The Small Officer’s Gold Medal
(Lieut Col: Chas Donellan, 1st Bn 48th Foot.
complete with its three-pronged gold ribbon buckle, extremely fine.
Charles Donellan, affectionately known throughout the ranks as ”Old Charley’, Mortally wounded at Talavera on 28 July 1809 whilst commanding the (Northamptonshire) Regiment of Foot. Donellan having two horses shot from under him was mortally wounded and famously took off his hat passed it to Major George Middlemore stating “you will have the honour of leading the 48th to the charge”
Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Donellan is shown in 1799 as Major 62nd Foot and the 48th Foot from 14 November 1804,
According to General Napier (Sir William Francis Patrick Napier) (1785-1860): “The centre of the British line was broken and the fate of the day seemed to be leaning towards the French. Suddenly Colonel Donellan, with the 48th Regiment, pushed through the disordered masses of retreating against the pursuing right enemy column and, firing a devastating volley, advanced on it with such a firm and regular step that the enemy’s movement slowed down. The French hesitated, lost their advantage and the position was restored ”
Major Middlemore (later Major General). At the head of his grave stands a memorial erected by the Northampton Regiment recording
‘Talavera, It was on the advance of the battalion to the rescue of the guards that Colonel Donellan was struck and painful as must have been the wound, his countenance not only did not betray his suffering but preserved his usual expression. Calling Major Middlemore the next senior officer , Colonel Donellan seated erect in his saddle , took off his hat, bowed , and said, Major Middlemore, you will have the honour of leading the 48th to the charge. The battalion charged and rescued the guards, whilst Col. Donellan was conducted to the rear and died at Talavera.’
Following Talavera and the imminent arrival of Soult with 30,000 men Wellington ordered a general withdrawal. It is recorded that Colonel Donellan died in French hands and was buried by a French Grenadier regiment with full military honours.
‘A History of the Campaigns of the British Forces in Spain’ records that on the day of the battle the colonel was dressed according to his regimental order, for a garrison town – stiff leather breeches and long boots, hair powdered & c. On receiving his wound he was in front of the battle; it was very severe , and seemed to disable him at once.’
Further ‘ In three days symptoms of mortification appeared, and he was left in Talavera , where he almost immediately died; on his death-bed, he desired to be particularly remembered to all his brave officers, and begged, if he had offended them, that they would excuse his hasty temper, when he was no more.’
Further ‘Colonel Donellan was one who governed his regiment without flogging; and Sir David Baird publicly declared the 48th Regiment, when on the Curragh, of Kildare, in 1808, as fine a regiment, and as a high a state of discipline, as he could desire to command. The abolition of flogging, of course, gained him the affection of the privates; and although he frequently spoke harshly to the officers, he never would injure them by unnecessary courts-martial, or stopping their promotions.’
A fine portrait of Donnellan hangs in the Northant’s Museum
An important medal for Talavera and as fine a ‘Gold’ as likely bought.