Elvas is one of the finest examples of 17th Century military fortifications in Europe. Our visit starts at the outlying Forte de Sta "Luzia", now converted to a military museum. From there we drive to the great barracks which cover 15 hectares and where we can see details of the fortifications, preserved unchanged by the army since its construction in the 18th Century. A stiff walk brings us to the charming British Cemetery, with its graves from the Peninsular War. After lunch at a typical restaurant, we visit one of the two ‘Quintas’ used by Wellington as his headquarters during and after the second siege of Badajoz. We can then visit one or both of the sites of cavalry actions that took place during this period, depending on time.
This great fortress at Badajoz, commanding the Spanish side of the southern invasion route, defeated two attempts by the British army in 1811. In 1812 the British army under Wellington, having just captured Ciudad Rodrigo by storm, moved once again on Badajoz. The soldiers had briefly tasted the delights of rape and pillage in Ciudad Rodrigo and were prepared to endure any danger with that as a prize. Our tour highlights the difficulties they faced and the ingenuity and determination of General Phillipon and the French defenders. You then see where the 4th and Light Divisions assaulted the Sta Maria and Trinidad breaches forty two times and failed to gain entry. Next we look at the castle, where Picton’s 3rd Division managed to scale the walls against all odds and move on to the bastion of San Vicente, where the other diversionary attack by the 5th Division also succeeded. Lunch will take the form of tapas and a glass of wine in the square of San Francisco.
One of the very few battles in the Peninsular War where Wellington was not in command, Albuera is reckoned the bloodiest of them all. It was fought to prevent the French relieving Badajoz. Beresford, in command, showed that despite his many admirable qualities, he was not a great commander on the battlefield. The battle was won principally by the dogged courage of the British infantry. Marshal Soult paid them the highest compliment: “They were beaten but did not know it, and would not run”. This appreciation would affect his judgement for the rest of the war. The battlefield has changed little in the last 200 years and we visit several parts of it to give you an impression of how it felt to stand on that ‘fateful’ hill. We stop for a typically Spanish lunch in the Venta Rosario.
An extension can be made to the north to visit the sites of the action at Almaraz and the bridge at Alcantara.
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