Today is Salamanca Day - 22 July

Following the French Revolution in 1789, Great Britain was at war with France for most of the period 1793-1815 as Napoleon Bonaparte, seizing power in 1799, attempted to dominate the whole of Europe. Much of the action was at sea, but the Peninsula War, from 1808-1814, was the setting for the Army’s major contribution to Napoleon’s eventual defeat. For most of the time the British forces in the Peninsula were under command of General Sir Arthur Wellesley, later to become the Duke of Wellington, and alongside Portuguese and Spanish allies.

On 22 July 1812 at Salamanca north-west of Madrid, Wellington’s army, from a strong and well concealed defensive position, was able to launch a surprise attack on the flanks of the French forces. After repeated assaults the whole French army was driven back in confusion, and the way was open for Wellington to advance to Madrid.

The 2nd Battalion of the 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot, which had been raised in 1803, played a significant part in the battle and Lieutenant William Pearce captured the Eagle Standard of the French 62nd Regiment of the Line. The 1st Battalion of the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, the 1st Battalion of the 48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment of Foot, and the 2nd Battalion of the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot were also involved in the action and, like the 2/44th, were granted the battle honour ‘Salamanca’.

Subsequently, the 44th Foot, as the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment, adopted an eagle as their badge. The tradition was continued during the further reorganisations so that today the Regimental Colour includes an eagle and all ranks of the Regiment wear an eagle badge on the upper left arm in formal dress.   Salamanca Day is marked by the 1st Battalion.  The Salamanca Eagle is displayed in the Essex Regiment Museum in Chelmsford, and from time to time is taken out to appear on formal parades with the 1st Battalion.

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