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The Forlorn Hope and Australia.

The extract from The Sharpe Companion on the role of the Forlorn Hope, which appeared in the December 2003 issue of Sabretache, recalls Australian connections with the Forlorn Hope at one of the most famous, and bloodiest, actions of the Peninsular War--the assault on the breach of the fortress city of Badajoz on the night of 6 April 1812.

On the Princes Highway, about 33 kms from the Victorian-South Australian border, at the turnoff to the village of Dartmoor, there is a tourist marker to an historic site, Fort O'Hare. Surveyor-General Major Thomas L Mitchell, during his exploration of Australia Felix, as he termed this region of south western Victoria, on 18 August 1836, instructed his Second-in-Command, Assistant Surveyor Stapleton, to occupy the round point of a hill on the north side of the junction of the later-named Glenelg and Crawford Rivers. This point Mitchell 'named Fort O'Hare in the memory of a truly brave soldier, my Commanding Officer who fell at Badajoz in leading the forlorn hope of the Light Division in the storm'. (37)

Mitchell had been gazetted an Ensign in the 1/95th, the Rifle Regiment (after Waterloo the Rifle Brigade), on 24 July 1811 and his company commander, Major Peter O'Hare was already a regimental hero. Commissioned a lieutenant in January 1797 in the 69th Regiment, reputably from the ranks, O'Hare transferred to the 'Experimental Corps of Riflemen' in March 1800. It in turn became 'a Corps of Riflemen' on 11 October 1800 and, on 18 January 1803, the 95th or Rifle Regiment. O'Hare had served with the Rifles in South America, Sweden, and in the Iberian Peninsula, in the retreat to Corunna and seven other engagements before going to his death in the breach at Badajoz with the words 'A Lieutenant Colonel or cold meat in a few hours'. (38)

Another Rifles officer, Lieutenant James Marshal Stokes, who also fell with O'Hare and the stormers at the breach, had been commemorated by Mitchell four days previously when, on 14 August, he gave the name 'Stokes' to a river which flows into the Glenelg River about four kms north of Dartmoor.

The name Fort O'Hare has never come into general usage and, unfortunately, the depot site can not be accessed from the Princes Highway and Dartmoor as it lies on the opposite bank of the junction of the Glenelg and Crawford Rivers.

Even so the relationship of Mitchell with both O'Hare and Stokes is preserved in the Appin district of New South Wales where Mitchell named two creeks passing through his property there, headwaters of the Georges River, O'Hare Creek and Stokes Creek. These titles are still current, preserving for posterity the memory of two gallant officers who fell with the Forlorn Hope in the breach at Badajoz.

(37) Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, 1839, Journal of three expeditions into the interior of eastern Australia, Vol II, T & W Booth, London, P. 220.

(38) Colonel Willoughby Verner, 1912, History & campaigns of The Rifle Brigade, John Bale, Sons and Danielson, London, Chap. VII.
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Author:Sargent, Clem
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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