quinta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2010

Character Series nº 6 - William Warre

(Part II)
There is one thing that I simply have to share with the world: JMM has just announced that he was not available anymore to participate in that wonderful competition “guess-the-name-of-the-next-Character”, which I always launch at the end of story of each Character.
He mumbled something about a “quitting when I am ahead” thing, implying that the risk of having to paint some of my DBA armies, in case of losing a challenge, was too much for him to handle. I think he even mentioned he was having trouble sleeping at night because of that.

Well JMM, I really do not know how to qualify your attitude. However, I think the word “pussy” might be a good adjective for that purpose, but I cannot be completely sure about it since I still have some limitations in the English language and all...

On with the story on good old WW!

Those of you that took the trouble to read my last post know that WW was born right here in Portugal, in the city of Porto, where he spent his childhood.
Even in the early XIX century there were already a considerable number of British citizens living in Porto, mainly involved in the Port wine trade. As many of you know, between Great Britain and Portugal exists a very old political alliance, signed in London on 16th June 1373. The Treaty of London (renewed by the Treaty of Windsor, in 1386) is the world’s oldest active treaty between two sovereign nations.
 I think there must be something of a genetic nature that justifies the easy and good relationships that usually develop between the Portuguese and the British. I can sure vouch for that, from personal experience.
Maybe that was one of the reasons why such a fruitful cooperation developed between the British and the Portuguese armies, from 1809 onwards and until the end of the Peninsular War.

WW was present at the combat of Roliça and the Battle of Vimeiro. One of his letters is dated August 22nd 1808, from the village of Vimeiro. As usual in such situations, when WW noticed some of his ADC friends shot dead in front of him, he began to think that war was not all fun and games, after all. He dedicates a few words in his letters to what he perceives as undue cruelty towards any French soldier caught off-guard, wounded or straggled or against French sympathizers, on the part of the Portuguese peasantry. However, that opinion is somewhat abated when he comes into contact with some of the random acts of savagery and ravages perpetrated by the French occupation forces.

After a serious illness (enteric fever) suffered after the battle of Vimeiro and a period of convalescence, WW was transferred to the staff of major-general Beresford, soon to be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Portuguese army, since, on top of his obvious martial expertise, he understood and spoke fluent Portuguese.
Another sure sign that WW had friends in high places.
Our hero also went through the very hard retreat to Coruna led by General Moore and participated in the subsequent Battle. He and Beresford were among the last to enter the boats, on the 18th January 1809, with England as destination after that disastrous campaign. In this campaign WW had to learn the hard way the meaning of the life of a soldier, with all the death and cruelty attached to it.
Witnessing the sufferings of his fellow comrades somewhat dented his sympathy for those of the enemy soldiers. Remember that by now WW was a veteran with two campaigns behind him

In early March that same year, Beresford was back in Lisbon, with the above mentioned nomination in his pocket and with good old WW still tagging along as his ADC.
This story of WW was also a surprise for me regarding the fact that I did not know he had played such a preeminent part in reorganization of the Portuguese army, by the way of translating drill books or visiting and inspecting several units in formation. We in the re-enacting business use an infantry drill manual that is the exact translation of the one used at the time by the British army, and I was very surprised to know that it was in fact WW who had translated it to the Portuguese language.
WW complains a lot (in his letters) how this part of his work was never given the proper and due amount of appreciation by his superiors. In his mind, at least a medal would be in good order, but he had no such luck in that matter.

In that same month, WW was as much distressed to know about the arrival of Soult’s army at the city of Porto (conquered in 29 March 1809), as he was regarding the fate of his father’s wine reserves, extant in the Lodges located in Vila Nova de Gaia (on the other side of the Douro river).

And my next post you will know what a poor old son of a good old wine merchant had to do to make ends meet.