Date added: 15 May 2017
Submitted by: Mike Ryder
George Walton, my Great Great Grandfather, was born in Birmingham on 30th January 1796.
He enlisted in the 95th Rifles on 29 May 1813 at a recruitment party in Birmingham because he liked the green uniform and was duly signed in on 15th June of that year.
He joined the 2nd battalion depot at Shorncliffe, Kent. In December 1813 he embarked for Holland on Grampus, a 64 gun man-o-war. From there he took part in the sige of Antwerp being finally billeted in Nieuport at the beginning of 1815.
A commotion at the billet and a doubling of the guards was caused by the news the Napoleon had escaped from Elba and had landed nearby. We marched to Menin, Bruges and Ghent arriving in Tournai on 1st April 1815 where we were joined by the 1st and 3rd battalions having returned from America. Now we started training, marching for 8 to 10 hours per day. Twice a week we marched to a large common where a Brigade comprising several regiments was assembled. Soon after daybreak on 16th June we marched off for our usual field day when we were met by a staff officer who ordered us back to camp and then we set off in a line for Waterloo. We marched until 6pm with very little rest or refreshment until we came upon a road. This was difficult to join because of the number of troops and artillery upon it. We, at length, got upon the road and soon after we began to hear, faintly, the reports of cannon which we thought was thunder; but as we advanced it became clearer and we began to smell powder. We marched until 9pm were we were halted, ordered to make fires and cook our meat and be ready to fall in again in 40 minutes. Unfortunately there was not time to cook or eat our food. We continued the march, left the road and marched through the Forest of Soignes until midnight. I slept until 5am – it was the 17th June.
We knew there was something going on at a distance in front because of the bursting of shells. It was about 3pm when we turned off the road near Quatre Bras into a ravine with hedges either side. It was very sultry, terrific claps of thunder and lightening which drowned, for a time, the roar of cannon. The rain poured down in torrents and the road was knee deep in minutes. About 4 or 5pm we came through a field of rye to the rear of our army which was fighting mightily with the enemy. Orders were given for us to cook our rations as we had not eaten since yesterday. We had no tents so we started to make temporary cover from the rain. Before this was completed we were ordered to fall in to support one of the divisions, the Guards I think, who were suffering dreadfully from the enemy. Our cooking was upset and the food discarded. All our preparations for the night were useless and we advanced to support our comrades.
After marching and countermarching from one part of the field to the other, night came in and the firing ceased but not the rain. Our regiment was now ordered to the advance post in that part of the field for the night, which was very dark.
Our post was near the bottom of the field, watch fires were built and I got some straw and lay down and was soon asleep. About midnight I was aroused by a sentry because the water was flowing over me. I was numb with cold and led to a fire where the Officer ordered me to remain. I was advised to take the blanket out of my knapsack but that would have made it sodden; would not have got it back into my knapsack. If, as a consequence, I had discarded it, I would be tried by court martial, ordered to pay for it and very likely flogged into the bargain. An order was given for us to make fires, dry our uniforms, clean our arms and cook food as we would not be required until later in the day.
Towards midday on 18th June, we fell in and advanced to take up our position; the Chateau of Rougemont at some distance in front to our right. When we arrived at our position upon the heights we saw in every direction the thousands of troops assembled in every direction in splendid uniforms; the glitter of arms, cuirasses of polished brass and steel which shone like gold and silver, the flags of the lancers intermingled with the smoke. It all struck me with wonder and admiration. I thought a more magnificent spectacle could not be seen. It was awfully grand. We formed a line on top of the heights as a Regiment of Cuirassiers was about to make a charge. We quickly formed square to resist the charge. We had got the square nearly formed when a cannon shot (about 18 pounds I think) went through us in a diagonal direction killing or wounding 18 to 20 men and officers. John Trow who enlisted with me was standing on my right hand in the front of the square. The ball killed his front rank man, struck him on the left shoulder and me on the right. Thank God it was only a slight would stripping the flesh from the top of our shoulders without injuring the bone. The square was soon formed and the cavalry made no impression on us and a great many of their men and horses were casualties from the effect of our rifle balls. When we got up with our shoulders bleeding we were ordered by the officer of the square to make our way to the rear – it was about 5pm.
Rifleman George Walton spent 6 weeks in Brussels recovering and then rejoined his regiment.
He and his regiment remained in France until December 1818.
In 1825 he was made corporal, in 1826 he was made sergeant and in 1837 he was made schoolmaster sergeant.
He retired from the army in 1839 as a Chelsea Pensioner and lived in Birmingham where he died in 1874.