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Wellington and His Gunners

Last updated: 28 April 2016

Recorded on 16 April 2015

Nick Lipscombe is a Napoleonic historian specialising in the Peninsular War. In this talk he examines the often stormy relationship between the Duke of Wellington and the British artillery.


Nick Lipscombe:

This very atmospheric painting by Christopher Collingwood depicts G Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at about five o’clock in the afternoon on the ridge of the Allied right-centre of Mont Saint Jean at Waterloo. Three hours later, having been in action for a full eight hours and indeed in action the day prior during the withdrawal of Wellington’s army from Quatre Bras, the troop was all but annihilated.

And there are very few, if anybody, who’s actually studied the Battle of Waterloo who would not agree with a recent historian, Jack Weller, when he wrote that Wellington’s artillery did more for him at the Battle of Waterloo than at any other battle.

Yet there was one man who didn’t agree with this, the very architect of that Allied victory at Waterloo. The Duke of Wellington was to write to the Master General of the Ordnance on 21 December from his headquarters in Paris six months after the battle where he was commanding the Armies of Occupation. And he wrote that he was not actually very pleased with the artillery at the Battle of Waterloo.

And he went on to make four separate accusations in quite a lengthy letter. The first that they’d failed to keep a reserve; the second that they’d conducted counter-battery fire, that’s firing on the French batteries; the third that they had not sought refuge within (that’s a key word) the infantry squares during the cavalry charges at four o’clock to six o’clock, the afternoon, early evening; and finally, the ultimate coup de grace, the fact that they had run from the field.

During the Battle of Waterloo, this man here, George Wood, was the CRA or the Commander Royal Artillery. And he was a very capable artillery officer. But he wasn’t the officer of Wellington’s choice. And therefore it was a relationship doomed from the outset. Before the mud had dried in the fields of Mont Saint Jean, Wood had fallen foul of Wellington for having failed to follow up in the wake of the Prussian arrival on the battlefield and to gather in all the abandoned French artillery.

He was to write to a friend and colleague of his, and a former CRA of Wellington’s, Alexander Dickson, who’d actually just returned from the debacle in New Orleans and was at the battle. But he writes to Dickson, 'My sun is set and I shall ask leave to return to England, having received the most severe reprimand before the whole staff and the servants for not having brought off the artillery taken by us... but more when we meet.'

And John Fortescue, the author of that magnificent work on the history of the British Army, wrote that there can be no doubt that no love was lost between the general and his Gunners. He went on to conclude that he found it difficult that all the faults were one-sided.

How was it that this relationship reached this tipping point? Had the Gunners really served Wellington badly from his meteoric rise from the most junior lieutenant-general in the British Army in August 1808 through to and including his magnificent victory at Waterloo in 1815?

In order to understand this, we have to look at the Army itself, how it was structured and how the artillery fitted into it.

Now, a Napoleonic general had three fighting components - the infantry, the cavalry and the artillery. The artillery was not a combat support arm. And interestingly enough, I was at the School of Artillery yesterday and received a presentation from a young officer who did a wonderful job, but of course he was under the impression that the artillery in the Napoleonic era was a support arm. It was not, it was a fighting component. And the skill of a Napoleonic general was how he weaved those three components together on the field of battle to achieve his tactical and subsequently operational objectives.

Now, this is straightforward enough, and yet it’s a point which quite clearly confused Peninsular War historians. Not historians quite so much who wrote about the Battle of Waterloo, but certainly those who covered the Peninsular War that preceded it. They have tended to view the artillery, as I say, as combat support. Some of them have even ignored it altogether.

And it’s curious that French historians who covered the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars and the French Army during the Revolutionary Wars and the Grande Armée during the Napoleonic Wars have not made the same mistake. But there is a fairly straightforward series of explanations for this.

Now, there’s no doubt the war in Iberia, which raged from 1808 through til April 1814 when Soult was defeated on the outskirts of Toulouse, was a complex and convoluted business. Complex too was the British recording of the war.

The first man to embark on this was Robert Southey. Not only was Southey the poet laureate but he was also a deep admirer of Spain. And this, as it happened, was his undoing, for in his first volume of the war, published in 1821, he gave far too much prominence to Spain, its people and in particular to its military.

This opened the door for the second protagonist, William Napier, a veteran of the 43rd [Regiment of Foot] who’d fallen on hard times and, on the strength of two submissions to the Edinburgh Review, was asked to write a history of the Peninsular War.

The problem with Napier’s work is it was both xenophobic and infantry-centric. He hero-worshipped Moore and Wellington and, it could be argued, Napoleon as well. He was strongly influenced by the Whigs and he was married to the niece of the erstwhile Prime Minister Charles James Fox. These factors did not make for a happy mix.

Many of Napier’s shortcomings, however, were addressed in Sir Charles Oman’s seminal work on the Peninsular War in the early 20th century. But the contribution and the achievements of the artillery were still largely overlooked.

Thus, the British recording of the war has suffered compound error and in the words of Andrew Roberts, he said that 'history might not repeat itself but historians most certainly repeat one another' and that is the case with the recording of the history and contribution of the Gunners during the Napoleonic Wars.

But also the organisation of the British Army is to blame. And to understand how this evolved, we have to go back to the 17th century, to Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army.

Set up, of course, by Parliament to confront the Crown, which it succeeded in so doing, it then turns on its very creator, Parliament itself. And this, in turn, led to a constitutional antipathy and a deep-seated societal prejudice against the Army which lasted throughout the 18th century. Power was vested in civil hands, while military officers restricted themselves to purely professional matters.

I accept that you cannot see - and I hope I don’t step too far out of the span of these microphones, so if I do, just let me know that you can’t hear what I’m saying - but this was the structure for command and administration of the British Army at the end of the 18th century and the start of the Napoleonic Wars. There were, in effect, four completely different stovepipe areas which had responsibility for discrete areas of the armed forces, from the strategic political level through the strategic to the operational and down to the tactical level in the field.

Just running through these from the left-hand side of the slide working over to the right, the first of these organisations was the Treasury. And not surprisingly the Treasury had responsibility for the money through the Paymaster General. But they also had responsibility for this organisation, the Commissariat. And so all the Army stores and the means to transport them came under the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Extraordinary.

The next organisation is the War Office. Actually not as old as you would think, established in the 1790s, and the position of the Secretary of State for War was established in 1794. The problem is they were responsible in the War Office for day-to-day running of the Army and its policy and plans, but the Secretary of State for War was triple hatted and therefore he didn’t have the time to dedicate to looking after that day-to-day business. So the Secretary at War was brought in to do that. And this was a much older post, established also in the 17th century. They had responsibility for, amongst other things, the plans and policy for matters medical.

Now we come to Horse Guards. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and the titular Commander-in-Chief for the armed forces, was of course the monarch. In periods of crisis and war, a dedicated Commander-in Chief was also appointed to Horse Guards. And it just so happened in 1794 that this was the King’s younger son, Frederick the Duke of York, who’d just come back from a failed expedition to the Low Countries. But the Duke of York remained in that post throughout the Napoleonic Wars barring two years, 1809 and 1810, and did a first class job.

But it wasn’t the Army because it had its arms around two of the three fighting components, that is the infantry and the cavalry. For the third fighting component, the artillery, came under this organisation here, the Board of Ordnance.

The Board of Ordnance was set up in 1544 during the reign of Henry VIII and its initial role was to look after and procure cannons, guns, small arms and the ammunition for the Navy. And subsequently the Army was added.

It also had responsibility for matters fortifications. So all the engineers, the military engineering came under their auspices as well. And this included the responsibility for the selection, the training and the appointments of the officers of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers.

Its head was the Master General of the Ordnance and by 1793 - and you can see now there’s a pattern as the French Revolutionary Wars kicked off, that the structure began to change a bit and adapt to the situation the country found itself in - in 1793, although it’s a military man it’s a political post. It of course was changed on the fall of the government.

If we add into that this other organisation which is the Home Office, because the Home Secretary had responsibility for the volunteer and the militia forces, you can see that actually you’ve now got here four Cabinet personnel, because the Board of Ordnance, the Master General was a Cabinet position. So we’ve got the Chancellor, Secretary of State for War, Home Secretary and Master General of the Ordnance in the Cabinet at a time when the Cabinet only had 12 seats. So you can imagine how difficult this would’ve been.

It was almost impossible in peace-time and ruinous in war. It led to divided loyalties and absurd frustrations. And nowhere was this more apposite than for the Royal Artillery who had to satisfy three masters - the Master General of the Ordnance, the King or the C-in-C at Horse Guards at least, and of course the Commander-in-Chief in the field who was directing operations, who for the majority of this period was the Duke of Wellington.

It’s worth very quickly just looking at the same command and administration for the Royal Navy. Didn’t pose a threat to Parliament, it is a military hierarchical wiring diagram that we would be very comfortable with even today. It all goes through a single conduit, the Admiralty, and it’s worth noting that even the Board of Ordnance, as I said had responsibility for naval guns, has been much more seamlessly integrated into the naval command and control system.

What then of the performance of the Royal Artillery during this period? Did they really do so badly that Wellington had grounds to be less than satisfied with them?

It’s interesting that my study into the artillery over this period has revealed that in terms of force development, weapon development and other advances, they actually achieved much more than the other two fighting components. They gained six battery honour titles during the Peninsular [War] and another five during the Battle of Waterloo. They introduced the first heavy guns into the field army, not in a siege train but into the field army, so they could move with the army and therefore be utilised in that army rather than waiting for the heavy siege train to be brought up.

They used captured French light guns - these are 4-pounders from the Battle of Vitoria - and converted them for use as the first mounting guns during the Pyrenean campaign, back end of 1813-14. They fired the first creeping barrage at the Siege of San Sebastian in August 1813.

There’s no doubt that the Peninsular [War] provided a magnificent proving ground for the new mobile artillery, or the Royal Horse Artillery as we designated it. They were assisted in their task by [Sir William] Congreve Sr's quite excellent block trail which enabled the guns to have greater mobility in a short space on the field of battle and they were also witness to [Sir William] Congreve Jr's slightly less successful rockets.

But undeniably the most important of all the achievements was the introduction of a weapon system which provided the Gunners, and therefore ipso facto the Army and Wellington himself, with a force multiplier that has never ever received the recognition or approbation that it deserves. And I refer to Henry Shrapnel’s shell.

This was a spherical case shot and it was called the Shrapnel shell in 1852 ten years after the inventor’s death. It enabled the artillery to fire out to well beyond the maximum range of canister and grape, which was the other anti-personnel round that they had, leaving aside a cannon ball which of course was anti-personnel but its chances of taking out large numbers were greatly reduced.

This round could fire out to 1,000 metres, which in terms of defeating Napoleonic infantry tactics, that was about the position that they would form up, where they would move forward, still short of canister and grape, before they would go into their final assault formations. This had a devastating effect on them.

The French did capture a Shrapnel round in Maida in 1806 and they spent the rest of the war trying to replicate the fuse, but were unable so to do. By the time of the next major conflict, that’s the Crimea (1854-55), every major army had Shrapnel shells in its arsenal and the British Army had lost the force multiplication advantage that it had with this shell.

With such a canvas and a high level of professionalism, it seems inconceivable therefore that Wellington could have been anything other than satisfied with his Gunners. However, as the war in the Peninsula progressed, his criticisms of the arm waxed and his recognition of their achievements in his post battle despatches most certainly waned. There were a number of reasons for this.

John Fuller wrote of Wellington in 1938 that he was a believer in the divine right of blue blood and although he was an aristocrat to his fingertips, he loathed ostentation and outward show. He possessed a profound sense of duty, he was autocratic and dictatorial and was never able to suffer fools gladly. In short, Wellington was a snob.

He despised gratuitous advice and he selected his close personal staff accordingly. His views on the lower-bred officers of the technical services was well known and it was also emulated by his close personal staff. Officers of the infantry and the cavalry purchased their commissions whereas officers of the artillery and the engineers earned them on merit. And Wellington considered this to be a process open to abuse through patronage because his opinion was that in order to get into the military academy in the first place, you had to know someone or pay to get in. Of course that completely misses the point that the whole concept of purchasing your commission was equally subject to patronage.

Furthermore, France had spawned such a group of military revolutionaries who had no connection with property. And Napoleon was a gunner, and that meant that he was right.

Wellington was undeniably a difficult master to serve, but the Gunners must take a share of the blame in that many of the artillery commanders who were sent out to the Peninsula were really not men that were going to get on with Wellington. The responsibility for nominating those officers fell to General John Macleod who was the DAG, Deputy Assistant General, Royal Artillery based at Woolwich and working directly to the Master General of the Ordnance.

The dressing down that we heard George Wood getting in the immediate aftermath of Waterloo in front of the staff, and quite incredibly the servants, really was all too familiar. In 1809, Wellington wrote to Brigadier General Howarth who was the first main CRA in the Peninsula, and he said of him that 'I shall be lucky if he does not get me into a scrape yet'. Their relationship was quite terrible.

His replacement was a rather portly gentleman, William Borthwick, who Wellington very quickly dubbed as 'the walking target' at the Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. It had been hoped that Borthwick’s arrival would repair this rift between the Commander and his principal artillery adviser. But Captain George Jenkinson, who was the second in command, or battery captain as we would call him today, of Ross’s Troop, the Chestnut Troop now in the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, he wrote the following.

He said, 'My expectations of anything General Borthwick may effect for us are not very sanguine and I must confess I pity him from the bottom of my heart for I am convinced that were an angel to come down from Heaven, he would not please Lord W or remove from his mind that rancorous hatred of our corps.' Quite strong words.

The next CRA was the very genteel Lieutenant Colonel George Bull Teal Fisher. And he incurred Wellington’s wrath because Wellington questioned him about the location of a number of remount horses for the artillery and he said that he knew nothing about them, at which point Wellington flew into a rage and said, 'Sir, you know nothing at all.' At which point Bull Teal Fisher tendered his immediate resignation, which was taken by Wellington.

Fisher was a man really with a very creative temperament and great artistic ability. He was never going to fit in with Wellington’s band of brothers and that was quite clear. He was described by one of his fellow officers as 'a gentleman who Nature had not added the requisites for a rough and ready soldier'.

But a brief word on Colonel Fisher is that he was a magnificent artist and he painted a number of watercolours while he was out there. And of course he was quite happy while he was just left in Lisbon to paint his watercolours. He just didn’t want to be called forward to join the main army in Spain.

But his watercolours are quite fantastic. An awful lot of them have been exhibited in the Royal Academy. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office seem to have got hold of a large number of them and they are worth a considerable amount of money. But you can quite clearly see the artistic temperament written all over his face.

Of course, appearances can be deceiving because on the left there we have the very brave Norman Ramsay, who looks more like Quentin Crisp than the warrior that he was.

Wellington’s verbal attacks and put downs on his successive artillery commanders did actually stop when he finally gets the man of his own choice, which is this man here, Alexander Dickson. The problem with Dickson’s elevation is that there were four other artillery officers in theatre who were more senior to him and so he was elevated above them. But such was Wellington’s reputation by 1813, post-Salamanca, prior to Vitoria, that even the Master General of the Ordnance did not argue with Wellington’s decision.

But even after he’d secured the CRA of his own choice, his castigation of the Gunners was far from over. And a few days after the Battle of Waterloo, of course, he puts Norman Ramsay under arrest for what was quite clearly a misunderstanding. Lord Fitzroy Somerset, General Thomas Graham, Lord Lyndoch and Alexander Dickson all appeal to Wellington for clemency. There was none.

It was many weeks before Ramsay was released from his confinement. Ramsay dies at Waterloo having never recovered from the humiliation that he suffered at the hands of the man that he hero-worshipped.

But it would be wrong to conclude that Wellington made no effort to understand his technical arms. He was a great general and he wouldn’t have been a great general had he not understood his fighting components and employed them decisively on the field of battle.

He’s often accused of over-exerting his influence on artillery matters, but I don’t buy this at all. He didn’t merely accept his army as a fighting instrument, but he gauged its strengths and its limitations and he devised his tactics accordingly. This applied across the three fighting components. Nevertheless, there are grounds to question whether some of his decisions were occasionally driven by his animosity of the Gunners rather than based on sound military judgement.

His understanding of shrapnel shell is a very good example. Following its first major operational use at the Battle of Vimeiro, depicted on this slide in August 1808, William Robe, who was the first CRA for those two brief engagements at Rolica and Vimeiro in August 1808, wrote to Shrapnel himself.

And he said, 'I have waited a few days to collect what information I could as to the effects of your spherical case in two actions which have taken place with the enemy on the 17th and the 21st instant, and can now tell you it is admirable to the whole army and I should not do my duty to the service were I not to attribute our good fortune to a good use of that weapon with which you have furnished us. I told Sir A Wellesley,' Arthur Wellesley, of course, was Wellington before he took up the title, 'I meant to write to you and asked if it might be with his concurrence. His answer was, "You may say anything you please. You cannot say too much for never was artillery fired with better effect."'

However, this praise was relatively short-lived for by mid-1810, following the attack by Masséna and his three corps and the Army of Portugal on the ridge at Bussaco in September 1810, he was moved to write the following. This is Wellington writing this: 'I saw General Simon who was wounded by the balls of shrapnel shells of which he had several in his face and head. But they were picked out of his face as duck shot would be out of the face of a person who’d been hit by accident while out shooting and he was not much more materially injured.'

Now, Wellington didn’t stop to listen for good technical reasons why if you fired shrapnel from a ridge which is 100 metres off the valley floor that the effects of the weapon system are severely reduced. As far as he was concerned, he had written shrapnel off and he really did miss and fail to understand and grasp the massive advantage that shrapnel shells provided for the Army as a result.

In fact, Wellington’s stormy relationship with his Gunners would probably have faded from memory had it not been for the Waterloo letter, which I alluded to at the beginning, written six months after the Battle of Waterloo. It doesn’t come into the public domain until 1872 when the second Duke publishes it as part of the supplementary letters and despatches. It re-opens old wounds and rekindles the Wellington Gunner debate.

The letter, written in response to [Lord] Mulgrave’s enquiry made four accusations. But what prompted him to write the letter in the first instance?

Following the battle at Vitoria in June 1813, the Master General of the Ordnance, Lord Mulgrave, writes, or petitions to be more precise, the Prince Regent for a pension for the artillery officers at the Battle of Vitoria because they had done so well in recognition of their achievements and the Prince Regent duly agrees. The notification goes out into the field and Wellington receives it and is apoplectic with rage because he knew nothing about it. He feels, and I think quite rightly, that this did nothing for force cohesion.

And so when, after Waterloo, the officers this time write to the Master General of the Ordnance, still Mulgrave, and say to him, 'Hey, how about a bit of the pension for us following the Battle of Waterloo?' Mulgrave’s not quite sure how to proceed because at Vitoria, all the batteries were engaged in the battle whereas at Waterloo, a number were dislocated out to the west and didn’t take part in the main battle. So he writes to Wellington to seek clarification on the matter and Wellington is determined to kill the idea stone dead. And that’s exactly what the Waterloo letter does.

But what of the letter itself? We know there are four accusations.

The first accusation is that had he, in other words Wellington, not kept a reserve at the start of the battle, there would’ve been none left to have. This is a very curious accusation because Wood and this officer, Augustus Frazer, who was commanding the Royal Horse Artillery and who actually was being used by Wellington as his principal artillery adviser very much at the expense of Wood, had indeed kept a number of batteries in reserve before the battle. But such was the pace of the battle in the early stages, from 11 [o'clock] through to about two [o'clock], that all those batteries had been used up.

But it’s fair to say that there were 29 Allied batteries with Wellington at the main defensive position that day, and in fact nine of them were in reserve at the start of the battle, and that is a third. And that, then and now, is about the norm for a reserve. So as an accusation, there is no case to answer.

The second accusation that the batteries had conducted counter-battery fire is true and we have Cavalié Mercer’s rather boastful account that he conducted this fire knowing that it was against the Duke’s orders.

There were some battery commanders who hadn’t been given the order properly on the day and that raises a number of questions about the artillery chain of command at Waterloo, of which there are a serious number of unknowns. We also have evidence in letters written to Siborne in the early 1830s from three other battery sources - that was Bull’s Troop, Sandham’s Company and Bolton’s Company - that they’d done the same thing.

But all of them had good mitigation. They were being enfiladed, that’s shot at, by French batteries from the side and they needed to silence them. And in Bull’s case, that’s exactly what he succeeded in doing with two of his howitzers that shot off to the west and silenced a battery that was enfilading his.

But irrespective of whether or not they had mitigation, this was Wellington’s order. And orders is orders, and therefore it’s a fair criticism.

Accusations three and four are linked in that Wellington accuses the Gunners of not taking refuge within – and that’s the key word – the infantry squares during the cavalry attacks. This is from about four o’clock to six o’clock in the evening.

These have been emphatically refuted by the Gunners for the last 140 years... 140 years because of course that’s when the letter surfaced in 1872. Now, the problem with taking refuge in the squares was complicated by the fact that a number of the battery commanders didn’t actually get the order at all. And there is real confusion as to whether or not the order went out as 'within the squares'.

Frazer, when he writes to Siborne in the 1830s, says it was 'within the squares', but then he spent a lot of the day with Wellington. Bloomfield on the artillery staff says it was 'out of reach of the French cavalry', which is completely different, and others were under the impression it was 'in the lee of the squares'. Some Gunners, Mercer being one of them, stayed at his guns for a whole host of quite complicated but actually correct reasons in the heat of the battle.

But as far as that accusation is concerned, it is correct.

And I’ll say very quickly one thing, but we have to work out whether or not it was a sensible order, because although you can’t really see it here, but you can see a square here, and this is not a particularly good depiction of this square because if you had a battalion of 600 men in ten companies, by the time they’ve formed a square it isn’t a square, because four doesn’t go into ten, so it’s more of a rectangle.

And indeed the centre of that square is about ten metres by ten metres. And if you’re trying to get a whole battery of guns, that’s assuming that only one of those batteries is trying to get into the square, you’ve probably got 65 men - not the gun, remember he says leave the gun. And if it’s a horse artillery battery, you’ve got 65 horses as well. That isn’t going to go.

And are the infantry going to open that square at the critical moment while there are many thousands of heavy French cavalry thundering across the valley towards them? I put it to you that they probably wouldn’t. So, I think although the accusation is correct, the order was fundamentally flawed.

The accusation that the Gunners had quit the field has always been vehemently rejected by the Royal Artillery and yet my research has shown that at least one Royal Artillery battery most certainly did. And I uncovered this from histories of the King’s German Legion written in Gothic script at the beginning of the 20th century by Bernard Schwertfeger, who’d used the diaries of Jacob Kuhlmann. Kuhlmann was commanding one of the batteries in direct support to the 1st Division and [Charles] Sandham was commanding the other, and both those batteries most certainly quit the field.

Wellington will have seen them leaving and in Schwertfeger’s account from Jacob’s letter, there’s a number of other batteries that are there as well. So it could be anything, three or four or maybe more. Wellington almost certainly did not see those batteries coming back.

So, on the face of it, the accusation is correct. But in fact, there was again very good mitigation for this. And had Wellington had an artillery adviser next to him that he could trust, in the way that Uxbridge as the cavalry commander spent the day next to him, then actually this could have been explained. It wasn’t.

Little doubt, therefore, that the Gunners served Wellington well at Waterloo. And while the Commander-in-Chief’s motives for penning the letter in 1815-16 are quite clear, his reasons for leaving the letter inside his official correspondence are less easily dismissed, because a lot of other contentious letters he removed.

There is little doubt that the relationship between Wellington and his Gunners was seldom, if ever, harmonious. And Fortescue again writes that the quarrel between the artillery and Wellington, begun by his unceremonious treatment of his senior officers in the Peninsula, continued by the taking away of horses from the batteries and giving them to the pontoon train, embittered by his harshness to Norman Ramsay, and made irreconcilable by his despatch after Waterloo, renders it difficult to speak of the relations between the two. There can be no doubt that no love was lost between the general and his Gunners and I find it difficult to believe that all the faults were on one side.

Indeed, they were not one-sided. Wellington had to put up with this separate chain of command for one of his fighting components. This caused not only problems in terms of the men he received, but also in terms of the equipment, the procurement of that equipment in the right type and numbers.

He also had to put up with unsatisfactory officers sent out to command the artillery, and he had to quite often suffer those officers playing both sides off against the middle. And, finally, he felt justifiably that his orders were often disregarded or countermanded as a result of this. Not easy for a Commander-in-Chief in the field, and frankly impossible for a man like Wellington to put up with.

But it would be wrong to conclude that Wellington didn’t personally achieve an awful lot for the Royal Artillery. He was largely instrumental in fostering an all-arms integration between the three fighting components. He led on the introduction of 18-pounders, these heavy guns, into the field army, the first heavy batteries into the British Army. He supported the use of the captured French guns to establish the first mountain batteries, which had great effect during the Pyrenean campaign. He was instrumental in persuading the Board of Ordnance to equip the batteries with better guns, such as the heavier 9-pounder - and by Waterloo nearly all the batteries were equipped with this. And he fought for brevet rank for the Gunners on operations, and for better, more flexible promotion rules.

It would be unfortunate if the concluding impression of this often stormy relationship were one where the gunner officers themselves' dislike of their Commander-in-Chief was both universal and all-embracing. Many of the gunner officers were well aware of the shortcomings of the Board of Ordnance and of their own senior offices. And Jenkinson again, the battery captain of A Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, wrote the following account about General Howarth, that first CRA.

'Not one single thing will our brigadier give us that he can possibly help. He repeatedly says, "Why did you not come out here better supplied?", as if Ross,' the Commander of A Troop, 'had been entrusted with the arrangement of everything when he was ordered for the service. And when any wants are represented to him, of which there may be some difficulty in supplying, he threatens to send the troop to Lisbon, or to make a foot brigade of it, thereby hoping to quash any future representation. Though there’s not a man who would complain more bitterly than he would if any deficiency appeared which he had not been acquainted with.'

'In short,' finishes Jenkinson, 'he is an old woman.'

Now that’s really strong terminology 200 years ago for a junior officer to be putting pen to paper about. Quite revealing.

Of the many hundreds of gunner eye witness accounts that I read in the putting together of my numerous books, but in particular of course ‘Wellington’s Guns’, the vast majority were very supportive of the Duke of Wellington.

Thank you very much.


David Stuart
25 September 2015, 7.23pm

Hi NAM I have just enjoyed

I have just enjoyed listening to Nick Lipscomb's talk on Wellington's relationship with his gunners - in particular their senior officers. Very interesting and for me surprising. I thought it was the cavalry he had a poor opinion of. I have attended one LTL in the past but work commitments make it difficult so I'd welcome more videos as good as this one.

Alan Jones
26 September 2015, 11.46am

Most interesting.

Most interesting.

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