The Robin Scott-Smith Collection of Medals to Casualties
Date of Auction: 17th July 2019
Sold for £22,000
Estimate: £10,000 - £15,000
Waterloo 1815 (Captain William Buckley, 1st Regt. Foot, 3rd Batt.) fitted with original steel clip and ring suspension, good very fine £10,000-£15,000
FootnoteWilliam Buckley was born around 1772. His name first appears on the muster rolls of 23rd Regiment of Foot in 1794. In 1802 Sergeant-Major Buckley married Mary Heaseley in Gibraltar. In 1803 he transferred to the 1st Foot (Royal Scots), and was promoted Ensign. He was made Lieutenant in 1804, and became Captain in 1810. He served through the Peninsula Campaign with the 3rd Battalion from November 1812 and was present at Osma, Vittoria, St Sebastian, Bidassoa, Nivelle, Nive and Bayonne. Buckley was killed in action at Quatre Bras on 16 June 1815.
‘On 17 July [1813, at St Sebastian], the important post of the Ridge of St Bartolomeo after having been bombarded, was carried with great dash by three companies of The Royals, and one of the 9th Foot, under Colonel Cameron. A further redoubt was unsuccessfully stormed, but was taken a couple of nights later. On the 20th, the breaching batteries opened from the Chofres Hills, and directed their fire on the weakest part of the wall, namely the eastern face. On the 22nd, the wall was breached. A second breach, further to the right, was commenced on the 23rd, and the assault was fixed for the next day, even though the defences which covered the breach had not been mastered. This was, indeed, tempting Providence, but owing to a fire which broke out in the town, the attack was postponed. This postponement is said to have affected the troops, and the conditions under which they had to work, unfavourably. In addition, it gave General Ray, a most indefatigable soldier, time to prepare a warm reception for the storming party.
The troops detailed for the assault of the great breach, were the battalion under Major Frazer, supported by the 9th Foot. The Forlorn Hope consisted of the light company of The Royals, and 20 men of the light company of the 9th, with a ladder party. Lieutenant Clarke was in command of The Royals, and Lieutenant Colin Campbell [afterwards Lord Clyde], of the 9th, in command of the whole. The 38th Foot were to assail the lesser breach.
The signal was given at 5 a.m. while it was still dark, and the troops filed out of the trenches and crossed the open ground which lay between them and the walls, as quickly as its slippery and broken condition would allow. All might have gone well, but the British batteries, not having heard the signal for the advance, continued to fire, so that the stormers were soon under fire from both friend and foe, which caused considerable confusion in the ranks.
Major Frazer, closely followed by some of his men, was the first to reach the breach, but the difficulties of the advance and the confusion caused by two-thirds of the storming party having lost their direction, and becoming engaged in a musketry contest with the defenders of the walls they had halted in the dark to fire on a gap in the wall which they mistook for the breach) denied to this party the immediate support which was essential to success.
Major Peter Frazer was killed whilst gallantly encouraging the few men that were with him. He leaped down the farther side of the breach, had reached the burning houses, and died almost in the ranks of the enemy. The command then fell upon Captain Mullen, which duty he performed with much credit. But the moment for success had passed, the stormers were dispirited by their awful losses, and the confusion which had been experienced; and the defenders, flushed with the success of their first endeavours, redoubled their efforts, and a frightful fire of grape, musketry, and hand grenades from every gun, musket, and hand, smote the confused and pent-up mass of the stormers. Success being hopeless, the troops were ordered to retire, burning with rage and shame at the want of success which they could not but recognise was largely due to circumstances outside their control.’
Casualties amongst the 1st Foot (Royals) on this occasion were substantial. In addition to Major Frazer, one Captain, four Lieutenants, six Sergeants, and 75 rank and file were killed; nine Officers, including Captain Buckley (severely), 7 Sergeants and 230 rank and file were wounded, and a further two Officers, 7 Sergeants and 126 men were prisoners of war.
Captain Buckley was slightly wounded at the siege of Bayonne in 1814 when, on 14 April, the French made a sortie from the citadel and drove in our pickets. The sortie was repulsed, however, the lost ground recovered, and the campaign closed with the last few shots of this night. The French lost a General and more than 900 men; the British nearly as many, and it was all wasted slaughter, for on the 12th, Napoleon had abdicated and the necessity for conflict was at an end.
In the Waterloo campaign, the Royal Scots formed part of the 9th Infantry Brigade under Major-General Sir Dennis Pack, itself part of the 5th Division of Sir Thomas Picton. The division arrived at Quatre Bras on 16 June at about 3 o’clock, having covered 21 miles at a rapid pace, and practically without food. After a short rest the division took up an alignment along the Namur-Nivelle road, Pack’s brigade being on the right, and nearer to the cross roads.
It was immediately found necessary to send forward the light companies of the division, to resist the swarms of French skirmishers which were advanced as the prelude to an attack in force. Whilst this musketry fight was in progress, the division suffered terribly from the French artillery on the opposing heights against which the Allies had but few guns to oppose, and upon seeing the heads of the attacking columns emerge into the open, Wellington decided to attack in turn rather than await their advance. The division, with the exception of the 92nd, advanced, and though suffering severely from the fire of both artillery and infantry, pressed forward steadily till their opponents, overawed by their demeanour and the bristling line of levelled bayonets, broke and fled.
The division now formed a series of battalion squares which were fiercely assaulted by large bodies of French Cuirassiers and Lancers, which they repulsed with loss. To support the 42nd and 44th, which were occupying a more exposed position, and were surrounded by cavalry, Picton decided to unite The Royals and 28th, and led them boldly forward in quarter columns into the midst of the French troops. On reaching a favourable position a square was formed. A contemporary account by W. Siborne describes what followed:
“The repeated and furious charges which ensued were invariably repulsed by The Royals and the 28th, with the utmost steadiness and consummate bravery, and although the Lancers individually dashed forward and frequently wounded the men in the ranks, yet all endeavours to effect an opening of which the succeeding squadron of attack might take advantage, completely failed. The ground on which the square stood was such that the surrounding remarkably tall rye concealed it in a great measure in the first attacks, from the view of the French cavalry until the latter came quite close upon it, but to remedy this inconvenience, and to preserve the impetus of their charge, the Lancers had frequently to recourse to sending forward a daring individual to plant a lance in the earth at a very short distance from the bayonets, and then they charged upon the lance flag as a mark of direction.”
In this way, the battalion, in common with the others forming the division, sustained repeated charges from an overwhelming force of French cavalry, and notwithstanding heavy losses from artillery fire, presented an undaunted front to all opponents, even though towards the end of the day, shortness of ammunition rendered it impossible to sustain an adequate fire to keep down that of the ever present French tirailleurs.
Siborne concludes: “Along the whole front of the central position of the Anglo-Allied army, the French cavalry was expending its force in repeated but unavailing charge against the indomitable squares. The gallant, the brilliant, the heroic manner in which the remnants of Kempt’s and Pack’s brigades held their ground, of which they surrendered not an inch throughout the terrific struggle of that day, must ever stand prominent in the records of the triumphs and prowess of British infantry.”
The 3/1st Foot lost 6 Officers and 20 men killed, and 12 Officers and 180 men wounded in this engagement. Captain William Buckley was one of the officers killed and the most senior officer in the regiment to be killed either at Quatre Bras or at Waterloo, itself, on the 18th. On the recommendation of the Duke of Kent, and approved by King George, his wife was granted a Royal Bounty of Sixty pounds a year, in addition to her usual pension as an officers’ widow, commencing from 17 June 1815, she being left with four children in very distressed circumstances. Buckley’s name heads those recorded on the white marble Regimental memorial in St Joseph’s Chruch at Waterloo.