Video: War hero honoured in Ballymena

A man who was reckoned to be among the bravest British soldiers of the Napoleonic War era was honoured at a ceremony in Ballymena today.

Joseph Dyas was an Ensign (later Captain) in the British 51st Light Infantry and is famous for his actions at the storming of the Spanish town of Badajoz, one of the bloodiest actions of the Peninsular War.

He twice volunteered to be part of the Forlorn Hope - a virtually suicidal charge against the enemy fortifications. On the second occasion he led the party after its commander, Major McGreachy, and all the other officers were killed.

Dyas was immediately offered a promotion in another regiment by Wellington, but declined and stayed with the 51st. He subsequently served at Waterloo.

He reached the rank of Captain, later serving in the 2nd Ceylon Regiment, before taking ‘half-pay’ (pension).

He retired to Ballymena, County Antrim and served as the local Stipendiary Magistrate. He died there on 3 May 1850, and is buried in St. Patrick’s Church.

His son Joseph Henry Dyas served in the Royal Engineers, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Members of the 51st Light Infantry Re-Enactment group travelled to Ballymena for the ceremony.

Jane de Rooy, Recruitment and Public Liaison officer, of the group, said the idea for the commemoration had been sparked by a video - sadly now lost - which had appeared on the Ballymena Times website some years ago in which editor, Des Blackadder, had told the story of the Dyas grave.

“We thought it would be a fitting tribute to him to have a short commemoration service at his grave in the bicentennary year of the Battle of Waterloo, where he also fought.”