Order of Battle for the British Auxiliary Legion in the First Carlist War

In May 1835 the Spanish government asked the British for permission to raise a force of 10,000 volunteers for service against Don Carlos in the First Carlist War (Spiers, 1983). The British agreed, seeing this as a better alternative to direct intervention, although they did also provide regulars in support. The British Auxiliary Legion was sanctioned in Jun 1835 with the first detachments arriving in Spain on 10 Jul. The initial full strength of 7,800 was on the ground by the end of Oct. Of the first contingent 3,200 were English, 2,800 were Irish and 1,800 Scots. Most were civilians with no military experience, including the officers. The men enlisted in the Spanish army, but under British conditions of service.

The Spanish also requested that Sir George de Lacy Evans command the British Auxiliary Legion (Spiers, 1983). Evans was a liberal MP and had some military experience from the Peninsular 20 years earlier. Although a colonel in British service, once in Spain he had the local rank of lieutenant-general.

The first British Auxiliary Legion was disbanded on 10 Jun 1837, and was immediately replaced by a smaller second Legion (Duncan, 1997; Somerville, 1995). This in turn was disbanded on 8 Dec 1837 and replaced by an even smaller British Auxiliary Brigade

British Auxiliary Legion – The first Legion, 1835-1837

The Legion arrived in Santander in July 1835, and was disbanded on 10 June 1837 (Duncan, 1997; Field, 1995; Parsons, 1996; Somerville, 1995; Spiers, 1983). It contained 11 infantry regiments/battalions and two lancer regiments.

Unit Nationality Sep/Oct 1835 * Early 1836 3 March 1837 May 1837 **
1st English English
2nd English English Merged into 1st.
3rd Westminster Grenadiers English Merged into 4th .***
4th Queen’s Own Fusiliers English
5th Scotch Scottish Merged into 6th and 8th.
6th Scotch Grenadiers Scottish
7th Irish Light Infantry Irish Merged into Rifles
8th Highlanders Scottish
9th Irish Irish
10th Munster Light Infantry **** Irish Merged into 9th.
Rifles English
1st Lancers Reina Isabel English
2nd Lancers Queen’s Own Irish Irish
Artillery English
Corps of Sappers and Miners Various Formed after arrival from existing personnel
Hospital Transport Corps Various Formed after arrival from existing personnel

* When they arrived at Santander.

** After the Battle of Oriamendi (16 March 1837)

*** Mentioned on 3 March 1837 but wasn’t involved in Oriamendi Offensive.

**** Field (1995) calls the 10th Munster Light Infantry the “Break-of-Day boys” although his editor corrects this to “Peep-o’-Day boys”.

All foot units were single Battalion Regiments with 6 Battalion/Centre companies, 1 Light Company, and 1 Grenadier Company. Hmm, I guess the Rifles and Marines didn’t (??), but all Line Regiments did.

British Regulars attached to the Legion

On occasion some regular British troops were attached to the Legion, including

  • British Royal Marines (400 men according to Duncan, 1997)
  • British Royal Marine artillery
  • British Royal artillery (Somerville, 1995, calls them the “Royal Woolwich Artillery”)
  • The Chapelgorris, a Cristino volunteer unit, was attached to the Legion from 1836.

The first British Marines under Lord John Hay (the British Commodore) landed to garrison Portugalete in Apr 1836 (Holt, 1967). In May the Royal Marines were expanded to a full battalion under Major Owen (Field, 1995). Small detachments of Royal Marine Artillery, Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers were subsequently added.

In Nov 1836 39 officer and men of the British Royal Artillery joined the Naval force supporting the British Auxiliary Legion (Duncan, 1997). 60 additional men arrived in Jan 1837. There were also 100 men of hte Royal Marine Artillery. Cairns says all British Artillery used 9-pounder smoothbore field pieces and 51/2” howitzers, along with a few Congreve rocket launchers and light mountain pieces. Somerville (1995), however, gives the British Auxiliary Legion 6-pounders and short 12-pounders (presumably howitzers) and the Royal Artillery larger pieces including large howitzers.

Duncan (1997) organises the British artillery force as follows:

British Royal and Marine Artillery

1 x Field Battery: 2 x light 6-pounders and 2 x 12-pounder howitzers in total; wagons drawn by mules

1 x Mountain Battery (Royal Artillery): 4 x 12-pounder mountain howitzers; some 12-pounder rockets; mules

1 x Royal Artillery Rocket detachment

1 x Reserve Artillery: 2 x 18-pounder guns

British Auxiliary Legion Artillery

1 x Field Battery: 2 x light 6-pounders and 2 x 12-pounder howitzers in total

Spanish artillery:

1 x Mountain Battery: 4 guns

Guns of position drawn by bullocks.

British Naval Squadron

The British provided the Spanish government with a Naval squadron under Commodore Lord John Hay (Field, 1995): Included at one point or another:

  • HMS Castor
  • HMS Saracen
  • HMS Royalist
  • HMS Phoenix

5 May 1836: Order of Battle

On 5 May 1836 the Legion was divided into English, Irish and Scotch Brigades, with the Chapelgorris assigned to the Scotch Brigade (Parsons, 1996).

Light Brigade Irish Brigade General Chichester’s Brigade
3rd Westminster Grenadiers
6th Scotch Grenadiers
7th Irish Light Infantry
9th Irish
10th Munster Light Infantry
1st English
4th Queen’s Own Fusiliers
8th Highlanders
800 Spanish Troops

I don’t know where the 1st Lancers and the Artillery were assigned. The 2nd Lancers were left behind when the Legion moved to San Sebastian in May 1836, but saw active service alongside Spanish units (Parsons, 1996). The 2nd English and 5th Scotch had already been disbanded.

May 1837: Order of Battle

The Legion was divided into an English Brigade, an Irish Brigade and a Scotch Brigade (Parsons, 1996). The Chapelgorris were brigaded with the Scots.

Jun 1836: Order of Battle

Duncan (1997) also gives Evans the following troops in Jun 1836 (from p 74):

9 regiments of the British Auxiliary Legion (4,500 men)
1 battalion Chapel Gorris (400 men)
3 battalions of Zaragoza (1,1880 men)
2 battalions of Light Infantry (1,250 men)
1 battalion of Oviedo (650 men)
1 battalion of Segovia (650 men)
1 battalion of Jaen (at Guetaria ) (670 men)
Royal Marines (400 men)
Regiment of Cavalry

The British Auxiliary Legion – The Second Legion, 1837

Formed 10 Jun 1837 and disbanded 8 Dec 1837 (Duncan, 1997; Somerville, 1995).

Somerville (1995) gives the new forces 810 infantry (organised into three battalions: Scotch, Irish and Rifle), 250 Lancers, 200 Artillerymen, 130 Sappers and hospital staff.

The Orbat on 1 Jul 1837 according to Duncan (1997, p. 46):

Corps Officers Sergeants Rank and File
Rifles 26 32 341
Scotch 25 25 289
Irish 21 26 294
Lancers 22 26 267
Artillery 25 4 209
Sappers 2 4 52
Ambulance 1 4 51
Total 122 121 1503
Grand Total 1746

The British Auxiliary Brigade, 1838 to 1839

A British Brigade was formed on 1 Mar 1838 from the remainder of the Second Legion still in Spain and willing to serve (Duncan, 1997):

Corps Officers Sergeants Rank and File Total
Staff 3 3
Artillery 12 9 186 207
Lancers 16 22 15 192
Total 30 31 341 402

In Jan 1839 the artillery had four light brass 6-pounders and two 12-pounder howitzers (Duncan, 1997).


Cairns, C. (1995d, December). A Savage and Romantic War: Spain 1833-1840. Part 5: The Battle of Oriamendi. Wargames Illustrated, 99, 24-30.

Chant, R. H. (1983). Spanish Tiger: The Life and Times of Ramón Cabrera. New York: Midas.

Duncan, F. (1997). The English in Spain: The story of the War of Succession between 1834 and 1840 (Vols. 1-6). UK: Pallas Armata. (Original work published 1877.)

Field, C. (1995, Sept). Some account of the British operations against the Carlists, 1836-1837. Tonbridge, UK: Pallas Armata. Reprinted from the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution LXII:446, May 1917, p209-223.

Holt, E. (1967). The Carlist Wars in Spain. London: Putnam.

Parsons, P. (1996, Nov). The British Auxiliary Legion of the First Carlist War (The First Legion 1835-37). Wargames Illustrated 110, p18-19.

Somerville, A. (1995, Aug). History of the British Legion and War in Spain. Tonbridge, UK: Pallas Armata. Reprinted from the edition published by James Pattie, 1839.

Speirs, E. M. (1983). Radical General: Sir George De Lacy Evans 1787 – 1870. Manchester University Press.

1 thought on “Order of Battle for the British Auxiliary Legion in the First Carlist War”

  1. have you any information on Lt. Colonel John O;Meara, who fought in the British Auxiliary legion?


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