Orders, Decorations and Medals (19 & 20 March 2008)

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Date of Auction: 19th & 20th March 2008

Sold for £1,200

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,200

Military General Service 1793-1814, 2 clasps, Corunna, Vittoria (Thomas Day, 59th Foot) edge nicks, good very fine £1000-1200


Thomas Day, a labourer from Roscrea, Tipperary, enlisted into the Tipperary Militia in March 1806, and volunteered for the 2/59th in November of the following year.

He went with the Regiment, 640 strong, to Spain in October 1808 and marched out to join Sir John Moore’s army, which, by this time, had been forced back towards Corunna. After the rigours of this retreat, the 557 remaining fit men took part in the battle fought on 16 January 1809 - at nightfall the Flank Companies of the 2/59th were still fighting and were the last British troops to be still engaged when the battle died down. Casualties were 60 killed and wounded, leaving 497 to be disembarked in England. Unfortunately, the ship aboard which the Battalion was first embarked was discovered to be sinking, and the troops had to be immediately evacuated before being re-embarked.

It is not clear whether Day was with his colleagues on the Walcheren expedition in 1809, but in July 1812 he was back around Cadiz, and in early 1813 the 2/59th was brigaded with the 4th and 47th in the 5th Division of Wellington’s army. Their first major action was at Vittoria on 21 June 1813, when 144 men were killed and wounded in heavy fighting for possession of the bridge at Gamarra Mayor:

‘Robinson’s Brigade (4th, 47th & 2/59th) had stormed Gamarra Mayor, defended by the French 118th & 119th ... This was a brilliant and costly affair- it being no light matter to attack in column of battalions the barricaded streets of a compact village. The British, however, burst in - Colonel Brooke with the 1/4th being the first to force an entrance: the French abandoned three guns which had been placed in the barricades, and fell back in disorder across the bridge.

General Robinson endeavoured to improve the success by instant pursuit, but the French had guns bearing on the bridge, which swept away the first platoons that tried to cross it. Very few men reached the other side, and they were shot down before they could establish a lodgement on the farther bank’ (Sir Charles Oman, Wellington’s Army, refers).

The 59th’s C.O., Lieutenant-Colonel Fane, was killed by a cannon ball, and Day was badly wounded in the arm and rendered unfit for further service, a fact confirmed in the Chelsea register of soldiers discharged through disability and wounds: ‘Wounded arm in action at Gamarra Mayor, 21 June 1813’ (WO 116/18 refers).

Day was eventually invalided to England, after a lengthy stay in hospital, and was discharged in February 1815 with a pension of 6d. a day. He died in the Kilkenny district on 21 December 1860, aged 73 years.