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Down the Back by Mark Smallman.


Down the Back by Mark Smallman.

Item Code : FAR0561Down the Back by Mark Smallman. - This Edition
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PRINTOpen edition print.

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Image size 24.5 inches x 11 inches (62cm x 28cm)noneSOLD
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 Illustrates the scene at Modderfontein Farm where a squadron of the 17th lancers were pinned down by a large Boer force, and fought to the finish.  Modderfontein Farm in the Eastern Cape, about 10 miles from Tarkastad, was the the battle on the 17th September 1901, between the 17th Lancers who had camped there, and General Jan Christiaan Smut's Boer Commandos.  C squadron of the 17th Lancers lost 3 Officers and 35 troopers, a single action in which the 17th Lancers lost more men in one day than any other day, inclduing that of the infamous charge of the Light Brigade.  Also killed that day were three gunners from the Royal Garrison Artillery.  Another account states that out of 130 men, 29 were killed and 41 wounded.  All Officers had been killed or wounded.

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 On the night of 6th April 1812 Wellingtons Army, surrounding the walled Spanish town of Badajoz (garrisoned by Napoleons soldiers under general Baron Philippon) is ready to attack! The men of the 45th regiment from Pictons 3rd Division launch themselves in a desperate and bloody assault against the north castle wall. Carrying improvised ladders, the men have their top buttons undone, overalls rolled up and are stripped for action. The castles defenders (Germans, allied to Napoleon of the Graf und Erbprinz Regiment from Hesse-Darmstadt) partroling the walls in their greatcoats are intially surprised by the bold assault from this sector but they have been preparing the strong defenses for some time. Soon the night air is full of musketry, falling masonry, burning bundles of ropes and exploding grenades or mines. Despite the horrific casualties suffered the attackers press home. As the first scaling ladders are raised near a small bell tower the young Lt. James Macpherson reaches for the top of the wall. The ladders are too short! Undaunted he cries to his men below to lift the base of the ladder closer to the wall. This rapid, vertical movement suddenly propels him to a height several feet above the Germans heads. A shot rings out as one of the defenders fires point blank into the young mans chest. Fortunately the lead ball only strikes a glancing blow, cleaving in two a button of the officers waist coat and dislocating one of his ribs. Despite his fortunate escape, the force of the impact nearly sends him tumbling from the ladder. Somehow he maintains his grasp but the ladder itself gives way under the weight of the men following. Some unfortunates are impaled on the bayonets of their comrades below. Leaping from the rungs of another ladder, Corporal Kelly is the first man over the top and gradually the 45th gain a foothold on the ramparts. The rest of the regiment is ordered to unfix bayonets. Using the few remaining ladders, others also manage to scale the walls. Through the carnage they climb, club and shoot their way into the castle itself! Maepherson now regains consciousness at the foot of the wall and revived with a cup of coco from his friend A.A. General Hercules Packenham, who was directly behind him on the ladder when it broke. Though winded by the shot he rises to his feet. This sudden movement relocates his rib and he is able to climb the ladders once more. Once over the defense he sees the old towers of Apendez and Albar-rana to his left and the cathedral illuminated by gun fire in the distance. However his objective is directly ahead. Atop the abandoned tower of Santa Maria before him still flies the French tricolour. Macplierson seizes the opportunity, mounts the spiral stairway to the top turret and pulls down the enemy flag. For want of a substitute he flies his own red jacket from the pole, signifying that the castle has fallen. In the rest of the town the fighting continues and turns into a blood lust. Badajoz is one of the bloodiest and violent sieges of the Peninsula War. On the following day Maepherson presents his trophy to the Duke of Wellington himself but his bravery is not rewarded with a promotion.

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