I started writing this first thing this morning but anxiety got in the way of concentration. I did some reading – nothing serious – and some sewing instead.
As you are aware, if you’ve been following my blog posts this week, on Tuesday I wrote about the 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot, 2nd Battalion, and their involvement in the Waterloo Campaign. To recap, at Quatra Bras, the incredibly young battalion were caught by French currassiers while still forming square. They lost 27 men in the battle, another 25 – 30 died of wound, and 75 – 80 men were eventually discharged wounded. They also lost their Kings Colours.
At Waterloo, they joined the the other three regiments in their brigade between La Haye Sainte and Hougoument. Because they had all suffered casualties at Quatra Bras – the 69th were down to about 300 men – the four regiments amalgamated into two squares. The 69th joined the 33rd, while the 30th joined the 73rd, on their left. The combined light companies of all four regiments formed am additional ‘Flank Battalion’ under Major Vigoroux of the 30th; they acted as the skirmish line in front of the main position.
In order to protect the already depleted regiments, Wellington ordered his men to lie down – you can’t aim cannon at a target you can’t see. The Allied army was positioned along a steep ridge; they were effectively hidden behind that ridge when they lay down. Unfortunately, this advantage made it difficult for the light companies in the skirmish line to retreat when heavily attacked. They were forced to crawl on hands and knees up, before scrambling into the nearest square.
During the long day of June 18th 1815, the French attacked the 69th/33rd square repeatedly. While the 73rd/30th square held the relative inexperience of the 69th showed. During one attack they were overrun, causing them to ‘retire in confusion’; the arrival of the Life Guards, who saw off the French curassiers, allowed the men to return to their position and the stood firm for the rest of the long battle.
During the battle the 69th lost their commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Morice, while total casualties (wounded and killed) came to over 200 men of all ranks.
The 2nd/69th was disbanded in 1816, with many men discharged wounded. The rest were transferred to other regiments or sent to join the 1st battalion in India.