Tag Archives: Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood

“Such a desperate action” – two stories from the battlefield

Print of the Battle of Waterloo (1816) [MS 351/6 A4170/5]

There was widespread rejoicing at news of the Battle of Waterloo – the anniversary of which is today – and the conclusion of the war: this was an occasion equivalent to VE or VJ Day at the end of the Second World War. Wellington was lauded as a victor and hero and esteemed as both one of Europe’s leading generals and as its saviour. Heroic depictions of the military exploits appeared, such as the example below representing the death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at the Battle of Waterloo in  J.A. Atkinson’s Incidents of British bravery during the late campaigns on the continent… (Ackermann, London, 1817).

Death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at Waterloo [MS351/6 A4170/2 no 6]

Yet Wellington understood, as he recorded in his official despatch to Lord Bathurst of 19 June 1815, how victory on the battlefield often came at the cost of the loss of many lives: “Your Lordship will observe that such a desperate action could not be fought, and such advantages could not be gained, without great loss; and I am sorry to add that ours has been immense.”

Extracts from the correspondence of two soldiers held in the Special Collections provides an eloquent picture of the realities of life on the front line during the struggle for supremacy in Portugal in 1811 and on the Western Front in the First World War.

Engraving by Bartolomeo Pinelli of the campaign in Portugal, 1810-11

Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood (1790-1845), who was the editor of  Wellington’s Dispatches, served under the Duke in the Peninsula from 1810. He was wounded at Sabugal, 3 April 1811, and distinguished himself leading the forlorn hopes at the storming of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo. As a lieutenant of the 52nd Regiment of Foot in 1811, he describes in a letter to his mother of 16 March 1811 the intensity of the action by the British and allied army in expelling the French forces from Portugal during the course of March:

“We have been fighting for the last 4 days. The French retired … on the 6th at one in the morning… On the 11th we drove them through Pombal… On the plain of Redeinha [Redinha] we had 3 off[icer]s and 22 killed and wounded… On the 14th as soon as the fog cleared off… we got into one of the hottest affairs imaginable. We lost 1 officer killed, 3 cap[ains] wounded and a number killed and wounded… On the 15th were at it again…” [MS 321/5]

A career soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Dudley Samuel, DSO, had served with the Midlands Mounted Rifles in the Boer war. He was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Third Volunteer Battalion, City of London (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment in December 1902 and served with the London Regiment throughout the First World War, eventually being appointed as commander of the 40th (Jewish) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in 1918. Dudley Samuel was wounded four times during his service and received mention in despatches. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917.

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Dudley Samuel was involved in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915). The Artois-Loos Offensive aimed to break through the German Front in Artois. Whilst the British had some initial success north of Loos on the first day, a pause in the attack allowed the German army time to call in reinforcements for the Second position and the British suffered heavy casualties here on 26 September.

On 27 September he wrote to his wife Dorothy that they have come out from the Battle “as usual much depleted” with heavy losses and many killed.

“The Garhwal Brigade was heroic, it is the only word, it has been practically wiped out… Everyone stood to arms at 3.30am Saturday… At about 4.45 the guns started. At 5.50 we exploded an enormous mine the earth shook, a very muffled roar and it looked as if a whole trench went 300 feet in the air, then dense volumes of smoke were released everywhere and the German guns started on us and the Brigade advanced to the attack… Very few of the attackees came back, and I’m afraid all are killed or wounded. Three battalions are practically wiped out…

For us personally it is a great tragedy, so many friends in the Leicesters and Native Regiments gone… Our losses are over fifty, but we can’t tell yet. We of course are fortunate….” [MS336 A2097/5/2]

Part of an envelope, with the mark of the field censor, for a letter from Dudley Samuel to his wife [Ms 336 A2097/8/2/331]

The Battle of Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington were well remembered and received many marks of recognition during the 19th century: a previous blog looks at the battle and the Duke remembered. The Special Collections contains much other material reflecting different aspects of warfare from literary reflections to the service of VADs at the University War Hospital in the First World War.

Look out for further blogs, or why not visit the Archives and Manuscripts to find out more.

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In the company of Wellington

On St Patrick’s day we mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Archive at Southampton in 1983. Since then, the Special Collections has acquired a wide range of material that relates to this archive and we take the opportunity to explore some of these.

Part of Wellington Archive

Part of Wellington Archive

The Wellington Archive [MS61] represents the political, military and official papers of Wellington, so collections that provide a more personal perspective on the Duke are always of interest. Christopher Collins entered Wellington’s service in 1824 and worked as his confidential servant for the remainder of the Duke’s life. Amongst the papers in this collection [MS69] are notes and letters from the Duke issuing instructions about ordering straps with buckles and boots, arrangements for mending razors, for preparations for his room at Walmer Castle and the cleaning and maintenance of uniforms.

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 1838 [MS69/2/15]

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 13 September 1839 [MS69/2/15]: “have some fire in my room; some hot water for tea; and some boiling sea water for my feet”.

Collins kept a notebook listing the Duke’s diamonds, ceremonial collars, field marshal batons and coronation staves, 1842 [MS69/2/1] and amongst the objects in the collection are the blue ribbon of the Order of the Fleece and the red ribbon of the Order of the Bath which belonged to Wellington [MS69/4/11-12].

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Collins also kept notes on Wellington’s health [MS69/2/3] and the collection includes a number of recipes, such as one for “onion porage” to cure “spasms of the chest and stomach”, 1850, below.

Recipe for "onion porage" [MS69/4/19]

Recipe for “onion porage” [MS69/4/19]

Three letters from Wellington to William Holmes, Tory Whip, in December 1838 [MS272/1 A9231/-3], likewise deal with the Duke’s health and in particular reports in the Morning Post about this. The Duke complained in a letter of 22 December 1838: “If people would only allow me to die and be damned I should not care what the Morning Post thinks proper to publish. But every devil who wants anything writes to enquire how I am.”

A small series of correspondence of Wellington, and Deputy Commissary General William Booth, which is a more recent acquisition, provide some insight into the management of Wellington’s estates at Waterloo, 1832-52 [MS414].

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

A number of military archive collections, including some of officers who served with Wellington, now join company with the Wellington Archive at Southampton. Papers of Sir John Malcolm, 1801-16, [MS308] provide important evidence for Wellington in India, at a formative stage of his career, in comparatively informal and personal correspondence with a friend and political colleague; it includes Wellington’s letters written in the field throughout the Assaye campaign. MS321 is composed of seven volumes of guardbooks of correspondence and papers of Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood, who was editor of Wellington’s General Orders and Dispatches. The collection relates to Gurwood’s military career as well as his editorial work.

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the "forlorn hope" at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the “forlorn hope” at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Sir Robert Hugh Kennedy served as Commissary General of the forces commanded by Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula, with Sir John Bisset serving in Kennedy’s stead in 1812, and their collection of letter books, accounts and other papers cover the period 1793-1830 [MS271], providing evidence of the work of this department during military campaigns over this period. An order book of the general orders of Sir Edward Barnes, Adjutant General of the army in Europe, 10 May 1815 – 18 January 1816, covers the period of the battle of Waterloo and the allied occupation of France [MS289]. And the diary of George Eastlake, recording a visit to northern Spain with Admiral Sir Thomas Byam Martin in September 1813 to discover Wellington’s requirements for naval assistance, provides details of Wellington’s headquarters at Lesaca as well as the army camp at Bidassoa [MS213].

A journal sent by General Francisco Copons y Navia to the Duke of Wellington details the operations undertaken by the Spanish First Army for the period 2-20 June 1813 in relation to those of General Sir John Murray. Murray had landed with a British force at Salou in Catalonia on 3 June and laid siege to Tarragona [MS253].

"Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne" [MS360/1]

‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ [MS360/1]

Formerly part of a larger series of documents, Special Collections holds two booklets, signed by F.Mongeur, the Commissaire Ordonnateur for Barcelona, at Perpignan on 3 June 1814, that relate to the administration of Barcelona in 1814. The first, the ‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ has a daily record from 1 February to 3 June 1814 of the French forces [MS360/1]. The succeeding document in the series is a general report, in French, on the administration of the siege of Barcelona by the armée d’Aragon et de Catalogne, between 1 January and 28 May 1814, which gives details of the period of the evacuation of the place, as well as of the food and consumption of foodstuffs and expenditure on supplies during this period. There is a detailed analysis of the composition of the forces, the different corps of troops, companies and detachments making up the garrison at Barcelona [MS360/2].

Signature of Daniel O'Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Signature of Daniel O’Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Material relating to politics in the Wellington Archive is paralleled by that within a number of significant other collections at Southampton. The archive of the Parnell family, Barons Congleton [MS64] which contains extensive material relating to Irish politics. Amongst the papers of Sir John Parnell, second Baronet, is material for the Union of Ireland and Great Britain, whilst the papers of the first Baron Congleton include material about Roman Catholic emancipation.

Letter from Daniel O'Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Letter from Daniel O’Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815, relating to Catholic emancipation [MS64/17/2]

The Broadlands Archives [MS62] also contain much on British and Irish politics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as papers of two nineteenth-century Prime Ministers in the form of Lords Palmerston and Melbourne. A collection of correspondence between John Wilson Croker and Palmerston for the period 1810-56 [MS273] includes much on political, military and official business. Papers of Wellington’s elder brother, Richard, Marquis Wellesley, include material relating to his tenure as ambassador in Spain, 1809, and as Foreign Secretary, 1809-12 [MS63].

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Since its arrival in 1983, which also heralded the development of the Archives and Manuscripts as a service, the Wellington Archive has acted as an irresistible draw to other collections to join its company.

To find out more about Wellington, or research that has drawn on the collections held at Southampton, why not join us at this year’s Wellington Congress. Registration is open until the end of March.