MILITARY GENERAL SERVICE 1793, CLASP VITTORIA ‘W A COURTENAY, LIEUT 39TH FOOT’
William Allan Courtenay Ensign, 39th Foot on 14th June 1809 and lieutenant 23rd August 1813, both without Purchase. He served in the Peninsular with the 1st Battalion, 39th Foot from October 1811 until September 1813 and was wounded at the ferocious battle at Maya pass in the Pyrenees on 25th July 1813.
Although in the Peninsular from October 1811 and attached to Rowland Hill’s Corps, the battalion saw no real fighting until the battle of Vittoria on 21st June 1813, from here on until the close of the battle of Maya a month later, the battalion lost 44% of its strength to casualties!
At the battle of Vittoria, the 1/39th Foot had a key place in the battlefield, defending the village of Subijana de Alva, a post in front of the left of the French line. In vain the French tried to wrestle the village from the 39th hands but were ultimately unsuccessful. 922 Officers and men of the 1/39th took part in the battle and during the close quarters and often hand to hand fighting, 217 were killed or wounded. Only the 71st and 87th Foot suffered higher casualties at this great battle.
Medal roll confirms that Courtenay is entitled to the single clasp for Vittoria only, which at first seems a bit odd as he was wounded Pyrenees. Therefore one would think would be entitled to the Pyrenees clasp too. However the British Army Battle Honour Pyrenees, is for the actions between 28th July and 1st August and this is the same qualification period for the awarding of the clasp. Maya was a particularity hard fought and bloody battle for both British and French, with both sides claiming victory at the close of battle. Approximately 4,700 British of 2nd Division of Hill’s Corps defended the heights from attacks of 21,000 men of d’Erlon’s French Corps. The battle was ferocious with much close range musketry and hand to hand fighting, eventually the French gaining the upper hand. However a late arrival of elements of the British 7th Division stabilised the British positions and they were able to retreat under cover of darkness. Losses to both sides were extremely high. Of the 6,000 British involved, 1488 men were lost, 90% from the 2nd Division. The French lost 2,100 men.
Of the 39th Foot, 714 Officers and men took part in the battle and 186 were killed or wounded, including Lieutenant Courtenay who was severely wounded.
Lieutenant Courtenay who was placed on Half Pay on 4th April 1816 in consequence of wounds. He had been granted a Pension of £50 per year on 22nd August 1814 for wounds in; ‘Spain at the pass of Maya in the Pyrenees’ during the Peninsular War.
Condition GVF. A fine medal to a very good Regiment for the hard fought battles in June and July 1813.