Friday, 28 May 2010

Marshals and Generals

British General

Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill

Born: 1772 Shropshire, England

Died: 1842 Shropshire, England

RANK: General

Hill was born on 11 August 1772 in Shropshire. He was the second son of Sir John Hill and Mary Chambre.
Educated at a school in Chester, Hill then studied in the techniques of war in Strasbourg before he was commissioned into the 38th Foot (Stafford’s) in 1790. From there his career took off, serving as commander of the 53rd Foot (Shropshire’s) and then the 90th Foot (Perthshire Volunteers). He was then made staff officer in the defence of Toulon in 1793. He then travelled to Egypt, Ireland and Hanover.
In 1805 he became a major-general. In 1808, Hill was sent to Portugal where he began his long and distinguished service in the Peninsula War.
During the Peninsular War he served as a brigade commander at the battle of Vimeiro and then as divisional commander of the 2nd Infantry Division at Talavera. He contributed greatly to the success of the war by sweeping up the routed French army at Arroyo dos Molinos. When he was separated from Wellington at St. Pierre in 1811, he successfully defied the attacks of Marshal Soult with 15,000 men against Soult’s 30,000.
In May 1812, after the capture of Badajoz, Hill led a second raid that destroyed a key bridge in the Battle of Almaraz. While Wellington won the Battle of Salamanca, Hill protected Badajoz with a force of 18,000 men.
After the capture of Madrid, Hill had responsibility for an army of 31,000 Anglo-Portuguese and 12,000 Spanish troops during the campaign that centered on the Siege of Burgos. When the French massed superior forces against the British in the autumn of 1812, Hill safely brought his army back from Madrid, to join the main army under Wellington near Alba de Tormes.
Hill commanded the Right Column during the campaign and helped to win a decisive British victory at the Battle of Vitoria on 21st June 1813.
In December of 1813, during the Battle of the Nive, Hill performed what may have been his finest hour with his defence of St-Pierre d’Irube. With his 14,000 men and 10 cannons isolated on the east bank of the Nive by a broken bridge, Hill held off the repeated attacks of Marshal Soult’s 30,000 men and 22 cannons. He fought the battle with great skill and was seen at every point of danger, and repeatedly led rallied regiments in person to save what seemed like a lost battle.
He gained the reputation for a military mind that not only for victory but also looked after the concerns of his men, he was generally well-liked by his soldiers. This encouraged loyalty and cooperation amongst his subordinate officers. His military planning was meticulous and benefited from cunning foresight. As a person he was “Kind and Charitable” and became known to his men as “Daddy Hill”. On one occasion, he provided a wounded officer who arrived at his headquarters with a lunch basket, and when a sergeant delivered a letter to Hill, he sergeant was astonished when the general arranged for his supper and a place for him to stay the night.

At Waterloo Hill commanded the 2nd Corps. His corps had little involvement in the battle that day, only the 2nd Infantry division seeing action against the French. He led the famous charge of Sir Frederick Adam’s brigade against the Imperial Guard towards the end of the battle, his horse being killed under him. He remained in France for three years as Second-in-Command of the Allied occupation troops.
On 27th August 1815 the Dutch King William 1 made him a Commander of the exclusive Military Order of William.
He succeeded the Duke of Wellington as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1828 and served till 1839. Just before is death he was made Viscount Hill. He died at Hardwick Grange, Shropshire on 10th December 1842. He is buried in the graveyard at Hadnall, Shropshire.

Hill remained one of Wellington’s favourites and on his death the Duke wrote “Nothing ever occurred to interrupt for one moment the friendly and intimate relations that subsisted between us”
Wellington said of him “the best of Hill is that I always know where to find him”.