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Albuera 16/5/1811

 
As fate would have it Private John Waddington (7/1/1787-9/1/1855) (Warrington) survived with out injury. It was at this battle Lieutenant Edward Charles Close was wounded and prayed that if spared he would build a church in thanks . This he did at Morpeth N.S.W. Australia. Both men eventually lived in the town of Morpeth, where both passed away and are buried.
This was to be the worst battle the 48th engaged in. Their casualties were the highest of any other Regiment.
As Massena retired Wellington pursued. The final action of Massena's retreat was at Sabugalon, 3rd of
April, when Sir William Erskin exposed Beckwith's brigade to an attack by three French divisions. Beckwith held on with the help of the third division. Badajoz had surrendered to the French previously on the 9th of March to Soult and this forced Wellington to split his army . 20,000 troops were at Badajoz observing Soult, and if possible attempting to recapture Badajoz, whilst the balance of Wellington's forces 37,504, were determined to meet Massena. On the 3rd of March 1811, Massena ( with 48,000 troops) made an unsucessfull attack against the British forces .
He tried again on the 3rd of May but this also failed. Massena marched away on the 10th of May, the French Garrison at Almeida was evacuated, without British opposition. Wellington was not pleased with this result. As Soult advanced to Badajoz, Beresford took a position across the French path at Albuera.With British troops of 10,449, Portuguese 10,201, and General Joachim Blakes (1759-1827) Spanish force of 14,634, Beresford took up the center, the British 2nd division and Portuguese to the left and the Spanish to the heights and to the right. ( the 4th Division were in reserve with two German legions in the village of Albuera.)
Soult's forces of 24,000 troops arrived on the 15th of May, Soult made two assaults on the 16th, one against the village and one to the heights. Blake was to divide his forces and send half to protect the flank but he only sent four battalions under the command of General Zayus supported by only 700 British cavalry. Zayus held off the French attack. Colborne's brigade ( 1/3rd, 2/31st, 2/48th  , 2/66th, ) of Division 2 moved in support. Firing volleys at 60 paces into the flank of the massive French column, they drove the French forces back and pursued with the bayonet. Colbourn wanted a square formed due to a very heavy storm that had descended on the field .
The Square would have given cover for the British troops but this was not carried out by his divisional commander, William Stewart. Out of a hailstorm the French cavalry, French 2nd Hussars and the Polish 2nd Vistula Lancers charged the exposed infantry and massacred them with out pity. The 31st managed to form a square and allowed themselves some protection against the charge. The 31st lost 643 troops from 755. The 2/48th was effectively killed in action losing 343 troops from 552, wounded or 193 soldiers (John Waddington being one ) and nine Officers captured most of which escaped soon after to rejoin the 1/ 48th regiment . This included its commander ,Major William Brooke ,the rest of the battalions were annihilated. The 2/48th ceased to exist.
A charge by two British squadrons was also cut to pieces. The second brigade, under General Houghton
advanced in an attempt to avail a rescue, but he was met by 9,800 French troops. Houghton donned a Red coat to be part of his troops and was killed in the action. Three more battalion commanders fell . Beresford did not wish to commit his reserves to the massacre .
Commander of the 4th division, Lowrey Cole acted on his own, and without orders rushed his men forward
into a tempest of artillery fire. This consisted of the Fusilier Brigades of 1/7th, 2/7th, 1/23, and some Portuguese Forces. The only order given was to "Close Up, Close In , Fire Away". The French were being driven back and with in half an hour 1,045, out of 2,015 French troops were killed. Houghton's brigade 29th, 1/48th  and 1/57th began a full frontal assault against the French 5th corps.
A line of British infantry of 1,900 ,two deep ,faced 8,000 French 12 deep .As the battle continued, British and French troops were involved in a massacre of each others forces. The charge of General Coles 4th Division and the Fusilier Brigade turned the tide for the French, Soult began to withdraw . All of the 48th's commanders were either killed or wounded . This left a Captain in command of the 48th, ironicaly a Frenchmen (Cimitiere) The 1/48th was all but annihilated with the loss of 280 out of 497,
It has been recorded as the most heroic day in British warfare and a victory for the ordinary soldier, most of whom lay dead, in places three feet deep.
Of the others, the 2/7th had only 85 men out of 568 left.
The 48th regiment's lost a total of 623 men out of 949 with 276 wounded or captured . This left only 50 men
standing and able to fight. They fought till the French withdrew having lost about 8,000 troops. Houghton's and Colborn's brigades were amalgamated but only managed two very weak divisions. Wellington observed " one more French attack we shall be finished".
 
 

 

 
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Last revised: May 19, 2007.