Date added: 14 Jun 2015
As the 26 year old Private John Himbury of the 2nd Battalion, 95th Regiment of Foot stood in the early morning rain, looking down at his boots encased in the mud of the Waterloo fields he shivered in anticipation of the inevitable battle. He drew his treasured Green Jacket around him in a gesture of protection against the monotonous and pervasive rain. His thoughts slipped to the past as, facing the uncertainty of battle once more, he recapped mentally the life that had led him to this place, Waterloo on this fateful day, June 18th 1815: Born into a family of labourers in the Dorset village of Evershot on 24th November 1788 the 18 year old Himbury escaped the privations and uncertainties of his farm labouring background by joining the militia in the summer of 1807. It was during the 1809 recruitment campaign for the fledgling ‘Rifle Regiment’ that he was drawn by the poster promising – “knock down your enemy at 500 yards rather than missing him at 50” and “the comfort of the Green Jacket” together with the promise “your Post is always the Post of Honour and your Quarters the best in the Army.” Joining the 95th Regiment he was placed in the 2nd Battalion as part of Captain Cadoux’s detachment already gaining fame as the expert wielders of the new Baker Rifle, replacing the old India standard Musket. His six years of service in the 95th had taken him into and through, a succession of actions and battles; first in Holland at the assault on Flushing within weeks of his joining the Regiment. Here, along with many comrades he had been taken sick with possible malaria so that he and the rest of Cadoux’s detachment did not leave for the Peninsular campaign until well into 1810. He had seen action at the siege of Cadiz and from there had fought with what seemed unending regularity in a succession of actions as the British forces struggled their way towards France. Two of these stood out clearly in his memory: The first as he told the story with relish to friends “I was taken prisoner at San Munoz in a snowstorm on 17th November 1812. I escaped into the woods and managed to rejoin the Regiment the following day without shirt, shoes or socks!” The second occurred at the storming of San Sebastian when Himbury volunteered to be part of the ‘Forlorn Hope’ that led the attack on the city on 31st August 1813. He was wounded in the assault but treasured the medal he had been awarded for his part in the attack. From San Sebastian the battles marched like a fevered dream through his memory, the Pyrenees , Nivelle and Nive, where he was severely wounded in 1813. In 1814 Tarbes, Orthes and Toulouse. It had been a miracle to survive and a joy to return home by ship at Portsmouth on 22nd July 1814. Then had come the news of Napoleon’s return and his march north, leading to Himbury and his Regiment embarking for the continent again and to his standing in the mud outside Waterloo, deep in reminiscences. During the battle itself his battalion were positioned on the right centre of the line between Hougomont and La Haye Sainte as part of Sir Frederick Adam’s Brigade. It was late in the day when the attack from Napoleon’s Imperial Guard came upon them whereupon they fought soundly and beat the French back with force until they turned to retreat in what was one of the decisive moments of the day. Himbury himself was wounded in the action, but survived and celebrated not only the victory with his colleagues, but also the reward they gained the following year during their occupation duties in France when by order “the 95th was removed from the regiments of the line and styled THE RIFLE BRIGADE.” Himbury continued in military service, in Ireland and as part of the British Legion in the Spanish War of Succession. In later life he became an undertaker and from 1851 onwards is found in the records described as a Chelsea Pensioner. He passed away at the grand age of 83 on 28th June 1872.