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Corporal John Penniston

Waterloo 200


Captain G.F. Erskine's Troop

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Submitted by: Carol Lesley Mulroe (obo Nicholls family)

Date added: 10 Feb 2015

My paternal 4th great grandfather, John Penniston, was born in Saxby, Leicestershire on 3 May 1790 to Thomas Penniston and Elizabeth Bennet and he was one of nine children (7 boys and 2 girls). John fought in the Peninsular War and the Battle of Waterloo. At the time of the Battle he served as a Regular Soldier with the rank of Corporal in the 12th (Prince of Wales) Regiment of Light Dragoons in Captain G. F. Erskine’s Troop which was attached to Vandeleur’s Light Cavalry Brigade. He joined the Regiment in Nottingham in 1805.

Peninsular War
In March 1812 John would have been quartered in Radipol Barracks, near Weymouth, Dorset when his Lieutenant (William Hay) joined the 12th and in his book “Reminiscences 1808-1815 under Wellington”, William Hay said that in March 1812 on reaching Radipol Barracks “I found there a set of young men up to all kinds of amusements and pranks, in which I joined”. Shortly afterwards, the 12th marched to Portsmouth for embarkation to Lisbon and the Peninsular. Hay says in his reminiscences that “the 12th was at this time a pattern family of friends, living with each other on most amicable terms, an angry word or look was unknown”. Battle honours were awarded for Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle and Nive.

Battle of Waterloo
Before the Battle of Waterloo, in March 1815, the 12th were quartered in Dorchester and were marched to Dover for embarkation to Ostend. In the Battle of Waterloo the 12th Regiment of Light Dragoons charged in support of the Union Brigade causing the French 46th Regiment to break. The 12th suffered severely on their withdrawal, losing almost one third of their strength in ten minutes. I don’t know if John was injured but he did survive the battle, during which his Regiment suffered 111 killed or wounded which was 29% of the total. Sir Jon Vandeleur summed up the professionalism and absolute reliability of the 12th when he said “The 12th can boast of what no Regiment in the army can, except the ones that came out the other day, that we never lost a single man by surprise, not a piquet or patrol has ever been taken, nor a man deserted or even tried by Court Martial.”

Discharge from Regiment and After
John Penniston served from 1805 and was discharged in February 1819 in Canterbury after almost 14 years service. The discharge papers describe him as 5’ 7” in height with light hair and grey eyes and fair complexion. It is apparent from these papers that he lied about his age to join the Regiment because his enlistment record shows his date of birth as 1787 when it was in fact 1790. There is a written note on the discharge papers to the effect that he was only 16 at enlistment (instead of the required 18 yrs). John was subsequently in receipt of a fivepence per day pension from the Royal Hospital at Chelsea.

After his discharge he became a tailor in Saxby, Leicestershire, like his father Thomas before him. John married Anne Watson Lodge on 2 July 1813 in Maiden Newton, Dorset and they had 10 children and I am descended from their firstborn child, a son John, who was born in Maiden Newton, Dorset in 1814. John Penniston senior died on 23 June 1833 aged 43, in Saxby, Leicestershire.

Submitted by Carol Lesley Mulroe on behalf of the Nichols Family

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