This is an official letter received by an officer who was wounded in the Waterloo campaign, granting him a “disability payment” as recompense. It was received by Lieutenant William Riach, who was badly injured at the Battle of Quatre Bras, two days before Waterloo. This letter allowed him to claim a year’s worth of pay from the British Army to cover his medical expenses.
Lieutenant William Riach was one of 27 officers of the 79th (Cameron Highlanders) Regiment of Foot wounded during the Waterloo Campaign. The regiment’s losses over the three days of 16 – 18 June 1815 were a staggering 71% – 60 killed, 417 wounded and 2 missing, of a complement of 675 effectives. The officers also had a high casualty rate – 31 of 46 (67%) were killed or wounded. Many of these casualties occurred at the Battle of Quatre Bras on the 16 June.
We do not know details of Riach’s wounds, but they were clearly severe. He obviously incurred expenses during his recovery. These could have been apothecary’s fees, payment for lodgings and possibly surgeon’s charges as well. The letter from the War Office is dated 11 December 1815, six months after Riach’s wounding. Through his regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Douglas, Riach had applied for financial assistance direct to London since he could not have been examined by the Court of Examiners at the London College of Surgeons. He was presumably still in hospital in Brussels.
His ‘disability award’ was a year’s pay for a lieutenant (£118.12s.6d), the equivalent today of about £9,500. This would be in addition to his prize money, awarded to all men who fought in the Waterloo campaign.
William Riach was commissioned two years before Waterloo on 17 June 1813. He may have served in the latter part of the Peninsular War. The 79th Cameron Highlanders was a regiment raised in 1794 by Lieutenant General Sir Alan Cameron (then a major) to aid the war effort. It suffered greatly from sickness in the 1799 campaign in the Netherlands and had to be raised once more.
The writer of this annotation used to possess a coat button from William Riach’s jacket, worn at Quatre Bras. The brief description for the button stated that Riach had carried the regimental colours for a period during that action.
Find it here
This object is in the collection of Regimental Museum of The Queen’s Own Highlanders