Oct 25 2011
2nd Battalion – Guarda, Portugal
A view of Guarda drawn by Lt. Col. Leith Hay
The beginning of the month brought to an end the stalemate, which had seen the battalion in the Sierra de Gata since mid-summer, when Marmont manoeuvred to get supplies into Ciudad Rodrigo. On the 25th October there was an action between the French and the Anglo-Portuguese 3rd division at El Boden. General Dunlop, in command of the 5th division during General Leith’s absence, had the men under arms at 4 a.m. the following morning. They could hear distant firing and were anxious to be involved in any fighting but the sound died away and they were left wondering what had happened. The following day, the division received orders to withdraw to Aldea de Ponte, across the Portuguese border. They also learnt that although the 3rd division had successfully held the French advance against them, Wellington considered his present position too exposed to further French attack.
The 5th division reached Aldea de Ponte without seeing any sign of the French but just as they were about to cook their meal the alarm was given and food and cooking pots had to be thrown aside. The French actually attacked on the far side of the village, but General Dunlop thought it prudent to withdraw to higher ground. Everyone was now ready for battle but it was the division to the left which took the brunt of the attack. Once again, though, the French were held. The men of the 2nd battalion, who have had little opportunity to prove their mettle since their arrival in Portugal, were anxious to drive them off, but the order was given to retire.
They now marched to Sabugal, a wet, cold march initially over difficult ground littered with rocks. Even when they reached Sabugal there was no comfort for the officers, their baggage having been sent ahead – very different from their last visit to the place six months ago when they enjoyed the food abandoned by the French staff.
A view of Sabugal drawn by Lt. Col. Leith Hay
On the 29th they were at Vila do Touro and on the 30th they reached Guarda, where the officers were finally reunited with their baggage. By this point the battalion, and indeed the whole division, looked like desperados.
They have now spent nearly four weeks enjoying a rest, despite the twice weekly divisional field days – and an inspection by General Graham, an old friend of the 30th, having first met them at Toulon, and then renewed the acquaintance in Malta and at Cadiz. This period of recuperation seems to have benefited the battalion. Although there have been four deaths this month, there are fewer sick, either in quarters or in hospital. This is just as well because Surgeon Hennen is sick, the recently appointed assistant surgeon, Evans, has yet to arrive and there is still no news of the other assistant surgeon, Brett.
Although thirty-four men have been invalided back to England, forty-five rank and file with a sergeant and a drummer have arrived and joined the battalion. They were accompanied by Lieutenant White and Ensigns Campbell, Lockwood and Carter. This has done something to redress the shortage of officers with the battalion. However, the newly-appointed Lieutenant Colonel Turner and Major Bailey have yet to arrive; Major Hamilton, now Lieutenant Colonel with the West Indian Rangers, has returned to England; and Major Grey is in command of the battalion.
Corporal David McBride has been appointed sergeant, and James McBride and Patrick McIlhatton have been promoted to corporal. Sergeant John Watson, one of the longest serving sergeants in the regiment, was among those invalided home.
1st battalion, Camp at Wallear River
The battalion is on the march from Trichinopoly to Cannanore, on the western side of India in the state of Kerala. They have news that eighty men, with a sergeant and corporal, have arrived at Poonamallee and will join the battalion. These men will be brought up by some of the officers who have remained in either Poonamallee or Trichinopoly.
Health remains good, perhaps helped by the change of scene. There have been only three deaths and sickness rates are still low.
The main point of interest for the officers of the battalion has been the fate of Ensign John Herring, who was arraigned on a charge of ‘scandalous and infamous conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman in appearing on public parade of the regiment in a state of intoxication.’ This was the second time that Herring had faced such a charge.
His court martial, under the presidency of Lieutenant Colonel William McLeod of the 15th Native Infantry, opened on the 24th September, but when Herring was brought into court he was adjudged to be intoxicated and incapable of understanding the proceedings.
Court martial extract in which Herring is asked if he objects to any members of the court martial
On the following day four witnesses, Major Christopher Maxwell, Captain Samuel Bircham, Adjutant William Stephenson and Sergeant Charles Illston all testified that he had been drunk on parade. They referred variously to his unsteadiness, a tendency to stagger when he walked and his incoherent speech. Major Maxwell also made the point in answer to a question from the court that he had seen Herring in the same condition many times.
Herring now asked for time to prepare his defence, which consisted of the claim that he suffered from ‘strong constitutional, nervous affections which not infrequently deprive me of all recollection during their continuance.’ He admitted that he had drunk a few glasses of wine but not enough to cause intoxication and if he appeared drunk it was because of this nervous affectation. He also claimed that while serving with the 2nd battalion, before coming to India, his conduct had been exemplary. Finally, he sought the ‘liberality’ of the court.
He had offered his defence on the 28th September. Two days later the court reached its conclusion, that ‘having duly considered all that has been adduced before it in support of the prosecution, and the prisoner’s defence, are of the opinion that the prisoner, Ensign John Herring of the 30th Regiment is guilty of the whole of the charge instituted against him, and do therefore adjudge him to be cashiered.’
The guilty verdict
Herring now joins the four other officers of the battalion who are waiting for their sentences of cashiering to be confirmed.
Depot – Hull
The change of scene has come as something of a diversion for the men with the depot, although Hull in October is considered rather a bleak place after Wakefield.
A further seven recruits have joined since the last monthly return, while another seven have not yet joined. Five of them are with the recruiting party at Sleaford.