MILITARY GENERAL SERVICE 1793, 4 CLASPS, CORUNNA, TALAVERA, BUSACO, FUENTES D’ONOR ‘J. H. REYNETT, CAPT. 52ND FOOT & D.A.Q.M.G.’
GENERAL SIR JAMES REYNETT, K.C.B. K.C.H. A.D.C.TO THE KING
James Henry Reynett was born in Ireland in 1786 and aged 13 and 4 months, was commissioned Ensign in the 52nd Foot on 25 November 1799. Still only 13 years old, he was promoted to Lieutenant on 14 March 1800 and saw his first action five months later, when he carried a colour of the Regiment in the action at Ferrol, on the Coast of. Here on the 25 August 1800, both battalions of the 52nd Foot formed part of a British expeditionary force sent to capture an important Spanish Naval base. On the 26th, both battalions of the 52nd took part in the attack and gained possession of the heights over the town. However the attack as a whole was unsuccessful and the British re-embarked on their ships on the 27th. During the action, in which only a few regiments had taken part, the 52nd suffered the highest number of casualties.
Promoted Captain on 24 March 1804 aged just 17! Reynett served with the 1/52nd Foot and as Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General (D.A.Q.M.G.)in the Baltic in 1808. Back with the 1/52nd, he served in the Peninsula from August 1808. However from November 1808, he appointed to Sir John Moore’s Staff as D.A.Q.M.G. and took part in the retreat to Corunna, the action at Lugo and the battle of Corunna. Returning home with the Army, Reynett returned to the Peninsula on Wellington’s Staff in April 1809. From this date he served as D.A.Q.M.G. and secretary to General Sir George Murray, who as Quartermaster-General, held one of the most important positions on Wellington’s Staff. Responsible for the march and movement of the army; which included mapping and intelligence gathering, Murray daily reported to Wellington. As such, Reynett, who would have been at Murray’s side, would have mixed in the highest of circles during his time in the Peninsula. According to his Army list entry;
“..Re-appointed to the Quarter-Master General's staff in Portugal, in April, 1809 ; present at the affaire previous to, and at the passage of the Douro, and capture of Oporto ; affair of Salamoude; battles of Talavera, and Busaco ; affairs upon the retreat to the lines before Lisbon, and subsequently in 1811 at those upon the advance from thence, at Pombal, Redinha, Sabugal, and Foz d'Aronce ; and at the battle of Fuentes d'Onor.”
As D.A.Q.M.G. and secretary, Reynett himself would be tasked with making sure orders from Murray were carried out and no doubt would have been seen as ‘soft’ role when the army was inactive. However on Campaign, it was quite the opposite and in battle, the position was a most dangerous one
as D.A.Q.M.G’s would be sent around the battlefield, making sure units were where they were supposed to be during attacks and often acting as senior A.D.C’s. Some excellent accounts and descriptions of life on Wellington’s Staff can be found here:
Reynett would remain in the Peninsular until September 1811, when he was posted back to the Staff at home. Remaining on home service, he was promoted to Major in the 52nd Foot on 8 April 1813. Appointed Assistant Quartermaster-General to the troops in Hannover from late 1813, he served on the Staff of H.R.H. Duke of Cambridge where they had much to do with reforming the Hanoverian Army and drawing up the next constitution of Hanover itself. Letters sent by Reynett to General Gordon in early 1814 (transcripts included in the research), give his views on how the Army would be reformed and other military observations which make most interesting reading. Awarded the Brevet of Lieutenant-Colonel on 1 June 1814, it is not clear how long Reynett stayed in Germany with the Duke but he was placed on half-pay in 1820 and appointed Inspector of Foreign out-patients at Chelsea Hospital. In 1822, he continued his relationship with the Duke of Cambridge, being appointed Equerry and then when the Duke was Viceroy of Hanover in 1824, Reynett accompanied him as Military Secretary.
Having been appointed K.C.H. in 1823 and Colonel Reynett served as A.D.C. to William IV (and later Queen Victoria) 1830-41, He was Groom of the Bed Chamber to William IV, 1831-37; Deputy Ranger of Richmond Park, 1844 to death; and Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, 1847-52. He was appointed Colonel of the 48th Foot on 25 November 1850, attained the rank of Lieutenant-General on 11 November 1851. In 1858 Reynett authored ‘A Short Memoir of his Late Royal Highness, Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge.’ (PDF copy including with research) Promoted General on 5 May 1860, he was was created K.C.B. in 1862. General Reynett, whose influential circle of friends also included Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquis of Londonderry and Field Marshal Henry Hardinge, both of whom he’d served with in the Peninsula War, died at Hampton Court Palace on 9 August 1864.
An excellent article on Reynett by Ken Marsh was published over 2 issues of ‘The Medal News’ in 2018. This adds greatly to the above and PDF copies are included with the research.
Condition NEF, fitted with silver ribbon buckle with an attractive patina. Provenance: Sotheby, November 1979, when sold in a group with insignia of Military K.C.B. and Military K.C.H., together with his ceremonial silver key as Groom of the Bed Chamber to William IV.
Sold with a large quantity of research both on file and CD; including service record, newspaper articles, copies of letters sent to Lady Londonderry, Duke of Cambridge, The PM, etc etc. Also a copy of ‘Wellington’s Headquarters, the command & administration of the British Army during the Peninsular War’ By ward, can be included if the buyer does not have a copy. A superb and important medal to an Officer on Wellington’s Staff.