Monday, November 7, 2011

The 2nd/66th (The Berkshires) - 28mm Perry & Victrix

 Here are some new recruits to bolster my British Napoleonic collection. This unit (composed of Perry plastics and a Victrix mounted officer) represents the 2nd battalion of the 66th Regiment of Foot (The Berkshires). I had mentioned previously that I was building a British force based on Colborne's ill-fated brigade which was severely mauled by French cavalry at Albuera in 1811 (approximately 70% casualties throughout the brigade).

On top of being a speed bump for Polish lancers, the 66th had the distinct misfortune of loosing both its Regimental and King's colours that day.

The 2nd/66th was all but destroyed at Albuera. Of the approximately 400 men that made up the battalion at the start of the day, it suffered 16 officers and 310 men killed or wounded. The following day, it was able to muster only 53 bayonets. The majority of the casualties had been killed and among the dead were the battalion major, and the ensigns Walker and Colter. Captain Clark was taken prisoner, but was able to escape later, wrote that one of the flags was saved, but he does not specify which one. The remnants of the 2/66th was formed into a provisional battalion with the 2nd Battalion 31st, which had saved its flags. It was noted in its last inspection in Roncesvalles in 1813 said “The Battalion of the 66th doesn't have flags, because their new ones were sent to Lisbon in 1812. It is the undeniable test of their loss at Albuera, and the King's Colours also exists still in Paris”.

Another document, a letter from Lieutenant George Cromption of the 66th, dated May 18, 1811 states, "Oh, what a day that was. The worst of the story I have not related. Our Colours were taken. I told you before that two ensigns were shot under them; two Sergeants suffered the same fate. Lieutenant seized a musket to defend them, and was shot to the heart, what could be done against cavalry?"

These flags, in fact four complete and two reduced to the flagstaffs with their spearhead and  some fragments of their cloths, were sent by Soult to Paris, where they were temporarily deposited in the home of Marshal Berthier, until their presentation in the Tulleries in August 1811, along with 200 flags taken from the Spanish in the past campaigns.

After 1814, these trophies remained hidden until 5 April 1827, when five were displayed in the Museum of Artillery. During the Revolution of 1830, a mob stormed the Museum and took weapons and flags from it, including the King's Colour of the 66th Foot. 

In 1831, the four remaining Colours, were placed in the cornices of the chapel of the Hotel des Invalides. During the funeral of Marshal Sebastiani on 11 August 1851 a fire broke out. The Regimental Colour of the 66th Foot was completely destroyed, while the King’s Colour of the 48th Foot was badly damaged with only its central shield surviving. 

In 1861, General Duffourc d'Antist donated to the Invalides his collection of flags. Among these flags was the King's Colour of the 66th Foot which had been stolen by the mob in 1830.

From what I understand, currently there still exists the shield of the King’s Colour of the 48th Foot, which is in a frame in storage of the l'Armée Musée, while the King's Colours of the 66th Foot, as well as the remains of those of the 3rd and 48th are suspended of the cornices of the chapel of the Hotel des Invalides, which is part of the annex to the l'Armée Musée.

(Information from


  1. Lovely work, Curt. Painting and basing top notch! The flags are very dynamic; you can almost feel the breeze!

    I'm painting the 2nd Division circa 1813, which includes the 1st Provisional Battalion consisting of the remains of the 2/66th and the 2/31st. Apparently Wellington had to fight hard to keep them as the Duke of York wanted to bring them home to recruit, replacing them with regiments that had not yet seen active service. Wellington felt that 1 battalion created from the ruins of 2 veteran battalions was better than any number of green battalions. A signal honour indeed!

  2. That is very interesting. I was curious to the fate of the 2/66th. Its heartening that they held together instead of being broken up.

    Thanks for the kind words!

  3. That's a mighty fine looking unit you've got yourself there!!! And a fine story too! I visited the Hotel Invalids a couple of years ago, its a must for anyone, trouble was I took the Mrs, she was bored stiff after about 2.2 seconds, spent around 3 hour there but I could have spent 3 days!!

  4. Thanks Ray! I was lucky enough to spend a day there last year with a fellow Napoleonic Geek and we were like two weak-kneed kids in Disneyland - it was quite pathetic, really. My wife is quite interested in history, and loves museums, but I think she would have lost it if she were with us the whole time.

  5. Great paintjob! I have only one attention- the cavalry that captured these flags wasn't French. There were Polish Vistula Lancers, "los infernos picadores", as the Spaniards called them. It is well seen in the artwork You included. There was some French cavalry in these charge, but the main force was Polish. Vistula Lancers have lost they colours few years before and they were determined to avenge this dishonor. I don't know it's the truth, but I heard that colours lost in Albuera were the only colours lost by British during the whole Peninsular Campaign... Great work, gentelmen;)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bayard. I believe in my second paragraph I state that the cavalry which overran the Berkshires was Polish.

      Yes, I may be wrong but I don't think the British lost any other colours during the Peninsular campaigns. Quatre Bras is another matter entirely...

    2. Sorry, I had not seen this, shame on me. Anyway, I really like Your works and your collection is impressive... It will be couple of years before I'll go near it;)

    3. No worries! Thanks very much for the comments and good luck with your collection - don't despair as it builds quite rapidly as long as you keep at it.