Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Italian Odyssey

Nine people, one minibus and over 800 miles each way! Off to Marengo on the 45eme road trip of 2017. I was pleased to see everyone had generally gone along with traveling light and a good job too as the big boot was pretty full up. 
We had a stop over in the south of France and then through Mount Blanc and into Italy. Saw fort Bard on the way, which was besieged during the French advance. also drank coffee and went to worst service station of the trip. Most services on route were good quality and distinctly lacking in the crowds, fruit machines and Burger kings that UK services all seem to have. 
It seemed a real trek in a bus, what must it have been like for thousands of men on foot, with wagons and horses and heavy artillery pieces to shift over crude mountain roads in the snow? 

            The Eurotunnel, then the plains of northern France, the Jura mountains, then the alps.. Before Mount Blanc we saw three eagles wheeling overhead, a good omen.

Fort Bard (largely rebuilt)

We arrived early Friday afternoon. Our one tent and awning was put up. orientated selves. Saw statue of Napoleon and monument to Desaix who was mortally wounded at the moment of victory.  Met some of the others and went into town, which was basically one street. A couple of drinks, free snacks, some going on for a pizza. At camp I thought it would be fun to have a saunter around the Austrian camp and count their tents and big guns, military intelligence!  Then it was crash out in the straw.

   Statue of First consul Bonaparte, would probably have thought becoming Emperor was absurd!

An Austria landwehr being punished with a wooden spoon! As far as I know all the 'Austrians' were Croatians, Poles and Czechs.


The itininery for the weekend changed from hour to hour yet everything seemed to work out well once it kicked off. After some drill the Saturday skirmish became an event for Officers and NCOs only yet no one knew exactly what it was until it turned out to be a small battle on the road down to the museum. Myself and Nigel, not being 'involved' as such decided to do crowd control and spectate a bit. a couple of light cannons duelled, at one point firing over some close by skirmishers who were simply told to 'Duck down a bit' when they fired. Then infantry fired a couple of vollies and rotated. The Austrians were pushed off the road into town.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the skirmish and I felt one more push would be the end so decided to sod standing on the side lines, I'm going in!  and found myself crossing muskets with a young Hungarian before his officer whiskered him away, the last to retreat down the road passed the famous tower of Marengo.

                                                    Hmmmm, that tower looks familiar?

Sunday morning saw a memorial ceremony in the square around the Napoleon statue, with some inevitable local dignitaries, including a mayor in pink sunglasses and a gucci handbag, then something of a wait to go straight into battle. an artillery and skirmishing duel kicked off until the Austrians started pushing us back, and cavalry forced us into square before our own dragoons drove them away.. but the day was going the Austrian way and we left the field.
Only to come back to the rescue as Desaix' troops and forming one long line for a crashing volley then advance, a couple of 'dead' Hungarians split the line up and a few of us found us capturing the last enemy troops around their standard, which we motioned was quite safe despite our enthusiasm. And that was that. it was very hot and when bottles of water were dished out some of it went over our heads and down our necks!


Job done we retired to the park/garden for a couple of drinks in the dappled shade. this was a popular idea and the shack soon ran out of beer, fortunately we had wine and I used it to revive some stale bread.

As one of the last things to do I resolved to go over to the Austrian camp and thank them for their efforts, standing in the camp centre by their main flag 'Soldaten von Ostereich! Dankershon von alles der Franzolen. Prost!" and after raising my drink I turned and kissed the corner of their flag. It seemed to go down very well. I should be in the diplomatic corp me. 

The night of the mozzies followed by the magnificent morning of dawn over the mountains.

It was a great event, friendly people, and the journey back and forth was an experience too. 1800 is the earliest event many of us had done and we enjoyed the scuffier, and stripier, look with bicornes instead of shakoes, which are both comfier and easier to transport. I bought a nice red 'Liberty bonnet' which would be good for revolutionary stuff too. This was definitely the 45eme adventure of the year. I'd do it again but there are so many other places to go.. Arcole, Austerlitz, Wagram, Valmy, Castlebar.. who knows, so many battles, so little time!

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