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Battle of Corruna

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Corruna

Period/ Conflict: Napoleonic Wars

Year: 1809

Date/s: 16th January 1809

Royal Marines took part in the Battle of Corruna against the French allowing the British Army under Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore to embark in waiting ships. Without the navy the army would have been doomed. For three days, ever fearful that the French would close in first, the men looked out for the ships. Finally on the evening of 14 January a total of 110 transports sailed in.

Accompanying them was a squadron of ships of the line. With the transport store and hospital ships, there were now some 250 ships in the bay. Loading began almost immediately. Priority was given to the sick and wounded, artillery and the cavalry.

All during that night in Corunna while the British kept the camp fires alight, rowing boats had been repeatedly going to and from the waiting ships in the harbour. By morning all the wounded and half of the rest of the troops were aboard the waiting ships, where many promptly collapsed, hardly moving until they reached England.

Corunna harbour with the British Fleet at the time of the explosion of the magazine in Corunna: Battle of Corunna on 13th January 1809 in the Peninsular War: water colour sketch by Robert Kerr Porter

The evacuation continued in the face of a growing south westerly wind. Another day passed. By the morning of the 16th there had still been no French attack and Sir John Moore expressed the view “if there is no bungling I hope we will all get away in a few hours.” Within hours however the French attacked, but the embarkation continued with Hill’s and Beresford’s brigades the last to embark. The French then moved forward and erected batteries that swept the harbour. The attack lasted an hour the only real damage caused directly by the shelling was when one boat was overturned and several men drowned.

By the morning of the 17th the entire army was on board save for 1500 men, left as a rearguard. Early on the 18th January, they too were aboard and late that day some 19,000 men set sail for England, whilst the Spanish manned the ramparts and kept the French at bay until all the ships were safely at sea Read More/ Web Link: The Waterloo Association

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