Print of General Baron John Reid of Straloch
Today’s object is a print of General Baron John Reid of Straloch, in the uniform of the Connaught Rangers. The son of Alexander Robertson of Straloch, known as Baron Reid. General Reid joined the Black Watch after transferring from Loudon’s Highlanders, as a Captain-Lieutenant, on 24th June 1751. He achieved his full Captaincy on 3rd June 1752 and was promoted Major on 1st August 1759. Baron Reid commanded the 1st Battalion of the 42nd in the West Indies and was wounded at Martinique in January 1762. He became the Battalion Lieutenant Colonel on 3rd February 1762 and retired on half pay eight years later. In 1781 he was promoted Major General and twelve years later Lieutenant General. Given the Colonelship of the 88th Regiment (Connaught Rangers) in 1794 he achieved full general status in 1798 before dying in London on 6th February 1807. Among a life rich in achievements General Reid is perhaps best known as the man set ‘Garb of Old Gaul,’ to music.
Occurring during the Seven Years War, 1756-1763, the Invasion of Martinique was an attempt by British forces to strangle the profitable French West Indies trade. After the conquest of Canada in 1760, a number of British Battalions were left idle. As a result it was decided to send an expeditionary force to the West Indies to strangle the French trade in the area. By June 1761 the Island of Dominica was taken from the French, and a larger force was assembled for the invasions of Martinique and St Lucia.
As part of the invasion force the 42nd, along with sixteen other battalions of British and loyal American troops, amounting to some 8,000 men, had landed on the island of Martinique by mid-January 1762. The defending French forces had erected a series of defences across the island to hinder the British forces, and each of these had to be stormed in turn. The main focus of the French defence of the island was based around the citadel at Fort Royal, and by the 27th January the British forces were in place to attempt to storm the French defences. However a galling fire from the French defenders at the nearby hill of Morne Grenier caused the attack to be diverted against these troops. Before the attack could be launched though, the French forces sallied out in a last attempt to defeat the British. They attacked in three columns, one of which managed to expose its flank to the soldiers of the 42nd, who promptly proceeded to blast it into oblivion.
The route of this column caused the other two columns to falter in their attack, whereupon a stunning British charge routed them in turn. The British kept up their pursuit through the night and by the next morning all of Morne Grenier had been occupied and British artillery positions set up just 300 metres from Fort Royal.
In effect the route of the French and the setting up of the artillery so close to the Fort spelt the end for French resistance on the island, and on 3rd February the fort surrendered. The loss of Martinique also spelt the end of French domination of the West Indies, and within a few short months the islands of St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent fell to the British, virtually without a shot being fired.