Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Vimerio is a small village about 40 miles north west of Lisbon. On 21 August 1806 Wellesley fought his second battle of the Peninsular War. He had landed at few miles further north and was marching on Lisbon. He took position on the hills either side of the village to cover the landing of British reinforcements at the nearby mouth of the Maceria river.

Vimiero is an easy and interesting battlefield to visit, as all the features are identifiable and the land undeveloped. The village, though still small, is much larger than at the time of the battle.

From Torres Vedras to take the N8-2 north west and in about 10 miles you reach the small village of Vimiero. In the centre of the village is a sign to “The Monument”, and this stands on the top of Vimerio Hill, on the south edge of the village. This very impressive monument is an excellent place to view the battlefield and view both the British positions and the area of the six French attacks.

Wellesley expected the French to advance against him from the south, and he therefore took up positions on the Western Ridge facing south, with Vimerio Hill providing his left flank But the French moved east and threatened to turn his left flank, so he changed the his whole deployment moving the bulk of his army to the Eastern ridge, turning Vimerio Hill into his right flank. Only one brigade remained on the Western Ridge.

Vimerio Hill dominates the approach to the village and four of the six French attacks were against this point. The remaining two were against the Eastern Ridge. All were to fail.

We were fortunate to have a lovely day for our visit, warm and sunny. Beside the monument was a seating area which provided an ideal spot to shelter from the bright sun and read Jac Wellers description of the battle.

Behind Jan is the area of the first four attacks. You can see that she is wearing very sensible shoes, because we had a lot of walking to do.

We walked down from the monument and inspected the area of the first three French attacks. Walking down the slight slope and around the base of the hill it was easy to imagine the determined French columns pushing back the British riflemen and light infantry until they reached the long red lines at the top of the hill. We had the whole area to ourselves, and could stop, sit and read from “Wellington in the Peninsular” before walking on towards the village.

Although the village has grown considerably since the battle, it still retains the character of a small Portuguese rural village. The fourth French attack consisted of a brigade of grenadiers who advanced along the side of the brook which runs through the village, which is where this photo was taken.

The church, being the strongest building in the village, was the centre fierce hand to hand fighting. The grenadier column pushed into the village, which was held by the 2/43rd and the two were soon fighting in the narrow, stone walled streets . The French were pushed back out of the village, bringing to an end the first phase of the battle.

After a snack in the village we turned our attention to the Eastern Ridge. This is a much more confused area, and much too large to explore on foot. We did however drive around, but found it difficult to pin point the exact location of the fifth and sixth French attacks.

By mid afternoon we had enough of walking in the hot sun. Its great fun walking battlefields, but you have to conserve your energy on hot days like this one. We decided to visit the bay where the British reinforcements landed. We followed the Maceira river through the gorge to the bay, where we sat, ate our lunch, and read some more Jac Weller. The beach was crowded with locals, who probably had no knowledge of the importance of this small beach on 21 August 1808.

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