Friday, 25 May 2018

To Arms at Four Arms.

Such a long time, eight months! as last season ended a bit early and this one started a bit late.

                                                             QUATRE BRAS!

or as I have seen it too often 4 Bras, what is that? text speak? are we going to have Wtrloo 2020 or Lpzg?

The actual battle was on 16 June whilst to the East Napoleon fought the Prussians at Ligny, having been given a drubbing here Wellington fell back to a little place called Waterloo.
For us it was a great site based around a period barn not far from the crossroads with the remains of a wall and impressive gate, the barn itself was huge and had the tavern and a stage set up in it.

The line of trees at the top end of the camp I came to call the rain trees as I made my bed there on the first night, which was a bit of a nippy one, and woke up a couple of times thinking it was raining but it was just the breeze in the trees, others thought this also.

After breakfast, powder collection, filling cartridges and a browse at the traders it was drill on an amusingly sandy, bumpy, ploughed field.
Since last autumn I have had what turned out to be 'Frozen shoulder' on the left. Still I could load and fire a musket without much impediment, or so I thought until after about half an hour of drill.
it's common to get a slight ache from carrying a musket at porte arms.. over the left shoulder but this was a proper pain possibly because the arm has been used less but it felt like a bit more than that and when I moved to advance with bayonet forward I physically couldn't reach the right point with my left arm and wavered, for most of the time after that it was my right arm baring the weight. I will have to see how it goes.

Many of us had been looking forward to a long route march with a skirmish but those going would have been split up into two other units, one of which was lead by an Officer some of us have no respect for.. so as a unit we did a commemoration instead. Everyone on the bus! 

Later, the first battle! It was good to see so many Dutch-Belgians and Brunswickers.. although for a while it was just hearing them as the fighting raged beyond the crest.

The cannons boomed and everything was hazed with smoke. The British appeared marching to join the battle.. and we were also advanced down the slope to meet them. Who won Quatre Bras is debatable, often cited as a French strategic victory as the allies were forced to retreat but as an allied tactical victory as there was no breakthrough. For me Ney's inactivity in the morning when the outnumbered largely Dutch-Belgian force could have been overwhelmed cost the whole campaign.

It was played out quite well, the allies retreating from the field but the French in no rush to get forward, I wonder how the same battle would have gone as a UK reenactment.

Another misty morning and a but more leisurely, still more drill.

Again to battle, the calm before the storm of sitting or standing in a corn field, bar a few guns we were first brigade up, it was by now very sunny and when the battle started we were soon advancing.

Vollies were traded and we went forward, being in the front rank I didn't see the rest of the column behind me but the whole French attack rolled down the hill to smash a thin line, and then..

You know the end of Month Python and the holy grail? It was a bit like that, the bloke representing Ney and his entourage got between us and a few riflemen and went ' Non, non, this is not in the script! Turn round, go back to going back and forth. You can't do something that interesting! (n.b. They didn't really say this, nor was he shot by the rifles about five yards behind him).

I had decided to become a casualty near the end, next time a skirmisher popped off a shot.. but each time there was a misfire.. click! and so I lived to see another day.

I have one of those burnt in memories of the cavalry racing up the slope as some infantry marched down just by them.. but the pictures don't do justice, no motion and.. you can really see they are a motley bunch except for a few dragoons and one of them is a reversed colours musician.. it was a bit like that with our own headwear.. a handful of blue pom poms.. a red plume, some red chords, no pom pom, a narrow green and yellow plume and a bog brush of a yellow and green one seemingly randomly scattered! I don't mind plumes as a subsection but imagine onlookers going 'Why has that one guy got that big thing on his head?' I have heard it said that plumes were expensive and for best parades and wouldn't normally be worn into a battle, but there you are.

Unfortunately for the 21eme there coach got stuck in the sand, digging itself in as a storm approached. Volunteers were called for.
I decided to pay a call on the British officers to solicit more help and they were more than obliging, although I wasn't amused at jokes suggesting I'd been dodging manual work, I got far more muscle involved than my own! 

Sadly all the pushing in the world, or at least in a small part of Belgium, could not triumph and a recovery vehicle was summoned.
Those obliged to wait in uncertainty at least got to join the rest of us in Free beer from the tavern for everyone, everything must go! 

'Stefan is thirsty.'

Beards came up a few times, the Dutch and Brunswickers in particular seemed to have a lot of big beards. Which can be controversial.

..and so the weekend drew to a close and we drove West.. next event in two weeks.. SOUTH.. very much south.. to Malta 1798-1800. Crikey, it seemed so far away when first mentioned and now, a week and a half! stay turned.

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