Skip to main content

Henry Maidment – Forgotten War Hero



Henry Maidment was an agricultural labourer who lived in the village of Pimperne.  In 1866, Henry was one of the few surviving British Army veterans who had fought Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Army in the Spanish Peninsular War. 


At 83, he could not work and had hit hard times. He was surviving on a parish handout of just two shillings and sixpence (12.5p) per week and a single loaf of bread. The octogenarian pauper had, in fact, a distinguished military record but had left the army without a military pension.                                                                     
Henry Maidment fought in the Battles of Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle and Toulouse. For this, he was entitled to a Military General Service Medal with clasps. Each of his major battles was represented by a clasp on the ribbon. Such a medal was valued in 2006 to be worth £3,700. In August 1815, his battalion had even accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte into exile on the island of St Helena. 


In March 1866, a letter about Henry Maidment appeared in the columns of the London Times newspaper. Signed by 2ndLieutenant of Dorset, George Mansel he described Henry as a fine old soldier now suffering hard times. He invited the assistance of the public towards maintaining this old Peninsular War veteran, whom he said had no other maintenance than a tiny parish payout. 

On Friday 6 April 1866 a more acidic but unsigned letter about Henry Maidment appeared in the Western Gazette.

‘I read in the Times of 28th, a letter signed by a gentleman of property and position, as I am told, in Pimperne – Colonel Mansel. If this be so, more shame, I think for the Colonel, Lord Portman, and other rich proprietors in the parish and neighbourhood, who must surely might afford, among them, to keep this poor old soldier in comfort, without invoking the powerful aid of your columns to assist them.’


It is not known when our forgotten soldier, Henry Maidment died but there is no mention of him in his village’s 1871 census. He lived in an era when an agricultural labourer rarely left his home village. However, as a soldier he experienced Ireland, Portugal, Spain and France and would have visited cities such as Cork, Porto, Toulouse and Bordeaux. Quite different places compared to the village of Pimperne!  Undoubtedly though, the finest achievement of Henry Maidment was to survive the six major bloody battles of the Spanish Peninsular War. It was a period also, when armies lost more soldiers from disease than in battle. One can but hope that the appeal made on his behalf eservingly led to the old Dorset infantryman spending his last few years in a little more comfort.

(Illustration: A Peninsular War Veteran with his medal.)

(Source: British Newspaper Archive.)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the

Shapwick Sea Monster

On a Tuesday in October 1706, a travelling Poole fishmonger was wheeling his cart on the outskirts of the village of Shapwick. Unknown to him, a large crab fell from his barrow. This was to cause panic and alarm among the Shapwick villagers. Living inland, and perhaps in the 18 th century not having travelled beyond Blandford, the Shapwick villagers had never before seen a crab. Trudging home and exhausted by his day’s labour, a Shapwick farm worker discovered this crawling creature by stepping on it. So strange was its appearance, he believed it was the devil himself. Running on to the village, he told everyone excitingly of his horrid find. Fearing it was the work of the devil, the villagers armed themselves with pitchforks, sticks and stones. Knowing not what to do, they decided to consult the shepherd Rowe considered by many to be the local wise man. Sadly, the aging oracle was now past his prime and for the last six years had been confined to his bed. The old man was as infirm as

Blandford Races

It might not have been Ascot, Epsom or Aintree but Blandford Races was once quite an important event in the county’s social calendar. Blandford Races date back to 1603 and were held on the downs which today would be part of Blandford Camp. Meetings continued until the middle of the 19 th  century with few breaks in between. The longest interruption was when Oliver Cromwell was Head of State and Government. As Lord Protector he was not amused by such events. Apart from horse racing, there were other entertainments. These included wrestling matches, cock fighting and dancing. Much feasting took place which was highly lucrative for the town. In 1780, cudgel playing was advertised and resulted in a Shaftebury man losing his left eye. This was then replaced by a sword and dagger contest between the gentlemen of Dorset and Somerset. One of the race patrons was Lord Palmerston who was later to be Prime Minister. In 1824, he had had a winner, Luzborough in the Dorsetshire Gold Cup. Normally he