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General Shrapnel

Major General Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842) died at Pear Tree House in Southampton having been born in Bradford on Avon. He devoted himself to military inventions often spending his own money to do so. The shell that bears his name was recommended for use by the Army Board of Ordnance in 1803.

The Duke of Wellington used it during the Peninsular War. The Commander of the Artillery wrote to the Duke: ‘The shell is admirable to the whole army and its effects dreadful’.

The Shrapnel shell proved very useful during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 possibly turning the tide in Wellington’s favour. Henry Shrapnel had been promoted to Colonel in 1813 and regimental Colonel in 1814 and was given a life pension of £1,200. He was then promoted to Major General and retired from active service in 1825. He eventually became a lieutenant general of the Royal Artillery in 1837. He originally lived in Bugle Street but moved to Pear Tree House in the mid 1830’s.

In retirement he took no part in public affairs and avoided the social events of the day. In 1837 he received a letter from William IV indicating that a Baronetcy would be forthcoming. Sadly William died that year and this never materialised. Today we think of Shrapnel as meaning the flying fragments of material that come from the shell rather than the shell itself.

He is buried in the family vault at Holy Trinity in Bradford on Avon.

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