Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Bayonet Ridge

Bayonet Ridge by Captain Robert Batty who took part in the battle

The French held a very strong fortified position on The Rhune, which is the dominating mountain in this part of the Pyrenees. On 7 October 1813 the Light Division crossed the river Bidassoa and stormed the enemy fortifications on the Bayonet Ridge. The attack was a complete success and secured the Greater Rhune for Wellington, forcing the French to retire to their second line of defences on the lower Le Petit Rhune.

It was yet another overcast morning when we arrived at the village of Vera to climb through the woods to The Bayonet Ridge. We had about four hours to explore the area before the rain arrived and forced us to give us and seek shelter in the collection of tax free shops which now clutter the area.

More photographs at:

Friday, 21 May 2010

La Rhune

La Rhune is a large mountain on the Spanish-French border between the rivers Bidossa and Nivelle. It consists of two peaks the higher is Grande Rhune and in November 1813 was occupied by Welllington and the Light Division. The lower peak is Petite Rhune, and was strongly defended by Soult and the French. The battle of the Nivelle opened with the light division assault on La Petite Rhune.

It was one of those desperate hand to hand battles, which make such stirring reading. There is a detailed account in "Wellington, the Bidassoa and Novelle" by Major Gneeral F C Beatson, which was our companion during our visit in 1996.

A full account of the day we spent on La Petite Rhune, together with more photographs, can be found at

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Ainhoa and the Pass of Maya

Another overcast day, but a very enjoyable first visit to Ainhoa and a return visit to the Pass of Maya.

On our previous visit to Maya we had failed to find Mount Gorospil, and had done more research in preparation for this visit to avoid another disappointment. We found this sign post which led us to the path used by the French in 1813 and then to Gorospil.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Louis XIV and Signal Redoubts

Wet and miserable weather returns, not at all what we had expected from the South of France in June! Despite the weather we set off to explore the hills behind Sare, and in particular The Louis XIV and Signal Redoubts, which had played such an important part in the battle of the Nivelle on 10 November 1813.

This walk on a dull and cold June day would bring home to Jan and I just how difficult it must have been to campaign with Wellington. It was difficult enough to climb the muddy paths leading to the hills, and the redoubts, behind Sare. But to imagine how much more difficult it would have been to do so when hungry, wet, cold and carrying all your personal belongings on your back. And to then have to fight to capture these strong redoubts from the determined French who were defending their own country.

The area held by Marshal Soult covered 20 miles from St Jean du Luz on the coast inland to Urdrax, and consisted of a whole series of defended villages, barricades and strong redoubts on the crest of the hills.

Our visit is covered in this weeks Walking Napoleonic Battlefields.