16th January 1809
The Battle of La Coruna in The Peninsular war is a classic battle that, like Dunkirk, Britain lost but it enabled a successful troop embarkation. And somehow it is remembered as a victory and as a battle honour.
The General leading the British Troops died from his wounds and was buried at the scene. His burial is remembered in one of the best war poems ever written:
The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna
Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.
We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning;
By the struggling moonbeam's misty light
And the lanthorn dimly burning.
No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Nor in sheet nor in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest
With his martial cloak around him.
Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,
And we bitterly thought of the morrow.
We thought, as we hollowed his narrow bed
And smoothed down his lonely pillow,
That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,
And we far away on the billow!
Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone
And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him,--
But little he'll reck, if they let him sleep on
In the grave where a Briton has laid him.
But half of our heavy task was done
When the clock struck the hour for retiring:
And we heard the distant and random gun
That the foe was sullenly firing.
Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
But left him alone with his glory.
-- Charles Wolfe