Monday, 1 March 2010

7th Battalion, British Auxiliary Legion

I had not intended to paint more BAL infantry so soon, but I received these figures for Christmas and so I thought I'd just jump straight in. I like these "running at trail" poses as they are quite easy to paint and look dynamic. Michael Perry clearly enjoys sculpting figures this way, as there are other running-at-trail figures in his Sudan range. Basing them is a bit of a pain, as the figures have to be angled in such a way as to ensure that the muskets are not sticking into the figures in front. That said, I used the same sized bases as usual for the FCW and I don't think these look too crowded. As with the 10th battalion I used one of the Adolfo Ramos flags for the 3rd battalion and painted over the number to add a "7".

The 7th completes the BAL's "Irish Brigade" in my collection. I gave these figures the white summer trousers as a bit of a change from the Oxford blue and campaign dress looks I used for the 9th and 10th battalions and also because there is one specific reference to the 7th in white trousers, at the battle of Ayete (see below). Some sources refer to all the Irish regiments having a green cap band, but I'm not convinced by this and simply decided to use the facing colour of each battalion. The 7th was named "the Irish Light Infantry" and so I gave the unit a bugler figure rather than a drummer.

As I've noted before, the BAL suffered dreadfully from sickness during its stay in Vitoria during the winter of 1835/6 (losses were so great that two battalions were disbanded). In the spring the Legion left Vitoria to march towards Santander and the coast. Eyewitnesses reported most favourably on the appearance of the Irish Brigade, whose soldiers seem to have best endured the hardships of winter and typhus. From Santander the Legion was taken by sea to San Sebastian with the intention of launching attacks on the Carlists' positions outside the town. The Carlists lacked the strength (and navy) to effectively besiege San Sebastian, but their presence tied down the Isabelino troops inside the town and for that reason the Crown needed the Carlists removed. So came about the battle of Ayete on 5 May 1836, the Legion's first major engagement and also its bloodiest. On the evening before the battle, Brigadier Charles Shaw, the commander of the Irish Brigade, wrote of his concerns about frontally assaulting entrenchments with untried troops. The Legion attacked the first line of positions at dawn, with orders not to fire but simply to charge with the bayonet. Many units failed to do this, being distracted by the amount of fire poured on them, but it was noted that the 7th obyed these orders and closed with the enemy very quickly. The fighting over the second line of Carlist defences was particularly bitter. The 7th and 9th battalions charged and were repulsed 3 times. Then the 10th managed to catch up with them the brigade's officers started to lead a new attack. Colonel Charles Fitzgerald of the 9th rallied the brigade with these words: "Irishmen! Tenth, Ninth, Seventh; Munster boys, bog-trotters, ragamuffins, come on with ould Charlie - I'll stand here by myself till I'm shot, if ye don't come." These words had the required effect and the second line was taken. The Carlists' next position, the fort of Lugariz, was carried by the 4th and 8th battalions and a Royal Marine battalion, which had just arrived by boat and which were supported by a well-aimed bombardment by the Royal Navy ships anchored off San Sebastian. By the close of the battle, the Irish Brigade had lost 27 officers and some 400 men. The Legion's losses were so heavy that The Times newspaper accused the BAL's commander, General Evans, of making "a Bunker Hill display". However, the Legion had acquitted itself very well and delivered an impressive victory to its Spanish paymasters.

20 figures. Painted January 2010.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I do like the sound of Charles Fitzgerald - it's the kind of stuff that sends a shiver down your spine - marvellous stuff, and symptomatic of the reason I've had an interest in military history all these years!

AJ (Allan) Wright said...

Another lovely unit. The black-lining on the belts really lets them stand out. I like the campaign hats in this period. Tempting to try some figures myself, maybe skirmish level.

Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

As usual Giles I really think your work is fantastic and your text very enjoyable to read!:-)


WABit said...

Lovely work!

I've been following your blog for quite some time- very impressive blog and output in terms of quality painting.