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Trumpeter Bugler John Edwards

Waterloo 200

of London

Duke of Somerset’s Regiment

4 Oct 1799 - 1 Jan 1875

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Submitted by: Chris Keeys

Date added: 9 Feb 2015

John Edwards, 1799-1875, was born in the heart of London, Westminster. He enlisted into the Life Guards at the age of 10 as a bugler.

He distinguished himself at the Battle of Waterloo as the bugler for the Duke of Somerset’s regiment. During the day of the battle he sounded his bugle for a decisive charge against the elite French cuirassers. In 1811 it had been estimated that 11,000 boys were serving  both at home and overseas. An official guideline issued to recruiters stated:" healthy lad under 16 years of age who are likely to grow may be taken as low as 5ft 1'.." There must have been something exceptional about John Edwards- he is recorded as being just 4ft tall!

Their early years were the most dangerous for these youngsters. Serving in battle as a drummer or bugler they were usually well in front of the main troop. Being the initiator of audible commands they were always prime targets to an adversary as their silencing meant enemy troops meant were deprived of orders from a commander. Very occasionally their youthfulness saved them when confronted by a compassionate enemy.

He was promoted a month later to Trumpeter and in October 1826 to Kettledrummer. He received a Waterloo medal which is displayed in the Horseguard’s museum, London. During his service with the 1st Life Guards a new pattern field bugle was introduced. John requested to keep to be allowed to keep his original bugle and permission was granted by the commanding officer. He was discharged  because of disability in June 1841 at the age of 42 years. For "good and efficient" - seven shillings a week was awarded- no mean sum at this time.

In 1870, having become a Queen’s Yeoman of the Guard, he received a message asking him to attend at Knightsbridge barracks and to bring his bugle with him. The story of the small trumpeter had come to the ears of one of the Life Guards officers . Captain Ormonde, after further investigation, was delighted to learn that the old 1st Life Guardsman was still alive. Ormonde was keen to aquire the bugle for the Regiment. Duly reporting to the Barracks, Edwards was invited into the officer's mess where Ormonde was waiting with Captain Carter the Adjutant and another officer. After making the old soldier feel at ease, Ormonde asked to see the bugle. Edwards carefully unwrapped a  brown paper package and revealed his treasured instrument. he assured the officers that it was the identical bugle he had used during his early career and with which he sounded the various charges at Waterloo. He pointed out that it had never been out of his possession since that day.The three officers handled the bugle in turn, noting not only the dents and signs of usage but how well it had been maintained and polished. Ormonde came to the point. Could he buy the bugle for the Regiment? Edwards refused point blank. After further discussion, with Ormonde stressing his keeness to obtain the instrument, a compromise was reached. Edwards would not give up ownership but would lease the bugle for a sum of money to be paid weekly. The bugle would remain in the mess room of the of the Life Guards and upon his death became the outright property of the officers of the Regiment. The bugle was handed over and the officers shook his hand. The adjutant left the group to order a hansom cab for the old soldier to return home.

John Edwards died a few year later and his son, musician Edwards, also of the 1st Life Guards donated his father's |Waterloo medal to the Regiment to keep with his bugle. Both are now on display in the museum.

Submitted by Mr. Chris Keeys 4th great grandson in Southampton

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