Welcome to “N” in the A to Z Challenge 2017. The 1st Duke of Wellington is my theme for this year’s Challenge.
After Kitty Pakenham’s family, namely her brother Thomas, Earl of Longford, first nixed his proposal to Kitty, Arthur Wellesley decided to focus on his military career wholeheartedly. He was commissioned into the military by purchase, meaning payment to the military bought him an officer position. Commission by purchase was the common practice at the time and young Wellesley got a second commission back into the army with the help of his older brother, Richard. His first assignment was in the 33rd Regiment in the Netherlands.
The British army was in Flanders and they and their allies hoped to invade France. The French had a better army and soldiers at this time and the British were retreating into the Netherlands when Wellesley arrived. The 33rd helped the retreating regiments stay safe by fending off the French. Winter came and everyone suffered. The army was forced to retreat into Germany and give up any invasion plans. The French eventually took part of the Netherlands.
From this experience, the future Duke learned valuable strategy against French columns. He also realized that a strong navy was needed to aid the infantry. Lastly, he realized that the army was only as effective as the leaders were at headquarters. He was not a critical player in this arena, but was a commissioned officer and lieutenant-colonel, and he experienced his first battle during this campaign, the Battle of Boxtel (1794). A number of later prominent French marshals also saw their first battle experience in the Netherlands, including Marshal Ney.
Wellesley bought his first four commissions in the army with the help of friends and family. After this campaign, he needed no further help to rise in the ranks and did so due to his own merit and increasing military skills.
Of further interest about the Battle of Boxtel:
Previous A to Z Challenge 2017 posts: