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In 1811 Wellington’s forces were laying siege to the fortress of Badajoz on the frontier of Portugal and Spain. Marshal Soult, the French Commander in Southern Spain, brought a force of 24,000 men to relieve the garrison. The Allied force of 15,000 Spaniards, 12,000 Portuguese and 10,000 British soldiers took up a position at Albuhera to meet the French.
On 16 May 1811 the French attacked. They surprised the Spaniards and threw them into utter confusion. The remaining British Regiments stood firm, but, being now greatly outnumbered by the French, were in dire straits. The only British reserve was the Fusilier Brigade, commanded by Sir William Myers of the Royal Fusiliers, and composed of the 1st and 2nd Battalions Royal Fusiliers and 1st Battalion the 23rd, or Royal Welch Fusiliers.
“This”, said Sir William Myers ‘will be a proud day for the Fusiliers’ – and a proud day it was. So fierce and determined was the Fusiliers’ attack that the French wavered and hesitated. The Fusiliers closed with the enemy and, as it was later recorded in history, ‘Nothing would stop that astonishing infantry’. The Fusiliers Brigade captured the heights of Albuhera and history tells us that the French, ‘giving way like a loosened cliff, fled headlong down the ascent’. It is recorded of Albuhera that when the battle was won, ‘Fifteen hundred men, the remnants of 6,000 unconquerable British soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill”.
Of the Battle of Albuhera, perhaps the most treasured of the 7th Fusiliers Battle Honours, it was said: ‘Then was seen with what strength and majesty the British soldier fights”.
The British guns, lost earlier in the day, were recaptured by the Royal Fusiliers, and the Regimental Colour of The Buffs was recovered and restored to that Regiment.
The losses at Albuhera were very heavy and the two Battalions were amalgamated, the staff of the 2nd Battalion going home to recruit a fresh Battalion. Sir William Myers was killed; Gen Cole and the three Colonels, Ellis, Blakeney and Hawkshaw were all wounded.
Colonel (Retd) J W Denny MBE
Forever England, Forever Friends, Forever Family
Fusilier 50 - Celebrating 50 years of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 2018