A fine Field Officers’ Gold Medal and Bar awarded to Major William Campbell, 36th Foot, for his command of a ‘Light Battalion’ at the battles of the Pyrenees and Nivelle; he was afterwards severely wounded at the battle of Toulouse
Field Officer’s Gold Medal 1808-14, for Pyrenees, 1 clasp, Nivelle, Major Willm. Campbell, 1st Bn. 36th Foot. complete with gold ribbon buckle.
William Campbell was first appointed Ensign in the 36th Foot on 27 October 1799, becoming Lieutenant in March 1800, and Captain in December 1804. After participating, as part of Picton’s Brigade, in the disastrous expedition to the Walcheren, July to December 1809, Campbell accompanied his regiment to the Peninsula in March 1811.
He saw service at Barba del Puerco, at the siege of the Forts of Salamanca in June 1812, and at the battle of Salamanca which took place the following month. He next took part in the failed siege of Burgos in September and October, the subsequent retreat from which place brought to an end his campaigning that year.
Campbell took no part in the great victory at Vittoria in June 1813, but the following month found him in the hills of the Pyrenees, in command of the light company of the 36th, ‘detached in smart skirmishing’ during some fighting near Pampeluna on 28 July. On the 30th Campbell’s light company was again detached with orders to expel the enemy from the village of Sorauren. For his services on this occasion Campbell was presented with a medal for the battles of the Pyrenees and received promotion from Captain to the brevet rank of Major.
At the crossing of the Bidassoa his battalion took part in the action at Urdax on 7 October, clearing the way for the advance towards Nivelle, reckoned by Wellington to be his greatest victory. In the battle which followed on 10 November, ‘it was the proud lot of the sixth division, of which the Thirty-sixth formed part, to charge and carry the enemy’s breastwork and principal redoubt on the heights of Ainhoa, with the loss of one drummer and five rank and file killed.’ Both Major Cross and brevet Major Campbell of the 36th were honoured with the medal [or clasp] for the battle of Nivelle.
In December 1813, the 36th were stationed at Ville Franque, engaged in the severe duty of the blockade of Bayonne, and did not rejoin the army until 26 February, just in time to share in the battle of Orthes on the following day. Campbell next took part in the affairs of Vic Bigorre and Tarbes on 19 and 20 March, and in the pursuit of Soult’s army on retreat towards Toulouse. In the battle of Toulouse on 10 April 1814, the 36th had the honour of commencing the attack of the 6th Division.
Wellington subsequently wrote in his ‘Toulouse’ despatch, ‘We did not gain this advantage, however, without severe loss, particularly in the brave sixth division. The Thirty-sixth, Forty-second, Sixty-first, and Seventy-ninth regiments lost considerable numbers, and were highly distinguished throughout the day.’
Campbell was severely wounded in this action, in which the 36th had two officers, three sergeants and thirty-five rank and file killed, and nine officers, eight sergeants, and ninety-seven ranks and file wounded, from of an original strength of only two hundred and fifty, all ranks.
Major William Campbell was placed on half-pay in April 1829, and died in 1840.