THE life of a rifleman who saw bloody action through the Peninsular wars and at the Battle of Waterloo has been collated by his relative, David Spencer....

THE interest started by finding a scrapbook of my grandfather’s, Haydn Spencer, said David Spencer who researched his ancestor.

He writes: In it were Keighley News paper clippings and an article of family interest about a relative we had never known existed, sent in by Haydn’s cousin, Leonard Spencer, about another local man who had fought at Waterloo.

This was Sergeant Richard Spencer, our third great grandfather, who fought throughout the Peninsular Wars 1812-14 and at the bloody Battle of Waterloo 1815.

The anniversary of the latter has recently passed, on June 18.

Richard was a rifleman in the famous 2nd Battalion 95th Rifle Brigade Regiment At Foot.

This was a new era in the way a soldier fought. They were equipped with the new Baker rifle, a weapon of more precision unlike ordinary infantry battalions with the Black Bess musket.

They were the first to take aim from a further distance at the target and, if required, to take cover when shot at.

They became masters on the battlefield and had to think and operate independently.

They wore dark green uniforms which were advantageous during their craft of skirmishing.

From the colonel to newest recruit they were all riflemen.

Their secret was even through the foremost hardship, they still maintained their ‘Brothers In Arms’ in pursuit of victory.

To become a rifleman of the 95th you were a ‘chosen man’. Only the best would be selected for this distinction.

When showing gallantry in the field they were able to rise through the ranks as Richard did - private, corporal and to sergeant.

Richard’s gallantry was shown in taking part in the ‘Forlorn Hope’. This was the assault on a defended position where risk of casualties or death was high, drawing the enemy’s first fire. Survivors were given a badge to wear: ‘VS’ Valiant Stormer.

Richard fought in many battles of the Peninsular Wars with his ‘Brothers in Arms’; seven in total.

These were only instituted into a medal in 1847 and added his seven battle clasps.

In the Battle of Waterloo, Richard was one of six sergeants under the command of Captain Francis Le Blanc’s No6 company with 660 riflemen.

The first wave of battle they fought in square repulsing five cavalry charges but with heavy loss.

Later that day, positioned near the Chateau of Hougoumont, they fought back the French Carabiniars, French horse grenadiers of the Imperial Guard. The French guard broke and fell in retreat.

Wellington gave the battle honours to the 95th Riflemen to be ‘first into Paris’.

In 1816 Richard was invalided out and discharged due to sounds sustained and a leg injury. He was described as 5’9” tall, fair complexion with blue eyes.

Richard received his Waterloo medal, this being the first military medal given to a soldier regardless of rank. In 1817 Richard returned to live at Chapel Row, Bradley. His occupation was worsted weaver.

The house had three storeys which was typical of those built to house a loom in the top room to gain maximum daylight for working.

He married Rebecca Baron and had a daughter, Martha, who sadly died in childhood. His wife died in 1819.

In 1820 he married Mary Peel and together they had seven children. Two died in childhood. The eldest son, James, is my great, great grandfather.

Richard died aged 64 in 1855. he is buried at St Andrew’s Church, Kildwick, but sadly no headstone remains.

With the help of Mrs Hudson, the church warden, my family was shown an old map during our research which shown black coffins with only the surname ‘Spencer’ positioned at the lower end of the grass area of burials at the front of the church.

If at all possible with permission of the church we would hope to erect a fitting marker for Richard, again to be remembered with present day members of our families, relatives and surrounding communities of Craven, Bradley and Kildwick.

It could read thus:

‘Over The Hills And Far Away’

Our local lad who became Sergeant Richard Spencer, 2nd Battalion, 95th Rifles.

Without his bravery and survival we would not have this story to tell.