Walcheren Campaign

Walcheren Campaign

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Walcheren Campaign
partof=the War of the Fifth Coalition

date=30 July9 December 1809
place=Walcheren, Netherlands
result=French victory
combatant1=flagicon|France First French Empire
flagicon|Netherlands Kingdom of Holland
combatant2=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
commander1=Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte
Louis Claude Monnet de Lorbeau
commander2=Lord Chatham
Sir Richard Strachan
casualties1=5,000 dead, wounded or captured
5,000+ sick
casualties2=4,000 dead, wounded or captured
12,000+ sick
The Walcheren Campaign was an unsuccessful British expedition to the Netherlands in 1809 intended to open another front in the Austrian Empire's struggle with France during the War of the Fifth Coalition. Around 40,000 soldiers, 15,000 horses together with field artillery and two siege trains crossed the North Sea and landed at Walcheren on 30 July. This was the largest British expedition of that year, larger than the army serving in the Peninsular War in Portugal. The Walcheren Campaign involved little fighting, but heavy losses from the sickness popularly dubbed "Walcheren Fever". Over 4,000 British troops died (only 106 in combat) and the rest withdrew on 9 December 1809.

The primary aim of the campaign was to destroy the French fleet thought to be in Flushing whilst providing a diversion for the hard-pressed Austrians. However, the Battle of Wagram had already occurred before the start of the campaign and the Austrians had effectively already lost the war.

The army was commanded by John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham whilst the navy was commanded by Sir Richard Strachan. As a first move, the British seized the swampy island of Walcheren at the mouth of river Scheldt as well as South Beveland island, both in the present-day Netherlands. The British troops soon began to suffer from malaria; within a month of seizing the island, they had over 8,000 fever cases. The medical provisions for the expedition proved inadequate despite reports that an occupying French force had lost 80% of its numbers a few years earlier, also due to disease.

The French forces were commanded by Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who had just been stripped of his command after disobeying orders at Wagram. Dismissed from Napoleon's Grand Armée, Bernadotte returned to Paris and was sent to the defense of the Netherlands by the council of ministers. He led the French forces competently and although the British captured Flushing and surrounding towns on 15 August, he had already ordered the French fleet to Antwerp and heavily reinforced the city. With the main objective for the British out of reach, the expedition was called off in early September. Around 12,000 troops stayed on Walcheren, but by October only 5,500 remained fit for duty.

In all, the British government spent almost £8 million on the campaign. Along with the 4,000 men that had died during the campaign, almost 12,000 were still ill by February 1810 and many others remained permanently weakened. Those sent to the Peninsular War to join Wellington's army caused a permanent doubling of the sick lists there.

External links

* [http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/battles/c_walcheren.html The British Expeditionary Force to Walcheren: 1809]

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