The Royal Scots Greys

With the Prussians but a few miles away and coming hard to Wellington’s aid, and the Battle of Waterloo hanging in the balance, Napoleon threw the dice and sent Count d’Erlon’s Corps against Wellington’s flank, knowing if d’Erlon could break the English position he could turn and deal with the Prussians. Four solid columns of Count d’Erlon’s veteran Corps, 18,000 strong, struggled through the soft earth and tangled rye of the narrow valley, toward the gently sloping hill, pushed on by the steady thrum thrumming of the drummer boys, savaged every step by Wellington’s nine pounders pouring shell and solid shot into the solid rectangles of blue clad infantry. After what seemed to them an eternity the Corps reached the hill and gained the crest, the British gunners running for the reverse slope where the redcoats lay, safe from the French bombardment by Bonaparte’s beautiful daughters, the monster two ton twelve pounders of the Grande Battery. Reaching the crest, the French columns shook out into lines, intending to envelope the British and Dutch line. Victory was in sight, numbers would count, but as they shook out their lines the redcoats stood and delivered a killing volley fire from point-blank range. The French front line recoiled, and at that moment the British heavy cavalry charged, the Royal Scots Greys leading the way, every man on a great grey warhorse, followed by the Iniskillings and the Royals, driving the French before them. A great slaughter ensued, the French infantry unable to form squares, pressed hard by giant horses and armored cavalry, falling in bloody heaps to slashing swords and sabers.  As he watched from across the valley, Napoleon is reported to have said, “Those terrible Greys, they fight so fiercely.”

We came across the field of rye
The Eagles shining bright
The cynosure of every eye
A splendid martial sight
We gained the crest, elated, tired
But then without a sound
The redcoats stood and volley fired
And many fell to ground
We rallied, gained the upper hand
But then above the roar
Of guns and shouts and screamed command
Came horses and they bore
Us down the hill, a helpless mass
Like grass that bends and sways
And through our ranks the heavies pass
Led by the Royal Greys

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