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Lanark’s French connection: Captain Augustus Francis Brard

With 2015 being the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo a look at one of Lanark’s adopted citizens would be of interest. 

During the various campaigns fought against the French under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, numerous prisoners of war were held captive on both sides. However it was not until fairly late during the final period of the war (1802-1815) that Lanark became home to a group of French prisoners. 

In 1811 a group of these prisoners, mainly French officers, were sent to Lanark where they had to remain under their parole of honour. In other words these prisoners were not actually confined but were allowed to mingle with the people of Lanark and could, if they wished, travel within an area of up to about six miles surrounding the town.

The exact number of these prisoners staying in Lanark is not known but it was at least 28.

One of these men was Captain Augustus Francis Brard. Brard was born in 1789 in Normandy. After his education there he was sent to the Military College at St Cyr. On graduating in 1807 he joined the army of Napoleon at Fountainbleau as a Lieutenant.

From there he was sent with a legion to march to Spain and after crossing the Alps served under Murat. This campaign ended in defeat and many prisoners were sent to the Balearic Islands where Brad was later taken by the British and first landed in Scotland at Cupar in Fife. Later he was sent to Lanark where he remained with others in the same situation until the peace of 1814 was signed. 

At this point Brard returned to France and re-joined his regiment. He found that he did not want to serve under the Bourbon Dynasty and obtained leave and returned to Scotland. Once back he married Miss Jean Currie, the daughter of the Procurator Fiscal. Brad had been engaged to Miss Currie at the time of the peace treaty. However just ten days after the marriage word arrived in Lanark that Napoleon had escaped from Elba and on the same day Brad was packed and on his way to try to get back to his native land.

He sailed from Leith to Gravesend where he had to resort to paying a local fisherman to transport him across the Chanel. Once back in Paris he re-joined his old regiment but serving in a different corps. This body of soldiers were presented by Napoleon himself with new eagles in front of a crowd of over 250,000.

The following day Bard and his regiment set out for Ligny where they engaged Prussian forces under Field Marshall Blucher. After prolonged fighting the French finally won the position being contested but not after suffering severe losses. 

During the battle Blucher’s horse was shot out from under him and he was ridden over by cavalry three times but survived to fight on. The following day the French engaged a column of English troops and forced them back until they reached Waterloo. Here the British were already in position and the French soon drew up in battle order. 

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Brard later related his experience of the battle to his friend Hugh Davidson of Lanark, saying: “At exactly half past twelve one of our guns fired from our lines to begin the battle. I was in charge of a company of rifles of 120 men (all excellent shots) and though we belonged to the 1st Division we were sometimes with them and at others were separated. When engaged in a flanking manoeuvre with the Captain of a company next to mine, a cannon ball cut him down at my side. We later were posted in the centre of the battle, near a farm house on the road to Brussels.

“This position was fiercely contested during the battle, frequently taken and re-taken with dreadful slaughter to men of every European nation. We used the dead bodies to provide cover for my men by gathering them into useful heaps. My post was what is called post perdu or forlorn.  Despite our determined resistance we were forced to withdraw and as we retreated the enemy advanced and in the part which corresponded with our position there were in the British lines two field batteries of eight guns, which wheeled round and faced me. The space between us was about the breadth of a road. I had forewarned my men, so that when we were called on to surrender we answered with a volley of half my men, about 60 shots, which told severely on the enemy. As we were about to make away we received abundance of grape shot in return, which in something less than half an hour had killed all my men but seven. I myself fell wounded by a bomb shell, not form the British but the Prussians, who had come up and flanked our right wing more than 30,000 strong. 

I was carried by soldiers to the rear of the British lines, and there found General Cambrone severely wounded; General Count Le Bau, whose horse was killed under him, was also here, having been taken prisoner. When the generals discovered that I spoke English they requested me to interpret for them, and thus I was carried with them on board a man-of-war and taken to England, and eventually to Ashburton, Devon on parole.”

Shortly after the proclamation of peace Mrs V=Brad joined her husband and they went on a visit to France. However they were soon ordered to leave the country as Monsieur Brard was a known staunch Bonanpartist. They returned to Lanark and took up residence here. Two years later he became a co-partner in a business based in Glasgow, which collapsed soon after and almost ruined him. With the aid of some friends he was re-established in a respectable position, that of teaching his native language. He remained in Glasgow for many years where he taught, with success, many of the more opulent families there. One of his pupils was Henry Campbell Bannerman who later became Prime Minister from 1905 until 1908.

In around 1850 Brad retuned to Lanark and lived in his home in Bloomgate where he enjoyed his retirement until he died on 17th August 1873, aged 84. Captain Brad is buried with his family in St Kentigern’s Cemetery, Lanark.