Battle Honour 'TALAVERA'

Event
Thursday, 27 July, 1809 - Friday, 28 July, 1809
Army Gold Medal Talavera gordon
The Army Gold Medal (Talavera), awarded posthumously to the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, the 83rd Regiment of Foot, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gordon.

The Battle Honour TALAVERA is emblazoned on The Queen's Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.

The 2/83rd and the 2/87th Regiments both fought at Talavera, one of the earliest battles in the Peninsular War. The almost 53,000 strong Anglo-Spanish Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley,* moved to the north of Talavera, some 120kms to the southwest of Madrid, Spain, on 27 July 1809. Major General Mackenzie's 3rd Division with cavalry was forward covering the movement of the Allies.

At about noon, when the Spanish were safely in position, the British cavalry mistakenly withdrew prematurely and the French advanced on the 3rd Division's forward brigades. One of these, Donkin's Brigade, retired in disorder with its 2/87th suffering over 200 casualties. Donkin then occupied a hill feature near the left of the British lines. The French, perceiving that this vital hill (Cerro de Medellin) was inadequately defended, attacked with nine battalions at 2100 hours. A period of very confused fighting followed. The 2/87th assisted in driving the French from the hilltop. The battle then ceased until the following day when at 0500 hours the enemy bombarded the hill and launched the second main attack, which again the British repulsed.

Five hours later the battle entered its third phase; the French again attacked. Although they penetrated the British centre, the British ejected them after some close and bitter fighting. The 2/83rd took part in this final phase of the battle. As the battle column of enemy attacked, Brigadier General Cameron kept his 2/83rd and the 2/61st Regiments lying down until the enemy was 30 yards away; the Regiments then stood, fired a volley and charged. The French column withered into complete disarray. Cameron's Brigade halted and reformed line. As the troops on either side of the brigade collapsed under a separate French attack, the 2/83rd and the 2/61st were forced to withdraw before they could be cut off. Having retired behind the reformed centre, the battle ended for the 2/83rd.

Casualties had been severe; the Commanding Officer of the 2/83rd was killed and the battalion suffered over 50% casualties; 4 officers and 38 men killed, 11 officers and 202 men wounded and 28 men taken prisoner. The 2/87th suffered over 40% casualties; 1 officer and 110 men killed, and 13 officers and 230 men wounded.

TALAVERA

Both regiments (and the 88th, also in Donkin's Brigade) were granted the Battle Honour TALAVERA. For their actions at Talavera, Napoleon personally presented 'Golden Laurels' to the 8e régiment d'infanterie de ligne, which adorned the neck of the eagle atop its Standard, until, by a coincidence of war, it was seized by the 2/87th at the Battle of Barrosa in 1811. The 2/87th, at Talavera, had been in General Mackenzie's 3rd Division and had fought opposite General Lapisse's 2nd Division that included the 8e régiment.

*
Following the Battle of Talavera, Wellesley was created Viscount Wellington of Talavera.