“The Fog of War”


Painting by Lieutenant Anson 1935

This oil painting sits in the foyer of the 1st Battalion as a striking piece of graphical art and as a reminder of the consistency of the chaos and confusion that exists in battle.
Lt Anson's picture has always been popular and is very much an artists impression rather than an accurate picture of a particular battle. Prior to 1 PWRR it was held by 1 QUEENS but its exact origins are not explained in Regimental Chattels. One deduction is that it must represent either the 31st of Foot or the 57th of Foot because of the yellow facings (collars and cuffs) and the fact that it came from either Surrey or Middlesex. the renaming of the Buffs in 1935 to include the title The Royal East Kent Regiment may also give some clue as to its origin.
It is probably safe to say the painting is "inspired by the Regiment's forbears at Albuhera" rather than looking to accurately represent a particular Regiment's acts.
First, it is important to establish a time period for the painting - the obvious give away is the false fronted "Belgic" style Shako which came into service across the infantry at the time of 1812 and at the end of the Peninsular War. It was only the Light Infantry that continued to wear the stovepipe version: of note the false fronted "Belgic" style Shako, made famous by depictions of the Battle of Waterloo, was replaced soon after the Napoleonic Wars by flaring, "bell-topped" Shako which puts the painting between 1800-1816.
Furthermore, the majority of Wellington's Army during the Peninsular Campaign wore the dark grey trousers as seen with the Buff's in the painting "The Battle of Albuhera". However, as seen in Lady Butler's depiction of the 57th of Foot (West Middlesex) titled "Steady the Drums and Fifes" they are wearing the white trouser. The only unit to serve in the 100 day's war, namely The Battle of Waterloo was the 35th Sussex Regiment but they neither saw any major action (being held in reserve) and also had an orange facing to their Colours prior to gaining the "Royal" in their title in 1832 in which the facing changed to blue.
The yellow facing in the Colours as well as the soldiers' cuffs clearly demonstrate the intent to represent a forebear regiment - namely the 57th (West Middlesex). The build up of gun powder suggesting a prolonged engagement of defensive nature points to Corruna or Albuhera, both battles incurring numerous casualties with the stark position that soldiers found themselves in rallying around the Colours in the so called fog clearly plays to our imaginations for the battles of the peninsular campaign, battles such as Albuhera or Corruna.
There is a Major Patrick AR Anson (The Middlesex Regiment) who was born in 1914, served with the 1st Battalion The Middlesex regiment (Malaya) from January 1934 until his death on 29 September 1944, succumbing to his wounds in a German field hospital probably as part of Operation Market Garden. He is buried in Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau.
On the balance of probabilities, it was he who painted this commemoration to the forebear regiment the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot who so bravely fought gaining the nickname "The Die Hards" after the Commanding Officer of the 57th, Colonel Inglis, was struck down by a charge of canister shot which hit him in the neck and left breast. He refused to be carried to the rear for treatment, but lay in front of his men calling on them to hold their position and when the fight reached its fiercest cried "Die hard the 57th, die hard!"