16 May 1811
Oh, Albuera! glorious field of grief!
As o'er thy plain the Pilgrim prick'd his steed,
Who could foresee thee, in a space so brief,
A scene where mingling foes should boast and bleed!
Peace to the perish'd! may the warrior's meed
And tears of triumph their rewards prolong!
Till others fall where other chieftains lead
Thy name shall circle round the gaping throng,
And shine in worthless lays, the theme of transient song!
George Gordon, Lord Byron: Childe Harold's Pilgrimage,
Albuera battlefield today
His Grace the Duke of Wellington unveiled a memorial to three of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR) predecessor regiments in Albuera on 16th May 2001, the 190th anniversary of the battle. The monument stands in the centre of a garden in Albuera.
Lord Patrick Beresford attended.
This memorial to Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Myers, who commanded the Fusilier Brigade, is in St. Mary’s Church, Cheltenham.
Truly Albuera is the most honourable of all Peninsular blazons on a regimental flag. Words of Sir Charles Oman in his history of the Peninsular War.
Albuera memorial at York Minster
Photo courtesy of John Checketts and St. Mary's Church
The Battle of Albuera gave commanding generals little glory. It is remembered for the stubborn courage of the soldiers on both sides. It was not a question of who was the bravest but of who was the bravest longest and on this judgement, the British won. A comparison of the casualties bears this out. Their greatest compliment was paid by the enemy general - Soult: “I turned their right and penetrated their centre; they were completely beaten; the day was mine, and yet they did not know it and would not run.”
The troops of all the nations engaged covered themselves with glory and it is right that “Albuera” is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe. A hard battle is not fought by one side alone and this was perhaps the bloodiest engagement of the whole Peninsular War.
Six Spanish battalions under Zayas and Ballesteros held the massed might of two French corps and provided other troops the time they needed to redeploy.
In the village of La Albuera, two Light Battalions of the King’s German Legion under von Alten bore the brunt of the first French attack and held the village against continuous attacks by Godinot’s Brigade.
The 1st Lancers of the Polish Vistula Legion with the 2nd French Hussars were ordered by Gen. Latour-Maubourg to support the hard-pressed column of Girard by attacking Colborne's Brigade. Although less than 900 in number, they proved how devastating a cavalry attack could be, especially by troops armed with lances, upon infantry not formed in protective squares. All but one battalion of the British brigade was decimated in minutes.
The 11th and 23rd Line Regiments of Harvey's Portuguese Brigade, for whom this was their first major action, plus the 1st Battalion of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion protected the British 4th Division's advance from repeated attacks by the French cavalry.