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Lt. Colonel John Fremantle

Waterloo 200


Coldstream Guards

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Submitted by: Charles Fremantle

Date added: 2 Jun 2015

John Fremantle was my Great Great Grandfather, via my Grandmother, Leila Fremantle, who married my Grandfather Admiral Sir Sydney. John served throughout the Peninsular War with Wellington and was entrusted to deliver the Dispatches of the Victories at Vitoria and Orthes to the Prince Regent. He was on Wellington’s personal Staff at the Congress of Vienna, and continued with him until 1818. He signed the final Peace Treaty in Paris on behalf of Wellington who was ill.

Two days before Waterloo, John had his horse killed at the battle of Quatre Bras, and suffered bruising, but on the Day he kept close to the Duke to carry messages to the various Commanders, while avoiding the marauding French Cavalry, until he was told to try to find the Prussians, and ask for reinforcement. He found them at about 6 p.m. and gave them the message, only to be told that their whole Army was coming! He asked them to redirect the fire of their artillery away from our lines, and then returned to give the Duke the news. On his return he saw the repulse of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, which appeared to be led by Napoleon in person. His letter to his uncle William Fremantle MP, written on the 19 June is at Appendix 1, and his account for William Siborne in 1842 is at Appendix 2 After Waterloo, John continued in the Army, reaching the Rank of Major General and Commanding the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards. He was an ADC to both King William IV and Queen Victoria. I found his letters in the Fremantle archive, and they were published by Gareth Glover and myself as “Wellington’s Voice” in November 2012.

The Fremantle family had five members fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, the most famous is Thomas, who fought with Nelson at Copenhagen and Trafalgar. His brothers John and Stephen were in the Army, and his son Charles served with him at age 10 in the Mediterranean, before taking part in the War of 1812 in the USA. Charles later founded Western Australia. John married Agnes Lyon in 1829 with Wellington and Fitzroy Somerset as Witnesses. They had five children and named the eldest boys Arthur and Fitzroy, both became Generals. Their son, Delvin, Leila’s father, joined the Royal Navy but died young. Descendants of these Fighting Fremantles had a Trafalgar 200 Dinner ten years ago and had a Waterloo 200 Dinner on the 29th May this year. They will be represented at the Ball in Brussels, which John attended, and the 200th Anniversary Service in St. Paul’s.

Appendix 1

Brussels, 19 June 1815

My dear Uncle
We returned here this morning after three days (of) as severe operation as ever were known I suppose in the annals of military history. I don't pretend to enter into the details of the two days action, viz. the 16th and 18th for if once begun, there is no knowing where to end, indeed the dispatch itself is very concise, for such an operation.

Bonaparte was like a hard run fox, and at the last attack just before dark, headed his Imperial Guard in person, and when the attack manque (missed) they all went a la debandade (helter-skelter), followed by us, and the Prussians, who had arrived quite fresh, and the former are after them now, l'epee dans les reins (with a sword in the loins). The French have left upwards of 100 pieces of cannon, and all their baggage. Two of Bonaparte's carriages have been taken, and their soldiers are all throwing away their arms in short there never was such a business form beginning to end, ever known. The Duke did wonders and earned well his victory, we were near losing the day four times, and I assure that nothing but his countenance kept the matter going; you will see that great havoc has been made among our Staff. Percy had a horse killed, Cathcart two, and myself one on the 16th. Felton's horse was wounded 3 times, and how the Duke escaped we are at a loss to know, for he was in the thick of it from morning till night.

Ever my dear uncle your most dutiful and affectionate nephew, John Fremantle

Appendix 2

John Fremantle, who could speak German, had an important role in the Battle in guiding the Prussian Army towards Wellington, and described this in a letter to William Siborne dated November 1842.

“I am very glad to state to you the occurrence which took place with the Prussian Army on the 18th June.

Many Officers were sent in the morning in search of the Army. Towards 6 O’ Clock Sir Horace Seymour came and reported to the Duke of Wellington that he had seen the Prussian column.

The Duke called upon me to go to the head of their column, and ask for the 3000 men to supply our losses. Blucher had not arrived, but Generals Ziethen and Bulow were at the head of the column, who gave me for answer-that the whole army was coming up, and that they could not make a detachment. I said I would return to the Duke with such a message. On my way back I found a Prussian Battery of 8 guns firing between our first and second lines, and desired the Officer to cease firing. I returned to the knoll so well described in your model, and begged the Generals to send orders for the Battery to cease fire.

The last Attack was now in full force, and when the dense smoke cleared off we saw that the French were in full retreat.

Blucher, who had arrived met in the village of Belle Alliance the Duke of Wellington, when it was agreed that he should follow them during the night; he did so. Believe me etc. John Fremantle”The last Attack was now In full force, and when the dense smoke cleared off we saw that the French were in full retreat Blucher, who had arrived met in the village of Belle Alliance the Duke of Wellington, when it was agreed that he should follow them during the night; he did so. Believe me etc. John Fremantle”

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