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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Quartermaster Sergeant James Mc Kay

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Quartermaster Sergeant James Mc Kay

Postby Connaught » September 2nd, 2011, 2:31 pm

James McKay was born in October 1792 in the Province of Andalusia, Gibraltar. On 1 December 1803, at the age of eleven, he enlisted as a boy drummer in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. He served for almost seven years as a boy soldier, but being under age these years were not credited to him for total military service. On 1 October 1810, having reached the eligible age for military service, he attested as a Private in the Royal Artillery [1].

A Royal Warrant dated 23 April 1812 authorized the formation of the Royal Engineer Establishment at Chatham to instruct the Royal Military Artificers and the junior officers of the Royal Engineers in the duties of sapping and mining and other military fieldworks. At the same time the title, Royal Military Artificers, was changed to Royal Sappers and Miners to give the engineers a more martial designation [2]. James McKay transferred to the Royal Sappers and Miners on 30 November 1812, still holding the rank of Private. The transfer took place in England where Private McKay was posted to the 4th Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Sappers and Miners.

The 4th Company, 2nd Battalion sailed from Margate with Captain Thomson, Sub-Lieutenant T. Adamson, and 82 men. The company arrived off Helvoetsluys on 15 December 1813. It was not until 18 December however, that the company went ashore at Williamstadt. There the company suffered loss by the accidental burning of the barracks in which it was quartered. After removing stores from the ships, parties of the company were employed in preparing fascines and gabions, in bridge building, construction of a landing place of faggots for the disembarkation of the cavalry, and in removing the platforms and heavy mortars from the ramparts at Williamstadt for movement to Merxam.

These tasks completed, the company was immediately pushed to the front. Tholen was their destination, and by the evening of 18 December they had covered ten miles, resting for the night at Steinbergen. The night march was extremely difficult as rain had set in and the road that lay along a dike was in a wretched state from previous traffic. The horses frequently could scarcely walk because of the deep mud along the track. The company also had some difficulty tracking their way due to ignorance of the country and the peculiar arrangement of the roads following the dikes. The darkness added to their perplexities and all members of the company were delighted at length to reach Steinbergen.

On 19 December the march to Tholen was resumed, passing near to the French occupied fortress at Bergen-Op-Zoom. Upon reaching Tholen elements of the company were sent to Klundert, Groat Zundert, Zandwarbeiten, Steenbergen, and Fort Frederic near Lillo.

The company's first operation commenced on 31 December with the construction of a bridge at Zandwarbeiten. Another work party at Tholen, attached to the Prussians, built a battery on the bank of the River Zoom for the protection of a flying bridge while at Fort Frederic a party restored a battery for two guns.
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