31 Oct 1784 - 1 Sep 1863
Date added: 3 May 2015
Images: Nathaniel Almey's discharge paper, and Obituary. The Mercer's Monument and Lion Mound courtesy of Andy Child
Nathaniel Almey (Omey) joined the army on the 15th April 1800 aged supposedly 19 years (The reality was that he was just 15 and 1/2 years of age), height of 5’ 8”, dark complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. He enlisted in Leicester, with an occupation of Stockinger,and his birthplace given as Earl Shilton. He was also illiterate. His rank is listed as Gunner, although this record must have been written after 1802, as prior to this date he was a Driver (a soldier trained in the management and use of horses). Nathaniel had also signed up for unlimited service. There are several entries for Nathaniel in the WO69/1 to WO69/3 series (National Archives Kew) under the surnames of Almey and Omey. On the 1st March 1803 Nathaniel joined G Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
From 1803 to 1807 Samuel and Nathaniel Almey remained in G Troop, mainly on home service. In 1807 Nathaniel and Samuel Almey (Omey) are recorded in G Troop RHA both are Gunners. The commander is Augustus Fraser and the Second Captain was Alexander Cavalie Mercer (subsequently to lead them into the Battle of Waterloo). The Troop was recorded as being “on Board ship” bound for Monte Video (modern day Uruguay), South America.
This was an ill-fated expedition under the leadership of Lieutenant General Whitelocke jointly carried out by the British army and navy to try and take Buenos Aires, Argentina (then known as the Rio de Plata). In May 1807 whilst on board ship Nathaniel received a pay increase having achieved seven years of service and it is noted on the pay list as follows:
“Include 1d per day for 15 days from the 15th to the 30th April 1807 he having arrived at 7 years’ service on that day.”
So Nathaniel is now regarded as a Gunner 2nd Class.
It took about nine weeks to reach South America they arrived in June. On 2nd July the British forces moved towards Buenos Aries and they were confronted by General Liniers who commanded a considerable force of men. After just a few days fighting, despite coming under heavy attack,the different columns made good progress and held all of the main approaches to Buenos Aries. That said, Whitelocke felt that the loss of life on the British side had been severe and surrendered to the Spanish forces. G Troop had just three men killed in action.The British army hierarchy were clearly not impressed as Whitelocke, upon his return to England was court martialled, found guilty and dismissed from the service.
For the Almeys and G Troop the following years were once again taken up by home service. They had the honour in 1811 of being inspected by His Royal Highness George Prince Regent (later George VI) on Rushmere Heath, Ipswich.
The afternoon of the 18th June 1815
G Troop RHA were initially held in reserve by the Duke of Wellington at around 3pm they were ordered into the frontline, Sir Augustus Fraser galloped towards G Troop calling: “Left limber up and asfast as you can!” The men reacted rapidly and were quickly ready to moveand pointing towards the ridge (their final position at Waterloo). They were commanded to “at a gallop, march!”Mercer rode with Fraser whose face was black from the smoke and uniform already torn from musket and case shot. Fraser explained in an urgent voice that theenemy had assembled a huge mass of heavy cavalry and G Troop were being called up to help with the impending attack. Fraser led them to a point between Hougoumont Farm and the Charleroi Road, and informed Mercer that the likelihood of immediate attack was likely.Even with all their years of experience in the army,many men would never have seen anything like this before (G Troop were not involved in the Peninsular Wars). For many men, their only experience of combat was two days previously at Quatre Bras or years previously in South America (1807).Whilst racing to make their stand Fraser gave Mercer the Duke of Wellingtons orders: “The Duke’s orders are positive, in the event of their persevering and charging home[the French cavalry], you do not expose your men, but retire with them into the adjacent squares of infantry.” This clear and concise order was about to bedirectly disobeyed by Mercer, the consequences of which would be a key momentin the battle. As the men continued to ride it became hot and they were engulfed by thick smoke from cannon and musket fire, a constant hail of cannon shot and bullets surrounding the men on horseback. By good fortune the men reached the ridge without anyone being killed or wounded.The Brunswickers Fraser pointed out the position G Troop were to take up, between two squares of Brunswickers (German infantry). The Brunswickers were falling fast, with every shot causing more casualties and gaps in the ranks. Their officers were attempting to close the men up to fill the gaps.Some of the Brunswickers Officers resorted to hitting the young soldiers to get them to move as they appeared to be rooted to the spot, clearly terrified.Mercer had seen the Brunswickers the previous day throw down their weapons and run away, panic-stricken at the sounds of G Troop’s horses! These were very young men, that Mercer called “boys.” Mercer described his doubts about the Brunswickers in his journal: “every moment I feared they would again throw down their arms and flee but their officers behaved nobly managing to keep the squares tight despite the carnage among their ranks.” Mercer considered it madness to seek refuge amongst the Brunswickers (the Duke of Wellington’s orders), fearing that when GTroop ran from their guns towards the squares, the Brunswickers would also run leaving G Troop fully exposed without protection. If this had happened it is likely that the men of G Troop would have been slaughtered by the approaching French cavalry. However, Mercer decided to disobey orders by allowing his men to stay at their guns constantly (not retreating into the infantry squares between attacks). If the French looked as though they were going to overrun the troop the men had to take cover as best they could, where they stood. Given the situation Mercer felt it would be better, if necessary, for the men to fall at their posts, rather than put total trust in the Brunswickers boys.
G Troop faced three heavy French cavalry attacks over the next few hours, they were all repulsed very successfully. The result being a huge amount of dead and dying French in front of G Troops position. As a Bombardier Nathaniel would have been beside one of G Troops six cannon, at the very front of the fighting.
After Waterloo, Nathaniel remained in France and in October 1815 was promoted to Corporal. Along with his cousin George Almey, G Troop stayed as part of the Army of Occupation that was to remain there until the end of 1818.
In January 1819 Nathaniel was discharged to pension at a rate of 1s 2 ½ d per day. He returned to Earl Shilton and lived a long life surviving until the age of 78.
Nathaniel Almey my three times Great Grandfather, one of many ordinary men at Waterloo being extraordinary heroes.
For a more complete story of the Almeys the book "From Earl Shilton to Waterloo" will be in print from May 2015. ISBN 978-0-9932629-0-6
To obtain a copy contact firstname.lastname@example.org