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Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

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Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » February 4th, 2016, 10:01 am

Hi All...

I started this post in order to see if anyone can help concerning the whereabouts of Mathew Clay during the night of the 17th; prior to the battle.
http://blidworthhistoricalsociety.co.uk/10501.html

I was always under the impression he was in the sunken lane (Rue aux Loups) but I’ve since had an expert who seems adamant that Matthew spent the night in a ditch in the great orchard.
This question could eventually provide the reason why both the CG and SG were divided into 4 sub-divisions. (??)
I don’t particularly want him to be anywhere other than the lane, otherwise, I’ll have to bin a chapter..., lol !

When I think back to a previous post ‘The Sunken Lane’;
viewtopic.php?f=43&t=2772
I remember calculating that both the CG and SG Light Companies would have needed about 500 yards of lane to have all the men shoulder-to-shoulder. As such, lack of space could have been an issue..., and because of it, they could have been divided up.
Unless of course they ‘doubled up’ along the lane’s embankment. They were all used to having ‘sidekicks’ because blankets in twos or fours were often used as bivouacs. And from what I’ve read so far concerning their tactical warfare, today’s ‘buddy-buddy’ system is far from new. (‘Clay and Gann by the haystack’)

Anyway, I doubt very much if they would have been permitted to sit on the lane itself because as you all know, the lane ran along the south side of the ridge..., meaning that all sorts of riders were using it for communications. (including Saltoun and perhaps even the Waggon Train Regiment with their mules supplying ammunition and equipment)

Note: I also know it’s a bit trivial to use ‘hunger’ to help find where he was, but if you read between the lines, this ‘hunger’ aspect does tell a story. (nobody can be hungry if they are in the middle of an orchard)

Events on the evening of the 17th

1) By 19H00, (following Quatre Bras) both Light Companies had four-man bivouacs on the ridge, JUST UNDER and to the east of the 3 batteries on Wellington’s right flank. The canons are active, it’s dark and it’s pouring down !

2) Abt 19H30: The SG (and perhaps the CG) are ordered to dismantle their bivouacs and about 50% of the Company/ies immediately descend the hill towards Hougoumont; while Clay and the other “wet-blanket men” dismantle the bivouacs before leaving the site.
(obviously, each wet-blanket man now carries two heavy blankets)

3) Abt 19H45: On his decent (while psychologically “ducking the canon fire”) Clay is now on LEVEL GROUND. (this is the start of Hougoumont’s northern wood) He suddenly finds himself facing a gap in a fence, beyond which there’s a ditch. Seeing that the others in the company had gone that way, he follows, slips and then finds himself up to his neck in water. He continues his way while CROSSING A SUNKEN LANE and tracks. (see below an image of another sunken lane to the NORTH of the Rue aux Loups) This lane, before the construction of the autoroute obviously provided a pathway for Braine-l’Alleud farmers to have access to Plancenoit and Waterloo.

4) Abt 20H00: Clay now finds his company; “extended along the upper side of the orchard in a shallow ditch, sheltered by a bushy hedge-row.”

5) During the night and on a state of alert, he’s “very cold and without food”!

6) The next morning before moving on the kitchen garden they are told, quote; “to face to our right and march in the direction of Hougoumont, known to us as the farm house.”
Because of the hedge, there is no other logical way to go ! Also, “to face our right” can in no way be interpreted as ‘lamp swinging’!

John’s book probably contains an answer but if anybody would like to add any information then please do so.

Kind Regards..., Iain.

PS Note from John in 2016:
“After Quatre-Bras, the two Light Companies of the CG and SG numbered 270 officers and men with no dead but 7 SG wounded.”
This means, (on a 50/50 basis) the SG light Company had over 125 men. (plus 7 wounded behind the lines following Quatre Bras)
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby John Franklin » February 6th, 2016, 10:01 am

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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » February 7th, 2016, 6:40 am

Good morning John..., and thank you.

Phew ! Lol...
I understand now !
Absolutely fascinating and certainly draws a dividing-line between a professional Historian and a pastime writer. There are aspects in your reply that I had never known existed, so it’s becoming more and more evident that I must ‘mark-time’ until the publication.

Christine mentioned that she too is re-writing Clay’s story but probably with more of a genealogical theme.

What’s more, you have not left one pebble unturned with your Hougoumont research and as you once remarked that you have never researched the French Drummer Boy, yet you have photographed Robert Gann’s headstone, means that you obviously believe the story is probably hogwash and that Clay had absolutely nothing to do with the boy.
Lol..., another chapter out the window !
Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure a Drummer was there so it was probably someone else who saved his life ! (I’m in contact with the Chateau de Vincennes..., 'Service historique de la Défense' - 1er léger, for the period 1814-1815, code register 22 YC 8)

No need to reply John..., I know you are knee-high in pre-publication work so you have better things to do. Thank you again !

Kind Regards..., Iain.


PS Some info for your uniforms research: http://frederic.berjaud.free.fr/1eleger.htm
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby John Franklin » February 7th, 2016, 11:55 am

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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » February 9th, 2016, 6:38 am

Thank you John and as usual; fascinating !

I’ll take your advice and keep you updated.

Kind Regards..., Iain.

(slightly surprised that the Drummer would have attempted to enter a small door instead of following the others along the wall. Lol..., that's not a question ! I'll wait for your book)
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby John Franklin » February 9th, 2016, 10:04 am

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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » February 11th, 2016, 4:18 pm

Good afternoon John...
I feel slightly embarrassed by the time you’re using to reply to my questions (some stupid) during such a busy pre-publishing and marketing period. It’s very much appreciated !

Before I answer, I’d like to mention that using common logic plus my years in the Scots Guards, I personally believe that Clay didn’t have anything to do with the drummer. If there was a drummer present, then there’s every possibility he was saved by someone else.
If Clay had really ushered the boy to a safe room (and why not the same room as the gardener’s daughter) then such an important lamp-swinging story would have been written indelibly in his Sgts Mess stories and more-so, the newspapers. Unfortunately, there’s no mention of it anywhere following the battle..., even in the French papers at the time.
Even the ‘lamp-swinging’ Editor of the narrative didn’t talk about a drummer.

In the Army..., it’s considered a ‘self inflicted injury’ to steal someone else’s thunder; and doing so would create hell for the soldier involved for the remainder of his career. So because he does not mention it..., he didn't do it !

Point 1: (‘when is a boy not a boy’)
I had a look at the ‘Tambour’ list for the 1er Léger for 1805, (58 of them) and as you say, (I was quite surprised) they were certainly not boys. The youngest being a certain François Kalvers b1786. (older than Clay who had just turned 19 for the battle)
But in my defence Your Honour (lol) ..., this was in 1805 when Frenchmen were so plentiful that they could be used as cannon fodder to protect their second file.
In 1815, a fighting-fit soldier was a rare commodity so the term ‘drummer boy’ probably lived up to its name. So we would not be exaggerating if we assume that the enlistment age was probably 10-years old.
As such, despite Clay being a small ‘left flanker,’ the boy’s stature could have been very small indeed. (see image)

Point 2: (drummer; inside or out)
After 12h30, I think you’ll agree that the farm was pretty hermetic; except for an occasional Waggon Train cart or messenger. As for the regiments outside the farm’s complex who were, as you say, capable of capturing a drummer; he, like Hinckley would have been whisked off to the ridge. So no Hougoumont connection !

If the legend has any foundation, it’s obvious he entered by the western door or the north gate.
Had he entered the byre using the western door, (like ticket holders trying to get access to a train’s platform) the density of troops climbing the steps would have deprived him of his drum and with so much Allied adrenalin in the room, nobody would have been left standing. (unless his size singled him out)
As for the north gate, with thirty-odd Frenchmen entering, (they certainly didn’t enter one by one) there must have been a certain ‘fluidity’ lasting for about a minute or two..., with which he could have slipped in with his drum alongside his compatriots.

Lol... During a lull in the afternoon’s fighting, I read somewhere that Guillaume van Cutsem and his daughter slipped out using the north gate.
Oh..., how I love imagining the drummer running up the Chemin du Goumont, (now dressed in civilian clothes) and all three hand-in-hand.

PS: Just been looking at the ‘Waterloo Uncovered’ blog and if it’s correct that Clay did not spend the night in the Rue aux Loups (the sunken way) then it looks as if the archaeology team was ‘barking up the wrong tree.’ Lol...
http://www.waterloouncovered.com/day-4- ... mmunition/

PPS I contacted the Waterloo Administration to ask if the Rue aux Loups ever linked up with the Rue aux Loups at Plancenoit. Only he has the street name dates..., typical politician; still no reply !

Kind Regards..., Iain.
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby John Franklin » February 13th, 2016, 11:06 am

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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » February 13th, 2016, 6:07 pm

Very interesting John !
I want my story to be without fault (otherwise there would be no sense in doing it) and as you can read above, I’m certain that Clay had nothing to do with the ‘small man.’ (lol) As such, I’ve already eliminated the legend until I find some proof. Which will probably be never.

Have a nice weekend.
Kind Regards..., Iain.

PS I found something quite interesting last month from my Grenadier and Coldstream friends. No idea why at Christmas, but both regiments (even the welsh Guards who were formed in 1915) celebrate the ‘Hanging of the Brick.”
Nobody on Facebook could provide an explanation except that it’s used to find someone who will pay for a round of drinks in the Mess.
I surfed the Internet and discovered the following:
http://www.bristolgrenadiers.org/albums ... ck2010.htm
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st6PwQfdvME

I now have one and I’m going to give it to the Coldstream Guards RHQ.
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 2nd, 2017, 4:47 pm

Hi All…

Lol…, reviving an 18-month post as I’m still not convinced !
Sorry John !

As everyone knows, on the evening of the 17th, four Light Companies were sent down to the farm. 2 x GG ; 1 x CG ; 1 x SG…
The two GG Light Companies were composed of about 200 men and were installed in the orchard under the command of Saltoun. The CG were ordered to create a garrison of the farm while the SG (I suppose) were considered as a ‘reserve’ Company to support either the CG or the GG if need be; and provide the piquet. (typical tactics from platoon to battalion level)

Now, so far, John and other specialists have Clay and his Light Company in the orchard…, quote John; “Clay and his fellows in the REAR ‘sub division’ of the 3rd Guards Light Company were lining the ditch on the north-east of the orchard.”
Note…, the ‘ditch’ is flooded !

Now…!!! “In the orchard”?

Please look at the radar image below of the farm and grounds with parts of the orchard flooded; just like the pond covering the Chemin du Goumont and part of the western wheat field. (“a moat,” according to a Journalist from the Bristol Mirror on the 16th of September. As such, an extremely slow draining earth… viewtopic.php?f=43&t=2961&start=10 )

On the image, I’ve provided markers in yellow indicating the positions for about 22 GG soldiers. (2 x 100 minus about 20-odd officers and NCOs who would not have lined the hedge)
Now, with a couple of meters needed for each soldier, I’m asking myself how 2 Light Companies could ever have fitted into the orchard…, let alone another 125 men from the SG ? (with 7 wounded from Quatre Bras having been sent to the rear)
Especially taking into consideration that the southern and eastern hedgerows were dense; meaning that each soldier would have needed to move about a bit to find a space to create a loophole.
Quote: "Tree trunks as thick as your arm."

As such, how is it possible to even consider that the SG spent the night under the apple trees, out in the open ?
As such, it’s blatantly obvious that they spent the night in the sunken lane…, where in the morning, quote Clay; “we created leafy loopholes in the hedgerow believing that we’d be there for the remainder of the day.”
In the morning, Clay and others also wander off to explore the farm and collect straw for bedding plus a pig.
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