Thursday, 09 July 2020

How I fight as a Frenchman at the Battle of Waterloo (C20th)

How I fight as a Frenchman at the Battle of Waterloo (C20th)

A MAN from Henley completed a sponsored walk on the 205th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

Richard Pinches, 55, marched 2.6 miles around the Stonor Park estate on Thursday last week while dressed as an infantryman from the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

He had been due to take part in a re-enactment of the final battle between the French and British armies at the battlefield in Belgium but this was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the Waterloo Uncovered charity, which supports archaeological projects at the site, asked 10 members of each
re-enactment group to march a total of 26 miles and raise money.

Mr Pinches is part of 2e Regiment d’Infanterie Legere, a group which portrays French soldiers who fought in the wars.

He said: “It is a little bit disappointing that the Waterloo battle was cancelled but it will hopefully soon be safe to travel and we can do it next year.

“I went through the woods inside the estate and came out in front of the house, where we had planned to have a picnic and give a musket demonstration.

“Lawlor’s the Bakers in Henley provided some authentic French baguettes and croissants but the weather was terrible and the demonstration that was planned at the half-way point for the Camoys family was rained off.”

Mr Pinches raised £465 for the charity, which also helps servicemen suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The photographer and videographer, who lives at Meadows Farm Studios, off Marlow Road, has a keen interest in history and regularly takes part in battle
re-enactments, usually from the Second World War.

His partner Liz Howard got him interested in the Napoleonic period of history when she attended a Waterloo commemorative battle five years ago, which featured 6,000 re-enactors, including artillery and hundreds of horses, watched by 60,000 spectators.

Mr Pinches said: “Waterloo can, with some justification, lay claim to being the single most significant day’s fight in European history.

“Other battles were longer, fought over larger areas or by more combatants, but none can be said to have settled a war in a single afternoon and to have produced the peace that characterised the continent for so long after 1815. I am part of a small group of French re-enactors and we are French because the British are generally short of opposition so we do it to get an invitation to these events.

“I would rather be British but I don’t mind being French, otherwise it would be 100 red coats against four or five Frenchmen.”

The events are usually held at stately homes and the participants get into character for the spectators who are allowed to walk among them before the mock battle.

Mr Pinches said: “You set up camp and you eat what they would have eaten at the time, so bread, cheese, onion soup, things like that. You have a battle for 20 or 30 minutes and there is nearly always some cavalry charges, which you repel, some artillery and then the infantry get stuck in.

“The costumes are expensive — by the time you set yourselves up with a musket, a tent and clothing it is the best part of £2,000.

“You have to have a shotgun and black powder licence to carry a real musket. Otherwise, you just carry a wooden replica and just say ‘bang’. You are taught gun safety because you use real black powder but a blank cartridge and no ball.

“You have to train out of season and, because you are French, you are taught to take commands in French so there are a lot of instructions and it is a bit of a learning curve. It is all scripted and you take it in turns to win. People have to learn to take a hit and are told to lie down.”

Mr Pinches has been taking part in re-enactments since his father died in 2015.

He said: “I bought a replica of his Second World War Uniform and it just went from there. I can do four eras — in addition to Napoleonic and the Second World War, I can do the Boer War and the Jacobite Rebellion.

“The group also does Ancient Greece, which I would like to do next. It’s great fun and totally immersive.”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.
com/fundraising/richard-pinches

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