Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Vobarno is a small and very attractive town in the mountains on the western side of Lake Garda. On 4 August 1796 it was the scene of desperate fighting as the retreating Austrians tried to capture the bridge over the river Chise.

We spent a day visiting the town on 6 September 2000.

Our visit is covered at

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


Lonato is a lovely little town south west of Lake Garda. The narrow streets are dominated by the castle, with its impressive views of the coast and surrounding area.

In 1796 it played an important part in Bonaparte's Italian Campaign. During Wurmster's First Advance the castle was taken by the Austrian army. On 3 August it was retaken by the French, and Bonaparte established his headquarters there.

On 4 August Bonaparte was present in the castle which was held by 1000 men. An Austrian force of 2500 approached and demanded that the castle surrender. Bonaparte bluffed that the Austrians were in the middle of his whole army and gave the eight minutes to surrender of be destroyed. They surrendered!

On 4 September 2000 we spent a very enjoyable day exploring the town and castle. You can read about our visit at

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Napoleon in Italy

The new blog covers our two week holiday in Italy in 2000.

We would never have tackled Italy had we not been fortunate enough to find this book Castiglione 1796 by Bernhard Voykowitsch at a Napoleonic show in London. I can't remember the name of the show, but it was mainly new and second hand books, plus a few reenactors. Bernhard was there in person selling his book. I had never heard of him, or his book, but I was interested in the Italian campaigns so I bought a copy.

It was only when I started reading it that I realised it would be a great battlefield guide. It covers the campaign in great detail, with good descritions of the leading actors and the battles. It also contains a wealth of illustrations and some excellent maps.

It was the first of a new series to be called "Feldzug Series". It was planned to cover each battle from Castiglione 1796 to Wagram 1809. Unfortunately as far as I know only the first one was ever published. A great shame, because I would love to have collected the whole series.

The purchase of this book prompted us to consider a holiday in Italy to walk the battlefields. It would involve about six months planning, and a long car journey to Lake Garda. But it would turn out to be one of our most enjoyable battlefield visits.

You can read the full account of our planning at

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Leipzig was the last battlefield to be visited during our Napoleon's German Battlefield tour.

I was really looking forward to this one, and had done a lot of previous research. I had read all the books I could find and had prepared maps of the different combats such as Libertwolkwitz, Wachau, Connewitz, Lindenau, Mockern and finally Leipzig itself.

This should have been the highlight of the tour, but it proved to be the most disappointing. I am not sure whether it was due to lack of knowledge or preparation by our tour guide, or whether the area is now so developed that it was not possible to find or walk any of the actual battlefields.

Whatever the cause, we only spent the morning visiting the battlefield, and most of that time was spent at the magnificient monument. Then we had a long lunch, followed by a "free afternoon"

I have not read any accounts of visits to this battlefield, either before or since our visit. So I am unable to compare our experience with that of other visitors. Those which I have read have been a brief description, such as at the end of the Osprey Campaign Series Leipzig 1813. There is mention of other memorials, but no details.

It was a shame to end our tour on a disappointing note. Especially as this battlefield promised to be the highlight of the tour.

I did manage to take some good view of the battlefield, and you can find them at

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


This small German village was already famous long before Napoleon fought the first major battle of the 1813 campaign there.

In 1632 the famous Swedish general Gustavus Adolphus lost his life here during the first Battle of Lutzen.

The area is largely unchanged since 2 May 1813, when Napoleon defeated the Prussian and Russian armies and sent them in retreat to the east. Due to his lack of cavalry he was unable to mount an effective pursuit, and the allied army retreated through Dresden and formed up on the hills overlooking Bautzen for the second major battle of the war.

For more photographs, and a record of our visit, follow this link

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Bautzen is one of the less well known of Napoleon's victories.

Fought just 20 days after Lutzen, his first victory in the 1813 campaign, Bautzen was a large battle fought over a wide area. Napoleon commanded an army of 200,000 against just 96,000 Prussians and Russians. It should have been a decisive victory, and even ended the 1813 campaign in a French victory. He won, but he allowed the allies to retreat to the east. Or rather Marshal Ney allowed them to retreat, by attacking the right of the allied line instead of arriving behind the right and preventing them from retreating.

The result was the armistice, which ended with the Austrians joining Prussia and Russia, and the complete defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig.

Perhaps that is the real reason Bautzen is not well known. It was a missed opportunity and became overshadowed by the great battle of Leipzig.

We spent a day walking the battlefield and you can read about it at

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Festung Konigstein

Apart from an inspection visit by Napoleon in 1813, the fortress does not appear to have played an active part in the Napoleonic Wars. However its very presence overlooking the river Elbe so near to Dresden made it important enough to have a regular garrison. I was not surprised to hear that there has never been an attempt to capture it by force!

We were dropped off here whilst our guide and the coach went off to recce the next days battlefield walk. However we were not unhappy, as Konigstein is a major tourist attraction and well worth a visit.

There is an interesting museum which includes artillery uniforms and equipment of the Napoleonic period.

But the most interesting part of our visit was exploring the ramparts with their large collection of artillery equipment.
Link to blog

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


It was fortunate that we had done our research prior to our visit to Dresden, because it was treated as a "free day". I always consider this to be a cop out on a any holiday, but even more so in one which is dedicated to walking battlefields. We were left entirely on our own and later discovered that the guide and coach had gone off to recce Bautzen. I feel quite strongly that this is just not good enough. All recce should be done prior to starting the tour. Paid customers should not be left to explore a city as best they can. This was our first, but not our last, disappointment with this Midas tour.

Due to our preparation we were aware of the main phases of the Battle of Dresden in August 1813. In particular I knew that the Great Garden had played an important part. And even though the city has greatly changed since then, we were able to find the Grosser Garten by joining a city tour bus and asking to be dropped there.

Unfortunately the garden was also a disappointment. It has been completely rebuilt and looks similar to any other park in any other major city.

Link to the Dresden blog

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


The cross roads at the village of Hassenhausen makes this a very easy battlefield to visit and explore. The road junction was the centre of Davout's position, and the flat ground to the south the area of the Prussian attacks.

The view of the battlefield is very similar to Waterloo, and one of the main features of the battle was the ill fates Prussian cavalry attack against the French infantry squares. Again a reminder of the French cavalry attacks against the British squares at Waterloo.

Link to Blog

Monday, 11 October 2010

Jena - Kapellendorf

The last visit of our day spent on the Jena battlefield, was to the small town of Kapellendorf.

It was here that General Ruchel made his fateful decision to move forward and attempt to save the broken survivors of Hohenloe's defeated army. He had arrived in the town with just 13,000 men to reinforce Hohenloe. On arrival he was advised that the Prussian army was in retreat pursued by the massed French cavalry. He ordered his division to advance towards Jena in an ill fated attempt to stem the French pursuit and save the Prussian army. In the event he was promptly crushed and joined the rout.

Link to blog

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Jena - Vierzehnheilligen

Vierzehnheilligen church

Vierzehnheilligen is the village where the Prussian infantry formed line in the open to exchange fire with the French infantry who were behind all available cover in the village! Not surprisingly it went badly for the Prussians.

The whole area is very unspoilt and it is not too difficult to picture the destruction of the Prussian infantry, and the gallant charge led by Marshal Murat which followed and led to one of Napoleon's most famous victories.

Link to blog

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Jena Landgrafenberg

Jena Napoleonstein

The best views of the battlefield and surrounding area is from the Napoleonstein on the plateau of the Landgrafenberg overlooking the town of Jena.

This is the area held by Marshal Lannes throughout the night before the battle, when he faced overwhelming numbers of Prussians. A determined attack would have bundled the French down the hill into the town below.

This is an excellent spot to survey the battlefield with the aid of a good map or even a battle diagram. We used copies of the maps from the West Point Napoleonic Atlas and read a description of the area from Loraine Petre's "Napoleon's Conquest of Prussia 1806". Both of which I would strongly recommend to anyone planning a visit to this most interesting of Napoleon's battlefields.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Napoleon in Germany

Napoleon museum Cospeda

Just started a new blog for our visit to Napoleon's Battlefields in Germany.

This was the second of our holiday's with Midas Battlefield Tours. It would cover Jena, Auerstadt, Lutzen, Bautzen, Dresden, Leipzig and even a visit to Colditz.

This would be our last holiday with Midas. Our first one was overshadowed by the poor weather, this time it would be poor planning and preparation. It would convince us that we could do better on our own, and we would subsequently prove this to be so.

However there were highs on the holiday, and our visit to Jena on the first day would be one of them.

You will find it all here

Monday, 13 September 2010

Some thoughts on Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

Torres Vedras 1994

I have just finished the Summary on Austerlitz

This has prompted me to review the progress so far.

I started this blog in April 2009, with our visit to Waterloo - the first battlefield of many we were to walk.

Since then I have written a blog pretty well every week, and covered our visits to

Spain and Portugal with Holts
Spain and Portugal on our own
Northern Spain
The Pyrenees

Its been great fun writing up the blogs. The research has involved looking back through our old photograph albumns and reading the old diaries written during the visits. It has been very nostalgic and at times emotional.

And its not over yet.

The next blog will cover our visit to Napoleon's Battles in Northern Germany with Midas Tours. Then will come our 10 days in Italy on our own. Finally another 10 days around Vienna and a longer stay at Austerlitz.

So if you have enjoyed them so far, you are in for a treat in the coming months.

Thanks for following the blog.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Austerlitz and Vienna

Pratzen heights from Zurlan Hill

The highlight of our last day at Austerlitz was to revisit Zurlan Hill, Napoleons command post during the battle. On our first day we could see little due to low clouds and heavy rain!

Today was much better. Not exactly bright and sunny, but dry and clear. Its the ideal spot to take panoramic photographs of the battlefield. Unfortunately my camera was not quite up to the job. But I did the best I could, and you can see the results at:

We then visited the wonderful military museum in Vienna before catching our late afternoon flight back to UK. If you are interested in Napoleonic exhibits and have not yet visited this museum I would highly recommend it.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Austerlitz - Sokolnitz

The last of the Austerlitz villages we visited during this tour was Sokolnitz.

Sokolnitz was the scene of the most savage fighting of the whole battle.

The battle opened with the attack on Telnitz, but quickly spread to the adjoining village of Sokolnitz. The village has a small castle, a large walled garden and a number of large stone buildings. All changed hands many times during the battle.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Austerlitz - Telnitz

For a casual visitor Tenitz has little of interest. This village was the southern hinge of Napolens battle line, and was the scene of desperate fighting throughout the battle. Despite this we could find no plaque or acknowledgement of its deserved place in history.

Of course it is ten years since we were there, and things may have changed.

We were fortunate that we were on a guided tour, and Alan Rooney brought the history alive with an excellent description. He also took us through the village to the fields beyond which were the scene of the intiial fighting.

For the first time on this tour, the sky cleared and we were able to sit and soak up the athmosphere.

More photos at

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Pratzen Heights

Without the huge Peace Memorial it would be difficult to identify the Pratzen Heights from any distance. I had expected the heights to dominate the battlefield, but in fact we found it difficult to see them even from Zuran Hill.

The memorial dominates the Pratzen in much the same way that the Lion dominates Wellington's ridge at Waterloo. But at least here the hill was not reduced to build a mound.

From the Pratzen there is an excellent view of the French positions opposite, just as Zuran Hill provided great views of the allied positions.

An easy walk along the ridge covers the area of the main French attack and the desperate allied counter attack.

More photographs of our visit at

Friday, 6 August 2010

Austerlitz Castle

The castle did not play any significant part in the battle, it was well behind the allied battle line. I believe that the armistice was signed there, and no doubt Napoleon would have spent a night or two there, as it is the most impressive building in the area.

Our battlefield tour included an evening meal at Austerlitz Castle, but we were not expecting the artillery drill display that went with it. Jan even got the opportunity to fire the gun. Next came a display of sword fighting and finally the meal itself.

An excellent evening, and a very enjoyable addition to the tour.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Austerlitz - The Santon

This small round hill was at the extreme left of Napoleon's battle line. It came under infantry attack during the battle, but was held throughout.

After a cold, wet and muddy morning tramping the fields we were reluctant to leave the warmth and comfort of the Post House, where there was a plentiful supply of local wine to wash down our excellent Santon Cannonball lunch.

It was only when we were offered a lift in the minibus that we agreed to carry on with the afternoon tour. The delay meant we had to abandon the walk to the Santon, but everyone had more than enough of muddy fields to last a lifetime - let along a day.

Once on the Santon we were full of enthusiasm for the tour, and a little guilty that we had missed part of it.

More photos here

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Austerlitz - Post House

The Austrian and Russian General Staff used the Post House on the night before the battle. No doubt the scene of the staff briefing at which Kutuzov fell asleep which was so well described in "War and Peace". On the following night Napoleon met there with his Marshals to issue orders for the pursuit of the beaten allied army.

We arrived there wet, tired and cold after a long morning walking the battlefield in the rain and mud. We were soon seated on one of the long wooden tables in front of a roaring fire with a "Santon Cannonball" and a bottle of local wine in front of us. Those of you who have had the delight of a meal at the Post House will, I am sure, remember the "Santon Cannonball". Its a large, round, white bread loaf with the inside removed and replaced with a very tasty goulash. Just what we needed.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Austerlitz - Zuran Hill

The view of the battlefield from the Zuran Hill, which was Napoleon's command post during the early stages of the battle, are to Austerlitz what the Lion Mound is to Waterloo. Not an eyesore, but an excellent viewing platform.

Despite the far from perfect weather the whole of the left and centre of the battlefield was laid out before us. From the Santon on our left, to the Post House directly in front and the Pratzen Heights on our right. True the area around Telnitz on the far right were out of sight, and true also that in the early stages of the battle this was a critical area. But the main French attack would be launched on the Pratzen Heights and this was an ideal observation platform for the coming attack.

This week covers our visit to Zuran Hill and the walk accross the battlefield to the Post House a mile or so away.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Austerlitz - Schlapanitz

Having spent four holidays walking Wellington's battlefields in Portugal and Spain we were in need of a change. We had wanted to visit Austerlitz for a long time, so when we heard that Midas Battlefield Tours were offering a four day walking holiday of Austerlitz we signed up. This is the first of a series of visits to Napoleon's battlefields in Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia.

The new blog is called Walking Northern Europe

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Last day in the Pyrenees

The last walk of our holiday was a return visit to the Maya Pass. We had put this one off twice during the previous week, waiting for better weather. It did not arrive, so we went anyway. It was cloudy and overcast as we arrived, and it got worse. We spent a couple of hours walking the area, but then the light rain turn heavy, and we were forced to abandon the visit.

The weather had been less than perfect throughout our two week stay in Sare. We had a few good days, but more often than not it was grey skies and light rain. Not what I was expecting in the south of France in July.

We do a lot of hill walking in the UK. We have walked in Scotland, Wales and the Lake District. So we are not strangers to exploring the great outdoors in dismal weather. So it would not be true to say that the weather had spoiled our holiday, though it had made it more challenging.

This was our last visit to Portugal and Spain, or so we thought. We had spent four holidays walking Wellington's Battlefields in the Peninsula, and felt we had done the job quite well. We had never been to Spain on a "normal" holiday, and when we left Sare on 5 July 1996 we quite expected it would be the last time we would see it. Little did we know that ten years later we would be living here as residents.

Our next battlefield tour would be to Austerlitz.

Friday, 25 June 2010


The bridge at Orthez

Orthez is a battlefield we had long wanted to visit, and one which I had done more preparation prior to our visit than normal. I had managed to get hold of a very good map showing not only unit locations but also contour lines. So I felt confident that we would have a successful and enjoyable visit.

However it proved less than a complete success. We managed to find the church of St Boes and the main French position. We also found the Roman Camp, which had been Wellington's command post during the battle. From here I had planned to follow the route of his attack. Unfortunately the Roman Camp was completely covered by a dense woods and a thick undergrowth. Despite walking around the base of the whole hill we were unable to make our way to the summit or indeed any point which would give us a view of the battlefield.

We expended so much time and energy on trying to reach Wellington's command post that we had little left to explore the rest of the battlefield. By mid afternoon we had enough, and settled for a visit to the town of Orthez instead. It had not played any part in the battle, but is a very attractive and interesting town in its own right.

More photographs, and a description of our visit, at:

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Return to Bayonet Ridge

We had planned to visit Orthez, but changed our plans due to light drizzle which promised to turn to heavy rain. Instead we decided to revisit the Bayonet Ridge above Vera. It would be just as wet, but would be a much shorter drive.

The ridge is now home to a collection of duty free shops, and has an excellent car park. Last time we climbed the hill behind Vera and followed the route taken by the Light Division. This time we took the route followed by hundreds of visitors to the duty free shops each day.

The path from the car park was appropriately called Commissari Ridge, and leads to the scene of the fighting in 1813. By the time we arrived the rain was heavy, and soon joined by thunder and lighting. We returned to the car park and a much needed hot drink.

Not for the first time we had to abandon a battlefield walk due to bad weather.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Roncesvalles Pass

Redoubt de Chateau Rignon

This was our second visit to this battlefield. On our previous visit we had parked on the Pass itself, where roland had fought his famous rear guard action in 778, and explored the scene of the major fighting on 25 July 1813. This was between the Pass and the Altobiscar hill.

For our second visit we wanted to follow the area of the French advance, and explore the intiial contact at the Redoubt de Chateau Rignon and then the light infantry action at Pic de Leizar Atheka.

This involved a long drive from St Jean de Pied de Port to the crest of the Pyrenees. There is a very good road, but narrow and very winding. At the end of this road we reached the Redoubt de Chateau Rignon

We were tempted to follow the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella which follows the French advance from St Jean. But we estimated it would have taken about 5 hours from St Jean to the Pic de Leizar, and then the same distance back. We considered this was just a little too long to walk, particularly as it would involve a steep climb. However when we saw how beautiful the countryside is, we were quite sorry we did not do so. Perhaps we will return in the future and try again.

The diary entry for the day, and some more photographs, are at:

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Amotz Bridge and Ainhoa Redoubt

Today the bridge is in a sad state of repair and overgrown with weeds. It is now only used by local farmers. There is a new road from Sare to Ainhoa, and a new brigde over the river Nivelle. The reglected bridge is well back from the new road, and can easily be missed when travelling between Sare and Ainhoa by car.

In 1813 it was a different matter entirely. This bridge was the only communication link between the left and right wings of Soult's army during the battle of the Nivelle. Its capture by the Third Division forced the French to withdraw to their next line of defence on the Nive.

Walking the five miles from the bridge to the line of redoubts overlooking Ainhoa is a delight. The path is a rutten farm track and throughout the day we spent there we only passed three young men on mountain bikes.

The area must look exactly the same as it did in 1813, and enjoying the peace and quite we had plenty of time to relfect on the battle and how difficult it must have been for Marshal Soult to exercise control over his army over such a wide area.

Diary entry and more photographs at: