A Fine Series of Peninsular War Medals

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Date of Auction: 19th March 2008

Sold for £1,100

Estimate: £700 - £900

Military General Service 1793-1814, 3 clasps, Salamanca, Vittoria, Toulouse (G. White, Serjt., 3rd L. Dgns.) edge bruise, otherwise good very fine £700-900

Footnote

Gilbert White, from Boyle in Roscommon, enlisted in the 3rd Light Dragoons in December 1803, was advanced to Sergeant in March 1811 and was landed at Lisbon in July of the latter year.

The Regiment participated in several minor clashes over the coming months, but did not take part in a proper general engagement until Salamanca in July 1812, by which stage, for reasons unknown, White had been reduced to Private.

Approximately 330 strong at Salamanca, the 3rd took part in the great charge of Le Marchant’s Heavy Brigade, the only really decisive stroke of cavalry during the whole of the Peninsular War:

‘The French troops who survived this onslaught (from Leith’s 5th Division) broke and fled ... as they looked back, they saw to their horror, Le Marchant’s Brigade of Heavy Dragoons thundering after them, their long, heavy sabres glinting in the bright sunlight. The fugitives tried to defend themselves as best they could but were easy meat for the Dragoons who swept over them with ease, chopping and hacking all around them. Five French battalions were left totally destroyed.’

Coming rapidly to the aid of these unfortunates were the 4,300 men of Brennier’s Division, but they were exhausted by their long march at the double and were not composed enough to meet the shock of the charging Dragoons. In a few minutes they too were streaming away in terror to the safety of the woods; the British horsemen, by now all three regiments intermixed, wreaking terrible havoc among them with their sabres. At the edge of the woods, whilst engaging the last of the fleeing infantry, Le Marchant was shot through the spine and died instantly, a huge loss to the cavalry arm.

On 12 August, the Regiment entered Madrid, and in the next month formed part of the force covering the disastrous Burgos siege operations. Although present at Vittoria and Toulouse, it did not see much fighting. In June 1814 the 3rd marched up through France to Boulogne and disembarked at Dover on July 20. It was not at Waterloo.

White was discharged in Dublin in July 1821, aged 39 years, as a consequence of being ‘unfit for further service from chronic rheumatism and being worn out from service in the Peninsula and in France’ (WO 119/62 refers). Awarded a Kilmainham pension of 9d. a day, a sum that was increased to 1/- a day in December 1851 (WO 23/33 refers), he died at Sligo in March 1860.