LIEUTENANT FRANCIS MAGUIRE of the 4th King's Own Regiment of Foot
Lieutenant Francis Maguire of the 4th King's Own Regiment of Foot
An initial attack on the fortress of San Sebastian was a failure and a siege began. At the end of August after a bombardment, Lieutenant Francis Maguire led the 'Forlorn Hope', a small group of about forty men who formed the initial attack. Maguire was commissioned into the 4th "King’s Own" Regiment in 1804, at the age of 12 years, and throughout his school life he had to report himself on muster day to the military authorities.
At sixteen he joined his regiment, and went to the Peninsular and was mentioned in despatches for acts of gallantry at the battles of Albuera, Salamanca and Vittoria. A standard taken by him at Salamanca hung for many years in the chapel of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.
At Vittoria during an assault upon the bridge his company was twice repulsed. Francis Maguire resolutely placed the colours upon the parapet, where they were shot to pieces in his hands.
On the 31st August 1813, his twenty-first birthday, Maguire was selected to lead the Forlorn Hope. 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.
First out of the advanced trench, Maguire far out-stripped all who followed, but at the foot of the great breach he was shot dead, and the stormers went sweeping like a dark surge over his body and into the breach.
The losses in the siege were very heavy; the King's Own lost 122 officers and men including Lieutenant Maguire. A further 176 men were wounded.
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Illustration by David Higham