History of the Grenadier Guards

Home ] Up ] Battle of Waterloo ] [ History of the Grenadier Guards ]

Full range of military art prints covering each British Army Regiment from the Days of Marlborough to the Afghanistan War by all leading military artists
Customer Helpline (UK) : 01436 820269

You currently have no items in your basket

Choose a FREE print if you spend over £220!
See Choice of Free Prints


Buy with confidence and security!
Publishing historical art since 1985




Product Search         
(Exact match search)

See our collection of Afghanistan and Iraq military, aviation and naval art prints in one place on our special page dedicated to these two modern conflicts - full of artwork by several artist who have been invited to spend time with regiments and units serving in the regions.



The Glories and Traditions of the British Army. The Grenadier Guards by John Leyland

Excerpt From The Navy and Army Illustrated November 20th 1896 

Among the adherents of Charles who were scattered from the field of Worcester, were many loyal hearted gentlemen who had risked all for the royal cause, companions of Newcastle, soldiers who had ridden with Rupert and Maurice, fighting men all. Not a few had received their training in arms in the wars of Gustavus Adolphus, or, like Essex, had fought in the Palatinate and Holland. The Low Countries were then the chief school of soldiery. In the famous defence of Ostend, the assault on Bois-le-Duc, and the great leaguer of Breda, men like the Gorings, the Lutrells, the Throckmortons, the Lamberts, the Culpepers, the Fortescues, and the Slingsbys had learned how to fly at each other's throats as Roundheads and Cavaliers. It was in the same fields that the English private soldier had learned to handle his pike and musket as well as any Dutchman or Spaniard of them all, and fat Hollanders and doughty Dons no longer laughed to see an English lout hasten to empty his whole bandolier ere scare the fight was begun. Battered already, many of them - like the honest Ritt-master Dugald Dalgetty of Drumthwacket, on the battlefields of the Thirty Year's War - the defeated cavaliers fled from Worcester by devious paths to the Continent, and not a few drew their swords anew in the armies of Condé and Turenne. These were the men who flocked to the standard of Charles when he raised troops, or newly embodied them in Flanders, under his agreement with the astute Spaniards, as he imagined for the invasion of England and the recovery of his crown. Among the six infantry regiments so formed in and about 1656, was a single English corps known as the "Royal Regiment of Guards", which united 9 years later with another "Royal Regiment of Guards", raised in England after the Restoration- was the ancestor of the Grenadier Guards of today.

The eventful history of the Royal Regiment of Guards- they were made Grenadiers for their prowess at Waterloo - is a stirring story indeed, and there is not a prouder record of service in the British Army than that of the present Grenadiers. To begin with, they were 400 strong, and their first Colonel in Flanders was Lord Wentworth, a man of action, who "slept little and read much." Wentworth had fled from Worcester to St. Michael's Mount and Sicily, whence with Lord Hopton, and other fugitives, he escaped to France. Many cavalier names appear in the list of captains and subalterns, but none more noteworthy than William Carless, who had been an officer of the earlier King's Guards at Worcester, had aided Charles to escape, and had passed that memorable day with him in the famous oak at Boscobel.

The new regiments lay upon the coast of Flanders, looking out across the English Sea, and vainly expecting the Spaniards to perform their part of the agreement. These preparations did not escape the eye of Cromwell, and it was not long before 6,000 men were despatched to the help of Turenne. It thus fell out that many antagonist of the Civil War were pitted against one another anew. The Royal Regiment of Guards took part with the Spaniards in 1657, in a fruitless attempt to recover Mardyke from the French, and in the following year, shared in their defeat before the dunes of Dunkirk, which Napoleon spoke of as the most brilliant of the actions of Turenne. It at any rate proved almost decisive, with the subsequent reverses of the Spaniards, for the Royal Regiment of Guards behaved most gallantly. Captains Slaughter and O'Farrell were killed in the violent onslaught of the Cromwellians, and in the misery that ensued, the men received neither pay nor marching money, and were compelled to sell their possessions to gain the very means of subsistence.

The regiment was reorganised and at the sale of Dunkirk in 1662,  came to England, where after the disbanding of the old Republican Army, Colonel John Russell, third son of the Duke of Bedford, an old cavalier officer, had raised another of Royal Regiment Foot Guards, also 1,200 strong. Already in 1661 both regiments had received their colours from the Master of the Great Wardrobe, with the famous series of 24 badges, one for each company, which are a cherished honour of the Grenadier Guards. These company badges, for in those days every company had its colours - were those of Plantagenet and Tudor Sovereigns: the Royal lion upon the crown, the rose of York and Lancaster, the fleur-de-lys, the portcullis, the white rose in a "glory", the thistle, the harp, the red dragon, the white greyhound and so on. All the colours were then white, the Royal standard or first colour with the King's cipher and crown in its centre, the others with the red cross of St George extended across the fold, and the several badges painted in the middle. A quarter of a century later, when one Nathan Brooks saw the Guards reviewed, described the standard of the King's company as crimson throughout, and crimson the first colours of the Guards have ever since remained.

In 1665 the two regiments were united under Colonel Russell. Meanwhile they had done their part in suppressing rebellion at home; and at a grand review of the Guards, horse and foot, in Hyde Park on July 4th 1663, intended to impress the French Ambassador, had evoked the admiration of Evelyn by their gallant appearance. It pleased him to note how the old Earl of Cleveland "trailed a pike at the right hand file of a company of Foot commanded by his son, the Lord Wentworth, a worthy spectacle and example, being both of them old and valiant soldiers." Pepys was pleased too, although "one broadside close to our coach we had going out of the Park, even to the nearness as to be ready to burn our hairs." But adds the gossiper who had been bred in the ways of the sea and never had faith in a standing army, like many in the curious world whose opinions he reflects; "Methought all these gay men are not the soldiers that must do the King's business, it being such as these that lost the old King all he had, and were beat by the most ordinary fellows that could be." We shall see presently that the Diarist was deceived.

But now the "gaiety" of the Guards, which raised misgivings in Pepys, calls for our attention. They had indeed an imposing aspect. Of 1,200 soldiers 700 in round numbers, would be musketeers in red coats, and 500 pikemen in coasts of buff, but Colonel Russell's Foot Guards had 12 partisans and 24 halberts, and there were 24 drummers in red embroidered coats. Each musketman had a bandolier collar, to which were attached cases containing musket charges of powder, with half a pound of bullets and 3 yards of match in a pouch; and the pikes were of ash, some 16 feet long. Round hats with feathers, broad collars falling down over the coat, blue breeches and red or blue stockings, added to the picturesque appearance of the Guardsmen. For defensive armour they had breast and back pieces, and iron "pots" for the head. The officers wore long scarlet coasts, richly embroidered with gold, broad cuffs and gauntlet gloves, breast and back pieces of steel, large round hats with a profusion of white feathers, long hair falling upon their shoulders, lace neck-bands, scarves of crimson silk round their waists, with long gold-fringed ends, ample blue breeches, scarlet stockings and buckled shoes. At their sides hung swords with embroidered shoulder straps, and the same weapon was carried by pikemen and musketeers. It may be well here to say that grenadier companies - that is, detachments armed with the new grenade- were not added to the regiments until some years later. Evelyn saw men, each with a pouch full of "grenadoes" at Hounslow. "They had furred caps," he says, "with cased crownes, like Janizaries, which made them look very fierce; and some had long hoods hanging down behind, as we picture fools; their clothing was likewise pyebald, yellow and red."

To the brief days of peace which followed the Restoration very soon succeeded the troubles with the Dutch, and the King's or First Guards, besides sending large contingents to English regiments serving in France, had many detachments serving with the fleet as marines in the victories of Blake, Monck and Penn. When reinforcements were sent to Tangier, that dowry of Catherine of Braganza, then stoutly beleaguered by Moors, the "King's Battalion" drew 3 companies out of 5 from the First Guards, while the Coldstream regiment contributed one. After 1689 the Guards had 4 such companies. It is recorded that the officers of the regiment, at the coronation of James II, were richly coated, some in cloth of gold, some in crimson velvet, embroidered or lined with gold or silver, others in scarlet cloth. Their silken scarves were fringed with bullion, and their hats encircled with white feathers. The corslets of the captains were of silver plate, double gilt; of the lieutenants of polished steel, "sanguined" and studded with gold-headed nails; of the ensigns of silver plate. The red and buff coats of the men were lined and faced with blue, their breeches and stockings of the same hue, and their black hats laced with silver, turned up and adorned with blue ribbon. The high caps of the Grenadiers were red, lined with blue, edged with silver and with the royal crown and cipher in front.

To recount all the remarkable service of the King's or First Guards during their activity of nearly two centuries and a half would be impossible, and therefore let us be content to know that they displayed a very stubborn courage at Sedgemoor, where Monmouth was defeated.

After the Revolution of 1688, many of the officers were removed and the command was given to Henry Sidney, afterwards Viscount Sidney and Earl of Romney, who had fought with the Englishmen in the pay of the States General of Holland. William did not bring the Guards to London for his coronation, nor venture to give them a share in the operations in Ireland. But the vigorous hostility of the French, and the operations of Tourville in the Channel, put the seal upon their allegiance to the new dynasty. In the Low countries the French made good headway, and the mismanagement by which the allies lost Mons in 1691, and the great stronghold of Namur the following year, laid Brussels open to the attack. Luxembourg, one of the most masterful soldiers of the age, was in command at Mons, and in order to defeat the purposes of his astute opponent, William marched westward to throw himself between that place and the capital. He had with him two battalions of the First Guards, one of the Coldstream regiment, and two each of the Scots and Dutch Guards, making a brigade of nearly 5,000 men, besides other English regiments, and a number of Dutch. It is interesting to remember that the Guards were reviewed by him in the course of this march at Genappe, between Quatre Bras and Waterloo, on the part of the field where long after they were to win undying fame. Luxembourg had marched from Mons to Enghien, and lay with his right resting on the village of Steinkirk, when William resolved to attack on August 3rd 1692. One of the leading regiments was 2nd battalion First Guards, under lieutenant-Colonel Warcup. If a surprise had been possible, as was intended, victory might have fallen to the allies, but the flower of the French army was before them, with overwhelming force at hand. A wood and broken group of field and hedgerows lay between the forces, but after a furious cannonade the Guardsmen steadily advanced, supported by other regiments and a stubborn fight ensued. Inch by inch the ground was contested, and repeatedly the Guards repulsed the fierce attacks, driving the enemy back into his very camp. A terrific struggle took place around a French battery, which Colonel Warcup led his battalion to attack. The fury of the attack swept the French from their guns, but not before they had cut the traces of the horses, which galloped back to the camp, and the First Guards could not carry off their prize. Sir Robert Douglas was shot dead as he lead his men to the charge, and the press grew thicker as the French fell back. It was but a momentary recoil, for Boufflers, coming up on their left, brought a large body of fresh troops into action, which poured volley after volley into the allied line. We were overpowered and bitter execrations were poured upon Count Solmes, who had failed to bring up the strong reserves that would have confirmed the day. Many corps were almost annihilated. "Cutts's, Mackay's, Angus's, Graham's, and Leven's all cut to pieces," pathetically exclaims Corporal Trim, whose fond descriptions of these fights in "Tristram Shandy" reflect the accounts of an eyewitness of them, "and so had the English Guards been too had it not been for some regiments on the right, who marched up boldly to their relief and received the enemy's fire in their faces before any one of their own platoons discharged a musket." Colonel Warcup and six other officers were left dead on the field.

Steinkirk was an engagement that spoke volumes for the dash and sturdy courage of the British infantry, and it did not fail of its menaced positions of Tournai, Lille and Courtrai. Still it was a battle in which William's military fame had been grievously diminished, for he had shown himself no match for his opponents. It would have been much to Louis's fancy to direct the capture of Brussels and Liège, but when he found William in the field, in 1693 he retired to Versaille and to Madame de Maintenon, leaving the fighting in the far more capable hands of Luxembourg, who on July 19th confronted the allies at Landon on the road from Liège to Tirlemont. More bloody and furious was that memorable fight than the last year's action at Steinkirk. The allies were in a strongly entrenched position behind Landen, and between the villages of Neerwinden and Laer. For eight hours the terrific contest was waged. Battalions of the First Guards, and of the Coldstream and Scots regiments, lining the hasty entrenchment in the centre, gave not an inch of ground.

The battle raged most fiercely round the village of Neerwinden on the right, where battalions of the First, Scots, and Dutch Guards were among the defenders. Most stubbornly was the place contested until the fields were filled with dead. Twice the French broke through, and twice they were driven out by a comparative handful of Guards and Hanovarians. But reinforcements again were wanting, and when Luxembourg dashed a third time at the village with fresh reserves of the French and Swiss household troops, and outflanked the position with four regiments of Dragoons, the remnant of the allies fell back across the bridges over the Little Gheet, and the day of Landen was lost. The First Guards had 7 officers killed and as many wounded and one a prisoner, and left heaps of dead on the fiercely contested field. "Brave! brave! by heaven! he deserves a crown," cried Uncle Toby of the King, when Trim recounted the fiery valour of the day, and we may catch his enthusiasm and apply his words to the gallant and unfortunate Guards.

The next year was one of tactical marches and sieges, but in 1695, the Guards displayed again their intrepid courage in the triumphant success of Namur. Luxembourg was dead and Villeroy, his successor was as much inferior as a soldier to William as William had been to the victor of Steinkirk and Landen. Namur was a fortress deemed impregnable, and a chef a'oeuvre of Vauban. It was besieged by 80 battalions, including 2 of the First Guards, 1 of the Coldstream and 1 of the Scots, and Cohorn, Vauban's pupil, directed the operations of the Sappers. The Guards displayed prodigies of valour, losing many officers and men in the carrying of the successive lines, which were defended by stubborn fury, and Boufflers surrendered the town, having lost 5,000 men in its defence. He retired with 7,000 others to the citadel, where a murderous fire from 160 cannon and 60 mortars was poured upon him. Villeroy advanced from the siege of Brussels to his relief, but unaccountably withdrew, and William determined to hasten forward the carrying of the breaches. On August 30th 1695, the forlorn hope of the grenadiers of the Guards issued from the trenches, and marched some 700 yards under pitiless fire right up to the ditch. They made a daring rush; but, owing to some mistake, the 3 regiments ordered to follow delayed their advance, and the grenadiers were hurled down shorn of half their numbers and with most of their officers killed. When, however, the other troops came up, the desperate resistance was overcome, and the breach was triumphantly gained. It had been a sanguinary business, for some 3,000 men were killed and wounded on both sides. Boufflers, thereupon, seeing his helpless state, surrendered the great fortress, the possession of which had been of such vast importance to the French. The stout defenders, 5,168 strong, with beating drums marched out honourably from the breach, and thus came to an end the last important operation of the fiercely contested war, which the Peace of Ryswick brought to satisfactory close.

Glorious are the memories of the services of the First Guards in the great campaigns of Marlborough, from 1702 to 1711. While a detachment took part in the expeditions to Cadiz and Vigo, the regiment itself fought in the splendid operation in the Low Countries in 1702 and 1703. Marlborough himself became its Colonel in 1704. The fine strategic march on the Danube, that most brilliant conception of the great captain's genius, brought the First Guards with the forces, to Danauwerth and to the foot of the lofty fortified heights of Schellenberg, where the French and Bavarians, under D'Arco, were posted in a position of colossal strength. Fifty grenadiers of the First Guards under Captain Mordaunt, an impetuous son of a famous father, the great Earl of Peterborough celebrated in our military annuls, led the way as a forlorn hope, and in the terrific fire of grape, 40 of them fell dead or wounded. A withering hail met the advancing Guards, with Orkney's and Ingoldsby's regiments, and D'Arco, perceiving that the line wavered ordered a sally. The First Guards stood like a rock to receive the downward charge for a few moments almost alone, but help coming, a furious onslaught was made, and the enemy fled to his lines. Happily some Baden troops made a diversion, and very soon the Englishmen, with an impetuous rush, poured over the entrenchments and drove the enemy in panic from his works. At the decisive victory at Blenheim 6 weeks later (August 13th) the Guards again fought with the greatest intrepidity in the attack on the village palisades. Dormer, in command was killed; Mordaunt lost an arm; others were seriously wounded.

While the First Guards were thus fighting in Bavaria as Englishmen should, a combined battalion, formed from its home battalion and the Coldstream Regiment, saw a great deal of service in Spain and Portugal. It took part in the defence of Gibraltar, 1705, was with Peterborough at the celebrated capture of Barcelona, and was involved in the lamentable defeat at Almanza. In Flanders the First Guards took part in the forcing French lines in 1705, and in the following year were present at the crowning victory of Ramillies, whereby almost the whole of Spanish Flanders was cleared of the French. They fought too at Oudenarde; carried all before them, with the other troops of Orkney's division, to which they belonged, at Malplaquet,. In all of these battles of Marlborough, and in the numerous sieges in which they were engaged, the First Guards gave new proof of the steadfast courage and military dash. Instances of individual military gallantry in their ranks were many. Thus the late General Sir F W Hamilton, whose "History of the Grenadier Guards" stands well above the level of the bulk of regimental chronicles, records the bravery of 5 grenadiers of the First Guards on an occasion when it was required to cut a drawbridge, during the siege of Lille by Prince Eugene, the regiment being with the covering forces. He says "these men, amongst whom was one of the name William Lettler, volunteered to make the attempt; and in swimming across the ditch to execute their task, under a galling fire from the ramparts, 3 of his comrades were killed; Lettler succeeded in the attempt, survived, and for his gallant action was promoted to an ensigncy in his own regiment; he rose in the same corps to be captain and lieutenant-colonel of a company of grenadiers, to whom he had shown such a brilliant example of cool determination and courage, and died in the regiment in 1742, honoured and respected by all his brother officers."

The First Guards took part in another expedition to Vigo in 1719, and were despatched to Gibraltar in 1727, to defend the rock against the fruitless attempt the Spaniards then made to retake it.

In those days they held stoutly to their pre-eminence. In their regimental order book in 1734, they recorded the precedence established by Charles II, just 50 years before - that their colonel should rank as the first colonel of Foot Guards. The "household" regiments vied with one another in smartness. Colonel Folliot of the Coldstream Regiment, afterwards lieutenant-colonel of the First Guards, declared that he would "break" any sergeant or corporal who brought men on parade who were not in perfect order, with good, clean linen, square toes, and arms and accoutrements in the best conditions. Colonel Guise, of the First Guards, was every whit as severe. He announced in 1735 that "any soldier for the future who comes to the parade with two shirts on, brings any necks in his pocket or pouch, or changes his linen on guard, shall receive one hundred lashes on the next morning."

At Dettingen, in 1743, the brigade of Foot Guards, including the first battalion of the First Regiment, had been placed in the post of honour, but owing to the changed tactics of the French, had no considerable part in an action which covered the Life Guards and many infantry regiments with honour.

They played a glorious part in the lost battle of Fontenoy, two years later, where the Duke of Cumberland, their colonel, commanding the allied forces; measured his strength with Marshal Saxe, who was then besieging Tournay. The First Guards were on the right of the centre, in the first line, when the Duke, furious at the failure on both wings, ordered the masses of troops to attack. The infantry dashed forward between the village and the redoubt, and as the British Guards advanced over a low ridge, and saw the French Guards before them, a scene occurred which has become legendary in military history. "Messieurs les Anglais, tirez les premiers!" is a phrase that bespeaks the old fashioned chivalry with which foemen worthy of each other's steel loved to treat one another. The story of what occurred is variously given. " The officers of the English Guards," says Voltaire, "when in the  presence of the enemy, saluted the French by taking off their hats. The Comte de Chabannes, and the Duc de Biron, who were in advance returned the salute, as did all the officers of the French Guards. Lord Charles Hay, captain of the English Guards cried: 'Gentlemen of the French Guards, fire!' The Count D'Anteroche, lieutenant of grenadiers, replied in a loud voice:  'Gentlemen, we never fire first; we will follow you.' " Nineteen officers and many men of the French Guards are said to have fallen at the first discharge, while the losses on our side were very heavy; but, as the English pushed on, the enemy were borne back, and in the face of a terrific fire, the Guards drove them into their camp. Here, exposed to the tremendous reverse fire of the redoubt of Eu, the Guards according to Rousseau, formed themselves into a kind of square, and resisted repeated attacks of the cavalry of the French guard and Carabineers. But unsupported and decimated by the withering hail of iron that assailed them, attacked by fresh troops and the Irish brigades of Clare and Dillon, beset as in a fiery furnace, the Guards at length began to retire. They did so in perfect order; but the First Guards left 4 officers, 3 sergeants and 82 men dead on the field, besides having 149 wounded in all. It was a defeat due to bad generalship and want of cohesion among allies, but its sanguinary episodes added new lustre to the great fame of the Guards. " There are things, " says Marshal Saxe, - or some say his friend General D'Heronville, in his Trait des Legions - "which all of us have seen, but of which our pride makes us silent because we well know we cannot imitate them."

The seasoned men of the First Guards were next employed against the Jacobites in the "Forty-five" and took part in several futile attempts against the French coast. In July 1747, they were involved in the sanguinary defeat of Laufeldt, where their future colonel, Sir John Ligonier, was taken prisoner. When that long series of campaigns in the "cockpit of Europe" was brought to a close, they could not but reflect that ill generalship had often rendered fruitless their courage and many sacrifices. The later operations of the Seven Years' War gave opportunities of new service in Germany and Kirch-Denkern, 1761, and Wilhelmstahl and Amöneberg 1762, were victories which the First Guards helped to win.

To recount the history of the desultory struggle with the American colonists, the misbegotten victories of Howe at Long Island, White Plains, and Philadelphia, and the long series of operations that led to the surrenders of Saratoga and Yorktown, is unnecessary in this story of the Grenadier Guards. They were operations in which the endurance, intrepid bravery and fortitude of our troops shone out with new brilliancy, but they were often mismanaged in the field; and the incompetence of our statesmen at home had shorn our arm of the strength to strike an effective blow at the outnumbering legions of our foes. A mixed battalion, formed from the three regiments of Foot Guards 1,000 strong, but afterwards reinforced and formed in two battalions, fought at Brandywine, Germantown, and Freehold, and rendered excellent service at Guilford. They had forded the Catawba with the utmost steadiness under fire in February 1781 and at Guilford Courthouse on March 15th though twice put into some confusion by galling discharges that decimated their ranks, rallied in the presence of the enemy and drove all before them. Two six pounders were taken by the 2nd battalion, and after some desperate fighting in which Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart, in command, was killed, were recaptured by the Americans and then with splendid daring were taken once more by the Guards. In this hard fought battle the Guards had 11 officers and 205 men killed and wounded.

The French Revolutionary War called for the services of a brigade of Foot Guards, consisting of the 1st battalions of the 3 regiments in 1793. These were the first troops to enter upon the long struggle with France which they helped to close gloriously at Waterloo. They were present at the carrying of the camp at Famars. At the storming of Valenciennes in July, Colonel Leigh of the First Guards, led 150 Guardsmen as the advance on the assault on the hornwork. In the following month (August 18th) the Guards, under gallant General Lake, won glorious renown in the brilliant attack on the redoubts and village of Lincelles, where our Dutch allies refused to rally and the French had 12 battalions in the field. With splendid impetuosity, they drove the defenders before them, capturing five six-pounders, and a stand of colours. On the next morning the Prince of Waldeck, seizing an officer of Guards by the hand, generously exclaimed, "Your glory is our shame". It was a famous victory. But the victories of that and the following year were fruitless. In the sufferings of the subsequent winter retreat on Bremen, in weather of extraordinary severity, the Guards displayed once more their hardihood and endurance.

They took part too in the expedition to the Helder 1799, and gained high praise for soldierlike steadiness and persevering gallantry in the actions at Bergen and Alkmaar; and two battalions of the First Guards were in Sicily in 1806. While that gallant officer Sir John Moore advanced from Lisbon in August 1808, Sir David Baird, with whom were the 1st and 3rd battalions of the First Guards, marched inland from Corunna. The story of the campaign is well known. The Spaniards, who had solicited our help, were excellent guitar players, and unrivalled at looking on, but their ragamuffin troops were no staff upon which Moore could lean. The famous retreat was determined on. The miseries of it have been described by many pens. The bitter winds and keen frosts of December and January, thaws and driving rains which converted roads into swamps, where roads were all too few, rugged paths on steep mountain slopes, famine in the villages, want of clothing, lack of transport - there let loose the bonds of discipline, and stragglers were not a few. Yet the noble body of the Guards, with the artillery and reserve, showed anew their patient courage, and irregularities among them were few. "Arbuthnot, look at that body of men in the distance; they are the Guards by the way they are marching," said Moore to the gallant officer beside him as they stood and watched these men entering Corunna, "their drums beating, the drum-major in front flourishing his stick, the sergeant-major at the head, and the drill-sergeants on the flanks keeping the men in step, exactly as if they were on their own drill ground at home." It was while watching the rapid advance of the First Guards to the assistance of the regiments in the village of Elvira, that Moore received his mortal wound, and they were First Guardsmen and 42d Highlanders who bore him from the field.

Turning now to the southward we find the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the First Guard taking part in the long defence of Cadiz. At Barrosa, a brigade of Guards, including 3 companies of the 1st regiment, with other regiments, sought by a diversion to raise the siege, but the disappearance of the Spaniards left them in a false position, and with less than half the strength of the foe. "Now my lads," said General Graham in command, "there they are! Spare your powder but give them steel enough." The brilliant advance at once began, and the Guards crossing a deep hollow under heavy fire, ascended the hill in skirmishing order, and waged a long and desperate struggle with the enemy at the crest before he was finally overborne.

When at length Soult had been driven to raise the siege, after a march of over 700 miles, the 3rd battalion met the first near Salamanca, and the two were brigaded under Major-General Howard. Long and difficult marches in which the finest discipline was displayed, brought the First Guards, in 1813, from Oporto, where they were detained by sickness, to the final scenes of war. At San Sebastian they contributed 100 men to the 750 who, in Wellington's words were "to show the way to the breach, if it should be practicable." A tremendous fire met them as they marched to the assault. Hurling themselves as a living torrent upon that gap, where but a man could enter at a time, hundreds fell in the withering fire, until the artillery, opening over their heads, a magazine was exploded within, and in the fiery tempest that followed they swarmed headlong up the works, and San Sebastian was won. The same splendid qualities that made such a success possible was displayed by these seasoned veterans at the passage of the Bidassoa and the Nivelle. While the triumph of Wellington was thus being sealed, another brigade of Foot Guards, comprising the 2nd battalions of the three regiments, was engaged in the sanguinary and disastrous attempt upon Bergen-op-Zoom.

In the campaign of Waterloo the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the First Guards, under Maitland, and the 2nd battalions of the Coldstream and Third (Scots) Guards, under Byng, formed the First Division of the army. They rendered service never to be forgotten. The Division reached Quatre Bras about half past six on the evening of June 26th, having met many wounded who said the day was going badly for us. Maitland was at once directed to clear the Bots de Bossu, on the right of the position, and his men straight away rushed into the wood with a cheer, and drove all before them, but the French turned their gun fire upon the wood, and many were killed or injured by trees cut down by the balls. Maitland's Guards were then formed outside the wood, where they were furiously charged by cavalry. Taking shelter therefore at the edge of the thicket and supported by some Black Brunswickers, they almost annihilated their assailants and, with heavy loss, held the ground.

At Waterloo the light companies of both brigades were posted in the wood and gardens of Hougoumont, where they were reinforced at midday by four more companies of the Coldstreamers, while the brigades themselves were on the ridge of the position to the rear, on the extreme right of the line. At Hougoumont the First Guards fought with heroic valour. It was a conflict worthy of Titans. In vain did Prince Jerome throw his strength against the old château, to the possession of which Bonaparte attached high importance. The walls were loopholed, and the place was held in strength, but repeatedly the French came on to achieve a temporary success, and then to be driven out again. A desperate struggle took place in the wood, where on one side or the other, men retreated fighting from tree to tree. Not less than 8,000 Frenchmen were put hors de combat in the tremendous onslaught made upon Hougoumont. But Lord Saltoun maintained his position, and renewed attacks were in vain. The loss, however, was terrible and the light infantry were almost annihilated when the Coldstreamers came to their aid. During this momentous struggle, the farm buildings were set on fire by the guns, adding immensely to the difficulty of the defence, and consigning many wounded to an agonizing death.

While the attack on Hougoumont was thus being made, a tremendous fire was poured on the allied line. When it ceased, the Imperial Cavalry, at headlong speed, charged the steady squares of the Guards, and the decimated ranks recoiled, but to hurl themselves anew on our bayonets.

The 3rd battalion of the First Guards was one of the regiments most exposed to this terrible onslaught. "It was upon these troops," says Siborne, "that fell the first bursts of the grand early attacks, and it was upon these troops also that the French gunners seldom neglected to pour their destructive missiles." Through all that terrific day the vast masses of gallant Frenchmen were broken against the iron sturdiness of the British squares, which stood like stoney islands amid the lapping waves of a sea of fire. General Cooke, commanding the division of Guards, and Colonels D'Oyly and Stables, in command of battalions, retired wounded from the field, and Lord Saltoun, who had returned from Hougoumont, succeeded to the 3rd battalion. At length, as the day wore on, Bonaparte, seeing the oncoming of the Prussians, concentrated his furious cannonade mainly on the position held by the Guards preparatory to his grand attack, and but for the shelter of a hollow way, they must have been annihilated. At this time, Maitland, by the Duke's orders, formed his two battalions into line four deep, and scarcely was the change made, when 5,000 men of the Old Imperial Guard, led by Ney, were seen advancing at the pas de charge to the attack. Shouting Vive l' Empereur! they came steadily on, but, when they reached the crest, the Guards rose up like a wall and poured out a pitiless volley, the rear ranks passing with loaded muskets to the front. What matters it, says Lord Saltoun, whether Wellington cried "Up Guards and at 'em!" or no? He never heard the words only "Now Maitland, now's your time!" Thus was the iron shower set free. The Old Guard wavered and when at length the column reeled, shattered and broken, Saltoun cried out, "Now's the time, my boys!" and the Guards sprang forward, and drove the enemy over a hedge of dead and dying down the hill. In that conflict of giants, and at Quatre Bras, the First Guards lost 181 killed, including 7 officers, and had 853 wounded, making a total of 1,034. They had rendered glorious service, and earned undying fame. "Guards," exclaimed Wellington, "you shall be rewarded for this." and so it happened that, as a distinguished honour, they became "The First or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards."

The colours which floated over the devoted third battalion of First Foot Guards at Waterloo are still preserved at Wellington Barracks. The King's colour is of crimson silk, with a double royal cipher and crown in the middle, flanked by the honours of Lincelles and Corunna, while Barrosa has been torn from the tattered fabric below. In the upper canton is a small union, with a flame or 'pile' issuing from its lower corner, now the mark of the 3rd battalion. The fragment of the regimental colour has the union throughout, with the dragon of Wales, surmounted by the crown in the middle. This is the badge of the 8th company, for since the abolition of company colours, it has become customary to display the badges in rotation on the colours of the battalion. Since Waterloo, a small grenade has also been borne upon every colour of the Grenadier Guards. While the colours are being described it willbe as well to note that when the regiment was augmented to 30 companies at the outbreak of the Crimean War, six new badges were added.

We pass on now to the events on the East in 1854, when battalions of the 3 regiments of Guards, under General Bentinck, formed a brigade in the First or Duke of Cambridge's Division. At the Alma, the Guards advanced in support of the Light Division in the attack on the Kourgané height on the left, and contributed largely to the victory by driving the Vladimir regiment from its earthworks on the hill. During all the labours of the siege, the trench work, and the horrors of the winter, the Grenadiers took their part and, on October 18th 1854, had the misfortune to lose their commanding officer, Colonel Hood, who was struck by a round shot as he watched their work. At Inkerman, "the soldier's battle", the Guards took 1,331 men into action. Tremendous was the conflict that the Guards and Adam's brigade waged about the Sandbag Battery, that "symbol of victory", as Hamley calls it, and the Fore Ridge. It fell to the centre companies to occupy the battery, their right flank companies thrown back along the ridge facing the Tchernaya plain and the left facing the general Russian advance. "A continued struggle," says Sir F Hamilton, who was present, "and hand-to-hand combat now ensued, the men fighting with the desperation of those who know their is no support if they fail, and being often at such close quarters, that having no opportunity of reloading, they would make use of the butt ends of their muskets." On came Pauloff's Russians, hurling themselves in successive waves against the battery, mown down by the steady fire f the Grenadiers and the Scots Guards. So, to and fro, for six long hours the terrific conflict at the Sandbag Battery was waged, and many an incident of individual heroism bore testimony to the magnificent courage of the Guards. At one time, in the heat of the conflict, the headquarters and colours of the regiment, carried by Lieutenants Verschoyle and Turner, being halted near the battery, several officers impetuous led their companies in pursuit of the enemy, and after fighting desperately, retuned to the hill by a circuitous route.

It is believed that the Grenadiers were the only corps to carry their colours into action that day. In the thick of the fight, gallant Captain Peel of the Navy joined the Grenadiers, who were now reduced to about 100 officers and men at the battery. At the close the Grenadiers had but 236 effective officers and men on the field. Three officers (Lieutenant-Colonel Pakenham, and Captains Sir R Newman, and the Honourable Henry Neville) were killed, and six (including Colonel F W Hamilton, the historian of the regiment) wounded, while of non-commissioned officers and rank and file, 101 were killed and 124 wounded.

This magnificent service raised the gallant Grenadiers to a still higher pinnacle of fame, and our allies were warm in their commendation of the splendid spirit they had shewn. The hardships of winter told heavily on the Guards, and sickness was rife among them, but they received reinforcements from home, and continued their arduous services in the trenches up to the close of the siege. These, as the Prince Consort said, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Grenadier Guards in 1867, are glorious annals, and well might any corps be proud that could shew the like. But the Guards have since added to them. They served, with high credit, as all know, in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882, including the battle of Tel-el-Kebir and other operations, and they were employed in the Eastern Sudan in 1885.

 

 

This website is owned by Cranston Fine Arts.  Torwood House, Torwoodhill Road, Rhu, Helensburgh, Scotland, G848LE

Contact: Tel: (+44) (0) 1436 820269.  Fax: (+44) (0) 1436 820473. Email: