Friday, October 16, 2009

Amy And I Visit The Battle Of Waterloo




The other day Amy (soft-coated wheaten terrier, licks a lot, thoroughly beautiful and stupid as duct tape) and I (post middle-aged and stupid as duct tape) were wandering around Coley Church graveyard, sniffing at things and minding our own business. Coley Church (for photograph see my Daily Photo Blog) sits in the middle of open countryside surrounded by just a few cottages and is about a mile away from where I grew up and about four miles away from where I live now. In the graveyard we came across the half-covered grave of a certain Joseph Standeven of Shelf (a village about a mile to the north of Coley). From the parts of the gravestone I could read - it somehow would have been wrong to scrape back the turf from the rest of the stone - it appeared that Joseph Standeven died in 1827 and had been a corporal in the Kings Dragoon Guards. I wanted to know more.


If there is anything I love, it is ferreting out information. My love of family history is driven not by the fact that it is my family, but that the individual history of an "ordinary person" can provide a unique insight into historical events. I love family history : anyone's family history. Joseph Standeven was a challenge and the Internet provides ferreters like me with the ideal tool to face up to the kind of challenge we go in search of. The Internet is our lance against the Black Knight of Obscurity.


There was a reference to Joseph Standeven of Shelf in the war service records held by the National Archives in Kew. He served in the 1st Dragoon Guards between 1793 and 1818 and was discharged when he was 42 (and thus we can conclude that he was born in 1776 and he was 51 years old when he died). From the records available in the collection of the Kings Dragoon Guards (now the Queen's Dragoon Guards) we know that the regiment he served in was a horse cavalry regiment and one that took part in the Battle of Waterloo in  June 1815. According to contemporary accounts the 1st Regiment of Dragoon Guards started out in the morning of the battle with "570 sabres" but by the end of the day scarcely 30 soldiers remained alive. Joseph Standeven would have been one of them.





The above illustration shows the Kings Dragoon Guard attacking the French Dragoons at the Battle of Waterloo. How strange to see the turf-covered, long-forgotten last resting place of one of the few members of his regiment to survive that day. 

11 comments:

  1. Ferretting around like that is something I will probably do a lot of when I'm not so busy doing pointless things...

    In a sombre way I love reading gravestones and thinking 'who the hell were they and what did they do!'. If they died young I wonder why/how and if old then I wonder about their existence in old age.

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  2. I so agree Mo. It is imagining the backstory that is so fascinating.

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  3. Beautiful gravestone and fascinating info on Joseph Standeven. Great post. I am nutty about family history, as well.

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  4. I love rambling around old cemeteries, too! The Mister won't step foot in them!

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  5. War is the continuation of policy by other means.

    Karl von Klausewitz.

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  6. Enjoyed the post Alan. Most of my rummaging in old soldiers' records relates to WW1, most of it for various battalions of the York & Lancaster Regt. as my grandfather served as a private in the 2nd, 6th and 10th battalions; he became a POW on 21 March 1918 in the Kaiser's last real assault.

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  7. I love obscure histories about ordinary people too... so interesting. Your dog sounds delightful. I'm sure you've posted a picture of her on your blog before but I would love to see what she looks like!

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  8. I hate to admit I have the most absurd hatred of old bones even though archeology has me fascinated and I guess I've got over that phobia... phobia possibly coming from living right beside the church in childhood and being aware every time my father was conducting a funeral...Well, of course you could tell, the bell was tolled.

    But then at school we had to try to not mind for seeing a real skeleton - I wasn't the only person really found this horrid and it made it worse when the biology teacher said he'd been a soldier at the battle of Waterloo and you could see where his ribs had been fatally damaged. I spent many years in horror for knowing my school had this skeleton in that cupboard. Warrior from that war. YUK, basically. It took me absolutely ages to come to terms with the idea this really didn't matter now. I'm not sure I like digging up the past. Might mean bones...

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  9. See that's what I love about England and Europe, even in the most obscure places, well off the tourist path, there are little bits of meaningful history just waiting to be discovered.

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  10. I'm a gravestone reader and often wonder about a deceased history. I'm not curious enough to try and find out.

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  11. I so completey agree with your statement "the individual history of an "ordinary person" can provide a unique insight into historical events"; that you make this real in your posts is one of this blog's many strong points.

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