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

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Date of Auction: 19th & 20th March 2008

Sold for £1,100

Estimate: £700 - £900

Military General Service 1793-1814, 3 clasps, Busaco, Albuhera, Toulouse (F. Johnston, Arty. Driver) edge nicks, otherwise nearly extremely fine £700-900


Francis Johnston(e), a labourer from Killasent, Leitrim, enlisted in the Royal Artillery as a Driver in 1807, aged 17 years. Placed on the strength of Lane’s Rocket Troop, part of Elliott’s 1st Rocket Troop, R.H.A., he was present at Busaco, Albuhera and Toulouse (see Vigors and Macfarlane), so, too, at Waterloo, as a member of ‘H’ Troop Artillery Drivers (his Waterloo Medal was sold at Glendining’s in 1988). Discharged in consequence of ‘visceral obstruction’ in January 1819, aged 28 years, his pension was fixed at 9d. a day, but his subsequent application for an increase in 1876, while resident in Ballymena, Antrim, was turned down.

The Corps of Artillery Drivers was formed in 1794 as a separate organisation from the Royal Artillery. From an administrative point of view this seems to have been an unsatisfactory arrangement, as the men were posted piecemeal to anywhere in the latter regiment. No doubt because of this the corps had a very poor reputation for ill-discipline and criminality. It was disbanded in 1822 and from then on drivers became an integral part of the Foot Artillery.

‘The drivers ... had no weapons at all, in order that their attention might not be distracted from their horses. This seems to have been a very doubtful expedient, leaving them absolutely helpless if attacked by hostile cavalry. It may have originated from the fact the driver, far into the eighteenth century, had not been a soldier at all, but a “waggoner”, a civilian without uniform or arms’ (Sir Charles Oman, Wellington’s Army, refers).