College of Arms Newsletters 2020

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Chris Green
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College of Arms Newsletters 2020

Postby Chris Green » 29 Jan 2020, 14:52

Chris Green
IAAH President

Bertilak de Hautdesert

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Chris Green
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Re: College of Arms Newsletters 2020

Postby Chris Green » 29 Jan 2020, 16:32

The Arms and crest granted to Catherina Vassall, widow and relict of Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer Thomas Vassall of the 38th Regiment of Foot, by Letters Patent dated 21 July 1809, to be placed on a monument to the memory of her late husband, and borne by her and by his descendants.

Image

We are not told why these unusual arms were granted. The facts are these. Lt Col Vassall commanded the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Foot in the army of General Sir Samuel Auchmuty at the storming of Montevideo on 3 February 1807, and was killed while leading his troops who had successfully carried the breach in the walls of the fortress but were meeting resistance from within the walls. The unusual motto relates to his encouragement to his troops shortly before his death. When he observed his men stoop or flinch, he cried: “Brave 38th, my brave men, don’t flinch; every bullet has its billet. Push on, follow me, 38th!”.

According to the entry in the Royal Naval Biography for Vassall's son:

“The Vassall arms were a cup and sun; a ship for a crest. The lieutenant-colonel’s descendants have been granted the following heraldic honors, commemorative of his heroic death:– The sun rising in full splendour from behind the breached bastions of a fortress, and above the same, the words ‘Monte Video;’ the number ‘38th’ on a canton argent within a branch of Cyprus and another of laurel, the stems uniting in saltire; and for their crest, on a wreath of the colours upon a mount vert, a breached fortress, thereon hoisted a flag, gules, with the inscription ‘Montevideo,’ in letters of gold; motto, ‘Every bullet has its billet,’ supported by two colours on each side, half furled."


The emblazonment shown is not an accurate rendition of the blazon described above, which does not mention the fortress being placed upon a fess.

PS: Note the misuse of the apostrophe in the "ITS" of the motto!
Chris Green
IAAH President

Bertilak de Hautdesert

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Chris Green
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Joined: 10 Jul 2012, 13:06
Location: Karlstad, Sweden

Re: College of Arms Newsletters 2020

Postby Chris Green » 30 Jan 2020, 14:57

I am surprised that the College of Arms allowed the widow Vassall no less than three augmentations of honour in commemoration of her husband's death in action (four if one counts the motto). The crest simply replicates the fess, and the canton with the regimental number (38th according to the blazon, 38 according to the emblazonment) adds nothing significant to the storyline. Vassall's regiment was one of several at the storming of Montevideo and not first through the breach. So while the colonel was undeniably brave, he seems to have done nothing more than any other officer would have done in his position. Battalion commanders at Waterloo and in the Peninsular campaign did not, I believe, receive such augmentations. Nelson received several augmentations of honour, but as I recall only one per event.
Chris Green
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Bertilak de Hautdesert

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: College of Arms Newsletters 2020

Postby Arthur Radburn » 30 Jan 2020, 15:30

I would take the entry in the Royal Naval Biography as a description rather than an actual blazon. The blazon given in the CoA Newsletter is accurate :

Azure on a Fess Or one of the Bastions of a Fortress with a Breach therein proper and above the same the words "MONTE VIDEO"; from the Fess issuant in chief the Sun in Splendour; a Cup of the second in base, on a Canton Argent the number "38" within a Branch of Cypress and another of Laurel the stems united in saltire also proper.

In some ways, these arms are more restrained, and less pictorial, than some of the arms granted to other naval and military officers during that period.

Vassall and the 38th Regiment took part in the British conquest of the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope in 1806. In fact, the expedition to Montevideo was planned at the Cape, and Vassall was the Commandant of Cape Town at the time.
Regards
Arthur Radburn
IAAH Vice-President : Heraldic Education


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