Orders, Decorations and Medals (16 & 17 September 2010)

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Date of Auction: 16th & 17th September 2010

Sold for £3,600

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

Waterloo 1815 (Trp. Serj. Major Ja. Page, 1st Reg. Dragoon Guards), original steel clip and ring suspension, edge bruising, contact marks and a little polished, otherwise nearly very fine £3000-3500

Footnote

James Page, who was born in Merton, Surrey, and enlisted in the 1st Dragon Guards in February 1800, served for 25 years with the Colours, the last seven of them as Regimental Sergeant-Major of the 1st Dragoon Guards. His part in the Waterloo campaign is well-documented, some of his letters home surviving in the regimental museum’s collection - see And They Rode On, by Michael Mann, for several quotes, so, too, The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, by Eversley Belfield. Of the battle itself, Page wrote:

‘After the action commenced we began to get dry, and as the rain ceased we wrung out our clothes, put them on again, and very few of them have been pulled off since .... During the morning part of the day, the whole of the British Cavalry were in columns behind the infantry and artillery. We lost many men and horses by the cannon of the enemy. While covering the infantry we were sometimes dismounted in order to rest our horses and also when we were in low ground so that the shot from the French might fly over our heads. Whilst in this situation I stood leaning with my arm over my mare’s neck when a large shot struck a horse by the side of mine, killed him on the spot and knocked me and my mare nearly down, but it did us no injury.

Soon after this our Brigade was mounted, which Brigade is composed of four regiments - 1st Life Guards, 2nd Life Guards and Blues four troops each, and our regiment eight troops - our Brigade is commanded by Lord Edward Somerset. At the time the French seemed determined to get possession of a piece of ground where part of our line was drawn up, accordingly they brought forward very heavy columns of infantry and strong bodies of heavy cavalry, and our Brigade was ordered to form line immediately. Now comes the most bloody scene ever known - the French infantry and cavalry came boldly into the bottom of a very large field while we were formed at the other end, they charged our infantry and as soon as they showed themselves to our front the word charge was given for our Brigade by Colonel Fuller, who soon fell at our head - deeply regretted. However, we overturned everything, both infantry and cavalry, that came in our way, such cutting and hacking never was before seen. When the French lines broke and turned and ran, our regiment being too eager, followed the French cavalry while the cannon and musketry were sweeping our flank. Many fell and our ranks suffered severely - the Duke of Wellington, with tears, it is said, when he saw us so far advancing among the French, but was very afraid very few of us would return - his words were true .... However, of the 7,000 Frenchmen wearing armour very few left the field. They were very fine men but they could not look us in the face, and dreadful was the havoc we made among them. We lost but few men by their swords, it was the grapeshot and the musketry that cut us down before we got amongst them. We had to charge to meet them so far over heavy ground that many of the horses were stuck in deep mud. The men were obliged to jump off, leave them and seek their safety away from the cannon fire.

My mare carried me in famous style, she got a light wound in her off hind leg by a French Lancer. I was after a French Officer who was riding away from me, I came up to him and he thrust his lance at me, I turned it with my sword, it glanced off down and cut my mare below the hock of the off hind leg. I was struck by a musket shot on the left thigh, but it was prevented from doing me harm in a singular manner, which was as follows. The day before my sabretasche, which is a kind of pocket made of leather, had one of the carriages broken and in order to keep it safe it was taken up very short and lodged on my left thigh. The pocket being very full of books and other things prevented the shot from going right through when it struck me. This shot would have fractured my thigh bone had not the sabretasche prevented it.’

Of the 520 men of King’s Dragoon Guards who had taken part in the battle, 129 were killed and 134 wounded, in addition to the loss of 269 horses.

Page was discharged to a pension as a result of ‘long service and various injuries received on duty’ in July 1823, aged 41 years; sold with a copy of The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, by Eversley Belfield.