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landing waiter

Edward John Eliot

Captain Edward John Eliot (20 September 1782 Shenstone, Staffordshire – 6 November 1863 Peckham, Surrey ) was the son of Francis Perceval Eliot and Anne Breynton. He was born into a military family - the son of a Colonel, the grandson and great grandson of Generals, but he himself never rose above the rank of Captain. His letters and papers form an important record of military life for this period.

He enrolled at the age of 15 into his father's Staffordshire Militia as an Ensign (1797), and a Lieutenant (1799). In 1799, he transferred as Ensign of the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot. His unit sailed from Ireland in May 1800 to the Isle de Houal, in Quiberon Bay, where 40 years earlier the Battle of Quiberon Bay had been fought. However, bad weather prevented a landing and he went on to Minorca where stayed until at least October 1801. By October 1802, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant and posted to Athenry in Ireland. He saw several excursions to the Mediterranean and was promoted to Captain, 4th Garrison Battalion.

During 1807, the Peninsula War was beginning and Edward was among the first of the British troops to fight in the Iberian peninsula, alongside his older brother William Granville Eliot, who was in another regiment. Edward now saw major military action over the next 5 years, including the Battle of Vimiero (following which he was promoted to Captain, 27th Inniskillen Regiment of Foot), the Battle of Talavera, Battle of Buçaco, Defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras, Battle of Badajoz. During this period, he fought in the elite Lord Hill's Flying Brigade.

Having fought in many of the major battles of the campaign, he returned home in 1812. Although he tried to rejoin his regiment, he was clearly unwell and in 1814 retired from the Army altogether aged just 32.

On 22 November, 1826, at Huntingdon, he married Margaret James, the daughter of George James, the captain, later colonel, of the Northumberland Regiment, and had 7 children. They settled in Greenwich, Finsbury and eventually Peckham, Surrey , where he joined HM Customs as a landing waiter - a secure job for an ex-army person.

The army had initially refused him the usual Peninsula campaign medals. However, following a protracted communication, these were finally awarded in the 1840s, 25 years after his return. Together with letters from the Peninsula War, this communication forms a substantial record of his military career.

He retired in the 1850s and died at Peckham in 1863.

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