The British Cemetery is situated in the bastion of S. João da Corujeiro, high on the eastern wall and just below the castle, commanding a fine view over the plain to Badajoz in Spain. The bastion is named after the adjoining chapel, founded by the Friars of St. John’s Hospitallers in 1228 to mark the spot at which they broke into the Moorish defences. The British Cemetery was opened in 1811 to receive the body of Major General Daniel Hoghton, who fell at the head of his Brigade in the Battle of Albuera, on 16th May 1811.
Throughout the history of Portugal, Elvas has been the lynch pin of its land defence. In 1811, it was the southern gateway to Spain, facing Badajoz. In the north, Almeida faces Ciudad Rodrigo and fulfilled the same role. Wellington was anxious to secure both cities before advancing into Spain and chose to conduct the operations in the north himself and leave Marshal Beresford, the Commander in Charge of the Portuguese Army, in command of the southern operation. The initial siege of Badajoz was interrupted by the advance at Albuera where the French Army was repulsed in one of the bloodiest actions of the Peninsular War. Badajoz was not taken until March 1812, at great cost.
The British Cemetery Elvas
Major William Nicholas Bull was born in London on 1st March 1801. He was never in the British Army but served in both the Portuguese and Spanish armies in the civil wars that followed the Peninsular War. In Portugal he served in the 20th and 21st Battalions of the 2nd Regiment of the Brigada Real de Marinha for a relatively short time before resigning in1833. In Spain he served in the English Legion from 1835 to 1837. On 10th October 1836 he was awarded the Royal Military Order of St Ferdinand, First Class, for distinguished gallantry in the action before San Sebastian on 1st October. On 3rd June 1837 he was awarded the decoration of Isabel la Catolica, 1st Class, for his gallantry during the operations from 14th to 18th May. He married Caroline Watkins Williams Wynn and, following his service in Spain, retired with his family to Monforte, about 20 miles from Elvas, where he died on 15th February 1850.
Mrs Caroline Bull was born on 3rd March 1802 and died on 28th June 1863 in Monforte.
According to Oman's A History of the Peninsular War, Vol VIII - The Biographical Dictionary of British Officers Killed and Wounded 1808-1814, the following four soldiers died at Elvas after the Battle of Albuera and the Third Siege of Badajoz. They may be buried in the British Cemetery:
JONES, Henry Ireson, Lt. 7th Foot: London Gazette: Severely wounded, Albuera, 16 May 1811 (1st Battn.) The Gentleman’s Magazine, March 1812 , p. 300: Lately…At Elvas, of wounds received at the battle of Albuera, aged 20, universally beloved and sincerely regretted, Lieut. Henry Ireson Jones, of the 9th Fusileers [sic]; a most promising officer, possessing the highest principles of honour and liberality. Died Portugal , 7 Aug. 1811
KIRBY, George, Capt. 57th Foot: London Gazette: Slightly wounded Albuera, 16 May 1811 (1st Battn.). Died of wounds, 10 June 1811. The Gentleman’s Magazine, July 1811, p. 90: Lately…At Elvas, from the wound he received on the 10th of May [sic], at the battle of Albuera, Captain Kirby 57th regiment, second son of the late Rev. John K. of Mayfield, Sussex.
McPHERSON, Donald, 1st Lt. 95th Foot was severely wounded during the storming of Badajoz, 6th April 1812. His death a month later was mentioned in many British publications.
London Gazette: Died of wounds, 7 May 1812. Return dated 25 May 1812.
Register of Officers’ effects: Died of Wounds, 7 May 1812, at Elvas. Single.
Simmons: Wounded, storming of Badajoz, 6 Apr 1812.
Kincaid, Random Shots, pp. 288-9: On the morning following the storming of Badajoz: Of the doomed, who still survived, was poor Donald McPherson, a gigantic Highlander of about six feet and a half, as good a soul as ever lived; in peace a lamb - in war a lion. Donald feared for nothing either in this world or the next; he had been true to man and true to his God, and he looked his last hour in the face like a soldier and a Christian! Donald’s final departure from this life shewed him a worthy specimen of his country, and his methodical arrangements, while they prove what I have stated, may, at the same time, serve as a model for Joe Hume himself, when he comes to cast up his last earthly accounts. Donald had but an old mare and a portmanteau, with its contents, worth about £15, to leave behind him. He took a double inventory of the latter, sending one to the regiment by post, and giving the other in charge of his servant - and paying the said worthy his wages up to the probable day of his death; he gave him a conditional order on the paymaster for whatever more might be his due should he survive beyond his time - and if ever man did, he certainly quitted this world with a clear conscience. Poor Donald! Peace be to thy manes, for thou weret one whom memory loves to dwell on!’
POTTER, Leonard, Capt. 28th Foot: London Gazette: Slightly wounded, storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, 19 Jan. 1812, while serving on the Staff as Brigade Major. Severely wounded, ‘not dangerously’, storming of Badajoz, 6 April 1812, serving on Staff as Brigade Major. The Gentleman’s Magazine, June 1812, p. 595: April 20… At Elvas, of a wound received whilst storming the breach at Badajoz, in his 28th year, Capt. Potter, 28th reg. and Brig.-major to Maj.-Gen. Hon. C. Colville.
If the dead could speak, there would be no more war.
Heinrich Böll 1917-1985
St. Paul's Cathedral, London
Photo courtesy of Courtauld Institute of Art
St. Leonard's Church, Lancashire
Photo courtesy of Janet and David Bromley
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel White joined the 29th Foot as Ensign on 27 September 1787. Officers and men of the 29th Foot served on ships of the Fleet to act as marines. White served on HMS Egmont and was promoted on 25 August 1790 to Lieutenant. In 1793 he served on HMS Duke and went with the expedition to Martinique. He was promoted Captain-Lieutenant 5 February 1794 and Captain 1 March 1794. He served in the West Indies 1795-1796 at Grenada. In 1799 was at the Helder and wounded at the Battle of Bergen in October. He was promoted to Major 5 December 1799 and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel 1 January 1805. He served in the Peninsula July 1808 - June 1811 and commanded the 29th Foot at Rolica and Vimeiro. He became Lieutenant Colonel 2 September 1808. In 1809 he was at the Passage of the Douro, Oporto and Talavera. In 1811 White was at the first siege of Badajoz and commanded the 29th Worcestershire Regiment which formed part of General Hoghton’s Brigade at the Battle of Albuera. He died in Elvas on 8th June 1811 of wounds received in that battle. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel White was awarded a Gold Cross for Rolica, Vimeiro, Talavera and Albuera. His stone was installed in 2003 upon the discovery of his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine stating that his remains were interred near those of the late Lieutenant General Daniel Hoghton.
Lieutenant Colonel James Ward Oliver was a Captain in the 4th [King’s Own Royal Border Regiment] until 1809, when he volunteered for service in the Portuguese Army and was twice promoted. First he was promoted Major on the General Staff of the British Army and then Lieutenant Colonel in the Portuguese Army. He commanded the 14th Regiment of Portuguese Infantry at Albuera and at the second siege of Badajoz where he received wounds from which he died in Elvas on 17th June 1811 and was buried in the British Cemetery.
In the sieges of Badajoz and the Battle of Albuera, the forces of Britain, Portugal, Spain and Germany lost some 11,000 men.
Memorial Plaques: On 14th May 2000, in the presence of the British Ambassador, Sir John Holmes, and the Chief of the Portuguese Army Staff, General Martins Barento, plaques were unveiled in recognition of the British and Portuguese Regiments that fought in the battles of Albuera and Badajoz. The Portuguese Army carried out the restoration and landscaping of the cemetery and the installation of the plaques. Maintenance of the cemetery remains the responsibility of The Friends of the British Cemetery.
Click photos for links
On 14th May 2004 General Fulgencio Coll Bucher, Commander of Mechanised Brigade XI - Extremadura and Military Governor of Badajoz, unveiled a plaque in the presence of the British Ambassador to Portugal, Dame Glynne Evans, to the Spanish Regiments that fought at Albuera.
On 14th May 2011 Lady Jane Wellesley, Patron of the Friends of the British Cemetery, and Colonel Nick Lipscombe, Chairman of Peninsular War 200, unveiled a plaque in remembrance of the 60,000 officers and men of the British and Portuguese armies who died alongside their Spanish allies in the cause of freedom and independence in the Peninsular War of 1808-1814.
Graves: The area of the graves is surrounded by a cast iron railing which was installed on 20th August 1904 by the Military Governor, Brigadier João Carlos Rodrigues da Costa. This fact is recorded by a small stone carved "G.P.E - 20-8-1904" (Governador da Praça de Elvas). The cemetery was rededicated in 1997.
Major General Daniel Hoghton, who fell at the head of his Brigade in the Battle of Albuera, on 16th May 1811. General Hoghton was the 41-year-old younger son of the late MP Sir Henry Hoghton Bt. Gazetted into the 8th Foot, he was in command of a Brigade in Stewarts 2nd Division. At the start of the battle this Division was in reserve but was shortly moved to the south to relieve the Brigade of Zayas’ Division of Spanish infantry, which had held the French attack with great gallantry. For the rest of the day, Hoghton's Brigade was at the centre of the battle and gave no ground, but at horrific expense. 63% of the Brigade were casualties and at the end of the day the senior officer of the Brigade was a Captain. In one battalion the Ensign of the Colour tore it from its staff and stuffed it in his jacket to prevent its capture. His body was found and buried by the only remaining members of his company - one sergeant and one corporal.
Capt Ramsden, ADC to General Hoghton, left an account of his death. It was in the early part of the battle and where the fighting was heaviest that he saw the General and his horse fall. When he eventually reached Hoghton, he found that he had been hit under both arms. Hoghton tried to remount his horse but was unable to do so and was then carried to the rear, where on examination he was found to be severely wounded. The surgeon told Ramsden there was no hope and General Hoghton died soon after. On examination his jacket was found to contain more than a dozen bullet holes.
Generals Beresford and Stewart, citing the 1654 Anglo-Luso Treaty, requested the Governor of Elvas that General Hoghton be buried in the British Cemetery, Elvas. Memorials were placed in St. Paul's Cathedral, London and St. Leonard's Church, Walton-in-the-Dale, Lancashire.