7th or Queens Own Hussars Officer’s Waterloo medal
William Shirley was born at Eatington Park, Warwick on 29th March 1794 and was appointed a Cornet in the 7th Hussars on 28th March 1811, then by purchase he transferred to the 23rd Foot as a Lieutenant in December 1812 and then by exchange as Lieutenant back to the 7th Hussars on 7th January 1813 by paying the difference.
Appointed Captain on 12th September 1816 and Major on 17th June 1824. He served with the 7th Hussars in the Peninsula and France from August 1813 to July 1814 including the battles of Orthes and Toulouse with the rank of Cornet and is entitled to the MGS medal with two clasps and was then with the regiment at Waterloo holding the rank of Lieutenant.
Following news that the Prussian forces under Prince Blucher had been defeated at the Battle of Ligny on 16th June 1815, Wellington ordered a retreat from Quatre Bras to Waterloo, a place he had identified a year earlier that would allow him to employ his reverse slope tactics. In order to achieve this a cavalry rearguard action was commenced to cover the retreat of the Anglo Allied army through the village of Genappe on 17th June 1815. As part of the rearguard action the 7th Hussars were ordered by General Lord Uxbridge to undertake a series of charges on the advancing enemy at Genappe, where the French 2nd Regiment of Lancers under Colonel Jean Baptiste Joseph Sourd were advancing towards the allied lines. These charges ultimately proved unsuccessful due to the narrow streets and the outstretched French lances which presented an impenetrable line. Both sides contested the ground with tremendous zeal with roughly equal numbers of casualties including the commanding officers of both regiments killed.
At the Battle of Waterloo the regiment was held in reserve until the late afternoon as a result of their actions at Genappe on the previous day, but again when called upon undertook a series of charges. Standish O`Grady, then a lieutenant in the 7th Hussars, mentions in a letter to his father “ We charged twelve or fourteen times and on one occasion cut off a squadron of French cuirassiers, every man of who we killed on the spot except for two officers and one Marshal De Logis whom I sent to the rear”.
The medal was last sold at auction in 2001 and has since been in a private collection until recently acquired by the writer. The medal is in VF to GVF condition and is fitted with a replacement steel clip and ring suspension, slight rubbing to the edge and expertly plugged at 6.00 o’clock. It is not uncommon for Waterloo medals to have a sewing hole privately undertaken to secure the medal to a dolman or pelisse. This is particularly evident with mounted officers or where multiple medals were being worn.