MILITARY GENERAL SERVICE, 5 CLASPS, VITTORIA, PYRENEES, NIVE, ORTHES, TOULOUSE ‘J. EDEN, LIEUT 71ST FOOT’
During the months of June to December 1813, the 71st Light Infantry saw some of the hardest fighting of the War and suffering some of the highest casualties of any regiment; approximately 750!
Thought the regiment had seen much hard fighting up to this date, the battle of Vittoria on 21st June 1813 is the battle the 71st are most well known for during the Peninsular War, and it has gone down in the history of the regiment as both a great and terrible day. Here the 71st Foot saw a great deal of fighting, suffering 318 casualties, killed or wounded, including their commanding officer. Only the 87th suffered nearly as badly with 269, the vast majority of others between 1 and 200.
It was at this battle that the then Ensign Methold’s life was saved in a ‘daring feat’ by a sergeant of his regiment. No particulars of this have as yet been found but apparently both other Officers of Methold’s company were killed during the battle.
During the battles of the Pyrenees, July 25th to August 2nd 1813 were again in the thick of things, in particular at Maya Pass, suffering a further 218 casualties, again amongst the highest. By 31st July, the 71st were noted as having just 267 effective officers and men!
Having been reinforced, at the battle of Nive, December 9th to 13th 1813, the 71st, casualties amounted to 139 but on entering France, the 71st were more lightly used at the battles or Orthes and Toulouse.
Captain John Eden, J.P., D.L. (1794-1885) was born as John Methold in June 1794, the son of Captain Henry Methold, Durham Fencibles, of Burn Hall, Country Durham, and Dorothea Eden, the daughter of Sir John Eden (1740-1812), 4th Baronet, of Auckland, County Durham. He is believed to have been educated at Eton College and at Charterhouse School between 1806-1812, after which he joined the 71st Highland Light Infantry as an Ensign (without purchase) on 4 June 1812, being promoted to Lieutenant on 1 September 1813 – seeing service in Spain and France between April 1813 and April 1814.
After a period of time on Half-Pay, he exchanged into the 4th Light Dragoons on 15 July 1819. He later became Captain, by purchase, in the 75th Foot (1st Gordon Highlanders), on 22 October 1824. Having apparently transferred again, he retired as Captain, this time from the 14th Light Dragoons, on 4 October 1829.
In later life, and upon the death of one of his maternal uncle (Morton John Davison) in 1844 he inherited property at Beamish Park, County Durham, which required him to change his name by Royal Licence to John Eden as a condition of his inheritance. Taking on the properties at Beamish, he duly became involved the ownership and running of an important coal mine. He was made High Sheriff in 1849, and died without issue at 15 Wilton Crescent, London, on 4 April 1885, at the age of 91. Newspaper obituaries record that he was a notable local benefactor, whilst also adding that:
‘…..He was present at the Battle of Vittoria as an Ensign where in 1813 it will be remembered , a complete victory was obtained by the allied forced under Lord Wellington..In that battle the Captain and Lieutenant of Mr Eden’s company were killed, and would have shared a similar fate had it not been for a daring feat performed by a sergeant of his regiment, which was the means of saving his life. It is worthy of note that at the time of his death Mr Eden was one of the six survivors of the Peninsular war. He was also present after the battle of Waterloo at the entry into Paris in 1815….’
Condition GVF, original ribbon. Ex Glendining, 1956, Spink, 1986 etc. Of 33 71st Officers medals, only 7 received both the Vittoria and Pyrenees clasps and just 3 Vittoria, Pyrenees and Nive! (one other received the clasps with another Regt). Sold with some research.