Joined: 23 Oct 2011
|Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:25 pm Post subject: The 'not often mentioned' Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos.
|28th October 2011 is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Arroyo dos Mollinos, fought during the Penninsular War, when 2nd Battalion, 34th (Cumberland) Regiment of Foot, as part of Wilson’s Brigade in the 2nd Division of General Sir Roland Hill’s Force, fought the French forces of General Jean-Baptiste Girard at the village of Arroyo dos Molinos in Spain.
Attacking in the early hours of the morning and covered by a howling storm, Hill's 10,000 men were upon the French before they really knew what was happening. Blocking every road out of the town, he launched an assault straight into the middle of Girard's men. The French attempted to escape along the British-held roads but they were turned back every time by the 28th (North Gloucester) Regiment of Foot and 34th (Cumberland) Regiment of Foot whose task it was to cut off the French retreat.
The 34th (Cumberland) Regiment had long harboured an ambition to come face to face and defeat in battle their opposite French army opponents the 34e Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne. On this day they were not to be disappointed.
During the rout the men of the 34th took 1300 men and 30 officers of the French 34th regiment prisoner including their Colonel, Pierre d'Alcantara Charles Marie, Prince d'Arenberg, duc d'Arenberg, and General Jean-Antoine De Brun. In addition the French lost all their baggage, guns, 6 caissons of ammunition, and the 5,000 dollars tax levied on the town of Caceres.
The greatest prize for the British 34th was the capture of six side-drums and the French Drum-Major’s staff which, after a tustle, was taken from the French Drum-Major by Sergeant Moses Simpson of the 34th’s Grenadier Company. Included in the haul was the French grenadier company drum, the shell of which is emblazoned with three grenadier ‘ball and flame’. These magnificent trophies of war had been presented to the 34e Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne by none other Napoleon himself when the French regiment was founded in 1796.
Of the six infantry battalions and three cavalry regiments engaged, about 1,000 men were killed or wounded. Most of the casualties were among the French infantry, who lost about 80% of their effective fighting force. British losses were less than 80 men killed and wounded.
On 5th November a jubilant Hill (who would be made a Knight of the Bath for Arroyo dos Molinos) wrote to his sister;
“I have time merely to inform you that on the morning of the 28th at daybreak I succeeded in surprising, attacking, and annihilating the French corps under General Girard at Arroyo dos Molinos. The enemy's force, when attacked, consisted of about 3,000 infantry, 1,600 cavalry and artillery. The result is the capture of one general (de Brun), one colonel (the Prince d'Aremberg commander of the 27th Chasseurs), 35 lieutenant-colonels and inferior officers, 1,400 prisoners, and probably 500 killed. The others dispersed, having thrown away their arms; we have also got all the enemy's artillery, baggage, and magazines - in short, everything that belonged to the corps”.
In 1845 Queen Victoria, at the request of the Duke of Wellington, granted the 34th the unique Battle Honour ‘Arroyo dos Mollinos’ and the Regiment was later allowed to commemorate the exploit by wearing in their shakos a red and white tuft, which matched that worn by one of the French 34th‘s companies. This tradition would later be reflected in the Border Regiment badge wherein the red and white centre represented the two-thirds red and one-third white Chaco pom-pom of the 34e Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne.