the left an Officer of the Grenadier Company with his hat
covered in oiled silk. On the right an Officer of a Battalion
Company wearing pantaloons and boots.
2nd Battalion of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment (the
2/31st) was raised in 1805 and was to serve in the Iberian
Peninsula Campaign under Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke
of Wellington. The Battalion distinguished itself during the Battle
of Talavera in 1809, though losses were high. 1810 was a year
of consolidation, but in the spring of 1811, the French Marshal
Soult marched to attack General Beresford’s allied force,
which was besieging the town of Badajoz. The 2/31st was in Beresford’s
army, which occupied a defensive position near Albuhera on the
evening of the 15th May; the following day was to be one of the
bloodiest battles ever fought by the British Army. Beresford’s
force consisted of about 32,000 British, Spanish and Portugese
Private of the Battalion Company. He is wearing the folding
forage cap of the period, which was superceded by the blue,
flat topped cap with facing coloured band towards the end
of the Peninsula War.
Soult launched a feint at the centre of Beresford’s position
and the British general believed that the main assault would occur
there. However, a strong French force, including nineteen infantry
battalions suddenly appeared from the south, which threatened
the allied right flank. The Spanish infantry, which was mainly
responsible for the right held their position as best they could,
but Major-General Stewart moved his division up to support them.
The first British brigade on the scene was Colborne’s; this
included the 2/31st, who advanced in line in order to pour the
maximum fire into the French columns. However, under the cover
of a hailstorm, Soult’s Polish Lancers charged into the
Brigade and decimated three battalions. The 2/31st‘s discipline
was outstanding, as the Battalion managed to form square and escaped
heavy loss, but the line was broken and it took some time to gain
control. The 2/31st then joined the next reinforcing brigade of
Hoghton. There were now about 3,700 allied troops facing 8,000
Frenchmen at twenty to thirty yards apart, exchanging volley after
volley for about an hour. Casualties were high until the French
were finally driven back by the 7th and 23rd Fusiliers. In seven
hours, the allies had lost 6,000 men compared with 7,000 French.
The 2/31st had 155 casualties out of 398; both sides claimed victory,
the French had not relieved Badajoz, but the allied army had paid
a high cost and did not pursue their enemy.
Albuhera became a major Regimental Day after the various amalgamations
and the formation of The Queen’s Regiment in 1966. This
was because both The 3rd, East Kent Regiment or Buffs
and The 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment, who earned the
nickname The “Die Hards” from the Battle, participated.
The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment
of today continues to remember the Battle. Both The Queen’s
Regiment and its successor, The Princess of Wales’s Royal
Regiment, have celebrated the annual Silent Toast Ceremony on
the 16th May, when the officers and warrant officers drink the
toast “To the Immortal Memory”. This is in memory
of all those officers and men from the current and forebear regiments,
who have given their lives in the service of their Sovereign and
Country, as well as to the 57th’s casualties at Albuhera.