Two columns ago I wrote about Sussex connections to the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo including the tale of my wife’s great great great grandfather who fought in those blood-soaked Belgium fields on 18th June 1815.
I was subsequently contacted by Sonia Harriyott of Fletching who appraised me of the story of another Waterloo veteran, Daniel Hattrell, who was Sussex born and bred and now lies buried in Fletching churchyard. Sonia drew my attention to a short account of Mr Hattrell’s life and military experience that was published in June’s Fletching Parish Magazine.
It reads: “Daniel was born in Lewes in 1795. In 1813 he had enlisted in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards. At Waterloo he served in the 2nd Company under Lt-Colonel Charles Dashwood. He survived the battle and was discharged from the army in 1826 at the age of 31.
“He married Sophia (born in 1801 in Isfield) and had four daughters and three sons. In the 1841 census he is recorded as living in Gilbert Cottages, Piltdown. He is described as a pensioner of the 3rd Regiment Foot Guards aged 46 and was working as a farm labourer. By the time of the 1851 census he had moved to Combers in Fletching Parish and is listed as a Chelsea Pensioner.
“Daniel died in Fletching on 16th December 1874 at the age of 81. On 15th June 2007, his original memorial stone was moved to the safety of Fletching Church as it was deteriorating badly. A service of blessing was conducted by Canon Reverend Derek Whitehead and attended by some of Daniel’s descendants.
“A new memorial stone was commissioned and placed on his tomb.” Though exact details of how the Battle of Waterloo was fought are long lost in the fog of war it seems certain that Daniel Hattrell saw action in the desperate defence of Hougoumont Farm, a key British position in the conflict. I can say this with some confidence because we do know for certain that Charles Dashwood’s men were detailed to hold positions in Hougoumont’s garden and grounds.
In the late morning of the battle, Napoleon’s army launched two determined assaults on the farm. The second of these attacks led to one of the most dramatic incidents in the battle when a massively-built French officer named Legros, wielding an axe, broke threw through the north gate of the farm and penetrated the courtyard. A terrible struggle ensued between the French invaders and the defending men of the Foot Guards. Just as all seemed lost, a small party of British soldiers emerged from the melee and managed to force the gate shut. Legros and about 30 fellow soldiers of Napoleon’s Grand Armee were trapped inside. All of the hapless French were then cut down in a bout of ferocious hand-to-hand fighting. A single very young and very terrified French drummer boy was spared by the British and he lived to tell the tale.
Two days before Waterloo Daniel would have been involved in an earlier clash with Napoleon’s army at Quatre Bras, a short-lived battle that saw Britain and her allies obliged to retreat. From this rebuff, however, sprung the ultimate victory at Waterloo.
Even today Britain does not treat its heroes with the rewards they deserve. Back in the 19th Century it was far worse. One of Daniel’s descendants conducted some research and discovered the following announcement in the “London Standard” of 18th September 1873: “The Reverend W. F. Attenborough, Vicar of Fletching, writes to inform us that Daniel Hattrell who served at Waterloo with the 2nd Battalion 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards and was also present at Quatre Bras on 16th June 1815, a man too, who prided himself on being the first soldier that presented arms to the Queen, is now confined to bed, and except for a pension of 5d a day is indebted to the assistance of the parish or the precarious kindness of friends for that extra sustenance which illness requires. Any contributions for the benefit of this old man will be willingly received and carefully dispensed by the Rev Gentleman whose name is given above.” We don’t know what response the appeal brought. We do know that Daniel died a year later. Two centuries on from the Battle of Waterloo it is a good thing to see that the village of Fletching honours his memory. At 8pm on the 200th anniversary of the fighting on 18th June 2015 the bell-ringers of Fletching tolled a tribute to a worthy son of Sussex.
Tomorrow on 4th July 2015 at 3pm a commemoration service will be held in Fletching church when several of Daniel’s descendants will be present. Sonia Harriyott told me it will be a very well attend ceremony.
I would certainly wish to be there. Unfortunately it clashes with a retirement party for my wife’s cousin Paul Glazebrook. You may recall that Paul is one of two of her cousins who researched their own ancestor’s role in the Battle of Waterloo. Paul has dictated a fancy dress theme for his party: It’s French and it’s linked to his favourite TV comedy“Allo Allo”. I’m not making this up!