Monday, 29 June 2009
9th Battalion, British Auxiliary Legion
In 1834, an alliance was formed between the Spanish regime and Great Britain, France and Portugal to support Queen Isabel in her struggle against Don Carlos. Lord Palmerston's Whig government was sympathetic to the more liberal regime of Queen Isabel. By the time of this "Quadruple Alliance", Britain had already had some involvement in the civil war that had struck Portugal; in July 1833 a Royal Navy squadron under Admiral Sir Charles Napier had defeated a pretender fleet in the fourth Battle of Cape of St Vincent. Now, in support of Isabel, British ships patrolled the north west coast of Spain in an attempt to police the flow of arms to Carlists. In 1835, following a run of Carlist victories in the field, the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of St James asked the Lord Palmerston's government if more direct military assistance could be provided in Spain (the Ambassador, General Miguel de Alava, was said to have been the only man to have been present at both Trafalgar and Waterloo). Given the government's reluctance to commit British regulars, the Ambassador asked if Spain itself could recruit volunteers to form a legion that was equipped and paid directly by the Spanish crown. This was agreed to, although it necessitated a suspension of the Foreign Enlistment Act which prevented British subjects from entering the service of a foreign power.
Recruiting and training began in 1835. The Legion was to comprise of 8,500 infantry (in 10 battalions), 550 rifles, 700 cavalry and 300 artillery. The men were all volunteers. Many, if not most of the rank and file would have had no experience of soldiering. The officers came from a variety of backgrounds: some were bored regular army or East India Company soldiers who resigned their commissions and joined the Legion to see some action; others were political idealists wishing to fight the forces of reaction and absolutism. Command was given to Colonel George de Lacey Evans, a 48-year old Waterloo veteran. Support for the Legion divided along party political lines. The Tory opposition objected to a British mercenary force fighting against Don Carlos in the name of the Catholic church (disregarding the fact that Carlos had the support of the more extreme end of the Catholic church). The Duke of Wellington, aided by the commander-in chief of the British army, Lord Hill, was instrumental in the establishment of a ban on the appointment of regular British officers to commissions in the Legion. Nevertheless, some officers defied this ruling, either taking leave or selling out in order to join the Legion.
I will describe the fortunes of the Legion in later posts. This first unit is the 9th Battalion, the Irish Grenadiers. The Legion had 3 Irish infantry regiments, which were brigaded together under Brigadier-General Charles Shaw, a veteran of 1815 and the Portuguese civil war. The brigade quickly won a reputation for being one of the toughest units of the Legion. The uniform generally follows that of British line infantry of the period. I have combined figures in shakos and forage caps. The grenadier company has white plumes and tassles, the light company has dark green. Trousers are reported as being white in summer and "Oxford blue" in winter, which is what I have adopted here. There are a couple of "goggle eyes" in the ranks. I admit that it's taken a bit of practice to get used to painting the eyes on Michael Perry's figures for this period. I think I've now worked out how to do it, but some of the early figures should really have ben re-done. The trousers were painted with Foundry palette "British Royal Blue 74", highlighted with the A and B shades of "Deep Blue 20", as palette 74 is far too dark to have much of an effect.
20 figures. Painted April/May 2009. Flag by Adolfo Ramos.