Ensign Joseph Dyas

51st Light Infantry

(2nd Yorkshire, West Riding)

1757 - 1821

Joseph Dyas (Courtesy of Tim Dyas)

Fuerte de San Cristóbal, Badajoz

Fuerte de San Cristóbal, "The ditch"

Fuerte de San Cristóbal, "The ditch"

Final resting place of Joseph Dyas, Ballymena

Commemoration 28 March 2015

The Old Graveyard, Ballymena

Commemoration 28 March 2015

Plaque at the graveside

(Courtesy of Ballymena Guardian, 27/11/2014)

Peninsual War medal (Left) and Waterloo medal (Right)

(with thanks to Tim Dyas)

Ensign Joseph Dyas



Joseph Dyas was an Ensign (later Captain) in the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding) Light Infantry, with whom he served throughout the Peninsula and at Waterloo.


At Badajoz on 6th June 1811 to 9th June 1811, one of the bloodiest actions of the Peninsula campaign, Ensign Dyas twice volunteered to be part of the 'Forlorn Hope', storming into the breach of Fuerte de San Cristóbal.


On the 6th of June Ensign Dyas volunteered to lead a party of 6 men as the Forlorn Hope, at the front of the main storming party of 100 men. The assault was commanded by Major MacIntosh of the 85th Regiment. There were 25 men of the 85th, 75 men of the 51st.


The Forlorn Hope led by Ensign Dyas, entered the trench. They encountered heavy fire from shells and hand granades from the top of the wall, followed by musket fire from preloaded muskets which had been piled and grape shot scattering the trench from half a dozen cannon. Whilst enduring this, on raising their ladders they found that they were too short and only got away after leaving half their number dead or wounded.


Ensign Dyas then spent the night of the 7th, lying up in a hollow observing the enemy. From this he noted that debris had been cleared from the foot of the breech and noted that the stones when hit by artillery did not roll away - suggesting that the palisades remained in place.


Never the less the assault continued and at 22:00hrs on the 9th June, Major Alexander McGeachy of the 17th Portugese Regt. led 200 men to storm the fort. Ensign Dyas led the Forlorn Hope. Instead of entering from the ditch, a sheep path he recalled from the previous night's observation guided them to a part of the glacis infront of the breech.


A problem arose when it became apparent that the Chasseurs de Britanique, who had been acting to prepare the equipment, had thrown the ladders to the palisades rather than slide them and they fell accross and stuck fast. It was then impossible to raise them against the breech. Almost all the party were killed in the attempt.


Every officer had fallen and only Dyas and around 25 men remained. Not deterred, although wounded and bleeding they succeeded in disentangling a ladder and placing it against the breech.


It was speedily mounted but they climbed the ladder to find that the breech had been repaired through the night. The soldiers did all that they could and it was apparent that the lack of success was due to an unfortunate series of circumstances. Only 19 men returned.


He was offered immediate promotion by Wellington into another regiment, but Dyas declined to leave the 51st and subsequently served with them throughout the Peninsula and at Waterloo, reaching the rank of Captain.


'The Stormers' - refers to the gallantry of the 'Forlorn Hope' led by Ensign Dyas and originally it was the custom to toast 'Ensign Dyas' throughout the Peninsula Army. In later years, however, the practice has been restricted to the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) to toast 'Ensign Dyas and the Stormers' in silence.


He later served in the 2nd Ceylon Regiment, until he took 'half-pay' (pension) and retired to Ballymena, County Antrim where he served as the local Stipendary Magistrate. He died there on the 24 April 1850, and is buried in The Old Graveyard, Ballymena.