This Day In History

1762 British force which includes the 40th Regiment (later 1st South Lancashires) invades the French island of Martinique in the West Indies.  The soldiers are ordered to land with three days provisions, a canteen of grog each, and their blankets.
1809 Battle of Corunna. After a long, demoralising and dreadful retreat from central Spain, the British army is forced to turn and fight to gain time for the Navy to come to its rescue. The 2nd / 81st (later 2nd Loyals) have a desperate, 2-hour fight on the right flank, running out of ammunition and losing over 160 killed and wounded before the French are repelled. 2nd/59th Foot (later 2nd East Lancashires) are sent to their aid and lose 60 killed and wounded, but their Grenadier and 1st Companies are the last British troops to disengage from the enemy. The army commander, Sir John Moore, is fatally wounded.
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Chapter 8 – WATERLOO 1815

In 1815 Napoleon returned from exile and the 2/30th, 1/40th, 2/59th and 2/81st joined Wellington’s army for the Waterloo campaign. The 30th took part in the initial engagement at Quatre Bras, where they steadily formed a square to repulse French cavalry charges, and were with the rearguard when Wellington fell back to his chosen ground at Waterloo. The 40th joined the army at Waterloo shortly before the battle commenced on 18th June 1815. The 59th were with a brigade detached to cover Wellington’s right flank while the 81st, despite the entreaties, could not be spared from duties in Brussels.

The 30th occupied a position in the right centre of the British front line throughout the day and for six hours sustained the attacks of massed cavalry and infantry supported by murderous artillery fire. Eleven times they were charged by Marshal Ney’s cavalry but the square was never broken. Towards the end of the day they advanced in line to meet a column of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard and routed them with one volley. By evening nearly half the Battalion had fallen and the survivors were commanded by the officer sixth in seniority, all his seniors having been killed or wounded.

The 40th were at first in reserve but later were moved into the centre of the allied line, near the farm of La Haye Sainte. There, like the 30th, they withstood repeated attacks by cavalry and infantry and were pounded by cannon, but they stood firm. Towards evening they drove back Napoleon’s final attack by massed infantry. Shortly afterwards the Duke of Wellington personally ordered the Regiment to advance. The 40th charged, swept away the French infantry to their front and took part in the recapture of La Haye Sainte. One quarter of the Regiment fell that day.

For their steadfastness and discipline at Waterloo the 30th and 40th were permitted to encircle their badge with a Laurel Wreath. The battle is commemorated annually by the Regiment.

After Waterloo the 59th took part in the storming of Cambrai and, with the 30th, 40th, 81st and 82nd, the occupation of Paris. The campaign had a tragic sequel for the 2/59th and 1/82nd when these two battalions were wrecked off the Irish coast with the loss of some 550 men, women and children, the greatest disaster in the Regiment’s long history.

Chapter 7 | Chapter 9