Friday, 26 February 2010


On 31 August 1813 a small party of 80 men from the 95th Rifles held a bridge to prevent a full division of about 10,000 French infantry from crossing the river Bidassoa. I am not sure what it would be called. Certainly not a battle, probably not a combat but perhaps an action.

I first heard about this gallant feat way back in the early 1970s. I had just become interested in wargaming, and subscribed to the only magazine then available in UK called Wargamers Newsletter by Don Featherstone. One edition contained an article called something like "Action at Vera". It caught my eye because my sister is also called Vera, and because it was about the Napoleonic period. The combination meant that I may have forgotten the details of the article, but not the name of the village.

So when we were planning a visit to Wellington's 1813 battlefields in the Pyrenees I was determined to make time to visit the village. Vera played an important part in the campaign because it had one of the few bridges over the strategically important river Bidassoa.

It was easy to find Vera, less easy to find the bridge. Although in a good state of repair, the main road now runs about a mile from the bridge. Fortunately we found a local lad who spoke a little English and he was able to give us general direction which eventually led to the bridge.

You can read about our visit at:

Monday, 22 February 2010


The fourth battlefield we visited during our visit to northern Spain and the Pyrenees was Sorauren. This was the major battle fought over three days in July 1813 to protect the siege of Pamplona.

Sorauren is an attractive village a few miles north of Pamplona. The area is little changed since 1813 and is a very easy battlefield to explore. The ridge which formed Wellington's position overlooks the village, and is an easy climb.

The bridge where Wellington scribbled his orders to change the direction of march of his reinforcements is also easy to find. Best of all there is a very pleasant inn beside the river where you can sip a cool beer within sight of the famous bridge.

Pamplona is also well situated to visit four Napoleonic battlefields. Sorauren, Maya, Roncesvalles and Vitoria. So there is a lot to recommend it as a base to explore this part of Wellington's 1813 campaign.

You can read about our visit to Sorauren at:

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


In the previous blog I recalled our visit to the Pass of Roncevalles, which Soult stormed in his bid to raise the siege of Pamplona. On the same day, 25 July 1813, he also attacked the Pass of Maya. Separated by 25 miles, these two passes in the Pyrenees commanded roads leading from France to Pamplona.

Maya is not quite so impressive as Roncevalles, but is still a lovely and impressive location. On this, our first visit, Jan and I spent an enjoyable but frustrating day trying to locate the main points of interest.

You can read about our visit at