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John Neave Wells

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Colonel John Neave Wells (1790-1854)

1855 Obituary [1]

COLONEL JOHN NEAVE WELLS, C.B., born at Holme- Wood, near Stilton, on the 16th of June, 1790, was the fourth Son of the late Admiral Wells, of Holme, Huntingdonshire, and of Sarah Bridget Freemantle, Sister of the Right Honourable Sir William Freemantle and of Admiral Sir Thomas Freemantle.

After receiving his education at the Royal Military Academy, at Woolwich, young Wells was, on the 6th of November 1806, appointed a Second-Lieutenant in the corps of Royal Engineers ; on the 1st of May of the following year he was promoted to be First-Lieutenant ; on the 15th of April 1812 to be Captain; on the 21st of January 1819 to be Major ; on the 10th of January 1837 to be Lieutenant-Colonel ; and on the 11th of November 1851 to be Colonel.

At the age of eighteen he was ordered to the Peninsula, where in 1808-9 he served in the campaigns of Portugal and Spain, including the action of Roleia, and the battles of Vimiera and Corunna, under Sir Arthur Wellesley, Sir Hew Dalrymple, and Sir John Moore.

In 1809 he joined the expedition to Walcheren, and served in the campaign in Holland, including the siege of Flushing, under Lord Chatham and General Don, where he acted as Adjutant to the Corps of Royal En,a' meers.

He was present at the blockade of Cadiz from March 1810, until it was raised in 1812, (excepting about six months' absence at Carthagena,) and with the army in Estremadura, including the action of Barrosa, and the last siege of Badajoz, in March and April 1812, under Lord Lynedoch, Sir George Cooke, and the Duke of Wellington ; under the latter General, he served part of the campaign of 1813 and until the army embarked at Bordeaux in 1814 ; including the passage of the Bidassoa, the blockade of Bayonne, and the taking of a work at Laredo, near Santona, when detached with a Spanish division under General Bares. His skill and intrepidity in this latter service were highly commended, and to his judicious advice, in recommending a lodgment being established in the crest of the glacis during the night, in spite of the Spanish attacking-battery of four 8-pounders being previously destroyed, must be attributed the success which attended this gallant exploit, of which he took the responsibility and commanded the attack. The operations were described by Colonel Reid in the 'Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers," but an involuntary omission is there made of the gallant conduct of the Spanish Colonel of Engineers, who though he considered the proposed course to be very hazardous, did not hesitate to place himself and the corps under his command at the disposal of Captain Wells. The arrangement was approved by General Bares, who fell mortally wounded during t.he second night attack, but the attempt was crowned with success. The gallant conduct of this affair was specially mentioned by Colonel San Morenti, who succeeded to the command after the fall of General Bares, in the despatches of the 14th of February 1814.

He was on active service in the Campaign of 1815 in Belgium and France, and subsequently with the allied army of occupation under the command of the late Duke of Wellington. He also served with the Expeditionary Force, in Portugal, from December 1826 to May 1828, and afterwards became Assistant Inspector- General of Fortifications.

For his various services he received the war-medal and five clasps, and was created Companion of the Bath.

Among the numerous well-merited testimonials transmitted to him, may be selected the following letter addressed to Colonel Sir Richard Fletcher, Bart., late Commanding Engineer in the Peninsula, by the late General Sir Thomas Picton-


'IT is but justice to Lieutenant Wells of the Royal Engineers, who conducted the advance of the third division, and superintended the planting of the ladders for the escalade of the Castle last night, to state, that he performed that difficult and dangerous duty with great judgment and persevering gallantry.

'Camp before Badajoz, 7th April, 1812.

'I have the honour to be, Your faithful, humble servant,

'(Signed) " THOS. PICTON, Lieut.-General Commanding 3rd Division.

' To Lieut.- Colonel Fletcher, Commanding Royal Engineers"

Colonel Wells was generally considered to be one of the best officers of his rank in the corps of the Royal Engineers; his military career was distinguished by daring intrepidity, coolness under fire, a chivalrous sense of honour of the highest caste, and by a simplicity and benevolence of heart that have endeared his memory to all who were acquainted with him.

He was fond of scientific pursuits, and particularly of those engineering works which had some analogy with his own professional duties. He joined the Institution of Civil Engineers as an Associate-member in 1836, and very frequently attended the meetings, in which he took a lively interest.

His decease occurred at Woodstock, on the 25th of February 1854, in his sixty-fourth year, after an illness of only a few hours. He wap much beloved and respected, and his sudden loss was deeply felt by his amiable and devoted wife and by a wide circle of friends.

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