Friday 24 March 2017

Talavera 208 - Bassecourts Spanish 5th Division, 1st Battalion, Reina (Reyna) Regiment

5th Division: Major-General Bassecourt
1st Real Marina (Royal Marines), 1st Battalion
1st Real Marina (Royal Marines), 2nd Battalion
Africa Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion
Reyna Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion
Murcia Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion
Murcia Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion
Provincial de Siguenza (Militia)

Progress continues on this the last division required to complete the orders of battle for Talavera 208, with the addition of the 1st Battalion Reina (Reyna) or Queen's Regiment in English.

The Reina Regiment was the second regiment of line infantry in seniority founded in 1537 originally titled the Galicia Regiment changing to Reina in 1789.

For a look at the reforms and issues affecting the recruiting of men into the Spanish army up to and including the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars see the post on the Africa Regiment.

The uniform illustrated for the regiment bears a distinct resemblance to the 1st Rey or King's Regiment differing principally in the colour of the lace and buttons, being silver/pewter rather than brass/gold.

Reina Regiment No.2
As with the Africa Regiment, though to a lesser extent, the problems with understrength numbers affected the Reina at the outbreak of war if the numbers recorded for the regiment on the 20th May 1808 are accurate, with the regiment recording a strength of all three battalions amounting to that of just one.

Spanish Army of Andalusia 20 May l808 
In Grenada:
Malaga Infantry Regiment (37/50l)
Reyna Infantry Regiment (33/788)
l/Reding III Infantry Regiment (28/875)
2/Reding III Infantry Regiment (29/892)
Montesa Cavalry Regiment (3)(23/328)
lst Cazadores de Aragon (40/l,300)
Voluntarios d'Espana (3 sqns)(l9/20l)
Source - Clerc, Capitulation de Baylen, Causes et Consequences, Paris, l903

By June of 1808 and the rush of enthusiasm to take up the fight against the French invaders the Reina were showing a doubling of their numbers across the three battalions

Reina Infantry Regiment (3)(70/1,530)
Source - Oman, Spanish Army June 1808

The Regiment was in action in the July of 1808 with the 1st Division of General Castanos' army as the French Imperial forces suffered their first major set back in three glorious years of steamrollering over the rest of Europe when General Dupont was forced to surrender at Bailen thus shattering the myth of Napoleonic invincibility.

The strength of just 795 men again barely equating to one battalion that alone three.

The Surrender at Bailen - Jose Casado del Alisal
Spanish Forces at Baylen, 17th July l808
Commanding General: Lieutenant General Francixco Xavier Castaños
Chief of Staff: Major-General T. Moreno
Artillery Commander: Mariscal de campo Marques de Medina
Engineer Commander: Colonel Bernardino de Loza

lst Division: Lt. General T. Reding
3/Wallon Guard Infantry Regiment (852)
Reina Infantry Regiment (795)
Corona Infantry Regiment (824)
Jaen Infantry Regiment (922)
Irlanda Infantry Regiment (l,724)
Reding #3 (Swiss) Infantry Regiment (l,l00)
Provincial de Jaen (500)
Voluntarios de Barbastro Infantry Regiment (39l)
Tercio de Tejas (436)
lst Voluntarios de Granada Infantry Regiment (525)
Cazadores de Anteguera (343)
Montesa Cavalry Regiment (l30)
Farnesio Cavalry Regiment (l50)
la Reina Dragoon Regiment (l45)
Numancia Dragoon Regiment (l40)
Olivencia Dragoon Regiment (l35)
Utrera Lancer Regiment (54)
Horse Battery (6 guns)
Foot Battery (4 guns)
Sappers (2 cos)(60)
Source - Oman

A different regiment but with similar facings, this grenadier provided
inspiration for painting my Reina grenadiers
All three battalions remained with Castanos's 1st Division as his army became the Army of the Centre in October of 1808 and as the Spanish army as a whole moved up in the wake of the retreating French to the River Ebro, prior to the Emperor's intervention.

As the Spanish were driven back by the second French invasion the Reina found themselves part of the scratch force detailed to defend Madrid at the Somosierra Pass. The Spanish defences were brushed aside as Napoleon forced his way into the Spanish capital.

Battle of Somosierra Pass, 1808 by Horace Vernet
Spanish Forces Defending Somosierra, Army of the Reserve, November l808
lst Voluntarios de Madrid (l,500)
2nd Voluntarios de Madrid (l,500)
Guardias Walonas (500)
Jaen Infantry Regiment (2)l,300)
l/,3/Corona Infantry Regiment (2)(l,039)
Cordoba Infantry Regiment (l,300)
Badajoz Infantry Regiment (566)
l/,3/Irlanda Infantry Regiment (2)(l,l86)
Reyna Infantry Regiment (2)(927)
Provincial de Toledo (500)
Provincial de Alcazar (400)
3/Voluntarios de Sebilla (400)
Principe Cavalry Regiment (2)(200)
Alcantara Cavalry Regiment (l00)
Montesa Cavalry Regiment (l00)
Voluntarios de Madrid Cavalry Regiment (2)(200)
Artillery (22 guns, 200 gunners)

The remains of the Army of the Centre fell back south east of Madrid at Cuenca and General Castanos was replaced by the Duke of Infantado who eager to respond to the Emperor heading off to the north-west in pursuit of Sir John Moore's British army made plans to advance on Madrid, only to see his Vanguard division taken apart at Ucles on the 13th January 1809.

Fortunately for the Reina, they missed that defeat, remaining with the 1st Division but reporting a very weak return on the 11th January.

Spanish Army of Cuenca, 11th January l809
lst Division:
Reyna Infantry Regiment (3/13/27/8/459)
l/,3/Africa Infantry Regiment (5/38/24/ll/736)
l/,3/Burgos Infantry Regiment (5/l2/34/l4/47l)
l/Sevilla Infantry Regiment (l/l4/25/-/l67)
3/Sevilla Infantry Regiment (l/8/8/4/94)
Provincial de granada (0/7/l2/l/l63)
Provincial de Bujalance (l/3/5/4/92)
Provincial de Cuenca (-/l2/l6/8/602)
Provincial de Diudad Real (2/3/8/2/258)
Provincial de Plasencia (l/3/5/2/l73)
Volontarios de Valancia (lt inf)(2/l7/l5/9/303)
Cazadores de las Navas de Tolosa (3/3l/4l/9/492)
Tiradores de Cadiz (l/l6/27/4/787)
* Figures are Chiefs, Officers, Sergeants, Drummers & Soldiers
Numbers are men present, not effective strength.
Source - Gomez de Arteche y Du Casse, Guerra de la Independencia

On the 4th of April along with the other units that would form the 5th Infantry Division at Talavera, the Reina were transferred to join General Cuesta's Army of Estremadura, now reduced to the one battalion, but at least at an effective strength.

Forces Passed to the Army of Estramadura from the Army of the Centre by order of the Supreme Central Junta. (battalions)(strength)
Division: Mariscal de campo de Echevarri
l/Reyna Infantry Regiment (l)(795)
l/Africa Infantry Regiment (l)(838)
lst Real Marina Infantry Regiment (2)(6l5)
l/,2/Murcia Infantry Regiment (2)(l,229)
2/Cazadores de Barbastro (l)(85l)
Cazadores Voluntarios de Valencia y Albuquerque (l)(83l)
Provincial de Siguenza (l)(l,08l)

My Reina regiment are composed of figures from AB supplied by Fighting 15's and with a Coronella from GMB Flags.

I have modelled my first battalion with half the companies composed of grenadiers.

So there we are four down and three to go, work goes on next with my home regiment, the boys from Murcia.

Sources referred to in this post:
The Armies of Spain and Portugal 1808-14 - G.F.Nafziger & M Gilbert
Spanish Army of the Napoleonic Wars (1) 1793-1808 - Rene Chartrand & Bill Younghusband

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Wallingford in Oxfordshire or should that be Berkshire?

A typical Anglo-Saxon Burgh similar to Wallingford - David Hobbs
On the last day of our weekend to Oxford we enjoyed a fabulous English cooked breakfast at the Fleur de Lys in Dorchester before setting off on our walk to the Wittenham Clumps as covered in my previous post.

However we couldn't extend the walk onto the Iron Age hill fort as I was keen to explore another site close by, namely the ancient town of Wallingford in Oxfordshire since the county boundary reorganisation of 1974 when it had historically been in the county of Berkshire, and I should think, to many of the locals still is.

Wallingford, close to the River Thames and a short drive from Dorchester, where we were staying.
On doing a bit of research on the area before our visit I remembered that Wallingford was one of King Alfred the Great's defensive burghs built to resist Viking incursions in the Kingdom of Wessex.

I pictured the remains of one of these walled towns down in Devon when Carolyn and I visited Lydford as part of my series looking at Battlefields in Devon and where the Vikings attempted an assault on the town. The remains of the ditch and ramparts are still visible today and make an interesting comparison to those pictured here at Wallingford.

The remains of the burgh at Lydford in Devon
As you can see the remains of the ditch and rampart that can still be seen on the northern perimeter of the extent of the original Anglo-Saxon town are in much better shape still giving a good impression of the formidable obstacle they once were when you remember there would have been a wooden palisade along the top of the rampart.

Sadly not everyone feels the same way about protecting our historical sites for future generations, and the battle between conservation and development is a consistent one but I can't help thinking that the town planner who signed off on these houses backing into the last remaining part of the ninth century defences should be facing a charge for criminal vandalism.

Surely they could have built these houses away from the rampart and ditch!
The view below gives you the impression that Ragnar would have got after tying up his boat in the Thames.

There was something so familiar about the names of Dorchester and Wallingford, and I couldn't work out why until I remembered the game of Alfred the Great 'Mr Steve' and I played, recorded here on JJ's as we played out the landing of the Great Heathen Army with Wallingford and Dorchester falling to the pagan horde.

A case of the hobby informing about the history and really bringing our game alive. Just follow the link below to follow the game we played.

Dorchester and Wallingford, centre top , in our game played out in 2015

It wasn't just Alfred and Guthrum who realised the importance of the position of Wallingford on the River Thames and its bridge and the Normans were, as at Lydford, quick to incorporate their own motte and bailey defences within the previous Anglo-Saxon works.

Wallingford Castle at its height of power in the late medieval period. The red circle marks the position of the remains of the Queen's Tower seen in the next picture

Established in the eleventh century Wallingford castle was further developed from the original motte and bailey into, by the thirteenth century, one of the most powerful Royal castles, surviving multiple sieges and never being taken by storming.

The castle was held for the Empress Matilda during the war with Stephen, however it fell out of Royal favour when King Henry VIII described it as being too drafty for his liking.

The remains of the once mighty Queen's Tower, see the illustration above
The defensive properties of Wallingford castle came back into prominence during the English Civil War with the town being very much a Royalist centre of support and forming part of the outer defences for Oxford.

The garrison of the town was centred around Colonel Thomas Blagge's Foot Regiment and Lord Digby's horse regiment with about one thousand infantry and two hundred cavalry detailed to defend the castle and town.

View of the bridge over the Thames from the Queen's Tower
In 1646 when Fairfax's troops moved against Oxford, the old Royal capital soon fell with King Charles escaping, disguised as a footman. However Colonel Blagge was not inclined to so quickly surrender his defences and he and his men held out for sixteen weeks, under siege for sixty-five days.

A little piece of the great wall of Walliingford Castle

The original and earliest part of the castle is marked by the motte
The terms and conditions of Blagge's surrender were pretty much his own as he defied Parliament when they at first refused his conditions.

The curve of the moat that can be seen in the illustration placed around the back of the motte
When Fairfax and Cromwell finally took possession of the place on the 29th July 1646 it was converted into a state prison as Cromwell determined that the fortress should never again act as a point of resistance to Parliamentary rule and had the place dismantled almost stone by stone.

When Cromwell decided to slight a castle, he certainly made sure it couldn't be used in future

Colonel Thomas Blagge defended Wallingford and its castle for the King. He was described as
"an officer of great courage and military talents"

Wallingford in the English Civil War
Colonel Thomas Blagge

Like the other towns explored in the local area, Wallingford is blessed with some gloriously old pubs and coaching inns and the George Hotel in Wallingford certainly falls into that category; dating back to the 16th century, it lays claim to a room above the courtyard said to be a favourite of the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin and from where he made several close escapes from the law officers.

There is also the legend of the Teardrop room where the fiancee of murdered Royalist, John Robson, stabbed in a bar room brawl is said to have dabbed her tears with soot from the fireplace and painted the walls with her tears, still visible three hundred years later.

So with tales of Alfred the Great, Thomas Blagge and Dick Turpin covered off in a Sunday afternoon walk it was time to find the car and set off for home having had a great three days exploring the delights of Edgehill, Cropredy Bridge, Dorchester, Oxford and Wallingford. A lovely part of the world, well worth visiting.

Next up, it's back to the Spanish with the 1st battalion, Reina Regiment.

Friday 17 March 2017

Dorchester on Thames & Oxford

After a very nice afternoon touring around the English Civil War battlefields at Edgehill and Cropredy Bridge we headed for our base for the weekend at the ancient village of Dorchester on Thames

and precisely the Fleur de Lys, medieval coaching house and all the head bumping on very low beams that description implies.

That said the welcome, food and historical environs more than made up for the occasional bruised forehead.

As you will see there is plenty of history to see from just across the road with the tower of the Norman Abbey seen above the wall and hedge lining the road. I don't think Carolyn was too keen on the Sunday morning bells!

the George Hotel with all the centuries that building has seen go past the door

to the more distant past with Bronze Age and Iron Age earth works on the outskirts close to the River Thames, with the Iron Age hill fort atop the locally named 'Wittenham Clumps' later occupied by the Romans, with the name Dorchester giving the Roman connection away.

Ariel view of the archeaolgy on the outskirts of Dorchester with the edge of the village centre top where we began our walk  
I was really thrilled to check back through my last visit to Oxford on a business trip back in 2014 and specifically the Ashmolean Museum where I pictured amongst other things, the Wittenham Sword found in the River Thames close to where we were staying.

Wittenham Sword pictured on my trip back in 2014
It's great to see the items that have been recovered that link an area to the people that once lived in the place and the sword with the hill fort beyond the river where it was found tick all those boxes.

View of the Wittenham Clumps on the hills beyond the path towards the Iron Age ramparts/dyke, centre and the WWII anti-tank bunker far left.
On the Sunday morning we decided to take a walk out towards the Thames and the 'Clumps' and because we planned to visit other sites later that day before heading home, settled for getting close up views of them and the other sites rather than a full on expedition to the hill fort which on another day and particularly a sunny one would have been most appealing.

The ramparts of the dyke become more pronounce the closer you get
I mentioned in response to an earlier post about the fact that given the size of the UK a lot of history rubs shoulder to shoulder with different eras.

The walk out to the clumps was a classic example with an Iron Age hill fort, dyke and WWII pillbox all within walking distance and examples of defensive architecture across the centuries of warfare.

A reminder of the days when the country last faced the threat of invasion

The anti-tank gun embrasure looks large enough to take a six-pounder gun and very capable of covering the main road into the village over the Thames.

Machine-gun embrasures cover the flanks of the bunker on each side.

The dyke and ramparts in all its glory
Close up of the clumps with the Hill Fort on the right most top

Ariel View of Wittenham Clumps, Castle Hill

As you know while out walking I delight in not only looking at the history of an area but also the natural history and the change here from home was quite distinctive with the Red Kites that populate this area since the early eighties, quite different from the Common Buzzards that populate the skies of Devon.

With Spring in the air the first of the green shoots were appearing in fields and on branches and the Snowdrops were conspicuous in their abundance.

The snow drops were out in force during our visit and became a lasting memory of the trip
On the Saturday afternoon I took Carolyn for some retail therapy to balance out the history viewing, but we both share a passion for the past and Carolyn particularly with the late Medieval/Reformation period in English history.

I wanted particularly to visit places that I hadn't seen on my trip back in 2014 and so the other historical aspects of Oxford took precedence as well as the shopping, which I joined in on and managed to get some additions to the JJ's Research Library.

The Anglo-Saxon tower of St Michael at the North Gate in Oxford
Perhaps one of the oldest buildings in Oxford is the Anglo-Saxon tower of St Michael at the North Gate dating back to 1040 the last remnant of the original church built somewhere around 1000 and 1050.

The tower is open to the public and as well as offering a great view of the city of spires from its top also holds a relic from the violent days of the English Reformation and the turbulent years of 'Bloody' Queen Mary following the death of her father Henry VIII.

Oxford and its University had been front and centre in the former King's drive to change England to a Protestant country and the brains of the realm were set to propagating and supporting Henry as the defender of the faith and head of the new Church of England.

Following Henry's death in 1547, the crown went to his son Edward VI aged nine and even more inclined to the new church established by his father. 

Edward was a sickly lad dying at the age of fifteen in 1553, naming his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his successor. However Jane was soon deposed by Edward's elder sister Mary, a dedicated Catholic determined to reverse the process begun by her father and brother and so began a reign of terror as those who refused to submit to Mary's will often found themselves tied to a post with a worrying smell of something burning.

Three such resistors to the Queen's will were Arch-Bishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley, later to become known as the Oxford Martyrs after they were found guilty of heresy and burnt at the stake in 1555 with Cranmer suffering the same fate on the same spot in Oxford six months later.

Arch-Bishop Cranmer
The door is the one the three men passed through when they were led from their prison within the tower to meet their grizzly end.

The view over the city from the top of the tower
The burning of Cranmer  from John Foxe's book 1563
'X' marks the spot as the saying goes and this conspicuous cobbled patch in the middle of Broad Street indicates where the Oxford Martyrs met their deaths.

So did I mention something about retail therapy? Well I included myself in that part of our day out and was keen to check out the Foyle's of Oxford, Blackwell book shop, with an amazing stock of the kind of books I like to read, plus a very nice coffee shop to sit down in to peruse ones purchases whilst enjoying a hot beverage or two.

My little weekend treat from Blackwell Books
Following our refreshments we were off checking out the further delights of Oxford and its many historical treasures.

One large queue of people drew our attention as it snaked out of the entrance of one of the University college's, only to find that they were waiting for entrance to see the college dining hall used in the filming of Harry Potter and Hogwarts - really, really!!

Not quite Venice, but it certainly brought back memories
One of the many student accommodation buildings was once home to a very famous astronomer

There are plaques on walls all over the place in Oxford

We were never far from rivers on this little tour of ours and the Cherwell and Thames certainly helped make up for not being near the sea.

Fun in boats on the River Thames in Oxford
Next up in the final part of our Oxford weekend with a trip to one of Alfred's Burghs, a castle destroyed in the civil war and one of Dick Turpin's favourite haunts.