Sergeant Thomas Hazlehurst, 2nd/83rd Regiment of Foot, Picurina Fort, Badajoz, 1812.

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Grenadier Company Sergeant, 2nd/83rd, Spain 25 March 1812
Grenadier Company Sergeant, 2nd/83rd, Spain 25 March 1812 - watercolour by Dan Green

On 8 January 1812, Wellington began to advance through Spain. The turning point of the war had been reached. After a long march southwards over the mountains his army arrived at Badajoz and on St Patrick’s Day the siege operations began under appalling conditions of heavy rain. The rain turned the earthworks into slime and slush and necessitated the extensive use of sand-bags for the construction of breastworks and parapets. After five days of digging chores the siege batteries were installed.

When the walls were sufficiently dented the 2nd Battalion, 83rd Regiment of Foot's first offensive task was to find two officers and fifty men as their contribution to a volunteer ad hoc force drawn from all units of the Division. Its task was the capture of an outwork called the Picurina Fort as a preliminary to the assault on the main position. Captain Powys of the 2/83rd was the first up on the wall of the Fort but was hit by a musket ball and fell on the parapet. He would then have been bayoneted to death but for the heroic action of Sergeant Thomas Hazlehurst, who laid about the enemy with his halberd.

After the capture of Picurina there followed a further fortnight of siege operations creeping towards the Fortress itself. At last the main assault was ordered and the 3rd Division, with the 2/83rd, was assigned the special task of storming by escalade the Castle of Badajoz itself. Badajoz fell on the night of 6-7 April, one of the costliest sieges in manpower the allies had so far suffered, resulting in 3,000 casualties.

Notes by the artist:

At the time we are talking about in the Penninsula the army was still wearing the earlier Stove Pipe shako. Captain Powys I believe was a Light Company officer of the Regiment - he had been a lieutenant in the 52nd Light Infantry prior to joining the 83rd - and I initially thought Hazlehurst would also have been a Light Company soldier. However in order to be armed with a spontoon or halberd he could only have been either a centre company or grenadier company sergeant. The light company sergeants were armed with muskets. 

The initial storming party was composed of volunteers so this would not have been a problem being of a different company to the captain. In order to more clearly depict his rank I decided to show him as a grenadier company sergeant as they had stripes on both arms, whilst the centre companies only had them on their right. This also meant he had wings on his shoulders instead of the simple tufts of the centre.

As a grenadier company he had a white tuft in his shako, (centre companies had white over red and light companies green). The lace was peculiar to each regiment. For the 83rd this was white, square ended in pairs with a red outer and green inner stripe. Sergeants typically in this period wore their stripes in regimental lace on a backing of the regimental facing colour - in this case yellow.

Story by James W Taylor; watercolour by Dan Green of Novus Art.

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Lieutenant Jacob Brunt, Adjutant, 83rd Regiment of Foot - Jamaica, Maroon War, 1795.
Lieutenant William Stratford Johnson, 83rd Regiment of Foot, Battle of the Windmill, Upper Canada, 1838.
Private James Byrne VC, 86th (Roal County Down) Regiment of Foot, Jhansi, Central India, 1858.
Lieutenant George Ernest Emes Blunt, Adjutant, 83rd Regiment of Foot, Gibraltar, 1867.
Captain Vincent Joseph Kelly, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, Pretoria, South Africa, 1900.
Captain John Colthurst Bowen-Colthurst, 5th Royal Irish Rifles, Downpatrick, 1909.
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3/8826 Rifleman Edward Donnelly, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, Albert, Somme, 1916.
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7010920 Sergeant William John Sharky DCM, 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles, Normandy, 1944.
Major Frederick Robert Armstrong Hynde MC, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, Normandy, 1944.
Captain William Robert Hunter Charley, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, Uijongbu, Korea, 1950.
Lieutenant Colonel Corran William Brooke Purdon MC, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, Borneo, 1964.