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

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Date of Auction: 19th & 20th March 2008

Sold for £1,300

Estimate: £800 - £1,000

Military General Service 1793-1814, 2 clasps, Busaco, Fuentes D’Onor (A. McQueen, 74th Foot) lacquered, very fine £800-1000


Alexander McQueen, a labourer from Newdeer, near Aberdeen, enlisted in the 74th Foot in June 1808, aged 18 years.

Posted to the 1st Battalion, he arrived in Portugal in January 1810, and first went into action at Busaco that September, when the 74th helped to repel the French attack on our centre, at a cost of two officers and 25 men killed or wounded. However, in his next action at Fuentes D’Onor, the 74th were more heavily engaged in the fierce fighting in and around that village, this time suffering casualties of four officers and 69 men, McQueen being among the latter with a leg wound:

‘Presently the Irishmen of the 88th Foot came down the road in column of sections at the double ... instantly they closed with the French 9th Light Infantry. For a brief space the 9th stood firm, but presently gave way, the 88th following hard at their heels with the bayonet; while the 74th, also of Mackinnon’s Brigade, dashed in upon the French at another point. The former defenders of the village swarmed after them, and the 79th took revenge for their dead Colonel. The fighting was savage. One party of over a hundred French Grenadiers ran down into a barricaded street from which there was no escape; and everyone of them was bayonetted by the Irish. The rest were driven headlong over the water; and more than one of the British followed them in the heat of the chase, to fall dead on the French side of the stream. D’Erlon ... made no further attempt to capture the village, though his batteries still played furiously upon it. Undaunted by crumbling walls and quaking rafters, the 74th and 88th fortified themselves among the ruins and at length the fire ceased: for the battle of Fuentes D’Onor was over’ (Sir John Fortescue’s History of the British Army (Vol. VIII), refers).

McQueen was transferred to the 9th Veterans’ Battalion in March 1812, on account of ‘being wounded in the leg at Fuentes de Honore’, and, on that unit’s disbandment in July 1814, took his final discharge.