A volunteer non-combatant in the Spanish Army during the Peninsular War (1808-1814), Henry Milburne, known in Spain as Enrique Milburne was born in England, but little else is known about his early life. The first records of him can be found in the Royal College of Surgeons of which he was a member. His joined the 52nd Royal Battalion as a Hospital-Mate, before being promoted to assistant surgeon in the York Rangers (1804-1808). Shocked by Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, he decided to travel to the continent to help the Spaniards to release themselves from ‘the tyrant’ while also seeking to test some medical theories, particularly on treating gunshot wounds. He tried unsuccessfully to join the British expeditionary force to Portugal and paying no notice of a series of polite rejections from Spanish officials in London who advised him to the contrary, travelled to Corunna late in 1808.
He attempted to join a privately-funded Regimiento de Infanteria Voluntarios de España in Castille, but this was frustrated. In the way back to Galicia, he provided medical assistance to Spanish civilians and French prisoners of war alike after the battle of Benavente (29/12/1808). After treating Spanish and British soldiers at Corunna in January 1809 he published A narrative of circumstances attending the retreat of the British army under the command of the late Lieut. Gen. Sir John Moore, K.B., with a concise account of the Battle of Corunna; in a letter addressed to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Castlereagh, one of His Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State, later the same year. This published work as well as his actions eventually led him to be enrolled as medical officer in Samuel ‘Santiago’ Ford Whittingham‘s division in Mallorca from 1810. The last records of him place him as Inspector de los Reales Hospitales de España (Inspector of the Spanish Royal Hospitals) in the Balearic Islands in 1811.
Source: Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, British Liberators in the Age of Napoleon: Volunteering under the Spanish Flag in the Peninsular War, (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2014).
Posted by: Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, assisted in the online edition by Adam Nour El-Din Hafez
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