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1793 - 1815 The Napoleonic Wars

Key Dates
1793 - Wesley joins, 33rd Flank companies to the West Indies
1794 - Bostkel, Geldermalsen
1799 - Mallavelly, Seringapatam
1810 - Flank companies, Ile de Bourbon and Mauritius

"Upon the whole I consider this regiment (the 33rd) to be in the most advanced state of any in the army." - Sir Henry Clinton, Inspector General of Infantry of Wellington's army in Flanders 16th January 1815

Two Soldiers of the 33rd and a Light Dragoon, Holland 1795In the wake of the French Revolution war broke out between England and France on 1st February 1793.  The British strategy was to use the Navy to cut off all French colonial possessions and to restrict activity in Europe to subsidising her allies.  But this did not work for long and in 1794 the 33rd was part of a contingent sent to the Netherlands.  Because of the unsatisfactory state of the army, due to peacetime neglect, and the appalling conditions and serious deficiencies of equipment; the force was soon in disastrous retreat.  By 1795 the remains were back in England.  For Arthur Wellesley who had assumed command of the 33rd two years earlier, it was a lesson in 'how not to do it'.  While the Regiment was in the Netherlands two of its companies were detached as part of a picked force to capture three French held islands in the West Indies.  That campaign likewise ended in failure, as a result of appalling losses due to disease.

The 76th returned from India in 1806.  The following year it was ordered to the Peninsula where it disembarked at Corunna as part of a force of 11,000 men.  They advanced into Spain where they joined up with the army of Sir John Moore.  However, before long the force had to retreat under threat to its lines of communication from a French army under Napoleon.  The retreat took place under dreadful weather conditions, over very bad country.  Eventually Corunna was reached where a battle was fought which resulted in the death of Sir John Moore.  The 76th was awarded the battle honour Corunna for its part in the campaign.  Six months later, in June 1809, the 76th took part in the Walcheren Campaign.  This expeditionary force, which was one of the largest ever sent from the shores of Britain up to that time, was also one of the worst managed.  By December the 76th was back in England, much reduced in numbers, 23,000 men of the force had died of disease, Only 217 had been killed in action against the French.  In 1813 the 76th returned to the Peninsula and took part in the closing stages of the war in Spain.  In the process it acquired the battle honours Peninsula and Nive.  The war ended in April, but there was no rest for the 76th which was forthwith ordered to Canada, arriving there in August 1814.

 The war against the United States had been in progress for two years and the cessation of the French war gave an opportunity to prosecute operations with greater vigour.  The plan was to invade New York.  The first objective was Plattsburg, where the Americans were nearly defeated.  However, because of loss of command of Lake Champlain, which flanked the army's route, the only option was to retire.  Peace was signed at the end of the year and thus ended the 76th's long period of active service.  It was almost one hundred years before it again fought as a battalion.

Arthur Wesley (later Wellesley) Lieutentant Colonel of the 33rd, 1793-1802The 33rd Regiment returned from India in 1812.  A year later it formed part of a force first sent to northern Germany and then, in 1814, to the Netherlands.  It was decided to attack the near impregnable fortress of Bergen-op-Zoom as a preliminary to the capture of Antwerp.  The attack failed. Later the same year peace was signed with France.  The peace was short lived.  Napoleon escaped from Elba and quickly gathered a new army about him.

The Duke of Wellington had been placed in command of the allied forces in Belgium and there his old regiment, the 33rd, joined him as part of the 5th Brigade.  In June 1815 Napoleon began his advance on Belgium where the allied forces were distributed along the frontier.  On 16th June the French attacked them at Quatre Bras.  The 33rd was heavily involved and played its part in ensuring the safe withdrawal of the British force to Waterloo.  There, on 18th June, was fought the battle which was forever to be associated with the name of Wellington.  The battle lasted all day and despite repeated attacks the British squares held firm against the massed attacks of the French cavalry.  Napoleon, frustrated, is reported to have said 'These dogs of English never know when they are beaten'.  Finally Wellington, aided by the Prussians under Blucher, drove the French from the field and the long periods of wars against them came to an end.