The retreat to Quatre Bras: Baron von Eben, the 10th (Prince of Wales) Hussars

On the morning of 17 June the Anglo-Dutch army began its retreat from Quatre Bras toward Waterloo, covered by the British cavalry and guns which delayed the French pursuit at every opportunity. The Light Cavalry Brigades under the command of Vivian and Vandeleur formed the left column of the rear guard as it marched northwards, heading for the narrow bridge over the river Dyle at Thuy.

Ernest Croft: 'Wellington's Retreat from Quatre Bras'. On loan to the Royal Armouries by Leeds Art Gallery. Now in the museums 'Waterloo: The Art of Battle' exhibition.

Ernest Croft: ‘Wellington’s Retreat from Quatre Bras’. On loan to the Royal Armouries by Leeds Art Gallery. Now in the Royal Armouries’ ‘Waterloo: The Art of Battle’ exhibition.

The last of Vivian’s Brigade had crossed the bridge, and as the French cavalry attempted to follow they were met with an accurate fire from troops concealed behind a hedge and in a sunken road on the far bank, and forced to retire. The shots had the familiar crack of rifles, but they were not fired by the riflemen of the 95th Regiment (the Rifles) but by the troopers of the 10th (Prince of Wales) Hussars. The 10th Hussars were the only rifle armed cavalry in the British Army, but how had this come about?

[0] Portrait of HRH the Prince of Wales at a review of the 10th Light Dragoons, attended by Lord Heathfield, General Turner and Baron Eben (left); Colonel Quinton in the distance, oil on canvas by John Singleton Copley, 1809. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Portrait of HRH the Prince of Wales at a review of the 10th Light Dragoons, attended by Lord Heathfield, General Turner and Baron Eben (left); Colonel Quinton in the distance,
oil on canvas by John Singleton Copley, 1809. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Friedrich Christian Baron von Eben was born at Creutzburg in Silesia in 1773 the son of a Prussian general. He joined the army in 1787 and served in his father’s regiment of Hussars against the French in the Low Countries between 1792 and 1795, being awarded the Order of Merit for his bravery. He resigned his commission in 1799 when Prussia refused to renew the conflict with France, and entered British service as a Captain in the York Hussars before joining the 10th Light Dragoons. A socialite, who counted amongst his personal friends the Duke of Sussex, the younger brother of the Prince of Wales, he also wrote several military treatises on the use of light cavalry, which brought him to the attention of the Duke of York, the Commander in Chief of the Army. In 1802, when York was establishing the Experimental Rifle Corps (renamed the 95th Rifles in 1803), von Eben wrote a treatise entitled ‘Observations on the Utility of good Riflemen’ in which he proposed the adoption of the rifle by both infantry and cavalry.

Von Eben’s idea for re-equipping the cavalry with rifles was not taken up, but the Colonel of the 10th Light Dragoons – the Prince of Wales himself, took a keen interest in the equipment as well as the appearance of his regiment, and ordered a test to be made of two rifles, one made by Henry Nock and the other by Ezekial Baker.

2 Rifle Tests

‘Twenty Three Years Practice and Observation with Rifle Guns by Ezekiel Baker, Gunmaker, London’, second edition, London, 1804

The result was clear, and in response Baker was ordered to supply the regiment with an initial 40 rifled carbines. The carbine was essentially a cut-down version of the Baker rifle then in service, but without the bayonet (not required by the cavalry) and with the addition of a captive ramrod (to prevent it from being dropped and lost in the heat of battle) and a safety catch at the rear of the lock plate (for preventing the carbine from going off ‘half cocked’). Later versions had a swell underneath the stock similar to a pistol to improve the grip and steady the aim.

1803 Pattern [need to check the Pattern Date] Baker Carbine for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons. XII.1968 © Royal Armouries

1803 Pattern Baker Carbine for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons. XII.1968 © Royal Armouries

The Prince of Wales took great pride in his regiment, and in 1807 he ordered a new sword for the officers from the John Prosser, sword cutler of Charing Cross. The sword was based loosely on the 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry Officer’s Sword, but with a modified hilt bearing the Prince of Wales cipher mounted on the langet.

1807 Pattern Light Cavalry Officers Sword for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons.

1807 Pattern Light Cavalry Officers Sword for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons. © Royal Armouries

But what of Von Eben? He left the 10th Light Dragoons in 1806 and returned to his native Prussia the following year where he served as a volunteer until the Peace of Tilsit. He then appeared in Portugal, where he married Elisabetha Contessa d`Astigarraga, the daughter of a Portuguese Admiral, in Porto 1808, only to lose most of his possessions when the French siezed the city the following year. He joined the Portuguese Army under Marshal Beresford, and from 1809 to 1813 he was present at most of the major battles and sieges of the Peninsular War before being made Governor of Tras os Montes province. In 1817 von Eben was implicated in a conspiracy against the King of Portugal, and but for his friendship with the Duke of Sussex and his association with the Prince of Wales he would probably have been executed. Instead he was exiled, and he ended his colourful military career in the service of Simon Bolivar during the South American Wars of Independence. He died in Bogota in Columbia in 1835.

 

Ernest Crofts: Wellington’s March from Quatre Bras to Waterloo. (1878)

‘Napoleon has humbugged me, by God…. I have made arrangements to meet him at Quatre Bras, and if I find myself not strong enough to stop him there, I shall fall back towards Blücher and fight him there.’

                                                                                          – The Duke of Wellington

English: Map of the Battle of Quatre Bras. 2006. Source: Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) - The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, page 800. Adapted from Chandler 1999, 353.

English: Map of the Battle of Quatre Bras. 2006. Source: Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) – The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, page 800. Adapted from Chandler 1999, 353.

Vital to both sides, the crossroads at Quatre Bras would have allowed Wellington to advance towards his Prussian allies at Ligny. This combined force would have outnumbered the French. However, Napoleon’s plan was to divide the Allies by crossing the border into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (Belgium). This disruption would give Napoleon time to advance and defeat Blücher, before turning his attention to triumphing over the Anglo-Dutch army.

The story did not unfold by design and instead the Anglo-Dutch met the French at Quatre Bras, 16th June 1815. After a fiercely contested battle, neither side was forced from the field. Wellington gained a tactical victory, whilst Napoleon a strategic one, having prevented the Allies coming to Blücher’s aid.

Meanwhile, the Prussian retreat from Ligny left the flank of Wellington’s army open to attack, therefore, the following morning Wellington withdrew for Waterloo. This painting by Ernest Crofts is a depiction of the allied army marching towards Waterloo, with Wellington leading the procession.

Ernest Croft: 'Wellington's Retreat from Quatre Bras'. On loan to the Royal Armouries by Leeds Art Gallery. Now in the museums 'Waterloo: The Art of Battle' exhibition.

Ernest Crofts: ‘Wellington’s Retreat from Quatre Bras’ (VIS.1614). On loan to the Royal Armouries by Museums Sheffield. Now in the Royal Armouires’ ‘Waterloo: The Art of Battle’ exhibition.

Born in Leeds in 1847, Crofts studied in Düsseldorf under Emil Hünten, a former pupil of Horace Vernet. Here, Crofts unlike many of his contemporaries, witnessed soldiers in battle during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). On his return to Britain, Crofts continued his studies under Alfred Borron Clay, another painter of military scenes. By the time Crofts had ended his studies, his speciality had, too, become military and historical subjects. His various works include portrayals of English Civil War scenes, and a series of works relating to the Battle of Waterloo. In 1878 Crofts was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy, and a full academician in 1896.

Wellington’s March from Quatre Bras to Waterloo, is on display at the Royal Armouries as part of our Waterloo exhibition ‘The Art of Battle’ (22 May 2015-23 August 2015), alongside contemporary pieces of arms and armour.

 

 

Conservation Live! at the Royal Armouries: Siborne’s Waterloo Model

Conservation of Captain William Siborne’s remarkable model of the battlefield of Waterloo is now underway at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Conservation Live! of the miniature soldiers of Waterloo.

Conservation Live! of the miniature soldiers of Waterloo.

The model, which was completed in 1843, shows – in marvellous detail – the battlefield as it was at around 1:30pm on 18 June 1815. It is more than five metres long and two metres wide, and it comes apart into ten sections. The battlefield is populated by more than 3,000 finely modelled and painted lead figures including soldiers, horses and artillery.

sibornemodel

Section of the model before conservation.

The model has been on display at the Royal Armouries since 1996. Now, in advance of the bicentenary of the battle, it is being dismantled and conserved piece by piece as part of a Conservation Live! programme.

Cleaning the thousands of models on the battlefield is a slow and careful process.

Cleaning the thousands of models on the battlefield is a slow and careful process.

British soldiers in miniature - look closely and you can see their individual faces!

British soldiers in miniature – look closely and you can see their individual faces!

A Waterloo soldier supports his wounded companion.

A Waterloo soldier supports his wounded companion.

The detail on each figure has to be seen to be believed.

The detail on each figure has to be seen to be believed.

Conservator Cymbeline Storey working on the model.

Conservator Cymbeline Storey working on the model.

From March until May 1st 2015 museum visitors can meet the Conservator, discuss the conservation programme and watch conservation of the model taking place. At 11:00 and 2:00 visitors can attend talks with the Conservator, which is ticketed due to limited access, or simply drop in between 2:30-3:30pm. For more information on how to take part please ring the Royal Armouries on 0113 220 1999 or email enquiries@armouries.org.uk. Alternatively, keep your eye out for further blog posts over the next few months as conservation work progresses

Cymbeline Storey
Waterloo Model Conservator

 

Going by the book!

The last battle on English soil was fought on 18 December 1745, when dragoons of the Duke of Cumberland’s Government army caught up with the rearguard of the retreating Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart – ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. The rebel Jacobites had advanced as far as Derby, but due to lack of support from the people of England decided to retreat back towards Scotland.

Front page of the manuscript

Front page of the manuscript

By 18 December they had reached Penrith in Cumberland, and as the rearguard was passing through the village of Clifton the advance elements of Cumberland’s army – a body of dragoons several hundred strong, caught up. The Scots rearguard was made up of several infantry units. Charles chose not to commit his main force but continued to retreat in the direction of Carlisle, ordering his rearguard to catch up. However, with the Government cavalry in the vicinity it was not possible for them to do so without first offering battle.

In our archive we have a rare survivor from this period, a small 31-page booklet entitled: The new exercise of firelocks and bayonets appointed by his Grace the Duke of Marlborough to be used by all the British forces: with instructions to perform every motion by body, foot and hand. This manual was written by an anonymous ‘Officer in Her Majesties Foot Guards’, and published in 1708. Prior to the Act of Union of 1707, the Government forces in England, Scotland and Ireland had been separate, so this booklet was one of the very first drill manuals used by the British Army. It is not illustrated, but the descriptions of the orders and words of command give us a good feel for small-arms handling at this time.

Pages from the manuscript

Pages from the manuscript

At Clifton, the dragoons dismounted and, lining a series of hedges and ditches opened fire upon the Jacobites. After a brief exchange of fire, the Jacobite regiments charged and dispersed the Government forces, and then resumed their retreat. Reports as to the numbers of casualties vary, but an account written on 29 December 29by Thomas Savage, a local farmer whose house seems to have been at the epicentre of the fighting, put the number of Government troops killed at ten, with 21 wounded. Only five Jacobites were killed according to Savage, and although many were wounded only two were taken prisoner.

On the face of their poor show at Clifton, it might seem that the manual the dragoons followed had been of little use. However they were probably outnumbered by the Jacobites, and as the events of Culloden would show the following year, when troops using manuals like this were commanded by a resolute and skilled general such as Cumberland, they proved to be very effective indeed.

Blogger: Stuart Ivinson, Library Assistant

Waterloo: A Family's Story

On 18 June 1815 at the battle of Waterloo, the Allied armies under Lords Wellington and Blücher defeated the French, bringing to an end the Napoleonic Wars which had raged for over 15 years. Amongst the Royal Armouries’ archives is a collection of papers relating to the military careers of three brothers; William, Henry and Charles Dawson, which comprises extracts from official publications and from the letters they sent home. The archive was put together by their father, Pudsey Dawson, and their younger brother Pudsey Junior.

Extract from the officer’s list of the 52nd Regiment, including Lieutenant Charles Dawson

Extract from the officer’s list of the 52nd Regiment, including Lieutenant Charles Dawson

William Dawson joined the Royal Navy and served with distinction, on one occasion taking command when his captain was killed and capturing a French frigate. He rose to the rank of Captain and the command of his own ship, but died from fever in Madras in 1811, aged 29. Henry and Charles were officers in the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment, serving during the campaign in Portugal and Spain. Both were wounded in the terrible siege of Badajos, and Henry was killed in 1812 during the retreat from Burgos, aged 24. Charles survived the Peninsular campaign to fight at Waterloo, where he was again severely wounded.

Hand drawn colour map of the Battle of Waterloo, showing the dispositions of both armies on the night before the battle

Hand drawn colour map of the Battle of Waterloo, showing the dispositions of both armies on the night before the battle

The archive includes four maps relating to the Waterloo campaign, showing the countryside of the surrounding area and the troop dispositions on the day. The 52nd fought on the right of the line, close to the famous Chateau Hougoumont, and took part in the repulse of the Imperial Guard which finally broke the French army. Although Charles had survived the war he died aged 25 in 1817. This remarkable collection acts as a sad memorial of a father to his sons, and gives us an insight into some of the personal stories of the Napoleonic Wars.

Blogger: Stuart Ivinson, Library Assistant

A Model Battle

The Royal Armouries in Leeds is home to a model of part of the battle of Waterloo; the model was made by Captain William Siborne in 1842–43. Siborne had not been at the battle but on hearing that the site was to be altered he decided to make a model of the site exactly as it was on 18 June 1815 at 2pm.

A section of the Battle of Waterloo model

A section of the Battle of Waterloo model

The model of the battlefield is 18 ft 4 in. by 7 ft 5 in and made up of ten sections. The model is made to a scale of 15 feet to 1 inch and the figures are to a scale of 6 feet to 1 inch in order that they might remain identifiable. The farm buildings are also this scale to avoid incongruity.

The model shows the area around the Brussels-Wavre crossroads, including the farm of La Haye Sainte, which was a critical position during the battle. The farmhouse was key to the centre of Wellington’s position. It was held by an Allied German garrison who fought bravely. When they ran out of ammunition they went on fighting with rifle butts and throwing stones, but eventually the French captured this important position. The Duke of Wellington and his staff are shown in the model to the North-West of La Haye Sainte.

Close up of Battle of Waterloo model

Close up of Battle of Waterloo model

The model was first exhibited in London in 1844 but we do not know for certain where the Royal Armouries model moved then until 1868 when it was shown in Germany. Further exhibitions on the continent were then abandoned due to representations from the French Government.

The model returned to Dublin in possession of a Mr Evans, who seems to have put up the money for it and to have foreclosed. It was later rediscovered in the possession of a Mr Barrington in a storehouse near Dublin in 1907. Mrs Barrington-Malone inherited the property, and transferred the model to the Staff College, Camberley.

In 1925 it was taken into charge of the Tower Armouries, and moved to the Tower of London in 1935, where it was restored by a Mr Cawood. The model was displayed in the Small Arms Room of the White Tower until 1949. Then it was cleaned again, possibly by Russell Robinson, and stored until 1962 when it was moved to Dover Castle. It was returned in 1982, and finally put back on display in Leeds in 1996.

Blogger: Angela Clare, Researcher