The Waterloo Assocation: Members Area

The Royal Navy and the Peninsular War

Action between His Majesty's Sloop, Bonne Citoyenne, and the French frigate,_La_Furieuse
Colborne- Capture of Alexandria

SETTING THE SCENE

Ever since the beginning of the war with France in 1793, the Royal Navy had been used to land troops on widely scattered and usually unhealthy coasts in the forlorn hope of making a decisive attack on the French, although some such as the Egyptian Campaigns were more successful. During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars there were a total of sixty eight major and numerous minor landings, many of them in the West Indies. In most cases death through disease was far more likely than death through enemy action and the numbers of troops involved and the usually widely scattered landing sites invariably meant that such combined operations, even in the unlikely event they were successful, could never be central to the result of the War. Incidentally the term combined operations is somewhat of a misnomer. There was never one overall commander as at D Day. It was pure chance whether the relevant naval and military commanders were able to work together.

However the Peninsular campaign was different, for that proved to be the decisive campaign that the British government had been looking for for years. After an uncertain start the government realised that this was a place, indeed the only place, to concentrate on and in time, with the blessing of the government, the army under Wellington showed what a British army could do if properly led, supplied and resourced. The fact that there were few French overseas possessions left to conquer, and that Portugal was the only safe place left to land in Europe, really meant that if the French were to be fought on land, the government had no option but to concentrate resources there,

Vital as the role of the navy was in the Peninsula, it was only part of the recipe for victory. Also necessary were good consistent leadership, a properly organised system to distribute supplies once they had been landed, and the support of the Portuguese and Spanish guerrillas. Not under the control of the British, but equally important, was the need for the French to live off the often barren and denuded land (which meant they could never concentrate large forces in one area for long), the jealousy and lack of trust between Napoleon’s Marshals, the fact that as soon as the French moved troops from one area to meet a threat the Spanish moved in to fill the vacuum and lastly the fact that French reinforcements could not come by sea but had to come slowly overland. However, without the Royal Navy none of the other factors would have counted for anything.

trafalgar night
Battle of Trafalgar

It was really Trafalgar that made it all possible. Trafalgar had removed forever any realistic prospect of a French invasion of Britain. Not only was Napoleon lacking ships but he lacked the skilled sailors and the spirit to be any threat to Britain or the control by Britain of the seas round Europe. Each year that went by simply reinforced the skills of the British navy and further atrophied those of the French.

However, though Trafalgar was a supreme victory at sea, in the same year Napoleon had his supreme victory on land, Austerlitz. So with one power supreme on land and the other on sea, how was the deadlock to be broken? For the Royal Navy the complete mastery of the western seas resulting from Trafalgar, and of the Mediterranean from the battle of the Nile in 1798, gave the opportunity to land on the continent at the point of their own choosing. An army, which could then be supplied, reinforced and if necessary withdrawn in safety. For the French, frustrated and blocked in the Atlantic and the English Channel in the west and the Mediterranean in the south, their only outlet was in the east to Russia, a route taken by another 150 years later, with the same disastrous results.

For seven years, summer and winter, the Royal Navy traversed the Bay of Biscay to the Peninsula bringing in men and supplies, and taking back wounded across the Bay of Biscay. Not an easy task for the Bay is about 86,000 square miles in extent and forms a rough triangle bounded on the east by the west coast of France and on the south by the north coast of Spain. It is noted for its rough seas. Winds often exceed 70 miles an hour and sudden squalls are a real hazard even today and can occur at any time of the year. Voyages could take days or weeks depending on the weather.

THE SOLDIERS’ VIEW

Although the English are considered a seafaring nation many of Wellington’s troops had probably never even seen the sea before enlisting. It must have been a novel and often frightening experience, Captain Kincaid, who had previously done the short trip to join the army in Holland, wrote “We indulged in the usual amusements, beginning by keeping journals, in which I succeeded in inserting two remarks on the state of the weather when I found my inclination for book making superseded by the more disagreeable study of appearing eminently happy under an irresistible inclination towards sea sickness We anchored in the Tagus in September, not thanks to the ship, for she was a leaky one and wishing foul winds to the skipper for he was a bad one. ”

With the massive demands for ships and crews, which could never be satisfied, both the good and the bad would have had to be used. It would have been the luck of the draw whether the soldiers had a good or bad skipper, a sound or a literally rotten, boat.

Kincaid continues “W e only got on shore for one day for a few hours …. it pleased the great disposer of naval events to remove us to another and better ship and to send us off to Figuera bay …. sailing at the rate of one mile in two hours, we reached Figuera bay at the end of eight days. ” There the soldiers were carried ashore on the backs of welcoming Portuguese women.

Some voyages could be more pleasant; the personal account of James Hale of the 9th Regiment. In 1808 he was a private and his regiment was based in Ireland. He wrote “On the 16th June we marched to the City of Cork. On the following day we marched to the Cove of Cork and embarked the same day with several other regiments. We remained in the Cove until the 12th July, waiting for more shipping and troops to join the fleet …. on the 12th July we put to sea under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, and about the middle of the day the fleet were all out of the harbour being about forty sail …. steering our course for the coast of Spain and Portugal. Our commodore was the Donegal of 74 guns. The whole of this voyage proved very pleasant, having fine weather and such an easy sea. We continued sailing with a steady breeze until about the 25th, when the weather being clear we discovered land on our larboard bow, which proved to be some part of Spain …. on the 28th July we came to land in Mondego Bay … however we remained on board until the 2nd August. There being no convenience for landing without getting into the water the Portuguese men came running into the water to carry us out of the boats. We all made our landing good except for one boatload of the 45th Regiment which was upset …. in crossing the bar …. and unfortunately several solders were drowned”

IBERIA

Frustrated and envious of Britain’s commercial riches, Napoleon in 1806 issued The Berlin Decrees which forbade any country in Europe from trading with Britain. Portugal alone refused to comply. Accordingly the French in 1807 sent an invasion force through Spain and occupied Portugal. In 1808 Napoleon put his brother on the Spanish throne. This was the signal for revolt throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Britain was appealed to for help and, looking for a way to attack Napoleon on land, responded. For although Britain was safe from invasion, the navy, as in the case of the air force in a later war, while it could prevent invasion could not win the war. For that men on the ground in Europe were needed.

The Iberian Peninsula in fact was ideal from the British point of view. It was surrounded on three sides by water, while the fourth side abutted on France, giving a chance to attack that country overland. Landings could expect to be unopposed, the only place on mainland Europe where this was so, and in ideal conditions, only three or four days away from Britain. In reality however, voyages often took considerably longer, especially when there was a convoy. It always took time to assemble a convoy and then it could go no faster that the slowest ship.

Control of the sea was vital Only in that way could sufficient troops and regular reinforcements be sent over. Only in that way could the vast supplies, even a 19th century army needed, be assured. Only in that way could forces be concentrated on strategic points to obtain local superiority over French forces who were numerically superior but who were strung out guarding an entire country.

Sea power was vital for bringing in the supplies but once they arrived unless the British forces were operating right on the coast, an efficient means of delivery to the troops in the field was necessary. This took time to develop for the government had hoped that the army could live off the land and thus save money. When in 1808 the navy landed Wellington’s troops on the beach at the mouth of the Mondego River in Portugal. the artillery had no horses and the cavalry insufficient for the number of troopers. It took four or five days to gather together two or three hundred draught animals. Even then a battery had to be left behind as there were insufficient animals for all needs. Later on a superbly organised system, with some 12,000 mules, was established, to keep the army supplied with food, ammunition and other necessaries without the need to plunder.

NAVY IN DIRECT SUPPORT OF THE ARMY

While clearly a navy could not win a land battle or occupy a country, there were limitations on the effectiveness of the navy even when operating against shore targets. Compared to many shore targets, a 74 ship of the line would have greater fire power than all but the most powerful fort. However, a ship was not the most stable gun platform. If a ship come too close inshore, especially a big 74, it ran the risk of grounding and, unlike a fort, was at the mercy of any sudden changes in the weather.

However if the ships guns could be brought ashore, the position could be transformed. In one of Popham’s raids, which are referred to further on, the account reads “The sea was at this moment breaking with such violence against the rocks that it was doubtful if a boat could get near enough to land a gun but an opportunity offered itself ….. the gun was dragged to the summit of the hill by 36 pairs of bullocks, 400 guerrillas and 100 seamen.” The seamen would also of course have provided the trained gun crew.

THE SYSTEM

While Royal Navy ships could, and did, carry some of the army’s officers, warships were fighting machines, crowded with hundreds of sailors in the bigger boats and could not act as troop transports at the same time. Further, there was a pressing need for an effective means of landing and supplying armies abroad.

Thus there was set up in 1794, the Transport Board. It had the task of hiring merchant ships for military purposes. The ships were to convey troops, wounded soldiers, baggage, food, ordinance animals and all naval and military stores required by overseas forces. Also, having the responsibility from 1795 for looking after prisoners of war, the Board’s vessels were also used to transport to Britain, the thousands of French prisoners taken in the Peninsula, thus freeing up troops who would otherwise have had to be used to guard them.

By 1810, some 980 vessels of a total weight of a quarter of a million tons (comprising 10% of the to British merchant marine) were in service. Nearly 78,000 tons comprised troop ships, nearly 18,00 tons cavalry ships, army victuals 3690 tons and navy victuals 16,500 tons. Not all these ships we bound for Iberia butby 1809 there were few French possessions outside Europe, so Iberia became the main focus. In 1810, 234 ships were operating between Britain and Portugal, 86 along the Spanish coast, 120 to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean.

At that period merchant ships were essentially built on the same principles as warships save that they tended to have blunter bows and to be fuller amidships. Hired transports were usually about 250 ton while troop ships tended to be about 350 tons. On average, for every 100 tons there were six crew and 50 troops. When fitted out as troop ships, the lower decks were divided into cabins. The soldiers like the sailors, slept in hammocks. Many brought their wives and children with them ..

It was not unknown, for soldiers to vandalise their transport, necessitating repairs before the vessels could be used again.

The Transport Board was comprised of six commissioners, who would normally be naval officers. The Board employed agents, usually Royal Navy lieutenants, at all the major ports in Britain and Ireland. Their task was to check for suitable shipping and then hire those vessels which were considered suitable. The most important port was Deptford, where many of the transports were engaged. A hiring was usually for three to six months although there were often extensions. A hiring suited both owners and crew. The owners had a guaranteed source of steady income. Copper sheathed ships, for example, were hired in this period, at the rate of 25 shillings (£1.25) per month per ton, while the crew were protected from the dreaded press gang. The Board also provided agents afloat, usually captains or lieutenants, whose job was to organise and direct convoys. All merchant ships in convoy and engaged by the Board had to obey any commands of the commanding naval officer.

Not under the control of the Transport Board were armed transports. These were ships hired without their crews. They were commanded by naval officers and often sailed independently of convoys. The Ordinance Board, which was part of the navy but which supplied ordinance to the navy and army also hired ships itself. Also separate from the Transport Board was the packet service, which was run by the Post Office. This carried post and despatches and had a few cabins which could be used by officers requiring speedy passage. The boats were small, of only 170 tons, designed for speedy passage. Up to half a dozen operated to the Peninsula. Losses due to bad weather and privateers were quite high.

However troops were not always moved by the Transport Board on requisitioned merchant ships. An account, possibly by Thomas Howell, of the 71st Regiment, recounts how, after his return to the Peninsula after Corunna, he went out with three hundred other men on the frigate HMS Melpomene. It must have been exceedingly cramped!

Central Portugal

THE FIRST BATTLES

The first expeditionary force sailed from Cork on 13 July 1808, with Wellington going on ahead in the frigate HMS Crocodile.

The somewhat haphazard landing of 1st August at Mondego Bay, commented on earlier by Hale, was unopposed, as the beach had been secured by Portuguese irregulars. Thirteen battalions of infantry plus cavalry and artillery were landed with no attack from the enemy. However during the day weather conditions worsened and sixty men were drowned. Part of the problem was that the ships, boats or the wide flat bottomed landing craft which were sometimes available were just not suitable in bad weather conditions. This was a problem which was still being faced in Normandy nearly 150 years later.

On 10 August 1808 Wellington moved off the beach and headed south towards Lisbon. The army followed the coast road so as to keep in touch with the navy. Indeed for much of his campaign, though with some major exceptions, Wellington was never that far from the sea. He wrote: “I determined to march towards Lisbon by that route which passes nearest to the sea coast, in order that I might communicate with Captain Bligh of the Alfred, who attended the movements of the army with a fleet of victuallers and store ships. 11 This close link and cooperation with the navy was to continue to the end of the war, even if relations were sometimes troubled.

After the battle of Rolica, Wellington on 16 August moved south to Vimeiro at the mouth of the river Maceira, to cover the landing of two brigades which arrived straight from England. An early example of the flexibility of sea power. Though having a shorter distance to travel, at least if starting from the south of France, the French would have had an arduous, dangerous and lengthy journey overland to reach the same point.

A few days later on the 14th of August there was another, but unwelcome arrival from Britain, General Burrard who was to take charge from Wellington. No French general could have a replacement arrive so quickly’ Burrard did not want Wellington to risk a fight until reinforcements arrived. However, when news came that Junot was advancing on him, and with Burrard safely out of the way on his ship off shore, Wellington had his chance and the result was the battle of Vimerio. The French were confident that they could push the British back into the sea but it was the French who were defeated. This was the first significant defeat of the French by a British army for many years.

Following Vimeiro at the notorious Convention of Cintra the French were allowed to evacuate Portugal and were to be sent back to France. Here the Royal Navy had an unusual role. The French went back in British warships. One wonders how many would have survived if left to their own devices to make their way overland to France.

CORUNNA

In Wellington’s absence, during the enquiry back in England into the Convention of Cintra, Moore was threatening Napoleon’s communications between Madrid and France. Seeing the threat, the French moved against Moore and his men who were forced to retreat to save themselves. There then followed a harrowing forced march over the mountains to the coast. The ordeal lasted two weeks. At last on 10 January 1809 Moore’s army came down from the mountains and saw in the distance, the Atlantic sparkling in the winter sun and the distant mast of ships. On 11 January the units staggered into the town of Corunna. For two terrible weeks Corunna had meant for the retreating troops ships, safety and home. Huge must have been the disappointment, when they realised the bay was full of hospital ships and store ships but no transports. Before the retreat Moore had asked the reluctant government to send ships to Vigo or Corunna but it was not until he was at Herrerias on 3rd January that he definitely decided on Corruna. The transports were still wind bound at Vigo. At least however there was food, bread and wine provided by the Spanish and salt beef and pork from the British ships.

Moore garrisoned the slopes of Monte Mero but he had not enough men to garrison the more impressive and higher hills, further out. The position was not defensible for long. Without the navy the army would have been doomed. For three days, ever fearful that the French would close in first, the men looked out for the ships. Finally on the evening of 14 January a total of 110 transports sailed in. Accompanying them was a squadron of ships of the line. With the transport store and hospital ships, there were now some 250 ships in the bay. Loading began almost immediately. Priority was given to the sick and wounded, artillery and the cavalry.

Even then there were still problems to face, for with certain winds it was difficult if not impossible to leave the harbour. A naval officer wrote” figure to yourself two or three hundred sail of bad sailing merchantmen crammed chock full and the French army at hand who possessing themselves of the place would be enabled from both sides of the entrance to throw shot and shell at leisure at the unhappy transports attempting to work out. Such a situation makes me shudder.”

All during that night in Corunna while the British kept the camp fires alight, rowing boats had been repeatedly going to and from the waiting ships in the harbour. By morning all the wounded and half of the rest of the troops were aboard the waiting ships, where many promptly collapsed, hardly moving until they reached England. It had been a foggy night and the plans to allocate different units to different ships, soon broke down. On one ship there were men from six different regiments, while another three had men from fourteen different units.

The evacuation continued in the face of a growing south westerly wind. Another day passed. By the morning of the 16th there had still been no French attack and Sir John Moore expressed the view “if there is no bungling I hope we will all get away in a few hours.” Within hours however the French attacked, but the embarkation continued with Hill’s and Beresford’s brigades the last to embark. The French then moved forward and erected batteries that swept the harbour. Commissary Schaumann wrote: ” Shot and shell whistled about our heads, and striking first the water, then the sloops and anon the ships themselves, made hearing and seeing almost impossible. ” The attack lasted an hour but ~ only real damage caused directly by the shelling was when one boat was overturned and several men drowned. Worse damage was done when several captains cut their cables. Up to seven ships ran ashore and several could not be got off and had to be abandoned and burnt. The sea was such that the rescue boats could not get in close to the shore. The men were forced to abandon all their equipment and clutching at outstretched oars were pulled and manhandled aboard. There was then a long row of up to three miles in a strong wind, to the waiting ships.

George Napier wrote of this bombardment: ” It was still early as ….. and myself went on board the Audacious of 74 gun ship, Captain Gosling with much difficulty reached her, as in consequence of the enemy bringing some guns to the heights which in fact commanded the bay, and opening fire on the transports, they were cutting away their cables and were in much confusion, and it was a service of danger to get through them. ”

Corunna- Evacuation

By the morning of the 17th the entire army was on board save for 1500 men, left as a rearguard. Early on the 18th January, they too were aboard and late that day some 19,000 men set sail for England, whilst the Spanish manned the ramparts and kept the French at bay until all the ships were safely at sea. With men, wounded and unwounded, animals, though many of these had to be left behind and had been shot on the beach, and equipment jammed into small vessels of which not many were over two hundred tons, it was an unpleasant voyage home. Typhus broke out and in the Bay of Biscay a violent south westerly storm blew up threatening many of the small vessels. Rifleman Harris wrote how when his ship heeled over an officer was posted over the open hold with lantern and sword to keep the soldiers from moving and upsetting the stability of the vessel. Sergeant Hale of the 9th recounted how on the first day at sea, while he patched his worn and torn uniform, his vessel raced along at thirteen knots. Caught up in the storm, the ships were widely scattered but between 29 and 31 January turned up at Plymouth and Portsmouth and a score of other ports all along the south coast and even further afield. Sergeant Hale recounted how men from his regiment were landed at Plymouth, Portsmouth, Gosport, Dover and Liverpool. Two ships, the Dispatch and the Smallbridge were in fact wrecked on the Cornish coast and nearly 300 British and German soldiers were lost.

The return of these gaunt, vermin ridden, tattered men made a deep impression on all who saw them. The London Times warned against just praising the endurance of the men in what was a disaster. This is echoed in the later reporting of the miracle of Dunkirk. In fact the parallels with Dunkirk in 1940 are obvious, in that in both cases Britain’s only real army had been saved, but the analogy should not be carried to far. In 1809 there was still a force left in Portugal and the navy was still free to operate right off the coast of occupied Europe. There would not have to be a wait of four years to return. The Royal Navy dominated the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts and waters off Europe. It was this massive force when used in conjunction with an army concentrated in one place that proved a war winner.

While all this was going on, the navy was playing another role. One example of many little known raiding operations throughout the war was that of Lord Cochrane. In September, 1808 with just the single ship Imperieuse, he harried the French Languedoc coast and destroyed semaphore stations. This resulted in delays in troops being sent to Spain, the suspension of coastal trade and some 2000 troops being withdrawn from Spain. There were to be many such operations over the years, all of which played their part in the total scene.

THE RETURN

In April 1809 the British were back in force. Since Corunna the 10,000 remaining British troops in Portugal had been expecting a French attack. Admiral Berkeley, arriving in the Tagus in January, wondered whether it was even worth disembarking his family. Wellington sailed from Portsmouth on 15 April. It is reputed that during the first night at sea he was warned that there was a risk that the ship would founder, he replied “in that case I shall not take off my boots”. On 29 April he landed at Lisbon where, during the preceding two weeks, the navy had safely landes thousands of British soldiers.

Sergeant Hale of the 9th also returned to the Peninsula, at this time. He wrote ”Having arrived at Ramsgate, we embarked immediately on three transport ships and on the following morning being fine weather and a fair wind we put to sea and continued sailing with a pleasant breeze until the 7th when we were met by a heavy gale of wind, in consequence of that we were obliged to put into … Torbay. On the 12th in the morning, the weather being a little calmer and the wind rather in our favour a signal was made to put to sea again and steer for Lisbon under the protection of a man of war brig. The wind continued blowing very hard for several days, by which we made great speed and on the 27th we hove in sight of Lisbon. ”

The fact that three, presumable defenceless, merchant ships, crammed with troops were escorted by just one small brig showed that there can have been little fear of trouble from the French. Such was the enduring legacy of Trafalgar and the ever-present blockading squadrons.

Sergeant Hale and his regiment were not the only troops heading towards Portugal. With the conquest of the remaining French Caribbean Islands in the summer of 1809, seventeen garrisons were released and soon those troops were heading back by sea for the only theatre of operations left to the British.

When ready Wellington marched his army north to face Soult. By a series of outflanking moves, using the navy in support, Soult was pushed back to Oporto. Soult felt secure behind the wide Douro river and, in fact, posted most of his troops so that they faced west on the waterfront and between Oporto and the sea, as he feared that the Royal Navy might land troops at his rear. An unjustified fear, on this occasion but no less useful for that. It was something the French were always fearful when fighting near the coast. Wellington in fact attacked over the river and defeated the French.

TORRES VEDRAS

The lines of Torres Vedras brought to a final halt the French designs on Portugal. They were in three belts. The first two ran between the sea and the River Tagus. The third belt ran for two miles and covered the Port of Sao Juliao, earmarked as an evacuation port if the worst came to the worst. Wellington was determined that his front line troops would not be wasted on static garrison duties so the British manning the lines were 2,500 gunners and Royal Marines.

Wellington was concerned that the French might get control of the Tagus, so the river was patrolled by gunboats manned by the navy who were to act in cooperation with the troops on the shore; if the French broke through. Control of the Tagus was vital, for Wellington wrote “If I am obliged to go I shall be able to carry away the army.” Wellington was fortunate that the valley of the Tagus leading to the sea from inland in fact led to the opposite bank of the river from Lisbon and if the navy could hold that, he knew his rear base was secure. One can but wonder whether Wellington would have been as bold as he in fact was if he had not had the ever -present knowledge that he always had a line of retreat through the navy.

At Torres Vedras Wellington had few heavy guns under his command and the navy had provided them. It was not until late in the war that Wellington’s army was properly equipped with its own heavy guns necessary for sieges. Until then, the navy did its best in this vital role.

For a month Massena faced the Torres Vedras lines, uncertain whether to hold his ground or retreat over the mountains in the depths of the winter. The British, well supplied by the Navy, and with fresh troops coming from England via Lisbon, together with Spanish troops from south of the Tagus had no problems in staying put the entire winter. The French with a denuded and hostile countryside and with no hope of significant or regular supplies were in a desperate plight. It is recorded that the British traded biscuits, provisions and tobacco for French brandy. Even so the French grew increasingly hungry and their draught animals died in their thousands. Finally in November 1810, though not defeated in battle, the French were forced to withdraw to slightly better positions, some thirty miles back. Wellington sent part of his force to follow them but he did not attack. He had no need to risk his precious army. Regular rations were coming from Lisbon, as were fresh troops, which enabled the Fifth Division to be given its second British brigade and for the Sixth Division to be made up to two British and one Portuguese brigade. Meanwhile the French numbers went steadily down. Early in March Massena had to finally admit defeat and retreat. On 13 March 1811 he turned eastwards and made for the mountains, his invasion of Portugal was virtually at an end. In his decision to head east, Massena was partly influenced be the fear that the navy could land troops on his flank. On this occasion the fear was groundless, but fear of an enemy’s presence can be just as effective as his actual presence. Portugal had been saved not by one great battle but by organisation, logistics and supplies.

Four days after Massena started his retreat, Soult entered Badajoz, which commanded the southern high road into Portugal. However the resulting French high spirits did not last long, for at the same time news was received that at Barossa 5000 British troops under Graham “had defeated a superior French force under Marshal Victor which had been besieging Cadiz.

CADIZ

The important Spanish naval base and allied harbour of Cadiz, on Spain’s South coast, was from January 1810 besieged by 25,000 French troops under Marshal Victor. The Spanish managed to rush in just sufficient troops to stop the town falling at once and by March 1810, the town was secured when the navy ferried in another 9,000 British and Portuguese troops. The town, now well defended and supplied by Portuguese troops, was no longer in any real danger, unless the French could bring further forces to bear. However a plea by Victor to Napoleon for French ships to be brought in to blockade the town not surprisingly fell on deaf ears. Napoleon had had enough of entanglement with the Royal Navy.

One year later in January 1811 Victor sent one third of his besieging force to help Soult in his assault on Badajoz. Sensing an opportunity, the British military commander in Cadiz, Sir Thomas Graham and the naval commander Sir Richard Keats immediately formulated two plans. One was for a military and naval sortie and the other was for a landing at Huelva to relieve Badajoz. Both had to be abandoned, as the risk to such operations on the Atlantic coast in mid winter was deemed too great. Instead a mixed force of 9,500 Spanish, 4,900 British and a few hundred Portuguese were to be carried by the navy just fifty miles south to Tarifa. They would then move up overland and attack the investing French from the rear. It was a bold plan, again only made possible by command of the sea. The expedition set off from Cadiz on 21 February 1811 and almost immediately things began to go wrong. Bad weather meant the navy had to land the force at Algeciras; further south than planned. It could all have ended in disaster but, at the resulting battle of Barossa, Graham, by his skill and daring, turned a possible defeat into victory. This near disaster reminds us that, for all the superiority of the British over the French navy, it was still the age of the sail and the navy was subject always to the ever omnipotent winds and tides.

The British often underestimated the role of the Spanish irregulars, probably because for a long time the Spanish regular armies were so ineffectual. The irregulars were not under the control of Wellington or indeed anyone else, but even here the navy had its role to play. The guerrilla leader Ballesteros, in conjunction with British sea power, repeatedly landed at various points along the Andalusian coast, forcing Soult to keep responding to one attack after another.

By the end of 1811 Napoleon had withdrawn forty of his best battalions from Spain, for service in the forthcoming Russian campaign, and replaced then by raw conscripts. He could not withdraw from Spain, that was against his nature, but he was not prepared to give it the time and attention it needed and he continued to underestimate the strength of the British and allied troops.

Napoleon ordered his forces to try and take Valencia, where Blake, supported by British warships, remained a thorn in the sides of the French and organised Spanish resistance in the east of the country. To do this he reduced the army of Portugal to 30,000 men. This, coupled with the regular reinforcements that Wellington had received via Lisbon, meant that Wellington could now implement his plan to take the great fortress town of Ciudad Rodrigo. He was aided by a siege train that had been landed at Oporto on the Douro in July and then slowly and painfully moved forward.

SALAMANCA

Renewed hostilities in Eastern Europe encouraged Wellington to take the offensive again. This resulted in the battle of Salamanca in July 1812. Wellington was outnumbered but had certain advantages over the French. With Spain thoroughly aroused, the French had to use large numbers of troops on garrison duty and protecting their lines of communication. If they pulled troops out of an area, the Spanish immediately moved back in. Wellington did not have this problem.

Further, with Britain’s command of the sea, the French Marshals from Biscay to Catalonia to Andalusia looked as much to their coast as they did to helping one another. It was not just an excess of caution by the French; their fears were entirely justified. Marmont on Napoleon’s orders was forced to send part of his army to the Asturias where guerrillas and regular Spanish troops, armed and supplied by the Royal Navy, were creating havoc. Wellington saw operations in these other theatres as essential to his plans. His army was, and remained, small and he needed all the diversions he could get.

SIR HOME POPHAM

The primary distraction however which was also designed to link, the so called Seventh army (Spanish), with the coast, was a naval expedition to attack the coastal forts of Cantabria and Biscay. This coastline indented by rivers and estuaries and dominated by mountains, all of which rendered movement on land even slower than normal, was an ideal arena for the navy to operate in support of the army. The tactics were put together by Sir Howard Douglas, a firm believer in the use of guerrilla tactics, and Sir Home Popham, an advocate of what we would now call combined operations.

There had been earlier expeditions on the Biscay coast but nothing serious since 1810. In that year there were some 20,000 French tied down in Asturias, Santander and Biscay by the fear of a small Anglo-Spanish fleet operating from Corunna and Ferrol. Fearing that the coast road between Oviedo and San Sebastian could be cut in a score of places, the French had to guard every small port and possible landing place. Nevertheless with local superiority, the British launched many successful raids. The most successful was in July 1810 when, with two frigates, a thousand men were landed at the harbour of Santona. They captured the harbour and then moving down the coast in the direction of Biscay, knocked out one small French position after another. Also, provided with arms by the British, the local peasants took part. In October, Popham with four frigates and a mixed force of marines and Spanish troops, left Corunna and, working in conjunction with Spanish irregular forces under Porlier, took the port of Gigon. The French immediately rushed all available forces to Gigon to retake it. By then the British had moved on and were heading for an under protected Bivero. However, it was late in the campaigning season, a violent storm came up and several ships and 800 men were lost. An example of how the ever present elements could upset the best-laid plans. Thus the raid, while not a total success, had showed what sea power, when combined with land power, could do. Large numbers of French troops, some far away from the coast, such as those at Burgos, had to be diverted from other tasks or at least kept on hold from other operations.

In 1812 Sir Home was given larger forces: his flagship HMS Venerable plus five frigates, the Surveillante, Rhin, Isis, Medusa and Diadem, together with various smaller vessels. On board were two battalions of marines and a company of artillery. The plan was to move east along the coast from Gigon and to attack each isolated French garrison in turn by using the Spaniards to blockade from the landward side and using the heavy guns of the ships to attack from the sea. The Spanish, lacking heavy guns had never been able to attack and take the forts, the navy was to supply this want. At the same time rifles and ammunition were to be dropped off for the Spanish irregulars.

The plan was risky. Their base Corunna was a long way from the scene of the intended action. Even in the middle of the summer the Bay of Biscay could delay operations for weeks and the Spanish only paid nominal obedience to their supposed leader Mendizabel. However, on this occasion fortune smiled on the bold.

In total the number of French troops was quite large but they were scattered in the forts, with at most a thousand men in each. The French had mobile columns but they could only move slowly over very difficult mountain roads and they had no way of knowing whether a report of a landing was true or false, was a real attack or a diversion. By the time they had arrived at the site of reported danger there could be nothing there. A report of another attack would have them moving off again, probably on a fruitless quest.

Popham’s force landed first on 17 June 1812 the date that Wellington took the town of Salamanca. It coincided with appeals from Marmont to Caffarelli for reinforcement. The plan worked to perfection, Caffarelli fearing to send any reinforcements to Marmont, wrote to him ”/ am sorry but I could not have foreseen this development and when I spoke of marching towards you I was far from suspecting that it could arise.” For several weeks Popham’s small force, whose size was continually exaggerated by Caffarelli, continued its vital role. Caffarelli wrote further to Marmont that the British had six ships of the line, there were British regulars with the force, that Bilbao was being attacked and that the entire Cantabrian countryside was in revolt. Thus fearing large-scale landings at his rear and the loss of Biscay, he refused all aid apart from a brigade of cavalry and some horse artillery. There were delays in giving movement orders to even that meagre force. Wellington did not know at the time the full extent of this paranoia, but it was enough to know that the French had not moved .

Paranoia there was, but also genuine cause for concern. Moving towards Bilbao, on 22 June Lequeitio was taken, then Bermeo and Palencia were surrendered without a fight. Bilbao was then threatened by Spanish irregulars. An attack on Guetaria, seizure of which would have blocked the main highway into France, failed because of a lack of Spanish forces in the area, thus showing the limitations of naval power on its own. However, Popham then successfully took and garrisoned Castro Urdiales. With Spanish troops now in the area Popham had another go at Guetaria, but powerful French forces appeared and forced him to withdraw with some losses. However, not downhearted, Popham realising that the French had defeated him by concentrating their forces at the eastern end of their line of coastal forts, rapidly switched his forces to attack their main western stronghold, the fortress town and port of Santander. By the end of July 1812 it was taken.

There were at the same time a number of minor combined operations which, while they were not vital in grand strategic terms, nevertheless all contributed to the discomfiture of the French and helped to tie down their troops. For example in May 1812 an expedition aided by British warships from Alicante landed near Almeira and cleared out a succession of French garrisons from the small towns and batteries along that coast.

THE ARMY OF SICILY

As part of the jigsaw, Wellington was also anxious that Suchet in the east should not move troops to the west, if Wellington’s attack in Leon was seen by the French as a real threat. Providence came to his aid.

To find men for his Russian campaign, Napoleon had virtually denuded Italy of troops and by April 1812 there was only one complete French division left in Italy. There were however twelve battalions of British troops in Sicily, to defend that island from invasion which could not now happen. The British commander, Lord William Bentinck saw an opportunity to use his forces in an offensive mode. Various ideas, probable and improbable, were floated around. In the end, with the government against the idea of a landing in Italy, an attack on Spain was settled on. Bentinck wrote “l cannot but imagine that the occasional disembarkation at different points of a large regular force must considerably annoy the enemy and create an important diversion for other Spanish operations.” Wellington seizing the opportunity had written to both the government in London and Bentinck in Sicily that an attack on the Catalonian coast was a most essential object and that it would have the certain result of preventing Suchet from intervening in the west.

It was decided to reinforce the attack with two Spanish divisions from Alicante and Majorca, and by 5 June two squadrons of transports were sent from Lisbon to Alicante and Majorca, with the intention that the landing should take place during the third week of June, this being the most advantageous for Wellington.

This and indeed the entire concept of moving troops from Sicily not only illustrates what could be done with total command of the sea but the essential flexibility of sea power.

It was proposed to send a force of some ten thousand men which, while not large enough to tackle strongholds such as Barcelona, should, it was felt, be large enough to stop Suchet moving men to the west. In any event the force was not envisaged as a permanent invasion as the Navy doubted they could keep the force supplied during the winter months.

Confident that his diversions were in place, Wellington had launched his attack on Marmont at Salamanca. Though all was well in the north with Commodore Popham causing havoc up and down the coast, Bentinck had not moved when expected by Wellington. Tempted with the idea of an invasion of Italy and relying on a certain discretion in his orders from the government, the troops did not set sail until the end of June and then in far smaller numbers than expected; just three British and two German battalions plus several other foreign units. Picking up Spanish troops on the way, the force an arrived off Palamos, on the Catalan coast on 31 July numbering some ten thousand men. Shortly afterwards the force moved down to the south and landed. However, all was not well. The government had told Wellington that the force was entirely at his disposal while Maitland, who had been sent to Spain by Bentinck, was told by Bentinck that he was not part of the army of Spain and must be ready to return to Sicily at the first sign of trouble there.

In the event, with the fear that French armies would concentrate against him and having inadequate transport to move inland, the force achieved little in purely military terms. However it did have the desired effect. From an examination of French correspondence, it is clear that Suchet was aware of rumour of troops coming from Sicily and of the existence of the transports at Alicante and Majora. From early July he was expecting a descent on Valencia or Catalonia with some 17,000 men. It is possible that the fear of the attack was of more use to Wellington than the reality when the force finally appeared, late and far smaller in numbers than expected. We know that constant pleas by King Joseph for assistance were met by the response that the British were expected at any moment. Part of Suchet’s problem was that he did not know if the fleet would land troops in Catalonia or Valencia and he thus had to try and cover each area.

After the victory at Salamanca, Wellington paused again to see what Caffarelli’s army in the north was going to do but finding that that force was still distracted by Popham’s operations, and that the force from Sicily, although late, had at last landed on the Mediterranean coast, he marched on the Spanish capital, Madrid. Wellington wrote in his despatches at the time that there was a risk that he could be forced to withdraw to the frontiers of Portugal if Suchet’s and/or Soult’s army could be brought against him. He wrote ” … it is very important that the attention of Suchet should be diverted from his possible operations against me by the Sicilian army which will go to such important objects as Tarragona and Valencia … if Suchet ‘s attention cannot be diverted from me I shall at least have the satisfaction of reflecting, while I am retiring … we shall take Tarragona and Valencia.” A few days after this was written an intercepted despatch of Suchet’s confirmed that the fear of the arrival of the British and Sicilians was dominating all his thoughts.

That force in the east remained in Spain until the end of the war there but never consistently achieved the promise originally held out for it. It remained on the eastern side of the country and continued to be dependent on the navy for support.

Wellington did not remain in Madrid long, he moved off to try and take the fortress of Burgos. By this time Marmont’s strength had been reduced to less than 50,000 but that was still sufficient to concern Wellington. Marmont, however, could not remain where he was for he was suffering the problem of all French armies in Spain. The lack of a proper supply system meant his troops had to live off the poor land. In July when Wellington had to withdraw to Leon many of his men were down with fever but by withdrawing to the mouth of the Tagus, his troops could be revived with regular supplies and fresh drafts regularly arrived from England. There was to be no such relief for the French.

When news reached Britain of Napoleon’s disaster in Russia in the winter of 1812/13, the government, more than ever sure that there could never be an invasion of Britain, decided to keep back only 25,000 regulars. Throughout the winter of 1812/13 and the spring further drafts sent to the Peninsular, including for the first time large formations of cavalry, meant the British were no longer outnumbered. By April 1813 Wellington had 52,000 British troops plus nearly 30,000 Portuguese. For the first time Wellington had an army of a decent size.

PORTS

Lisbon had been the main British supply base since 1808 but it was now well away from Wellington’s army and, if his plans worked and the advance continued, would soon be even further away. Wellington’s need was in fact very similar to that of the Allies in 1944, who as they advanced from Normandy wanted a port, in that case Antwerp, nearer to their front lines.

So, once across the mountains and the Esla, while threatening French communications, he was determined to protect and improve his own. This was made possible by Commodore Popham’s capture of Santander. For Lisbon and Oporto, Wellington could substitute as supply bases Santander and later, perhaps, Bilbao. This would shorten the sea voyage from England by 400 odd miles and also shorten the land route up to the front line by another 400 miles, although the new route would be over mountainous roads from the Biscay coast. Instead of advancing ever further away from his supply base, he could now advance towards it, thus making his communications more secure. Of course, as the French retreated they too were shortening their lines of communication, but at the very least Wellington was able to maintain his relative advantage over the French. Normally the further an army advances the longer its supply lines.

Wellington was so determined to bring in new supply bases as soon as possible that he wanted ships to be moved north. Even before any port was taken the French were not to be given time to think. He wrote to the senior army officer at Corunna. “There are at Corunna certain ships loaded with biscuit and flour and certain others loaded with heavy train of artillery and some musket ammunition and I shall be very much obliged if you may request any officer of the navy who may be at Corunna to take under his convoy all the vessels and proceed with them to Santander. If he should find Santander occupied by the enemy I beg him to remain off the port till the operations of the army have obliged the enemy to abandon it.”

In utmost secrecy Wellington had assembled at Corunna, supply ships loaded with guns and ammunition in preparation for a move 250 miles up the coast to Santander. While there was no risk of the French interfering there was now a new menace of American privateers. While the Americans had no capital ships it did mean that a number of ships were held up at Lisbon for lack of enough escorts with the result that Wellington had to pause a while before resuming his advance into France. This however could never be more than a nuisance and never seriously interfered with Wellington’s plans.

The capture of Santander gave the British control of the only decent sized all weather harbour between Ferrol and the French frontier. It provided a supply base not only for Wellington, but also for the Spaniards and it lay at the rear of the ever-nervous Caffarelli.

Following diverse discussions as to what to do next, a rather chaotic operation was launched against Bilbao. It was taken on 13 August, but the French managed to retake it some two weeks later. With that failure, and the failed attempt to take Guerat on his own, Popham returned to Santander. There, hearing that Wellington was marching to Burgos, he sent word to Wellington that the road from Santander was open and could be used to transport heavy guns and other supplies. It was used but not for heavy guns. If it had perhaps the siege of Burgos would have been more successful.

1812 was a most successful year for Popham and in 1813 he continued his successful diversions .

THE 1813 CAMPAIGN

Wellington was by now also increasingly aided by the Spanish irregulars. Emboldened by the successes of previous years, the guerrillas were becoming ever more effective. For example in February 1813, the help of guns landed from British ships, the guerrilla leader Mina forced the French garrison Tafalla to surrender.

Meanwhile, four hundred miles to the east, Suchet had large forces in Valencia and Catalonia. To make sure that no reinforcements came from that quarter, Wellington in April 1813 instructed Sir John Murray to embark a mixed force of 18,000 British, German, Italian and Spanish for an attack Tarragona, two hundred miles south of the French frontier on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. This finally fell in August.

In May 1813 Wellington went on the offensive again, an offensive which, before the end of the year was to take him into France itself. The plan was to launch a series of outflanking attacks on each French position in turn. Before the French had a chance to recover from an attack another followed This rapid advance, which the French had thought impossible, was, in fact, only made possible because of the continuous supplies coming in by sea from Britain followed by a short overland route to the army.

After the battle of Vitoria in June 1813 Wellington hesitated. He was tempted to push on into Franc but was concerned that Austria might enter into a peace treaty with the French, which would releasee large numbers of troops for Spain. In fact war was declared on 12 August, the news reached London on 27 August and was immediately semaphored to Portsmouth. On 3 September 1813 a fast vessel which had been standing by at Portsmouth, entered Pasajes, a small port near San Sebastian, with t news.

SAN SEBASTIAN

Denis Dighton (1792-1827) painting “The Storming of San Sebastian(c) The National Trust for Scotland, Leith Hall Garden & Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In the meantime Wellington decided on another attack on the port of San Sebastian. San Sebastian, the nearest Spanish town to France had been besieged in July 1813. This failed for the town was ably defended by General Rey and, a reversal of the usual situation, was so near France that the French were able to send in every night small coasting vessels from St. Jean de Luz. Not only did they bring in men and supplies, they also took out the wounded thus relieving the garrison of the burden of feeding and caring for them.

This second time Wellington was determined not to fail and resolved that he would not attack until properly equipped. For this he needed from England all the equipment for a siege train. Here however, the fates both natural and human intervened. The siege train was loaded on the ships at Portsmouth but remained frustratingly wind bound and did not leave until 27th July with the first ships not arriving at Pasajes until 18 August. Within the next five days four convoys arrived at the port, so so there was no room at the quays to unload. The first half of the siege train that was made up of 28 guns which had been promised in May, arrived on 19 August. Wellington’s disgust that there was hardly any ammunition with the guns, was compounded a few hours later when another convoy arrived with quantity of unasked for lightweight garrison guns with minimal supplies of ammunition. Not until a few days later did the rest of the siege guns arrive with their ammunition. By then, however, all the quays were occupied. Small boats had to be used, but there were not enough of them and inadequate navy crews. Wellington was not amused and wrote to the Admiralty ” … the soldiers are obliged to work the transports and unload the vessels because no seamen can be furnished We have been obliged to use the harbour boats of Pasajes, navigated by women. These harbour boats being light and of weak construction have many of them been destroyed and there will be great delay for want of boats in further operation of the siege. If the navy of Great Britain can not afford more than one frigate and I few brigs and cutters to cooperate in the siege of a maritime place, I must be satisfied and do the best I can, without its assistance. ”

Nevertheless by 26 August the guns were in position, with adequate supplies of ammunition and the town fell on 31 August. It was during this second siege of San Sebastian that Sir John Colborne returned to the war, after having spent many months in England recovering from a wound. His account of his return shows just how flexible British sea power could be, he wrote:

“In July 1813 I went out again. I embarked quietly at Plymouth in a small Corvette, by permission of the Admiral, and we ran up the Bay of Biscay in three days. The siege of San Sebastian was going on but I knew nothing of it, and did not know where the army was. I thought I should have to go to Corunna and there to make a long inland journey. However as we got near the coast of Spain, the captain thought he perceived guns and firing around San Sebastian, and when we got glasses to assist our sight, he proved to have been correct. So 1 landed close at hand and walked a mile and a half to General Graham’s tent. …. Then I went to dine with Sir George Murray, who said, “Well you had better join your regiment directly”. So in about four days from leaving England 1 found myself in active service again. ”

WELLINGTON AND THE ADMIRALTY

It will be seen from the above that Wellington was concerned at the lack of naval personnel and small ships to unload his siege guns but the irritation went beyond that. He complained at the lack of proper or adequate escorts for the convoys, that the navy were obsessed by prize money which distracted them from going after privateers, that neither San Sebastian or St. Jean de Luz were being properly blockaded with the result that the San Sebastian garrison was being constantly reinforced, that only a cutter could be made available to take the Prince of Orange back to London with dispatches, that the Admiralty continued to send the weekly post boat first to Lisbon, ignoring that Santander, Bilbao and Pasajes were all open to British ships. Wellington wrote “I complain of an actual want of necessary naval assistance and cooperation with the army and I believe that no man will entertain a doubt who reads the facts stated in my report to the government.

The First Lord of the Admiralty was not slow to respond. “Our military officers do their duty most admirably but they seem to consider a large ship within a few hundred yards of the shore off San Sebastian a safe position and as immovable by the winds and the waves as one of the Pyrenean Mountains.” Wellington’s reply might have been “but where is this large ship?!”

The navy argued that they had other commitments in the Baltic, America and the Mediterranean. Doubtless correct but with no realistic prospect of an attack on England and with the government recognising the importance of Spain by sending nearly all the regular army there; the navy’s priorities at this time do seem rather odd.

INTO FRANCE

Once Wellington received the news that Austria had joined with Prussia and Russia against France, he decided the time had come to invade France itself. The plan was to attack on the seaward side of the enemy line. By doing so he also hoped to capture the small French port of St. Jean de Luz, once more shortening his lines of communication. Simmons of the 95th Rifles wrote “we had a most commanding view of the port and town of St. Jean de Luz. We could also see our cruisers sailing about near the French coast. One morning one of our ships was observed to be chasing a brig of war and got between her and the shore ….. A short time after that she was one mass of fire and blew up. It was a beautiful morning and some thousands of veteran Englishmen, having a bird’s eye view of the whole affair, took a lively interest in the manner our brave tars performed their duty. ”

By the end of September 1813 Wellington was ready to cross the Bidassoa and enter France. The advance was again up the coast so that the navy could lend support if necessary and close touch could be kept with the port of St. Jean de Luz and Hendaye. The advances continued remorseless until the end of the war in April 1814, all the time keeping near to the coast. Throughout this period the French continued to be out smarted by the cautious Wellington.

RETURN HOME

As well as transporting troops out, the navy also had to bring back the wounded. The experiences of James Hale, a sergeant of the 9th Foot, are probably not untypical. ” … commenced our march to Rantera and remained till the shipping was there to receive us that were homeward bound …. The place was so crowded with stores and detachments that were going to the army and such a number of wounded invalids bound for England, that we could scarcely find room to lie down…. So now a transport ship being ready, I embarked in company with about four hundred disabled men and early in the morning of the 19th April we put to sea with a fair wind., in company with two other transport ships and also a man of war brig, which was our convoy. The wind blew rather hard., owing to which we had some difficulty in getting out of harbour….. but however about the middle of the day our little fleet was safe out. . .. when the night began to approach the wind was still blowing very hard., our commodore came alongside as near as possible, and hailed the captain of our ship that if we should be separated in the night by rough weather that Portsmouth was our intended destination but in the case of necessity we might put into the first port that we could make. So we made all speed that was possible and continued in company with other ships till the fourth night, when the wind began to blow a heavy gale and the sea run very high and it being so very dark, our situation was most alarming. The gale continued until near sun rising next morning when the wind began to abate, and fortunately we received no damage but what became of the convoy and one of the transport ships, I know not ….. on the 17th we hove in sight of Plymouth. We had a surgeon on board but he never examined our wounds but once during the entire voyage until this day, in consequence of which some of the men’s wounds began to fester. So now having come to anchor as soon as a boat could be got ready, this unfeeling fellow went ashore and reported he thought us unfit to proceed any further by sea. Therefore on the following morning a signal was made for the ship to put into harbour”.

While medical services were rough and ready, this was too much even for those times, for Hale went on to say that there was an enquiry and that the surgeon was dismissed from the service.

With the Peninsular war over in 1814, the British army returned home. The cavalry rode through France to the Channel ports. The infantry sailed home -perhaps Wellington was doubtful whether they could remain on their best behaviour if they marched all the way back through France.

CONCLUSION

It is difficult to overestimate the role of the navy in the Peninsular war. Without the navy to ensure the safe passage of troops to Spain and Portugal and without a large merchant marine to carry the vast tonnages required by the army, without the ability of the navy to harass and tie down the numerically superior French, then even if there had been a Peninsular campaign, the result would probably have been very different.

It seems to have been a fact throughout the Peninsular war that the French never really understood sea power, both its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand they often just saw shadows and seemed to think the British could turn up anywhere at any time, when very often there was no substance to their fears. On the other hand, however, they never really appreciated the tremendous advantage Wellington had with his assured supplies and reinforcements.

It was not simply that the navy had command of the seas. Also necessary was a general who could appreciate and use the advantage this gave him. Regular supplies brought by the navy would have been useless if they had just piled up in the ports, they had to be brought overland in a never-ending flow. This Wellington organised. Conceptually however Wellington did not simply see the sea as a means of bringing in troops and supplies. For him it was a positive tool. Often he was in easy reach of the sea if he needed to retreat so he could take risks that might otherwise have been unacceptable. He used Popham and others to magnify his presence in the Peninsula out of all proportion to his actual numbers and made the seizure of ports an integral part of his strategy and advance.

The navy could never have won the war on its own for the navy could never have connected with the French army in battle. Then as now wars are won by those who hold the ground. However while the role of the Navy after Trafalgar in 1805 was rarely dramatic, nor was the role of the navy in the battle of the Atlantic in WWll, but both made victory possible.

By Ian Yonge

Sources

The Life of Sir John Colborne Field Marshall Lord Seaton by GC Moore Smith

Corunna by Christopher Hibbert

Nelson’s Navy by Brian Lavery

Kincaid Adventures in the Rifle Brigade

Wellington’s Peninsular War by Julian Paget

The Journal of James Hale

Years of Victory by Arthur Bryant

A History of the Peninsular War by Sir Charles Oman

The Journal of Admiral James

Readers who wish to know more about Sir Home Popham are referred to “A Damned Cunning Fellow- the Eventful Life of Rear Admiral Sir Home Popham” by Hugh Popham (ISBN 0-9516758-0-X)