The highly important Field Officer’s Small Gold Medal, with reverse for Roleia & Vimieira, awarded to Colonel later General Sir George Townshend Walker, G.C.B., Baronet, whose career spanned a remarkable 60 years between 1782 and 1842, when he died in service as Lieutenant-Governor of Chelsea Hospital and Colonel Commandant of the 50th Queen’s Own Regiment of Foot. A veteran of General Cosby’s force in the operations against the Poligars in the neighbourhood of Tinnevelli in India in February 1786, and of the Duke of York’s Flanders Campaign of 1793 to 1796, which occurred due to the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, he was present in action on 10th May 1794 near Tournay. Commanding the 50th Foot on and off from September 1798, on the addition of a 1st Battalion, he commanded that from 1804, and saw action at the Battle of Copenhagen in August 1807 during the Gunboat War. Walker however then went on to distinguish himself in the Peninsular War, and was present in command during the first French invasion of Portugal, at the Battle of Roleia on 17th August 1808, and then at the decisive Battle of Vimiera on 1st August 1808, when the British under General Arthur Wellesley defeated the French under Major-General Jean-Andoche Junot near the village of Vimiero, near Lisbon. In this battle, which put an end to the first French invasion of Portugal, Walker placed a pivotal role, when he led his battalion of some 900 men as it charged and routed over 5,000 French troops of General Louis Henri Loison’s Corps, an action which caused the French to disperse in entirely the wrong direction from their lines of retreat. The French force would later be conveyed back to France by the ships of the Royal Navy owing to the Convention of Cintra.
Promoted to full Colonel, Walker, who was subsequently awarded the Field Officer’s Small Gold Medal, with reverse for Roleia & Vimieira when it was issued in 1810, was in the meantime tasked with delivering the despatches to Sir John Moore at Corunna, but arrived two days after the battle, however he then went on to command his regiment during the Walcheren Expedition in 1809, and was promoted to command a brigade during this disastrous campaign.
Walker then returned to the Peninsula to work raising Spanish troops in Galicia and Asturias, but on finding that he ‘could do not good with the Spaniards’, he joined the army in Portugal in 1811 as a Major General commanding a brigade in the 5th Division. It was at Badajoz during the final storming of that place that Walker rose to national fame after he led the false attack on the San Vincente Bastion, which was to be turned into a real attack if circumstances should prove favourable. The ladder party missed its way and delayed this attack for an hour. Meanwhile the breaches, which were on the opposite side of the fortress, had been assaulted in vain by the fourth and light division; and the third division, which had escaladed the castle, found itself unable to push through into the town. Walker’s brigade comprising the 4th, 30th and 44th Regiments of Foot, reached the glacis undiscovered, but was met by a very heavy fire as it descended by ladders into the ditch and placed them against the escarp. The ladders proved too short, for the wall was more than thirty feet high. Fortunately, it was unfinished at the salient, and there the men mounted, by four ladders only. While some of them entered the town, Walker with the main body forced his way along the ramparts, and made himself master of three bastions. Then a sudden scare, the fear of a mine according to Napier, made the men turn, and they were chased back to the San Vincent bastion, where they rallied on a battalion in reserve.
Walker was shot whilst trying to overcome this panic and carry the men onward. The ball, fired by a man not two yards distant, struct the edge of a watch which he was wearing on his breast, turned downwards and passed out between his ribs, splintering one of them. He also received four bayonet wounds. He was taken care for a time by a French soldier, whom he was afterwards able to repay. He was so much weakened by loss of blood and by subsequent haemorrhage, that his life was for some time in danger, and he had to remain three months at Badajoz before he could be sent home. His brigade had lost about half of its effective strength, but its success had decided the fall of Badajoz, and Wellington, in his despatch spoke of Walker’s conspicuous gallantry and conduct, and on 24th October 1812 Walker was awarded the Colonelcy of the De Meuron’s Regiment and later appointed Colonel Commandant of the Rifle Brigade on 21st May 1816. In addition, Walker was awarded a General Officer’s Large Gold Medal for Badajoz.
Returning to the Peninsula in 1813, he assumed command of a brigade after the crossing of the Pyrenees and entry into southern France, and having participated in the Battle of the Nive, for his temporary command of Lord Dalhousie’s 7th Division when it helped to drive the French out of their works at Hastingues and Oeyergave on 23rd February 1814, and at the Battle of Orthes on 27th February 1814 when it was at first behind the 4th Division, but it had a prominent share in the latter part of the battle, and in the pursuit. For this he won a Clasp Orthes to his General Officer’s Large Gold Medal.
Walker was appointed a Knight Commander of the Military Division of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath in January 1815, in respect of his distinguished services during the Peninsular War, and was subsequently appointed a Knight Commander of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword in May 1815. He held the position of Governor of Grenada in the West Indies from April 1815 through to February 1816, and in April 1817 was appointed a Grand Cross of The Military Division of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath. Made a Baronet in March 1835, and granted the coat of arms which commemorated Vimiero, Badajoz and Orthes, his three Gold Medal winning actions, Walker was promoted to full General in June 1838, being appointed Colonel Commandant of his old regiment, the 50th Queen’s Own Royal Regiment in December 1839 and latterly held the post of Lieutenant-Governor of Chelsea Hospital, where he died in November 1842.
Field Officer’s Small Gold Medal, with reverse for Roleia & Vimiera; (COLONEL GEORGE TOWNSHEND WALKER COMMG. 50TH. REGT.), fitted with both original lunettes, original gold suspension and three pronged gold top brooch pin.
Condition: Nearly Extremely Fine.
Sir George Townshend Walker was born on 25th May 1864, the eldest son of Major Nathaniel Walker, who served in a corps of rangers during the American War, and died in 1780, and Henrietta, the only daughter and heiress of Captain John Bagster, Royal Navy, of West Cowes, Isle of Wight. He great-great-grandfather was Sir Walter Walker, of Bushey Hall, Hertfordshire, who was advocate to Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II.
Walker followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the army, and by Queen Charlotte’s desire, he received a commission as an Ensign into the 95th Regiment of Foot (Reid’s) on 4th March 1782, being promoted to Lieutenant on 13th March 1783, and then transferred on 22nd June 1783 to the 71st Highland Regiment of Foot (McLeod’s Highlanders), the 95th Foot having been disbanded. The 71st Foot was however itself disbanded soon afterwards and Walker then transferred to the 36th Herefordshire Regiment of Foot on 15th March 1784, and then joined the regiment out in India, arriving just after the end of the Second Mysore War.
Walker’s first chance for active service came when he formed part of General Cosby’s force in the operations against the Poligars in the neighbourhood of Tinnevelli in February 1786, Walker being placed in charge of the Quartermaster-General’s department. He was then invalided home in 1787, and exchanged on 25th July 1787 to the 35th Dorsetshire Regiment of Foot. Walker then saw service on the Staff in Ireland as side-de-camp to General Bruce, and on 13th March 1789 he was made Captain-Lieutenant and appointed in this rank to the 14th Bedfordshire Regiment of Foot, but instead of joining his regiment out in Jamaica, he obtained leave to go to Germany to study tactics and German.
On 4th May 1891 Walker obtained command of a company of the 60th Royal American Regiment of Foot, all of the battalions of which were in North America, but Walker seems to have remained on home service at the Depot, and in 1793 he went to Flanders with a body of recruits who have volunteered for active service during the Flanders Campaign of 1793 to 1796, which occurred due to the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars.
In this theatre a British army under the command of the Duke of York formed part of an Allied army with Hanoverian, Dutch, Hessian, Austrian and Prussian contingents, which faced the French Republican Armée du Nord, the Armée des Ardennes and the Armée de la Moselle. The Allies enjoyed several early victories, including a largely British-fought battle at Lincelles, but were unable to advance beyond the French border fortresses and were eventually forced to withdraw by a series of victorious French counter-offensives. The Allies then established a new front in southern Holland and Germany, but with poor co-ordination and failing supplies were forced to continue their retreat through the arduous winter of 1794/5. By spring 1795 the British force had left Dutch territory entirely, and reached the port of Bremen where they were evacuated. The campaign exposed many shortcomings in the British army, especially in discipline and logistics, which had developed in the ten years of peacetime neglect since the American Revolution.
During the campaign, Walker is known to have been present in action on 10th May 1794 near Tournay, and then served in the Quartermaster-General’s Department during the retreat of the Duke of York’s army in the aftermath of a series of victorious French counter-offensives. In this period Walker was employed on various missions. When the army embarked for England he was made an inspector of the foreign corps, and was sent to the Black Forest and to Switzerland to superintend the raising of Baron de Roll’s Regiment, and he made arrangement for the passage of the men through Italy and their embarkation at Civita Vecchia, and returned to England in August 1796.
Walker was promoted to Major in the 60th Foot on 27th August 1796, and in March 1797 was sent to Portugal, when he was appointed aide-de-camp, first to General Simon Fraser, who died shortly afterwards, and then in the same capacity to the Prince of Waldeck, who commanded the Anglo-Portuguese Army, but ill-health obliged Walker to go home in June 1797. He was then appointed inspecting field-officer of recruiting at Manchester from February 1798 till March 1799, when he joined the 50th Queen’s Own Regiment of Foot out in Portugal, he having been in the meantime promoted to become Lieutenant Colonel in that regiment back on 6th September 1798. In October 1799 he was summoned to Holland to act as British Commissioner with the Russian troops under the Duke of York, and he afterwards accompanied them to the Channel Islands, and so missed participating in the campaign in Egypt, in which his regiment had its share. Walker took over command of the 50th Foot on its return from Egypt when stationed at Malta in October 1801, and then returned with it to Ireland in May 1802.
Garrisoned in Ireland for the next few years, Walker had command during this period, and in 1804 a 2nd Battalion was raised. Walker then embarked with the 1st Battalion for Copenhagen in July 1807 and saw action at the Battle of Copenhagen in August 1807 during the Gunboat War, when Walker’s battalion formed part of Spencer’s Brigade in General Baird’s Division.
With the outbreak of the Peninsular War however he was then sent with his regiment to Portugal in January 1808, as part of Spencer’s force, with the army under General Sir Arthur Wellesley. As such Walker commanded his battalion during the Battle of Rolica on 17th August 1808, in what was the first major battalion and defeat suffered by French forces during the war. In fact Walker’s battalion had been amongst the first to engage, when the day before they had come up against the French at Óbidos
The village of Roliça is placed in the centre of a horseshoe shape of steep hills approximately one mile wide and two deep. The open end opens north-northeast toward Óbidos where the 1st/60th and 95th had met the French the day before. The hills around Óbidos and Roliça were well wooded.
The French began the day to the north of Roliça backed up to the higher ground allowing them to block or protect the roads south toward Lisbon. On the hill about one mile to the south of the village where the French first fell back, there were four defiles, or gullies leading into the new French position. The field below these hills were grassy, but boulders and the steep sides to the gullies made attack in formation impossible. In the first stages of the battle, General of Division Henri Delaborde pulled his troops back to the top of the hill.
Wellesley arrived at Óbidos on 16th August and moved toward Roliça on the following day. At the beginning of the battle, Delaborde occupied a position to the north-northwest of the village of Roliça. Wellesley attempted to manoeuvre his forces into a double envelopment, moving to each flank of the French position. This could be attempted since the Anglo-Portuguese army outnumbered the French forces present by over 3 to 1.
He sent Trant to the west, and a stronger force under Fergusson and Bowes with six guns to the east, while he distracted the French with a show of force and noise in the centre. Wellesley tried the manoeuvre twice starting at 9:00 in the morning, but the battle-wise French fell back each time. At this time the French final position was to the south and east of the village at the top of a steep hill.
Colonel Lake of the 29th Regiment of Foot in the centre then made the mistake of dashing up a gully toward the French position. He arrived behind Delaborde, which cost Lake his life and most of the men in the 29th. This prompted a general attack in relief by the outnumbering British. The fight was rough and uphill with Delaborde hoping for support to arrive from Loison. He repulsed three assaults by the British until nearly 4:00 in the afternoon. At this time Wellesley reached positions at the top of the hill and Ferguson arrived over the hills to the east.
Delaborde began to withdraw in good order with effective aid from his cavalry until his army's discipline broke and his army ran. Without British cavalry to press the pursuit, they successfully withdrew to Montachique near Torres Vedras.
The Anglo-Portuguese won with 487 casualties, over half that number from the precipitate 29th. The French lost 700 men and three of their five guns. Delaborde himself was wounded. The following day Wellesley found that the 4,000 additional British troops had arrived from England and were off the coast. He marched his men to cover their disembarkation rather than follow Delaborde. Four days later they would be attacked again and the Battle of Vimiero would ensue.
It was in the decisive Battle of Vimeiro, sometimes shown as or "Vimiera" or "Vimeira" in contemporary British texts, on 1st August 1808, that the British under General Arthur Wellesley defeated the French under Major-General Jean-Andoche Junot near the village of Vimiero, near Lisbon. This battle put an end to the first French invasion of Portugal.
After Roliça, Wellesley had established a position near Vimeiro. By holding the village, plus some ridges to the west, the British commander covered a beachhead at Maceira Bay a little further to the west. Since most of his reinforcements had arrived by 20th August, Wellesley planned to advance south on Lisbon. Eight independent infantry brigades under Rowland Hill, Ronald Ferguson, Miles Nightingall, Barnard Bowes, Catlin Craufurd, Henry Fane, Robert Anstruther, and Wroth Acland formed the core of Wellesley's forces. Rounding out his force were 17 cannons, 240 light cavalry led by C. D. Taylor and about 2,000 Portuguese troops under Nicholas Trant, giving a total of 20,000 men.
Junot organised his 14,000-man force into two infantry divisions and a cavalry division under Pierre Margaron, Henry Francois Delaborde’s infantry division contained two brigades under Antoine Francois Brenier and Jean Guillaume Bathelemy Thomieres, while Louis Henri Loisson’s division included two brigades commanded by Jean-Baptiste Solignac and Hugues Charlot. In addition, Francois Etienne de Kellermann commanded a 2,100-man reserve made up of four converged grenadier battalions. These units were created by taking the grenadier company from each of Junot's infantry battalions. The French took 23 cannons into battle with them.
Wellesley placed Anstruther's and Fane's brigades in front of Vimeiro, with Acland's men in support. At first, his five remaining brigades held only the western ridge. Junot planned to send Thomières, Solignac and Charlot's infantry brigades to capture Vimeiro, while Brenier's 4,300-man brigade and some dragoons swung in a wide flanking manoeuvre to seize an empty ridge to the northeast of the village. Wellesley detected Brenier's move and switched Nightingall, Ferguson and Bowes to the northeastern ridge. Once Junot realised that British troops occupied the ridge, he sent Solignac's brigade to the right to assist Brenier's attack. The French commander decided to launch his attack on the town immediately, instead of waiting for his flanking move to develop.
All the preliminary moves and countermoves caused a series of uncoordinated French attacks. First, Thomières' 2,100-man brigade approached the British position. Supported by three cannons and screened by skirmishers, the brigade was formed into a column of companies.
The first company of 120 men formed in a three-deep line would have a front rank 40 men wide. All the other companies formed behind the first company, making the entire brigade about 40 files wide and 48 ranks deep. According to French doctrine, as soon as the enemy main position was found, the companies would peel off to the right or left to form a firing line many companies wide and only three files deep. On the other hand, French commanders often pressed home attacks while in column, depending entirely upon their skirmishers and artillery to provide the necessary fire support.
To counter the French skirmishers, Fane detached four companies of riflemen of the 60th Regiment of Foot and also of the 95th Rifles. These outnumbered and outfought the French skirmishers, who fell back to the sides of the brigade column. Without their skirmishers in front of them, the French column blundered into the 945 men of the 50th Regiment. At 100 yards, the British, formed into a two-deep line, opened fire. Several companies of the 50th began wheeling inward toward both flanks of the hapless French column. Unable to properly deploy into firing line and unwilling to face the deadly enfilade fire, the French infantry suddenly bolted to the rear, leaving their three cannons to be captured.
Soon after, a similar fate overtook Charlot's brigade. In a very narrow column, it struck one battalion of Anstruther's brigade, which had been hidden behind a crest. Before they could deploy, the French were taken in flank by a second battalion. Unable to effectively reply to the devastating British volley fire, Charlot's men soon ran away. Seeing the battle going against him, Junot committed his grenadier reserve to the attack. The first two battalions attacked the same area as the previous units and were thrown back. Kellermann swung the final two grenadier battalions wide to the right and succeeded in breaking into Vimeiro. But, counterattacked by units from Anstruther and Acland, these Frenchmen also fell back. Colonel Taylor's 20th Light Dragoons pounced on Kellermann's retreating grenadiers and routed them. Excited by their easy success, the British horsemen charged out of control. They soon came up against Margaron's French cavalry division and were routed in their turn. Taylor was killed and the British horsemen lost about one man in four.
As Brenier's men had gotten lost in the hills, Solignac attacked the northeast ridge. This brigade changed tactics deploying in an attack formation with three battalions abreast. Even so, each battalion formed a column one company wide and eight companies deep. If the French intended to form into line once the enemy position was detected, they waited too long. They marched into the kill zone of Nightingall and Ferguson's brigades before they could deploy. Smashed by British volleys, Solignac's men fled.
Brenier's brigade, marching to the sound of battle, came on four battalions abreast. At first they enjoyed success when they surprised and defeated two British battalions. These units had let down their guard after overpowering Solignac. Victorious, the French pressed on in column, but soon ran into the 29th Regiment in line and were stopped. The 29th was joined by the other two units, who had quickly rallied. Together, the volley fire of the three British battalions soon routed Brenier's men. Though Wellesley urged him to pursue, Burrard declined to interfere with the subsequent French retreat.
Colonel Fyler’s ‘History of the 50th Regiment, published in London by Chapman and Hall in 1895, gives a good account of the battle, and most importantly includes a personal account by Walker of his regiment’s part in this decisive action.
‘In advance of the regiment, and on lower ground, was a picquet under the command of Captain Thomas Snow, 50th Regiment. About 8 o’clock, the fire becoming heavy, this picquet was reinforced by two other companies of the regiment under Captain Coote. In this position the picquets were exposed to a very heavy fire, and Captain Coote having been shot through the heart, and Captain Snow having been detached to occupy some woods on the left, the command devolved to Lieutenant Mark Rudkin, who now gave orders to retire; and the picquets, extending to the right and left, fell back under a shower of bullets. Taking advantage of the shelter of olive-trees and vines, and alternately firing and retreating, they eventually gained a rising ground a little in advance of the rest of the battalion, where their excellent fire contributed in the sequel very materially to the success of the action, by attracting the attention of the enemy to that flank during the manoeuvres performed on out right. In consequence of the absence of these three companies, the left wing of the regiment was necessarily extended with intervals. It occupied the most commanding ground to cover the passage to the town.'
'This was the position held by the 50th Regiment when General Loisson directed his main column, upwards of 5,000 strong, against that part of the hill held by the Regiment, which did not muster 900 men. General Anstruther’s brigade on our left was at the time so fully occupied with General Kellermann’s attack that it was unable to give any assistance. General Loisson’s attack is so able described in the despatch of Colonel G.T. Walker, commanding the regiment, of October 17th, 1812, that I cannot do better than to give it in his words.'
“A massive column of the enemy composed of five regiments in close order of half battalions, supported by seven pieces of cannon, and under the command of the general of division, Loisson, made a rapid march towards the hill, and though much shaken bay the steady fire of the artillery, after a short pause behind a hedge to recover, it again continued to advance; till Lieutenant Colonel Robe, R.A., no longer able to use the guns, considered them lost. Up to this time the 50th had remained at ordered arms, but it was impossible, on the ground on which it stood, to contend against so superior a force, and Colonel Walker, having observed that the enemy’s column inclined to the left, proposed to Brigadier General Fane to attempt to turn its flank by a wheel on the right wing. Permission for this having been obtained, this wing was immediately thrown into echelon of companies of about four paces to the left, advanced thus for a short distance, and then ordered to form line to the left. The rapidity, however, of the enemy’s advance, and their having already opened a confused though very hot fire from the flank of their column - though only two companies of the wings were yet formed - these were so nearly in contact with and bearing on the angle of the column that Colonel Walker, thinking no time was to be lost, ordered an immediate volley and charge. The result exceeded his most sanguine expectation. The angle was instantly broken, and the drivers of the three guns advanced in front, alarmed at the fire in their rear, cutting the traces of their horses, and rushing back with them, created great confusion, which by the time the three outer companies could arrive to take part in the charge, became general. Then this immense mass, so threatening in its appearance but a few minutes before, became in an instant an ungovernable mob, carrying off its officers and flying like a flock of sheep, almost without resistance, for upwards of two miles. On clearing a wood, Colonel Walker, observing a part of cavalry being drawn up on a small plain threatening his flank, deemed it necessary to put a stop to the pursuit, as a part of the 20th Dragoons, which had previously joined it, had already, through getting entangled in a wood, suffered so seriously as to be incapable of affording any further assistance. Having from hence reported his situation, and received Brigadier-General Fane’s orders, Colonel Walker retired with the regiment to his former position, whilst the enemy continued their retreat eastward in a direction different from that of their resources.”
“The immediate result of this success of the 50th Regiment, including the assistance derived from the artillery during the advance of the enemy and from the 20th Light Dragoons in their retreat was 1,000 killed, 360 prisoners, and 6 pieces of cannon, the Regiment no mustering at the time 900 men in the field, and the enemy’s column being considerably above 5,000. General Anstruther’s brigade on the right, had been so fully occupied with the attack of Kellermann’s reserve, to be able to take any steps whatsoever, in the immediate support of the 50th Regiment. A copy of the order of battle, found on a French Colonel killed in the action, countersigned by Charlot, one of the Brigadier’s of the division, and afterwards personally acknowledged by him, confirms this statement.”
In hindsight, Junot faced very long odds with only 14,000 Frenchmen against 18,000 British and Portuguese led by Wellesley. Junot correctly launched his heaviest attack on the weakest point in the British position, the unoccupied northeastern ridge. However, his attacks suffered by being badly coordinated. Wellesley reacted quickly to counter Junot's flanking move. His forces overcame the French skirmishers by using superior numbers of their own skirmishers. Two of Wellesley's brigades never got into action, but the rest were used economically to defeat each French attack.
After the comprehensive French defeat, Junot offered complete capitulation. Nevertheless, Dalrymple gave the French far more generous terms than they could have hoped for. Under the terms of the Convention of Sintra, the defeated army was transported back to France by the British navy, complete with its guns and equipment and the loot it had taken from Portugal. The Convention of Sintra caused a massive outcry in Britain and, following an official enquiry, both Dalrymple and Burrard were blamed. Wellesley, who had opposed the agreement, was exonerated.
Nevertheless, the dispatch of so many troops to Portugal had ensured that there would be a considerable delay before operations could commence in Spain. There were also serious problems with the Spaniards: inherent in the sudden Spanish interest in British troops, for example, lay the desire not just to receive assistance but also to obtain command over them. Equally a desire was beginning to emerge amongst the British to further their influence in Spain and to impose their own political solutions. With the British army in the hands of an officer who was not only highly ambitious but deeply frustrated, at odds with the ministry, notoriously suspicious of the government's representatives abroad, and possessed of a prickly disposition, trouble was certain, and all the more so given the thunderbolt that was being prepared across the river Ebro.
For his distinguished command of the 1st Battalion, 50th Queen’s Own Regiment of Foot at both the Battle of Roleia on 17th August 1808 and the Battle of Vimiero on 21st August 1808, Colonel George Townshend Walker was awarded a Field Officer’s Small Gold Medal, when this award was instituted in 1810, this bearing the reverse commemorating both actions of Roleia & Vimieira, which is one of the rarest of the Small Gold Medal reverses, and combining his command in both battles. Walker’s is also quite possibly the most significant of the Field Officer’s Small Gold Medals bearing the reverse for both actions, due to his pivotal role in leading the charge which routed Loisson’s corps at Vimiera, a true David and Goliath moment, which if it had failed, could have otherwise led to a French victory.
In the autumn of 1808 Walker was sent back to England, and the command of the 1st/50th Foot devolved on Major (afterwards Sir Charles James) Napier, who commanded during Moore’s campaign and the retreat to Corunna. For his part, Walker was promoted to Colonel in army on 25th September 1808, and was then tasked with returning with despatches for General Moore, but reached Corunna some two days after the battle, by which time General Moore was dead.
In 1809 Walker served in the disastrous Walcheren Expedition, at first in command of his regiment, of whom both battalions were present on campaign, he assumed command of a brigade during the operations, and was promoted to Brigadier.
In August 1810 Walker retuned to the Peninsula with the rank of Brigadier-General, and was employed for a year in the north of Spain, aiding and stimulating the authorities of Galicia and the Asturias to raise troops and to take a more active part in the war. Walker’s letters to Lord Liverpool concerning this period are now held in the Public Record Officer in the section for War Office Original Correspondence No.142. Walker had persuaded Lord Liverpool to let him take three thousand British soldiers to Santona, but Lord Wellesley interposed, and the men were sent to Wellington. Finding that he could do no good with the Spaniards, and having been in the meantime promoted to Major General on 4th June 1811, Walker then applied to join the army in Portugal, and in October 1811 he was given command of a brigade in the 5th Division under General Leith.
It was at the storming of Badajoz on the night of 6th April 1812 that Walker’s brigade was ordered to make a false attack on the San Vincente Bastion, which was to be turned into a real attack if circumstances should prove favourable. The ladder party missed its way and delayed this attack fro an hour. Meanwhile the breaches, which were on the opposite side of the fortress, had been assaulted in vain by the fourth and light division; and the third division, which had escaladed the castle, found itself unable to push through into the town. Walker’s brigade comprising the 4th, 30th and 44th Regiments of Foot, reached the glacis undiscovered, but was met by a very heavy fire as it descended by ladders into the ditch and placed them against the escarp. The ladders proved too short, for the wall was more than thirty feet high. Fortunately, it was unfinished at the salient, and there the men mounted, by four ladders only. While some of them entered the town, Walker with the main body forced his way along the ramparts, and made himself master of three bastions. Then a sudden scare, the fear of a mine according to Napier, made the men turn, and they were chased back to the San Vincent bastion, where they rallied on a battalion in reserve.
Walker was shot whilst trying to overcome this panic and carry the men onward. The ball, fired by a man not two yards distant, struct the edge of a watch which he was wearing on his breast, turned downwards and passed out between his ribs, splintering one of them. He also received four bayonet wounds. He was taken care for a time by a French soldier, whom he was afterwards able to repay. He was so much weakened by loss of blood and by subsequent haemorrhage, that his life was for some time in danger, and he had to remain three months at Badajoz before he could be sent home. His brigade had lost about half of its effective strength, but its success had decided the fall of Badajoz, and Wellington, in his despatch spoke of Walker’s conspicuous gallantry and conduct, and on 24th October 1812 Walker was awarded the Colonelcy of the De Meuron’s Regiment, a former Dutch Regiment comprising Swiss soldiers, which had switched allegiance to the British Army in 1796. The regiment would remain in existence till 1816, after which Walker was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Rifle Brigade on 21st May 1816. In addition, Walker was awarded a General Officer’s Large Gold Medal for Badajoz.
Walker was still suffering from his wounds when he returned to the Peninsula in June 1813, and rejoined the army when it on operations in the Pyrenees, covering the blockade of Pamplona. Walker joined up with it when at Ariscun in southern France on 4th August 1813, and was given command of the 1st Brigade comprising the 50th, 71st and 92nd Regiments of Foot of General Stewart’s 2nd Division. Stewart had been wounded in the action of Maya ten days before, and in his absence, the 2nd Division was temporarily commanded by Walker for a month. Walker was present in at the Battle of Nivelle on 10th November 1813, but his brigade, which had suffered very severely at Maya, was not actively engaged.
Shortly afterwards, Walker was given temporary command of Lord Dalhousie’s 7th Division, which formed part of Beresford’s Portuguese Corps. At the passage of the Nive and the actions near Bayonne, known as the Battle of Nive, that lasted from 10th to 13th December 1813, this division was second in line. It helped to drive the French out of their works at Hastingues and Oeyergave on 23rd February 1813, and at the Battle of Orthes on 27th February 1814, it was at first behind the 4th Division, but it had a prominent share in the latter part of the battle, and in the pursuit.
Walker was wounded for a second time whilst leading on one of his brigades, and was Mentioned in Wellington’s Despatch - ‘the gallantry and conduct of Major General Walker, who was also wounded, and that of the officers and troops under his command, were highly conspicuous’, and he was specifically included in the Thanks of Parliament. He was awarded a Clasp to his General Officer’s Large Gold Medal. In March 1814 he reverted to command of his former brigade, but in the middle of that month, his own wound and the death of his wife caused him to leave the army and return to England.
By then a recipient of the Field Officer’s Small Army Gold Medal with reverse for Roleia & Vimiera, and the General Officer’s Large Army Gold Medal with reverse for Badajoz and clasp for Orthes, some accounts just credit Walker with the Large Medal with two clasps, this however is clearly not the case. He was then appointed a Knight Commander of the Military Division of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath in January 1815, in respect of his distinguished services during the Peninsular War, and was subsequently appointed a Knight Commander of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword in May 1815.
Walker was appointed Governor of Grenada in the West Indies from 7th April 1815 through to 17th February 1816, and on 21st April 1817 he was appointed a Grand Cross of The Military Division of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath on 21st April 1817.
Walker was appointed Colonel Commandant of the 84th York and Lancaster Regiment of Foot on 13th May 1820, and was appointed a member of the consolidated board of general officers, and groom of the chamber of the Duke of Sussex. Then on 19th July 1821 he was promoted to Lieutenant General, and appointed Colonel Commandant of the 52nd Oxfordshire Regiment of Foot on 19th September 1822. On 11th May 1825 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief at Madras, and took command after sailing out to the East Indies on 3rd March 1826, holding this post till May 1831. Made a Baronet on 28th March 1835, he was granted the coat of arms which commemorated Vimiero, Badajoz and Orthes, his three Gold Medal winning actions.
On 24th May 1837 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Chelsea Hospital, and on 28th June 1838 was promoted to full General, being appointed Colonel Commandant of his old regiment, the 50th Queen’s Own Royal Regiment on 23rd December 1839. Walker was still holding the post of Lieutenant Governor of Chelsea Hospital when he died there on 14th November 1842.
Walker, who first married, Anna, only daughter of Richard Allen of Bury, Lancashire in July 1789, with whom he had two daughters, would after her death in 1814, marry Helen in August 1820, she being the youngest daughter of Alexander Caldcleugh of Croydon, Surrey, with whom he would have four sons and two daughters. Known as a very handsome soldierly man, his likeness is found in Thomas Heaphy’s picture of Peninsula heroes. A copy of the portrait exists amongst the research, the original of which is housed in the National Portrait Gallery in London.