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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

Hello Iain,

You and I have already discussed this matter, and as stated, 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. A party from the 3rd Foot Guards, led by Capt. George Evelyn had been ordered forward into the wood as the advanced picquet. Corporal George Cadwallder, who commanded a small detachment, was 'chidden' (rebuked) for advancing too far. This is all in my book, and is based on numerous accounts drawn from men in the Light Company of the 3rd and Coldstream Guards which are previously unpublished. The accounts were given to Capt. Delmé Seymour Davis as part of the investigation into the 18 men of the 3rd Guards Light Company who were locked out of Hougoumont during the fighting on the 18th June and who retired to the rear. 16 men of the Coldstream Guards Light Company were also locked out when the French attacked.

I appreciate that you are producing a book about Clay and his experiences. I do not believe that Matthew Clay's account of events is reliable in its totality. Indeed, many points are shown to be inaccurate when compared to other, more contemporary, accounts. Clay's account was published in 1854 (having been written in 1853) by Frederick Thompson. It was this account which the Reverend Bernard Clay gave to the regiment in 1965, prior to his inclusion as a VIP at the celebrations within Hougoumont for the 150th anniversary. General Sir Michael Gow and I went through all of this, as Mike Gow was Adjutant at RHQ Scots Guards in 1965 when the Clay collection was first donated. He wrote the article in the Household magazine which stimulated interest in Clay. All of the background information on Clay is in the introduction to the book, and is a fascinating side story. You see, unfortunately, Clay's original 'handwritten' manuscript of the campaign, along with his account of the attack on Bergen-op-Zoom, were never published. Frederick Thompson took what he liked and added and edited bits here and there for the published account. Unfortunately, a publisher re-issued the Thompson account a short while ago. This only reinforces the myths, although apparently the author is trying to solve various 'myths' within the campaign.

I found the original manuscript, with help (to be kept secret at this point). The original Clay manuscript, with his description of his comrades, and a better account of events is a central part of the forthcoming Hougoumont book, and is fully supported by the Clay family (including Christine Dabbs Clay), who I know very well, and with whom I unveiled a lectern to Matthew Clay in the family's ancestral home of Blidworth, close to the Parish Church, in 2012.

Clay's published account in isolation will create many queries like those you have posted. I think when the original manuscript is read with the other accounts I have amassed, things will be a good deal clearer.

Best regards

John
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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

Iain,

I didn't mean to sound disparaging with regards to your writing, nor to diminish your enthusiasm. I apologise if it sounded that way. However, I would like to reply to your post.

With regards to the French drummer 'boy' I can state that I did look into this matter, at length, although I was always sceptical. The list (or registre) 22 YC 8 needs to be checked in conjunction with the service records in the Salle de Lecture. I have done this, and can state that you will not find the answer you are looking for. There are several reasons for my knowing this, mainly because the attack launched upon the west of Hougoumont which resulted in one of the 'many' incursions was led by Chef-de-bataillon Jean-Louis Sarrand, 2nd Btn 2e Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne (and not members of the 1er Léger). During this incursion Lieutenant Sylvian Toulouse penetrated through the small door in the west lane with several fusiliers. Their attack was driven back by a combination of Grenadiers from the 2nd Btn 2nd Nassau-Usingen Regiment, and a small detachment led by Capt John Elrington of the 3rd Foot Guards. Contemporary accounts, not least that writing ten days after the battle by Lt-Col Charles Dashwood - who commanded the 3rd Guards Light Coy - praise Elrington. It also appears that the only man in the 3rd Guards Light Coy to have a distinction placed on his service record for gallantry during the battle, Private William West, received this honour for the service he rendered at this moment. (More on this in my forthcoming book on Hougoumont, of course.)

I made mention of this incident in the recent book I wrote for Osprey, although of course, the very limited space, curious editorial decisions and the lack of end notes did not allow me to expand in anyway on the subject. Here is a (rather long) link to the pages from the said Osprey book: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=L5- ... nd&f=false


It would be my recommendation that if you wish to liaise with Vincennes to look for Clay's 'drummer boy', you should concentrate on those serving with the 2nd Btn, 2e Régiment de Ligne.

Best of luck

John
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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

Iain,

There are a couple of questions I'd like to pose to you, for consideration:

1. Clay refers to a drummer 'boy'. With officers joining the Guards at 15 years of age (some even at 14), and men commonly joining the ranks at 15 (such as Clay himself), I'd like to know what you think he means when he describes a boy: Is he describing a very young male, an actual boy, or someone he assumes is very young who is short or small in stature?

2. Clay refers to placing the said drummer 'boy' in an outhouse. However, he doesn't mention that the drummer was captured inside the complex. Why do you assume that the drummer was inside the buildings? (Bugler George Hinckley of the Coldstream Guards Light Company was captured by the French during the incursion at the north gate, and taken back to their lines. A prisoner can be taken at any time and at any point on the battlefield, of course.)


You might be interested to note that my examination of the registers at Vincennes (contrôle de signalement des officiers, sous-officiers et soldats – 1814 et 1815) for each of the regiments I have ascertained were engaged in the attacks upon Hougoumont, has not revealed a drummer that I could call a 'boy'. If Clay did indeed lodge a drummer in one of the outhouses for safe keeing, it is my educated guess that he was captured in the vicinity of the farm, not inside the buildings, and was actually a short young man. Naturally, this doesn't sound as interesting in an account of the fighting, especially one which has been heavily edited by a publisher, or 'spiced up', in order to sell copies!

Best wishes

John
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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

Hello Iain,

Thanks for your reply. As stated, my research into the records at Vincennes has not revealed a 'drummer boy' serving with those French regiments and battalions which I have established were involved in the attack upon Hougoumont. I think you are hoping to find a drummer that fits, and of course, wishful thinking is a dangerous thing to apply when dealing with history. There has been far too much manipulation of the facts in the past, which is why so much poor history has been written about Waterloo.

Personally, as stated within my earlier post, if Clay was responsible for lodging a drummer within an outhouse, which could have been possible of course, I do not think that the drummer had been captured inside the buildings, nor do I believe that he was a boy. It is likely that he was taken prisoner when the French attack was driven out of the west gate by the Nassau-Usingen and 3rd Guards in the mid-afternoon, and that the drummer was a 'short lad' in his mid-to-late teens. Please remember that the Nassau has seven of their Grenadiers taken captive in this assault (although the official Nassau-Usingen returns make no mention of men missing or captured).

Kind regards

John
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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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