Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (23 September 2011)

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Date of Auction: 23rd September 2011

Unsold

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

The Peninsula War medal awarded to Lieutenant Charles Walker, 5th Dragoon Guards, who was severely wounded in the regiment’s famous charge at Llerena in April 1812, when the French cavalry was thrown into confusion and swiftly broken

Military General Service 1793-1814, 2 clasps, Vittoria, Toulouse (C. Walker, Lieut. 5th Dgn. Gds.) extremely fine
£3000-3500

Footnote

Ex Glendining’s, April 1904, May 1914, February 1927, January 1931, and Leyland Robinson 1952.

Charles Walker served a year as an Ensign in the 37th Foot prior to his appointment as a Lieutenant in the Kildare Militia, in which regiment he served from 1800 to 1806. He was appointed Cornet, without purchase, in the 5th Dragoon Guards on 1 January 1807, having procured upwards of sixty men for service in the army. He was promoted to Lieutenant in December 1810, Captain in May 1817, and to Major in July 1823. He retired 6 April 1826 having served with the regiment in the Peninsula from September 1811 to April 1814.

Walker was severely wounded in the famous charge of the 5th Dragoon Guards at Llerena (also known as the battle of Villagarcia after the village nearby) on 11 April 1812, when, after a forced march of 60 miles, the regiment attacked a force three times its number of French cavalry, and, in company with the Light Brigade, put them to flight. The only officers wounded were Major Prescott, slightly, and Lieutenant Walker, severely, both of the 5th Dragoon Guards, but only Walker lived to receive the M.G.S. medal. He consequently missed the battle of Salamanca but had rejoined the regiment in time to take part in the battles of Vittoria and Toulouse, at which last battle the 5th Dragoon Guards were instrumental in saving the Portuguese guns from capture. He retired as a Major in April 1826 and died at Aldringham, Suffolk, on 7 November 1854, aged 66.

Llerena/Villagarcia

On the evening of 10 April 1811, General Cotton climbed the steeple of a church in Bienvenida. He knew that the French were occupying Llerena and saw that there were considerable numbers of French cavalry five miles closer to him near the village of Villagarcia. Cotton decided that he should attempt to trap the French cavalry with his superior forces. During the night he despatched Ponsonby with the 12th and 14th Light Dragoons to probe the Villagarcia area, whilst Le Marchant was sent on a circuitous march to get on the French left flank and, it was hoped, cut off their retreat. Slade was also instructed to concentrate his brigade on Bienvenida, though he seems to have been tardy in moving. Cotton retained the 16th Light Dragoons as a reserve. At some time during the night Cotton realised that Ponsonby's force might alert the French before Le Marchant was within striking distance and despatched an aide-de-camp with orders to halt the light cavalry; unfortunately the order arrived too late.

Two squadrons of the British light cavalry had forced the French vedettes out of the village of Villagarcia but, around dawn, had run into the full force of the French cavalry and were then chased back. Ponsonby subsequently found his two regiments faced by the three strong regiments under Lallemand and had to make a controlled withdrawal whilst skirmishing against heavy odds.

Following his orders, Le Marchant had moved his brigade though the night over tortuous terrain for a considerable distance. Coming down from rugged hills bordering the plain where the action was fought Le Marchant and the 5th Dragoon Guards had pulled considerably ahead of the other two regiments of the brigade. Le Marchant noticed, looking through the trees of the wood his men were moving through, that French cavalry, drawn up in two deep columns of squadrons, were pushing the six squadrons of light dragoons back towards a narrow ravine flanked by stone walls. Le Marchant realised that an immediate charge was needed before Ponsonby's squadrons were forced into the congested and broken ground to their rear.

Lallemand, it is recorded, caught a glimpse of red-coated figures in the woods to his left and rode to alert General Peyremmont, who was leading the 2nd Hussars. Peyremmont scorned Lallemand's concerns, saying that the British dragoons were probably a small detachment who had lost their way.

At this point the advantage that the French had enjoyed in the action was suddenly reversed. Le Marchant led his dragoon guards out of the woods and they formed their ranks whilst accelerating into the charge. The 5th Dragoon Guards attacked with their squadrons in echelon, their left refused, and struck the deep and exposed left flank of the French formation to considerable effect. Simultaneously with Le Marchant's charge the 16th Light Dragoons, led by Cotton, appeared to Ponsonby's right-rear; they jumped a stone wall in line, and also charged. The French cavalry were thrown into instant confusion and were swiftly broken.

The British pursuit, continuing to inflict casualties and take prisoners, was conducted all the way back to the walls of Llerena where the bulk of D'Erlon's force was concentrated. The French rallied briefly at a ditch halfway to Llerena, but they were outflanked by the 16th Light Dragoons and were forced into flight once more. A few hours later the French abandoned Llerena and continued their retreat out of Extremadura.