This Day in History: 1811-05-16

Spain. Battle of Albuera. Light Company of the 40th Foot (later 1st South Lancashires) fights in a composite Light Battalion in one of the most bitterly-contested battles of the Peninsular War. The rest of the 40th, in a Brigade which is cut off on the wrong side of a river, force-marches over 30 miles to join the battle. They arrive the next day, and the sight of them persuades the French to finally abandon the field. This was the battle where the Commanding Officer of the 57th Foot (later the Middlesex Regiment), mortally wounded, lay on the ground throughout exhorting his men to “Die hard, 57th, die hard!” and thus gave his Regiment the nick-name which it proudly carried ever afterward. And Marshal Soult, the French commander, declared “There is no beating these troops, in spite of their generals. I always thought they were bad soldiers, now I am sure of it. I had turned their right, pierced their centre and everywhere victory was mine – but they did not know how to run!”