WALCHEREN & PORTUGAL (1809-1811)

1809 Spring 95th call for 338 volunteers to make up their numbers (to 1,000 each), get 1282 responses. 3rd battalion formed under Maj MacLeod of 1/95. MacLeod exchanges with Lt-Col Andrew Barnard (of 1st Guards). Maj-Gen Hon W Stewart becomes colonel of 3/95
2/95 (Lt Col Wade), 2/43 & 2/52 form Stewart's Brigade for the Walcheren expedition. Aim: capture of French ships in the Scheldt, destroy arsenals at Flushing & Antwerp, keep Napoleon busy in N Europe.
22 Apr Wellesley arrives back in Lisbon. Soult's advance south from Corunna has reached Oporto. British troops in Lisbon number 26,000. All of 5/60 present, No official 95th presence, but probably a contingent of odd bods in 1/Detachments. Wellesley's advance is led by a Company of Rifles [Bryant]
12 May Battle of Oporto. Soult outflanked, retreats north out of Portugal
11 Jun Spanish Govt (Seville Junta) gives permission for British troops to operate against French on Spanish Territory
Jun Wellesley marches into Spain to link up with Cuesta's forces. "Rifle company" present [Harvey]
28 Jun Craufurd's Light Brigade arrives at Lisbon. 1/95 (TS Beckwith), 1/43, 1/52
9 Jul Light Brigade arrives at Abrantes. Craufurd issues his "standing orders". VV strict & initially unpopular, but gradually became highly valued, and the Light Brigade kept them religiously after Craufurd's death. Eventually they were adopted by the entire army. The brigade continues its march to Spain
28 Jul AM - Craufurd receives an urgent despatch from AW to bring the brigade on "with all possible speed". The brigade march 42 miles in 26 hours, arriving just after the battle. Immediately sent to relieve outposts.
PM - Battle of Talavera (95th represented by "the rifle company")
3 Aug Wellesley receives intelligence that Soult is moving to cut him off from Lisbon. Begins the retreat form Talavera. Light Brigade do the outpost duties, sometimes rearguard, sometimes vanguard (securing vital positions). Rifles develop an understanding with the French picquets (reducing unnecessary alarms and deaths.)
11 Sep Craufurd and the Light Brigade reach Camp Mayor. Remain there 3 months. Climate & location unhealthy, 300 men of 1/95 die from fever, dysentery and exposure.
20 Oct Col Fletcher (chief eng) receives orders to begin secretly constructing the "Lines of Torres Vedras". Security is tight, and the French are amazed by their existence 1 year later.
Dec Light Brigade transferred to ?
1810 End Jan 325,000 French troops in Spain
19 Mar Night attack on Barba del Puerco. 600 picked voltigeurs thrown back by 200 Riflemen under Col Beckwith. Glowing praise from Wellington and Black Bob since it was not really a "rifleman's battle".
Apr Light Division formed by the addition of the Chestnut troop (RHA), 2 regiments of Portuguese Cacadores, & part of the 14th & 16th Light Dragoons. [Harvey talks about all 3 battalions of the 95th, but initially it was only 1/95. Cos of 2/95 & 3/95 serve in Cadiz, and are gradually transferred up to Portugal as the pressure in the south eases.]
Fall of Ciudad Rodrigo to French
24 Jul Combat of the Coa. Craufurd keeps the Light Division east of the flooded Coa for too long with only 1 bridge for retreat. Is attacked by Ney with 24,000 men. Chain of command becomes unworkable, but discipline holds and individual companies get themselves back over the bridge in good order. Last stand east of bridge by 50 ea 1/95 & 1/43. 3 attacks (2 by 66th, 1 by Corps d'Elite de Chasseurs) are beaten back with heavy losses. Chasseurs lose 4 officers/86 men dead, 3 officers/144 menwounded in 10 mins. 66th lose a Colonel & 15 officers in 2nd attack). Wellington praises the officers and men up to brigade level, pointedly omitting Craufurd (who he felt had made an error of judgement). Craufurd tacitly agrees by taking the censure quietly.
Aug/Sep Withdrawal to Lisbon
20 Sep Bulk of army takes up positions on Bussaco Ridge
22 Sep Light Division recalled to Bussaco (Craufurd keeps it too close to French van again). Preliminary hard fighting
27 Sep Battle of Bussaco. Massena tries a frontal assault on a heavily defended ridge. Rifles heavily engaged. 1/52 & Rifles "avenge the death of Sir John Moore". French advance halted for a while (further delays caused by French soldiers breaking ranks to loot).
Oct British retire behind the Lines of Torres Vedras
14 Oct Massena sees the Lines
Oct/Nov Light Division in continuous contact with the French, Rifles patrol the French lines (?and beyond).
15 Nov Rifle patrol reports that the French have retired, Craufurd (with the Light Division) pursues.
17 Nov The Light Division catches up with the French rear-guard. Craufurd orders an attack on the visible French, but Wellington arrives in time to stop him since it would have put him within reach of Junot's Corps (21k)
By this time Portuguese militia have moved down from the north and cut Massena off from Ciudad Rodrigo. The French are hemmed in on all sides, and it takes an entire battalion to get Foy out of Portugal with despatches for Napoleon.
Graham appointed to command British contingent in Cadiz
3 Cos 3/95, 2 Cos 2/95 (Col Barnard commanding) to Cadiz. Graham reports that the 3/95 are raw and 2/95 are sick (Walcheren fever)
1811 5 Mar Battle of Barrosa
Mar Massena begins his retreat out of Portugal
Assault on Pombal - Rifles carry the castle, Ney requires 4 battalions to extricate his rearguard
12 Mar Redinha - Ney's right protected by wooded heights, left by River Soure. Rifles thrown in extended order against French right, drive French infantry from the wood.
Casal Nova
Massena retreats over River Ceira
Foz d'Arouce - Ney's rearguard defeated. Wellington invites the COs of 43, 52 & 95 to recommend a Sgt for promotion to Ens (2nd Lt)
3 Apr Fording of the Coa, Battle of Sabugal - Beckwith's
Sabugal - Beckwith's brigade forded the chest high river and advanced. Suddenly found themselves facing Reynier's entire Corps. Repulsed 3 attacks from the Corps and then pursued themas they retired.

[Story: Rifleman Flinn was aiming at a Frenchman when a hare started and he immediately changed aim and shot the hare. Rebuked by his officer he said "ah! Your honour, sure we can kill a Frenchman any day, but it isn't always I can bag a hare for your supper."]

Blockade of Almeida
5 May Fuentes de Onoro - rescue of 3rd Div, retreat of Light Brigade in squares. Rifles cover in loose formation.
10 May Massena retreats into Spain

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Last update 13/2/03