Battle Of Waterloo

Battle Of Waterloo - 1815

With the return of Napoleon, the establishment of the Fifteenth was increased by two troops, and three squadrons embarked at Cork, under Lieut.-Col. Dalrymple, landing in Ostend on the 19th May 1815. They immediately advanced up country, and were brigaded with the Seventh Hussars and the Second KGL Hussars under Maj.-Gen. Colquhoun Grant. On the 29th May the whole of the British Cavalry, under Lieut.-Gen. the Earl of Uxbridge, were reviewed by the Duke of Wellington, and Prince Blucher.

The Fifteenth were based on Ninove, where they carried out some drills and exercises on the following days, and on the Fifteenth June the regiment took part in the races set up by the Cavalry (in which the gold cup put up by Lord Uxbridge for a race of officers on their chargers was won by a Capt. Frazer, of the Seventh).

During that night the order to advance was given. The regiment commenced its march soon after daybreak, arriving at Quatre Bras in the evening, and bivouacked in the fields, with a piquet set on the Right of the Nivelles road. On the retreat from Quatre Bras the Fifteenth were attached to the right column of the British Cavalry, with left squadron forming the rearguard of the column. As the retreat progressed, Capt. Woodhouse's troop were involved in action just beyond the Nivelles road, protecting some wagons carrying wounded men which had been intercepted by the French, in company with about equal numbers of Thirteenth and German Hussars(6). A few French prisoners were taken.

From the moment the Cavalry had been disposed for the retreat they had been under a furious downpour, and this continued throughout the day, and the night which was spent, according to the adjutants journal, "cold and comfortless" in a rye field on the slopes before Mont St. Jean.

For more detail of the battle of Waterloo itself, from the perspective of the Fifteenth, the letters sent to Siborne by Lt.Col. Thackwell (who had been a captain at Waterloo), and Lt. Col. Lane (who had been a Lieutenant) shed considerable light:

Lieut. Colonel J. Thackwell

Captain 15th Hussars. Gloucester, December 20th, 1834

Before I reply to your queries I had better here state that the squadrons of the Regiment were not more than from fifty-two to fifty-five files, including Officers (each), and that one squadron and a division of another were detached from the Regiment on the morning of the 18th of June, and did not rejoin, except for a short time, during the day. This detached body was posted in observation in front of the valley leading to Braine-la-Leud- , and as its operations were confined to skirmishing, its loss was trifling.

1st, with respect to the query, "what was the particular formation?"

Answer - I beg to trace the formation of the Fifteenth Hussars at A in the plan; on its flanks were British Infantry in Square, but I am not certain of what Regiments, as part of Lord Hill's Corps from the second line were then in the first line; and I am not sure whether the site of the traced position is not a little too much in advance. The 13th Light Dragoons were either to the right or right rear of the Fifteenth, but as the troops were at the time closely concentrated in this part of the position, it was a difficult matter to distinguish particular Corps.

2nd,"What was the formation of that part of the enemy's forces?"

Answer - at B I beg to trace, according to the best of my recollection, a body of about 1000 Infantry in square, supported by a large body of Curassiers and other Cavalry. This square was charged by three troops of the 15th Hussars, as it was halted and in fine order, a little before or about the time of the charge of the Imperial Guard; but as I was then severely wounded, I did not observe in what manner these troops were supported on their flanks, or how their retreat was conducted, but very large masses of Cavalry were in their rear

In the early part of the day the position of the main body of the 15th Hussars was, in the plan, at C, that of the right squadron at C2, and that of a piquet at C3; but after the battle had begun until about half past two p.m. it was at D; and for nearly an hour afterwards it was at E, whence it moved with the 13th Light Dragoons to about F, for the purpose of attacking 10 squadrons of Lancers posted in line in rear of a deep ravine at G. It then joined the right squadron of the Regiment, but owing to the impetuous attack of the French Cavalry on the right centre of the British position, the intended attack of the Lancers was given up, and the Regiment, leaving the right squadron where it was originally posted, retraced its steps to the vicinity of position A, and was immediately engaged in the attack, by charge and skirmishing, of Curassiers and other Cavalry, and this lasted until the enemy's Cavalry found it could make no lasting impression on this part of the position.

The enemy's Cavalry and Infantry moved in column in advance and retreat,the former being at about quarter distance,and I understand when the British Line advanced the three left troops of the 15th charged a body of Infantry as well as some Lancers.

The position of the Regiment being in rear of Hougoumont, the masses of Infantry which would have closed on its post were intercepted by the troops defending that place, and none of the enemy's Infantry, to the best of my recollection, passed its enclosures, and the first I saw of that force in the immediate front of the 15th Hussars was the column charged by my squadron; but I witnessed the advance of many heavy masses of Infantry which attacked Hougoumont, although soon after the firing began the distant movements of the enemy's column were from this part of the position but indistinctly seen, owing to the smoke which hung lazily on a surface saturated with rain.

The left of the enemy's Infantry [Cavalry?] extended to the Nivelles road nearly in line with the letter G in the plan, from whence a heavy fire of Artillery was kept up for the chief part of the engagement on the angle of the British position

Joseph Thackwell,

Late Lieutenant Colonel commanding 15th or King's Hussars

Lieut. Colonel H Lane

Lieutenant 15th Hussars. Thorpe Arch, near Wetherby, March 24th, 1835

Two squadrons of the Regiment were placed upon the position near our own squares of Foot Guards, and one squadron was detached to the right in rear of Hougoumont, having a subaltern's piquet placed on the high road leading to Nivelles at the point which I have marked.

I cannot answer the two leading questions you propose as to the appearance of the enemy at seven o'clock. Large masses of troops in column advanced very near our lines, till shaken by the severe fire they sustained from our Artillery they wavered, and upon our whole line advancing to meet them, fled in utter confusion

I saw the first shot fired from our lines about eleven o'clock; it struck the column of the Enemy advancing upon Hougoumont, and caused some confusion and delay.

The Fifteenth Hussars was moved soon after to the ground on the right of the position, where I have marked a squadron as placed, and where the Enemy showed a strong body of Lancers, which we were preparing to attack. The Enemy made this diversion for the purpose of drawing off our force from the right centre of the position, which, in fact, was successful, for we were no sooner off that ground than the first attack made by the Curassiers took place upon the spot we had quitted. We at once returned to our former position, leaving one squadron to keep the French Lancers in check.

We were no sooner on our ground than we advanced in line, and charged the Grenadiers à Cheval, who fled from us. Our next attack (in line without reserve) was [on] a square of French Infantry, and our horses were within a few feet of the square. We did not succeeding breaking it, and, of course, suffered most severely. In short, during the day we were constantly on the move, attacking and retreating to our lines, so that, at the close of the battle, the two squadrons were dreadfully cut up.

When the Curassiers made their first attack, they passed through the squares considerably in rear of our lines, and in retiring a body of them followed the high road to Nivelles. They came unexpectedly to the abatis marked on your map, and a regiment of Infantry hidden there gave them fire, which destroyed them all.

I am

Henry Lane

Counting the Cost

The regiment continued the fight until the Prussians took over the pursuit, as the French were driven from the field, finally halting at about seven o,clock. Losses to the Fifteenth were - Major Griffith, Lieutenant Sherwood, two Sergeants, eighteen rank and file, and forty two horses killed; Lieut. Henry Buckley, and five rank and file died of their wounds; Lieut.Col. Dalrymple, Major Thackwell, Captain Whiteford, Lieut.s William and Edward Byam, Mansfield, and Dawkins, three Sergeants, forty rank and file, and fifty-two horses wounded, and the horses of Lt.Col. Dalrymple, Maj. Griffith, Capt. Thackwell, Capt. Booth, and Lieut Bellairs killed under them. This total, of 28 killed and fifty wounded, out of three squadrons of 104 - 110 (assuming a file to be two men), represents almost a quarter of those present, and a far higher proportion of those most actively engaged.

In common with the rest of the Army, each man received (eventually) a medal to commemorate the battle, and was allowed to count two years service for that day. Also the battle honour "Waterloo" was granted to the regiment, Lt.Col. Dalrymple was made Companion of the Bath, Captain Thackwell succeeded Major Griffith as Major of the regiment, and Captain Hancox became a major in the Army.

The regiment took part in the pursuit of the remains of the French army, including the siege of Cambray, which fell on the 24th June, and, when Paris fell, was quartered at Lion le Forêt, and villages between Rouen and Gizors.

In October the Fifteenth moved again, to Fauville in Normandy, and then to Dieppe, where it was joined by a reinforcement from England.

Notes:

6. There is some doubt as to the presence of the German Hussars at this point. This information comes from the "Historical Record of the Fifteenth King's Hussars", but Thackwell points out in his letter to Sibornethat the German Hussars of the Brigade were detached, and had not returned from the frontier on the morning of the 18th.

15th or Kings Light Dragoons (Hussars) 15th or Kings Light Dragoons (Hussars)
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