135 year-old photo sheds light on last surviving Chelsea Pensioners who were veterans of the Battle of Waterloo

17th June 2015

A photo taken at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1880 shows five of the last surviving Chelsea Pensioners to play a role at the Battle of Waterloo.

The 135 year-old photo, unearthed at the Royal Hospital and now on display at Windsor Castle, is annotated with the names of the veterans and details of their involvement in the campaign. These details have enabled archivists at the Royal Hospital to discover more about the lives of these last surviving soldiers, in the 200th anniversary year of the battle. 



Included in the photo (and at 95 the eldest at the time of the photo) is Private John McKay, who took part in the historic battle aged 20 as part of the 42nd Regiment of Foot, which he had joined at just 15.  Private McKay would continue to serve with the 42nd where he was promoted to corporal in 1829 and medically discharged in 1837. Having served for over 26 years in the British Army, he moved to Royal Hospital Chelsea as a Chelsea Pensioner in 1877.

Other Chelsea Pensioners in the photo are Robert Norton of the 54th Regt (aged 90), Naish Hannay of the 7th Hussars (88), Benjamin Bumstead of the 73rd Regt (82) and Samson Webb of the 3rd Foot Guards (82).

The Royal Hospital contains several artefacts from the Battle of 1815, including two howitzers and two cannons captured during the campaign, pictured below.  It also has several pieces of Battle of Waterloo art, including a painting of the battle by 19th century artist George Jones.

The Chelsea Pensioners will be attending several commemorative events to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo this week, including a Service of Commemoration at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.


Click for more photos from the Chelsea Pensioners

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