The Latham Centrepiece - Albuhera 16th May 1811

artefact

Inscription: “I will surrender it only with my life."

“In memory of the Peninsula campaign in which the Regiment was engaged from 1808 to 1814. Also the distinguished act of gallantry performed by Lieutenant Latham at the Battle of Albuhera in rescuing the King’s Colour of the Regiment from the hands of the enemy after Ensign Walsh and the Sergeants that protected it had fallen.”**

This is the 2nd Battalion’s most imposing piece of silver. Gargantuan in stature yet delicate and intricate in its detail, this is an irreplaceable item and an amazing example of early 19th century craftsmanship.

Its standing within the Battalion is further enhanced, firstly, because it is steeped in history central to our identity, and secondly, due to the highest example of gallantry that it depicts. The action which the centrepiece immortalises took place on the battlefield of Albuhera on the 16th of May 1811. The centrepiece shows a Polish lancer with raised sword on horseback and the figure of Lieutenant Latham (one armed) wrestling the King’s Colour back from the lancer. At their feet is the rocky ground of Albuhera with a dead soldier upon it; probably one of the fallen colour party.

The Buffs had been attacked from their rear whilst advancing. Isolated and caught in line they were cut to pieces by French Hussars and Polish Lancers. Only 84 out of 728 who marched onto the field with the Buffs survived. Lieutenant Latham was one of those few: he fought against impossible odds to prevent the King’s Colour falling into French hands and was found, presumed dead at first due to his injuries, with the Colour safe in his tunic. Latham, however, although so desperately wounded, was not killed; in two hours afterwards he crawled on his remaining hand and knees towards the river of Albuera, and was found by some of the orderlies of the army attempting to slake his thirst in the stream; he was carried into the convent, where his wounds were dressed, the stump of his arm amputated, and he ultimately recovered. Later on his return to England and in the summer of 1815, King George IV, then Prince Regent, touched by Latham's bravery and disfigurement paid for reconstructive surgery in London by the renowned surgeon, Mr Carpue. The image of this surgery is courtesy of The Royal Society.

The piece sits on a rectangular base, mounted with models of Buffs dragons at each corner, hanging swags and bows all around; two roses with crowns either side, Buffs and Invicta badges each end. Damage to the Colour shaft was repaired in May 2014 by Mappin & Webb. The damage was the wearing away of a former repair along the join of the Colour and shaft. The Latham sits atop a genuine tiger skin and acts as a front to the Battalion’s Colours in the entrance to the Officers’ Mess.