Himbury History

Sergeant John Himbury

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John Himbury c1789 - 1872

Birth= c1789 Evershot, Dorset UK

Marriage 1= Unknown date to Unknown Surname

Marriage 2= 23 Jan 1838 The Parish Church, St Mary Newington to Mary Wolledge

Death= 27 Jun 1872 73 Pattison Road, Plumstead, Kent UK

A War Hero's Tale.......

Sgt John Himbury's Medals on Display

John Himbury, was born in very normal rural surroundings, nothing in his upbringing seems to indicate the grand future he was destined for.

Born to John Himbury (1761-1851) & Mary Churchill (1763- ) in the village of Evershot in the County of Dorsetshire, England in around 1789 (we have various records showing different dates between 1789-1791), the young man joined the Rifle Brigade in 1809 at the tender age of 19 and served for a total of nearly 23 years.

John married twice, first marriage details are unknown and second marriage was to Mary Wolledge. We only know of the first marriage because on his marriage certificate to Mary he was listed as a Widower. John and Mary had three children that we are aware of (and can prove); Alfred (1840), William John (1842) and Mathilda Churchill (1843).

John's military service record was remarkable, over the course of his career he rose through the ranks spending 9 Years 120 Days as a Private, 6 Years 267 days as a Corporal, and 4 Years 272 days as a Sergeant.

In 1809 our hero was taking part in the terrible war at Corunna under the command of Sir John Moore......in 1809 he was at the battle of Flushing; in 1810 he was one of the defenders at the siege of Cadiz; in 1811 he was at the battle of Barossa, and in that year was wounded twice at the capture of Boke. In defending the siege of Tariffa for 17 days he was wounded again.

From this time John became attached to the 87th Regiment and returned to Cadiz. In 1812 he was present at the capture of Seville, after this Sergeant Himbury took part in the capture of Fort Almarag and in the expulsion of the French at Talavera. He also spent 3 days engaged at Aranfeny, was on the losing side at Burgos 1812 and was present with the regiment on the retreat from Madrid to Portugal during which John's company held Salamanca for a week.

John was captured by the enemy at Amornius in a blizzard, during a battle in which the British Forces lost some 1400 men, only to promptly escape into the woods to rejoin his regiment the next day. John remained with the regiment in Portugal until May 1813 when they drove the French from the country.

In 1813 he was at the Battle of the Pyrenees, the Battle of Neville, the Battle of Nice and was severely wounded at the battle of Bayonne in December of that year.

In 1814 our hero fought at the Battles of Forbus, Orthis, Toulouse and in 1815 fought at Waterloo where he was again wounded

At the Battle of Vittoria in 1815 John was wounded in both arms, but the regiment was victorious. After recovering, he was engaged in three days fighting in the mountains between Pamplona and Vera. He was also one of the Forlorn Hope at San Sebastien and was wounded there. For his gallant actions in this campaign he was awarded a Silver Medal by the General Commanding the 3rd Brigade of the Light Division.

In 1820 & 1823 Sergeant John Himbury was engaged with the Whitey Boys in Ireland. He was a non-commisioned officer for nearly 12 years and his discharge papers from the 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Regiment show that his conduct was "Very Good". We have description of John from his discharge papers that reveals him to be about 40 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches tall with brown hair and grey eyes and a "fresh" complexion.

Shortly after leaving military service a census record reveals John to be working as an Undertaker, we can only assume that he was used to the sight if corpses and that the work didn't unduly bother him!

John must have been enamoured with military life for after all this he joined the British Legion under the command of Sir De Lacy Evans. He joined the 4th regiment as Sergeant Major after volunteering to go and storm a Convent occupied by the enemy somwhere between Eargelest and Rosas. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and presented with a first class order of Isabella.

Our hero was then at the siege of Bilbao and and helped to drive the enemy to Vittoria. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and marched to the Battle of San Sebastien where he was yet again wounded. For his services here he was awarded the 1st Class Order of St. Ferdinand, and still went on to fight three more battles.

Amongst others, the medals awarded to John included:

  • Gold Cross with Clasp and Knighthood from Spain
  • Clasps for Toulouse, Orthes, Nice, Nevelle, San Sebastien, Pyrenees, Barossa & Talavera
  • Silver Medal for 1814
  • Silver Medal for Waterloo 1815
  • Silver Medal and Clasp for Sa Metira
  • Siilver Medal for Forlorn Hope
  • Silver Medal for Good Conduct
  • Silver Cross as 1st Class order of Isabella of Spain
  • Silver Clasp for Bilbao
Badge of the 95th Rifles

The following is the text of a letter sent to John by Major General Sir Harry Smith:

 

"Government House, Devonport, May 20th, 1853.

"OLD COMRADE HIMBURY,

"I well recollect you. Upon the receipt of your letter of the 16th inst., I recommend your memorial to 'The Lords and other Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital' to have your pension increased to two shillings a day. There are few men now remaining in the British Army who have seen so much service and been in so many actions as yourself; and the fact alone, of your having been wounded when one of the Forlorn Hope at the important storm of San Sebastian, where we, the Light, Third, and Fourth Divisions sent our gallant volunteers, is enough. The Lords Commissioners are very kind to such gallant old soldiers as yourself, and, if they can increase your pension, I am sure they will. Let this certificate accompany your memorial, and let me hear that another, though not a forlorn, hope has succeeded. My wife well remembers your picking her up when her horse fell upon her, and again thanks you.

"Your old friend and comrade,

"H. G. SMITH, Major-General,            

"Colonel 2nd Battn. Rifle Brigade."

 

 

John's last years were spent in Plumstead in Kent with his wife Mary. He is listed on a census as a Chelea Out Pensioner, and we have records of a letter he wrote to a former commanding officer requesting an increase in his pension. The Officer replied saying he well remembered John helping his wife after she had taken a tumble from her horse, and would do what he could to help. Unfortunately we know not whether he ever got his extra money.

John died peacefully in his cottage in Plumstead in June 1872, and his remains were interred at Woolwich Cemetary.

     

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