'I was on the Waal, I think from October to January and during all that time I only saw once one General from the headquarters.'
THE WAR which France had declared on Britain after the execution of the King was not going well. The British army had been ejected from Dunkirk and was soon to be thrown out of Flanders, through which it was vainly hoped an attack could be made on the heart of France; while the French, commanded by the young generals of the Revolution, brave, impromptu and roturier, occupied Holland. The British troops -- led by the Duke of York who was quite at home at the Horse Guards, the headquarters of the general staff in Whitehall, but as inexperienced in the field as most of his regimental officers -- were ill-clothed and ill-fed, less than competently served by a Royal Waggon Corps, whose men, raised from the rookeries of Blackfriars and Seven Dials, were known as the Newgate Blues. For the sick and wounded, to be carried to such military hospitals as there were was to be consigned to a probable death. Surgeons' mates were slipshod, negligent and very often drunk. A Dutchman counted forty-two bodies thrown overboard from a hospital barge on which they had been left unattended on the open deck. Officers were likely to go as hungry as their men. Colonel Wesley was warned by an old Guards officer, 'You little know what you are going to meet with. You will often have no dinner at all. I mean literally no dinner, and not merely roughing it on a beefsteak or a bottle of wine.'1
Arthur Wesley, twenty-five years old, was at last to find this out for himself. The orders for which he had long been waiting had come; and in the middle of June 1794 he disembarked the 33rd Foot on the quayside at Ostend from a ship that had brought them over from Cork. At Ostend he was given command of two other battalions as well as his own and handed orders to take them over post haste to Antwerp