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By God, sir, I've lost my leg, heroic Midlander told Iron Duke.

THE Birmingham and Black Country links to Waterloo are strong, with the Marquess of Anglesey, whose name adorns buildings and streets around Cannock Chase, the most prominent local. In 1815, he was plain Henry Paget, 2nd Earl of Uxbridge, tasked with commanding 13,000 cavalry and 44 guns at Waterloo.

During the relentless fighting, he had eight horses shot from under him - and one of the very last cannon shots of the day struck Henry's right leg.

Ever the unruffled aristocrat, he informed Wellington: "By God, sir, I've lost my leg."

"By God, sir, so you have," replied the Duke.

In days before anaesthetic, Henry told the surgeon removing his shattered limb: "The knives appear somewhat blunt."

The Marquess' family seat was Beaudesert, a stately home on Cannock Chase. He died in 1854, at the age of 85.

The Midlands area provided plenty of foot soldiers, too.

Samuel Bate, from Smethwick, was engaged during the battle as a Royal Artillery driver. He was wounded by a shell, but made it back to the Midlands and gained work with Mr T Nicklin, Crown Forge. Despite his injury, he reached the grand age of 88.

Kings Norton's Joseph Alston was 25 when he stepped onto the battlefield as a member of the Light Company 2nd battalion.

Joseph was one of a handful of men who closed the North Gate at Hougoumont Farm after it had been breached by French troops.

He was discharged by the army on August 8, 1833, having reached the rank of sergeant.

But James Robinson's Waterloo tale is truly remarkable.

The Coldstream Guardsman, from Chasetown, Staffordshire, was badly wounded while defending Hougomont Farm and believed to have died.

He was found the following morning, however, under an oak tree, his head buried in his hands.

James had been shot in the eye and the musket ball was buried in his jaw.

It remained there until his dying day, and that was a long, long time after the battle. James was 89 when he passed away.

In a written tribute, the Rev. J Montague Seaton, vicar of St Anne's, Chasetown, said: "The only inconvenience, besides the loss of his eye, which seemed to have resulted from his wound was, as he used to say, a perpetual noise in his head, as of a water mill.

"He never tired of dwelling on incidents of the battle-field, the whole of which, to the very last, were pictured before him in a vivid outline.

"Such a true and noble specimen was he of a British soldier that it was his proud boast of never having had an extra drill, of never having been in the awkward squad, or having a black mark against his name.

"For many years in the enjoyment of excellent health he kept to his own corner by the fireside till, the other day, on this bleak Cannock Chase, he took his last cold and died, as a good weather-beaten old soldier should die, to use his own words, in the simple faith of a little child."

Edward Price, from Yenton, Birmingham, was 21 when he enlisted with the 1st Dragoon Guards in 1813.

At Waterloo, he was badly injured by a lance, driven through his left arm. Despite the severe wound, Edward returned to his regiment and was discharged on October 21, 1837, the medical assessment describing him as "worn out".

In his discharge notes, the examining surgeon scrawled: "I hereby certify this Private Edward Price of the 1st Dragoon Guards has been subject to chronic rheumatism of the joints with torpor of the liver since stationed on detachment at Limerick in 1830.

"He has also received a severe lance wound through the left arm when on duty at Waterloo in 1815. He has been under treatment at different periods in regimental and detachment hospitals. His conduct when in hospital was good.

"These disabilities originating in part from constitutional causes, and in part from the effects of service render him unfit for military duties. He has been a most excellent soldier, and his name appears in the good conduct book of the Regiment."

And on December 23, 1890, the Birmingham Daily Post recorded: "Today is the ninety-sixth birthday of General George Whichcote, of Meriden, Coventry, who is one of the few surviving Peninsular and Waterloo veterans.

"The General, who was a son of Sir T. Whichcote, not only fought at Waterloo, but earlier in the Duke of Wellington's Peninsular campaigns and was present at the historic sieges and storming of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, the retreat from Burgos, and at the famous battles of Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Tarbes, and Toulouse.

"His regiment was the 52nd Foot."

In truth, all of the above were lucky, mighty lucky, to survive the Waterloo carnage. One in four on the battlefield didn't.

Days afterwards, the landscape was still piled with corpses. One witness described a scene "too horrible to behold".

"I felt sick in the stomach - the multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded men with mangled limbs unable to move and perishing from not having their wounds dressed or from hunger, formed a spectacle I shall never forget."

No wonder Arthur Wellesley said in the aftermath: "The only thing worse than a battle lost is a battle won."


The Marquess of Anglesey |
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2015
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