Thursday, May 27, 2010

St Jean Du Luz and Bayonet Ridge

Friday 28 June 1996

Throughout the battle of the Nivelle in 1814 this town was the right flank of the French defensive line. It is now a popular, and at this time of year crowded, seaside resort. This was our first sunny morning, and we celebrated with a day by the sea. We had a very pleasant day exploring the town, but found nothing of interest from a Napoleonic point of view.

Saturday 29 June 1996

We had planned to visit Roncesvalles, but an overcast morning decided us against it. Instead we drove to the Spanish village of Vera to explore the Bayonet Ridge. As we parked outside the church the prospect of rain seemed very real, and we took our plastic jackets just in case. Vera is a very pretty village, but did not look its best today

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.

Behind the church in Vera a good path leads up the hill towards the Star Redoubt, the site of the first French position. There is not much to see of it now, though a careful examination of the area does show the overgrown outline of the redoubt.

We were fortunate to be able to explore both the Star Redoubt and the Bayonet Ridge before the rain arrived. But when it did arrive about 2pm it was heavy and accompanied by a thick mist, which forced to abandon our task and seek shelter in the collection of tax free shops which now occupy the area near the road through the mountains.

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