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200th Anniversary Exhibition

Lieutenant Francis Maguire and the Forlorn Hope at San Sebastian,
31st August 1813

"The Fourth led and perhaps in the whole history of war there cannot be found a stronger instance of courage and obedience to orders."
Major General Robinson, 1813

Commentary on the Action

Sir William Napier’s “History of the Peninsular War” Volume V:

“The forlorn hope had before passed beyond the play of the mine, and now speeded along the strand amidst a shower of grape and shells, the leader Lieutenant Maguire, of the fourth regiment, conspicuous from his long white plume, his fine figure and his swiftness, bounding far ahead of his men in all the pride of youthful strength and courage; but at the foot of the great breach he fell dead, and the stormers went sweeping like a dark surge over his body-”

W H Fitchett’s “How England Saved Europe, The War in the Peninsular” Volume III The Storming of San Sebastian.

“Maguire of the 4th who led the forlorn hope, was conspicuous for his stately height and noble figure, and as he lay dead on the breach after the fight was over, his face as a brother officer wrote “had the classic beauty of sculptured marble.”

Sir R D Henegan’s "Seven Years Campaigning"

San Sebastian: There are some who will ever be remembered by those who knew them. One of the foremost of these was the brave Maguire. His beautiful countenance as he lay stretched in the sleep of death at the foot of the breach, wore a sweet smile; and a calm serenity was spread over it which seemed to say "I have exchanged the bloody strife of man for the peacefulness of Heaven." Who can forget Maguire who led the forlorn hope at San Sebastian.

Early on the morning of the assault, Maguire was seen dressed with unusual care, as if for some great occasion. Someone remarked upon it to him, when he replied: "When we are going to meet all our old friends, whom we have not seen for many years, it is very natural to wish to look as well as possible."

Notes from Colonel Fitzherbert, late King’s Own, March 1910.

St. Sebastian: It is a tradition of the Peninsular War, that there was no more gallant conduct shown during the campaign, than the leading of Lieutenant Maguire of the forlorn hope at St. Sebastian.

I have heard all officers of the King’s Own (General Gamble for one) describe the occurrence.

The approach to the breach of St. Sebastian was most difficult. Although the space from the advanced trench to the breach was only some 800 yards, it was almost completely covered at high tide by waters flowing into the mouth of the Urumea River. When these receded, they left a surface over which indeed it was possible for men to advance, but pitted with sharp rocks and deep holes of sea water that greatly retarded rapid movement.

Lieutenant Maguire of the King’s Own, who led the forlorn hope, was a splendid athlete of striking appearance, reputed to be the fastest runner in the army. He was not only an athlete, but a man of most engaging manners, loved by all ranks of the regiment. He never smoked or drank wine.

First out of the advanced trench, he far out-stripped all who followed, and reached the foot of the breach yards ahead of the forlorn hope he commanded. Then, an example for all time, he was shot dead, and none have ever ventured to dispute, what the regiment claim, he first reached the breach at St. Sebastian.

bulletThe Mother, Elizabeth Maguire
bulletThe Mother's Letters
bulletThe Hero: Lieutenant Francis Maguire
bulletThe Painting
bulletCommentary on the Action


© Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store.

© 2013 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum