Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Busaco ridge is almost ten miles long. On 27 September 1810 Wellington held it with 52,000 men, almost half of them Portuguese. Massena attacked it with 66,000. This was a big battle fought over a wide area.

Parts of the battlefield are easy to find, particularly the monument which was erected on the northern part of the ridge where Wellington spent most of the battle. When we arrived there was heavy fog, and you could see nothing from this splendid viewpoint.

This was the first major battle for the reorganized Portuguese army, and is celebrated every year with parades in period uniforms and festivities to commemorate the distinguished part played by the Portuguese troops in this victory.

There is a small, but very interesting, military museum. Jan and I spent a few hours looking around waiting for the weather to improve

When we left the museum we were delighted to find the mist had cleared and it was bright blue skies and a warm sunny day. We returned to the monument to orientate ourselves and admire the view. We then drove across the valley to the site of Massena’s Windmill, where he commanded the battle.

While I read extracts from Wellington in the Peninsula, Jan did this sketch of the Massena monument. We also had our picnic lunch here as it has such good views of the ridge.

Jan sketching, with the ridge behind

Driving back towards the ridge we came to the village of Maura. This was the staging area for Marshal Neys VI corps, and the point from which the main attack was launched.

Just in front of Maura we found a convenient log to sit on to read about Ney’s attack and study the route he took on the ridge opposite

We followed the road from Maura towards the ridge and soon came to the village of Sula. During the battle this small village was held by 1400 men of the 95th Rifles and 3rd Portuguese Cacadores.

I don’t suppose the village has changed much since that day. Wandering the narrow streets it was easy to imagine the hand to hand fighting as the French used their overwhelming strength to clear the allied light infantry from the buildings and push them up the hill before them.

We followed the road to the top of the ridge, and found the spot where the light division waited for the arrival of those same French infantry of Loison’s division. This windmill marks the spot where general Craufords famous division was deployed.

It was quite awe inspiring to stand at the very spot where Crauford unleashed the Light Division and defeated the first French attack. There could be no doubt that this is the exact spot, there is Crauford’s engraved rock to prove it

We sat for an hour or so beside the rock and I read Wellers description of Neys attack on Busaco ridge. Throughout that whole time we had the spot to ourselves, not one other visitor in sight. It was one of those magic experiences which I will always remember.

A short distance along the ridge we came to Wellington’s second command post. A stone pillar crowned with a star marks the spot, which was the position of Pack’s Portuguese brigade. From here there is a magnificent view of the village of San Antonio, from where Reynier led the second attack on the ridge.


  1. I know very little about the Peninsular campaign, so thanks for the pictures and the education!!




I have asked to be notified before comments appear so that I will not miss them.