General James Wolfe
TfL Fare Zone 2
On the hill near the entrance to the Old Royal Observatory is a statue of the English general, James Wolfe, who died fighting the French in Canada.
A very successful young military commander, Wolfe is best known for his audacious victory at Quebec.
He spent some time in Scotland with the Duke of Cumberland fighting Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces, and fought in the infamous Battle of Culloden (Inverness), where he actually disobeyed orders – he refused to kill a wounded Highlander, stating that his honour was worth more than his job.
In 1758 Wolfe was sent to North America to help drive the French out of the British colonies. He was put in charge of the assault on Quebec City. Wolfe was not only a brilliant tactician but also spoke fluent French and had a very good understanding of the French temperament. Prior to the shelling of Quebec he issued a document warning the citizens of Quebec of what would happen to them if they continued to resist.
His other master stroke was to conduct an amphibious landing via the reputedly unscaleable cliffs bordering the St Lawrence River. On 13 September 1759, after unsuccessful shelling of the city, Wolfe sailed up the river, landed his army at the foot of the Quebec Heights and proceeded to scale the cliffs, hauling up two small canons in the process. Marquis de Montcalm, the French commander was completely taken by surprise.
Montcalm, fearful that Wolfe would haul more cannons up the cliffs and batter down the walls of Quebec City decided on meeting Wolfe’s army on the Plains of Abraham outside the city. Although the French were defeated both Wolfe and Montcalm lost their lives.
The reason that there is a monument to Wolfe, here at Greenwich is because he was a Greenwich man. Although born in Kent at Westerham, his family moved to Greenwich and became parishioners of St Alfege Church. Wolfe is buried under the church; a replica of his coffin plate is in the floor. There is also an epic 1762 painting in the church depicting Wolfe’s death in the battle, a wall tablet and a memorial stained glass window.
If the visitor wishes to know more about General James Wolfe (1727-1759) it is worth visiting his childhood home, Quebec House at Westerham.
Google Maps - St Alfege Church/ General James Wolfe