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 Peninsular War, from 1808 to 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 the command of General Sir Arthur Wellesley, later to become the Duke of Wellington, and fought alongside Portuguese and Spanish allies.
On 22 July 1812 at Salamanca, northwest 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.