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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Those Terrible Greys.

For all posts regarding the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo | 1815 - 2015.

Re: Those Terrible Greys.

Postby jf42 » July 8th, 2015, 8:04 am

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Re: Those Terrible Greys.

Postby Josh&Historyland » July 8th, 2015, 10:59 pm

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Re: Those Terrible Greys.

Postby Josh&Historyland » July 26th, 2015, 10:11 pm

Let Battle commence.
18 June 1815. Dawn to 3pm.

The morning dawned, grey and overcast. Sometime before first light heaven had ceased to weep for the harvest that would soon be taken up. Behind the ridge of Mont St Jean the trumpeters of the Union Brigade pressed the mouthpiece's to their lips and blew the first notes of reville, the lonely sound mingling with the orchestra of drums and bugles sounding across the position. Cold damp and clammy, the Greys were awoken to the usual barks of their sergeants, "Turn out!" Corporal Dickson of F troop, was awoken by trooper MacGee, who shook him and shouted "Damn your eyes boys it's the bugle!". Watering parade was next, dragoons squelched through the clay and matted crops to see to the horses before getting breakfast. The smoke of hissing cooking fires, built back up from wet wood, creating a cloud over the position, and spicing the cool morning air that smelled of wet earth and crops.
Stirabout was not a meal calculated to inspire comfort, boiled water and oats, has an unappetising look, but it set the men up well enough. Sergeant William Clarke had been unable to speak with his brother the day before, and now took the opportunity to see him, and share a tot and a handshake, just in case. Having done this the familiar notes of boot and saddle was heard and the process of preparing the horses and men for the day began. Lt Hamilton was not at all impressed by the appearance of the dragoons, everyone looked miserable, covered head to foot in mud and black coal dust from the roads, and their white crossbelts stained pink from the die of their red coats. What state the horses were in can only be guessed at, despite the protection of cloaks and waterdecks, it is likely they were only grey from the neck up, and probably required a stiff brushing down when they had dried off. As soon as the regiment was saddled and morning parade was finished up, Colonel Hamilton was given the "Parade State" that showed the Greys could field a compliment of over 400 sabres. Out in front Corporal Dickson was one of the men acting as vedette, sitting astride his grey mare Rattler on the Ohain Road, foragers had also been sent out to procure what they could for the day. General Ponsonby had sent for Lt Hamilton again that morning and this pleased him, in his experience staff officers had more of a chance of getting out of an action alive due to the need to be always on the move. As the day brightened, few men could be at all sure that a battle was to be fought yet at the same time with each passing hour, the likelihood that the rumour mill was accurate and that they would stand, strengthened. Dickson sitting astride his horse, carbine in hand, on the crest of the ridge was able to see the comings and goings, he heard the rattle of the French drums sound from across the valley, and saw German troops parting the crops on the way to La Haye Sainte. Presently the blue coated Dutch infantry of Biljandt's brigade struck off from the crossroads and march smartly past onto the exposed face of the ridge and foreign artillery troop gallop past soon after. The sight of feather bonnets and red coats coming off the road heralded the arrival of Picton's Brigades. The 92nd marched past their countrymen, chanting Scot's Wae Hae, and news was passed back and forth between the Scotsmen on the road as they went, it was old news, the Gordon's had been mauled badly at Quatre Bras as well, losing their commanding officer to the French, and they were keen for another rub to settle the score. All indicators pointed to troops being disposed for battle, but veterans like Hamilton were not so sure, the Duke had a habit of being unpredictable and particular about when, where and how he gave battle, at that moment they were still as likely to be acting as the rearguard again as charging for Paris.
Arriving at General Ponsonby's headquarters he joined the brigade staff on an inspection of the outposts. Riding along the sunken road that ran across the top of the rise, bordered by straggling deciduous hedges of holly, dotted by Elm and beech trees sprouting from their midst on the high banks. Riding along they passed knots of officers scrutinising the landscape with telescopes. In one such group they found the the duke of Richmond and his 15 year old son Lord March, an ADC to General Maitland but excused duty due to a terrible hunting accident in April, standing with a group of officers scanning the left flank for the Prussians. They paused to pass the time of day, and at first one thought they had seen a Prussian picket. However it was deemed not to be so and all were dispirited. The principle understanding was was that battle would not be given unless the Prussians were on the field to begin with. Hamilton was one of those officers who remembered Napoleon "Trooping the line" and the cheers of the French army carrying over from the opposite ridge, which further doused their spirits.
Lord Uxbridge was next to appear, making a tour of the outposts for himself. The earl at this time certainly knew the army was to stand, in anticipation of the Prussian's arriving on their left. As he passed Richmond he commented prophetically "We shall have sharp work today".

The Greys now stood by their horses in the rear and waited, watching the infantry and guns deploy. There was no distinct sound to be heard, apart from now and again a crackle of skirmish fire, and the odd cannon shot perhaps testing its range. At some point in the morning there had been a cacophony of shots as the outposts cleared their muskets, but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary. At 11 O'clock, Uxbridge ordered up his brigades into their positions. Ponsonby, wearing his cocked hat and fur trimmed cloak rode ahead and sent back ADC's to guide the Union to their places.
Formed in the prescribed open ranks for mounting, the Greys stepped up and rose into their saddles. Sitting mid saddle, head up shoulders back, small of back hollow, sword arm down, bridle arm held at the stomach, fingers closed tight on the reins, legs stretched, knees a little bent, heels down. The same magnificent line of tall men in red coats and black bearskins on white horses, it didn't matter that the horses were stained and damp, nor that their crossbelts were discoloured from their coats, or that their uniforms were caked in drying mud and their bearskins mostly covered with oilskins, they were still the Greys. Most of all it didn't matter a jot to Colonel Hamilton that neither he nor his regiment had not seen action since the French Revolution nor won a battle honour since the War of Austrian Succession, but that the regiment had been in action, and that every dragoon behind him knew it and took pride in its history and traditions. Whether it was two years or two hundred years ago the regiment had last charged an enemy, that queer, pugnacious self assurance that every soldier of the old army felt for his regimental number and name would ensure the Greys would not disgrace themselves today. When an old regiment like the 2nd Dragoons went into battle it carried with it the memory of every other dragoon that had ever worn the thistle badge on his cap, or carried the initials RNBD on their equipment. The Greys formed a closed column of half squadrons and marched forwards from the farm, taking post on ground to the brigade's left. The foragers and picquets were called in bringing back some oats bread and gin.

The position was as follows. From the left of the main Brussels road that they had marched up on the 17th was a line of infantry standing and lying down behind the hedge lined road that lead across the ridge top.
Five brigades of infantry were deployed in a vague checkerboard formation along the ridge line. In the front line was the Dutch and Hanoverian Brigades of Bijlandt and Best. Behind them, covering the intervals were Kempt's and Pack's British Brigades and on the left Vinke's Hanoverian's.
On the other side of the Brussels road stood the Household Brigade, and the Union Brigade formed up in line of columns behind Picton's infantry while the light dragoons and Hussars of Vivian's and Vandeleur's took post to the left behind more allied infantry ranged above the hamlets of Papelotte, Frichermont and La Haie garrisoned by Saxe Weimar's brigade. In front Kempt's position was the small farm they had passed during the night. La Haie Sante, which had been garrisoned by Kings German Legion Riflemen and Hanoverian light infantry. Several batteries of artillery stood before the infantry just behind the hedge. Which rather begs the question of how high the hedge was. No artilleryman would logically position his gun behind an obstacle that would obstruct his view, or that he would have to fire through. The only answer is that either the gunners hacked it down on both sides to make a clean field of fire, or it might indicate that the famous hedge which Corporal Dickson called straggling, was no higher than the a man's waist and indeed there were certainly gaps in it. What made it a proper obstacle was the fairly steep banks that it sat upon. Most marked at the crossroads and becoming shallower as it went along. however the French did not find it so, nor. The ground was of a clay like consistency matted with sodden trampled crops, fairly firm at the top of the ridge, but in the valley in front and at the foot behind it was a quagmire.

As the Grey's moved up the first shots were fired. From the silence of the field a shattering series of cannon shots sounded from the right flank, the noise grew in volume and intensity. The sound slowly crept along the French front, out of sight to the men sheltering behind the reverse slope of Mont St Jean ridge. In half an hour it had reached them, and had become a deafening general bombardment and the air buzzed and shrieked with the sound of flying iron. This continued for another hour, the discomforting experience that all soldiers feel at having to sit under artillery fire, powerless, was also felt today by the artillery that had strict orders not to engage the enemy batteries. Now and again messengers galloped across the road, one certainly to summon the Dutch of Bijlant's brigade, formerly deployed on the forward slope in full view of the enemy. The dense formations of Dutch militiamen came over the crest and into cover, stuffed into a relatively narrow space between the British. This movement had unforeseen consequences as it removed the theoretical two lines of infantry into one, now the nearest reserve was Lambert's brigade at Mont St Jean, and the French would be able to engage the entire line at once.
Just after midday a sudden flurry of animation amongst the redcoats lying down behind the hedge under their bright, limp, colours, portended first inkling of trouble. They arose from the wet ground to a cacophony of orders calling "Prepare to load. With ball shot load!" And with a rattle of ramrods they primed and loaded, "Battalion will fix, bayonets, Fix. Bayonets!" Another metallic rattle and the long spear points glittered on the end of their musket barrels and they sank back down.
The weight of projectiles falling around the Greys was now becoming alarming. General Ponsonby, gave his compliments and requested Hamilton to retire so as to be out of the line of fire.
With a simple evolution the Grey's marched to their rear, which served both the purpose of temporarily removing them from the danger zone and made them more readily available in their intended role as reserve. They had no sooner fallen back and faced front again, the cries of "Halt, Dress!" having rang out and subsided, than the French gunners raised their sights with the uncanny perception of the gifted artillerist, who switches his ranges when engaged in indirect fire, and resumed dropping shells around the Greys. Lieutenant Wyndham observed a party of highlanders baking their way down the hill, descending near a patch of brushwood on the Grey's left, they were carrying a wounded officer in a blanket, but suddenly a shell dropped to the wrath nearby and exploded, wiping them out. Artillery Horse teams, drawn back down the ridge behind their guns were also becoming increasingly scared and spooked by the projectiles. Paymaster Crawford watched a whizzing cannonball gracefully arc over the ridge and bounced with a "whump" on the soft ground, bounding through the waiting Grey's severely wounding 3 men and horses, doubtless the Farrier was called forward to administer the merciful bullets, to prevent flailing hooves from braking neighbouring legs. General Ponsonby, had ridden over to them as they had redeployed, and watching the rain of iron with his benevolent gaze observed "Greys they have found us out again" and rode off, telling Lt Hamilton to move forwards so as to be more under the crest, some 50 yards from the hedge.
The regiment reformed it's divisions with intervals of two horse lengths between squadrons and moved forwards, taking ground to the left. As they advanced through the bombardment the Divisional Columns of Count D'Erlon's I Corps were trudging their way up the slope.

Mont St Jean was a subtle ridge, but in wet slippery conditions, a line three deep under artillery and Skirmisher fire would have hard work to arrive at the top in any order. Ahead of the muddy blue masses a cordon of French skirmishers was pushing the light companies back, snagging on the left flank when they came into the stinging range of Colonel Baring's riflemen and those of the 95th positioned in a sandpit on the roadside, these green jackets, called "Grasshoppers" by the Spanish veterans were ejected as the main trunk of the force moved up the hill.
Along the reverse slope, the skirmishers came running breathlessly in, and Picton's brigades got the order to move up to the crest to meet the enemy. As yet nothing was different, this was exactly the way it would have happened in Spain, From a vantage point on the ridge, the foul mouthed Welsh firebrand Sir Thomas, dressed in a battered top hat and frock coat, an umbrella tucked away somewhere, watched as the old dynamics were replayed itself again. There was a difference though, a large one.
The French usually attacked in regimental columns, each of their multiple battalions marching in close order with a front of at least four companies and reserve battalion in support. Today D'Erlon's Divisional columns had a frontage of one entire battalion in line, three ranks deep, with the others stacked behind it like bricks, immediately giving it increased firepower. The allied infantry now lining up behind the hedges were formed four ranks deep, instead of the usual two, and most had suffered heavy losses at Quatre Bras. On the centre right of I Corps was the division of General Marcognet. Having passed through the maze of caisson's that filled up the space behind the 80 gun massed battery, drawn up on the low ridge before Mont St Jean, his battalions had reformed and begun a nightmare March through the tall, wet crops. The bobbing shacko's and bouncing knapsacks of their Tirrailleurs parting narrow lanes through the fields ahead. Soon the rapid rain on glass sound of skirmisher fire began. As they got to the muddy bottom the lead battalion, the men of the 1st/45th Ligne, marched with creditable order through the shoe sucking mud that sank to the shin and knee and into the scything rain of bursting shrapnel shell's and flying round shot. Whole parcels and files of men dropped, only to be replaced by men from the rear and flanks. The officers and NCO's bellowing "Serrez le ranks, en avant". The drums began to beat the thrilling rhythm of the "Pas de Charge" as they met the long shallow incline of the ridge and the pace increased. It soon brought them into canister range of the allied guns which belted them with shotgun blasts of musket balls that wiped whole sections away. Despite these the gashes the artillery made the drums kept beating, the officers kept leading, hats on swords showing the ultimate in leadership in being the first into action and the first to fall. Flanking guides keeping the lines die straight, the long rows of desynchronised but perfectly timed stepping legs, swinging arms and black shakos roofed with a serrated glistening fence-top of fixed bayonets marched into the teeth of the iron hail without a check to the exultant cries of "Vive l'Emrereur!".
The Greys came up under the ridge and halted in a shallow dip as the gunners manning the two batteries of Rodger's and Bijveldt's guns, obeyed orders and abandoned their pieces in the face of the enemy and Picton's boys broke through the hedges and poured a volley into the heads of the advancing columns to the wild skirl of the pipes. More men fell into the soft Belgian earth, the Eagles marched over them into the smoke cloud and halted. Without need to deploy crashing battalion volley ripped back in reply immediately it became clear the old line vs column scenario would not play out in the same way and a vicious stabbing firefight flickered and licked across the edges of Ohain Road. The allied volleys failed to halt the French, indeed their return fire forced them back, in the centre the redcoats slowly began stepping backwards, and came spilling back through the hedges, to be reformed on the other side. Bijlandt's brigade didn't stop running, and went in disorganised mass to the rear.
A wall of glistening French steel came down to the engage as the British colours floated backwards. The Eagles went forward chasing them, the Parisian conscripts of the 45th could not be restrained from leaping the hedges and breaking through, slipping down the roadside bank yelling "Victoire, victoire!". Seeing the line recoil Picton rode to the front of Kempt's brigade, amidst a scatter of shots as the lead French infantry began shooting over the heads, and lead them back to the attack ordering them to use their bayonets. "Charge, charge, hurrah!" The sight of his ridiculous attire and excited face heartened the ragged line of redcoats, who cheered went back to the fight. As this reinvigorated flood of men went forwards, Sir Thomas was with them bellowing curses and encouragement's, uncharacteristically he suddenly checked and was left behind as the advance continued. Unprepared for the sudden counterattack the disorganised left flank column of I Corps was now pushed back off the ridge. Behind the British infantry Sir Thomas Picton was silent as he was gently taken from his frightened horse, quite dead.
As Kempt's brigade weathered the storm, Pack's brigade was in dire straights. The 92nd were rallied and desperately ordered to charge the head of Marcognet's Division as "All had given way". The Gordon's, were loaded once more and cheered on by Sir Dennis, lowered their bayonets and charged back to the hedge blazing away with a ragged volley into the advancing 45th. It was a brave show, but the return fire was too much. Their ensign was shot dead and the bright yellow regimental colour fell as the highlanders fell back again. A brave sergeant of the 92nd dashed to save the colours, but could not pull it from the fingers of its dead bearer, his last impulse never to relinquish the regiment's pride had cemented his hands in an instant vice like rictus. With no other course left to him the sergeant picked the man up and carried both corpse and colour to safety.
This time the situation was now truly dire, with the counterattack blunted nothing was stopping Marcognet from pushing across the road and outflanking the rest of the Division. Before they could do that they needed to pause to reform. Officers of the 45th bawled themselves hoarse to get their men back in line, pushing and shoving and not being too gentle about it. Advanced hotbloods, possibly skirmishers reforming the divisional screen had rushed out some ten yards from the hedge, met a hot fire from the stragglers of the 5th Division, who were interestingly to be found contesting ground rather than surrendering it. Swiss born Lieutenant Jaques Martin, was a graduate of the military academy and veteran of 1813 and 14, however he admitted himself that he was not a naturally brave man, and felt terribly exposed, even behind some of the larger soldiers. He shouting to be heard over the din of musketry, doing his duty despite his fear of death, he pushed a soldier back into line only to have him fall dead to a sabre cut a moment later, looking up he saw that the British cavalry were everywhere, slaughtering them. The French infantry were now in the position Picton's men had been in at Quatre Bras, caught in line without cavalry support. Or rather their cavalry support, detached from them by having to ride around La Haie Sainte, was at that moment being scattered by the Houshold Brigade. He rushed back into the crowd, saved by the crush of men that the Greys had to cut through, and threw himself down on the ground.


Lord Uxbridge had been on the right flank when the first French attack got in motion. He had ridden to where the guns had started to be on the spot should his cavalry be needed, having given discretionary orders to his brigade commanders on the left. As it was there was nothing for him to do over the other side of the field but offer his Horse Artillery batteries to General Frazer, so he waited over there to watch the unfolding drama at Hougoumont. Uxbridge came riding back over to the left at the decisive moment. Minutes before a Hanoverian Light Battalion had been decimated by the French Cuirassiers after the Prince of Orange sent them down to reinforce beleaguered La Haie Sainte. At once he felt the pulse of the battle, he could tell from the sound of the action ahead, partly shrouded in smoke that things must be bad, getting closer he confirmed it. Lord Edward Somerset commanded the Household Brigade. He immediately ordered him to form line and prepare to form line and charge and galloped down behind Picton's Division to tell Ponsonby the same, then raced back to Somerset.
Ponsonby went to each of his Colonels, arriving at Hamilton's new position in the roughly in line with the rest of the brigade. Already the Greys had suffered several casualties. A principal casualty of this time was Major (Bvt Lt Colonel) Hankin, who had suffered a contusion after his horse fell on him as they crossed a drainage ditch, altering the chain of command before a blow had been struck. He had ridden to Captain Poole and informed him that he now commanded the right squadron as Major Hankin was taken to the rear. Captain Cheney becoming second in command at a stroke. As yet no enemy could be discerned through the smoke, but there was no doubt there was action to his front. It was principally advised in the Regulations for the Field Exercise of Cavalry that brigades should attack in columns so that the rear squadrons could wheel out and attack the flanks of the enemy, also that regiments clear obstacles in column and extend once they had passed. However Uxbridge had only two brigades to attack four Divisions, he needed a wide front for maximum effect, and no time for niceties of field drill, each regiment would have to cross the road in line and then be act against one or more divisions by itself.
Soon after this an ADC came galloping up to Ponsonby, Lord Uxbridge's compliments, the Union Brigade was to advance. The brigade bugler sounded the advance, walk march. By word of mouth the regiments got in motion, "The Greys will draw swords. Draw swords!" On the word draw, four hundred right hands reached around left forearms and grasped the hilts of their sabres, drawing them out with a collective rasp over the bridle arm and bringing them to the carry over the right knee. "Greys advance, at the walk. Forwards. March!" At a couple of hundred yards from the hedge they wheeled into line. "Form line on the 1st division. March!" The divisions swung out by half squadrons and marched out until each cleared the one in front, which because they were moving formed an oblique line to the left, which slanted back, serried to the left, and hurried to close, creating a less than regular line as there was no time for any calls of "Halt. Dress.", and it was now impossible for them to take up a reserve position. An inevitable collision was about to occur, as the French had been marching up one side of the hill, the British had been ascending the opposite, and they were moments away from the crash.
The gunfire was louder now, clouds of smoke began to dim vision, there would be no way to gauge were the enemy was and no time to get up to a gallop when the order to attack came, but they would be at least all closed up when they met the enemy. "Take Close order, March!," On the move commanders repeated order in a series of rough volleys. The rear rank pressed their horses one half length from the front each man bringing his horse in until his boot just touched his neighbour, officers moved out a horse length from their squadrons and troops. Hamilton moving out two lengths before the centre. Farriers and QM turned their horses to the rear to create the serrifile, this time there was no halt called, only "On the centre. Dress!" Which did little good as a moving front requires a little time to execute dressing on the move. Hamilton watched over his right shoulder for the signal.


General Ponsonby was not riding his chestnut charger that day. It had gone missing with his groom during the night and was now astride a bay hack. He and De Lacey Evans were on the crest to ascertain when to order the charge, an exposed position given the tenuous hold the allies had on the hedges. Seeing the French on top of them Ponsonby was about to order the attack, when a cannonball came shrieking past with the characteristic slipstream in tow, the displaced air caused his unsteady horse to shy and his cloak, loosely draped over his shoulders, slipped to the ground and he dismounted to fetch it back. He barked to Evans to get the brigade forwards. All later agreed that had this order come as much as 5 minutes later, all would have been lost and time was of the essence, Evans stood in his stirrups and raised his hat to the sky.
Colonel Hamilton saw the waving hat, and probably heard the Inniskilling's trumpeters sound the advance, he turned in the saddle shouting "Now Scots Greys, Charge!"
Less than 50 yards from the hedge the regiment accelerated to a trot. They met the retreating Gordon's, with pipe major Cameron was playing, "Auld Johnny Cope", who passed around their flanks and wheeled up so that the cavalry could ride through their intervals. "Scotland Forever!" Cried the Greys encouragingly as the passed, reassuring them that this would not be another Quatre Bras, and the cry was echoed back "Hurrah. Scotland Forever!". Some of the 92nd's stragglers were still in action and eagerly went back with the Greys, if it happened at all, it was now that some tagged onto a stirrup as the RNBD advanced.
On the left flank in F troop under Captain (Bvt Major) Vernor, Cornet Kinchant was riding into his first regimental charge. As the trumpet calls reached them and they pressed forward to hedge now rising to an uneven canter, through the cheering the Highlanders, it was time to make real all that bravado and all those grand thoughts of glory and honour. A brief thought for his home fireside in his father's parish or Letitia as he saw that the NCO's had the line dressed properly. Behind him was the solid, stern face of his cover man the steady Sergeant Ewart, and near him also in the second line was Corporal Dickson.

Riding with Captain (Bvt. Major) Poole's Troop in the centre was Sergeant Johnston, all thoughts of Courts Martial put behind him. Young Cornet Clape likewise in his first action, he like many others with nothing but regimental pride to keep him in his place. Not least Lt Colonel Hamilton. A smattering of shots peppered them from the hedge were the French light infantry had taken up firing positions. Lt Wyndham remembered the shock as the bullets cracked past him and struck their swords as they went up, and saw several men shot from their saddles. In the senior squadron a brother officer, frightened by seeing them fall blurted to Captain Chaney with as much coolness as possible "How many minutes have we yet to live Cheney?"
Perhaps irritated to be asked such a question when he had more pressing things to worry about,Cheney shot back a cold remark full of dark wit and callous indifference, perhaps the mark of a line officer in action. "Two or three at the very utmost, most probably not one".
Suddenly they were at the first hedge and through it, The Duke of Richmond's encouraging cry of "Now's your chance!" Ringing in their ears, they likley had no pace now, some now were walking other barging ahead cutting at the French light Infantry using it as cover. No sooner had they got through than they were amongst a sea of milling foot soldiers. It was the most ingloriously glorious, sanguinary charge as just over 400 men rode right into a disorganised line of infantry at near walking pace, and there was nothing to do but start cutting. Tightening rein as they descended the bank, and urging their horses on into the dissolving ranks of French foot soldiers they were met by a panicked volley. A number of Greys tumbled from their horses, but because of the slow speed and close proximity not a horse swerved but stomped on, crushing those bowled over beneath them, biting, barging and kicking probably doing more damage than the sabre. Nevertheless their riders had ample opportunity put to use all that sword drill they had been taught at home. Their sabres were rising and falling like the glistening blades of a watermill and with as much regularity, beating away at anything that moved, even the young drummers, like manic threshers. They walked and cantered their horses amongst the 45th and hewing their way through them and scattering the rest. Casualties were not one sided however. A trumpeter may well have grasped hold of the French Eagle standard in the first moments of contact, but both man and horse immediately shot dead and the flag rushed to the rear. Corporal Dickson saw Lt Trotter fall and a few slips & falls as the horses came down the bank, Wyndham received a slight wound too. As the enemy gave way to panic and the 1st battalion disintegrated and fled, Sergeant Ewart, whose expert swordsmanship stood him in good stead during the first collision, had overtaken Kinchant and passed, his officer. He ridden up the other bank with the others, pursuing the defeated enemy onto the other side of the hedge. He caught and duelled a French officer, who he artfully disarmed, the Frenchman's pleas for mercy,were just noises to Ewart whose blood was up. He was about the deliver the killing blow when Kinchant rode up behind him and heard the Frenchman plead for mercy. He called to Ewart to take him prisoner. Ewart had the highest respect for his young officer, and was very fond of him, hearing his words he reluctantly staid his blow and turned around to follow the other dragoons, leaving Kinchant to take his man. As he rode off he was horrified to hear a shot crack from behind him. He wheeling around in time to see the French officer pointing a smoking pistol at Charles Kinchant who was slowly falling backwards over his horse. He dropped lifeless to the ground, his youthful ardour and dreams of glory amounting to one gallant act of mercy and his own length of Belgian earth. Ewart boiled. Riding back, the normally reserved Ewart exacted a ruthless revenge, he ignored the officer's supplications, replying for him to ask mercy of God, for he would meet only the devil from him, and with a single stroke cut off his head. It had been Ewart's duty to protect Kinchant, and he never forgave himself for letting his young officer down, certainly some Frenchmen certainly feigned death and turned to fire at the cavalry once they had passed, accounting for many Greys, though the bayonets of the following Gordon's dealt with them. This however was a needless end for a brave young officer, a needless end highlighting the pointless nature of war.
The brunt of the fighting had fallen to 3rd Squadron who hit the column directly on its front, while the other two fell on or about the left flanks. The Greys pushed on to the front and lapped down the sides of the column as fast as they could, spreading panic and terror through its ranks, forcing one battalion onto the next like falling dominoes. The 2nd battalion 45th were marginally more prepared. They did not try to form square, instead they chose to shoot and met the dragoons with a hurried volley but then instantly broke and dispersed like a herd of sheep. As the Greys put the French to flight. The 92nd arrived at the crest, following in their wake and as they advanced they encountered large masses of surrendering French stragglers, some badly wounded, begging for protection from the sabres of the cavalry, one officer calling out for protection in English. Some of the highlanders were not so charitable however, indeed the French were shocked at the cold manner in which dragoon and private dealt with them. Men of the 42nd Highlanders bayonetted surrendering Frenchmen who had dropped their arms and crossbelts, with the cry "Where's Macara?". None of these Frenchmen understood that they were dying because of the cruelty of Piré's lancers who murdered the 42nd's colonel at Quatre Bras.
Halfway down the hill the Greys had routed the entire Division, which was now a running mob of fugitives desperate to escape. Riding after them Ewart spied a conspicuous group of men withdrawing under a tricolour flag topped by a bronze eagle. Alone Ewart rode amongst them, breaking them up and attacking the colour bearer. Things for Ewart might have ended as ignominiously as Cornet Kinchant, had not Corporal Dickson and another man been nearby, the regiment by this time was losing all formation in the pursuit, and seeing him practically surrounded rode to his assistance. They arrived on the scene just as Ewart parried a stab at his groin, with a "Right protect" and "Cut VI" to the head. As the eagle fell into Ewart's hand, Dickson and the other man arrived, the corporal thwarting a bayonet thrust against his sergeant's back and his companion downing two more. Ewart rapped the cloth around his bridle arm, letting the pole drag along the ground, briefly thanked Dickson and continued after the regiment.
The Greys had routed the first brigade of the division, and now came upon the second, headed by the the 25th Ligne. This regiment had the best chance of resisting the charge, now flooding down the slope in a ragged disordered line. The greys came upon this regiment, and accordingly found it in square, a bristling box of bayonets, with the aptly named Veteran, Colonel Carré in the centre. A volley burst from the ranks, causing their heaviest casualties yet amongst the dragoons. Lt Wyndham received a ball to the foot and had to return to the ridge, but the wave of fugitives that piled past and towards this bastion of safety followed by the Greys panicked the 25th who no sooner had fired, were struck by the 3rd Squadron of the Royals who had been delayed at the crest and left behind somewhat. They executed a left wheel at some speed, passing the rear of the Inneskillings and hit the 25th obliquely, crumpling it like a cardboard box, the rest of the brigade joined the rout.
Fired by this unexpected success and feeling the invincible power all cavalry feel when faced with the backs of an enemy, the Greys and perhaps some of the Royals began charging at anything, sure that they would overturn them. In this spirit a clump of Greys spied a marching column some hundred yards behind their present position, 300 yards down the slope and broke off to attack it. This was the left flank brigade of Durutte's Division under General Pegot, the other half of which was now assailing the 4 hamlets held by Saxe Weimer's brigade. It had passed the small clusters of buildings and was pressing on up the slope trailing the other three columns. No sooner did the call of "Cavalry to the left!" break out than the column halted. Durutte had seen the disaster and was on the scene, at the word the still lines of muddy blue braced. The rear ranks closed and the flanks, and rear faced outwards forming a brigade square in less than two minutes. The heavies struck this formation like a wave upon an embankment and those left after the first volley sheered off in search of easier targets. While Durutte's men became a focus for stragglers to run to as they fell back.


While this was happening the heavy cavalry's fate was already being sealed. Napoleon is famous at the battle for his relative docility to unfolding events. Not so at first though. At just after 2, from La Belle Alliance he saw the redcoats spill over the ridge top and disperse his First Corps in some style. Prominent amongst the memories of all onlookers from Durutte to Napoleon himself was those terrible greys, who stood out quite plainly as they came out of the smoke clouded crest and reached the bottom of the slope. "Qu'ils sont terrible ces chevaux gris." the emperor said to his aghast retinue, before snapping them out of their dilatory state barking "Il faut nous dépêcher, nous dépêcher!". The emperor's keen eye for the dynamics of a battlefield took in everything in an instant. He saw the black horses of Farine's and Travers' Cuirassier Brigades waiting behind the Grande Batterie. He saw the main clumps of rallying British cavalry suddenly strike out from the bottom of he hill and join the ragged lines now riding for the guns. To the extreme right he saw the lance pennants of Jacquinot's light cavalry fluttering, already moving up. He spurred his horse the short distance from the Inn to General Milhaud and ordered him to attack. However he may have arrived to find them already in motion, for Marshal Ney had also reacted quickly. Ney had been in the centre just behind La Haie Sainte watching the attack progress. General Desales, artillery commander of I Corps, had just imperiously told chef d'esquadron Waudre who was worried about the enemy cavalry, that the Emperor had a perfectly good telescope and needed no advice from him. Just before the charge, he had ridden to Ney to inform him that he was about to advance his 50 guns closer to the ridge as he had been ordered before the attack. He was explaining his intention to advance battery by battery, when Ney exclaimed "Look they are charging you!", and immediately rode back to fetch the Cuirassiers.

Sources used in this series.
British Cavalryman 1792 - 1815: Phillip J Haythornwaite
British Cavalry Equipments 1800 - 1941: Mike Chappell
Wellington's Heavy Cavalry: Bryan Fosten
Waterloo Myth and Reality: Gareth Glover
History of the Second Dragoons (Scot's Greys): Edward Almack
Norfolk Annals: Charles Mackie
Scum of the Earth: Colin Brown
Royal Scots Greys: Charles Grant
Peninsular War Roll Call.
Rootsweb.com
http://www.napoleonichistoricalsociety. ... sgreys.htm
napoleonseries.org
http://britisharmywaterloo.blogspot.co. ... ished.html
http://www.greysandglory.org/
The Battle: Alessandro Barbero
Waterloo new perspectives: David Hamilton Williams
Wellington's Regiment's: Ian Castle
A Near Run Thing: Ian Castle
The Waterloo Companion: Mark Adkin
One Leg: Marquis of Anglesey
Radical General: Edward M Spiers
With Napoleon at Waterloo: Edward Bruce Lowe
Who was who at Waterloo: Christopher Summerville
Waterloo Archive: The British Sources, vol 1
Waterloo Archive: The British Sources, vol 3
Waterloo Archive: The British Sources, vol 4
Waterloo Letters: Gareth Glover
Waterloo Letters: Maj-Gen H.T. Siborne
The Waterloo Campaign: William Siborne
The Battle of Waterloo, a series of accounts by a near observer, 1815.
Instructions and Regulations for the formations and movements of the cavalry. 1799-1800.
With deepest thanks to:
Napoleonic Wars Forum Members: JF42, jasonubych, Jonathan Hopkins, StudentOf1812, Andrew W Fields. For their ever generous assistance and helpful, friendly input.
And to the Scots Military Research Group on Twitter.

Dedicated to the memory of the Officers and men of the old Royal Scots Greys who served in 1815, many of whose stories I have come to know so well and have tried to tell here, and to the men of their descendant Regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards who carry on their fine traditions today.
Adventures In Historyland, Keeping History Real. http://adventuresinhistoryland.wordpress.com/
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Re: Those Terrible Greys.

Postby unclearthur » July 27th, 2015, 8:36 pm

Very good indeed. And a pretty fitting tribute. :D
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Re: Those Terrible Greys.

Postby Josh&Historyland » August 31st, 2015, 7:37 pm

The Rest of the Battle.
3 - 11 PM 18 June 1815.
See article with images here https://adventuresinhistoryland.wordpre ... -part-4-2/

Trumpets were now sending the repeating couplets of rally. Elsewhere across the ridge the rest of Union Brigade had dealt similarly crushing blows to the other two Divisions of the I Corps. Leaving but one unscathed and still able to retreat in good order. On the other side of the Brussels road Lord Uxbridge had personally lead the Household Brigade down the ridge and scattered Dubois' Cuirassiers. The Kings Dragoon Guards had even captured an eagle. Success had attended on all fronts, now should have been the time they regrouped and retired. Behind them the 92nd were gathering up prisoners, nearly 2-3,000 of them, and the route of the retreat was marked by a trail of abandoned equipment, weapons, drums and corpses. The dragoons however were now at the bottom of the ridge, and getting out of control, chasing the giant mob of fugitives towards the French guns.
General Ponsonby was down in the valley with his staff, yelling himself hoarse trying to get the milling brigade in hand. Some heeded the trumpet calls and between 30 and 40 men had already gathered around them. Trumpeters of the Greys were also having some success recalling their squadrons when an officer, presumed to be no less than Lt Colonel Hamilton himself, rode up to these formed troops and called on them to charge for the guns. Whether he meant the guns brought up in the rear of D'Erlon's divisions to support the attack we will never know, but most assumed that he meant the main battery on the ridge beyond. Dickson was amongst them and followed right into their mouths, it was the last time he saw his Colonel. They went riding past General Ponsonby at as much speed as could be managed. The other dragoons followed them, forcing the General to follow their path hoping to recall them. Now it was a mad dash across the muddy fields to the long line of enemy gun batteries ranged in front of them, the horses exerted themselves heroically, sinking up to their knees in mud. Regiments mixed together, officers and NCO's were ignored or carried away themselves, 1,500 men were riding on the crest of an ecstatic wave, that would end in death or glory. Lt Wyndham was not one of them, for he had been hit in the foot and couldn't keep his seat, so had turned back for the ridge.

The Grande Batterie had resumed its fire, irrespective of hitting their own fleeing men. The manual ordered that cavalry should always flank a battery and never charge it head on, but there was no longer a reserve, and the dragoons went careering in amongst the largely defenceless gunners and sabred them wherever they found them, managing to overturn as many as 15 cannons, killing anyone they found and laming many horses. Still more valuable gunners were chased away and the traces of the horse harnesses were cut to prevent them being drawn off. In short they overran the French artillery and temporarily put it out of action. General Desales was not so concerned with the loss of equipment but the loss of gunners, dead wounded and fleeing, who had been in painfully short supply and were all but irreplaceable. Cornet Clape had reached the guns to witness those frenzied moments. Amongst those chasing down and sabring the gunners was Dickson, each cut eliciting a curse and a hiss of air through the teeth as the blade went home. Colonel Hamilton saw that they were now disorganised and terribly exposed, he rode amongst the guns calling out "Rally, the greys!" to provide some kind of formed force, but there was none to be found. This was the last sight Clape had of him. Uxbridge, Somerset and Ponsonby had similar problems, for both brigades had lost their reserves. Dickson was starting to turn for home when his companion noticed that Rattler was wounded and that he'd better dismount. As the corporal swung down from his faithful steed, she collapsed from exhaustion, and Dickson had to abandon her and snare a stray officer's horse with which to escape, as the heavies began to withdraw, the net was closed in.

Colonel Louis Brô had been commander of the 4th Lancers since Napoleon's return in March, and they were his pride and joy. A veteran cavalryman of 14 years service he longed to lead his new regiment to the charge under the eyes of the emperor. They had all watched with dismay as D'Erlon's columns disintegrated, and needed no encouragement to move forward. The 4th were positioned on the extreme right of General Jacquinot's 1st (Light) Cavalry Division. Not waiting for Count D'Erlons call for assistance, they now moved forwards from behind the right flank of the Grande Batterie and swung around its side to come onto the flank of the milling redcoats. The division halted and dressed ranks. General Jacquinot pointed his sword and pressed into a walk, his trumpeter sounding the advance. At the thrilling notes Brô drew his sword from his scabbard and turned exultantly to his lancers. "Let us go my children! We must knock over this rabble!" A roar of "Vive L'Empreur!" Came back, he lofted his sabre and the 4th advanced. At the same time as the 1st Division came up, two brigades of Cuirassiers (Farine's and Travers') were moving forwards from behind the battery. Breastplates and helmets glinting in the watery sunlight. Jacquinot's Chasseurs and lancers picked their way across the wet ground, increased their pace and charged, sweeping across the field, the lance pennants of the 4th fluttering as they came down to the engage.

The next thing Dickson knew he was halfway back across the field with a gaggle of Greys, Royals and Inneskillings, when their retreat was suddenly cut off by squadrons of lancers slicing across their path overturning the men in front and chasing down the wounded and stragglers. If they turned around they would have seen the French Heavies break upon the abandoned gun line, and suddenly it was every man for himself. Dickson's group was without leadership, and preparing to ride against the lancers, a voice shouted "That's the way home!" indicating the enemy, and they gripped their swords to cut their way through to safety. Corporal Sam Tar, another F Troop man, was first into them and those behind had the horror of seeing him disappear in a flurry of stabbing lances. At that moment a Cornet of the Royals named Sturges appeared crying out "Stick together lads!" Their best chance was to keep in a group. Had they been freshly mounted they might have stood a chance of overturning their opponents, but by know their horses were exhausted from their charge, and having to ride through the soft, cloying earth. They were also disorganised and unable to form a coherent front. Still the fugitives made a pathetic try, Sabres at the guard, the lancers were ready meet them. The horses struggled to drag their exhausted feet through the clay, they bumped rather than crashed into the enemy whose distance weaponry immediately told. The desperate heavies nevertheless put up a stiff fight, standing in stirrups and fighting over their horses necks to make up the distance of the lancers reach. Even General Durutte had not realised the superiority of the lance over the sabre until he saw Jacquinot's boys going to work. Dickson's desperate parrying and cutting was no match for them, a Lancer killed his horse with an expert thrust and he fell heavily to the ground with the animal. Certain death seemed imminent.

Cavalry actions are a blur of flashing sabres and lances. A charge being one of the most adrenaline pumping things a man can do. Most often a soldier in a melee will not be aware of a wound, until he suddenly feels a wave of weakness sweep over him, or a limb stops working as it should, the body telling the brain that it cannot do what it's told.
Jacquinot's division, and executed a right wheel and sent his men against the heavies in open order, the men shouting long live the Emperor and "To the death!" Dealing great execution after their first charge, which allowed Durutte's squares to safely disengage from the hamlets, and as soon as they were amongst the enemy, they immediately set to pursuing them. Due to the lack of formed resistance the lancers and Chasseurs seemingly had a free hand to spread out and hunt in packs or alone. Brô gathered a group of riders together and charged a group of British dragoons attacking a beleaguered eagle, this mysterious event is unsupported but there is no reason to discount it. He rode down on the man who was a breath away of losing the 3rd eagle of the day and rescued it. In the tangle of horses and men, he cut down three dragoons with his sabre, two more managed to escape him. Cries from behind alerted him to the fact that his adjutant-Major was in danger, and he turned to help, he let his sword drop from its knot and drawing his pistol he fired and as he did, his right arm seized up. Suddenly the energy began to ebb out of him, the adrenaline rush that had filled him as he led his proud lancers to the charge was replaced by an uncertainty and fear of what was happening. With his senses leaving him he sagged in his saddle, a British dragoon launched himself at him, and Bôn managed to get his sword into his left hand and parry off the attack and escape. Then a dizziness hit him and he had to drunkenly clutch onto his horse's mane to keep in the saddle as shock set in, with clouding eyes the dauntless cavalier, realised it was all up and looked to call to Major Perrot to take command of the regiment, but no sound escaped his lips. Noticing his plight General Jacquinot rode to the side of the Colonel of the 4th, and supported him, with one look he saw a ghastly wound that had nearly severed Brô's right arm. "You must withdraw!" He cried. Major Motet was next on the scene, he ripped open the wounded colonel's tunic and applied a crude dressing, then bringing his face close, he told Brô that the wound was not mortal but he could not stay in the field. Brô wept at the prospect of leaving his lancers but allowed himself to be taken to the rear. As it was, his men needed little assistance.


Lt Hamilton had followed General Ponsonby to the guns, but as the heavy brigades began to withdraw, having done all the damage men without spikes or means to drag the artillery away could do, they were hit by the Cuirassiers and light cavalry. The confusion he and an accompanying ADC lost contact with Sir William. Hamilton began riding back but as he checked over his shoulder he saw a lancer riding hard on his tail, furthermore he was quickly gaining on his tired horse. Hamilton gritted his teeth and wheeled about to met the lancer. He made a wild parry and an uncaring cut, then hared away as fast as possible on a different line, leaving the confused lancer behind him. With his horse blowing hard he made the hedge-line, and was reunited with the ADC at the top of the ridge. Their anxious enquiries to each other about Sir William lead them to hope that he had been captured, and they immediately went to try and drum up support for the beleaguered heavies and to hopefully help the General.
Captain Felton, one of the other Spanish veterans amongst the Greys, had made it back and was rounding up his squadron as Hamilton and the ADC went for help. First they met Lord Edward Somerset, but his brigade was as useless as the Union at that point, and replied he could not help. Riding further to the rear they found a regiment of Hanoverian Hussars, and after asking the officer commanding in French for help, they were told that he could not move without orders. They then crossed back to the extreme left flank where the Hussar and Light Dragoon Brigades were, here Hamilton met with a Peninsular acquaintance but despite this, General Vandeleur refused to move without orders. Hamilton and the ADC rode off in disgust. Meanwhile there was Hell to pay in the valley.
Sergeant Ewart was riding back up the slope, the flag of the 45th Ligne wrapped around his bridle arm, having been directed by General Ponsonby to take it to the rear after the first charge. After getting out of the mire of the fields below the ridge Ewart suddenly found himself pursued by a lancer. The sergeant was not one to panic. The lancer made a stab at him, but he parried the blow off, "Right Protect", the lance still grazing him enough to cause a good deal of bleeding, and he made a mighty cut upwards through the lancer's teeth "Cut III". With the lancer dead, he went on, where a French straggler suddenly rose up and took a shot at him, not waiting for the smoke to clear the man then charged with his bayonet. Ewart parried and cut him through the head. All in all Ewart had shown a cool and merciless resolve of an expert swordsman.
The inactivity of Vivian and Vandeleur caused great resentment in the heavy brigades. Blaming much of their loss on the light cavalry's refusal to advance. Vandeleur was a soldier who knew Wellington's way of fighting a battle. Numerous times men who acted on reckless initiative got the sharp end of the Duke's tongue, so he waited for orders, as did Vivian, who being posted on the extreme flank, and indeed was the flank had a better excuse than Vandeleur. In the first part of the charge De Lacey Evans had asked that Sir Jame's Kempt come forward with his infantry to support them. Sir James said he would advance a little, but could not quit his ground without orders, and besides infantry would not serve to effectively support cavalry. Evans had rejoined the ride to the guns, he like all the other officers could see what was happening and shouted themselves hoarse, but to no avail. Luckily he was mounted on a superb Bay gelding, and those who had the best horses had the best chance of escape. He arrived back at the ridge line after being shot at by some stragglers halfway up the hill. His escape is also put down the lancer's preference to stab the wounded rather than chase the mounted. He changed horses for a fresh brown mare, his gelding had received a nasty sword cut starting at the eye and ending the mouth and he didn't want to risk him any further, he was right to worry as his fresh mount was soon shot dead.
Vandeleur and Vivian seem to have been repeatedly asked to advance, even by General Muffling, the Prussian Liaison, but they stubbornly held their own each time. They sympathised with Muffling's remonstrances but could only shrug and tell the Prussian that it would not do to disobey the Duke.
Luckily for men like the downed Dickson, General de Ghigny didn't give a hang for Wellington's personal orders, Uxbridge had earlier told his commanders to use their initiative and he used it now. The 1st Netherlands Light Cavalry Brigade moved in column up a lane towards left of Picton's division, arriving behind Vandeleur, who could stomach his inactivity no longer and ordered the advance as well.
The 4th Light Brigade charged and overran an unidentified column of withdrawing infantry. They then clashed with the right flank of Jacquinot's Division. De Ghigny pushed down in his wake as far as he could, driving the French light cavalry before him until elements of the 20th Infantry division of Lobau's Corps, (observing the French right) halted them. Vandeleur's men who after their successful charge had failed to rally and copied the mistakes of the heavy brigades. His brigade now retired, staving off the counter attacking French as they went. Meanwhile having done all that could be done, de Ghigny retired by echelons in the face of enemy infantry skirmishers and supporting cavalry. His measured withdrawal dissuaded the enemy horsemen from pushing Vandeleur too far or gaining the ridge to attack the allied infantry, which had formed square in anticipation.

Dickson was surely about to die as the lancers loomed over him, helpless on the ground, but suddenly they were overturned and put to flight by the charge of the 16th Light Dragoons of Vandeleur's Brigade. He had staggered up and stumbled onwards, catching another horse he rode it to the crest, where it dropped dead. Somehow he made it to the regimental rallying point, not far from where he had woken up that morning. To the right rear of the farmhouse of Mont St Jean, which was now overflowing with wounded. Here in a shallow dip near a clump of trees, the French cannon balls and shells were overshooting the sheltering troops. While the guns thumped away on the right and centre, the shells burst over the road, round shot bounding overhead to crash into the woods and the Heavy brigades rallied. Dickson was lying dazed on the ground with no memory of how he had got there. So many were wounded, so many were no longer there.
To his surprise, Rattler had returned and was standing with the other riderless horses, she was wounded but standing, taking comfort from being near the other horses. Captain Cheney was reorganising the regiment, the trumpeters still sounding rally. With him was Lt's Wyndham and Hamilton. Cornet Clape was somewhere around too, examining a bullet he had found in his rolled cloak and blaming the Light Cavalry for their tardiness, mumbling about the whole farcical affair. Fenton and Wemyss were still on their feet too. But there was no sign of Reignolds or Colonel Hamilton and everyone hoped they were taken prisoner. This was sadly not so, there were a few, like Captain Poole who was actually a prisoner, but Reignolds and Hamilton were dead, like Kinchant. A fact sergeant Ewart was deeply aware of. He had arrived with his prize to the cheers of all who witnessed him, being told by every officer he met to get the thing to Brussels, but just as in the valley Ewart was both reluctant to leave his comrades, few as there were. Dickson did not see more than 30 Greys present but Sergeant Archibald Johnston arrived numbers seem to have been swelled by 30 more men. The entire brigade numbered less than 130 at most, and together with the Household the two formations could only have numbered just over 300 sabres, many of whom had lost their horses. General Ponsonby was nowhere to be seen. Indeed he would never be seen alive again, nor would Hamilton or Reignolds. It was a stunning loss.
Ponsonby had been left stranded as his brigade charged the guns, and was again isolated as they retreated, during the confusion of the retreat, he had tried to escape by riding around the left flank of Jacquinot's division, many others had tried this too, but he was killed by a lancer, who either took him down as he tried to escape, or murdered him with Reignolds when he could not be captured safely. A French account reports that he was shot dead somewhere between the Grande Batterie and the foot of the hill. Accounts differ and I personally cannot reconcile them. Hamilton died terribly, having lost the use of both arms before being mercifully shot down, a famous account of his demise states he was seen riding with the reins in his teeth and was never seen again. An officer of great courage but little tactical sense as far as adjutant Macmillan subtly hinted not long after the battle.

Lord Uxbridge returned alone to the ridge. He had found only the Blues in any kind of order to extricate the Household Brigade. Returning, he found Wellington near the crossroads with his staff. The Duke, like the Earl, had been on the right flank when D'Erlon had begun his attack. He had arrived rather too late to influence anything and it was certainly impossible for him to recall any of the foundering heavies. Uxbridge met Wellington's frosty gaze with a mixture of pride and shame for it was clear in the Earl's mind that, though the first charge had been attended with utmost success, he should not have lead the charge personally. Nevertheless Wellington's staff was all congratulation for his brilliant stroke, all considering the battle won. As well it should have been so. All except the Duke, who was still aware of the gunfire coming from the right at Hougoumont, the centre at La Haie Sainte, and to he left at the hamlets. At only 3 o'clock The battle was not over for anyone, not by a long way.


The tough Irish voices of the Inneskillings' NCO's telling the large flock of French prisoners to get moving signalled the last act of the beginning of the battle. The lull that they had caused by crushing Napoleon's first awkward throw of the dice, was seen by some to be the natural end of the battle. Perhaps it should have been. Time was not on Napoleon's side, and Wellington was determined the eek it out, every minute gained was another victory point. However the rumble of artillery fire did not diminish, the remaining guns of the Grande Batterie resumed firing as draughts from the infantry were brought up to man them, slowly the fire resumed its former ferocious tone, and the crash of musketry intensified from La Haie Sainte and from the right.
The recuperating remnants of the Heavy brigades might have had good reason to think that their part was over. However Wellington was going to need every horseman available in the next few hours. At 4 O'clock they received the order to mount and move across the Brussels Road to support the right. The weary Scots dragoons were now under the command of Captain Clarke, supported by Cheney as second in command. The two brigades, now marching together with a strength something akin to a respectably understrength regiment, must have resembled a battle line of mismatched toy soldiers gathered by a boy who, due to the exigencies of the playground battlefield, preferred numbers of Sabres to symmetry of uniforms.
The Greys now entered the longest portion of the battle and that which is the hardest to find a solid chronology for. The Union and Household Brigades were directed to the centre rear of the position. Here the smoke was all but encompassing, the bang of artillery explosions and crash of massed musketry louder. The infantry were all drawn up in squares, some more regular than others and some just plain rectangles. On the fringes of this checkerboard were all the cavalry available, and that was a mishmash of Hanoverian, KGL, Belgian, Dutch and British regiments, all of varying calibre. It soon became obvious that they were to have hot work as the infantry were beset by an eddying tide of French cavalry. They were riding in huge numbers at uneven speeds around the hedges of bayonets. Unsurprising the devastated British Heavies were not Lord Uxbridge's first choice to fling at the sea of French cavalry, but he would soon need every man who could sit a saddle. The Earl was as much master of the field as Ney or Wellington at this point, he rode across the maelstrom watching for the right moment, when the enemy's great numbers were nullified by disorder and loss of momentum. When he saw the Cuirassiers falter and begin mindlessly riding the ring of bayonets, desperately looking for a weak spot, he placed himself at the nearest cavalry brigade and lead them to the charge. These well timed counterattacks were all but irresistible to the disorganised French cavalry who were repeatedly bundled off the ridge, and subjected to the renewed fire of the allied artillery. Unfortunately as the French tide receded their hail of iron resumed its downpour, and a vicious circle of grinding endurance unfolded along Wellington's right centre. This cycle of attack, counterattack and simultaneous bombardment soon took its toll, and whereas more and more French cavalry were fed into the assault, Uxbridge was soon running low on resources. It shows his desperation that he eventually turned to the mangled Heavies now ostensibly under Somerset, to aid his efforts to throw the French back. Indeed it was as Ney brought up infantry support that the Heavies were called on to descend the slope to check the columns of General Bachelu. The Union and Household brigades dropped down from the ridge top to confront two enemy squares, already retreating after being checked by the allied infantry and suffering heavily from allied artillery fire. The British cavalry were unable to do a blind thing, as they launched their first charge the Household brigade swerved in the face of a volley and collided with the Union. In the confusion Lt Hamilton remembered ramming into directly into Lord Edward Somerset. "Bad work this!" he spat, to which the general just shook his head. Thus confused the French poured another volley into them, emptying many saddles and the heavies were soon recalled. Worse was to come.

Major Baring's garrison in La Haie Sainte had ran out of rifle ammunition. Unable to hold they fled the farm and the French quickly occupied it. As the cavalry attacks began to wane amongst the squares, Ney pushed all available troops up to within musket shot of the allied infantry. The Prince of Orange unwisely countermanded an order to stop a counterattack which caused the destruction of a Hanoverian battalion by French cavalry. Had most of the French cavalry not been sacrificed over the last two hours, or had Napoleon released the Garde, perhaps Ney could have salvaged a fairly undistinguished but not distasteful victory for the Emperor. But nothing happened. Wellington saw that his centre was fracturing and immediately began shuffling troops to shore up the breach. All available brigades were now brought up to the Brussels road, a batch of young and unsteady but nevertheless reassuringly strong looking Brunswick regiments were brought forwards, and the ravaged Hanoverians pulled back. The sight of steady cavalry was always heartening and Uxbridge was making sure to block the exit with his horsemen. He had been having issues with finding steady cavalry though.
At the height of the cavalry attacks he had reason to complain that there was not a squadron in the army that did not want spurs. On several occasions he found himself galloping alone at the enemy accompanied by only a few staff officers. Though unspecific about which unit, he was especially displeased with one of his Dutch Heavy Cavalry Brigades, who point blank refused to follow him. The Duke of Cumberland's Hanoverian Hussars, were no better and fled from the field to a man after sustaining a paltry number of casualties.
Now he ordered up the red coated heavies that had saved the day earlier.
Into this precarious situation rode the conglomerated heavies. Uxbridge ordered the brigades to be formed up in a single unit so as to give the impression of strength, as hours wore on, this facade was harder and harder to keep up for they were forced to maintain their position in a hail of lead that thinned their already anorexic ranks with every passing minute. The hoarse voices of the officers croaking out at every instant "Dress on the centre. March!". Slowly the brigade began to shrink from the flanks inwards, leaving a sad line of corpses to mark their stand. It seemed to young Cornet Clape, dangerously close to commanding a regiment at 16, that this was the real battle and what had passed before was nothing, that they had been posted only to be shot down. Captain Vernor's horse was shot through the head, the bullet passing through the poor creature's skull and hitting him in the shoulder.
Everyone would have seen Captain Clarke, out in front regulation length from the centre sitting tall, fall and remount only to lose this horse too and have to quit the field wounded. With a deep breath and not a little molar grinding, Cheney pressed what might have been his second horse of the day forwards two horse lengths from the front. The men then watched in awe and increasing concern as Cheney proceeded to fall and continually spring clear of a succession of three unfortunate animals and each time pick himself up and fatalistically remount as if he'd just taken a tumble while hunting. Meinwhile Wemyss's horse was killed and he went to the rear with a wounded arm and Caruthers too fell mortally wounded. Adjutant Macmillan sat waiting for death as bullets riddled his rolled cloak and wounded his horse in the shoulder. The mostly Glaswegian NCO's stolidly kept their men in line and watched the as regiment slowly died before their eyes, with hard, smoke stained countenances they bellowed in incomprehensible torrents of brogue for the gaps to be filled.
There was a saying that NCO's taught men how to fight and officers taught them how to die. If any regiment retired without being reinforced, it was likely the whole centre would go. The spirit that kept the line steady after La Haie Sainte fell lived in the calm way in which Captain Cheney remounted his next horse.
Uxbridge had just rallied a regiment of wavering infantry, when he heard the Prussians had made contact with the left flank. This released the light cavalry brigades, having already pulled as many brigades from the left as he dared, he now concentrated his mounted force. As Wellington rallied the Brunswick Squares, Vivian's superb Hussars, fresh and as yet uncommitted, came up and allowed the heavies to retire.


Since the height of the French cavalry charges the Prussian pressure on Napoleon's right and rear, had become impossible to ignore. Even before that they had been slowly massing for the attack and carefully probing the outskirts of Plancenoit. Now about Three full army Corps were biting into the French army's eastern perimeter. The gunfire from Plancenoit was now intense and clearly audible. Napoleon had relented in his attacks and Ney, was left floating with no way to press his now stale advantage. Wellington watched for the last act. Would Napoleon withdraw, or try once more? The sudden appearance of French Royalist deserters confirmed that Napoleon was going to try and break through once more. For the men of the Union Brigade, the attack of the Imperial Garde lacked any kind of visual image. An attack was coming, that much was certain, first word had spread like the gunfire at the beginning of the day, from right to left. Then from the musketry that suddenly roared along the front, and the busy way that the reserves came doubling up to the ridge. Uxbridge had timed everything perfectly once more, and having done all imaginable to aid the final victory he was famously wounded at his moment of triumph, the Grey's saw Horace Seymour leading his stretcher party away.
His cavalry, lead principally by Vivian's and Vandeleur's Brigades, the former had which already started moving, were in motion as soon as he saw the square of the Garde fall back in the face of the Dutch counterattack. The Hussars spilled over the top of the ridge, followed by Heavies, while all along the line the entire Middle and Old Guard save a few stubborn battalions, were flung back and within minutes the French army was in irretrievable rout.
The cavalry followed closely on the heels of the retreating French. Now the brigade had to hold back until the enemy squares broke, coming under and held in check in check by Cuirassiers, with both sides deciding to shoot carbines and skirmish with each other for fear of exposing the infantry. A soldier was killed but did not fall and had to be removed from his horse and carried back so as to not scare the men.

Perhaps this man was the last Grey to die in the action at Mont St Jean. As night drew on Hamilton watched the Prussian Guns flashing in distance. After the general advance he was sent back to bring up stragglers. He rode to the small town of Waterloo and collected as many as were to be found and caught up with the regiment the next day to take command of his troop. The rest of the regiment rode up into the French positions and slept on the verge of the carnage they had witnessed. At worst several accounts confirm that the Greys could only muster 16 men on parade in the days immediately after the battle, and certainly no more than 30 men at most. That night they buried 8 officers, including Kinchant, Reignolds, Colonel Hamilton, and five others whose names I don't know, but Caruthers died of his wounds on the 19th. These then were the names of some of the Greys that had made up that proud regiment back in March, and this was their story, as well as I could tell it. Who by winning their regiment, and the army immortal glory had won the cold comfort of their own corner of a foreign field. Their lasting memory, thanks to Lady Butler, is of a band of red coated horsemen galloping to destiny on their famous grey horses. Now they are all gone, to wherever Greys go when they die, riding forever to glory in our imaginations, epitomising the courage tragedy and grandeur of Waterloo. Those Terrible Greys.


Sources
British Cavalryman 1792 - 1815: Phillip J Haythornwaite
British Cavalry Equipments 1800 - 1941: Mike Chappell
Wellington's Heavy Cavalry: Bryan Fosten
Waterloo Myth and Reality: Gareth Glover
History of the Second Dragoons (Scot's Greys): Edward Almack
Norfolk Annals: Charles Mackie
Scum of the Earth: Colin Brown
Royal Scots Greys: Charles Grant
Peninsular War Roll Call.
Rootsweb.com
http://www.napoleonichistoricalsociety. ... sgreys.htm
napoleonseries.org
http://britisharmywaterloo.blogspot.co. ... ished.html
http://www.greysandglory.org/
The Battle: Alessandro Barbero
Waterloo new perspectives: David Hamilton Williams
Wellington's Regiment's: Ian Castle
A Near Run Thing: Ian Castle
The Waterloo Companion: Mark Adkin
One Leg: Marquis of Anglesey
Radical General: Edward M Spiers
With Napoleon at Waterloo: Edward Bruce Lowe
Who was who at Waterloo: Christopher Summerville
Waterloo Archive: The British Sources, vol 1
Waterloo Archive: The British Sources, vol 3
Waterloo Archive: The British Sources, vol 4
Waterloo Letters: Gareth Glover
Waterloo Letters: Maj-Gen H.T. Siborne
The Waterloo Campaign: William Siborne
The Battle of Waterloo, a series of accounts by a near observer, 1815.
Instructions and Regulations for the formations and movements of the cavalry. 1799-1800.
With deepest thanks to:
Napoleonic Wars Forum Members: JF42, jasonubych, Jonathan Hopkins, StudentOf1812, Andrew W Fields. For their ever generous assistance and helpful, friendly input.
And to the Scots Military Research Group on Twitter.

Dedicated to the memory of the Officers and men of the old Royal Scots Greys who served in 1815, many of whose stories I have come to know so well and have tried to tell here, and to the men of their descendant Regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards who carry on their fine traditions today.
Adventures In Historyland, Keeping History Real. http://adventuresinhistoryland.wordpress.com/
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