Henry Bell Binnie

My great Grandfather Henry Bell Binnie inherited his middle name from his mother and his first name from his father but other than that I knew little more than the usual names, dates and church records. At least until I came across the miltary record that listed his grandfather's marriage to Mary Inglis and the birth dates of his children Henry anmd Agnes.

It had always struck me as odd that Henry and Mary should marry in 1806 and yet there were no children registered until ten years later. It is possible that the had other children who died at birth but unlikely that they would have escaped the church registrar's notice. The record casts a new light on events - Henry Bell was simply out of the country.

British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records

According to the military record (which I think relates to Mary's widow's pension in 1833), Henry was a gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery so I checked the Forces War Records website and discovered that he had been awarded the Military General Service Medal (MGSM).

The MGSM was for military actions from 1793 to 1814; a period covering the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. Each battle or action covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon, with twenty-nine bars been awarded.

It was these bars that give a glimpse into Henry's military career, at least that part of it that covered the Peninsular War, part of the greater Napoleonic Wars. Below is a brief description of the actions that Henry took part in with links to Wikipedia for more detailed information.

Ciudad Rodrigo
A small cathedral city in the province of Salamanca, it was a key border fortress, it was the site of a 10-day siege by the Duke of Wellington and its capture from the French opened up the invasion of Spain in 1812.

In the Battle of Salamanca, an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont's French forces among the hills around Arapiles, south of Salamanca, Spain on 22 July 1812 during the Peninsular War.

At the Battle of Vitoria (21 June 1813) a British, Portuguese and Spanish army under Wellington broke the French army under Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan near Vitoria in Spain, eventually leading to victory in the Peninsular War.

The Battle of the Pyrenees was a large-scale offensive launched on 25 July 1813 by Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult from the Pyrénées region on Emperor Napoleon’s order, in the hope of relieving French garrisons under siege at Pamplona and San Sebastián. After initial success the offensive ground to a halt in face of increased allied resistance under the command of Wellington. Soult abandoned the offensive on 30 July and headed toward France, having failed to relieve either garrison.

Henry's Military General Service Medal

The Battle of Orthez (27 February 1814) saw the Anglo-Portuguese Army under Wellington attack an Imperial French army led by Marshal Nicolas Soult in southern France.

The Battle of Toulouse (10 April 1814) was one of the final battles of the Napoleonic Wars, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition.

On the right is the MGSM that Henry was eligible for. As you can see, it carries of a young Queen Victoria who was born after the Napoleonic Wars and who didn't become queen until 1837. This is because the medal was only awarded to surviving claimants who had to survive until 1847 and then actively apply for it. As mentioned above, I suspect that Henry died around 1833 so he probably never received his medal, although I have found no other records to confirm this.

Henry and Mary had two children and the eldest, also named Henry, remained firmly on Scottish soil working as a blacksmith. He married Agnes Forgie in 1839 in Linlithgow, Muiravonside. They had six children, the youngest being Mary Bell, my great-great grandmother who married James Binnie in 1875 and the story continues on my Binnie pages.

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