The heroism shown by Irish soldiers at the forefront of defeating Napoleon has been recalled with the discovery of a 200-year-old medal.
Awarded to Private Peter McMullen following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the medal will be one of the main attractions of an exhibition at the home of the famous Inniskillings – Enniskillen Castle – in May.
Two regiments raised in Fermanagh appeared on the battlefield together for the first time at Waterloo and played a vital role in the fierce fighting that changed the course of history in Europe.
Pte McMullen, who came from a weaving background in Downpatrick, was seriously wounded while ‘holding the square’ in the face of French cannon fire.
Remarkably, his heavily pregnant wife was with other Army wives nearby and, fearing her husband was dead, she rushed into the midst of bodies.
Despite her being hit in the leg with a musket ball, she discovered her husband still barely alive and managed to drag him to the edge of the battlefield where help was available. Pte McMullen lost both arms due to his injuries.
Elizabeth McMullen later gave birth to a healthy baby girl at a hospital in Chelsea.
When told of the couple’s bravery, the Duke of York visited them in hospital and agreed to be Godfather to the infant who was christened Frederica McMullen of Waterloo.
The hero’s Waterloo medal has now been found with a dealer in England who was keen to have it returned to its “natural home” with the Inniskillings Museum.
Two centuries on from what has become one of the most famous battles in history, Pte McMullen’s award will take pride of place during the series of events in Enniskillen marking the anniversary.
As part of the major commemorations across Europe, there will also be a memorial service at Enniskillen Cathedral which houses the regimental chapel.
The line-up for the local events on May 30 will include re-enactors, military musicians, displays of drill and weapons of the day.
A number of VIPs are expected to attend.
Both regiments – the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons – would adopt as their badge the emblem of the twin-turreted Watergate at Enniskillen Castle with the flag of St George, still borne by their descendent ‘Skins’ regiments today.
Following his defeat, Napoleon is reputed to have commented: “That regiment with castles on their caps composes of the most obstinate mules I ever saw; they don’t know when they are beaten.”
The Duke of Wellington said of the Skins: “They saved the centre of my line at Waterloo.”