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Captain Sir John Kincaid Senior Exon of the Yeomen of the Guard

Schools Waterloo 200


24 Jan 1789 - 22 Apr 1862

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Waterloo Soldier by: Rachael Dixon

Date added: 17 Jun 2015

Captain John Kincaid was born in Dalbeath, January 1787 to his father, also called John and his mother Margaret Gaff. He was educated at Polmont School, and before he joined the military, he was the manager of a timber-importing business. In 1807, Kincaid applied for a full-time post as lieutenant in the North York Militia and was successful in his application. In 1809, Kincaid joined the 95th rifles regiment , receiving his 2nd lieutenancy. He partook in military exhibitions before the Battle of Waterloo but his participation in battle against the Napoleonic army was arguably his greatest venture.

The 95th Rifles, then known as the Rifle Brigade, were formed in 1800 as an experimental unit of riflemen, whose main purpose was to scout and feel-out the strength of the opposing army and cause damage where possible. They were the first regular infantry to wear green and not red as camouflage and unlike traditional infantry regiments, they worked in pairs instead of the classic mass formations of the time. They acted as scouts at the beginning of the battle and rearguards in times of retreat.

Kincaid and the 95th Rifles were sent to Portugal to assist Wellington in the battle against Napoleonic army as part of the Peninsular campaigns of 1811-14. His regiment fought in battles as part of the Elite Light Division such as Bussaco and Nivelle as well as sieges in 1812 of Ciudad Rodrigo. The 95th Rifles were prominent in the final confrontation at Waterloo in 1915, and Kincaid himself, acting as Adjutant of his regiment, had his horse shot from under him during the battle. In Kincaid’s account of the Battle, he describes encountering Napaleon on the battlefield, “We saw Buonaparte himself take post” as well as Wellington’s final push for victory, “Lord Wellington galloped up to us... he called out ‘No cheering my lads, but forward, and complete your victory!’”.

After the Battle of Waterloo, Kincaid attained the rank of Captain in 1826, before retiring in 1831. Kincaid published two books, ‘Adventures with the Rifle Brigade’ (1830) and ‘Random Shots of a Rifleman’ (1835), which relayed his accounts of his time in the 95th Rifle Brigade, including his experiences at Waterloo. These accounts give a more personal description of the horrors faced at Waterloo, and the bravery of his battalion, “Our division, which stood upwards of five thousand men at the commencement of the battle, had gradually dwindled down into a solitary line of skirmishes.” Kincaid highlights the brutality of the Battle of Waterloo and emphasizes the extent of the violence he witnessed, “I had never yet heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but this seemed likely to be an exception, as we were all going by turns.”

After selling his commissions, Kincaid was appointed Exon of the Yeomen of the Guard on 25th October 1844. Kincaid was then made the Government Inspector of Prisons for Scotland in 1847, before being further appointed as a Senior Exon and knighted by Queen Victoria in 1852. After retiring from government duties in early 1862, Kincaid moved to Hastings where he died on 22nd April 1862, aged 75.

~Researched by Rachael Dixon and Lara Pope ~ Battle Abbey School

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