The Morning of Waterloo by J.D. Aylward
The Duke of Wellington takes a cup of tea from the 95th Rifles on his way to the battlefield

Extracts taken from: Jackets of Green by Sir Arthur Bryant, C.H., published by Collins 1972.

'The true test of real excellence is not immediate success but durable fame'.
Sir Harry Smith

After Napoleon’s abdication the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Rifles returned to England, while the 3rd, after a brief stay at Plymouth, crossed the Atlantic on one of those vaguely conceived amphibious enterprises so dear to Britain’s parliamentary statesmen - the capture of New Orleans as a means of forcing the Americans, with whom since 1812 she had been at war, to make peace.

Four Companies of the Regiment one from the 1st Battalion, one from the 2nd and two from the 3rd remained for the present on the Continent as part of the garrison of Belgium which was once part of the Spanish and more recently of the Austrian Netherlands - had been incorporated since 1793 in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Now, little to the liking of its Catholic inhabitants, it had been allotted by the victorious peacemakers at Vienna to the new Kingdom of the Netherlands under the Protestant and Dutch royal House of Orange.

These four Companies of the 95th, under the command of Lt. Col. Alexander Cameron - one of the founder officers of the Experimental Rifle Corps - had originally formed part of an expedition hastily despatched during the last winter of the war in an abortive attempt to capture Bergen-op-Zoom and Antwerp. Here they had greatly distinguished themselves under extremely adverse climatic conditions. An officer of another Regiment who was present described how well, at the battle of Merxem in February 1814, the young Riflemen behaved.

Under the walls of Bergen-op-Zoom he watched a trial of skill between a crack marksman of the 95th and a French tirailleur, each firing at the other from behind a tree at a hundred yards’ range. The Rifleman won by sticking a loaf of bread crowned by his cap on the point of his sword-bayonet, waiting for it to be hit and then plunging about on the ground as though he was mortally wounded, until his adversary - eager to plunder his corpse - emerged from his cover and was promptly shot dead by him.

When, therefore, in the spring of 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba, these four Rifle Companies were still in Belgium. Here, where a polyglot international army was hastily assembled under the Duke of Wellington, they were joined by five Companies of the 2nd Battalion and six of the 1st, the remaining five Companies of the 3rd Battalion being still on the far side of the Atlantic after the ill-planned expedition of which they were part had been bogged down by the defenders of New Orleans. Though, like every other unit of Wellington’s army, brought up to strength by a strong infusion of new recruits, with their old Light Division comrades of John Colborne’s 52nd they brought to the Waterloo campaign a higher proportion of experienced soldiers than any other Regiment.

When on June 15th Napoleon crossed the frontier and struck at the Prussians, the 1st Battalion, then quartered at Brussels, was the first to engage the French. Marching at dawn on the 16th at the head of Picton’s Division it reached Quatre Bras, twenty miles to the south, in blistering heat, at three o’clock that afternoon.

Here, under the command of Colonel Sir Andrew Barnard and the personal supervision of the Duke himself, it at once went into action. By driving and holding back, until reinforcements arrived, vastly superior French forces who were attempting to cut off Wellington’s army from its Prussian allies before turning on the latter, it played a vital part in preventing Ney’s corps from falling on the flank of Blucher’s army, which, a few miles to the cast at Ligny, was engaged in a life and death struggle against Napoleon.

Two days later on the ridge at Waterloo, where, in order to remain in touch with the defeated and retreating Prussians, the British had withdrawn on the day after their victory at Quatre Bras, the 2nd Battalion under Lt.-Col. Norcott, together with two Companies of the 3rd, were posted on the extreme right of Wellington’s defensive line as part of his tactical reserve. The 1st Battalion, which had suffered heavily at Quatre Bras, was stationed in the centre along a sunken lane which crossed the main Charleroi - Brussels highway at the top of the ridge the British - Netherlander Army had to defend. Three of its Companies occupied a small knoll and sandpit opposite the farm of La Haye Sainte, a hundred yards down the slope up which the French were expected to advance on Brussels.

Shortly before the battle, Wellington and his staff, visiting the outposts, stopped there to refresh themselves from a camp kettle of hot sweet tea which Captain Kincaid, the Adjutant like the good Rifleman he was had brewed up to revive his men after the torrential downpour of the previous night. It was while they were bivouacked during it in the cornfields of the Waterloo plain that that veteran officer of the Battalion, Lieutenant George Simmons—“ a universal favourite with men and officers” for his inexhaustible good humour and resource had greatly impressed a young greenhorn subaltern by advising him to pick up a dirty discarded blanket which, daubed with mud and clay, kept them both dry as they lay on the rain-soaked ground, enabling them to sleep in peace and rise “fresh as larks and dry as bones”.

It was Captain Kincaid in his advanced post with his sharpshooters in the La Haye Sainte gravel-pit, who left posterity the best account of how the battle went in the centre.

“From the moment we took possession of the knoll, we had busied ourselves in collecting branches of trees and other things for the purpose of making an abatis to block up the road between that and the farm-house. It was put to the proof sooner than we expected by a troop of our own Light Dragoons, who, having occasion to gallop through, astonished us not a little by clearing away every stick of it. We had just time to replace the scattered branches when the whole of the enemy’s artillery opened, and their countless columns began to advance under cover of it.

“The scene at that moment was grand and imposing. The column, destined as our particular friends, first attracted our notice, and seemed to consist of about ten thousand infantry. A smaller body of infantry and one of cavalry moved on their right; and, on their left, another huge column of infantry and a formidable body of cuirassiers, while beyond them it seemed one moving mass.

We saw Bonaparte himself take post on the side of the road immediately in our front, surrounded by a numerous staff; and each regiment, as they passed him, rent the air with shouts of Vive l’Empereur!’ Nor did they cease after they had passed; but, backed by the thunder of their artillery and carrying with them the rub-a-dub of drums and the tantarara of trumpets in addition to their increasing shouts, it looked at first as if they had some hopes of scaring us off the ground. It was a singular contrast to the stern silence reigning on our side, where nothing, as yet, but the voices of our great guns told that we had mouths to open when we chose to use them. Our rifles were, however, in a very few seconds required to play their parts and opened such a fire on the advancing skirmishers as quickly brought them to a stand-still.

But their columns advanced steadily through them, although our incessant tiraillade was telling in their centre with fearful exactness, and our post was quickly turned in both flanks, which compelled us to fall back and join our comrades behind the hedge, though not before some of our officers and theirs had been engaged in personal combat.

“When the heads of their columns showed over the knoll which we had just quitted they received such a fire from our first line that they wavered and hung behind it a little. But, cheered and encouraged by the gallantry of their officers, who were dancing and flourishing their swords in front, they at last boldly advanced to the opposite side of our hedge and began to deploy. Our first line, in the meantime, was getting so thinned that Picton found it necessary to bring up his second, but fell in the act of doing it.

The command of the division at that critical moment devolved upon Sir James Kempt, who was galloping along the line, animating the men to steadiness. He called to me by name, where I happened to be standing on the right of our battalion, and desired `that I would never quit that spot.’ I told him that he might depend upon it: and in another instant I found myself in a fair way of keeping my promise more religiously than I intended. For, glancing my eye to the right, I saw the next field covered with the cuirassiers, some of whom were making directly for the gap in the hedge where I was standing.

I had not hitherto drawn my sword, as it was generally to be had at a moment’s warning; but, from its having been exposed to the last night’s rain, it had now got rusted in the scabbard and refused to come forth! I was in a precious scrape! I confess that I felt considerable doubts as to the propriety of standing there to be sacrificed without the means of making a scramble for it.

My mind, however, was happily relieved from such an embarrassing consideration before my decision was required. For the next moment the cuirassiers were charged by our House-hold Brigade; and the infantry in our front giving way at the same time under our terrific shower of musketry, the flying cuirassiers tumbled in among the routed infantry, followed by the Life Guards, who were cutting away in all directions. Hundreds of the infantry threw themselves down and pretended to be dead, while the cavalry galloped over them, and then got up and ran away. I never saw such a scene in all my life.

“Lord Wellington had given orders that the troops were, on no account, to leave the position to follow up any
temporary advantage. So we now resumed our post, as we stood at the commencement of the battle, and with three Companies again advanced on the knoll. . . Our division got considerably reduced in numbers during the last attack; but Lord Wellington’s fostering hand sent Sir John Lambert to our support with the Sixth Division; and we now stood prepared for another and a more desperate struggle.

“Our Battalion had already lost three officers killed, and six or seven wounded; among the latter were Sir Andrew Barnard and Colonel Cameron. Someone asking me what had become of my horse’s ear was the first intimation I had of his being wounded; and I now found that, independent of one ear having been shaved close to his head, (I suppose by a cannon shot,) a musket ball had grazed across his forehead, and another gone through one of his legs; but he did not seem much the worse for either of them,

“Between two or three o’clock we were tolerably quiet, except from a thundering cannonade; and the enemy had, by that time, got the range of our position so accurately that every shot brought a ticket for somebody’s head. An occasional gun, beyond the plain, far to our left, marked the approach of the Prussians; but their progress was too slow to afford a hope of their arriving in time to take any share in the battle. On our right, the roar of cannon and musketry had been incessant from the time of its commencement; but the higher ground near us prevented our seeing anything of what was going on.

“Between three and four o’clock the storm gathered again in our front. Our three Companies on the knoll were soon involved in a furious fire. The Germans occupying La Haye Sainte expended all their ammunition and fled from the post. The French took possession of it; and, as it flanked our knoll, we were obliged to abandon it also, and fall back again behind the hedge.

The loss of La Haye Sainte was of the most serious consequence, as it afforded the enemy an establishment within our position. They immediately brought up two guns on our side of it and began serving out some grape to us. But they were so very near that we destroyed their artillerymen before they could give us a second round.

“The silencing of these guns was succeeded by a very extra-ordinary scene . . . A strong regiment of Hanoverians advanced in line to charge the enemy out of La Haye Sainte. But they were themselves charged by a Brigade of Cuirassiers, and, excepting one officer on a little black horse who went off to the rear like a shot out of a shovel, I do believe that every man of them was put to death in about five seconds.

A Brigade of British Light Dragoons advanced to their relief, and a few on each side began exchanging thrusts. It seemed likely to be a drawn battle between them, with-out much harm being done, when our men brought it to a crisis sooner than either side anticipated. For they previously had their rifles eagerly pointed at the cuirassiers, with a view of saving the perishing Hanoverians; but the fear of killing their friends with-held them until the others were utterly overwhelmed, when they instantly opened a terrific fire on the whole concern, sending both sides to flight. So that on the small space of ground, within a hundred yards of us, where five thousand men had been fighting the instant before, there was not now a living soul to be seen.

“The same field continued to be a wild one the whole of the afternoon. It was a sort of duelling-post between the two armies, every half hour showing a meeting of some kind upon it. For the two or three succeeding hours there was no variety with us, but one continued blaze of musketry. The smoke hung so thick about that, although not more than eighty yards asunder, we could only distinguish each other by the flashes of the pieces. A good many of our guns had been disabled, and a great many more rendered unserviceable in consequence of the unprecedented close fighting; for where they had been posted but a very few yards in front of the line, it was impossible to work them.

“ I shall never forget the scene which the field of battle presented about seven in the evening. I felt weary and worn out, less from fatigue than anxiety. Our Division, which had stood upwards of five thousand men at the commencement of the battle, had gradually dwindled down into a solitary line of skirmishers.

The Twenty-Seventh Regiment were lying literally dead, in square, a few yards behind us. My horse had received another shot through the leg, and one through the flap of the saddle, which lodged in his body, sending him a step beyond the pension list. The smoke still hung so thick about us that we could see nothing. I walked a little way to each flank to endeavour to get a glimpse of what was going on. But nothing met my eye except the mangled remains of men and horses, and I was obliged to return to my post as wise as I went.

“ I had never yet heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but this seemed likely to be an exception, as all were going by turns. We burned with desire to have a last thrust at our, vis-à-vis; for, however, desperate our affairs were, we had still the satisfaction of seeing that theirs were worse. Sir John Lambert continued to stand as our support at the head of three good old Regiments, one dead (the Twenty-Seventh) and two living ones; and we took the liberty of soliciting him to aid our views. But the Duke’s orders on that head were so very particular that the gallant general had no choice. “

It was a private Rifleman in one of the 1st Battalion’s dwindling squares on the shot-ridden ridge who saw the Duke emerge from the smoke-charged air as he went calmly about his business of restoring the morale of his all-but broken centre in the penultimate crisis of the battle. Riding up to the square, which had lost all its officers, he himself gave the command characteristically using the correct Rifleman’s order “95th, unfix your swords, left face and extend yourselves once more; we shall soon have them over the hill!” Then, the Rifleman recalled, “he rode away on our right, and how he escaped being shot, God only knows, for all that time the shot was flying like hailstones”

The battle was resolved by the action on the far right of the British line of the other Battalion of the Regiment—the 2nd, with the two skirmishing Companies of the 3rd and its two companion veteran Regiments of Adam’s Brigade, the 52nd and 71st Light Infantry, which Wellington had expressly kept in reserve for this moment. They had suffered heavy casualties during the prolonged French artillery bombardment, and when, an hour or two before the hour of final decision, the Duke moved them into the front line, according to Captain Joseph Logan of the 2nd Battalion they were “cruelly mauled with shot and shell.

About five minutes after we went into action I succeeded to the command of the Battalion in consequence of our three Field Officers being severely wounded. We were now attacked in square by Lancers and Cuirassiers sup-ported by 18 guns which played onto our square at one hundred yards distance. We repelled this attack but suffered severely; one shot knocked down nine men.

We were attacked again four different times, but my little Battalion maintained their ground. Soon after Napoleon advanced with his Imperial Guard and commenced a heavy attack. Lord Wellington rode up to me and ordered I should attack them immediately. I moved on with the 52nd and 71st Regiments on my right and such a carnage never beheld. The roaring of guns was so great that the man next to me could not hear my orders. “

It was Colonel Colborne of the 52nd on the right of Adam’s Brigade—with the two skirmishing Companies of the 3rd Rifles protecting its own right from the French cavalry—who had first taken the initiative of moving out of the line and throwing his Regiment—closely followed by the 2nd Battalion of the Rifles and the 71st—against the flank of the Imperial Guard. According to another account, “the attacking column of the Imperial Guard, having Maitland’s Brigade of Guards in its front, were evidently staggered by finding Adam’s Brigade on its flank. It halted and, wheeling up its left sections, began to fire. Colborne also halted the 52nd and fired into the column and the 2nd Battalion 95th, coming up at that instant on the left, poured a deadly fire into the Guard.

Then Colborne checked the fire and calling out `Charge! Charge!’ led his men against the column. The 2nd Battalion joined vigorously in this charge which ... was remarkable for the order, the steadiness, the resoluteness and the daring by which it was characterised.

The Imperial Guard wavered, reeled and then, breaking up, fled in inextricable confusion. The Brigade, continuing its triumphal march across the field and bringing its left shoulder, the 2nd Battalion, rather forward, halted near the Charleroi road with the left of the 2nd Battalion close to the orchard of La Kaye Sainte.” According to Captain Logan, Wellington himself rode beside the Riflemen, several times calling out, “Move on, my brave fellows!” as they and their Light Infantry comrades advanced eastwards across the battle-field, rolling up the discomfited French.

“Presently,” wrote Kincaid, still with the remnants of the 1st Battalion in the battered centre of the hard-pressed line, “a cheer which we knew to be British commenced far to the right and made every one prick up his ears. It was Lord Wellington’s long wished for orders to advance. It gradually approached, growing louder as it grew near; we took it up by instinct, charged through the hedge down upon the old knoll, sending our adversaries flying at the point of the bayonet. Lord Wellington galloped up to us at the instant and our men began to cheer him. But he called out, `No cheering, my lads, but forward, and complete your victory!’

“This movement had carried us clear of the smoke, and to people who had been for so many hours enveloped in darkness, in the midst of destruction and naturally anxious about the result of the day, the scene which now met the eye conveyed a feeling of more exquisite gratification than can be conceived. It was a fine summer’s evening, just before sunset. The French were flying in one confused mass. British lines were seen in close pursuit and in admirable order, as far as the eye could reach to the right, while the plain to the left was filled with Prussians.

The enemy made one last attempt at a stand on the rising ground to our right of La Belle Alliance. But a charge from General Adam’s Brigade again threw them into a state of confusion, which was now inextricable, and their ruin was complete. Artillery, baggage and everything belonging to them fell into our hands. After pursuing them until dark we halted about two miles beyond the field of battle, leaving the Prussians to follow up the victory.
“This was the last, the greatest, and the most uncomfortable heap of glory that I ever had a hand in.”

By the time the victory was won, close on a third of the Green Jackets who had stood to arms on the fateful morning of June 18th 1815, had been killed or wounded. So outstanding had been their services that when, three weeks later, the British entered Paris, it was, on Wellington’s orders, the 2nd Battalion, led by its adjutant, Thomas Smith—one of Harry Smith’s two Riflemen brothers,—which headed the march into the French capital.

On the Duke’s recommendation the Regiment was also granted the right to bear the word “Waterloo” on its appointments, and, in February 1816, the London Gazette announced that the Prince Regent had been pleased to direct that the three Battalions of the 95th should henceforward be styled The Rifle Brigade and be promoted out of the numbered Line—an honour never before conferred on any Regiment.

When four years later it’s Colonel-in-Chief, General Sir David Dundas, died, it was the Duke of Wellington who succeeded him, remaining Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment until his death 32 years later. It was on his recommendation that, in recognition of its distinguished services under his command, it was granted as Battle Honours, in addition to Waterloo, the victories of Rolica and Vimiero, Busaco, Barrosa, Fuentes d’Honor, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes and Toulouse.

To these were added, though won under other commanders, Copenhagen, Monte Video and Corunna. As a Rifle Regiment carried no Colours, they were borne on a silver badge on the Officers’ pouch-belt and on the head-dress of Other Ranks, consisting of the Cross of the Order of the Bath—an honour awarded to each of the Regiment’s three Battalion Commanders after Waterloo—encircled by a laurel wreath above the inscription “Waterloo” and surmounted by a winged figure of Victory, known, until it was replaced by a Crown, as the “Figure of Fame”

After Napoleon’s abdication the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Rifles returned to England, while the 3rd, after a brief stay at Plymouth, crossed the Atlantic on one of those vaguely conceived amphibious enterprises so dear to Britain’s parliamentary statesmen - the capture of New Orleans as a means of forcing the Americans, with whom since 1812 she had been at war, to make peace.

Four Companies of the Regiment one from the 1st Battalion, one from the 2nd and two from the 3rd remained for the present on the Continent as part of the garrison of Belgium which once part of the Spanish and more recently of the Austrian Netherlands - had been incorporated since 1793 in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Now, little to the liking of its Catholic inhabitants, it had been allotted by the victorious peacemakers at Vienna to the new Kingdom of the Netherlands under the Protestant and Dutch royal House of Orange.

These four Companies of the 95th, under the command of Lt. Col. Alexander Cameron - one of the founder officers of the Experimental Rifle Corps - had originally formed part of an expedition hastily despatched during the last winter of the war in an abortive attempt to capture Bergen-op-Zoom and Antwerp. Here they had greatly distinguished themselves under extremely adverse climatic conditions. An officer of another Regiment who was present described how well, at the battle of Merxem in February 1814, the young Riflemen behaved.

Under the walls of Bergen-op-Zoom he watched a trial of skill between a crack marksman of the 95th and a French tirailleur, each firing at the other from behind a tree at a hundred yards’ range. The Rifleman won by sticking a loaf of bread crowned by his cap on the point of his sword-bayonet, waiting for it to be hit and then plunging about on the ground as though he was mortally wounded, until his adversary - eager to plunder his corpse - emerged from his cover and was promptly shot dead by him.

When, therefore, in the spring of 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba, these four Rifle Companies were still in Belgium. Here, where a polyglot international army was hastily assembled under the Duke of Wellington, they were joined by five Companies of the 2nd Battalion and six of the 1st, the remaining five Companies of the 3rd Battalion being still on the far side of the Atlantic after the ill-planned expedition of which they were part had been bogged down by the defenders of New Orleans. Though, like every other unit of Wellington’s army, brought up to strength by a strong infusion of new recruits, with their old Light Division comrades of John Colborne’s 52nd they brought to the Waterloo campaign a higher proportion of experienced soldiers than any other Regiment.

When on June 15th Napoleon crossed the frontier and struck at the Prussians, the 1st Battalion, then quartered at Brussels, was the first to engage the French. Marching at dawn on the 16th at the head of Picton’s Division it reached Quatre Bras, twenty miles to the south, in blistering heat, at three o’clock that afternoon.

Here, under the command of Colonel Sir Andrew Barnard and the personal supervision of the Duke himself, it at once went into action. By driving and holding back, until reinforcements arrived, vastly superior French forces who were attempting to cut off Wellington’s army from its Prussian allies before turning on the latter, it played a vital part in preventing Ney’s corps from falling on the flank of Blucher’s army, which, a few miles to the cast at Ligny, was engaged in a life and death struggle against Napoleon.

Two days later on the ridge at Waterloo, where, in order to remain in touch with the defeated and retreating Prussians, the British had withdrawn on the day after their victory at Quatre Bras, the 2nd Battalion under Lt.-Col. Norcott, together with two Companies of the 3rd, were posted on the extreme right of Wellington’s defensive line as part of his tactical reserve. The 1st Battalion, which had suffered heavily at Quatre Bras, was stationed in the centre along a sunken lane which crossed the main Charleroi - Brussels highway at the top of the ridge the British - Netherlander Army had to defend. Three of its Companies occupied a small knoll and sandpit opposite the farm of La Haye Sainte, a hundred yards down the slope up which the French were expected to advance on Brussels.

Shortly before the battle, Wellington and his staff, visiting the outposts, stopped there to refresh themselves from a camp kettle of hot sweet tea which Captain Kincaid, the Adjutant like the good Rifleman he was had brewed up to revive his men after the torrential downpour of the previous night. It was while they were bivouacked during it in the cornfields of the Waterloo plain that that veteran officer of the Battalion, Lieutenant George Simmons—“ a universal favourite with men and officers” for his inexhaustible good humour and resource had greatly impressed a young greenhorn subaltern by advising him to pick up a dirty discarded blanket which, daubed with mud and clay, kept them both dry as they lay on the rain-soaked ground, enabling them to sleep in peace and rise “fresh as larks and dry as bones”.

It was Captain Kincaid in his advanced post with his sharpshooters in the La Haye Sainte gravel-pit, who left posterity the best account of how the battle went in the centre.

“From the moment we took possession of the knoll, we had busied ourselves in collecting branches of trees and other things for the purpose of making an abatis to block up the road between that and the farm-house. It was put to the proof sooner than we expected by a troop of our own Light Dragoons, who, having occasion to gallop through, astonished us not a little by clearing away every stick of it. We had just time to replace the scattered branches when the whole of the enemy’s artillery opened, and their countless columns began to advance under cover of it.

“The scene at that moment was grand and imposing. The column, destined as our particular friends, first attracted our notice, and seemed to consist of about ten thousand infantry. A smaller body of infantry and one of cavalry moved on their right; and, on their left, another huge column of infantry and a formidable body of cuirassiers, while beyond them it seemed one moving mass.

We saw Bonaparte himself take post on the side of the road immediately in our front, surrounded by a numerous staff; and each regiment, as they passed him, rent the air with shouts of Vive l’Empereur!’ Nor did they cease after they had passed; but, backed by the thunder of their artillery and carrying with them the rub-a-dub of drums and the tantarara of trumpets in addition to their increasing shouts, it looked at first as if they had some hopes of scaring us off the ground. It was a singular contrast to the stern silence reigning on our side, where nothing, as yet, but the voices of our great guns told that we had mouths to open when we chose to use them. Our rifles were, however, in a very few seconds required to play their parts and opened such a fire on the advancing skirmishers as quickly brought them to a stand-still.

But their columns advanced steadily through them, although our incessant tiraillade was telling in their centre with fearful exactness, and our post was quickly turned in both flanks, which compelled us to fall back and join our comrades behind the hedge, though not before some of our officers and theirs had been engaged in personal combat.

“When the heads of their columns showed over the knoll which we had just quitted they received such a fire from our first line that they wavered and hung behind it a little. But, cheered and encouraged by the gallantry of their officers, who were dancing and flourishing their swords in front, they at last boldly advanced to the opposite side of our hedge and began to deploy. Our first line, in the meantime, was getting so thinned that Picton found it necessary to bring up his second, but fell in the act of doing it.

The command of the division at that critical moment devolved upon Sir James Kempt, who was galloping along the line, animating the men to steadiness. He called to me by name, where I happened to be standing on the right of our battalion, and desired `that I would never quit that spot.’ I told him that he might depend upon it: and in another instant I found myself in a fair way of keeping my promise more religiously than I intended. For, glancing my eye to the right, I saw the next field covered with the cuirassiers, some of whom were making directly for the gap in the hedge where I was standing.

I had not hitherto drawn my sword, as it was generally to be had at a moment’s warning; but, from its having been exposed to the last night’s rain, it had now got rusted in the scabbard and refused to come forth! I was in a precious scrape! I confess that I felt considerable doubts as to the propriety of standing there to be sacrificed without the means of making a scramble for it.

My mind, however, was happily relieved from such an embarrassing consideration before my decision was required. For the next moment the cuirassiers were charged by our House-hold Brigade; and the infantry in our front giving way at the same time under our terrific shower of musketry, the flying cuirassiers tumbled in among the routed infantry, followed by the Life Guards, who were cutting away in all directions. Hundreds of the infantry threw themselves down and pretended to be dead, while the cavalry galloped over them, and then got up and ran away. I never saw such a scene in all my life.

“Lord Wellington had given orders that the troops were, on no account, to leave the position to follow up any
temporary advantage. So we now resumed our post, as we stood at the commencement of the battle, and with three Companies again advanced on the knoll. . . Our division got considerably reduced in numbers during the last attack; but Lord Wellington’s fostering hand sent Sir John Lambert to our support with the Sixth Division; and we now stood prepared for another and a more desperate struggle.

“Our Battalion had already lost three officers killed, and six or seven wounded; among the latter were Sir Andrew Barnard and Colonel Cameron. Someone asking me what had become of my horse’s ear was the first intimation I had of his being wounded; and I now found that, independent of one ear having been shaved close to his head, (I suppose by a cannon shot,) a musket ball had grazed across his forehead, and another gone through one of his legs; but he did not seem much the worse for either of them,

“Between two or three o’clock we were tolerably quiet, except from a thundering cannonade; and the enemy had, by that time, got the range of our position so accurately that every shot brought a ticket for somebody’s head. An occasional gun, beyond the plain, far to our left, marked the approach of the Prussians; but their progress was too slow to afford a hope of their arriving in time to take any share in the battle. On our right, the roar of cannon and musketry had been incessant from the time of its commencement; but the higher ground near us prevented our seeing anything of what was going on.

“Between three and four o’clock the storm gathered again in our front. Our three Companies on the knoll were soon involved in a furious fire. The Germans occupying La Haye Sainte expended all their ammunition and fled from the post. The French took possession of it; and, as it flanked our knoll, we were obliged to abandon it also, and fall back again behind the hedge.

The loss of La Haye Sainte was of the most serious consequence, as it afforded the enemy an establishment within our position. They immediately brought up two guns on our side of it and began serving out some grape to us. But they were so very near that we destroyed their artillerymen before they could give us a second round.

“The silencing of these guns was succeeded by a very extra-ordinary scene . . . A strong regiment of Hanoverians advanced in line to charge the enemy out of La Haye Sainte. But they were themselves charged by a Brigade of Cuirassiers, and, excepting one officer on a little black horse who went off to the rear like a shot out of a shovel, I do believe that every man of them was put to death in about five seconds.

A Brigade of British Light Dragoons advanced to their relief, and a few on each side began exchanging thrusts. It seemed likely to be a drawn battle between them, with-out much harm being done, when our men brought it to a crisis sooner than either side anticipated. For they previously had their rifles eagerly pointed at the cuirassiers, with a view of saving the perishing Hanoverians; but the fear of killing their friends with-held them until the others were utterly overwhelmed, when they instantly opened a terrific fire on the whole concern, sending both sides to flight. So that on the small space of ground, within a hundred yards of us, where five thousand men had been fighting the instant before, there was not now a living soul to be seen.

“The same field continued to be a wild one the whole of the afternoon. It was a sort of duelling-post between the two armies, every half hour showing a meeting of some kind upon it. For the two or three succeeding hours there was no variety with us, but one continued blaze of musketry. The smoke hung so thick about that, although not more than eighty yards asunder, we could only distinguish each other by the flashes of the pieces. A good many of our guns had been disabled, and a great many more rendered unserviceable in consequence of the unprecedented close fighting; for where they had been posted but a very few yards in front of the line, it was impossible to work them.

“ I shall never forget the scene which the field of battle presented about seven in the evening. I felt weary and worn out, less from fatigue than anxiety. Our Division, which had stood upwards of five thousand men at the commencement of the battle, had gradually dwindled down into a solitary line of skirmishers.

The Twenty-Seventh Regiment were lying literally dead, in square, a few yards behind us. My horse had received another shot through the leg, and one through the flap of the saddle, which lodged in his body, sending him a step beyond the pension list. The smoke still hung so thick about us that we could see nothing. I walked a little way to each flank to endeavour to get a glimpse of what was going on. But nothing met my eye except the mangled remains of men and horses, and I was obliged to return to my post as wise as I went.

“ I had never yet heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but this seemed likely to be an exception, as all were going by turns. We burned with desire to have a last thrust at our, vis-à-vis; for, however, desperate our affairs were, we had still the satisfaction of seeing that theirs were worse. Sir John Lambert continued to stand as our support at the head of three good old Regiments, one dead (the Twenty-Seventh) and two living ones; and we took the liberty of soliciting him to aid our views. But the Duke’s orders on that head were so very particular that the gallant general had no choice. “

It was a private Rifleman in one of the 1st Battalion’s dwindling squares on the shot-ridden ridge who saw the Duke emerge from the smoke-charged air as he went calmly about his business of restoring the morale of his all-but broken centre in the penultimate crisis of the battle. Riding up to the square, which had lost all its officers, he himself gave the command characteristically using the correct Rifleman’s order “95th, unfix your swords, left face and extend yourselves once more; we shall soon have them over the hill!” Then, the Rifleman recalled, “he rode away on our right, and how he escaped being shot, God only knows, for all that time the shot was flying like hailstones”

The battle was resolved by the action on the far right of the British line of the other Battalion of the Regiment—the 2nd, with the two skirmishing Companies of the 3rd and its two companion veteran Regiments of Adam’s Brigade, the 52nd and 71st Light Infantry, which Wellington had expressly kept in reserve for this moment. They had suffered heavy casualties during the prolonged French artillery bombardment, and when, an hour or two before the hour of final decision, the Duke moved them into the front line, according to Captain Joseph Logan of the 2nd Battalion they were “cruelly mauled with shot and shell.

About five minutes after we went into action I succeeded to the command of the Battalion in consequence of our three Field Officers being severely wounded. We were now attacked in square by Lancers and Cuirassiers sup-ported by 18 guns which played onto our square at one hundred yards distance. We repelled this attack but suffered severely; one shot knocked down nine men.

We were attacked again four different times, but my little Battalion maintained their ground. Soon after Napoleon advanced with his Imperial Guard and commenced a heavy attack. Lord Wellington rode up to me and ordered I should attack them immediately. I moved on with the 52nd and 71st Regiments on my right and such a carnage never beheld. The roaring of guns was so great that the man next to me could not hear my orders. “

It was Colonel Colborne of the 52nd on the right of Adam’s Brigade—with the two skirmishing Companies of the 3rd Rifles protecting its own right from the French cavalry—who had first taken the initiative of moving out of the line and throwing his Regiment—closely followed by the 2nd Battalion of the Rifles and the 71st—against the flank of the Imperial Guard. According to another account, “the attacking column of the Imperial Guard, having Maitland’s Brigade of Guards in its front, were evidently staggered by finding Adam’s Brigade on its flank. It halted and, wheeling up its left sections, began to fire. Colborne also halted the 52nd and fired into the column and the 2nd Battalion 95th, coming up at that instant on the left, poured a deadly fire into the Guard.

Then Colborne checked the fire and calling out `Charge! Charge!’ led his men against the column. The 2nd Battalion joined vigorously in this charge which ... was remarkable for the order, the steadiness, the resoluteness and the daring by which it was characterised.

The Imperial Guard wavered, reeled and then, breaking up, fled in inextricable confusion. The Brigade, continuing its triumphal march across the field and bringing its left shoulder, the 2nd Battalion, rather forward, halted near the Charleroi road with the left of the 2nd Battalion close to the orchard of La Kaye Sainte.” According to Captain Logan, Wellington himself rode beside the Riflemen, several times calling out, “Move on, my brave fellows!” as they and their Light Infantry comrades advanced eastwards across the battle-field, rolling up the discomfited French.

“Presently,” wrote Kincaid, still with the remnants of the 1st Battalion in the battered centre of the hard-pressed line, “a cheer which we knew to be British commenced far to the right and made every one prick up his ears. It was Lord Wellington’s long wished for orders to advance. It gradually approached, growing louder as it grew near; we took it up by instinct, charged through the hedge down upon the old knoll, sending our adversaries flying at the point of the bayonet. Lord Wellington galloped up to us at the instant and our men began to cheer him. But he called out, `No cheering, my lads, but forward, and complete your victory!’

“This movement had carried us clear of the smoke, and to people who had been for so many hours enveloped in darkness, in the midst of destruction and naturally anxious about the result of the day, the scene which now met the eye conveyed a feeling of more exquisite gratification than can be conceived. It was a fine summer’s evening, just before sunset. The French were flying in one confused mass. British lines were seen in close pursuit and in admirable order, as far as the eye could reach to the right, while the plain to the left was filled with Prussians.

The enemy made one last attempt at a stand on the rising ground to our right of La Belle Alliance. But a charge from General Adam’s Brigade again threw them into a state of confusion, which was now inextricable, and their ruin was complete. Artillery, baggage and everything belonging to them fell into our hands. After pursuing them until dark we halted about two miles beyond the field of battle, leaving the Prussians to follow up the victory.
“This was the last, the greatest, and the most uncomfortable heap of glory that I ever had a hand in.”

By the time the victory was won, close on a third of the Green Jackets who had stood to arms on the fateful morning of June 18th 1815, had been killed or wounded. So outstanding had been their services that when, three weeks later, the British entered Paris, it was, on Wellington’s orders, the 2nd Battalion, led by its adjutant, Thomas Smith—one of Harry Smith’s two Riflemen brothers,—which headed the march into the French capital.

On the Duke’s recommendation the Regiment was also granted the right to bear the word “Waterloo” on its appointments, and, in February 1816, the London Gazette announced that the Prince Regent had been pleased to direct that the three Battalions of the 95th should henceforward be styled The Rifle Brigade and be promoted out of the numbered Line—an honour never before conferred on any Regiment.

When four years later it’s Colonel-in-Chief, General Sir David Dundas, died, it was the Duke of Wellington who succeeded him, remaining Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment until his death 32 years later. It was on his recommendation that, in recognition of its distinguished services under his command, it was granted as Battle Honours, in addition to Waterloo, the victories of Rolica and Vimiero, Busaco, Barrosa, Fuentes d’Honor, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes and Toulouse.

To these were added, though won under other commanders, Copenhagen, Monte Video and Corunna. As a Rifle Regiment carried no Colours, they were borne on a silver badge on the Officers’ pouch-belt and on the head-dress of Other Ranks, consisting of the Cross of the Order of the Bath—an honour awarded to each of the Regiment’s three Battalion Commanders after Waterloo—encircled by a laurel wreath above the inscription “Waterloo” and surmounted by a winged figure of Victory, known, until it was replaced by a Crown, as the “Figure of Fame”

After Napoleon’s abdication the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Rifles returned to England, while the 3rd, after a brief stay at Plymouth, crossed the Atlantic on one of those vaguely conceived amphibious enterprises so dear to Britain’s parliamentary statesmen - the capture of New Orleans as a means of forcing the Americans, with whom since 1812 she had been at war, to make peace.

Four Companies of the Regiment one from the 1st Battalion, one from the 2nd and two from the 3rd remained for the present on the Continent as part of the garrison of Belgium which once part of the Spanish and more recently of the Austrian Netherlands - had been incorporated since 1793 in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Now, little to the liking of its Catholic inhabitants, it had been allotted by the victorious peacemakers at Vienna to the new Kingdom of the Netherlands under the Protestant and Dutch royal House of Orange.

These four Companies of the 95th, under the command of Lt. Col. Alexander Cameron - one of the founder officers of the Experimental Rifle Corps - had originally formed part of an expedition hastily despatched during the last winter of the war in an abortive attempt to capture Bergen-op-Zoom and Antwerp. Here they had greatly distinguished themselves under extremely adverse climatic conditions. An officer of another Regiment who was present described how well, at the battle of Merxem in February 1814, the young Riflemen behaved.

Under the walls of Bergen-op-Zoom he watched a trial of skill between a crack marksman of the 95th and a French tirailleur, each firing at the other from behind a tree at a hundred yards’ range. The Rifleman won by sticking a loaf of bread crowned by his cap on the point of his sword-bayonet, waiting for it to be hit and then plunging about on the ground as though he was mortally wounded, until his adversary - eager to plunder his corpse - emerged from his cover and was promptly shot dead by him.

When, therefore, in the spring of 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba, these four Rifle Companies were still in Belgium. Here, where a polyglot international army was hastily assembled under the Duke of Wellington, they were joined by five Companies of the 2nd Battalion and six of the 1st, the remaining five Companies of the 3rd Battalion being still on the far side of the Atlantic after the ill-planned expedition of which they were part had been bogged down by the defenders of New Orleans. Though, like every other unit of Wellington’s army, brought up to strength by a strong infusion of new recruits, with their old Light Division comrades of John Colborne’s 52nd they brought to the Waterloo campaign a higher proportion of experienced soldiers than any other Regiment.

When on June 15th Napoleon crossed the frontier and struck at the Prussians, the 1st Battalion, then quartered at Brussels, was the first to engage the French. Marching at dawn on the 16th at the head of Picton’s Division it reached Quatre Bras, twenty miles to the south, in blistering heat, at three o’clock that afternoon.

Here, under the command of Colonel Sir Andrew Barnard and the personal supervision of the Duke himself, it at once went into action. By driving and holding back, until reinforcements arrived, vastly superior French forces who were attempting to cut off Wellington’s army from its Prussian allies before turning on the latter, it played a vital part in preventing Ney’s corps from falling on the flank of Blucher’s army, which, a few miles to the cast at Ligny, was engaged in a life and death struggle against Napoleon.

Two days later on the ridge at Waterloo, where, in order to remain in touch with the defeated and retreating Prussians, the British had withdrawn on the day after their victory at Quatre Bras, the 2nd Battalion under Lt.-Col. Norcott, together with two Companies of the 3rd, were posted on the extreme right of Wellington’s defensive line as part of his tactical reserve. The 1st Battalion, which had suffered heavily at Quatre Bras, was stationed in the centre along a sunken lane which crossed the main Charleroi - Brussels highway at the top of the ridge the British - Netherlander Army had to defend. Three of its Companies occupied a small knoll and sandpit opposite the farm of La Haye Sainte, a hundred yards down the slope up which the French were expected to advance on Brussels.

Shortly before the battle, Wellington and his staff, visiting the outposts, stopped there to refresh themselves from a camp kettle of hot sweet tea which Captain Kincaid, the Adjutant like the good Rifleman he was had brewed up to revive his men after the torrential downpour of the previous night. It was while they were bivouacked during it in the cornfields of the Waterloo plain that that veteran officer of the Battalion, Lieutenant George Simmons—“ a universal favourite with men and officers” for his inexhaustible good humour and resource had greatly impressed a young greenhorn subaltern by advising him to pick up a dirty discarded blanket which, daubed with mud and clay, kept them both dry as they lay on the rain-soaked ground, enabling them to sleep in peace and rise “fresh as larks and dry as bones”.

It was Captain Kincaid in his advanced post with his sharpshooters in the La Haye Sainte gravel-pit, who left posterity the best account of how the battle went in the centre.

“From the moment we took possession of the knoll, we had busied ourselves in collecting branches of trees and other things for the purpose of making an abatis to block up the road between that and the farm-house. It was put to the proof sooner than we expected by a troop of our own Light Dragoons, who, having occasion to gallop through, astonished us not a little by clearing away every stick of it. We had just time to replace the scattered branches when the whole of the enemy’s artillery opened, and their countless columns began to advance under cover of it.

“The scene at that moment was grand and imposing. The column, destined as our particular friends, first attracted our notice, and seemed to consist of about ten thousand infantry. A smaller body of infantry and one of cavalry moved on their right; and, on their left, another huge column of infantry and a formidable body of cuirassiers, while beyond them it seemed one moving mass.

We saw Bonaparte himself take post on the side of the road immediately in our front, surrounded by a numerous staff; and each regiment, as they passed him, rent the air with shouts of Vive l’Empereur!’ Nor did they cease after they had passed; but, backed by the thunder of their artillery and carrying with them the rub-a-dub of drums and the tantarara of trumpets in addition to their increasing shouts, it looked at first as if they had some hopes of scaring us off the ground. It was a singular contrast to the stern silence reigning on our side, where nothing, as yet, but the voices of our great guns told that we had mouths to open when we chose to use them. Our rifles were, however, in a very few seconds required to play their parts and opened such a fire on the advancing skirmishers as quickly brought them to a stand-still.

But their columns advanced steadily through them, although our incessant tiraillade was telling in their centre with fearful exactness, and our post was quickly turned in both flanks, which compelled us to fall back and join our comrades behind the hedge, though not before some of our officers and theirs had been engaged in personal combat.

“When the heads of their columns showed over the knoll which we had just quitted they received such a fire from our first line that they wavered and hung behind it a little. But, cheered and encouraged by the gallantry of their officers, who were dancing and flourishing their swords in front, they at last boldly advanced to the opposite side of our hedge and began to deploy. Our first line, in the meantime, was getting so thinned that Picton found it necessary to bring up his second, but fell in the act of doing it.

The command of the division at that critical moment devolved upon Sir James Kempt, who was galloping along the line, animating the men to steadiness. He called to me by name, where I happened to be standing on the right of our battalion, and desired `that I would never quit that spot.’ I told him that he might depend upon it: and in another instant I found myself in a fair way of keeping my promise more religiously than I intended. For, glancing my eye to the right, I saw the next field covered with the cuirassiers, some of whom were making directly for the gap in the hedge where I was standing.

I had not hitherto drawn my sword, as it was generally to be had at a moment’s warning; but, from its having been exposed to the last night’s rain, it had now got rusted in the scabbard and refused to come forth! I was in a precious scrape! I confess that I felt considerable doubts as to the propriety of standing there to be sacrificed without the means of making a scramble for it.

My mind, however, was happily relieved from such an embarrassing consideration before my decision was required. For the next moment the cuirassiers were charged by our House-hold Brigade; and the infantry in our front giving way at the same time under our terrific shower of musketry, the flying cuirassiers tumbled in among the routed infantry, followed by the Life Guards, who were cutting away in all directions. Hundreds of the infantry threw themselves down and pretended to be dead, while the cavalry galloped over them, and then got up and ran away. I never saw such a scene in all my life.

“Lord Wellington had given orders that the troops were, on no account, to leave the position to follow up any
temporary advantage. So we now resumed our post, as we stood at the commencement of the battle, and with three Companies again advanced on the knoll. . . Our division got considerably reduced in numbers during the last attack; but Lord Wellington’s fostering hand sent Sir John Lambert to our support with the Sixth Division; and we now stood prepared for another and a more desperate struggle.

“Our Battalion had already lost three officers killed, and six or seven wounded; among the latter were Sir Andrew Barnard and Colonel Cameron. Someone asking me what had become of my horse’s ear was the first intimation I had of his being wounded; and I now found that, independent of one ear having been shaved close to his head, (I suppose by a cannon shot,) a musket ball had grazed across his forehead, and another gone through one of his legs; but he did not seem much the worse for either of them,

“Between two or three o’clock we were tolerably quiet, except from a thundering cannonade; and the enemy had, by that time, got the range of our position so accurately that every shot brought a ticket for somebody’s head. An occasional gun, beyond the plain, far to our left, marked the approach of the Prussians; but their progress was too slow to afford a hope of their arriving in time to take any share in the battle. On our right, the roar of cannon and musketry had been incessant from the time of its commencement; but the higher ground near us prevented our seeing anything of what was going on.

“Between three and four o’clock the storm gathered again in our front. Our three Companies on the knoll were soon involved in a furious fire. The Germans occupying La Haye Sainte expended all their ammunition and fled from the post. The French took possession of it; and, as it flanked our knoll, we were obliged to abandon it also, and fall back again behind the hedge.

The loss of La Haye Sainte was of the most serious consequence, as it afforded the enemy an establishment within our position. They immediately brought up two guns on our side of it and began serving out some grape to us. But they were so very near that we destroyed their artillerymen before they could give us a second round.

“The silencing of these guns was succeeded by a very extra-ordinary scene . . . A strong regiment of Hanoverians advanced in line to charge the enemy out of La Haye Sainte. But they were themselves charged by a Brigade of Cuirassiers, and, excepting one officer on a little black horse who went off to the rear like a shot out of a shovel, I do believe that every man of them was put to death in about five seconds.

A Brigade of British Light Dragoons advanced to their relief, and a few on each side began exchanging thrusts. It seemed likely to be a drawn battle between them, with-out much harm being done, when our men brought it to a crisis sooner than either side anticipated. For they previously had their rifles eagerly pointed at the cuirassiers, with a view of saving the perishing Hanoverians; but the fear of killing their friends with-held them until the others were utterly overwhelmed, when they instantly opened a terrific fire on the whole concern, sending both sides to flight. So that on the small space of ground, within a hundred yards of us, where five thousand men had been fighting the instant before, there was not now a living soul to be seen.

“The same field continued to be a wild one the whole of the afternoon. It was a sort of duelling-post between the two armies, every half hour showing a meeting of some kind upon it. For the two or three succeeding hours there was no variety with us, but one continued blaze of musketry. The smoke hung so thick about that, although not more than eighty yards asunder, we could only distinguish each other by the flashes of the pieces. A good many of our guns had been disabled, and a great many more rendered unserviceable in consequence of the unprecedented close fighting; for where they had been posted but a very few yards in front of the line, it was impossible to work them.

“ I shall never forget the scene which the field of battle presented about seven in the evening. I felt weary and worn out, less from fatigue than anxiety. Our Division, which had stood upwards of five thousand men at the commencement of the battle, had gradually dwindled down into a solitary line of skirmishers.

The Twenty-Seventh Regiment were lying literally dead, in square, a few yards behind us. My horse had received another shot through the leg, and one through the flap of the saddle, which lodged in his body, sending him a step beyond the pension list. The smoke still hung so thick about us that we could see nothing. I walked a little way to each flank to endeavour to get a glimpse of what was going on. But nothing met my eye except the mangled remains of men and horses, and I was obliged to return to my post as wise as I went.

“ I had never yet heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but this seemed likely to be an exception, as all were going by turns. We burned with desire to have a last thrust at our, vis-à-vis; for, however, desperate our affairs were, we had still the satisfaction of seeing that theirs were worse. Sir John Lambert continued to stand as our support at the head of three good old Regiments, one dead (the Twenty-Seventh) and two living ones; and we took the liberty of soliciting him to aid our views. But the Duke’s orders on that head were so very particular that the gallant general had no choice. “

It was a private Rifleman in one of the 1st Battalion’s dwindling squares on the shot-ridden ridge who saw the Duke emerge from the smoke-charged air as he went calmly about his business of restoring the morale of his all-but broken centre in the penultimate crisis of the battle. Riding up to the square, which had lost all its officers, he himself gave the command characteristically using the correct Rifleman’s order “95th, unfix your swords, left face and extend yourselves once more; we shall soon have them over the hill!” Then, the Rifleman recalled, “he rode away on our right, and how he escaped being shot, God only knows, for all that time the shot was flying like hailstones”

The battle was resolved by the action on the far right of the British line of the other Battalion of the Regiment—the 2nd, with the two skirmishing Companies of the 3rd and its two companion veteran Regiments of Adam’s Brigade, the 52nd and 71st Light Infantry, which Wellington had expressly kept in reserve for this moment. They had suffered heavy casualties during the prolonged French artillery bombardment, and when, an hour or two before the hour of final decision, the Duke moved them into the front line, according to Captain Joseph Logan of the 2nd Battalion they were “cruelly mauled with shot and shell.

About five minutes after we went into action I succeeded to the command of the Battalion in consequence of our three Field Officers being severely wounded. We were now attacked in square by Lancers and Cuirassiers sup-ported by 18 guns which played onto our square at one hundred yards distance. We repelled this attack but suffered severely; one shot knocked down nine men.

We were attacked again four different times, but my little Battalion maintained their ground. Soon after Napoleon advanced with his Imperial Guard and commenced a heavy attack. Lord Wellington rode up to me and ordered I should attack them immediately. I moved on with the 52nd and 71st Regiments on my right and such a carnage never beheld. The roaring of guns was so great that the man next to me could not hear my orders. “

It was Colonel Colborne of the 52nd on the right of Adam’s Brigade—with the two skirmishing Companies of the 3rd Rifles protecting its own right from the French cavalry—who had first taken the initiative of moving out of the line and throwing his Regiment—closely followed by the 2nd Battalion of the Rifles and the 71st—against the flank of the Imperial Guard. According to another account, “the attacking column of the Imperial Guard, having Maitland’s Brigade of Guards in its front, were evidently staggered by finding Adam’s Brigade on its flank. It halted and, wheeling up its left sections, began to fire. Colborne also halted the 52nd and fired into the column and the 2nd Battalion 95th, coming up at that instant on the left, poured a deadly fire into the Guard.

Then Colborne checked the fire and calling out `Charge! Charge!’ led his men against the column. The 2nd Battalion joined vigorously in this charge which ... was remarkable for the order, the steadiness, the resoluteness and the daring by which it was characterised.

The Imperial Guard wavered, reeled and then, breaking up, fled in inextricable confusion. The Brigade, continuing its triumphal march across the field and bringing its left shoulder, the 2nd Battalion, rather forward, halted near the Charleroi road with the left of the 2nd Battalion close to the orchard of La Kaye Sainte.” According to Captain Logan, Wellington himself rode beside the Riflemen, several times calling out, “Move on, my brave fellows!” as they and their Light Infantry comrades advanced eastwards across the battle-field, rolling up the discomfited French.

“Presently,” wrote Kincaid, still with the remnants of the 1st Battalion in the battered centre of the hard-pressed line, “a cheer which we knew to be British commenced far to the right and made every one prick up his ears. It was Lord Wellington’s long wished for orders to advance. It gradually approached, growing louder as it grew near; we took it up by instinct, charged through the hedge down upon the old knoll, sending our adversaries flying at the point of the bayonet. Lord Wellington galloped up to us at the instant and our men began to cheer him. But he called out, `No cheering, my lads, but forward, and complete your victory!’

“This movement had carried us clear of the smoke, and to people who had been for so many hours enveloped in darkness, in the midst of destruction and naturally anxious about the result of the day, the scene which now met the eye conveyed a feeling of more exquisite gratification than can be conceived. It was a fine summer’s evening, just before sunset. The French were flying in one confused mass. British lines were seen in close pursuit and in admirable order, as far as the eye could reach to the right, while the plain to the left was filled with Prussians.

The enemy made one last attempt at a stand on the rising ground to our right of La Belle Alliance. But a charge from General Adam’s Brigade again threw them into a state of confusion, which was now inextricable, and their ruin was complete. Artillery, baggage and everything belonging to them fell into our hands. After pursuing them until dark we halted about two miles beyond the field of battle, leaving the Prussians to follow up the victory.
“This was the last, the greatest, and the most uncomfortable heap of glory that I ever had a hand in.”

By the time the victory was won, close on a third of the Green Jackets who had stood to arms on the fateful morning of June 18th 1815, had been killed or wounded. So outstanding had been their services that when, three weeks later, the British entered Paris, it was, on Wellington’s orders, the 2nd Battalion, led by its adjutant, Thomas Smith—one of Harry Smith’s two Riflemen brothers,—which headed the march into the French capital.

On the Duke’s recommendation the Regiment was also granted the right to bear the word “Waterloo” on its appointments, and, in February 1816, the London Gazette announced that the Prince Regent had been pleased to direct that the three Battalions of the 95th should henceforward be styled The Rifle Brigade and be promoted out of the numbered Line—an honour never before conferred on any Regiment.

When four years later it’s Colonel-in-Chief, General Sir David Dundas, died, it was the Duke of Wellington who succeeded him, remaining Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment until his death 32 years later. It was on his recommendation that, in recognition of its distinguished services under his command, it was granted as Battle Honours, in addition to Waterloo, the victories of Rolica and Vimiero, Busaco, Barrosa, Fuentes d’Honor, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes and Toulouse.

To these were added, though won under other commanders, Copenhagen, Monte Video and Corunna. As a Rifle Regiment carried no Colours, they were borne on a silver badge on the Officers’ pouch-belt and on the head-dress of Other Ranks, consisting of the Cross of the Order of the Bath—an honour awarded to each of the Regiment’s three Battalion Commanders after Waterloo—encircled by a laurel wreath above the inscription “Waterloo” and surmounted by a winged figure of Victory, known, until it was replaced by a Crown, as the “Figure of Fame”

R.D.C. advises that the publication, Rifle Green at Waterloo has a very detailed account of the battle, which includes:

THE 95th FOOT IN THE NETHERLANDS CAMPAIGN OF 1813-14 AT QUATRE BRAS AND WATERLOO 16TH-18TH JUNE 1815 AND THE OCCUPATION OF PARIS. WITH A FULL MEDAL AND CASUALTY ROLL FOR THE FOURTEEN COMPANIES AT WATERLOO AND DETAILS OF WEAPONS, CLOTHES AND EQUIPMENT USED IN THE CAMPAIGN.


Written by George Caldwell and Robert Cooper. Published by Bugle Horn Publications in 1990.