13 Apr 1777 - 25 Apr 1824
Date added: 3 May 2015
Image: Samuel Almey discharge and hospital bill, July 1816; Mercers Monument and Lion Mound courtesy of Andy Child.
Samuel Almey (also spelt Omey) joined the army on 2nd July 1793 and is described as aged supposedly 18 years (Actually 16 years), height of 5’8 ¼”, dark complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. He enlisted in Hindley, although this is likely to be Hinckley, Leicestershire (perhaps also misspelt through his pronunciation). His occupation on enlistment is that of a Stockinger or Labourer (there are several entries for Samuel in the War Office 69 series (WO69). These records are held at the National Archives. His birthplace is given as Earl Shilton, Leicestershire. He was illiterate, and joined as a Gunner for unlimited service.
In 1798 Samuel Almey (Omey) and his brother John Almey (Omey) were detached from Haddens Troop RHA and sent to Ireland where they took part in the battle at Vinegar Hill. John left the RHA in 1800, Samuel continued to serve and joined his cousin Nathaniel Almey in G Troop RHA in 1803.
In1807 Samuel and Nathaniel Almey (Omey) are recorded in G Troop RHA both are Gunners. The commander is Augustus Fraser and the Second Captain was Alexander Cavalie Mercer (subsequently to lead them into the Battle of Waterloo). The Troop was recorded as being “on Board ship” bound for Monte Video (modern day Uruguay), South America.
This was an ill-fated expedition under the leadership of Lieutenant General Whitelocke jointly carried out by the British army and navy to try and take Buenos Aires, Argentina (then known as the Rio de Plata). It took about nine weeks to reach South America they arrived in June. On 2nd July the British forces moved towards Buenos Aries and they were confronted by General Liniers who commanded a considerable force of men. After just a few days fighting, despite coming under heavy attack, the different columns made good progress and held all of the main approaches to Buenos Aries. That said, Whitelocke felt that the loss of life on the British side had been severe and surrendered to the Spanish forces. G Troop had just three men killed in action. The British army hierarchy were clearly not impressed as Whitelocke, upon his return to England was court martialled, found guilty and dismissed from the service.
For the Almeys and G Troop the following years were once again taken up by home service. They had the honour in 1811 of being inspected by His Royal Highness George Prince Regent (later George VI) on Rushmere Heath, Ipswich.
The afternoon of the 18th June 1815
Into the frontline At around 3pm, Sir Augustus Fraser galloped towards G Troop calling: “Left limber up and as fast as you can!” The men reacted rapidly and were quickly ready to move and pointing towards the ridge (their final position at Waterloo). They were commanded to “at a gallop, march! "Mercer rode with Fraser whose face was black from the smoke and uniform already torn from musket and case shot. Fraser explained in an urgent voice that the enemy had assembled a huge mass of heavy cavalry and G Troop were being called up to help with the impending attack. Fraser led them to a point between Hougoumont Farm and the Charleroi Road, and informed Mercer that the likelihood of immediate attack was likely. Even with all their years of experience in the army, many men would never have seen anything like this before (G Troop were not involved in the Peninsular Wars). For many men, their only experience of combat was two days previously at Quatre Bras or years previously in South America (1807).Whilst racing to make their stand Fraser gave Mercer the Duke of Wellingtons orders: “The Duke’s orders are positive, in the event of their persevering and charging home [the French cavalry], you do not expose your men, but retire with them into the adjacent squares of infantry.” This clear and concise order was about to be directly disobeyed by Mercer, the consequences of which would be a key moment in the battle. As the men continued to ride it became hot and they were engulfed by thick smoke from cannon and musket fire, a constant hail of cannon shot and bullets surrounding the men on horseback. By good fortune the men reached the ridge without anyone being killed or wounded.
Fraser pointed out the position G Troop were to take up, between two squares of Brunswickers (German infantry). The Brunswickers were falling fast, with every shot causing more casualties and gaps in the ranks. Their officers were attempting to close the men up to fill the gaps.Some of the Brunswickers Officers resorted to hitting the young soldiers to get them to move as they appeared to be rooted to the spot, clearly terrified.Mercer had seen the Brunswickers the previous dayt hrow down their weapons and run away, panic-stricken at the sounds of G Troop’s horses! These were very young men, that Mercer called “boys.” Mercer described his doubts about the Brunswickers in his journal: “every moment I feared they would again throw down their arms and flee but their officers behaved nobly managing to keep the squares tight despite the carnage among their ranks.” Mercer considered it madness to seek refuge amongst the Brunswickers (the Duke of Wellington’s orders), fearing that when G Troop ran from their guns towards the squares, the Brunswickers would also run leaving G Troop fully exposed without protection. If this had happened it is likely that the men of G Troop would have been slaughtered by the approaching French cavalry. However, Mercer decided to disobey orders by allowing his men to stay at their guns constantly (not retreating into the infantry squares between attacks). If the French looked as though they were going to overrun the troop the men had to take cover as best they could, where they stood. Given the situation Mercer felt it would be better, if necessary, for the men to fall at their posts, rather than put total trust in the Brunswickers boys.
G Troop over the next few hours faced three heavy French Cavalry attacks, all of which were successfully repulsed, the result being a huge amount of dead and dying French in front of G Troop. As a Bombardier Samuel would have been beside one of the six cannon in the troop, right in the front of the action. At some point in the afternoon Samuel was severely wounded and taken to hospital.
Samuel Almey having been severely wounded at Waterloo is most likely to have returned to Earl Shilton in the summer of 1815. His name continued to appear on the muster rolls and pay lists until July 1816, although he never returned to army duty and he was finally discharged to pension in August 1816.
For a more complete story of the Almeys the book "From Earl Shilton to Waterloo" will be in print from May 2015. ISBN 978-0-9932629-0-6
To obtain a copy contact firstname.lastname@example.org