The epic of Lieutenant-General John Whitelocke

A real fact. In the years 1806 and 1807, the English army tried to conquer Buenos Aires and Montevideo, which were Spanish colonies, but which were defended by a militia, because Spain had enough of trouble with Napoleon to send troops. These events led to the Spanish Revolution three years later, in the year 1810, which culminated in the declaration of independence in 1816.

Oh, unsung hero of The British Empire,

your name won’t be forgotten, nor your actions

worthy of eternal glory.

It’s the year 1807 in a faraway land,

The howitzers and cannons watchful,

await their orders to enter the city

which General David Baird surrendered a year before

to the creole army of the Viceroyalty of La Plata.


Buenos Aires, half Spanish, half barbarian,

has defeated your general, but it will succumb

to your determination and courage.

The viceroy has fled, Spain has abandoned

its bastard to the mercy of England.

But the creoles have proven that barbarism

is more deeply rooted than reason,

refusing to accept our protectorate

and economic freedom from Spain.


Their barbaric warefare is unprecedented;

they’ve overpowered one of our ships

who was stranded during battle

boarding it with a horde of horsemen,

and they paid no heed to the laws of war,

taking General Baird prisoner

when he hoisted the white flag of truce.


The infantry is ready, Lieutenant,

lead us to our victory, to expand

the English dominion overseas.

Montevideo has already fallen at your feet

and the defender’s troop have been defeated

in the city environs, though they refuse to surrender.

Their troops are in retreat, the city its last stronghold,

and our artillery is overwhelmingly superior.

Advance, Lieutenant, advance to our victory!


Our twelve columns of infantrymen enter the city

to face their militia, composed even of black slaves

which they convinced to fight with promises of freedom.

They have no tactics nor rules, some of them

have even been seen fighting with bolas.

We make them retreat and disperse

by our mere imposing presence.

But what’s that? Lieutenant, the people

start throwing hot water and oil at us

from roofs and windows as if we were stray dogs,

injuring many of our trained soldiers.

We haven’t left our motherland to be thus treated,

to fight a war with dishonorable people

who prefers its wicked ways to progress.


The armistice is signed, the creole general praises your bravery in battle

and sends you home, the creoles can keep their cities

to do with them as they please, many English deserters

marry shameless creoles and stay in these lawless lands.

Let’s go back to England, Lieutenant,

where you will be court-martialled and cashiered

for having surrendered these cities to barbarians.

But better to be a shamed Lieutenant in England

than to rule over this wickedness.



I'm a writer born in Argentina, but currently living in Poland. I work as an English and French teacher, translator and copywriter.

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