Samuel Godley
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Samuel Godley, Waterloo Warrior.

 samgodly.jpg (20063 bytes)


From an article in the Derbyshire Times dated 12 July 1930

Samuel Godley christened 20 July 1778 a son of Samuel Godley, shoemaker of Whitwell Derbyshire was a young man when Britain was in the throes of the desperate struggle with Napoleon which raged for some twenty years or so. And like many other young fellows, Sam betook himself to Chesterfield and in about 1806 was enlisted into the 2nd Lifeguards by one Corporal John Silcock of that town. Of his subsequent military activities we know nothing till that famous Sunday, June 18th 1815, which found the greatest military geniuses of modern times at grips for the first and last time in that epic struggle near Brussels, upon the result of which trembled the fate of Europe.

It was that phase of battle known as the,


That Samuel Godley became the central figure of the incident, which earned him fame. The Household Cavalry had walked to an eminence overlooking the infantry struggle. The Lifeguards wore the well known scarlet tunics, and bestride their famous black horses in battle but had then neither breastplate nor backplate. Like an avalanche they hurled themselves down the slope to crash upon the struggling mass beneath. Napoleon met them with Kellermann's troopers and the cuirassiers of Ordoner and Dubois. The 1st Lifes were soon inextricably jammed on a road near La Haye Sainte with a mass of French cuirassiers, but the 2nds making better progress speedily engaged in a cut and thrust struggle with the troopers of Dubois. A few French infantry coolly picked of the more desperate British unmolested, for the Guards were paying all their attention to the French horse. One of these marksmen shot Godley's horse from beneath him and he was shot from the saddle. Losing his helmet in transit. Scrambling to his feet dazed with shock, the first thought of the worthy Godley was that he must get another horse. None seemed available, so he engaged a French cuirassier with the object of procuring one. The Frenchman, armoured, horsed and against a shaken foe, had every advantage. With a terrible cut he fractured the Englishman's skull, and Godley powerful and athletic though he was crashed to his knees as though poleaxed for his head was bare to the blow.

The normal individual would have been slain outright or at the very least totally incapacitated

Guardsman Samuel, struggling upon one knee continued the unequal contest, gradually obtained the upper hand slew his enemy, and calmly took his seat on the horse, still bareheaded and with his skull fractured. One of those occasional lulls had taken place at the time and the single handed feud was fought out before an appreciative audience of Godley's companions who declining to intervene, hailed his gallant obstinacy with loud cheers and loud shouts of "Well done, the Marquis of Granby!" Godley was very popular in the regiment. Though a young man he was nearly bald but whether through this or through the connection of the real Marquis with Whitwell that he received his titled appellation is not clear

His deed, seen by so many. Was not forgotten. And in Kelly's "Battle of Waterloo" there is a fine etched plate depicting the incident, for which the hero evidently formed the actual model. The Guardsman is shown down on one knee. Unhelmeted, struggling to ward a thrust from a confident and moustachioed French cuirassier, with horsehair plumed helmet. Godley is completely bald except for a monk's tonsure, but the outline of his figure shows him to be still comparatively young. There is a suggestion of latent power in his attitude and ex Sergt. Godley says the figure might almost be that of his own grandfather whom he knew well. The brother of the LifeGuard, so it is evidently both spirited and faithful.

The doughty Samuel's armour propre [sic] was badly jarred, however, even though he had satisfactorily disposed of the cause of the indignity With his fractured skull he remained all day on the battle field and quit it he would not till the last despairing effort of the French had flickered out and the Prussian hordes were commencing the final slaughter. Then personal pride and Guardsman's honour alike propitiated, he consented to be led away for treatment. A silver plate in his skull was his immediate reward and this he retained till his dying day.

After his discharge form the Guards. He found employment [no handsome pension in his day] in the bazaar at Baker Street, Portman Square, London. And there seventeen years later than the Waterloo year, the Frenchman finished his work for Samuel Godley. Tough old Derbyshire warrior fell dead in a London street one very hot day in 1832.

It might be noted that whilst Godley was fighting his lone duel, a regimental comrade of his was spurting out his life's blood and earning undying glory in British military annuls at a spot not very far distant removed. This was the gigantic ferocious CORPORAL JOHN SHAW of Cossal, Nottinghamshire, who killed nine or ten Frenchmen single-handed, literally had his legs hacked from beneath him, fought on till shot by an infantryman, in addition to receiving sword wounds too numerous to mention, then crawled, a mass of cuts and stabs, to a dunghill, where he was found next morning head on arm as though asleep. His awakening however never came in this world, for on the field of his triumphs the spirit of the Nottinghamshire boy-he was scarcely more-fled; his name is imperishable and immortal in the ranks of the bravest of the brave. War is horrible, cruel, insane no doubt, but the Englishman of Notts. or Derby who feels no glow of admiration no proud emotion in reading the tales of Shaw and Godley is either more or less than human. There were no V.C.'s in their day, no comfortable "economic" pension, no pay worth the name [could one "buy" a Shaw or a Godley one wonders for mere money], but doubtless the spirits of the Bowmen of England who conquered at Agincourt in 1415 lived again to the full in 1815.

The Godley family has numerous branches in and around Whitwell yet, some near, some distant. Some have never heard tell of Samuel; others have a more or less hazy knowledge of him. Ex-Sergt. Godley, of Hasland has a copy of Kelley's "Waterloo". His father and grandfather, visiting the Great [1851] Exhibition, in London, presented themselves at the Life Guards headquarters in order to enquire about the elder man's brother, the Samuel of Waterloo. On proving his identity and relationship to the old Life Guard, an official handed him the volume, which Mr Godley now possesses. Inscribed in beautiful." copperplate" are the words:- Samuel Godley, Private: 2nd Life Guards, 1st January 1819. For it used to belong to the hero himself, The title is " Battle Of Waterloo, by Christopher Kelley, Esq.." and its owner is justifiably and rightly proud of this relic of his very gallant great-uncle

The present writer, himself a Derbyshire man descended from many generations of Derbyshire men, admits freely to a feeling a thrill of pride in being able to say of Samuel Godley, one-time Life Guard, son of Whitwell, comrade of the mighty Shaw: " He was of my county"


Transcribed by Douglas Caunt formerly Grenadier Guardsman a GG/grandnephew of Samuel Godley of Waterloo.

Information obtained from

1. Muster Rolls of the 2nd Life Guards, which indicate that Samuel Godley, served in the Peninsula War 1812-1815

2.Derbyshire Gatherings, by Joseph Barlow Robinson

3.Waterloo Medal Roll

4.List of Corps and Regiments in the Battle of Waterloo

5. Transcript of Entry in " Invalid Soldiers examined 24 Nov 1824" Royal Hospital Chelsea Admissions to out Pensions. Rate for Samuel after 22 years service was 1 shilling per day

With thanks to AW Kersting, Major [Retd] Curator of the Household Cavalry Museum for sending me a copy of the title page of Kellys Battle of Waterloo and a copy of the engraving of Samuel Godley's duel at the battle which is contained in the book.

Note- The author of the article was unaware of the year of birth of Samuel Godley or the accurate year of his enlistment. So to round off the information in relation to Samuel I have inserted his date of christening and corrected the year of his enlistment to 1806 which is assumed from the Muster Roll of 1806

I must also state my great appreciation to Mr Jocelyn Godley of Kent for his assistance in bringing the story of our Samuel Godley of Waterloo out into the light where once again his exploit can be admired. He has earned his renown as a a premier warrior of Old England and he suffered much in later life from the wound he received at Waterloo.

Samuel Godley is buried in St John's churchyard, near Lords cricket ground. A memorial to him was erected there by non-commissioned officers of the Life Guards so  it is evident he was held in high regard.

The author of the article did not include the first name of Corporal Shaw or the village of his birth. These details were supplied by a serving member of the Life Guards during December 200l. He informed me that John Shaw was  born c1789 in Cossall a village on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and he is buried where he died at La Haye Sainte in Belgium. Before enlistment John was a promising pugilist having defeated the great heavyweight Tom Molyneaux a a former black slave. At the time he came under the attention of Jim Belcher the 5 times heavyweight champion.

Richard Waplington, another Life Guard at Waterloo, and John Shaw  were known as the Cossal Giants. The last sight of Richard was as he held the French Eagle, surrounded by curassiers. He was never seen again. What a mighty fight that must have been. To wrest the Eagle from the curassiers. They must have been hell bent on it's recovery. A memorial to these men is at the Cossal Village cemetery

Let us not allow these old soldiers, these not so common soldiers to be lost in the mist of time. 

Doug Caunt

Doug can be contacted at :-

The "x" part of the address is a precaution against junk mail so should be deleted before writing to the addressee


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