Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £1,800

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,000

Military General Service 1793-1814, 1 clasp, Corunna (D. Robinson, R.M. Surveyor & Draftsman) edge bruise and polished, otherwise very fine and rare £1800-2000


Only four medals issued to Royal Military Surveyors and Draftsmen, this clasp being unique to the Corps.

David Robinson entered the Ordnance Survey on 7 February 1799, as a Draftsman at the Tower of London, and in 1804 he was commissioned into the newly formed Corps of Royal Military Surveyors and Draftsmen as a 3rd Class Surveyor. From April to August 1804 he was employed on a survey of Devon and Cornwall, with stations at Launceston, Stratton and Teignmouth. In 1806, Robinson was stationed at Dock, in Plymouth, where he was completing a survey of the Ivybridge area of South Dartmoor, ten miles east of Plymouth.

In September 1808, Robinson embarked for Spain on the
Sisters transport with a detachment of sixteen sappers, under the command of Captain J. Carmichael Smyth RE. In November they joined the Salamanca headquarters of the army under Sir John Moore. The army left Salamanca on 12-13 December 1808, and Robinson moved 35 miles north-east to the new headquarters at Alaejos. A week later the headquarters moved 35 miles north to Sahagun, where a French cavalry attack was defeated on 21 December, and a few days later on 25 December, the headquarters moved 40 miles south-west to Benevente. The long retreat to Corunna began on Christmas Eve 1808, and as the rear-guard of the British army was leaving Benevente on the River Esia, on 29 December, they successfully repulsed a French cavalry attack there.

To protect the retreating British forces on the long 180-mile road to Corunna, via engagements at Astorga (31 December), Villafranca (1-2 January 1809), Lugo (6-7 January), and Corunna (11 January), bridges were destroyed by sapper detachments, including the one at Cambre, a few miles up the Mero river near Corunna, where Lieutenant Henry Davy RE was killed on 10 January by the force of the explosion. The next day, the British forces reached Corunna where Robinson prepared a survey map (
TNA map WO/78/1988) while waiting for the British evacuation fleet of transports, which arrived on the 14th. Embarkation of the troops began on the 16th, when the French launched an attack which was fiercely resisted, Sir John Moore being one of the many who were killed. Embarkation of the troops continued throughout the night, and Captain Carmichael Smyth RE and Surveyor David Robinson sailed with the evacuation fleet from Corunna on January 17th.

Robinson was promoted to 2nd Class Surveyor on 25 September 1811. In 1813, he joined the Expedition to the Netherlands to attack the French-occupied fortresses, landing at Williamstadt on 18 December. He was attached to the Headquarter staff with the Commanding Royal Engineer, now Lieutenant-Colonel Carmichael Smyth, under whom he had served at Corunna. Robinson was responsible for preparing plans of the fortifications, including that of Bergen-op-Zoom. After the abdication of Napoleon in early 1814, the French were withdrawn from all the fortifications in the Low Countries, and on 2 May, Robinson accompanied the British forces into Antwerp.

On 1 January 1815, Robinson was promoted to 1st Class Surveyor. Prior to the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, he was responsible, under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Carmichael Smyth RE, for the preparation of a map of the Waterloo area from the sketches prepared by the reconnaissance engineer officers. The following is an extract from the diary of Brigade-Major J. Oldfield RE for 17 June 1815:

“The retreat of the Prussians upon Wavre rendered it necessary for the Duke to make a corresponding movement, and upon the receipt of a communication from Blucher, he called Col. Smyth and asked him for his plan of the position of Waterloo, which I immediately handed to him. The Duke then gave directions to Sir William de Lancey to put the army in position at Waterloo, forming them across the Nivelles and Charleroi chaussées.”

Years later, David Robinson reported in a Board of Ordnance In-Letter (
TNA WO/44/692), of 4 April 1838, that:

“He superintended (under the orders of Major-General Sir Carmichael Smyth RE) the making of the Plans of the Fortresses in the Netherlands. He provided also under his direction a Plan of the Ground about Waterloo previous to the battle, which was consulted continually in the course of that eventful day, and found in the breast-coat pocket of the Deputy Quartermaster General after he was killed.”

This famous Waterloo Map, stained with the blood of Colonel Sir William de Lancey, the Deputy Quartermaster-General, who was carrying it when he was killed at Waterloo, is now on display in the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham. The National Archives Map Room at Kew contains 17 other maps drawn and signed by Surveyor David Robinson from 1801 to 1814, including those of Corunna, and of the defences in Belgium and the Netherlands at Ostend, Antwerp and Flushing. After the battle of Waterloo, Robinson served with the Army of Occupation in France at Cambrai. He received War Prize money for Waterloo and the Capture of Paris. In 1816 he was recalled from France and appointed by Warrant of 10 July as Master for Fortifications at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. The records of the Royal Military Academy show that on 16 July 1816 ‘Mr David Robinson - R.M. S.& D. appointed 1st Assistant for Fortification vice Blumenheben, retired.’ Robinson remained on the Staff of the R.M.A. for many more years, and was still in post in 1838, although disputation continued with regard to his salary which did not allow for his previous military service in the Peninsula War when his salary was £365 per annum. Then, in response to a letter of 29 May 1838 from the Lieutenant Governor of the Royal Military Academy, the Board of Ordnance approved that Robinson's salary be increased to £400 per annum, from 1 April 1838. Sold with full research.