Duncan Forbes (1781 – 1815), Irvine-born casualty at the Battle of Waterloo.

Very little is known about Duncan Forbes today. We know he was born in Irvine in 1781 and his parents are listed as John Forbes and Agnes Dale. He enlisted with the 2nd Dragoons (nicknamed Royal Scots Greys) on 7 August 1800 aged 18 years and was a Private in rank.

He did, however, take part in one of the world’s most important and famous battles at Waterloo. This was his first day in battle as the Greys had been on home duty since he joined them. Duncan was killed on 18 June 1815 when the Scots Grey charged the French infantry columns, a turning point in the battle.

Another Ayrshire soldier in the Scots Greys that day was Sergeant Charles Ewart who captured the regimental gold eagle standard of the French 45th Infantry. Ewart was from nearby Kilmarnock and we can only imagine him and Forbes swapping stories of their Ayrshire origins.

Back home in Irvine news of Duncan’s death at Waterloo prompted his fellow townsmen to have a memorial carved to honour him. They had it placed prominently near the entrance to the parish graveyard at the Kirkgate. Upon the 200th anniversary of the battle North Ayrshire Council had the memorial conserved and the Royal British Legion held a remembrance ceremony for Duncan.