Wednesday, 23 October 2013

LEIPZIG! the big one. (part one)

So the day finally came, when I booked the trip it seemed distant, now, here it was!

To cut a long story short I arrived in Leipzig about midnight, and sans luggage. Fortunately I was wearing my greatcoat over my whites, with gaiters, and a breadbag as handluggage (now rather stuffed) and my musket had been brought along by Duncan in a car, so I could always scrounge enough kit together to make it onto the field.

As many a soldier has done before I wondered between campfires asking if anyone knew where my regiment was.. 'aaah, a momente..' *gives cup, fills with brandy* 'No, I donta know."
(my big map and a spare phone battery were in my lost luggage btw) I was twice pointed in a rough direction of one of the other bivouacs and set off. Eventually however I turned back other than end up miles away. I should cut my losses, it would be easier in daylight with more people about.

I pitched into a pile of staw by a row of tents to sleep, the moon was bright and I pulled my greatcoat up to my face. A church bell chimed two o'clock.
A woke up now and then and then heard voices nearby, looking up at two greatcoated figures who seemed to be wondering if I was dead. They invited me to sit by their fire and as reveille was called they kindly offerred me breakfast. They were Russians (playing French, 33eme) and it was quite a breakfast, lentil soup with sausage, bread and cheese, black coffee and traditional Tenesse Whisky. I was quite set up for the day and quite moved by their kindness.

The Church by Touhaus Dolitz, just two minutes from camp, where Austrians and French fought for the bridge and surrounding houses on the 16th.

Setting off again I saw a group of Police and asked if they knew where 'Biwac drei was' (I now had a small map) they were not sure.. but put me in the back of a Police car.. and drove me to the Torhaus Dolitz, and here it was!    However the troops were about to march off for battalion drill and I just got to shout over a fence to my Officer what had happened and that I should sort luggage out and be here for afternoon practice.

I got back (still sans luggage) in time to meet up with the others and que at the 'field kitchen' for potato soup and a lunch bag for the next day. There was to be another practice as our brigage was very much le internationale and having units who had not drilled together before and speaking several different language had seemingly made the earlier practice not run as smoothly as the General would like.  I stayed behind with a comrade for a bit of 'shooting' practice/drill, having not been in a battle and loading/firing before. It is quite an experience and a joy to start, me, a firer at last! No more pretending. The flash and burn of powder. I never appreciated before the slight pause between pulling the trigger, the pan igniting, then the charge in the barrel going off. A couple of beers followed.

That evening (now with Luggage, I put my case in an Hessian sack to make it inconspicuous) :-) I was the guest of the Sappers and Miners and a couple of drinks, song and banter around the campfire. Joined occasionally by a plodding Norwegian on sentry duty (which goes on all night).  Turned in about eleven, stretched out under a table as a bit of momentary drizzel threatened rain. Slept like a log till about half six when a very loud cockeral woke everyone within a hundred yards up, no one actually shot it.

There was a great thrum of activity as breakfasts were finished and folk started to get into full kit and form up. Brigades formed at their alloted places and marched to the practice field where I believe Napoleon was meant to review the troops. However He was stuck in the traffic. Much milling about was done, watching units arrive. Marshal Ney appeared. So everyone formed a marching column and we were off to the battlefield! 

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