A Fine Series of Peninsular War Medals

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Date of Auction: 19th March 2008

Sold for £900

Estimate: £800 - £1,000

Military General Service 1793-1814, 2 clasps, Badajoz, Salamanca (R. Steel, Serjt., 44th Foot) contact marks and edge bruising, otherwise nearly very fine £800-1000

Footnote

Ex Watters collection, Glendining’s, June 1913.

Richard Steel (or Steele), from Enniskillen, Fermanagh, enlisted in the 44th Foot in December 1807, and served for most of his time in the Regiment in the 2nd Battalion.

The Battalion arrived in Portugal in October 1810 and its first real engagement was at the storming of Badajoz, on 6 April 1811, when it successfully escaladed the walls of the San Vincente Bastion, losing two officers and 37 men killed and seven officers and 53 men wounded in the process. Next in action at Salamanca on 22 July 1812, where it suffered a loss of six dead and 23 wounded, the Battalion entered Madrid in August 1812 and afterwards marched north to take part in the disastrous siege of Burgos - so reduced in strength by this latter operation, it had to be sent back to England to refit.

Later in 1813, the 2/44th was sent to Holland and took part in the Bergen-op-Zoom campaign, in which Steel was wounded, his discharge papers referring to ‘a gunshot wound in the thigh which impedes the free motion of that limb. He received the wound at Bergen-op-Zoom’ (WO 118/11 refers); muster books of the 2/44th (WO 12/5717) covering these operations show him firstly in the General Hospital, and then marked ‘Invalid’ for the next three musters, then ‘At the depot’. On this occasion the 44th formed part of Colonel Carleton’s column on the right of the attack, and suffered more heavily than any other unit so employed, around 200 being killed or wounded out of the 350 men chosen for the storming party.

Steel rejoined the Battalion in October 1814, when he was promoted to Sergeant, in which rank he served at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, where his regiment was closely engaged as part of Sir Dennis Pack’s 9th British Infantry Brigade, losing over 40% of its number. After the battle the Battalion marched on to Paris, returning to England in January 1816.

Transferred to the 1st Battalion on the disbandment of the 2nd later in the same year, Steel was discharged in the rank of Sergeant to a Kilmainham pension in November 1818, in consequence of his Bergen-op-Zoom wound. But he soldiered on in the 3rd and 2nd Royal Veterans’ Regiment and was discharged for a final time in May 1826, by then, alas, as a Private with only a ‘Tolerably good’ character (WO 121/141 refers) - there are discrepancies in his stated age in the various records, but when he finally left the service in April 1826, he was said to be aged 37 years.

He died in Preston in March 1867, when he would have been about 77 years of age.