The Battle of Ramilles 23rd May 1706

In 1706 King Louis XIV of France wanted to avenge the defeats inflicted on him at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 by the Grand Alliance during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713).  In 1706 Marshal Villeroy was therefore pushed into leaving the safety of the lines of Brabant and crossed the River Dyle with 60,000 men.

It being ascertained that Villeroy, “having received reinforcements, and depending on his superiority of numbers,” had crossed the great Gheete and was advancing on Judoigne, the Duke of Marlborough resolved to attack him in this position.

Early in the morning of the 23rd of May, the army of the allies was put in motion, and on approaching Mierdorp, the enemy was discovered moving towards Mont St. Andre, between the two Gheets and the Mehaigne, and taking up the very ground which the confederates hoped to occupy.

ramilles-cropped

Contemporary print of the Battle of Ramilles from the museum collection (M5)

As the heads of the eight columns of the allies cleared the village of Mierdorp, they diverged into an open plain, and the 5th and 6th, in one of which was Meredith’s brigade, were ordered to march on the steeple of Offuz.

In the approaching battle Meredith’s brigade was composed of Orkney’s, Ingoldsby’s, Farrington’s, Meredith’s, and Lord North and Grey’s regiments. It formed the right of the 2nd line of infantry, and subsequently took part in the attack on Ramillies.

The enemy’s left and centre, stretching from Autreglise to Ramillies, whilst protected from attack in front, by marshy ground, was for the same reason unable to act on the offensive. Their right occupied the open space between Ramillies and the Mehaigne, and their position being concave in shape, afforded great advantages to the assailants.

By one o’clock, the allies were drawn up in two lines, in order of battle the infantry in the centre, the cavalry on either flank.

Perceiving that the “Tomb of Ottomond,” between Ramillies and the Mehaigne, was the key of the enemy’s position, the Duke of Marlborough ordered the British, Dutch, and German infantry composing the right, supported by the cavalry, to make a demonstration against the enemy’s left. This feint had the desired effect, for Villeroy hurried up reinforcements from his centre. Marlborough at once ordered the infantry on the right, to retire a short distance, and the 2nd line marching rapidly to its former left, formed in rear of the centre, and joined in the attack on Ramillies, which was surrounded by a ditch, and in which village twenty battalions had been posted. The enemy’s right, having, after a stubborn resistance, been turned, and their troops driven out of Ramillies, the battalions, which had made or sustained the attack on that village,” supported by the British horse, were ordered to penetrate through the swamp towards Offuz.

The enemy however, gave way without waiting their approach, and were pursued by the cavalry from 4.30 to 10.00 p.m.

This battle cost the French 13,000 in killed and wounded, whilst eighty colours and standards, together with almost the whole of the their artillery, and baggage were captured.  The allied losses were—killed 1066 (of which 82 were officers), wounded 2567 (of which 283 were officers).

The immediate result of this victory was the acquisition of nearly all Austrian Flanders ; Brussels, Louvain, Alost, Luise, and nearly all the great towns of Brabant opened their gates on the approach of the allies. Bruges and Ghent speedily followed their example. Daum and Oudenarde soon declared for the Austrian cause. Antwerp capitulated on the 6th of June.

 

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