Waterloo: LTC Charles Edward West

Charles Edward was born on 26 th January 1790 while his parents were living at 1, Sloane Square. London. In 1794 he attended Mrs Edward’s childs school in Brentford and the following year Norton’s School, Crouch End, Hornsey. From 1797 to 1801 he was under the care of Mrs Ouiseau at Kensington and later at Durham House in Chelsea. In 1802/3 he attended the Royal Military College in Marlow, Bucks. He states that ‘here I forgot half the good I had learned at Ouiseau’. In 1804 he joined the 2 nd Battalion, 3 rd Guards at Chatham and the following year accompanied his regiment on the expedition to Germany under the command of Lord Cathcart. He was present during the whole campaign and on returning to England in 1806 he immediately embarked for Denmark where he assisted in the siege of Copenhagen until the city surrendered.

In 1809 he sailed to Portugal as part of an expeditionary force led by Sir Arthur Wellesey (later to become the Duke of Wellington) to fight the French in the Peninsular War. Due to mistaken orders the troops landed in Cadiz and had to make for Lisbon over land. He was present at the storming of Oporto, where the combined British and Portuguese armies drove the French out of the city and part of the force that continued to attack them during their retreat over the mountains to Salamonde and Orense.

He also fought at the Battle of Talavera where the combined British, Portiguese and Spanish troops defeated the French in a 2 day battle. Following this, he was promoted to Captain. His father also fought in the same battle and they both now retuned to Lisbon. (was Charles Augustus injured?). Here he was entrusted with the private despatches of the British Ambassador, Mr Villiers and sailed to England aboard the frigate ‘Fylla’.

Back in England he did constant tours of guard duty at the Tower Of London, which were at the time of disturbances caused by the imprisonment of Sir Francis Burdett, the radical MP for Westminster, who had been arrested for an alleged breach of Parliamentary privilege.

In 1812 he was on recruitment duty at Ipswich and the following year was ordered to Spain as part of force commanded by Lt Col. Henry Bouverie. However, the force was becalmed at Portsmouth for two weeks and Charles passed the time on the Isle Of Wight. While there he claims that he won a £50 bet with Bouverie and Lord Hotham that he could walk around the island 3 days in succession and dine with them every evening. Eventually, they sailed and, after landing at Lisbon marched to Albuera where he rejoined his battalion. He rode to Badajoz and assisted at the siege. But the next day he lost his horse, collars and saddle in the River Guadiana.

On July 22 nd he fought at the Battle of Salamanca where the Duke of Wellington won a crushing victory and Charles received his first clasps. This victory gave Wellington control of Madrid and then he advanced to capture Burgos. But with insufficient siege equipment, he was forced to retreat. Charles states that the conditions were very tough (bad weather, mules stolen) and that there was much hardship and suffering. Wellington decided to retreat from the centre of Spain for the winter and return to Portugal. The First Guards Regiment had suffered very badly at Burgos and Wellington decided to quarter the troops over at Viseu. Charles dined with Wellington at his headquarters at Frenada . Wellington told Charles ‘he had quartered the 1 st Guards at Viseu hoping that good rations and good port would set them up – for they were in a miserable sick state’. While at Frenada Charles was introduced by Wellington to the Prince of Orange.

During 1813 Charles fought at the Battle of Vittoria, where he again was in receipt of a clasp, and Wellington then headed for the Pyrenees, where they crossed the River Bidassoa into France. Here he met up with his brother George, who was serving in the Royal Engineers. During a sortie from Bayonne Charles was badly wounded in the left arm. He dined again with the Duke of Wellington at St Jean de Luz, marched to Bordeaux and embarked for home. Back in England, on 25 th July 1814 he was promoted to Lt Colonel and given his own company of Guards.

With Napolean captured and imprisoned on the island of Elba there was peace once again in Europe. Charles was still suffering from his wound and spent some weeks recovering with his parents at Landgaurd Fort. There he met Jane Preston and they were married in Norwich on 3 rd December 1814.

However, in 1815 he returned to front line action once more as Napolean who, having escaped from Elba, had once again rallied his troops and marched into Belgium. Charles fought against the French at Quatre Bas on 16th June and then 2 days later at Waterloo. On the eve of the battle of Quatre Bras the Duchess of Richmond gave a ball in Brussels and invited many of the officers of the allied English and Prussian armies. Jane Preston had accompanied Charles to Belgium and together they attended the ball.

During the Battle of Waterloo Charles was severely wounded by a bullet wound in the thigh. Although Jane was in delicate health herself as she was 6 months pregnant, she went to search for him, finding him severely wounded and unable to move. With the aid of friends, Jane arranged for him to be carried off the battlefield. Later she received the following letter (written in French):

Enghien 20th June 1815

The joy felt at our armies’ triumph is infinitely changed by our anxiety about the uncertainty of the fate of Mr West your dear husband, we can’t learn anything about it here, I hope that the good God has saved him. If you have the opportunity, do me the honour of presenting him our respectful compliments, and write to me in a few words if he has come out of this bloody combat without being covered in wounds. I share much of the pain caused you by the great danger or risk he has been exposed to and I hope that you will do me the honour of replying to me by the same messenger as you please.

With affection and respect, Madam, your very humble and obedient servant

Alex G. Desort

He was taken to a hospital in Brussels where he recovered. His first son, Edward, was born in Brussels in September.

In 1816 Charles and his family returned to Landguard Fort and he also did another tour of duty at the Tower of London. In 1817 the family were living at Windsor where George was born. There were no more overseas postings and Charles decided to leave the army in 1821. After living at Charmouth and Lowestoft, in 1827 the family moved to Orleans in France. Over the next 15 years, the family lived in Moulins, Toulon and Montpellier.

Charles loved living in Provence and his children were brought up with Provencal as their first language.

In 1842 Charles and his family returned to England and lived in Gravesend until 1844. A few years later Charles left his wife and went to live in France again. Here he met Elizabeth Ann by whom he fathered 2 daughters – Emile Elizabeth and Marie Louise and 1 son – Auguste Benjamin Sackville. It is not known if Charles and Elizabeth actually married – but certainly, in later censuses she is referred to as his wife and in his obituary as his widow.

In 1871 at the start of the Franco-Prussian War the family moved to England and lived in Folkestone. Charles died of bronchitis there on 17 th October 1872.

His obituary in the Times, as well as recording his full-service history concludes with ‘…He retired from the service by leave, with the highest reputation for honourable conduct and the courage he had displayed in the great battles in which he had taken part’.

In 1909 a memorial tablet was erected in the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London to his father and himself. Unfortunately, the tablet was destroyed by enemy bombs during World War II. The tablet has been replaced by an inscription on the outside wall of the Chapel. He is mentioned in several books including Dalton’s Waterloo Roll Call and Halls’ A History of the Peninsular War’. (in which he is incorrectly listed under his father’s name)
Thanks to the contributor, Lynette

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