2018-03-13 06:55:01

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Diary of Colonel Bayly, 12th Regiment. 1796-1830 (Seringapatam 1799) by Naval &. Military Press

Page Updated: Mar 13, 2018
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Naval &. Military Press
Naval & Military Press
Date of release

Book review

Bayly was commissioned in the 12th Foot (later The Suffolk Regiment) in 1796 at the age of 16 and served with the regiment for the next 34 years. As a young subaltern he obviously had an eye for the girls, in fact his descriptions could suggest he was the original wolf-whistler. He got the wrong girl when stationed on the Isle of Wight; her two hefty brothers gave him a hammering and kicking and threw him into the street where two passing soldiers picked him up. No doubt they dined out on that story. Duelling was another feature of his time and in one Bayly he fought over some trifling incident, he fired wide but his opponent, only eight feet away, took careful aim but his pistol misfired, whereupon our hero called out: “Captain Crawford, that cannot be considered as a shot, therefore fire again!” What a splendid sportsman! What a complete idiot! Fortunately Crawford declined the offer, otherwise there may have been no memoirs for us to read. Much of Bayly’s service was in India and in one passage he describes his baggage for six months’ field service: two bullocks laden with biscuits, two with wine and brandy, two with his trunks, four for the marquee and in addition two personal servants and six coolies to carry his furniture, in all ten bullocks and eight servants most of whom were accompanied by their entire families - grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and whole generations of children; and Bayly was just one young subaltern in an expedition 20,000 strong.'His descriptions of active service in India are very vivid, none more so than the campaign against Tippoo Sahib and the bloody fighting for Seringapatam. Of particular interest in this battle is Bayly’s account of the behaviour of Colonel Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) commanding the 33rd Foot whose attack on a wood was “repulsed with great slaughter.” Apparently Wellesley took to flight, abandoning his command leaving it to his 2IC, Major Shea, who didn’t know what had happened to his CO. The general opinion was that Wellesley should have been court-martialled but his brother was Governor General of India and that, according to Bayly, saved his skin. Bayly’s final posting was to Gibraltar in September 1828 where he assumed command of the regiment. He arrived just in time for the outbreak of yellow fever, a plague that took 4,000 lives in the first six weeks and ran on for three months. Bayly finally retired in 1830 and leaving Gibraltar he gave it a real soldier’s farewell, bidding “adieu to that hot-bed of vice, filth and disease, the barren rock of Gibraltar.” This is a highly entertaining memoir.


Diary of Colonel Bayly, 12th Regiment. 1796-1830 (Seringapatam 1799)

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