Date added: 3 Jun 2015
On 1st March 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba and landed in France. Nineteen days later he was in Paris and resumed his title as Emperor. His army rallied to him. The soldiers who had been captured during the years of fighting had been released enabling Napoleon to reform his Grande Armée.
The European allies reassembled their armies and prepared to resume the war to overthrow the Emperor yet again. Sunday in June, 200 years ago, on a hill in Belgium, a brave Cornishman called Christopher Switzer carved a little piece of history for himself by saving his regiment's flag.
The hill was Waterloo, 12 miles south of Brussels, where the British Army faced the might of a multitude of battle-hardened French soldiers fighting for Napoleon. Switzer was a colour sergeant in the 32nd Foot (or the Cornwall Regiment) and his battalion formed part of a long line across a hill crest, blocking Napoleon's advance on Brussels.
As cannon balls from the French artillery ploughed into the red-coated ranks, causing horrific casualties, the French infantry marched up the hill towards the British line.
When it mounted the crest Ensign, John Bertwistle, the young officer carrying the Cornwalls' regimental "colour" – its personal flag – was severely wounded by a musket bullet. As he dropped the flag it was caught by Lieutenant Robert Belcher but simultaneously the French infantry closed in and an enemy officer grabbed the flagstaff. The prized colour – a rallying point and symbol of the regiment – was in grave danger of becoming a French war trophy.
Date added: 16 Jun 2015
Artifacts Related to John Bertwistle
The Regimental Colours of the 32nd Cornwall Regiment of Foot
These are the colours of the regiment in which Ensign John Bertwistle was a part. He was wounded in the Battle of Waterloo whist carrying these colours during the conflict.
An Ensign is the lowest rank of the British officers during this time and it was their job to carry the flag.
The regiment has been mentioned in a TV series, Poldark, based on the novels by Winston Graham in which Ross Poldark is said to have fought in the American Revolution as a member of this regiment.
Saving the King’s Colours of the 32nd During the Battle of Waterloo by Richard Simkin
This is a painting depicting a fight in which a French officer attempts to seize the regimental colours following Ensign John Bertwistle being injured. The officer is run through by Sergeant Switzers Pike and Ensign Bertwistle.
Uniform of the 32nd Cornwall Regiment of Foot
This is the uniform of a typical soldier who was a part of the 32nd Cornwall Regiment of Foot
Ensign John Bertwistle would have worn something similar with his rank insignia included
Brown Bess Musket
This was the standard arm for ordinary soldiers (other ranks) in the British Infantry. About three million were made between 1793 and the end of 1815. It was the most common weapon that the British Army used in its 20-year war against France.
Ensign John Bertwistle would have had something similar to this during his time in the Battle of Waterloo
Family Tree for Ensign John Bertwistle
This is the Family tree for the Bertwistle Family. John Bertwistle was the son of William Bertwistle, he had 3 sisters and not never married or had children.