Commentaries by Sir Charles Oman

These notes were written by Sir Charles Oman for the original 1921 publication of William's Diary in the Highland Light Infantry Chronicle 1920-21. His diary entries are now linked to items on this page this page.

  1. i.e. The Rietvlei Valley. context
  2. Stellenbosch - a familiar but unloved name in the South African War of 1899-1901. context
  3. The missing page must have described the surrender of Cape Town on January 10th, and the commencement of Baird's march to pursue Janssens into the mountains of ‘Hottentot Holland’. The Dutch General surrendered on January 17th, his men having mostly deserted. context
  4. Waldeck Chasseurs, German mercenaries in the Dutch service. context
  5. The total force of this unlucky and unauthorized expedition of Sir Horace Popham’s was under 1650 men, viz.: 718, 864; 2 Companies St. Helena Regiment, 182; Marines, 340; Artillery, 138. with 7 (!) mounted men of the 20th Light Dragoons; and 100 Sailors with 2 ship-guns. context
  6. Hardly ‘in front of’ since it was ten miles down stream from the city. context
  7. Rio Chuelo, which enters the River Plate two miles below Buenos Ayres. context
  8. So poor was the Spanish opposition that the total British loss was 1 man killed and two officers and 10 men wounded. context
  9. The Marquis de Sobremonte, an incompetent valetudinarian, the despair of his subordinates. context
  10. Liniers (not Linears) though a Frenchman by birth was an officer in the Spanish navy. context
  11. Of the disbanded Waldeck Chasseurs. context
  12. The Cathedral, in the N.W. angle of the Plaza Mayor or ‘Great Square.’ context
  13. His real name in full was Santiago Antonio Maria Liniers. The strange middle name here is an attempt to decipher an ill-written signature, as it would appear. context
  14. This expedition of 2000 men seized Maldonado on October 29th, having heard of the disaster at Buenos Ayres. context
  15. Tucuman. context
  16. The story was nearly true. The wretched Whitelock, after an ill-managed assault on Buenos Ayres, in which he lost 2000 men prisoners in street fighting, and almost as many casualties more, evacuated Argentina under a convention. context
  17. There were great inducements to desertion, as General Floyd hinted in his speech. Skilled workmen of any trade were much sought after by Argentine employers, and husbands by Argentine girls. context
  18. 1/5th, 1/9th, 1/30th, 1/36th, 1/40th, 1/45th, 5/60th, 1/71st, 1/91st. context
  19. Delaborde. context
  20. Rolica. The 71st was in one of the flanking columns, and got heavily engaged, having only one killed and one wounded. Hence Gavin's silence on the fight. context
  21. 2/9th, 2/43rd, 2/52nd, 97th - 2703 in all by their landing return. context
  22. This ‘advance’ was the flank march of Ferguson's brigade to oppose the turning movement of Juriot's right wing. context
  23. Events are a little misplaced here. The charge of the French 3rd Dragoons was after Ferguson had already beaten off the first infantry attack by Solignac’s brigade. The cavalry accompanied Brenier’s brigade, which made the second attack. Three guns were taken from Solignac, three later from Brenier. context
  24. The official returns adds Captain M’Kenzie wounded. context
  25. Hill’s brigade branched off at Abrantes and diverged from Hope’s column, marching by Guarda, and not crossing Spain; so did the 1/6th the 2nd joined Catlir Crawford and did the long journey through Spain. context
  26. They turned out not ‘impassable,’ and Moore was much vexed to find that all his cavalry and most of his guns had gone on this unnecessary and hazardous detour. context
  27. The only other mention of this incident that I have found is in the anonymous diary of ‘T.S.’ a, private soldier of the 1/71st.’ It took place at Penaranda, between Avila and Alba de Tormes. context
  28. A hopeless underestimate; having been joined by Baird’s corps on December 20th, Moore had 29,000 men. context
  29. A very incomplete description of a large cavalry fight. The French ‘party’ was the whole of the Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard. They were in action not only with Otway’s picquets, but with the 10th Hussars and some of the 3rd Hussars of the King’s German Legion. The captured General was Lefevre Desnouettes, commanding the cavalry of the Imperial Guard. There were 70 other prisoners. context
  30. Not of Castanos’ army, but of La Romanas’. context
  31. This incident of the treasure casks thrown over a precipice occurred not on the day given by Gavin, but
    on January 4th, between Nogales and Cerezal. context
  32. On the 6th, 7th, and 8th January, Moore’s whole army was in position in front of Lugo, offering battle to Souit, who refused to accept it. context
  33. Of another regiment, in a neighbouring brigade, its chronicler relates that it marched into Betanzos with the colours accompanied by nine officers, three sergeants and three privates. So the 71st were not the worst! context
  34. The village was Burgo, on the Rio de Burgo, 6 miles outside Corunna. context
  35. The explosion is fixed for the 13th, not the 14th, by several eye-witnesses. context
  36. This, I think, is an error, the 92nd being in a different part of the field. The 32nd was the regiment supporting the 5th. context
  37. The 1/71st had 724 men present on December 19th, and disembarked 826 at Portsmouth. Its loss of 98 men was much less than that of most of the other battalions who made the Corunna retreat. context
  38. The inventor of the Congreve Rocket, now, I think, used for the first time. context
  39. Detachments from the 1st and 2nd Light battalions of the K.G.L. context
  40. An underestimate; there were 5,800 prisoners. context
  41. Naturally, as one of the battalions of the garrison was the Legion Irlandaise, entirely composed of deserters and renegades. context
  42. He received, a special medal for his exploit from General Erskine and Colonel Cadogan, but refused the stripes of a sergeant, ‘being of a gloomy disposition,’ says the anonymous chronicler of the 71st, who published his book in 1827. context
  43. This horrid incident is also mentioned in the anonymous chronicle of ‘T.S.’ of the 71st. context
  44. Probably Ponte Secca. context
  45. Hardly ‘at the same time,’ for Gavin sailed on Christmas Day, 1810, and the battle of Fucutes de Oñoro was May 5th, 1811. context
  46. Between the last paragraph and this one there is an immense gap - from January 1811, when Gavin arrived in England, to April, 1813, when he sailed to Spain for the third time. Evidently he left out much private matter when copying his diary out.
  47. Gerald, not Gerrard, Dean of Windsor. context
  48. A curious gap, of five weeks and more, shows that Gavin’s diary had been neglected during the advance to Vittoria. context
  49. The troops engaged were the Light Division and Maucune’s French Division at San Milan. context
  50. Probably Salinas, near Medina Pomar. context
  51. Apparently the combat of San Milan on the preceding day, June 18, in which the Light Division cut up Maucune’s retiring columns. context
  52. There was no 40th Léger in the French army. Perhaps the 45th Line, which was on the Puebla Heights when Cadogan attacked them, is meant. context
  53. Subijana de Alava, at the foot of the Puebla, Heights. context
  54. This was Captain Masterman of the 34th Regiment. context
  55. A curious gap of a month (June 24th - July 25th) occurs here. context
  56. The battle of Sorauren. Gavin’s description of the Battle of the Pyrenees is singularly short and vague. context
  57. A mistake for St. Jean de Luz. St. Jean Pied de Port is far inland. The engagement was the battle of the Nivelle (November 10th). context
  58. This is Hill’s battle of St. Pierre d’Irube, though Gavin never gives its name (December 13th, 1813). context
  59. The fact that he is called Lord Hill, not Sir Rowland, shows that the diary was ‘written up’ after 1814. context
  60. An early name for a mountain gun, first coined in India. context
  61. Cashiered shortly after, for cowardice at the battle of St. Pierre, in the preceding December. context
  62. Villefranche. Gavin was thinking of the Peninsular Villa Franca, and transferring its name to the corresponding town in France. context
  63. Peace of Ghent signed December 24th, 1814. context
  64. Most authorities say that it was a dull morning after the storm, and that the sun only shone by 9 o'clock. context
  65. The official casualties list adds Captains W. Grant and Henderson; Lieutenants Hanson, Lind, Roberts, Lewin, Coote, to the wounded. The total regimental loss was, according to this same list, 2 officers and 24 men killed; 14 officers and 260 men wounded; 3 men missing. Evidently the casualty of Major L’Estrange was counted under ‘staff.’ Gavin forgot to add the captains and lieutenants wounded, whose names escaped him. context
  66. And for a lost battle, not less creditable than the old victory of 1794, on August 26th, 1914. context
  67. The former a lieutenant, the latter the assistant surgeon of the Battalion. context