This Day In History

  • 1815 Battle of Waterloo. The 30th and 40th Regiments (later the 1st Battalions of the East Lancashire and South Lancashire Regiments respectively) gain glory on the field of one of the most decisive battles in history.
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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