The Storming of Bangalore 21st March 1791

bangalore

The death of Colonel Moorhouse at Bangalore.  Moorhouse is surrounded by men of the grenadier and light companies of the 36th Foot

In spring 1791 Lord Cornwallis with a mixed force of British and native troops attempted to capture the fortress of Bangalore from Tippoo Sultan the ruler of Mysore.   Arriving before the town on 5 February, Cornwallis found he had insufficient troops to invest the fortress and town so he encamped on the north-eastern side.  Bangalore consisted of a fort proper and a pettah, or fortified town, adjoining to it. It possessed two gates, the Mysore or southern and the Delhi or northern gate. Tippoo had thrown eight thousand men into the fort, nine thousand into the town, and then had retired with the remainder of his force to a position some six miles to westward. Cornwallis decided that the town should first be carried, in the hope that its position and the supplies hoarded within it would facilitate the siege of the fortress.

Accordingly at dawn of the 7th March, the Thirty-sixth Foot and a battalion of Bengal Sepoys moved off to the attack of a gateway on the northern face of the town, four heavy guns following them in support. A flèche which covered the gate was speedily carried with the bayonet.  The storming party then pushed on across the ditch and through the belt of thorn to the inner gate. Here the advance was checked, for the gateway had been built up with masonry upon which field-guns could make no impression; and the party perforce remained halted for some time under a galling fire until the heavy guns could be brought forward. A small breech was made at length; and Lieutenant Ayre being hoisted up by the grenadiers, contrived to creep through it. General Medows, then turned to the grenadiers of the Thirty-sixth with the words, “Well done. Now, whiskers ! Support the little gentleman.” A few more men managed to crawl after Ayre, and opened a sally-port for the entry of the rest. The garrison was then quickly beaten back under the guns of the fort, and within two hours two-thirds of the town were in possession of the British.

Meanwhile, Tippoo set his whole army in motion as if to turn Cornwallis’s left, at the same detaching six thousand men to reinforce the garrison, which had rallied under the cannon of the fort, and with them to re-take the town. Cornwallis, divining his intention, manoeuvred to foil the turning movement, but lost no time in strengthening his force within the walls. The attack of the Mysoreans upon the town was delivered with unusual spirit and resolution; but after a short exchange of volleys the Thirty-sixth and Seventy-sixth, with two Sepoy battalions, cut matters short by clearing the streets with the bayonet. Gathering impetus from success, they swept the enemy out of the town, with a loss of over two thousand killed and wounded. The casualties on the British side amounted to one hundred and thirty, of which no fewer than one hundred occurred among the Europeans. Among the fallen was Lieutenant-Colonel Moorhouse, who was killed while bringing up the heavy guns to the first attack on the gate.

The Orders issued by Lord Cornwallis on the day after the fall of the fortress are preserved in the records of the 36th Foot, and are as follows:

“LORD CORNWALLIS feels the most sensible gratification in congratulating, the officers and soldiers of the army on the honour able issue of the fatigues and dangers they have undergone during the late arduous siege. Their alacrity and firmness in the execution of their various duties, has, perhaps, never been exceeded, and he shall not only think it incumbent on him to represent their “meritorious conduct in the strongest colours, but he shall ever remember it with the sincerest esteem and admiration.”

“The conduct of all the regiments which happened, in their tour, to be on duty that evening, did credit in every respect to their spirit and discipline; but his Lordship desires to offer the tribute of his particular and warmest praise to the European grenadiers and light infantry of the army, and to the THIRTY-SIXTH, Seventy-second, and Seventy-sixth regiments, who led the attack and carried the fortress, and who, by their behaviour on that occasion, furnished a conspicuous proof, that discipline and valour in soldiers, when directed by zeal and capacity in officers, are irresistible.”

The fortress was to fall three weeks later on the 21st March.

 

 

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The Battles of Nives 9th to 13th December 1813

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Soldiers from the Grenadiers and Light Companies of the 29th Regiment in 1813

After his defeat at Nivelle, Marshal Soult fell back to a defensive line south of the town of Bayonne along the Adour and Nive rivers.  Despite poor weather, Hill led five Anglo-Portuguese divisions (2nd (including the 29th Regiment), 3rd, 6th (including the 36th Regiment), Portuguese and Pablo Morillo’s Spanish Divisions) across to the east bank of the Nive near Ustaritz on 9 December.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the British force under Hope launched diversionary attacks towards Bayonne on the west bank of the Nive.

Soult launched a counter-attack with eight divisions against Hope the following day, and despite several fierce actions the British line held until reinforced.

The right flank of Hope’s line was held by the 7th Division at the bridge of Urdains.  The Light Division defended the centre near Bassussary. The left was held by Bradford and Campbell’s independent Portuguese brigades north of Barroilhet. The terrain forced the French into these three corridors of attack. The 5th Division lay three miles to the rear while the 1st Division were ten miles away.

Soult committed five divisions against Bassussary and three divisions against Barroilhet. The four divisions leading the attack were fresh while the supporting troops were tired from skirmishing with Hill’s troops.

The French advance soon came upon the ridge of Arcangues, topped by a chateau and a church. After one attack was beaten off with ease by the Light Division, the French settled down to a futile artillery bombardment and probing attacks against the very strongly built structures.

The picket line on Hope’s left flank was overrun by the French attack and 200 men captured. The Portuguese held onto Barroilhet and awaited reinforcements. The 5th Division arrived, but due to a staff blunder, was low on ammunition.

Soult sent two divisions to assist this attack. After hours of heavy fighting, he ordered one last charge. This attack drove to the mayor’s house of Barroilhet, the French skirmishers wounding and nearly capturing Hope.  At this point, the 1st Division came up and Soult called off his attacks. Both sides had lost around 1,600 troops.

Battle of St. Pierre

On the night of 12 December, a temporary pontoon bridge over the Nive at Villefranque was washed away. This isolated Hill’s 14,000 men and 10 guns on the east bank of the river, just as the French were reorganizing for an assault.

Seizing his opportunity, Soult rapidly switched six divisions and 22 guns to the east bank of the Nive and attacked Hill. Soult outnumbered Hill’s corps by three-to-one. Defending a line between Petit Mougerre and the Nive, the Allied corps held on for hours in a bitter fight. The capable Hill performed superbly, feeding in his few reserves with skill and exhorting his troops.

However, after the arrival of reinforcements under Wellington, the French troops refused to continue the attack. Soult reluctantly retreated into Bayonne, having lost 3,000 men against Anglo-Portuguese losses of 1,750. The Allied army commander rode up to his subordinate and congratulated him, “Hill, the day’s your own.”

As a result of their courage on this day both the 29th and 36th Regiments were accorded the battle Honour NIVE.

The Battle of Nivelles, 10th November 1813

After the successful Allied siege of San Sebastian (7 July – 8 September 1813), Wellington, with 80,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops advanced northwards pursuing Marshal Soult’s retreating army.

Soult turned to face the British at prepared position along the River Nivelle.    The French army was drawn up on a series of hills on which they had constructed a number of strong  redoubts.   However, Marshal Soult’s lines stretched from the shores of the Atlantic on the French right flank to the snow-covered pass of Roncesvalles on the left, a perimeter of about 20 miles. With only 60,000 men to protect this, Soult’s forces were stretched impossibly thin.

The French position was dominated by the Greater Rhune, a gorse-covered, mountain nearly 3,000 feet high. Separated from the Greater Rhune by a ravine, roughly 700 yards below it,was the Lesser Rhune along the precipitous crest of which the French had constructed three defensive positions.

Wellington decided to attack along the whole of Soult’s line, but to mount his major assault in the centre.  A breakthrough in the centre or on the French left flank would enable the British to cut off the French right.   Wellington disposed his forces as follows:  the left wing led by Sir John Hope, comprised the 1st and 5th Divisions as well as Freire’s Spaniards. General Beresford was to lead the main Allied attack against the French centre with the 3rd, 4th, 7th and Light Divisions,  while on the British right (attacking the French left ) Sir Rowland Hill would lead with the 2nd and 6th Divisions, supported by Morillo’s Spaniards and Hamilton’s Portuguese.   In this assault, the 2nd Division, including the 29th Worcestershire Regiment and the Sixth Division, including the 36th Herefordshire Regiment, had the toughest job and earned special praise from Wellington.  The battle honour “Nivelles” was to be  borne on the Colours of both Regiments thereafter.

The battle started just before dawn on the 10th of November, as the Light Division headed towards the plateau on the summit of the Greater Rhune (the summit had been garrisoned by French troops but they had fled after the skirmish on the River Bidassoa, fearing to be cut off from their own army). The objective of the division was to sweep the three defensive forts the French had constructed out of the battle. They moved down into the ravine in front of the Lesser Rhune and were ordered to lie down and await the order to attack.   After the signal from a battery of cannon, the assault began. It started with the men of the 43rd, 52nd and 95th – with the 17th Portuguese Caçadores in support – storming the redoubts on the crest of the Rhune.   The surprise and boldness of the British sent the French fleeing towards forts on other hills.

The Battle of Nivelles

The Battle of Nivelles

While the 43rd and 95th were dealing with the French on the Rhune, there still remained one very strong star-shaped fort below on the Mouiz plateau which reached out towards the coast. This was attacked by Colborne’s 52nd Light Infantry, supported by riflemen from the 95th. Once again, the French were surprised and in danger of being cut off, they fled leaving Colborne in possession of the fort and other trenches without a single fatal casualty.

The main British assault then began with the nine divisions fanning out over a five-mile front.  When the 3rd division took the bridge at Amotz, all French resistance broke as any communication between the two halves of Soult’s army was now impossible. The French resistance melted away and soon they were in full retreat (by 2 o’clock they were streaming across the Nivelle) having lost 4351 men to Wellington’s 2450.

The Mercian Regiment Museum launches an exciting new book

Norton Book Front CoverThe Story of Norton Barracks:Home of the Worcestershire Regiment’ by Stan Jobson
This is the story of both the buildings that formed Norton Barracks and of the soldiers and other personnel who were based there as members of staff or who passed through as they underwent training. Stan Jobson has spent much time in the Regimental Archives unearthing both photographs and personal recollections of time spent at the barracks. The result is a tale of British Military history in microcosm, but often seen from a personal viewpoint of hard training, military structures, playful pranks, sporting achievements, patriotic surges, post D-Day traumas and both keen and reluctant National Servicemen. There is also an appendix which gives the background to the names of the streets which now criss-cross much of the site of the barracks, names which are largely associated with the battle honours of the Worcestershire Regiment.
On retiring from a service career in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Stan Jobson joined the American IT company Electronic Data Systems where he worked as an Information Systems Project Manager, primarily for the MOD. Having had an interest in military and aviation history for many years he gained his MA in British First World War Studies from the University of Birmingham, graduating in December 2007. For the past three years he has been researching the history of the barracks at the request of the Trustees of the Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire).  Available through the Museum, priced £7.50 plus p&p.  Please contact us on 01905 721982.

Recent Acquisition

With the generous assistance of the The ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Mercian Regiment Museum we have recently acquired an Officer shoulder belt plate of the 36th Herefordshire Regiment.  This belt plate succeeded the 1800 pattern and was prompted by the plethora of battle honours awarded for the Peninsular War, and the authorisation of the motto “FIRM”, both events occurring in 1816.  The introduction of this plate must therefore be after 1816 when the last four battle honours were granted yet before 1825 when “PYRENEES” and “NIVE” were granted.  This plate shows clear signs that the star has been moved upwards to accommodate the “FIRM” scroll.  Bennet, who originally acquired the badge of Captain Bayley, (Bennet R.W. 1994 “Badges of the Worcestershire Regiment”) mentions only one other example of this type of shoulder belt plate, whose current location is unknown.

Charles Andrew Bayley was first commissioned on the 25th November 1804, as an Ensign of the 41st Regiment of Foot.  On the 26th January 1806 he was a gazetted Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 31st Foot and it was in this capacity that he served in the Peninsular.  He was present at the siege of Badajoz and the Battle of Albuehera and at the action of Arroyo del Molinos for which he received a promotion.  He was gazetted Captain and joined the 36th Foot (the Herefordshire Regiment) on the 15th January 1812.  He joined the 2nd Battalion of the 36th in May and went recruiting in Borrisokane, Ireland.  He was back in Spain in March 1813, but was sick and on leave from October 1813 to May 1814.   He was then appointed Officer in charge of the 36th Depot in Cork. Following the disbandment of the 2nd battalion in 1815 he joined the first battalion in Portsmouth. In 1817 he was posted to Malta.  He became DAQMG Malta in August 1821 and then Military Secretary Corfu in February 1822.  He was appointed military secretary in Malta from May 1824 and then deputy Judge Advocate in Malta in April 1825.   In 1826, he went on half pay until 1841.  On the 23rd November 1841 he was appointed Lt. Colonel Mediterranean and from 1846 to 1850 he was Commander Forces Gozo, Malta.  He died in 1852.

Officer's shoulder belt plate of the 36th Regiment

Officer’s shoulder belt plate of the 36th Regiment