203 : George Rose, Jamaican at the battle of Waterloo, 1815

There are some websites which mention George Rose, a soldier in the British Army’s 73rd Foot (which merged in 1881 with the 42nd Foot to form the Black Watch regiment). I came across him in Robert Kershaw’s 24 Hours at Waterloo: 18 June 1815 (W. H. Allen, 2014) where Kershaw uses the research of J. D. Ellis and Scottish military history websites.

Born into slavery in Jamaica in 1787 he was in London in 1809 where he enlisted in the 73rd Foot. He spent four years in Ireland and then served in the Napoleonic Wars, in Germany and the Netherlands. He was at the Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated by Anglo-German forces led by the Duke of Wellington. He became a sergeant in 1831 and was discharged in 1837. He left Britain in 1849 and died near Spanish Town, Jamaica, in 1873.

Kershaw also notes that the St Kitts-born William Affleck was at Waterloo, in the 10th Hussars. He had enlisted in Hounslow near London in 1801 and was discharged in 1819. He fought in the Peninsula campaigns in Spain and Portugal, and then in southern France into 1814 when France was defeated – to revive and threaten peace in 1815. Another Waterloo veteran was William Wilson of the 55th Foot (later serving in the 28th Light Dragoons, and after 1803 with the 13th Light Dragoons). He was from Barbados and had enlisted in 1795. He was pensioned off in 1816.

The research of John Ellis has more details: see his ‘Black soldiers in the British army’ on blackpresence.co.uk.

As with Sergeant William Dobson, the South African who served in the Seaforth Highlanders (see page 086) and the Sudanese child who grew up to serve in the Durham Light Infantry in the 1890s-1900s (see page 092), the scattered presence of black soldiers in Victorian times throws some light on British imperialism and challenges historical stereotypes.

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