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1807: Bitter condemnation of disastrous battle plan recorded in Cuckfield Church

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Captain Percy Burrell's death in futile British action recalled on monument

A striking white and grey relief on the south wall of Holy Trinity Church powerfully commemorates the heroic death of Captain Percy Burrell Monument.

It was sculpted by John Bacon (the younger) and can be found close to the church font.

Underneath the monument is a fiercely critical condemnation, by his brothers, of the poorly planned British action in South America and its tragic consequences for Captain Percy Burrell:

Sculptural relief of Captain Burrell's death

Sacred to the memory of Percy Burrell. Captain in the Sixth Regiment Of Dragoon Guards, Fourth son of Sir William Burrell Bart of Knepp in the county of Sussex. And Sophia eldest daughter of Sir Charles Raymond Bart.

This gallant officer was born on the 5th of July 1779, and at the ill-concerted and fatal attack on Buenos-Ayres on the 5th of July 1807, afforded an example of that self devotion, so frequent in the military annals of his country: For whilst leading the column of dismounted cavalry after the untimely fall of his superior officer lt. Col. Kington. And whilst in the act of encouraging by his intrepid example the exertions of his men, who were exposed to a most destructive fire, he was mortally wounded by a musket shot.

Thus fell in the career of honour and the prime of life, this brave and accomplished gentleman, regretted and lamented by all who knew the excellent qualities of his heart and mind. And by none more truly than his fellow soldiers.

Monument shown in church location

His two surviving brothers have caused this monument to be erected. As a tribute of respect to departed worth. And a mournful testimony of their fraternal affection.

Wikipedia reveals more about this battle: The British invasions of the Río de la Plata were a series of unsuccessful British attempts to seize control of the Spanish colonies located around the La Plata Basin in South America.

The invasions took place between 1806 and 1807, as part of the Napoleonic Wars, when Spain was an ally of France.

The invasions were in two phases. A detachment from the British Army occupied Buenos Aires for 46 days in 1806 before being expelled. In 1807, a second force occupied Montevideo, following the Battle of Montevideo (1807), remaining for several months, and a third force made a second attempt to take Buenos Aires.

After several days of street-fighting against the local militia in which half of the British forces in Buenos Aires were killed or wounded, the British were forced to withdraw. The resistance of the local people and their active participation in the defence, with no support from the Spanish Kingdom, were important steps toward the May Revolution in 1810, and the Argentine Declaration of Independence in 1816.'

Sources: Public Sculptures of Sussex website


Contributed (and photos) by Malcolm Davison



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