The Eagle of the 62nd Captured at Salamanca | ||Capture of an Eagle at Salamanca|
Battle of Salamanca, 22 July 1812 - the attack by Sir James Leith's 5th Division. At about 1640hrs the 5th Division, after enduring a prolonged period under fire from French artillery, began its attack on Maacune's division just above the village of Los Arapiles. When the 5th reached the crest of the heights they found Maucune's division drawn up in squares. In the ensuing contest, the British firepower broke the squares apart.
The eagle of the 62nd was taken by Lieutenant Pearce of the 44th English, who appeared in front of its bearer at the moment when he was taking it off its staff to protect it under his coat. They got involved in a fight, in which they were joined by a 2nd eagle-bearer, a French soldier and three English of the 44th. The French soldier was going to drive his bayonet into the Lieutenant, when Private Finlay shot him in the head, saving the Lieutenant’s life and spraying the eagle with the soldier’s blood. The two French bearers also died straight away, one of them killed by Lieutenant Pearce, who snatched the eagle from the hands of one of the dead, then nailed their trophy to a sergeant’s pike, carrying it triumphantly throughout the remainder of the battle, presenting it to Wellington the following day.
Brevet Lieut Colonel Hardinge gained a medal for this victory and the 44th were permitted to bear the word Salamanca on the regimental colour. The battalion had Captains John Berwick Ensign William Standley and four rank and file killed two sergeants one drummer and twenty rank and file wounded at the battle.
Quatre Bras & Finale
The Battalion then moved to quarters in Ostend until April 1815, when they where posted to the 95th British Infantry Brigade under the command of Sir Dennis Pack. The 2nd Battalion suffered 165 casualties during the Waterloo Campaign and was particularly hard pressed at Quatre Bras, where on June 16th Ensign Christie, despite receiving serious injuries, distinguished himself by saving the regimental Colour. After the battle of June 18th, the 44th marched to Paris, not returning to England until January 1816. In January 1816 the 2nd Battalion of the 44th Regiment of Foot embarked at Calais for Dover and on the 24th January was disbanded. The Officers received full pay until 24th March and all men fit for service were transferred to the 1st Battalion. The 44th East Essex remained a one battalion regiment, winning more glory and honours until 1881, when on 1st July, as a result of the territorial reorganisation scheme, the 44th became the 1st Battalion, the Essex Regiment and the 44th East Essex ceased to exist. Gone but never forgotten.
44th Defending Their Colours at Waterloo (Ensign Christie).
Last stand of the 44th at Gandamak, painted by William Barnes Wollen | |
Other Notable Engagements - First Anglo-Afghan War
The 44th Foot fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War and the regiment formed the rearguard on the retreat from Kabul. After a continuous running battle in two feet of snow, the force had been reduced to fewer than forty men. On 13 January 1842, the few survivors of the decimated regiment made a last stand against Afghan tribesmen on a rocky hill near the village of Gandamak. The ground was frozen and icy. The men had no shelter and were starving. Only a dozen of the men had working muskets, the officers their pistols and a few unbroken swords. When the Afghans surrounded them on the morning of the 13th the Afghans announced that a surrender could be arranged. "Not bloody likely!" was the bellowed answer of one British sergeant. It is believed that only two survived the massacre.
Most notable was Captain Thomas Souter, who by wrapping the regimental colours around himself was taken prisoner, being mistaken by the Afghan as a high military official. The other was Surgeon William Brydon who rode his exhausted horse for days until he came to the British garrison at Jalalabad. A vivid, if romanticised, depiction entitled "Last Stand of the 44th Regiment at Gundamuk" was painted by the artist William Barnes Wollen in 1898 which now hangs in the Chelmsford and Essex museum in Oaklands Park, London Road, Chelmsford. This disaster to British arms served to encourage the Indian nationalists who were leaders in the great mutiny in India.
The 44th Foot was reconstituted and saw active service in Turkey and Russia during the Crimean War. The regiment was awarded three battled honours to its Regimental Colour for service in the Crimea. These were the battles of The Alma, Inkerman and Sevastopol.
Second Opium War
The 44th were serving in Madras, India in 1860 as the garrison for Fort St George. Drafts of reinforcements arrived during 1859 and the regiment was composed of 35 officers and 1,176 organised in 10 companies. At the outbreak of war with China, 5 companies of the regiment embarked on transports on 31 January. The remainder of the regiment embarked on 3 March. On arrival in China the commanding officer Colonel Charles William Dunbar Staveley was appointed to command the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division, and command of the 44th fell to Lieutenant Colonel MacMahon. The regiment participated in the capture of the Taku Forts on 21 August 1860 as part of the Anglo-French forces under command of General Sir James Hope Grant. The 44th were in the vanguard of the assault on the North Taku entrenchments. The attacking force crossed a series of ditches and bamboo-stake palisades under heavy Chinese musketry, and tried to force entrance by the main gate. When this effort was unsuccessful, an assault party climbed the wall to an embrasure and forced entry to the fort. The first British officer to enter the fort was Lieutenant Robert Montresor Rogers of the E Company, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery. He was closely followed by Private John McDougall who was also awarded the VC. During the fighting the 44th had Captain George Ingham and Lieutenant Robert Montressor Rogers severely wounded, fourteen men killed, one drummer and forty-five men wounded. For this bloody action the Essex Regiment was awarded the battle honor "Taku Forts" to its Regimental Colour. On 25 August the 44th embarked for Shanghai and landed at the city on 10 September. The regiment garrisoned the city until 15 November when it embarked for Hong Kong, where it spent the rest of the war. After the end of the Opium War, it returned to India.
Battle of Inkerman, during the Crimean War, in 1854
Voluntary Enlistment Poster | |
The Essex Regiment - The Great War
On 1 July 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms which removed the numbering of Regiments, the 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot united with the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot to form the Essex Regiment.
The Great War
During World War I the Essex Regiment provided 30 infantry battalions to the British Army. The 3rd (Special Reserve) (formerly Militia) battalion was mobilised to supply drafts to the two Regular battalions. On the outbreak of war, the Territorial battalions (4th-7th, and 8th (Cyclist) Bns) all formed second line (2/4-2/8th) and eventually third line (3/4th-3/8th) battalions. Three service battalions (9th-11th) and one reserve battalion (12th) were formed from volunteers in 1914 as part of Kitchener's Army, and a further service battalion (13th (West Ham)) was raised by the Mayor and Borough of West Ham. Reserve battalions created as the war progressed included the 14th (from the depot companies of the 13th), 15th-17th (from provisional battalions), 18th (Home Service) and 1st and 2nd Garrison Bns The regiment's battle honours for the First World War include Le Cateau, Ypres, Loos, Somme, Cambrai, Gallipoli and Gaza.
Battle of the Somme
1st Battalion took part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. The battalion (comprising W, X, Y, and Z companies) took up position in the British trenches at 3:30 am. At 8:40 am, the battalion received orders to advance and clear the German first-line trenches. The battalion was delayed by heavy enemy fire and congestion in the communication trenches. The Newfoundland Regiment advancing to the left of the Essex battalion was almost entirely wiped out as they advanced towards German lines. At 10:50 am, the Essex companies were in position and received orders to go "over the top". Companies came under heavy artillery and MG barrage immediately they appeared over the parapet, causing heavy losses. The attack became bogged down in no man's land. The battalion received orders from 88th Brigade headquarters to recommence the attack for 12:30 pm, but at 12:20 pm the battalion commander advised brigade HQ that "owing to casualties and disorganisation", it was impossible to renew the attack. The survivors of the battalion received orders to hold their position along the line of Mary Redan – New Trench – Regent Street.
The 44th in Fiction
The capture of a French Imperial Eagle by the fictional "South Essex Regiment" in the Sharpe novels of Bernard Cornwell is based upon the 2/44th's battle honour. The South Essex is depicted as having yellow coat facings like the 44th (East Essex). Sharpe's Waterloo again uses a historical incident involving the 44th as a backdrop for an action by the "South Essex", the back-to-back stand against French cavalry at the Battle of Quatre Bras.
The retreat from Kabul and the events leading up to it form a major part of the plot of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman. He goes on to meet the regiment in Flashman at the Charge and Flashman and the dragon, but they feature only as incidental colour. In the series the titular character names his house "Gandamak".