Napoleon on St Helena



The 2nd Battalion of the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot was appointed in July 1815 to begin a two-year tour of duty preventing Napoleon’s escape from St Helena. The former Emperor manipulated his captors as unwitting pawns in his relentless game of divide and conquer against the island’s Governor, but ultimately came to hold them in high esteem.

‘How far is St Helena from the field of Waterloo?’

A near way – a clear way – the ship will take you soon

A pleasant place for gentlemen with little left to do.

(Morning never tries you till the afternoon!)

from Rudyard Kipling, A St Helena Lullaby

As dawn broke on the morning of 28 July 1815 a King’s Messenger clattered into Portsmouth. Secure in the galloper’s saddlebag was an order from the Commander-in-Chief addressed to Colonel Sir George Bingham, the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot, then stationed in the naval town. The order directed the 53rd to prepare for ‘immediate embarkation for distant service’. At 11 o’clock the battalion formed up for inspection, ‘when every man appeared under arms and in complete marching order’.

KEYWORDS:  Napoleon, Napoleonic Wars, Shropshire, St Helena

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