Tuesday, 29 July 2014

France 2014, Napoleon 1814 and Romans

I am writing this post in the beautiful little town of Thomery on the Seine, close to Fontainebleau, south east of Paris and we are four days into our holiday. In the next two weeks we are planning to enjoy the sights, the great cuisine and when I am allowed grab some time to look at things only wargamers would find interesting, and I thought I would share some of things I've been doing.

We left "Dear Old Blighty" on Saturday morning after staying in Hythe on the Friday night. That gave us a bit of time to wander around this very historic part of the south coast and I am planning some more wanderings when we get back. For the Napoleonic enthusiast the two key features that caught the eye was the Royal Military Canal, part of the defences to the coast here against a threatened invasion by Napoleon and his Grande Armee.
History of the Royal Military Canal

The Royal Military Canal at Hythe

Work was started on this defence work in 1804 and completed in 1809 together with Martello Towers along the sea front. With the expanse of Romney Marsh behind it, the feature posed a real obstacle to any landing from the sea. With Napoleon's march away from the Bologne Camp to his rendezvous with destiny at Austerlitz and Lord Nelson's victory at Trafalgar the whole work became rather obsolete, until 1940 when it was incorporated into another defence against the next threat of invasion

I mentioned two key features with the second being the famous school of British Light Infantry, Shorncliffe Camp, where Sir John Moore created the Light Brigade and developed the tactics that created one of the finest divisions in the British Army of the Peninsular War. Unfortunately time did not permit a visit so I am hoping to get a look on my return.
Shorncliffe Camp

When we left on the Channel Tunnel it was to the sound of a Spitfire doing barrel roles over the Channel as part of local celebrations for the Battle of Britain. The sound of the Merlin engine is like no other and it was a beautiful send off.

After a four hour drive from Calais we arrived at our new home for the next two weeks here in Thomery and we plan to visit historic sites nearby in that time together with a wedding anniversary trip to Paris.

I have put a link below about Thomery and the vine walls described. Interestingly the very old house where we are staying has these walls in the back garden.

Interesting stuff about Thomery

Thomery is minutes away from the palace at Fontainebleau and is right on the edge of the campaign area for Napoleon's 1814 defence of Paris. With the 200th anniversary of these events I couldn't miss the opportunity of visiting some of the key places in the campaign and will post pictures as I get the chance.

In the last two days I have visited the neighbouring town of Moret sur Loing where Napoleon stayed on his triumphal return from Elba in March 1815.

The Emperors lodgings in March 1815 in Moret sur Loing

Stood in the town square looking at this building, I couldn't help thinking of the classic movie "Waterloo" with Rod Steiger as Napoleon greeting the crowds from his lodgings on his return to Paris.

Next place of interest was Nogent sur Seine which became the centre of attention in February 1814 when, after Napoleon had garrisoned the town, coalition troops attacked it against heroic resistance from soldiers and civilians until the town finally fell. The French pulled out blowing the St Nicholas bridge behind them and the town was sacked by the allies. The Emperor had his HQ in Nogent on two occasions.

The Emperors HQ on two occasions in February 1814 in Nogent sur Seine

After leaving Nogent we followed the course of the Seine back towards Thomery, coming to one of the most evocative landmarks of the 1814 campaign and suitably enshrined with a mounted statue of Emperor Napoleon, namely the bridge at Montreau-Fault-Yonne, where the Rivers Yonne and Seine meet with two bridges spanning them which became the scene of one of Napoleon's greatest victories of the 1814 campaign.

La Battaille de Montereau by John Charles Langlois

The bridge over the Yonne with the church captured in Langlois picture in the background

Carolyn on the Seine bridge where the exploits of the French 3rd Hussars are suitably recorded

The statue was created by the son of General Pajol the famous cavalry commander

Personally leading his guns forward to direct their fire upon the retreating columns of the enemy, Napoleon
himself came under counter fire, prompting the gunners to remonstrate for exposing himself too far forward. "Fear not", Napoleon calmly replied, "the ball that is to kill me has not yet been cast".

As well as getting out and about I have had a chance to start things rolling with the new Ancients project and, bringing my "Warlords Games Roman Starter Army box" with me, have started to put the units together. I am really enjoying the creative process of putting these figures together and am planning a little project around this new venture, but it will have to be a secret for now!!


Praetorian Guard


Veteran Legionaries
I hope you have enjoyed my holiday post from France and I will post a further update later, continuing the theme. Until then au revoir mes amis.


  1. Hi JJ,
    I agree with the South Coast having lots to see, I spent 3 days last summer starting at Arundel going upto Canterbury looking at the Saxon Shore forts , Henry VIII's Castles and the many Martello Towers. Try and pop into Pevensey castle on the way back , it offers Roman , Norman and WW2 defences in one spot.

    1. Hi Steve, I'm keen, I've just got to convince Carolyn. I'd really like to get up to Bigbury Castle near Canterbury where Caesar did his stuff, but I don't think we'll have time.

  2. Great photos! To me, Steiger WAS Napoleon in Waterloo!

    1. Hi Jon, me to, I keep seeing him doing all those moody inspirational scenes, and when we were at Moret I pictured him turning to Ney and confirming that he had declared he would bring Napoleon back to Paris in a cage.
      I am really looking forward to Fontainebleau picturing the Marshals marching down the corridors to tell the boss that it's all over and that Marmont has gone over to the allies and the Russians are in Paris. Great stuff.

  3. You had me confused for a while as I don't remember Caesar landing in Devon , his first landing was somewhere around Walmer and Deal (both good H8 castles) and the 2nd between Deal and Sandwich? , anyway going through my books I see there is a Bigbury Camp/Hillfort which the 7th attacked which must be it , look out for snakes , it looks a bit over grown.

  4. Nice post JJ. I must say I am looking forward to seeing the Praetorian Guard take to the field. All that range are very nice & almost worth running the gauntlet of lightening bolts in Devizes to get them.
    Good to see Mrs JJ making an appearance, I bet that cost you a hearty meal as a sweetener. Did you use the old "Good lord dear, look at the plaque on this bridge. Who would have thought it was famous ? Just stand a little to the left whilst I get a picture." routine ?


    1. Ah yes that trip to Devizes will live in the memory for a long time. Perhaps these Romans will be blessed by Jupiter after that little expedition.
      As far as the boss is concerned, I couldn't possibly comment. As they say "what goes on holiday stays on holiday".