whilst simultaneously carrying the British line “sufficiently far northward along the ridge to give us observation into the valleys running up to the Passchendaele plateau from the north and east.” Occupation of these vista sites would also prevent the enemy from massing troops along the ridgeline’s reverse slope thus reducing potential threats throughout the winter months.

Subsequently relegated to a local operation while the Battle of Cambrai raged to the south, the attackers would be operating under the aegis of a novel but ultimately flawed tactical plan that was the brainchild of an ambitious and ruthless divisional commander. Opposed by an expectant and alert enemy unwilling to concede what was deemed vital territory,  the outcome would prove disastrous for the divisions involved.

Pillbox winter 1917-18. (The Outpost, 17th Highland Light Infantry journal, January 1918)

Seven years have passed since first publication of A Moonlight Massacre. In order to ensure the second edition is as comprehensive as possible, new research material, including maps and images, has been added. The bibliography also contains some previously overlooked or unavailable at the time entries.

My post-publication desire to commemorate the Passchendaele night operation’s British  participants of which 1,689 were killed or died of wounds, resulted in a modest, self-funded memorial being officially dedicated in the vicinity of the West Flanders battlefield site 100 years to the day on 2 December 2017. Since then, it has become a somewhat esoteric place of pilgrimage. Further to this, I’m currently researching an even more obscure coda to the failed nocturnal assault; a narrative of a large-scale raid on the southern fringe of Houthulst Forest in February 1918. Carried out by 32nd Division, hard tactical lessons learned during the 2 December 1917 debacle were effectively applied with fortuitous consequences.

Night Operation on the Passchendaele Ridge Memorial. (Tganzengoed Staden)

You can now buy A Moonlight Massacre. The Night Operation on the Passchendaele Ridge, 2 December 1917. The Forgotten Last Act of the Third Battle of Ypres, Second Edition here.

The History of a Salamanca Myth

By Garry Wills

Our recent From Reason to Revolution title Glory is Fleeting contains a variety of studies of aspects of the Napoleonic Wars. In his chapter on the Maucune’s division at the Battle of Salamanca, Garry Wills addresses, amongst other things, the question of the various trophies captured by the allies in the battle. Here, he takes a look at the story of the eagle of the 22e Ligne and the vexed question of who actually captured it.

The Lancashire Infantry Museum in Fulwood Barracks, Preston, proudly displays the eagle of the 22e Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne. Alongside the eagle the museum states that it was captured by Ensign John Pratt of the 2nd Battalion 30th Foot, one of the antecedents of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.[1] Unfortunately the eagle of the 22e Ligne was not taken by Ensign Pratt, 2/30th Foot, but by a different regiment altogether, so how was this ‘myth’ created over the last 208 years?

The Battle of Salamanca was fought on 22 July 1812 and the captured trophies were brought to England by Captain Lord Clinton. In August 1812 Orme published a drawing of the trophies which clearly shows the two eagles, those of the 22e Ligne and the 62e Ligne, neither eagle is shown with its flag and while the eagle of 22e Ligne is marked with its number that of the 62e Ligne is not.[2] In his dispatch to Earl Bathurst, Wellington mentions the eagles but not their captors.[3]

Major General Pringle’s correspondence, written in the days immediately following the battle, makes it clear that the light companies of his second brigade of Leith’s 5th Division, including Ensign John Pratt, captured the eagle bearer party of the 62e Ligne.[4]

In October 1816, while in Gibraltar, Colonel Chichester William Crookshank wrote his statement of service, which included his service at Salamanca, commanding Caçadores N.12, in Pakenham’s 3rd Division, and the capture of the eagle of the 22e Ligne by that battalion.[5] As early as 1821, this was in the public domain via the Royal Military Calendar.[6]

In 1829 John Pratt, now a Major in the 27th Foot, recorded his statement of service, which, while describing his service at Salamanca, makes no mention of capturing any trophies let alone a coveted French Eagle.[7]

Napier published volume five of his history in 1836 but made no mention of the capture of the eagles at Salamanca.[8]

In 1844 a letter from John Garland, adjutant of the 2/30th at Salamanca, named Pratt as one of two officers who took eagles to headquarters from Leith’s 5th Division.[9]

In 1864, the history of the 44th Foot was published and included the following account, based on discussions with Pearce:

The eagle, which was that of the 62nd Regiment of the line, was taken by Lieutenant W. Pearce 44th Regiment, and the two standards by Lieut.-Francis Maguire, 4th, and Ensign John Pratt, 30th Regiment. The French were called on to lay down their arms, about which there was some demur; but on the cavalry returning to the charge they gladly did so, craving protection. Ensign Standley was killed carrying one of the colours of the 44th.

The French officer who carried the eagle had just wrenched it from the pole, and when Lieutenant Pearce first saw it, he was endeavouring to conceal it under the grey great-coat, which he wore over his uniform; Private (afterwards Sergeant) Finley aided in the capture, and the French officer making resistance, was assisted by one of his men, who attacking Lieutenant Pearce with his fixed bayonet, was shot dead by Private Bill Murray, of the 44th light company. Privates Blackburn and Devine, of the same company, had also a hand in this affair, and Lieutenant Pearce divided twenty dollars—all the money he had with him—amongst the four, for their gallant exertions. Soon after the capture of the eagle a heavy column of French infantry came in sight, although at a considerable distance; the eagle was at once placed on a sergeant’s halbert, the men giving three cheers. This trophy was kept for the night with the regimental quarter guard, and Lieut.-Colonel Hardinge sent to Major-General Pringle on the following morning, to know what was to be done with the eagle. ‘Send it to the man who took it,’ was the reply: and Lieutenant Pearce carried it on the march the next day and night, and delivered it the following day, the first time a halt was made, at head-quarters, at a village from which Lord Wellington wrote his despatch about the battle.[10]

In the footnotes further details were included;

In order to mark its identity, Lieutenant Pearce scratched his name on the pedestal with a nail. Some years after, he went to see the eagles which had been removed from Whitehall Chapel to Chelsea College. Lieut.-Colonel Le Blanc, then Major of the Hospital, told him there was one that could not be accounted for, which he recognised as that captured by himself at Salamanca. Since the period of this visit it has been ascertained that one was missing, and it is considered it must be the eagle in question. Captain Ford, Captain of Invalids, Chelsea Hospital, in a paper published in. ‘Colburn’s United Service Journal’ for April 1844, states that the two eagles taken at Salamanca were then in the Chapel of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea.[11]

Thus, the eagle was captured without its pole, but it is shown in Orme’s drawing mounted on a pole, which was presumably one of those recovered from the battlefield without eagles, as described by ‘one of Colonel Greville’s brigade’ in 1844.[12]

The history of the 30th Foot was published in 1887, but despite describing Salamanca over two pages, it made no mention of the regiment capturing an eagle.[13]

In 1912 Edward Fraser published The War Drama of the Eagles, in which he repeats Pearce’s description of the capture of the eagle of the 62e Ligne with some differences in detail. The biggest of these details is his description of the capture of the eagle of the 22e Ligne, ‘it was captured by a British officer of the 30th, Ensign Pratt, attached for duty to Major Cruikshank’s [sic] 7th Portuguese a light infantry (or Caçadores) battalion, serving with the Third Division.[14] This account contains several errors and is contradicted by the history of the 44th Foot. Ensign Pratt was never attached to any Portuguese unit, as evidenced by his own statement of service and Challis’s Peninsular Roll Call.[15]

In 1914, Oman published his history in which he stated ‘The 5th Division swept in some 1,500 prisoners from them, as also the eagle of the 22nd Line, which the heavy brigade had broken in their last effort, while five guns were taken by the 4th Dragoons’.[16]

In 1923 Neil Bannatyne published his updated and expanded History of the Thirtieth Regiment, now the First Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, 1689-1881. In his account, Bannatyne describes Pearce taking the eagle of the 62e Ligne but has Pratt and Maguire taking fanions of two other battalions of that regiment rather than the banderoles of the 2e and 3e Porte-aigles as shown by Orme.[17]

On 10 September 1947, the Burnley Express and News reported, next to the cricket scores, that the eagle of the 22e Ligne was to be handed over by the Royal Hospital, Chelsea to the East Lancashire Regiment on 28 September 1947. The eagle was to be kept in the Regimental Museum within the Towneley Hall Museum, in Burnley. On 4 October 1947, The Sphere published a report on the handover ceremony complete with photographs.

From The Sphere, 4 October 1947. The original caption reads: ‘The Chelsea Pensioners parade with the colours and battle trophies; the veterans lined up before handing the standards and guidons to the Governor of the Royal Hospital, who, in turn, placed them in the keeping of representatives of the ten regiments concerned’

Conclusions

This survey of the literature regarding the capture of the eagle of 22e Ligne, is remarkable in that neither history of the 30th Foot made any claim for the capture of the eagle by Ensign John Pratt, who himself appears never to have claimed it. The ‘myth’ appears to rest on Edward Fraser’s erroneous interpretation of John Garland’s letter, Crookshank’s statement of service and Leith Hay’s ‘Major Birmingham’, although none of these sources are in Fraser’s ‘authorities consulted’.[18]

Having been captured by men of Caçadores N.12, the eagle of the 22e Ligne should be more appropriately displayed in the Museu Militar de Lisboa.

You can order Glory is Fleeting: New Scholarship on the Napoleonic Wars from the Helion and Company website: https://www.helion.co.uk/military-history-books/glory-is-fleeting-new-scholarship-on-the-napoleonic-wars.php


[1] Museum website, available at;<http://www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk/the-salamanca-eagle/&gt;, accessed 24 October 2020.

[2] The Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 750679, Battle of Salamanca: trophies taken from French. 22 July 1812.

[3] J. Gurwood, The Dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington (London: John Murray, 1852), Vol.V, p.756.

[4] University of Manchester Library (UML), GB 133 Eng MSS 1273: Correspondence of Sir William Henry Pringle.

[5] Arquivo Municipal de Mafra (AMM), PT/AMM/CFLLTV/TT-MNE/091.

[6] J. Philippart, The Royal Military Calendar (London: T.Egerton 1821), Vol.III, p.335.

[7] The National Archives, Kew (TNA), WO25/790/93, John Pratt’s 1829 Statement of service.

[8] W.F.B. Napier, History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France from the year 1807 to 1814 (London: Constable, 1993), Vol.V, pp.168–180.

[9] Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service, 22 June 1844.

[10] Thomas Carter, Historical Record of the Forty Fourth or the East Essex Regiment of Foot (London: W.O. Mitchell, 1864), pp.78–80.

[11] Carter, Forty Fourth Foot, pp.78–9.

[12] Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service, 25 May 1844.

[13] Anon., Historical Records of XXX Regiment (London: William Clowes and Sons, 1887), pp.96–98.

[14] Edward Fraser, The War Drama of the Eagles (New York: Dutton and Co., 1912), p.254; however the Historical Record of the 44th Foot is not amongst the ‘authorities consulted’.

[15] TNA, WO25/790/93, John Pratt’s 1829 Statement of service.

[16] Charles Oman, History of the Peninsular War (London: Greenhill, 1996) Vol.V, p.453.

[17] N. Bannatyne, History of the Thirtieth Regiment, now the First Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, 1689-1881 (Liverpool: Littlebury, 1923), p.279.

[18] Edward Fraser, The War Drama of the Eagles (New York: Dutton and Co., 1912), p.xv.