A very fine ‘Household Brigade Charger’ Waterloo Medal 1815, fitted with original steel clip and ring suspension, awarded to Private Jeremish Cooper, 1st Regiment of Dragoon Guards - The King’s Dragoon Guards, from Alderton, Derbyshire, now Nottinghamshire, who served from July 1804 through to August 1826, and would have taken part in the famous Household Brigade Heavy Cavalry Charge at Waterloo on 18th June 1815.
Waterloo Medal 1815, fitted with original steel clip and original split ring suspension; (JEREMIAH COOPER, 1ST REG. DRAGOON GUARDS.)
Condition: light contact wear, Good Very Fine or better, and a very good example of type.
Jeremiah Cooper was born in Alderton, Derbyshire, now Nottinghamshire, and enlisted into the British Army at Nottingham when aged 19 on 13th July 1804, and joined as a Private the 1st Regiment of Dragoon Guards - The King’s Dragoon Guards.
Cooper went on to serve for 22 years and 49 days, of which two years were added for his presence in the battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815. Cooper was discharged at Leeds Barracks in consequence of ‘length of service and worn out’ on 20th August 1826.
The victory at Waterloo on 18th June 1815 is generally considered as one of the three most glorious victories won by British troops. On the 18th June, the British army withstood the French attack until the effect of the Prussian advance had begun to be felt; by darkness the battle had been won. Battle casualties were heavy on both sides, the British at more than 11,500 were half of those of the entire Allied armies, while those of the French have been estimated at from 18,000 up to 30,000. At this time the Queen’s Bays who were stationed in Scotland immediately had their strength increased to ten troops but remained in Scotland.
In early April 1815 27 officers and 505 men with 537 horses of The King’s Dragoon Guard, were ordered to the Low Countries under the command of Lt.Colonel William Fuller, to join the British army assembling around Brussels. Regimental HQ was established around at St Levens Asche with troops billeted around at Eygam, Liederkerke, Nyderhasselt, Aloste and Denderleur. The King’s Dragoon Guards were brigaded in the Household Cavalry Brigade under the command of Major General Lord Edward Somerset. The brigade was made up of two squadrons each of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards, with four squadrons of the KDG. Of the 1,349 sabres of the brigade mustered at Waterloo, almost forty percent of the total, 530 sabres were KDG.
Mid April to Mid June was spent in the Dender valley. There was a succession of parades and watering orders, with field days on the 20 May, and on 4th, 9th, and 15th June. Early in May a final inspection of arms, clothing and accoutrements took place. All deficiencies were made good, and old and excess kit was taken into store, packed, baled and sent to Ostend. There were a number of reviews: the Earl of Uxbridge, commanding the British cavalry, inspected the regiment on 6th May; on 24th May the Prince of Orange inspected the two British cavalry brigades of heavy cavalry at Heldinghem. On 29th May the Duke of Wellington and Marshall Blucher, accompanied by the Duc de Berry and a whole train of lesser personages, inspected the whole of the British cavalry near Grammont in the meadows by the river Dender, between the villages of Jedeghem and Schendelbeke.
On the morning of 16th June the order was suddenly received to march. The heavy cavalry under Lord Uxbridge were ordered to march on Enghien, a few miles west of Quatre Bras. The orders did not reach the KDG until 3am on the 16th, and it took some time to concentrate the troops, scattered as they were in the various villages. The regiment paraded at 8am at Ninove, where it waited an hour before moving off with the rest of Lord Edward Somerset’s brigade. Progress was slow due to the many columns of cavalry converging, but Braine le Comte was reached by 4pm., where an hours rest was granted for watering and food. They then pressed on towards Nivelles. The King’s Dragoon Guards arrived at Quatre Bras at 8pm and formed a close column beside the road, before moving off to bivouac in an open field of trodden down wheat, just behind the farmhouse of Quatre Bras. Soon after dawn the Duke of Wellington arrived, consulted Vivian, who commanded the Hussars brigade providing the forward pickets, and sent out a patrol of the 10th Hussars to contact the Prussians. The duke then spoke to Von Massow, who had arrived with messages from General Gneisenau and Blucher. The Prussians had been badly mauled at the Battle of Ligny the day before, and in order to conform with their withdrawal, the Duke decided to fall back to the position he had earmarked at Waterloo. The infantry were ordered to march at once, while the cavalry with the horse artillery and some light troops were to cover their withdrawal. At the same time orders were despatched to Lord Hill, commanding the 2nd Corps to march with the 2nd and 4th Divisions from Nivelles direct to Waterloo.
The KDG had been standing to since daylight, when at 8am they were ordered to water their horses a little way to the rear. They then resumed their position. It was nearly two o’clock before a mass of the enemy were to be seen about two miles away. Lord Uxbridge pointed out to Wellington that with defiles in their rear and the infantry to far off to be able to offer effective support, they were not in a good position. The Duke agreed and the order was given to retreat in three columns. The KDG were with the centre column, and as they steadily retired down the Brussels road, they halted from time to time and formed up on either side of the road. The French ignored the two flank columns and concentrated their attention on the centre.
The two heavy brigades had moved off at he head of the centre column, and as they reached the narrow winding street through Genappe, there was not a soul to be seen. Lord Uxbridge halted the two brigades along the ridge, which runs some 700 yards up the slope leading out of Genappe; the household brigade was on the left of the road facing the French advance, whilst the Union Brigade formed up on the right. Eighteen squadrons of French cavalry were now entering Genappe and as their lancers came through the town, they halted for about 15 minutes, facing the British heavies. Those behind could see that the front ranks had halted, and as they pressed on, the whole mass of French cavalry became jammed between the houses. Uxbridge seeing their indecision ordered the 7th Hussars to charge, which they did but with little effect on the dense masses. The French then advanced and drove back the 7th, and the contest relapsed into a seesaw. At this point the Life Guards were ordered to charge. As the Life Guards charged, the KDG formed up behind them as a second line, but their services were not needed. This left the KDG forming the rearguard as the British cavalry fell back onto the position at Mont St Jean, in front of Waterloo. After Genappe the French kept their distance, and although on one or two occasions they made as if to attack, they never pressed forward. So the retreat continued at a slow pace, the KDG retiring by alternate squadrons and with ‘perfect regularity’. At last the weary troopers dismounted and bivouacked near the farm of Mont St Jean.
The rain eased up during the evening, but it returned with darkness and rained all night. The horses moved constantly to present their backs to the rain, and as the men moved around to attend to them, and to try to light fires, the whole area became a morass. The men were aroused at daybreak, and ‘we began to get dry, and as the rain ceased we wrung out our clothes, put them on again’. The men set to grooming their horses and cleaning their equipment, and by 6am the various regiments of the Household Brigade were assembled in brigade mass on their bivouac ground. They were soon moved forward to form a second line 200 yards behind the infantry, who wee lying just behind the ridge of Mont St Jean. By 8am the King’s Dragoon Guards were formed up in the centre of the front rank of the Household Brigade, with two squadrons of the 1st Life Guards on their right and two of the 2nd on their left. The two squadrons of Blues were behind in reserve. Then brigade was posted on the right of the Brussels-Charleroi road, with the Union Brigade formed up level with them on the left of the road. Lord Edward Somerset, commanding the brigade, sent one subaltern from each of the 4 regiments to ride forward to the crest of the ridge to observe and report to him on French movements. At twelve a general cannonade commenced, by which the regiment experienced some losses. The men were ordered to dismount and lie on the ground besides their horses, so as to avoid the worst of the cannon fire.
Napoleon had formed a simple plan of battle: he would open by attacking the right of the British position at the farm of Hougoumont, hoping to draw off Wellington’s reserves to its support. The main assault, supported by a battery of eighty guns, would smash through the centre of the Allied position on either side of the Brussels road. The assault on Hougoumont was pressed home by Jerome, Napoleon’s brother, but the Guards persistently foiled each attack, and more of the French reserves began to be drawn into what had only been intended as spoiling attack.
At 1.30 pm., in the centre, d’Erlon’s corps of 4 divisions, comprising some 16,000 men started to advance across the valley towards the left centre of the British position. The Emperor ordered Milhaud to support this attack with Dubois’s brigade from the 13th Cavalry Division of the 4th Heavy Cavalry Corps. This comprised 1st and 4th Cuirassiers, who moved off at a trot crossing the Brussels road. A hundred yards south of the farm of La Haye Sainte they formed into line, broke into gallop, and caught a battalion of Hanoverians from Kielmansegge’s brigade, who had been sent to reinforce La Haye Sainte, and wiped them out. Nine squadrons came past the farm on the right, and two on the left, rejoining as they passed by, to sweep on up the slope towards the very centre of the British line.
On the right of the cuirassier’s came d’Erlon’s infantry. As they advanced a Dutch-Belgian brigade, who had received a tremendous pouting from the French cannon, broke and fled before them, creating a gap in the Allied line which was quickly plugged by Kempt’s 8th British Brigade. The whole weight of the assault now fell on Picton’s 3rd Division, and it seemed as though it was up to these 4,000 veterans British infantry to halt the 16,000 of d’Erlon’s Corps, and the eleven squadrons of Dubois’s cuirassiers.
The four subalterns of the household Brigade, posted on the ridge, had reported back to Lord Edward Somerset on the French advance, and he deployed his brigade into line. Uxbridge ordered Somerset to charge the cuirassiers, and then rode over to Ponsonby, in command of the Union Brigade, and ordered him to charge d’Erlon’s infantry as soon a she saw Somerset move. The brigade deployed outwards at 2.20 pm., moving by threes to left and right, which took the left flank across the Brussels road. The KDG in the centre, and the 1st Life Guards on the right, wheeled left by threes and moved off at once. Owing to the urgency of the situation the 2nd Life Guards where still wheeling by threes to their right after the rest had started to advance. The King’s Dragoon Guards and the 1st Life Guards descended into a sunken road athwart the ridge, crossed it and scrambled up the bank opposite. On reaching the top they checked for moment to steady the line, and charged. As they galloped forward, their right flank became advanced, so that the 1st and 4th cuirassiers were struck obliquely.
The Brigade and the cuirassiers came to the shock the like two walls, in the most perfect lines. I believe this line was maintained throughout. A short struggle enabled us to break through them, notwithstanding the great disadvantage arising from our swords, which were full six inches shorter than those of the Cuirassiers, besides it being the custom of our Service to carry the swords in a very bad position whilst charging, the French carrying theirs in a manner much less fatiguing, and also better for either attack or defence. Having once penetrated their line, we rode over everything opposed to us.
Uxbridge’s charge, perfectly timed, hit the French at their moment of savering, with their horses blown and winded by the long advance over slippery ground – much of which was uphill plough land, into which the horses sank up to their knees. The opposing lines met with a crash, and the superior weight of the British heavies, both in men and horses, together with the advantage of the downhill slope, overthrew the French. The 2nd Life Guards on the left of the brigade were the last to form line, and when they came to cross the sunken road running along the ridge of Mont St Jean, they plunged down onto a mass of cuirassiers that had taken refuge there. They were followed by the left-hand squadron of The King’s Dragoon Guards, and the whole surging mass of horsemen, cutting and thrusting as they went, poured across the main Brussels road opposite the farm of La Haye Sainte. The confused welter of cavalry hit the remains of d’Erlon’s Infantry, which had just been broken by the charge of the Union Brigade on the left of the Household troops. The farm of La Haye Sainte had acted as a breakwater to the charge of the Household Brigade; most of the King’s Dragoon Guards went with the 1st Life Guards, the Blues being in support, to the right of the farm, but at least a squadron and a half veered t the left with the 2nd Life Guards; there they joined the Union Brigade of the Royal Dragoons, Greys and Inniskillings, slaughtering d’Erlon’s infantry as they went.
Lord Edward Somerset reported that ‘the 2nd Life Guards, on the left of the Brigade, drove a portion of the Cuirassiers across the chaussee to the rear of La Haye Sainte, and down the slope. Here they were joined by the King’s Dragoon Guards, who had crossed the road in front of the farm, and the two Regiment becoming mingled with Ponsonby’s Cavalry, lost all regularity in the eagerness of the pursuit.’
By now the men were out of hand, excited and paying no attention to shouted orders or trumpet calls as they falloped up the other side of the valley and through the Great Battery of French guns. Napoleon now brought up Gobrecht’s brigade of Jacquinot’s division, consisting of the 3rd and 4th Lancers, who came in from the flank and chased any British cavalryman they could find, while from the centre of the French position the 5th and 10th Cuirassiers of Delort’s brigade began to sweep the valley clear of the British stragglers. John Hibbert records the scene: ‘an immense body of Lancers who were sent for the purpose of attacking them met them. Our men were rendered desperate by their situation. They were resolved to get our of the scrape or die, rather than be taken prisoners, so they attacked them, and three troops cut their way through them; about a troop were killed or taken prisoner.’ Naylor, who had charged down the hill and was still bearing to the left, found himself in a large field way back round the left of the Allied line. Captain Clark Kennedy of the Royals saw a small party of The King’s Dragoon Guards making their way back. Mistaking them for some of his own men, for the uniform was very similar, he called out, ‘Royals, form on me!’ Back came the reply, ‘We are King’s Dragoon Guards – not Royals!’ – and they rode on.
As the two and half squadrons of The King’s Dragoon Guards, with the 1st Life Guards and the Blue, re-formed on their original position, stragglers reappeared from the remains of the squadron and a half that had charged to the left of La Haye Sainte. Naylor remembered that ‘Turner with about thirty men joined the Brigade’. More survivors trickled in as they made their way back, some in small parties, but mostly in ones and twos. The losses to the King’s Dragoon Guards from that first charge were heavy. The commanding officer Lt.Colonel Fuller was missing, Major Graham 2nd in command and Major Bringhurst killed as was Captain Battersby, the Adjutant Lt Shelver and Lieutenant Brooke, also killed was Cornet the Hon H B Bernard, also lost were five entire troops out of eight reducing the effective strength of the KDG to three troops, but their part in the battle was by no means concluded.
The celebrated charge of the two heavy cavalry brigades as been much dramatised and criticised-the latter justly so, for there was loss of discipline and cohesion with disastrous results, especially, within the KDG, among those who had veered to the left of La Haye Sainte. But the effects of the charge cannot be underestimated: Dubois cuirassiers were annihilated, d’Erlons whole corps was destroyed and-something that is often overlooked – a major part of the Great Battery was put out of action for some critical hours.
There was at this point, about 3.30 pm, a lull in the battle, and Wellington moved his infantry back off the crest and made them lie down. The cavalry was not so fortunate, for it had to continue in support of the infantry remain mounted. Marshall Ney was misled by Wellington’s action in withdrawing the infantry, which, together with the movement of wounded to the rear, persuaded him that a massive charge would clear the crest and provide the coup de grace. He accordingly gathered and personally led 43 squadrons of cavalry against the centre of the British Position. As the French cavalry came surging forward, the remains of the household Cavalry Brigade, drawn up in its original position, was given the order to charge, Lord Uxbridge putting himself at their head. It was now 4.15 pm, and they fell upon the advancing, and now disordered, cuirassiers, lancers and chasseurs. The French horses were blown at the end of their charge, whereas those of the heavies had had time to rest. There was a spirited hand-to-hand cavalry contest, where both horsemanship and skill at arms decided the difference between life and death.
As the French cavalry repeated their charges against the infantry squares, there developed a seesaw of counter charges by the ever-diminishing numbers of the Household Brigade. In all some eleven to twelve charges were made, with the men being kept well in hand, darting forward at the appropriate moment, then reforming. But every time more horses and men were lost and the Brigade grew smaller and smaller. At 5.30 pm, The French succeeded in establishing a battery of guns well forward of La Haye Sainte, which menaced the very centre of the Allied position. The King’s Dragoon Guards and the blues were moved up, supported by the Hanoverian Cumberland Hussars, but the latter began to give way. Uxbridge sent his ADC to bring them back, but the entire regiment fled the field and reaching Brussels spread rumours of an Allied defeat. Lord Edward Somerset led the remaining KDG and Blues against a new French attack, but their numbers were by now to few to do more than check the enemy’s advance. In the meantime the French had captured the farm La Haye Sainte.
The tattered remains of the Household Brigade again re-formed in its original position, but not for long. Uxbridge moved it to the right of the Allied line, where a new threat was posed by a strong column of French infantry supported by cavalry. The brigade formed and charged this fresh menace, but suffered badly from French musketry fire, even though the charge halted the advance and inflicted many casualties on the opposing infantry. Nevertheless the brigade was now too weak in numbers to be able to penetrate the column or scatter it. The few men left had reformed once more on their first position when Colonel Lygon commanding the 2nd Life Guards had his horse wounded and left the field. The next senior officer was Captain James Naylor KDG, who now took over the command of the Household Brigade under Lord Edward Somerset. It was a sadly depleted command consisting of a total of only 100 men of all four regiments- 1st and 2nd Life Guards, Blues and King’s Dragoon Guards. The other British heavy brigade, the Union, had suffered as badly and could only now muster the strength of a single squadron. It was brought over from its position on the left of the Brussels road to join the Household Brigade. Uxbridge sewing the weak state of the troops, advised Lord Edward Somerset to withdraw them. But a considerable space on the right of La Haye Sainte was now without any British infantry, and was covered by some Hanoverian infantry who were showing signs of great unsteadiness. These Hanoverians were supported by the Dutch-Belgian cavalry but, as Lord Edward Somerset remarked, there would be no holding the others if the Household Brigade moved off. It was now 6.30 pm the composite brigade in a single line to make as much show of force as possible sat it out. They were exposed to a constant fire of both musketry and cannon, and more and more saddles were emptied. At 7pmm Captain Naylor was wounded and forced to leave the field. By this time the Prussians were starting to arrive on the left flank of the Allied position. As they exerted more and more pressure, Wellington was able to move troops from his left to strengthen his weakened centre. The two light cavalry brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur were brought across and posted behind the Dutch-Belgian and Hanoverians in the centre.
The climax of the battle had now arrived. The attack by the Imperial Guard was defeated by Maitland’s Brigade of Guards, and by the quick thinking of Sir John Colborne, commanding the 52nd Foot, who wheeled his regiment onto the flank of the Guard, pouring in volley after volley until a combined charge routed these invincibles. The Prussian pressure on the French right was starting to turn their flank, and Wellington ordered the general advance. The combined Household and Union Brigade, reduced to little more than a hundred men, were some 300 yards below the crest of the Mont St Jean ridge, but in spite of this they joined in the final pursuit. The Prussians now took up the pursuit and the remnants of the combined heavy brigades halted and bivouacked for the night on the ridge by La Belle Alliance.