A Collection of Medals to the 10th and 11th Hussars

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Date of Auction: 5th April 2006

Sold for £7,500

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

Waterloo 1815 (Lieutenant W. S. Smith, 10th Royal Reg. Hussars) fitted with contemporary replacement silver clip and bar suspension and large ribbon buckle, minor edge bruising, otherwise good very fine £3000-3500

Footnote

William Slayter Smith was appointed Ensign in the 2nd Garrison Battalion on 25 December 1806, becoming Lieutenant in November 1808. He exchanged into the 13th Light Dragoons in February 1810, and into the 10th Hussars in November 1814. He served in the Peninsula from February 1810, was present on the left of the position at Busaco, and was with his Regiment in covering the retreat of the army to the lines of Lisbon. He received a sabre cut in the head and a pistol shot through the body in the celebrated charge by the 13th Light Dragoons at Campo Mayor, on 25 March 1811, when two squadrons of that regiment, consisting of 203 officers and men, overthrew a body of 880 French cavalry, out of which number 300 were killed, wounded and taken prisoners, the loss of the 13th was 12 killed, 33 wounded and 20 missing. He returned home for the recovery of wounds in June 1811, returned to the Peninsula in the spring of 1812, and was engaged in a variety of minor affairs; whilst on picquet with 30 men, the army suddenly changed its position without being recalled, and was left without support for forty-eight hours in the presence of Count D’Erlon’s corps, but succeeded in keeping his position until joined by a strong patrol of the German Legion, which had been sent in search of the party; during the affair he received a wound from the ball of a carbine and also had his horse killed. In consequence of ill health, he returned again to England in October 1812. He joined the Senior Department of the Royal Military College in October 1813, where he remained until the 10th Hussars went to Belgium in April 1815. He was present during the proceedings of the 17th June, and was for a few minutes in the hands of the enemy, but in the confusion of a sudden retreat got away from them. This incident is recorded in a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel T. W. Taylor, 10th Hussars, published in Siborne’s Waterloo Letters:
‘Lieutenant Smith of the 10th was sent across to the main road and was present at the affair between the 7th Hussars and the French Lancers; during which, at considerable risk to himself, he saved Lieutenant Gordon of the 7th, who was wounded, from capture or death, by dismounting and lending him his horse to carry him to the rear till he could meet his own led horses. Lieutenant Smith escaped being taken by leaping over the ditch off the chaussée, till the Lancers
being driven back he got his horse again.’

After Waterloo, Smith commanded a small party of observation, and whilst so engaged took General Lauriston prisoner and conveyed him by desire of General Vivian to the Duke of Wellington, after which he was sent to the headquarters of Marshal Blucher, and remained with him till the treaty at St Cloud, the 3rd of July, making constant reports to Major-General Sir Hussey Vivian of the operations of the Prussian army. The capture of General Lauristan is told in detail in Siborne’s
Waterloo:

‘Vivian had on this day (June 26) sent forward Lieutenant Slayter Smith, (now h.p. of the 72nd Regiment, and Captain in the Yorkshire Hussars), of the 10th Hussars, en reconnaissance, as far as Nesle, with directions to proceed, if practicable, to Roye, and gain information concerning the movements of the French army. Lieutenant Smith, having reached the latter place, ascertained that French troops had left the town the night before, and that a body of the Gensd’amerie had marched out at one end of the town whilst he and his party had entered by the other. On returning from Nesle, he had proceeded but a short distance, when he perceived a carriage moving rapidly, and coming from a cross road. He ordered the driver to halt, and found in the carriage a military-looking man, who after some evasive answers to his questions, acknowledged himself to be General Lauriston, aide-de-camp to Napoleon, and stated that he was going, in the first instance, to his country seat at Vœux, near Le Cateau, and then to join the King, Louis XVII. He added that he had gone to Paristo raise a party for His Majesty, that he had not only failed in the attempt but had narrowly escaped being arrested. Having given this explanation, he entreated Lieutenant Smith to allow him to continue his route, but the latter, considering it his duty to make him a prisoner, took him that night to Sir Hussey Vivian, who then desired Lieutenant Smith to proceed with the general to the Duke of Wellington.

On reaching his Grace’s quarters at one o’clock in the morning, and intimating his errand, a curious incident occurred. There was no guard at the house, not even a sentry, and Smith had some difficulty rousing a sleepy servant from amongst his fellows, to announce him. The Duke was engaged in conversation with a Frenchman. On a table in the room appeared the Debris of a repast. Having explained to the Duke the name and rank of the individual he had brought with him, the Duke said, “Bring him in.” On hearing the name of Lauriston, the Frenchman before mentioned, who had been sent to the Duke by Fouché, to treat for a cessation of hostilities, became greatly alarmed, and begged to know how he might escape without being recognised. His Grace remarked, “There is but one door and one window - take your choice.” He preferred the door and escaped by passing behind the Duke’s back as Lauristan entered. An animated conversation ensued between the two generals, and an hour had elapsed in this way, when the Duke gave his orders to Lieutenant Smith for the disposal of the General; whom he subsequently sent to the King, much to his annoyance, since he was thus obliged to appear before His Majesty as a prisoner instead of a volunteer.’

Smith exchanged into the 1st Life Guards, in the rank of Cornet, in June 1819, and into the 72nd Regiment, as Ensign, half pay, in November 1819. He was appointed Adjutant, with the rank of Captain, to the Yorkshire Hussars, with whom he served until his retirement in 1863. Captain William Slayter-Smith, as he was latterly styled, died at Ripon on 18 July 1865, aged seventy-two. He was buried with full military honours on the 25th; the two Ripon troops paraded in full dress with arms, and many other members of the Regiment in full dress without arms, “to pay respect to the remains of one who had served so long and honourably in the Corps, and to whose ability and exertions they were in a great measure indebted for the high character borne by the Regiment at the present time.” Sold with extensive research including an original copy of Record of the Services of the Yorkshire Hussars by Henry Stooks Smith, London, 1853, from which much of the above detail is taken, and three copies of the quarterly Yorkshire Hussars’ Magazine (January & July 1929, and July 1931).