On 1st August 1808, 8,740 troops of a British expeditionary force under Wellesley’s temporary command began to disembark at the mouth of the Mondego river, west of Coimbra. Four days later, a further 4,750 troops – freed-up from Andalucía following the Spanish victory at Bailen on 20th July – began to come ashore. By 10th August, the combined army of 13,500 men was marching on Lisbon. At Leiria, Freire, commander of the local Portuguese army, somewhat grudgingly loaned Wellesley 2,000 troops under the command of Colonel Trant, a British officer in the Portuguese service. Wellesley reached Alcobaça on the 14th, by which time he was fully aware that a French army under Delaborde stood in his path one day’s march away at Obidos. On the 16th, Delaborde redeployed his force of some 4,350 men along a low ridge east of Roliça, 6km south of Obidos.
At dawn on the 17th, Wellesley advanced from Obidos in a crescent-shaped formation, with the two wings under Trant and Ferguson thrust forward. Just as his forces were in danger of being enveloped, Delaborde fell back to a much stronger position on the heights above the village of Columbeira.
After taking time to re-group, Wellesley again pushed forward, intending his centre to assault the heights only after Trant and Ferguson were in a position to provide support on both flanks.
In practice, the 29th Regiment led by Lt. Col. George Lake forged on ahead through a gully in the hillside and, despite coming under fire from three sides, was able to reach the brow of the hill before being broken by a French charge. The gallant – if foolhardy – Lake was killed while 6 officers and 30 other ranks were captured. The survivors of the 29th fell back down the hillside into the ranks of the supporting 9th Regiment. By now, Wellesley had ordered the 5th, 9th, 82nd and 45th Regiments into a frontal attack against the heights. After two hours of bitter fighting during which the French threw back three assaults, the British finally gained firm footholds along the crest. With his right flank now under threat from Ferguson, Delaborde disengaged from the battle as best he could and with no little skill. French losses amounted to 600 men killed or wounded and three guns; of the 474 British and Portuguese killed, wounded or taken prisoner, nearly half were from the 29th Regiment.
The Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire) has created a new display, in the Worcestershire Soldier Gallery, to mark the end of the combat role of the Mercian Regiment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
2014 marked the end of a 13 year deployment of British troops in Afghanistan during which time the three battalions of the Mercian Regiment, and its antecedents, have been deployed almost continuously.
Through the personal stories of those on the ground, the new display seeks to provide a snapshot of this pivotal point in the history of Afghanistan. The display is composed entirely of new objects, photographs and video collected by the 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and the Mercian Regiment in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2014.
It aims to help our visitors understand the challenges that soldiers from the County Regiment faced from initial peaceful deployment through to high intensity combat missions and the critical role of mentoring and training of the Afghan National Security Forces.
The Mercian Regiment Museum, whose public galleries are inside the City Museum on Foregate Street, is seeking volunteers to help at the museum offices and store. The museum is the home of medals, weapons, uniforms, equipment and archives all of which tell the story of The Worcestershire Regiment since its formation in the late seventeenth century. If you are computer literate, help is needed to input data into the digital catalogue of the collection and also to research questions from the public who are seeking information about ancestors who served with the regiment. Naturally, training is available and research follows a set pattern for each enquiry.
This is a fundamental role for the museum as the boom in family history as a hobby in recent years has meant an increase in enquiries and the approaching centenary of The First World War is expected to result in many more people wanting to find out about those who ‘took the King’s shilling’ in that conflict.
If you would like further information, please telephone the curator, John Paddock (01905 721982 Monday to Thursday).
No previous experience in museums is necessary, just a familiarity with basic computer skills and an interest in Worcestershire’s historic heritage. If you are not at home with computers but think that volunteering in a museum would be fun, contact John as there other roles that need willing helpers.
Welcome to the new Worcestershire Soldier website! We felt that, since the Army have become increasingly hi-tech of late, it was about time that we updated our web presence and started to blog.
John Paddock, our new Curator, has just created a complementary facebook page as well so there are now more ways to get in touch with us, to find out about and contribute to the work we do to tell the stories of the Worcestershire Soldier.
Follow us on facebook and sign up on the right to receive our blog updates. We do hope we shall keep you informed and amused.