John Grimshaw’s Foreign Service Before His Involvement in the Battle of Waterloo

Webpage for John Grimshaw,Coldstream Guards Soldier and Lancashire Weaver

This companion webpage to “John Grimshaw, Coldstream Guards Soldier and Lancashire Weaver” provides information on his foreign service in the Guards prior to participating in the Battle of Waterloo.


Webpage Credits

Walcheren Expedition 1809

Peninsula War (1810-12)

Low Countries (1813-15)


Website Credits


Thanks go to Anne Grimshaw for providing this information on John Grimshaw’s foreign service prior to his participation in the Battle of Waterloo.

John Grimshaw saw action after three years with the Coldstream Guards first in the Walcheren Expedition of August – September (1809), then in the Peninsula War (1810-12), and the Low Countries (1813-15) which included the assault on Bergen-op-Zoom in March 1814 and culminated in the battle of Waterloo in June 1815. He was, without doubt, a veteran.

John was accompanied in the Peninsula, as far as can be ascertained by Thomas Pollard, also from the same area of Lancashire. Thomas was not only a fellow Coldstreamer but became Johns brother-in-law after his discharge from the army in 1814. Thomas, in the First Battalion Coldstream Guards, had been in the Peninsula eighteen months before John, in the Second Battalion, arrived there. Despite being in different battalions it is quite
possible that they knew each other while stationed in England. If not, they presumably met while on campaign in Portugal and Spain.

The Walcheren Expedition of 1809, the Peninsula War (1810-12), and the Low Countries (1813-15) are described below (A, B, C) The Battle of Waterloo is described in the next section. The table in Figure 1 shows the overseas movements of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards.

Figure 1. Overseas movements of the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards.

Source: McKinnon, Daniel, 1883, Origins and Services of the Coldstream Guards.

Walcheren Expedition 1809

After the French Revolution in 1789, Napoleon Bonaparte, whose ambition was to rule Europe, if not the world, aimed to make this a reality. Much of continental Europe was already under his domination but Britain had resisted attempts at invasion on land through the building of Martello towers and other coastal defences, manned by willing civilian-turned-soldier volunteers. From 1803 onwards, recruitment into the regular army in Britain had been high. (Thomas Pollard enlisted in October 1803 when recruitment was at a peak.)

At sea, victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805 ensured no further sea-borne invasion but it cost the life of Britains naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson.

In 1808 France turned on Spain and threatened Portugal. In April 1809 France and Austria declared war. From the beginning things went badly for the Austrians and

“to create a diversion in favour of Austria, a formidable expedition was prepared by England for invading the French dominions.” (MacKinnon).

This “formidable expedition” consisted of 40,000 men, 39 ships of the line, 36 frigates, gunboats, bomb-vessels and others. The objective was to take Flushing and destroy the French ships, arsenals and dockyards at Antwerp. In command was Lord Chatham (John Pitt).

The expedition sailed and Flushing was attacked by land and sea. The town duly surrendered but there was no rapid follow-up action and the troops, including John Grimshaw, spent several weeks on the mosquito-infested
islands of the Scheld estuary. Many fell sick with Walcheren fever—a mostquito-borne form of malaria.

Lord Chathams lack of action, tardiness and “habitual dilatoriness” earned him the nickname of the late Lord Chatham and he was much criticised although he may not have been entirely to blame, his actions possibly having been arranged for him in high places prior to his departure for Walcheren.

However, the invasion lacked the element of surprise and Napoleon could quickly and easily have overwhelmed any Allied seaborne forces.

The ill-fated, ill-conceived and ill-executed Walcheren expedition cost Britain £20 million according to MacKinnon —but this seems an incredible amount by the standards of the day.

The human cost was high too: thousands of soldiers contracted and suffered from Walcheren fever, the effects of which lasted far longer than the Walcheren Expedition itself which lasted a mere six weeks.

1. Quotation, The British Expeditionary Force to Walcheren: 1809. Robert Burnham:

…the worst expedition of the Napoleonic Wars…

Without a doubt, the worst expedition of the Napoleonic Wars was the British landing in the Low Countries in 1809. The British hoped to achieve two goals: to assist the Austrians, who had gone to war against the French and to destroy the French fleet thought to be in Flushing.

The British force, of over 39,000 men began to land in Walcheren on 30 July. (This force was larger than the British force in Portugal under Wellington!) The expeditions goals however, were poorly conceived and were destined to failure. By the time the force had landed, the Austrians had been defeated and were negotiating a peace treaty with Napoleon.
Although the British had captured Flushing, the French had moved their fleet to Antwerp, thus denying the British any chance of destroying it.

(Quotation may also be found at:

2. Quotation: Origins and Services of the Coldstream Guards, by MacKinnon

Off to Walcheren

The flank companies of the 2nd batt. of the Coldstream, consisting of nine officers, 18 non-commissioned officers, and 240 rank and file, embarked on 16th inst. at Chatham for Walcheren; these comps. formed part of the grenadier and light infantry batts. of the brigade of Guards…. They embarked at Chatham proceeded to the Nore, and were put on board ships of war… The five companies forming the Light Infantry battalion, commanded by Lieut-Colonel John Lambert consisted of… Officers of the Coldstream Lt-Col Thomas Braddyll, Captains Thomas Barrow, Newton Dickenson and Lord Alvanley. Strength of the light infantry of the Coldstream was 7 serjeants, 2 buglers and 121 rank and file. Headquarters, Reyland, 24th Augt, 1809.

3. Where was John Grimshaw in the Walcheren Expedition?

Regimental records for the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards state that two companies departed from Chatham on 16 July 1809 and arrived in Scheldt on 30 July.

The company muster roll for June-December 1809 shows John Grimshaw in Thomas Braddylls company. According to the Order of battle this was one of the 2nd Battalions two flank companies thus it appears that John was now in the Light Company. The Order of Battle shows that John, in the Reserve Brigade, landed on South Beveland Island.

For map see the following webpage:

4. Walcheren Fever

Benjamin Harris of the Rifle Brigade, like John Grimshaw, sailed to South Beveland and wrote of his experiences (from Recollections of Rifleman Harris 1848):

…A fair wind soon carried us off Flushing, where one part of the expedition disembarked; the other made for South Beveland, among which latter I myself was. The five companies of Rifles immediately occupied a very pretty village, with rows of trees on either side of its principal streets, where we had plenty of leisure to listen to the cannonading going on amongst the companies we had left at Flushing. The appearance of the country (such as it was) was extremely pleasant, and for a few days the men enjoyed themselves much.

But at the expiration of (I think) less time than a week, an awful visitation came suddenly upon us. The first I observed of it was one day as I sat in my billet, when I beheld whole parties of our Riflemen in the street shaking with a sort of ague, to such a degree that they could hardly walk; strong and fine young men who had been but a short time in the service seemed suddenly reduced in strength to infants, unable to stand upright —so great a shaking had seized upon their whole bodies from head to heel. The company I belonged to was quartered in a barn, and I quickly perceived that hardly a man there had stomach for the bread that was served out to him, or even to taste his grog, although each man had an allowance of half-a-pint of gin per day. In fact I should say that about three weeks from the day we landed, I and two others were the only individuals who could stand upon our legs. They lay groaning in rows in the barn, amongst the heaps of lumpy black bread they were unable to eat.

This awful spectacle considerably alarmed the officers, who were also many of them attacked. The naval doctors came on shore to assist the regimental surgeons, who, indeed, had more upon their hands than they could manage; Dr. Ridgeway of the Rifles, and his assistant, having nearly five hundred patients prostrate at the same moment. In short, except myself and three or four others, the whole concern was completely floored.

Harris eventually succumbed to the fever. However, unlike Harris, John appears to have escaped the effects of Walcheren fever for he is not listed as sick in the muster rolls. He was one of the lucky ones.

5. The British Expeditionary Force to Walcheren: 1809. Robert Burnham

The British force had 4,066 deaths during the expedition but only 106 officers and men were killed in combat. The rest died from Walcheren Fever. The return of the force to England did little to alleviate the problems. On 1 February 1810, a staggering 11,513 officers and men were still carried on the rolls as sick. Less than two years later, many of these troops were still so weakened by the disease, Wellington requested that no unit that served in the Walcheren Campaign be sent to him!

(Quotation can also be found at:

The muster roll for Johns company for the second half of 1809 (covering the Walcheren Expedition) confirm this and, significantly, shows fourteen sick and seven dead. The muster roll for the next six months for that company shows 25 sick and five dead as malaria recurred and took its toll long after the men had returned home. Normal numbers of sick and dead were barely a quarter of these. The companies stayed in the Low Countries just over one month, before departing from Flushing on 4 September and returned to Chatham on 14 September. They arrived in London a week later on 21 September.

John had, however, had his first, albeit brief, taste of being On Foreign Service.

British Expeditionary Force to Walcheren

9 August 1809

Order of Battle

On Walcheren Island:

Right Wing: Major General Graham

Centre: Lieutenant General Lord Paget

Left Wing: Lieutenant General Fraser

3rd Division: Lieutenant General T. Grosvenor

On South Beveland Island

Light Division: Lieutenant General the Earl of Rosslyn

Major General William Stewarts Brigade: 2/43rd, 2/52nd, 8 companies of the 2/95th

Major General von Linsingens Brigade: 3rd Dragoons, 12th Light Dragoons, 2nd KGL

Major General von Altens Brigade: 1st KGL Light Battalion, 2nd KGL Light Battalion

2nd Division: Lieutenant General Marquis of Huntly

Major General Dyotts Brigade: 1/6h, 1/50th, 1/91st

Brigadier General Montresors Brigade: 1/9th, 1/38th, 1/42nd

One company of the 2/95th

Reserve Division: Lieutenant General John Hope

Brigadier General Disneys Brigade: 1/1st Guards, 3rd/1st Guards,

Flank Companies of the 2/Coldstream Guards (John Grimshaw) and the 2/3rd Guards

Major General William Erskines Brigade: 20th, 1/92nd

Major General Earl of Dalhousies Brigade: 1/4th, 2/4th, 1/28th

Captain Millers Company of the 2/95th

Artillery: Wilmots Brigade of light six pounders

Peninsula War (1810-12)

After the French Revolution in 1789, Napoleon Bonaparte, whose ambition was to rule Europe, if not the world, aimed to make this a reality. Much of Europe was already under his domination but Britain had resisted his invasion attempts through the building of Martello towers and other coastal defences and at sea with victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805. Army recruitment in Britain was high.

Napoleon then turned on his ally, Spain, and thus created a new enemy when he put his brother, Joseph, on the Spanish throne having deposed the rightful monarch. Naturally, the Spaniards rebelled. Portugal, which, so far, had escaped Napoleons clutches, could be next. This threat encouraged Britain to send troops to the Iberian Peninsula, partly to rid Spain of Napoleons domination but mainly to ensure that Portugal remained independent and free to continue trading with Britain as she had done for centuries. The regular armies of Spain and Portugal were allied with Britain and their guerrilla forces harassed the French throughout the war.

Source: Fletcher, Ian. ed. A Guards Officer in the Peninsula: the Peninsula War letters of John Rous, Coldstream Guards 1812-14

Red indicates battles in which John Grimshaw took part; green indicates those in which his future brother-in-law, Thomas Pollard, took part.]

1. Background to the War

In the autumn of 1807 Napoleon moved troops through Spain to invade Portugal. In August 1808 a British expeditionary force under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley (later to become the Duke of Wellington) landed at Mondego Bay in Portugal. After the battles of Rolica and Vimeiro, the French, under Junot, were defeated. The French left Portugal as part of a treaty, the Convention of Cintra, and Wellesley returned to England although he was criticised for some of the terms of this treaty.

However, 30,000 British troops were left in Portugal under the command of Sir John Moore. Despite the treaty, the war escalated in Spain. Napoleon countered this by personally taking 200,000 troops into Spain. Moore struck after the northern flank of this French army, heading for Burgos. However, he was outnumbered and forced to retreat westwards. This retreat ended with the evacuation from Corunna in January 1809. Moore was killed. Napoleon handed over command to Marshal Soult and left Spain for good.

In April 1809 Wellesley returned to Portugal and assumed command of the Allied armies. He crossed the border into Spain, joined forces with the Spanish army under General Cuesta, and marched eastwards.

On 27-28 July 1809, French armies under Napoleons brother, Joseph, attacked the British and Portuguese at Talavera before finally having to abandon the battlefield. For this victory Wellesley became known as Viscount Wellington of Talavera. But the Allied victory had largely come to nothing with a new French army under Soult threatening to cut the road to Portugal. To protect this route, Wellesley was forced to fall back to the Portuguese frontier. In late 1809 fortified the roads into Portugal and also began secretly constructing the Lines of Torres Vedras, a series of fortifications that protected Lisbon from attack from the north. The Royal Navy protected its sea approaches.

In 1810 the French under Massena invaded Portugal and headed for Lisbon but Wellington defeated Massenas troops at Busaco before settling in for the winter behind the Lines of Torres Vedras.

During the following year, movement of both French and Allies see-sawed across the Spanish-Portuguese border.

When Soult removed many French troops under Victor, who were besieging Cadiz, to reinforce his own assault on Badajoz, the Allies took the opportunity to lure Victor into an open battle. This took place near Cadiz at Barrosa—a hilltop site like Busaco. Also that year were the sieges of border fortresses at Almeida and Badajoz and street-fighting in the frontier town of Fuentes dOnoro. French commander Massena was replaced by Marmont.

The turning point of the war had been reached although, of course, no one knew this at the time. During the winter of 1812/13 Wellington was greatly aided by Napoleons unsuccessful invasion of Russia which depleted his army. The French withdrew to eastern Europe and had retreated to the River Elbe. Prussia re-entered the war in March and joined the Allies. Napoleon could ill-afford to send troops to the Peninsula as he planned a counter-attack on his eastern front. The Allied army, however, was not short of troops and reinforcements joined Wellington while Portuguese and Spanish guerrillas continued to harass French troops.

Thus the tide turned in favour of Wellington who took the initiative and headed east again towards Burgos, never giving the French army chance to consolidate. In an outflanking movement through the mountains to the north of Burgos, Wellington struck at Josephs troops at Vitoria and quickly routed them.

This was the beginning of the end for Napoleon. Wellingtons victory galvanised the Russian-Prussian alliance and encouraged Austria to take up arms again against France.

On the eastern front the continental armies were closing in on Napoleons empire. The French, however, resisted strongly but the Allies entered Paris on 31 March 1814.

2. John Grimshaws Peninsula Diary 1810

(As far as is known John Grimshaw did not keep a diary but the following chronologies have been based on Daniel MacKinnons Origins and Services of the Coldstream Guards with other events added to give context. See also table of overseas movements of 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. Places in bold type indicate actions in which John Grimshaw was involved.)

John Grimshaws company in the 2nd Battalion, under the command of Gilbert Stirling, is first listed as On Foreign Service in muster rolls July 1809-January 1810. Despite changes of commanding officer and/or company, John remained on foreign service in the Peninsula until 1812. His company ultimately joined up with the 1st Battalion as part of the Brigade of Guards in the First Division under Sir Brent Spencer.

7 March Two companies of the 2nd Ballion Coldstream Guards under the command of Lt-Col Jackson, marched from London to embark at Portsmouth for Cadiz. Arrived in Cadiz on 31 March (Regimental records PRO WO 380/2). From Cadiz proceeded to nearby Isle of Leon.

27 April All ten companies of 1st battalion of the Coldstream camped at Villa Cova near Celerico in Portugal, a safe haven should Massena threaten.

16 September Massena entered Portugal with 65,000 men and advanced to nearby Vizeu. Wellington withdrew before making a stand at Busaco.

27 September Battle of Busaco. John Grimshaws first action of the Peninsula War. The First Division occupied the centre, on the right of which were the Guards.

The Coldstream were positioned on “the damned long hill” as Busaco Ridge came to be known. The night before the battle no fires were to be lit and so soldiers had no hot food, they were to show no
lights and were to keep their position as secret as possible on the reverse slope—one of Wellingtons favourite tactics which kept his troops out of sight of the enemy, safer from artillery and held an element of surprise. It was a tactic that was to be used several times, most notably at Waterloo. The Coldstream were not directly involved in the fighting. No Coldstream casualties.

October Weather cold with prolonged heavy rain. Wellington withdraws towards Lisbon having thwarted Massenas attempt to invade Portugal. His attack on the Lines of Torres Vedras which protected Lisbon was pointless as they were impregnable.

18 November 10 Comps. The 1st Battalion Coldstream at Cartaxo. John Grimshaw and Thomas Pollard spent the winter behind the Lines of Torres Vedras in relative comfort, well fed and clothed with supplies brought by the Royal Navy through Lisbon. The French, attempting to live off the land, virtually starved. British soldiers threw them biscuits, rations and brandy! But the French gave up and slipped away leaving straw dummies in their front line.

3. John Grimshaws Peninsula Diary 1811

Wellington plans to invade Spain and raises the sieges of the French-held frontier towns of Almeida and Badajoz on the south-eastern Portuguese border.

5 March Brigade of Guards under General Dilkes which included two companies of the Coldstream—and Thomas Pollard—fought the French at Barrosa near Cadiz. The engagement lasted barely two hours but all credit to the troops involved. Coldstream casualties: Ensign Watts and eight rank and file killed; Ensigns Bentinck and Talbot, one sergeant and forty-five rank and file wounded.

11 March Badajoz surrender to Marshal Soult

19 March 10 Companies 1st battalion of the Coldstream in camp near Sarzedas.

April French withdrew from Portugal.

17 April Coldstream moved into quarters at Puebla.

May Two officers, 3 sergeants and 98 rank and file, of the two companies of the 2nd Battalion at Cadiz, ordered to join the 1st battalion at St. Olaia—possibly including John.

2 May Coldstream received orders to march “by the left of Almadilla, where they remained until evening. During the night the Brigade of Guards moved to Nava dAver, and on the 3rd May the army was placed in position.” As part of the First Division, this was a strong position to the rear of Fuentes dOnoro.

3-5 May Main body of Wellingtons army fought the battle of Fuentes dOnoro, a fortress town on the north-eastern Spanish-Portuguese border. Despite being outnumbered by almost 10,000, Wellingtons troops forced Massenas surrender en route to relieve Almeida. The town of Fuentes dOnoro had to be taken by the Allies as part of Wellingtons defensive plan for holding the 150-mile Portuguese frontier. It was near the northern fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo. (The southern fortress was Badajoz.)

Photo Credit: Bridget Andrews

There was a long, low, hill that ran north-south through the town and straddled the road from Ciudad Rodrigo. The village itself was a labyrinth of alleyways that ran between small, single-storey, stone houses with walls enclosing gardens and yards. it was the scene of much bitter and bloody hand-to-hand fighting.

John Grimshaw and Thomas Pollard in the 1st Division were to the west of the village over the hill facing east.

On 4 May there was an unofficial truce during which both sides buried their dead and fraternised! The French held parades as shows of strength, while the British ignored them and played football!

The next day, the fighting continued but the Allies were realigned to face south instead of east.

Coldstream casualties: 4 rank and file killed, Captain Harvey, two sergeants and 49 rank and file wounded, Ensign Stothert and seven rank and file taken prisoner.

27-29 May Coldstream returned through Sabugal and arrived Puebla.

5 June Coldstream left Puebla for Almadilla. They crossed the Tagus and onto Portalegre where they halted for three days.

23 June Camped near St Oloia where the heat was so intense that huts were built to give the men some protection and shade. “A draft joined the regiment from Cadiz on the 25th, consisting of Captain the Honourable John Walpole, Ensign Greville, three sergeants, and ninety-eight rank and file; soon after the first division was reviewed by Lord Wellington, accompanied by the Prince of Orange.”

Sometime in the second half of 1811 John joined James Phillips company.

22-23 July Guards left St Oloia, reached Portalegre.

31 July received order to return north recrossing the Tagus to fix headquarters at Fuente Guinaldo.

6 September General Thomas Graham succeeded Sir Brent Spencer as commander of the First Division.

October Allied army into cantonments: Coldstream at Lagoisa, Valdozares and later Pinhel. Headquarters at Freynada.

4. John Grimshaws Peninsula Diary 1812

Wellington was set to invade Spain but needed to take the two fortress towns of Ciudad Rodrigo in the north and Badajoz in the south.

January Headquarters transferred to Gallegos in preparation for move to lay siege to Ciudad Rodrigo but heavy snow prevented march for two days. Sir Thomas Graham entrusted with the direction of the siege. Coldstream involved in digging and constructing batteries as well as manning the trenches.

8 January Coldstream quartered at Espeja.

9 January Troops working on trenches and marking out batteries.

13 January “Guards were also in the trenches when fortified convent, situated on right of redoubt was carried by the light infantry companies supported by Lord Blantyres brigade.”

17 January Guards in trenches again. General Henry McKinnon (uncle of Daniel) killed when magazine exploded after attack by musket and artillery.

19 January Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. A surprise winter attack by Wellington for his drive into Spain ousted the defenders and Wellington began plans to capture Badajoz to the south.

Photo Credit: Bridget Andrews

Ciudad Rodrigo was a fortress town on the northern Spanish/Portuguese border. It was held by the French and thus barred the route into Portugal. Its ramparts were eventually breached and Allied troops went on the rampage of plunder, rape and murder. Possibly due to the high number of officers lost during the day, there was little control. Whatever the reason, it was inexcusable particularly as the inhabitants were Portuguese —and allies.

11 Coldstream casualties

20 February The 1st battalion of the Coldstream at Abrantes.

16 February Guards crossed the Guadiana over a pontoon bridge below the town of Badajoz and the siege began.

21 March Siege of Badajoz completed. British troops went on three-day rampage of looting, pillaging, rape and destruction. The Coldstream Guards not involved in action during the siege but maintained their position on the outskirts. “torrents of rain had swept away the pontoon bridge; and from the rapidity of the current, the flying-bridges could only be worked with great difficulty. These obstacles occasioned supplies of all descriptions to be kept back; and the trenches on the low ground were filled with water.”

Marmont advanced with his French forces to Castello Branco but on learning of Wellingtons movements, retreated to Ciudad Rodrigo then east to Salamanca.

6 April The fortress town of Badajoz taken. Wellington invaded Spain once Marmont was removed.

21 July Wellingtons troops crossed the River Tormes and headed south of the town of Salamanca. During the crossing there was torrential rain, thunderstorms and hail. Several men were killed by lightning and horses stampeded. The river rose to a flood. The area was open farmland, some woods and undulating fields alternating with ridges.

22 July Battle of Salamanca. The village of Arapiles to the south of Salamanca, a key position, was occupied by the light companies of the Guards under the command of Lt-Col Woodford of the Coldstream. It was attacked several times and incurred casualties including Ensign Hotham who was wounded. One sergeant, two corporals, and four privates were killed; three sergeants, one corporal, one drummer and seventeen privates were wounded; eight men also missing. (Hotham was not one of John Grimshaws or Thomas Pollards officers, thus it would seem that neither of them were in the Light Company—the only company of the Coldstream that saw action at Salamanca but both John and Thomas were awarded clasps for Salamanca on their Military General Service Medals.)

Photo Credit: Bridget Andrews

After the battle grass fires burnt to death many wounded. The evening and night were cold, made worse by a cutting wind. Some soldiers pulled together piles of enemy dead and slept in the shelter of the bodies.

Marmont was defeated and Wellington now held the gateways between Spain and Portugal—Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz— and could sweep across Spain and invade France via the Pyrenees.

According to a letter written by Ensign John Rous to his parents (Fletcher, ed. A Guards Officer in the Peninsula), it was here, at Castello Branco near Abrantes (near Plasencia) that the mosquitoes were very bad and their bites made mens eyes swell so that they were unable to see. It was very likely that John was one of those men suffering.

End July – January 1813 Johns company commander is George Collier.

12 August Wellington enters Madrid amid much rejoicing by the locals but Soult approaches from Andalusia and Wellington falls back to Portugal.

20 September The 1st Battalion of the Coldstream in camp before Burgos after unsuccessful assault on the fortress of Burgos. Wellington withdrew towards Salamanca and then all the way back to the Portuguese frontier.

October Several cases of misconduct from working parties constructing batteries at Burgos had been noted but the Commander of the Forces observed that “he was happy to make an exception in favour of the Guards whohave invariably performed this duty, as they have every other in this army, in the most exemplary manner.

18-21 October Operations around Burgos. Coldstream casualties: Capt Edward Harvey killed, Ensign Burgess killed, Capt Fraser wounded, Ensign Buckeridge killed, Hon. W.G. Crofton and Hon. John Walpole wounded

November Weather was cold, and constant rain made it difficult to light fires, supplies were irregular and roads bad. Tents were issued for the first time.

6 December Coldstream in cantonment for winter at Musquetello where they were quartered.

25 December The 1st Battalion of the Coldstream at Mongualda.

Sometime after July, John returned to England and the 2nd Battalion in Henry Brands company. He remained in England until November 1813.

5. Medals, Prize Money and Pay

Prize money was awarded to men after campaigns. This was standard practice and was a sort of bonus or reward. The amount received depended upon the mans rank—a lieutenant-colonel received £272! Records for prize money awarded for the Peninsula War in 1816 (PRO WO 164/289) to men of the 1st battalion Coldstream Guards show varying amounts, for example, several payments of 7/6d to John Grimshaw. All of John Grimshaws payments were paid to W. Kirkpatrick, possibly an agent as his name appears against several mens payments.

[Picture of Document showing prize money awarded to John Grimshaw 1816 for actions in the Peninsula. This was apparently paid to W. Kirkpatrick but it is not known who he was. He may have been an agent who looked after such money for soldier. PRO WO 164/289]

Following a general feeling that some award should be made to men who had fought in the Peninsula Campaign, the Military General Service Medal (MGS) was to be awarded. This did not materialise until 1848, i.e. 34 years after the end of the war. It was given only to survivors, there were no posthumous awards. Medals had to be applied for in person (or by a notable representative such as a churchman, post office, pensions officer or magistrate). The mens claims were vetted against the regimental muster rolls. Of course, there were errors and after such a long period of time perhaps memories were at fault. The result was that many men did not receive the clasps (or bars) to which they were entitled, and many received clasps they were not entitled to.

John Grimshaw was entitled to four clasps: Busaco, Fuentes dOnoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca.

Military General Service Medal

John Grimshaw received “Extra pay” of “First class 1d per diem” according to the pay lists (PRO WO 12/1735). This appears to have been paid annually in December from 1811 to 1817 with two years extra in 1815 after the battle of Waterloo. (Waterloo Men were given two years extra service which greatly helped with their pension allocation.)

6. Camp life and characters

Much of the time on campaign was spent in camp. Men slept in the open or under any natural or improvised shelter. Tents were not issued until 1812/13. When not in camp, men were marching to wherever they were ordered to go. Only a small fraction of a soldiers time was spent actually fighting. Life in camp for the rank and file revolved around cleaning equipment, cooking and eating, repairing clothes and mending shoes, keeping warm, sleeping and passing the time either with home-made entertainment such as music and singing, card games, reading, writing letters and generally messing about killing time until the next order to move.

Picture: woman with basket

Picture: woman bending over camp fire

Soldiers wives often did the cooking in camp as well as laundry, foraging and other camp chores. A small number of soldiers wives were selected by ballot immediately before leaving England to accompany their husbands on campaign. If her husband died or was killed, his widow was not wanting long for a new husband.

Picture: civilian in camp

There were always civilians in camp: hangers-on, official dealers for the army in various goods, peddlers, sutlers, petty criminals and thieves as well as legitimate visitors.

Picture: soldier kneeling at campfire

Every soldier had to undertake some camp chores—keping a fire going was vital for cooking, warmth and light. Note the forage cap worn when around camp as opposed to the more formal shako

7. On the move

John Grimshaw would have been fortunate to eat his meals in a tent while on campaign in the Peninsula. Tents were welcomed but could be stiflingly hot in summer. Eating was generally done in the open or under whatever shelter was handy either from sun or rain. When the order came to move everything was packed away and the march began.

Picture: eating at table in tent

Picture: soldiers facing left

Soldiers would not have looked as smart as this for very long during the Peninsula campaign. The weather took its toll on uniforms so that the once-scarlet cloth of the jackets faded, the colour ran and it was a rare soldier whose jacket was not patched and re-patched, often with contrasting colours of any material easily available. White trousers were also not entirely practical and did not stay white for long. Muskets, however, had to be keep scrupulously clean.

Picture: soldiers facing right

A halt on the march was a welcome relief from marching, a chance to tend to sore feet, have a bite to eat and a drink from his canteen although the water was usually too warm (or frozen) to be appetising. Before a battle troops would be under orders to move whenever and wherever they were
needed at a moments notice although how quickly orders came through depended upon the speed of the mounted courier bringing those orders. Meanwhile, the soldiers would wait.

8. Into battle!

Sight of the enemy!

Picture: French column moving towards camera – drum in foreground

Picture: French soldier loading musket

French column on the march and French soldier loading his musket. Both the Allies and the French rank and file used muzzle-loading muskets so the rate and loading and firing was equally slow (by modern standards) on each side. A good soldier could fire six rounds a minute but in battle this was more like three or four.

Pictures: soldiers loading and firing

At last the hours of drill and training were put into practice. Soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder in line to fire volleys at the enemy. Although the Brown Bess musket was not an accurate weapon, when fired en masse at the enemy its effect was devastating. Sometimes, however, the musket was more use as a club when fighting came hand to hand.

Low Countries (1813-15)

John was involved in the assault on Bergen op Zoom 9/10 March 1814.

In 1809, in an attempt to occupy the Low Countries, Napoleon had set his sights on securing Antwerp as his naval base by invasion via the River Scheldt which flowed through Antwerp. This threat had to be met and in 1809 the Royal Navy set out—with a little help from the army— “to capture or destroy all enemy ships on the Scheldt, demolish the dockyards and arsenals at Flushing, Ternneuzen and Antwerp and render the river itself impassable for men-of-war” (Woodham).

Map of the area of John Grimshaw’s Low Country service

This expedition was, for a variety of reasons, a failure, not least of which was that large numbers of soldiers and sailors fell sick with Walcheren fever— a mosquito-borne malaria. Despite the costly disaster both in lives and money of the Walcheren Expedition of 1809 in which John Grimshaw took part (see On Foreign Service: Walcheren Expedition), another attempt was made to secure the Low Countries in 1813.

After two years in the Peninsula with the 1st Battalion and his friend, Thomas Pollard, John Grimshaw was back in England in 1813. He rejoined the 2nd Battalion based at barracks in London. He was in Lt-Col Henry Brands company for the first six months of that year—the officer who had commanded his company when John had joined the Coldstream Guards in 1806. In February the company moved from Portman Street barracks to Knightsbridge and Westminster barracks. In the second half of the year it made its usual six-monthly changeover, this time to the Savoy barracks and Lower Westminster. Johns Commanding Officer had also changed. His new CO was Herbert Taylor and it was this company that went On Foreign Service again.

1. Bergen-op-Zoom

On 24 November 1813 John set sail once again. His was one of six companies of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards under Lt-Col Adams that embarked at Greenwich for Holland. The force of 4,000 was under the overall command of Sir Thomas Graham.

Amongst the objectives was to take the town of Bergen-op-Zoom which lay about 20 miles north-north-east of Antwerp and 30 miles east of Flushing to prevent Napoleons fleet having access to the port of Antwerp.

Bergen-op-Zoom was a fortified town as shown in the figure below.

Map of Bergen-op-Zoom showing plan of unsuccessful attack 10 March 1814. John Grimshaw was with the Brigade of Guards marked B in red (right hand side of map.) Note the “zig-zags” — defences — around the town. PRO WO 782726.

The zig-zags are  bastions, ditches, walls and other defences and fortifications that had to be crossed, mined, blown up by sappers and engineers and breached by small advance parties called the forlorn hope carrying scaling ladders before the besiegers could enter the town. It was a dangerous and hazardous business!

John was with the Brigade of Guards to the west of the town. The attack was led by Graham and it was during this action which took place on 9-10 March 1814 that John Grimshaw was wounded in the right arm and left leg although how badly is not known. As the muster rolls list him On Foreign Service until late 1815, it is probable that his wounds were flesh wounds and treated locally.

The companies were garrisoned in Brussels and later Ath until the summer of 1815 —the start of the Waterloo campaign. After the unsuccessful but gallant attack on Bergen-op-Zoom, the six companies of the 2nd battalion Coldstream were billeted first in West Wesel then Mechlin, Lippelo and finally Dendermonde. They eventually crossed the Scheld and occupied of Antwerp. On 3 August they moved to Mechlin and entered Brussels next day. On 2 September the colours and the four remaining four companies of the 2nd Battalion joined from England thus completing the 2nd Battalion.

2. John Grimsaw’s Low Countries’ Diary, 1813-15


6 December Landed Scheveling and marched to The Hague then to Delft and Helvoet Sluys.

16 December Embarked and sailed to Williamstadt and on to Steenbergen then moved into cantonments near Bergen-op-Zoom.


January – December John was under the company commander, Herbert Taylor.

9 January Returned to Steenbergen.

21 January Inspection by Duke of Clarence. Passed through Essechen, West Wessel, Rosendale, Starbroeck and Stantvliet in readiness for the assault on Bergen-op-Zoom.

15 February Six companies of the 2nd battalion of the Coldstream Guards at Steinbergen.

10 March Attack on Bergen-op-Zoom.

[July 1814 Thomas Pollard returns from Portugal with the 1st Battalion]

3 August Moved to Mechlin

4 August Six Companies the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream at Brussels.

[14 September Thomas Pollard discharged from the Coldstream Guards]


January – June John joins John Walpoles company—the Light Company. Start of the Waterloo Campaign.  (See Chapter on Waterloo p.67)

Based on MacKinnon in Origins and Services of the Coldstream Guards with other events added to give

3. Quotations:

 A Failed Attack…

Sir Thomas Graham had collected about four thousand British bayonets to carry this strong fortress by a coup-de-main; for which purpose the troops were formed in four columns two were to attack at different points; the third was to make a false attack; while the fourth attempted the entrance of the harbour, which was fordable at low water. Major-General Cooke led the left, and met with some impediments from the ice in crossing the ditch, but succeeded in gaining the rampart. The right column, under Major-General Skerret, forced itself into the town; but that officer being wounded, and great loss sustained, much confusion prevailed. The centre column, which was driven back, formed again, and advanced to effect a junc­tion with the left column on the ramparts. At day-light the besieged turned the guns on the British, who were without protection on the out-works. General Cooke at length ordered the Guards to retreat, which was con­ducted in the steadiest and most soldier-like manner.

General Bizanet, the governor of the fortress, agreed to a suspension of hostilities.

The loss of the British amounted to about three hundred killed, and one thousand eight hundred prisoners, amongst whom were many wounded.

The casualties in the Coldstream during the eighth and ninth of March, were Captain Shawe, severely wounded; one rank and file killed, and about thirty taken prisoners.

McKinnon Origins and Services of the Coldstream Guards

Confusion is evident during the attack on Bergen-op-Zoom. Picture from The Armies of Wellington, Philip J. Haythornhwaite.

but a word of praise

Colonel Lord Proby returns his best thanks to the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of the detachment from the third brigade of Guards who were engaged in the attack upon Bergen-op-Zoom: he feels equally satisfied with the gallantry which they displayed in the assault; with their steady conduct during the many hours they maintained their position upon the ramparts; and with the soldierly and orderly manner in which they effected the retreat. Lord Proby particularly remarked the excellent conduct of the officers who commanded the advanced party, and that which carried the ladders: Captain Rodney, Ensign Gooch and Ensign Pardoe.

Extract from the Brigade Order, Hogerhyde, March 10, 1814.

Webpage History

Webpage posted January 2002, updated May 2002. Banner replaced April 2011.