Battle Honour VITTORIA

Fri, 05/21/1813
Jourdan baton
Marshal Jourdan's Baton seized by the 87th Regiment.

The Battle Honour VITTORIA is emblazoned on the Regimental Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.

The 3/27th ('Young' Inniskillings), the 2/83rd, and the 2/87th all took part in the Battle of Vittoria on 21 May 1813. Wellington's Army was by now gradually forcing the French northwards towards France. On this occasion the French tried to check Wellington's advance at the town of Vittoria.

Although the 'Young' Inniskillings had only a minor role in the battle, the 2/83rd and 2/87th, both in General Colville's Brigade, took part in the main attack against the French centre positioned on high ground. The onslaught, followed by two and a half hours of fighting, was then supported with an attack by the 7th Division which finally cracked open the French defence. The French retreated rapidly and directly into their own baggage train that was blocking their main route to the north.

The British, instead of pursuing the defeated and demoralised French as fast as possible, looted the baggage train. The 2/87th (allegedly one Private Paddy Shannon) captured Marshal Jourdan's baton and also the Colours of the 4e 100e Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne (albeit an older fanion).* In addition to losing their baggage, the French also abandoned 152 guns.

For the French this battle was disastrous. British losses amounted to about 5,000; the 2/83rd suffered three officers and 18 men killed and three officers and 50 men wounded; the 2/87th lost one officer and 87 men killed and nine officers and 157 men wounded.

A despatch from Wellington to the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, written on 22 June 1813, included the following:

'I send this dispatch by my aide de camp Capt. Fremantle, whom I beg leave to recommend to your Lordship's protection. He will have the honour of laying at the feet of His Royal Highness the colors of the 4th batt. 100th regt., and Marshal Jourdan's baton of a Marshal of France taken by the 87th Regt'.

Delighted with the gift the Prince Regent wrote to Wellington and introduced, thanks to the 87th Regiment, the tradition of the British Field Marshal's Baton:

'You have sent me among the trophies of your unrivalled fame, the Staff of a French Marshal, and I send you in return that of England. The British Army will hail it with rapturous enthusiasm, while the whole Universe will acknowledge those valorous exploits which have so imperiously called for it ... .'