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A English soldier fallen on Spanish soil

May 7, 2012 – 1:11 pm

Leafing through the papers yesterday, as you do on a Sunday morning, I was fascinated to come across the story of an English soldier called John Scrope Colquitt who fought with the Spanish in their War of Independence (also known as the Peninsular War) against Napoleon’s occupying French army.

The lieutant-colonel, who served with the Allies in a British regiment called the Foot Guards, was buried 200 years ago in Alacalá de Guadaira, a town near Seville. A busy junction in the town, where roads have crossed for centuries, has been known locally ever since as La Cruz del Inglés (The Cross of the Englishman). However, apparently few people in the area were aware of the origin of the crossroad’s name: the life, and death, which it marks.

Lt-Col Colquitt, who was born in Liverpool, took part with his regiment in the Battle of Barrosa (Chiclana, Cadiz) on 5 March 1811, where he was seriously wounded. The following year, the Foot Guards sailed to Huelva and then marched to Seville, to help in the city’s liberation on 27 August 1812. Colquitt and his men were part of the Allied Force which helped defend the Triana boat bridge from the French, who tried to destroy it.

Afterwards the regiment was sent to Alcalá, recently abandoned by French troops. The colonel died of a high fever in Seville on 4 September 1812 and was buried the next day in a field at the town’s entrance (he wasn’t allowed in the graveyard, not being a Catholic), his grave marked with a cross and an engraved stone plaque.

Last week, the soldier’s memory was honoured by the Ayuntamiento of Alcalá with a three-metre-high monument with a plaque explaining (in English and Spanish) about Colquitt. The unveiling was attended by some of Colquitt’s descendants, who had travelled from England for the ceremony. A bugler from the Grenadier Guards – resplendent in his red jacket and bearskin hat, as worn by the guards of Buckingham Palace – provided suitable military gravitas. The memorial itself was created in collaboration with a new association, La Cruz del Inglés 2012.

The Mayor of Alcalá said that Colquitt symbolised: “la lucha por la libertad, precisamente en un año en el que se conmemora el Bicentenario de la Guerra de la Independencia” (the fight for freedom, in the very year when the bicentenary of the War of Independence is being commemorated).

This is the English version of inscription on Colquitt’s original gravestone from 1812:

“SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN SCROOP (SIC) COLQUITT ESQ LIEUT COLONEL IN HIS BRITTANIC MAJESTYS 1st REGt OF FOOT GUARDS WHO DIED IN SEVILLE THE 5th OF SEPTEMBER 1812 AGED 37 YEARS OF A FEVER BROUGHT ON IN THE CONSEQUENCE OF EXCESSIVE FATIGUE DURING THE MARCH TO SEVILLE, AND OF THE GREAT EXERTIONS WHICH HE MADE WHILST GALLANTLY LEADING ON HIS BATTALION TO THE ATTACK OF THE BRIDGE OF TRIANA, ON THE 27 OF AUGUST 1812″

You can see an exhibition in the Museo de la Cuidad, entitled La Cruz del Ingles: 200 años de leyenda urbana, from 10 May to 23 September.

This document has a detailed account of Colquitt’s life.

  1. 3 Responses to “A English soldier fallen on Spanish soil”

  2. Fiona, Thanks for relating that; it was so interesting. I missed it in the Sunday papers myself. Thanks also for the link to the pdf at the end as well.

    By Bert Selby on May 7, 2012

  3. Glad you enjoyed it Bert, it was fun to write. I’m going to try and visit the new memorial and exhibition in Alcalá myself, since I’m always fascinated by tales of fellow English over here in Andalucia.

    By fiona on May 7, 2012

  4. I have just stumbled across your site after endlessly googling for an answer to a question I thought I had found here, but sadly I didn’t. Please could you help me? For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the Mancunian who fought for independence in South America, if you can help it would be massively appreciated, thanks!

    By sean mcgoldrick on Sep 18, 2012

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