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The Story of the Royal Scots
Chapter VI - Marlborough's Campaigns, 1702-1713


Minor Sieges in 1702—The March to Bavaria—Schellenberg— Blenheim—1693 revenged at the Little Geete—Ramillies — Oudenarde — Malplaquet — Marlborough’s Fall — The Treaty of Utrecht.

The War of the Spanish Succession was the opportunity for the military genius of Marlborough. It does not come within the scope of a regimental chronicle to set out again the long and splendid story of his campaigns. We must restrict the narrative to the part played in them by The Royal Scots, who had fought alongside him from his subaltern days on many a stricken field.

In April 1702 the fortress of Kayserswerth, on the Lower Rhine, occupied by the French, was besieged by the Allies, and The Royals formed part of an army under the Earl of Athlone encamped not far off at Cranenberg. The Royals knew Athlone, better remembered as King William’s Ginkell, for it was he who rounded them up in the Fens after their mutiny at Ipswich. They did well in the skirmishes which preceded the fall of Kayserswerth, and were soon transferred to Marlborough’s command. The great general was then about fifty, and at the height of his powers. The situation demanded not only the utmost strategical genius, but also the high diplomatic skill in which he had never been wanting. The French were in possession of the whole line of the Meuse from Namur in the south to Venloo in the north, with the exception of Maestricht. On the side of the Allies the Dutch held their fortified positions of Nimcguen, Grave, and Fort Schenk, commanding the waters of the Rhine. At the moment when Marlborough took the field, the French, under Marshal Boufilers, had only just failed to capture these important posts, and the Dutch were desperately nervous. Marlborough’s military difficulties were greatly increased by the awkwardness of the combined team which he had to drive. The Dutch interfered continually in his plans and dispositions, and owing to their timidity and ignorance the Duke lost several opportunities of destroying Bouffiers' army. Nevertheless, the campaign of 1702 proved successful, and The Royal Scots did their part. They formed part of the covering army during the siege of Venloo, and one battalion was detached for the attack on Stevens-wart (also called Fort St. Etienne). This operation w'as commanded by their own colonel, the Earl of Orkney, then acting as general of brigade. The garrison soon surrendered, and this success was follow'ed by the fall of Ruremondc, in which the other battalion took part. There is no record of the doings of the regiment in the siege of the citadel of Li£ge, with which the campaign of 1702 closed, and wfe find that The Royal Scots passed the winter in garrison at Breda.

In the spring of the next year, 1703, The Royals marched from their winter quarters to Maestricht, but took no part in the successful siege of Bonn, which was carried through by the Dutch and Germans. Nor does it appear that they took a prominent part in the reduction of Huy or Limburg, two successes which freed Holland from the fear of invasion, and enabled Marlborough to plan his campaign for delivering Germany from the French and their Bavarian allies.

The year 1704 is brilliant in the records of The Royals. Marlborough’s march on Bavaria did not begin until early in May, but the spring had been well occupied in elaborate preparations, which proved their value in the transfer of a great army over more than two hundred and fifty miles. By the middle of June the English troops had joined forces with their allies of the German Empire, and Marlborough met his brilliant coadjutor, Prince Eugene, for the first time at Mondelsheim, north-east of Stuttgart. Meanwhile the Dutch, with their usual timidity, began to fear that Holland would be attacked in the absence of so many of their troops. They begged Marlborough to send their own men back, but he pursued his original plan without alteration. Ulm was reached by the end of the month, and Marlborough’s next objective was Donauworth, which would give him a bridge over the Danube and a convenient place from which he could invade his final objective, Bavaria. The Elector of Bavaria divined his plan and sent an army under Count d’Arco to occupy the Schellenberg, a height which commands the crossing of the river. This hill was a serious obstacle, but Marlborough determined to storm it before the Bavarians could receive reinforcements. Sixteen battalions, of which five only were British, were sent to the attack. Two of the five were The Royal Scots, and there was one battalion of Guards, and one of the Twenty-third (Welsh Fusiliers). They pressed vigorously up the hill, with Grenadier companies at their head, the enemy firing not only from their camp on the hill, but also from the walls of Donauworth. The British were mowed down by scores, and the situation looked desperate. The force included some Dutch regiments, and the Dutch general, Goor, was killed, while the colonel of The Royals was severely wounded. The attackers were heavily checked by the difficult line of entrenchments, and the Bavarians, thinking the day was theirs, counter-attacked with the bayonet, but without avail. Attack and counter-attack continued with the greatest violence, but the Allies held their ground until reinforcements from the Imperial army came up on the right, and the French and Bavarians at last gave way. Once the tide of battle had turned, the defeat speedily became a rout. The Bavarians, their spirit broken by the vigorous attack of the British infantry, were in no humour to resist the Scots Greys, who thundered after them. Of the twelve thousand men of the Elector’s army who had sought to hold the Schellenberg, some nine thousand were put out of action, but the Allies had quite five thousand casualties themselves. The Guards, The Royal Scots, and the Welsh Fusiliers lost about two hundred men from each battalion. This was not the first time that The Royals had been victorious on this ground, for over seventy years before they had distinguished themselves near by when fighting for Gustavus Adolphus.

The way was now clear for the entry into Bavaria. The enemy evacuated Donauworth and retreated across the Danube to Augsburg, whither the British— The Royal Scots with them—followed promptly. Augsburg, however, was too strong to be attacked, and Marlborough proceeded to the siege of Ingoldstadt. By way of counter-move, the Elector of Bavaria left his camp at Augsburg, joined up with the reinforcements which Louis XIV had sent him, and prepared for battle in the valley of the Danube near the village of Blenheim. Marlborough and Prince Eugene advanced to Munster, just north of the Danube, which protected their left flank, and continued their lines to Kessel—Ostheim on the right. At three o’clock in the morning of August 13 they advanced against the enemy, and by seven o’clock they were in touch. In accordance with the splendid custom—it sounds strangely enough in our days—the chaplains held services at the head of their regiments. It was not until midday that a British column, headed by the brilliant Lord Cutts, whose indifference to fire had earned for him the nickname of the Salamander, led a column of two brigades, including one battalion of The Royal Scots, against the village of Blenheim, held by the French under Marshal Tallard. The British held their fire until Row, one of the brigadiers, had stuck his sword in the palisade protecting the village, but they failed to force the entrenchments, and were several times repulsed by the French. Meanwhile Marlborough attacked at the centre, and the other battalion of The Royals then came into play. After a stubborn conflict the French centre was heavily battered, but the village of Blenheim remained untaken, and the enemy’s artillery posted there harassed the Allies extremely. All this time Eugene, whose men held the right of the allied front, had been doing little more than hold his own against the Bavarian troops. It was now three o’clock, and Marlborough made his dispositions for the final attack. By this time he had brought his troops across the river Nebel, which formed the main boundary between the opposing forces. His strenuous assault on Tallard’s infantry was not to be withstood. The English horse broke their centre, and Tallard could neither obtain reinforcements from his left nor withdraw his infantry, who still held Blenheim. The front lines broke and fled. The Allies’ cavalry drove them helter-skelter down the hill into the Danube, where many were drowned, and the rest either slaughtered or taken prisoners. The Bavarians on the left saw that the game was up, and retired in fair order with Eugene in pursuit. Meantime, the flower of the French infantry had remained in the village of Blenheim, as Mr. Fortescue describes them, “without orders of any kind, helpless and inactive, and too much crowded together for effective action.” Attempts to break away from their prison house were repulsed by the Scots Greys and the Irish Dragoons. The British were about to overwhelm them when the French proposed a parley, but nothing would be accepted but unconditional surrender, and twenty-four battalions of infantry and four regiments of dragoons laid down their arms. Many of them had taken no part in the battle—a fine commentary on the brilliant generalship of Marlborough. But Blenheim was not w'n without heavy cost, and those regiments which had done so magnificently at the Schellenberg suffered no less heavily on the greater field of Blenheim. The Royal Scots lost thirty officers in the earlier encounter, and twelve at Blenheim. To quote Mr. Fortescue again: "Troops which will stand such punishment as this within a few weeks are not to be found in every army.”

The huge capture of French and Bavarians was incidentally the cause of separating for a time the twfo battalions of The Royals. A brigade of six battalions was needed to escort the prisoners to Holland, and the Second Royals took part in this service and remained there until the end of 1704, to be follow’ed by the First after it had finished the year's campaign in Swabia.

The names of the officers of both are set out in the Blenheim Bounty Roll, which gives the list of killed and wxmnded and the bounties paid to each. A wounded officer was paid double rate.

It would appear from certain difficulties met by the recruiting officer of The Royal Scots at Maidstone early in 1705 that the Blenheim losses were made good to some extent by Englishmen, but most of the recruits came from Scotland. The colonel embarked with the Duke of Marlborough for Holland on March 8. By the beginning of June the Allies had moved as far as Treves on the Moselle, on the eastern border of

Luxemburg, but owing to the failure of the Imperial troops to join Marlborough he had to return to the Netherlands instead of engaging the superior French forces. The first battalion was concerned in the operations about the Meuse (whither Marlborough had retired), and was at the successful siege of Huy in July.

At this moment the situation was as follows: The French and Bavarians retired to their fortified line, which reached from Antwerp to Namur, and took up the defensive facing the Allies, who were approaching from the east. The first battalion played a part in Marlborough’s attack, which began with a feint against the French right and developed into a serious blow against their left about Helixhem (or Elixheim) on the Little Geete river. Fog aided this secret assault on what seemed an impassable barrier of fortifications, and on the night of July 17 the French were overpowered and fled. It was a fitting revenge for the battle of Landen fought exactly twelve years before, when William III was worsted by Marshal Luxembourg on exactly the same ground.1 The Royal Scots were in the later as in the former battle, and as they advanced over the graves of their comrades of a dozen years gone, must have rejoiced at the chance to wipe out a memory of defeat. The Allies took two thousand prisoners and good store of colours and guns. Eight of the pieces were triple-barrelled, and the Duke sent them home to have them copied. Of his men’s behaviour he wrote: “It is impossible to say too much good of the troops that were with me, for men never fought better.” This engagement came near to being Marlborough’s last. In the hurly-burly of the fight, a French counter-attack, successful for the moment, had left him isolated with none but trumpeter and groom to defend this precious life. A Frenchman galloped up and aimed a blow at him so violent that it failed to strike, and he overbalanced from his horse and was made prisoner by the Duke’s trumpeter.

The day was won, and the French fell back from the Little Gccte to behind the Dyle. Heavy rains checked Marlborough in his design of following up his success, and on July 21 the French adventured in small numbers across the Dyle. The First Royals were there to meet them, and after a skirmish, in which the enemy retired, the Scots followed up too far and lost a captain. By the 29th all was ready for the main advance, which had indeed begun well by the forcing of the river, when the Dutch generals refused to move their men forward. Once more Marlborough's strategy and British heroism were made useless by the Dutch lack of imagination and pusillanimity, and the forward movement failed to a chorus of joy from the French. Nothing more could be done than to destroy the enemy’s fortifications between the river Demer and the river Mehaigne, i. e. from about Diest southwards to Mefile, and the year’s campaigning ended in October, with the retirement to winter quarters in Holland. This year for the first time the British divisions took the post of honour on the extreme right in the Allies’ line of battle. In the right brigade of the British right wing the first battalion of the First Guards had the post of honour, and next to them were the First Royals. The second battalion was on the right of the brigade, w’hich was placed on the extreme right of the centre of the second line.

Some consolation for the failure caused by Dutch imbecility was found in England in consequence of the successes in Portugal under Peterborough, but as The Royal Scots took no part in them, they find no place in this chronicle.

Despite his disappointments, Marlborough got to work again in May of the following year, and both battalions mustered with the British forces at Bilsen, north-west of Maestricht. Villeroy had wintered behind his lines on the Dyle, where Marlborough had driven him after the battle of the Little Geete (also spelt Gheet), and seemed likely to stay there. The Duke succeeded in enticing him into an advance, and Villeroy set out for Tirlemont on the Great Geete, and crossed that river. Marlborough advanced to meet him at Ramillies, his left guarded by the Mehaigne, his centre facing the village, and his right separated from Villeroy’s left by the marshy course of the Little Geete. It was the 23rd of May. Villeroy’s weak point was his right at the village of Taviers, which filled somewhat the same place in the fight as Blenheim village did in the battle of Blenheim. Marlborough began by a feint with his right with Meredith’s brigade, which included the second battalion of The Royal Scots. They took a conspicuous position on a hill facing the French left. Villeroy supposed the whole of the British force faced him there, but Marlborough, unknown to him, had manoeuvred part of his force round to his (Marlborough’s) left flank, and so held a larger French force inactive while the fighting went forward in the centre and on the south of the line. For a time the fortunes of the battle wavered. Marlborough was, with the cavalry on his right, in great personal danger, and was borne to the ground by the weight of the charge of the French dragoons. His equerry was killed as he was helping the Duke to mount his charger, but the British rallied, and meanwhile the infantry attack on the village of Ramillies eased the situation. The Dutch and Danish did well, and the French were trampled to pieces by the reinforcements of the Allies' cavalry. The first battalion of The Royals was on the right wing just north of the village, and crossed the Little Geete to clear the French out of the next village of Off us. The day was won, and the enemy broke and fled. The defeat became a rout. The British brigade which had stood so long inactive on Marlborough’s right was now flung into the mel6e, and the Second Royal Scots, veterans of Blenheim and the Schellen-berg, joined in the relentless pursuit. The captures of prisoners and material were enormous, and the victory, decisive as it was, had been achieved in less than three hours. The political effect was great. The French retreated to Louvain and abandoned it, to Brussels and abandoned it, and not until Marlborough’s exhausted troops had reached Grimberg, after a week’s incessant marching, did he allow them a rest. The French, a cowed army, had taken refuge in Ghent, weaker by fifteen thousand men than when the battle began. The British losses were small, for the Dutch and Danes had borne the brunt of the fighting, but it was Marlborough’s generalship which won Ramillies, and his tempestuous energy which garnered the fruit of victory. Fortress after fortress surrendered to the Allies, and within a fortnight Flanders and Brabant were almost clear of the French, who fell back to their own frontier. The Royals were employed in the sieges of Dendermond, Ostend and Menin, and one battalion was engaged in the final move of the 1706 campaign, the siege of Aeth (or Ath) on the Dender, half-way between Mons and Oudenarde, which fell on the third of October. The regiment wintered in Ghent.

The following year is more notable in the history of diplomacy than of soldiering, and the stars were fighting against Marlborough, who could not follow up the military ascendancy which Ramillies had given him.

The French showed no readiness to engage, and Marlborough's allies played an imbecile game. The year 1707, however, marks an incident of regimental interest, for the union of Scotland with England changed the national flag, which henceforward incorporated the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew. The Royal Scots received a new regimental badge, the royal cipher within the circle of St. Andrew surmounted by a crown.

The battle of Almanza had so broken the British forces serving in Spain that fifteen regiments, including The Royal Scots, were ordered each to spare a senior lieutenant and an ensign to help the shattered regiments to get up to strength, and no doubt The Royals lent of their best.

The even tenor of life in winter quarters was broken for The Royal Scots early in 1708. Louis XIV sought to make a diversion against Great Britain by supporting an attack on our coast in aid of the Old Pretender. Ten regiments, including The Royals, were recalled from Flanders in March in order to strengthen resistance to the feared invasion, which, however, ended with the French expeditionary force being chased back into Dunkirk without effecting a landing.

The troops from Flanders came to Tynemouth, but never disembarked, and were back in Ostend by April 20 and in their quarters at Ghent soon after. On May 22 active operations began again, at first with ill luck for the Allies, who lost Ghent and Bruges through the treachery of the townsmen bribed by French gold. The day after, July 5, Marlborough set his army in motion and was joined by Prince Eugene, alone and without his army, which could not move fast enough to join with the British.

Marlborough was ill and the situation perilous. He was at Asch and the French at Alost, threatening Oudenarde. The French marshal, Vendome, marched thither, or rather towards Lessines, south-east of his objective, intending to conduct the siege from there. But the Duke and his brilliant and indefatigable lieutenant, Cadogan, were too quick for him. Vendome found Cadogan at Lessines in force and Oudenarde held well by the Allies. He turned his army accordingly to put the Scheldt between himself and the too-mobile Marlborough, but the latter wanted to come to grips. The tireless Cadogan moved to the river with eleven thousand men to cut off Vendome, and Marlborough followed as fast as he could. The Duke of Burgundy was joint commander of the French with Vendome, and gave some foolish and contradictory orders. The clash between the two forces came just by Oudenarde. The Hanoverian cavalry, with Prince George (afterwards our George I) at their head, did splendidly and cut up several French regiments. The^main battle was fought on ground northwest of the Scheldt and the fortress of Oudenarde. The regiment was in a division of twenty battalions, commanded by the Duke of Argyll, on which the brunt of the fighting fell. But all the Allies fought splendidly, and Prince Eugene’s leadership on the right was a great support to Marlborough. Through the Duke of Burgundy’s stupidity the French left took hardly any part in the action, and meanwhile their right was enveloped. Had darkness not fallen, giving the French the chance of extricating their
broken battalions, the enemy’s army would have been almost wiped out. But the danger that, in the failing light, the Allies would be firing into each other’s ranks brought a stay in the conflict. As it was, nine thousand were taken prisoners, and the rest fled to Ghent. The English losses were trifling when compared with those of their Allies. Marlborough desired to follow up the success by penetrating into the heart of France, leaving a masking force to cover the great fortress of Lille, but the Dutch thought the plan too speculative, and it was decided to besiege Lille. Its fortifications had been designed by Vauban himself, and fifteen thousand men, under Boufllers, defended it. So serious an operation demanded great supplies of munitions, and a huge convoy of stores from Brussels to the besieging army gave the French an opportunity to strike a shrewd blow at Marlborough’s plans. They failed, however, and not a wagon was lost. The siege and its subsidiary engagements wore on, and during September Boufflers defended Lille with notable skill. The Allies’ line of supplies was very vulnerable, and the French used every effort to harass the convoys. In particular, one great column which set out from Ostend was in great danger. Vendome sent twenty-two thousand men to attack it, and Marlborough arranged his scheme of defence on equally large lines. The huge string of wagons left Ostend on September 27, and amongst other corps one battalion of The Royals, under Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton, was detailed to aid in its protection. At Wynendale, Major-General Webb gave the Frenchmen battle in the open, but left two battalions of Germans in ambush in a wood on either side of a defile. On the retirement of the Allies’ advance guard under Lottum, the French, after a fierce cannonade, advanced into the defile. The men in the wood held their fire until the French filled the defile and then loosed a murderous fusillade. At the same time Webb's men in front of the French poured volley after volley into the enemy, who fought with the utmost gallantry, but were driven eventually to retire from such a hell of cross fire. It was a brilliant action, which resulted in the convoy reaching its destination in perfect safety.

Mr. Fortescue says of it: “I have failed, in spite of much search, to identify the regiments present, except one battalion of the First Royals.” A contemporary poem, by a soldier in Lord Portmore’s regiment, shows that The Royals took a prominent part:

"Our command throu the pass began to advance With courage conduct and skille.

The French brigade stronglie canonaded And some of our men they did kill Our regiments that day advanced in array And brisklic cleared the pass The Royal Scots marching in the front They dear enough payedfor the saussc.”

The regiment also took a vigorous part in the operations before the fortress, as appears in a record of what happened on October 4:

”Yesterday a little after noon we carry’d sword in hand the rest of the two Tenailles and the Ravelin. A Sergeant of the Royal Regiment of Scots advancing the foremost, observed that the French were not on their guard, as not expecting to be attacked and called to our Ingcniers and Workmen to hasten to him, upon which the Grenadiers advanced and found little resistance from the French, who were surprized, part of them were put to the sword and several of them who attempted to escape by swimming, were drowned so that very few of ’em got into the town. The Captain and forty men who were in the Tenaille, was made Prisoners. We found in these works 5 pieces of cannon, 100 pounds of powder, 2,000 weight of Ball, 250 Rations of Bread and other provision. We immediately attempted to make a Lodgement but before we could cover ourselves, the enemy fired so terribly from the Ramparts, that we had 50 men killed and 100 wounded, among the latter are Lieut.-General Wilkins, Brigadier Wassemaar, and Colonel Zeden but neither dangerously. This brave action of the Sergeant who was also slightly wounded, was seen by the Prince of Nassau and other generals, and the Prince recommended him to the Duke of Marlborough, who made him a Lieutenant that same day and has since made him a Captain.”

Altogether a pretty exploit, which showed what The Royals were made of. In November the Elector of Bavaria attempted a diversion by besieging Brussels, and The Royals were amongst the regiments sent to its relief, which was achieved by the end of the month.

Meanwhile the resistance of Lille was slowly weakening, and it surrendered on December 9 after some vigorous assaults, in which Captain Howe of The Royals was wounded. They went on to the siege of Ghent—a rare operation for the winter months, but Marlborough was not a commander who observed useless traditions. There they did splendidly, lost several men in a forlorn hope, but had the satisfaction of seeing the city surrender on January 2. Bruges capitulated soon after to the Allies, who went into the well-deserved repose of winter quarters, The Royal Scots at their favourite Ghent.

The exhaustion following this long year’s campaign prevented fighting being begun again in 1709 until midsummer. Marlborough’s first move was the siege of Tournay, in which both battalions of The Royals took part, until the surrender of the town on July 29.

The trench warfare of those days was so like that to which we have now grown newly accustomed that it is worth while to give an extract from a contemporary newspaper, the Daily Courant of August 20, 1709:

"Now as to our fighting underground, blowing up like kites in the air, not being sure of a foot of ground we stood on while in the trenches. Our miners and the enemy very often meet each other, when they have sharp combats till one side gives way. We have got into three or four of the enemy’s great galleries, which are thirty or forty feet underground and lead to several of their chambers; and in these we fight in armour by lanthorn and candle, they disputing every inch of the gallery with us to hinder our finding out their great mines. Yesternight we found one which was placed just under our bomb batteries, . . . and if we had not been so lucky as to find it, in a very few hours our batteries and some hundreds of men had taken a flight into the air.”

[I cannot forbear to add that five minutes after I had transcribed the above, I opened The Times to find the Eyewitness’ report dated April 23, 1915, about the fighting at Hill 60, near Yprcs. ”On the night of the 20th an encounter reminiscent of the siege of Port Arthur took place in a quarter where much mining and counter-mining had been proceeding. A party of British and Germans met underground, and in the darkness and confined space of a gallery there ensued a fierce but confused scuffle. Eventually the Germans blew up the gallery, which was thus closed to both sides.” Eyewitness need not have gone back such a modest distance as to Port Arthur, when Tournay gave as exact a parallel two hundred and six years ago. The present re-introduction of elements of armour makes the correspondence complete.]

The Royal Scots did not join in the further operations against the citadel of Tournay, which still held out, but went back to the main covering army, and the Grenadier companies (with those of other regiments) moved under the command of their colonel, Lord Orkney (now a lieutenant-general), to begin the investment of Mons. Tournay citadel fell on September 3, and the rest of the army then joined the advanced Grenadiers before Mons. The position at this time was as follows: The French, in fear of an allied march on Paris, had fortified a long line from the River Lys south-eastwards to Douai, called by the again familiar name of the La Bassee lines, because the French Marshal, Villars, had his headquarters there. Behind him was Arras, then, as now, regarded as one of the main gateways of France. But Villars had counted without Marlborough’s strategical genius. The La Bassee lines might be impregnable to frontal attack, but the French entrenchments from Mons to the Sambre were slight and poorly guarded. Marlborough retired from the investment of Mons on the arrival, to aid Villars, of the veteran French Marshal, Boufflers, and drew up the allied forces in battle array south of the fortress and north-east of Malplaquet. West of the plain of Mons was a forest running roughly north and south and with two main gaps practicable for the movement of troops, the Trouee, or Gap of Aulnois, to the south, and the Gap of Bossut to the north. The latter was seized by the Allies, and Villars occupied and strongly entrenched the Gap of Aulnois (and the less important neighbouring Gap of Louviere). Behind these strong works—made the stronger in the time which Villars gained while the Dutch were wrangling with Marlborough—was the village of Malplaquet. It was a formidable task to turn Villars and ninety-five thousand men out of a position naturally strong and cunningly fortified. At three in the morning of September n, the Allies were under arms. Both battalions of The Royals were in Orkney’s division, but in different brigades, the first under Brevet-Colonel Andrew Hamilton, the second under Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cockburn, and divine service was performed by the chaplain in the early light.

Fog concealed the opposed armies until half-past seven, when the sun came out and their dispositions were revealed. A fierce artillery fire was opened, and attacks and counter-attacks were made with the utmost gallantry by the infantry. “It is impossible : to express the violence of the fire on either side. Besides the enemy’s advantageous situation, they defended themselves like brave men, and made all the resistance that could be expected from the best of troops; but then nothing could be a finer sight than to see our foot surmount so many obstacles, resist so great a fire, force the enemy’s entrenchments, beat them from thence, and drive them quite out of the wood and, after all, to draw up in good order of battle on the plain, in sight of our enemies, and before their third entrenchments.”

Fortunately one of the officers of The Royals, Archibald Cockburn, an eyewitness who also participated in the fight, has set down his story of what took place (the spelling is his own) :

"The next morning at an half hour after 7, the cannon upon both sides began to play, and an hour after, from right to left we made a general attak upon the wood, the Imperialists upon the right, the Dutch upon the left, and the English, some upon that part of the wood that was nearest the plain upon our right, the rest were desin’d for their trench upon the plain, in case they desin’d to dispute it after we were Masters of the wood. Our two battalions were of these. The English were the first that carry’d their attak, and helped the Germans to beat the enemy quit out of the side of the wood. Immediately we, that were desin’d for it, march’d to the plain, but they abandon’d their trench least they should be flank’d by our troups that now had lin’d the skirts of the wood that faced the plain but here we were oblig’d to wait till our horse should come up, for theirs cover’d all the opposite side of the plain.

“In the meantime, in the plain, I was wittness to the noblest sheau that ever was act’d. ... At last we carry’d it upon the left to. And Villars, from whom we were expecting something very rash, seems to have made his principall disposition for a hansome retreat, which he has done, an carry’s of several of his wound’d. The action lasted 7 hours. Judge from that the strenth of their ground, besides that they had 30 battalions in the field more than \vc had. If we get a pass upon the Schcld we shall bcscage Douay, if not, we must continue before Mons. Our loss cannot be under 15,000 men, a great many gcncralls and field Officers : we have several regiments so shatter’d they must £oe to garrison. My Lord Tillibardcn is killed. Our battalion has lost an Officer and 70 and one wounded. We have taken 22 peace of cannon."

Cockburn’s estimate of the casualties was too low; they amounted to nearer twenty thousand on the Allies' side, more than at Blenheim, Ramillies and Oudenarde put together. This was more than the French lost, for, defeated as they were, there was no rout, and the Allies had no strength to pursue them to Bavay, whither Boufflers retired. The Allies would not have fared so ill had not the Prince of Orange, in defiance of Marlborough’s plan, made a headlong rush against a withering fire. Tullibardine’s Highlanders in the Dutch service were slaughtered with the Dutchmen, and of Orange’s sixteen thousand men over eight thousand were killed or wounded. Amongst the British infantry battalions The Royal Scots suffered lightly compared with the Coldstreams and Buffs, although they were in the forefront of the battle. Malplaquet was the bloodiest major engagement in the history of European warfare, not to be matched in slaughter until the Great War of two centuries later, fought over the same ground but with the high contending parties happily re-grouped.

After the battle, Mons did not long hold out, and the campaign of 1709 closed with its capitulation.

By April of the following year the armies of the Allies w'ere once more assembled near Tournay and invested Douai. The regiment was engaged in this siege and likewise in the taking of Bethune and Aire. At Aire in particular they saw sharp fighting and suffered heavy losses, as appears from a petition to the Queen in the following year begging for a grant to help complete their companies. Many had died in hospital, more probably from disease than from wounds, but it would appear that only the second battalion was at Aire. The Queen allowed them and other regiments £30 a company to meet their necessities.

It is impossible to read the history of this year and of 1711 without depression and shame. By a series of campaigns scarcely to be matched in modern history save by those of Napoleon, Marlborough had established a military and moral ascendancy over a powerful enemy which needed only a modest support from the nation and its Allies to be brought to final fruition and success. The army was splendid, the subordinate commanders, like Orkney and Cadogan, brilliant in resource and unsparing of themselves, the men inured to hardship, brave as lions, and devoted to Marlborough’s leadership. Yet the Great Duke was near to his undoing, the outcome of shameless political faction and an outburst of national stupidity. The campaign of 1711 opened ominously for him, for : Eugene could not join him, and his Home Government had sent five of his battalions on a foolhardy expedition to Newfoundland. Despite all, and he was greatly outnumbered by the French under Villars, he achieved an amazing success. By an elaborate strategical plan which puzzled his own army beyond measure, and by stratagems which showed a mastery of psychological tactics never surpassed in the history of generalship, he fooled Villars out of his superiority of numbers and position and closed the campaign by capturing Bouchain, south-east of Douai, on September 13. His faithful Royals were in the thick of the siege, and we may well believe that when on the last day of the year the Duke’s enemies at home won their inglorious campaign by securing his dismissal from the public service, none were more sorry or angry than the First Foot, who had learnt his worth in so many campaigns.

But they were the Queen's soldiers, and took the field under Marlborough's successor, the Duke of Ormond, in the following spring. There was little fighting between May and July, when Ormond received orders to proclaim a suspension of arms, preparatory to a treaty of peace. The British troops parted from their Allies and marched to Ghent. Let Mr. Fortescue tell of what followed:

"The British fell in silent, shamefaced and miserable; the auxiliaries gathered in knots opposite to them, and both parties gazed at each other mournfully without saying a word. Then the drums beat the march, and regiment after regiment tramped away with full hearts and downcast eyes, till at length the whole column was under way, and the mass of scarlet grew slowly less and less till it vanished out of sight. At the end of the first day’s march, Ormond announced the suspension of hostilities with France, at the head of each regiment. He had expected the news to be received with cheers : to his infinite disgust it was greeted with one continuous storm of hisses and groans. Finally when the men were dismissed, they lost all self-control. They tore their hair and rent their clothes with impotent rage, cursing Ormond with an energy only possible in an army that had learned to swear in the heat of fifty actions. The officers retired to their tents, ashamed to snow themselves to their men. Many transferred themselves to foreign regiments, many more resigned their commissions; and it is said, doubtless with truth, that they fairly cried when they thought of 'Corporal John.’’’

Part of the bargain made with the French king provided that Britain should hold Dunkirk as a hostage city until peace should be finally signed. Lord Orkney and his Royals, with four other regiments, arrived there on August 4, and remained nearly two years in garrison.

So it happened that, as they had gone abroad to fight at the opening of the Marlborough campaigns and had taken part in nearly every battle and siege, so they remained abroad to the bitter end and heard of the final infamy of the Treaty of Utrecht while still on French soil.

A word may be added about the uniform of the regiment during this period. It had changed little from that worn during William Ill’s reign, but active

service had simplified it somewhat. The broad-brimmed beaver hat gave way to the three-cornered cocked hat (see Fig. 9). The coat w'as longer, and as its skirts impeded the legs in marching, it became the fashion to button back the corners.


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