It was my great pleasure and honor to partake in the 200th anniversary event in Belgium this year. I would need a dozen posts to relate all that happened, both in the event and with the time we spent in Paris and Brussels and the Ardennes as part of our vacation.
We had twenty-one Americans traveling over, together or in small groups to participate. We joined our parent regiment, the 21eme Regiment d'Infanterie de ligne on the Thursday before the festivities.
Combined we had 72 in camp and our combined battalion fielded 194. Around 6000 infantry, cavalry and artillery participated in total. We drilled for hours on end and found that the distance between camps precluded visiting for all but the hardiest. Having put many, many miles on my bad feet being a tourist, I wasn't inclined to add more mileage.
When we marched out for the evening "spectacles" (to maximize profit for the organizers) we were confronted by tall barley fields that hindered movement and huge numbers of allied troops. Not wishing to be exclusive, one could see British, Dutch-Belgian, Prussia, Russian, Austrian and Swedish troops. Plus probably some I missed seeing. Here are some scenes from Friday night.
|The Lion's Mound, wreathed in smoke|
|A square, nestled in the barley|
We arrived back in camp about 11:30pm and with "la Diane" coming at 7:00am there was little partying. Saturday was more of the same, though the "spectacle" was far more enjoyable. There were many things about the event that strongly differed from ones in the US or Canada. We were given tins of sardines, bags of peanuts and chips, and cans of vegetables for "rations." Fortunately the 21eme had a meal plan in place. If you wanted to use the clean facilities it cost a Euro. Food and beer (especially) could be purchased fairly cheaply however. Saturday night was very exciting.
|Not mine, didn't write down the artist's name|
|Photo by Andrey Popkov|
|Photo by Andrey Popkov (I can be seen in the back left)|
|Scots Grey and I exchange sabre blows, photo by Andrey Popkov|
|Photo by Andrey Popkov|
As we retired from the field the allied cavalry got very aggressive. Very aggressive.
The cost was very real. Tragically, there were four fatalities at the event and the ambulance was a familiar sight around camp and on the field. While many handshakes were exchanged when we assaulted Hougomont or la Haye Sainte, the open field melees were more like a rugby scrum and firing was done extremely close to one another. Strangely enough, the reaction to the deaths in Europe was, "with so many involved that is not bad."
Having done battalion drill a few times in Europe now, I can say that as a wargamer most rules make battlefield evolutions too easy. I'm very proud of our battalion for how well we performed.
|Photo by Jean-Francois Schmitz|
On Sunday we all went to the battlefield marker for our regiment. It notes our engagement with General Pack's brigade. Our flag and Eagle were presented to us by the modern day 21eme.
|Vivandiere and Lieutenant|
On Monday, despite Belgium being closed on Mondays, we took a short tour the the Ardennes, visiting Bastogne, St. Vith, and la Gliece. My high school history teacher fought with the 101st throughout the war. 506th, I Company. God bless you, Mr. McGowen.