Leythers in the Battle of Waterloo

Hougoumont Farm, near Waterloo, Belgium, was still pockmarked with musket shot and shrapnel in 2015
Hougoumont Farm, near Waterloo, Belgium, was still pockmarked with musket shot and shrapnel in 2015
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Local historian Alf Ridyard looks back in time to a time of war...

The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 are two of the most defining land battles in the history of the British Isles.

Both battles had a significant Leigh involvement – Benjamin Baddeley, a Waterloo veteran, has been well covered by Leigh History Society and Leigh local studies, so just a cursory mention on him.

He was buried in Leigh cemetery aged 79 in 1876. After surviving the battle he served in the West Indies and Gibraltar before retiring age 39 in 1833.

He then became station master at Bradshawleach (Pennington ) station, and later he was promoted to Kenyon junction, a more important station.

His regiment, 23rd Welsh Fusiliers, played a major part in the battle holding the right-hand side of the battlefield.

Our second soldier was lesser known but no less important as far as the battle was concerned, his name was Samuel Hyde, born in Bedford in 1788.

By the time he had been Christened at Leigh Parish Church, it would seem his family had moved to Tyldesley. As a young lad Samuel was listed as a hand loom weaver working at home as most hand loom weavers did.

But by 18 (1806) he had taken the kings shilling and joined the first battalion of Guards, known today as the Grenadier Guards.

Like Baddeley, he fought in the Peninsular Wars (Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal) against France.

It was war brought to our attention by the TV series “Sharpe’s Rifles” which starred Sean Bean, unfortunately however, a heroic but fictitious figure.

But he was based on Sgt Charles Ewart who single-handedly captured Napoleon’s French Eagle standard at Waterloo.

Back to Samuel Hyde, having survived the Peninsular War he was prominent in the defence of Hougoumont Farm, one of the decisive engagements of the Battle of Waterloo.

Hyde’s unit was posted in the Orchard which was outside the walls of the farm.

His unit held their position all day suffering many casualties , later in the evening of 18th June 1815 the regiment was lying in wait on the reverse slope of a hill when the French Imperial Guard made a last ditch attempt to win the battle.

Records show that the guards lay in wait until the French were 40 paces from the hill’s brow, the guards in four lines rose and fired volley after volley into the Imperial guard.

Records again state that 600 French soldiers fell at the first volley, making it the most decisive engagement effectively winning the battle.

This is possibly where Samuel Hyde received his shoulder wound, shot through with a musket, although this is unconfirmed.

He could have been wounded in the orchard in the earlier part of the day. The casualty figures for Hyde’s unit, the First Battalion Guards were horrendous, four officers and 131 other ranks were killed and 11 officers and 346 other ranks were injured - a 50% casualty rate.

Samuewas discharged and returned to Leigh, after serving for nine years.

It is not known if his injury impeded Samuel Hyde regarding work but he became the recipient of a pension of one shilling per day rising to 1/6d per day in 1874.

When he was aged 86, Samuel passed away on 14th May 1876. It is believed, but unconfirmed, he was living in Newton Heath, Manchester, at the time of his death, perhaps borne out by the fact he is buried in a Manchester cemetery.