Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Philip Le Geyt

Philip Le Geyt :

Philip Le Geyt : Military General Service Medal with clasp 'Martinique'

Military General Service Medal with clasp 'Martinique'

Philip was born in around 1779 in St Helier, on the Channel Island of Jersey. We don't know anything about his family or early life.

Philip began his military career on the 24th October 1795, when he was commissioned as an Ensign in the Suffolk Regiment of Fencible Infantry. Fencibles were units raised to guard the UK against invasion. Their role was to garrison and patrol the coast, rather than to fight on the battlefield. Britain had been at war with Revolutionary France since February 1793, and there was fear of a French invasion.

On the 10th December Philip transferred to the Regular Army. He filled a vacancy in the 2nd Battalion of the 82nd Regiment of Foot. This unit only existed for a short time, and spent most of its life in Gibraltar. Philip left them on the 28th June 1796. He purchased a promotion to Lieutenant in the 63rd Regiment. It cost him 550.

The 63rd Regiment was stationed in the Caribbean at this time. It returned to the UK in early 1799 after serving in Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and Jamaica. We don't know whether Philip served with them there. He certainly joined the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland that began in August.

Holland had been conquered by the French in January 1795. The British and Russians were trying to overthrow the new Dutch government the French had installed. The two sides fought a number of battles, and at one, the Battle of Alkmaar on the 2nd October, Philip was wounded in the knee. He was leading a charge when he was hit. Philip will have known this battle as Egmont-op-Zee.

The British and Russians were forced to evacuate their forces from Holland in November. After this the 63rd Regiment served in and around the Mediterranean. In August 1800 Philip took part in the Ferrol Expedition. This was an attempt to capture the Spanish dockyard of Ferrol in northern Spain. It was unsuccessful.

After this expedition the 63rd helped to garrison Turin, Malta, Gibraltar and Minorca before moving to Ireland in 1803. By this time Philip was a Captain. He had purchased the rank for 950 in 1801. As a Captain he had command of a Company. In 1805 this was Number 2 Company.

After 4 years in Ireland, on the 29th November 1807 the 63rd boarded ships and set sail for the Portuguese islands of Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean. Philip sailed aboard the Allison. The islands surrendered peacefully, so the 63rd continued across the Atlantic to Barbados.

Philip took part in the capture of the French island of Martinique in January 1809. This was successful and the 63rd Regiment became the island's garrison. Philip left them during 1810 to serve as Aide-de-Camp to Major General Wood. An Aide-de-Camp acted as a personal assistant to a more senior officer. He was based on the island of St Lucia whilst he held this job.

On the 11th July 1811 Philip was promoted to Major. We don't know whether he purchased his new rank. He returned to the UK during the next year and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 63rd Regiment. This unit was stationed in the Channel Islands of Alderney and Guernsey during 1811 and 1812. It returned to the mainland during the autumn and was based at Brighton, Sussex.

Philip commanded the battalion for some time during this period, although we don't know exactly when. They were based in Ipswich by January 1814. The battalion was mainly used to provide reinforcements to the 1st Battalion in the Caribbean.

In January 1813 Sergeant James Cochrane, a member of the 2nd Battalion, sent a letter to the 'general commanding at Colchester...containing groundless and vexatious and injurious charges and complaints against Major Philip Le Geyt' As Philip was James' commanding officer, this was 'subversive of good order and military discipline and a breach of the Articles of War'. After a court martial during August 'Sergeant Cochrane was demoted to the rank of private soldier and sentenced to 500 lashes with the cat o' nine tails'. We don't know anything more about this incident.

Paris was captured and Napoleon exiled in mid 1814. It was believed the war was over, meaning the 2nd Battalion was no longer needed. It was disbanded on the 21st October. Philip was placed on half-pay. This meant he was still in the Army, but he didn't have a job.

We don't know much about the rest of Philip's career. He was appointed to the rank of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on the 12th August 1819, and served in Ireland with the 63rd until they were sent to Australia in 1830. Philip did not go with them.

We believe Philip had retired from the Army by the mid 1830s. He returned to Jersey. Philip was married to a woman named Eliza. We don't know when they married, but we believe she was born in Ireland, so it could have been between 1803 and 1807. We know they had at least one child, Eliza Emiline, in around 1811.

Between 1837 and 1852 Philip served in the Jersey Militia as its Colonel and Aide-de-Camp to the Lieutenant Governor. The Militia was a successor to the Fencibles where Philip had begun his career. In 1841 he lived with Eliza at Summerland Place on Rouge Bouillon in St Helier.

The Military General Service Medal began to be issued in 1847. It was only awarded to former soldiers who applied for it themselves.

By 1851 we believe Eliza had died. Philip still lived on Rouge Bouillon. We believe he died in 1852, aged around 72.

Eliza Emiline married Sir Maurice Charles O'Connell. They eventually settled in Brisbane, Queensland, and Maurice served as Governor of the Colony on 4 separate occasions during the 1860s and 1870s. This was before the creation of Australia. Le Geyt Street, in the Brisbane suburb of Windsor, 'honoured the maiden name of Lady O'Connell'. It still exists in 2013.

Philip's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in May 1987.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council