The Brett Collection of Medals to The Buffs

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Date of Auction: 17th September 1999

Sold for £4,400

Estimate: £2,500 - £3,500

An outstanding Peninsula War medal awarded to Lieutenant Richard Woods, 3rd Foot, who had his leg shot off at the battle of Albuhera on 16 May 1811

Military General Service 1793-1814, 3 clasps, Talavera, Busaco, Albuhera (R. Woods, Lieut. 3rd Foot) very fine and very rare £2500-3500


Ex W. P. Dawson Collection.

At the sanguinary battle of Albuhera, 16 May 1811, the 3rd Foot suffered most severely. Commencing at nine o’clock, the battle continued without interruption until two in the afternoon, and for the greatest part of the day the hostile lines were less than one hundred yards from each other. It was at “Bloody Albuhera” that the Buffs earned the nickname “The Resurrectionists,” owing to the manner in which they seemed to rise from the dead after one of the cavalry charges. Instances of gallantry were many, none greater than that of Lieutenant Matthew Latham, who was severely wounded whilst resolutely defending the King’s Colour of the Buffs. Despite the loss of his arm and a whole series of terrible wounds, Latham survived and was presented by his regiment with a special gold medal worth £100, for which royal authority was granted for him to receive and wear it. The following is an extract from a letter written by an officer of the Buffs four days after the battle:

“I shall endeavour to give you some facts respecting The First Battalion of the Buffs. Captain Burke is killed; Captain Cameron was shot in the neck, wounded in the breast with a pike, and is a prisoner; Captain Marley was wounded twice in the body with a pike, badly; Captain Stevens was shot in the arm, was a prisoner, and made his escape; Lieutenant Woods had his leg shot off, also part of his nose and cheek; Lieutenant Juxon is wounded in the thigh with a pike; Lieutenant Hooper shot through the shoulder; Lieutenant Houghton has received a severe sabre cut in the hand and through the skull; Lieutenant Herbert is dead; Ensigns Chadwich and Thomas are also dead; Lieutenants O’Donnell and Terlow, with Ensign Walsh, were wounded and made prisoners - they have since escaped.

Twenty-four officers and 750 rank and file were actually engaged; out of that number there only remained to draw rations on the following day five officers and 134 men. I was stabbed with a pike in the breast, in the back, and elsewhere by a Polander, and the enemy’s cavalry galloped over me. Our Colours were taken and retaken three times, and they are now in our possession fixed on two halberts.”

Richard Woods was appointed Ensign in the 7th Garrison Battalion on 2 December 1806, at the age of 20 years. He transferred to the 3rd Foot in August 1807, and was promoted to Lieutenant on 20 November 1809. He served with the Buffs in the Peninsula in 1808, 9, 10, and 11, and was present at the passage of the Douro and capture of Opporto, battles of Talavera and Busaco, lines of Torres Vedras, action at Campo Mayor, and the battle of Albuhera. He was severely wounded at Albuhera, losing his right leg and part of the thigh, and also part of his nose and cheek. In respect of his wounds, Woods was granted a Pension of £70 per Annum on 16 May 1812, which was increased to £100 on 18 June 1816. He was promoted Captain, 5th West India Regiment, 13 August 1812; 2nd Royal Veteran Battalion, 15 October 1812; placed on the retired list, 2nd Royal Veteran Battalion, 25 January 1815; appointed to 8th Royal Veteran Battalion, 25 May 1815; placed on the retired list by reduction of the 8th Royal Veteran Battalion, 25 June 1816.

Richard Woods married on the 3rd December 1812, at Ruthfarnham, Dublin, and had issue of 4 sons and 3 daughters. One of his sons, Richard William, born in March 1822, later obtained a commission in the Buffs and fought with the regiment at the battle of Punniar in December 1843 (see lot 339).

Only 7 officers of the 3rd Foot survived to receive the Military General Service Medal with the clasp for Albuhera. The medals of Captains Latham and Wright, Lieutenant O’Donnell, and Assistant Surgeons Brown and Stanford, are all held by the regimental museum in their collection at Canterbury, leaving only those to Captains Houghton and Woods still in private hands.