Today is Badajoz Day, which commemorates the successful storming of the fortified Spanish city of Badajoz on 6 April 1812. Traditionally, The Sherwood Foresters Regiment raise a red coat at the Castle to mark the day, a custom which will continue from next year. Jennifer Brookman-Moore, Curator & Archivist of the Museum of the Mercian Regiment, the successors of the Sherwood Foresters – which is housed at the Castle – tells us more about the event that this tradition honours.
The raising of the Red Jacket has been a long tradition for the Mercian Regiment on the 6 April every year; marked in the Regimental Calendar as Badajoz Day since the 19th Century, and wars with Napoleonic France and their allies in Spain. The British Army, under the command of the Duke of Wellington (famous for Waterloo and boots), were dispatched to the Iberian Peninsular to defend Portugal and support the deposed Spanish leaders. These British, Portuguese and Spanish allied forces were able to win a series of victories against the French and drove them out of the peninsular, in turn playing a huge part in the first defeat of Napoleon.
The British Army planned to attack the fort town of Badajoz from mid-March 1812, and it was there that the then Lieutenant James Macpherson was selected by his Commanding Officer to observe the movement and operations of the French. James noticed that part of the fort was left unprotected. On the 6 April an assault began at 10 o’clock and one of the first up the ladders was Macpherson, who found that the ladder was too short by 3 foot, calling his comrades to push it upwards. No sooner had his comrades pushed the ladder up, the young lieutenant was shot by a French soldier and unable to move with two broken ribs. The ladder then gave way and he was left in the ditch. Wounded and bleeding, Macpherson re-climbed one of the ladders into the French-held defences. He made his way to the fort’s stronghold, where the French flag was flying. Taking down the French flag, Macpherson realised he did not have a Union Jack so instead hoisted his own red jacket (the uniform for British soldiers at the time) up the flagpole to signal that the fort had been captured by his ingenuity.
Macpherson was promoted to the rank of Captain on 25th April 1815, Major in 1832 and Lieutenant-Colonel with the Ceylon Rifles on 27th March 1835. James never married and died aged 53 at Galle in Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka).
The Sherwood Foresters served with great bravery throughout the Peninsular War and it was at the Battle of Talavera, where the regiment won the nickname “Old Stubborns” in July 1809, for their stout defence when outnumbered by the attacking French who they repeatedly drove back.
The actions of Lieutenant Macpherson, at the Battle of Badajoz and those of the regiment are remembered every 6 April when the Mercian Regiment raises a red jacket on a flag pole in every location where the Regiment is stationed to mark their bravery, fortitude and, yes sometimes, stubbornness.
Jennifer Brookman-Moore is Curator and Archivist of Museum of the Mercian Regiment (WFR Collection). The Museum of the Mercian Regiment gallery can be found in the Castle. You can keep up to date with them over on Twitter, Facebook, and their website.