Tag Archives: Boulogne Sur Mer

Napoleon Bonaparte, Three Ways and Twenty Separate Parts

Napoleon 1

When I was a boy, about ten or so, I used to like to make Airfix model kits.

The little models were mainly heroes from English history but curiously there was a figure of Napoleon included in the range and it was always one of my favourites, probably because he was one of the easiest to put together and to paint.  It is an odd thing but I think that Airfix kit of Napoleon Bonaparte began my interest in French history and why I went on to study the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire at University.

Napoleon Airfix

Other figures in the range were the Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry V, Henry VIII and Charles I and to balance things up there was the regicide Oliver Cromwell.

Napoleon was there but not Hitler or Stalin and alongside him representing France was Joan of Arc.

For some reason Julius Caesar who once invaded England was included but not William The Conqueror.

Airfix Figures

Who was your favourite Airfix figure?

Napoleon Bonaparte and La Colonne de la Grande Armée

Napoleon Bonaparte

Our plan today was to visit the coastal town of Wimereux but on the way we passed once more through Boulogne-Sur-Mer and stopped first of all at La Colonne de la Grande Armée.  This is a monument based on the design of Trajan’s Column in Rome which was begun in 1804 but not completed for forty years or so and is a fifty-three metre-high monument topped with a statue of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

Nelson’s column, by the way, in Trafalgar Square in London is shorter at forty-six metres high.

It marks the location of the base camp where Napoleon  assembled an army of eighty thousand men all reeking of garlic, impatient and ready to invade England.  It was initially intended to commemorate a successful invasion, but this proved to be rather premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now commemorates instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur.

Read the Full Story…

Wales, Change of Plans and Taking a Weather Risk

Rain In Wales 1

Earlier in the year I had made plans to go on holiday with my daughter and grandchildren and my son and we had chosen a holiday cottage near Boulogne in Northern France.  I like it there.

Longvilliers Holiday Cottage

As the Summer approached there were more and more delays crossing the channel as a consequence of striking French ferry workers and large numbers of migrants attempting to cross from France to the UK.  I love my grandchildren very much but the prospect of being stuck in a traffic jam for up to twenty-four hours with them was just to awful to contemplate so when the critical moment came to make the final payment I cancelled and transferred the holiday to a cottage in mid Wales.

I was surprised that I was so easily persuaded to book a holiday cottage in Wales because most of my holiday memories of the Principality involve precipitation.  In 1972 I went to University in Wales and rather than books I spent about 50% of my student grant on raincoats and umbrellas.

When I was a boy we used to go on family holidays to Borth in Mid Wales and stay in a caravan.  It always rained and all through the night there was a stready pitter-patter of rain on the biscuit tin roof and everywhere seemed damp and cold.  Later we used to go the Plas Panteidal holiday village near Aberdovey and although the accommodation was an improvement the same could never be said for the weather.

In 1986 I went to Wales for a holiday to the Hoseason’s Holiday Village in Carnarvon in North Wales and it was so cold and so wet that we gave up on the fourth day, abandoned the holiday and drove all the way back home.

After a gap of twenty-five years I was ready to give Wales another chance and in 2011 booked a holiday cottage in Cardigan in South Wales.  Things seemed promising as the spring and early summer got off to a fine start with the hottest April on record followed by the driest ever May and the meteorologists predicting a long hot summer and a certain drought.  Now, I didn’t particularly want a drought but I did rather hope that these fine weather conditions would continue a little longer through into the middle of June.

Unfortunately I was going to be disappointed and a week following a BBC1 special programme on the drought crisis everything changed and it rained every day and instead of picnic hampers and swimming costumes I needed anoraks and umbrellas!

I said that I would never go to Wales again but four years later I found myself preparing once again for a week of uncertain weather.

Getting to Wales was not easy.  First of all I had to drive two hundred and fifty miles back from Scotland.  When I left the Scottish Borders the weather was wonderful, crisp blue skies and a burning sun.  When I arrived home in Grimsby it was quite possibly the hottest day of the year so far and the plants in the garden were wilting under the midday sun.

And so we set off, driving west towards more blue sky and golden sun and the car’s air conditioning system belching out a stream of icy cold air.  I was so optimistic that I even forgot to pack a rain hat or an umbrella.  I should have known better.

Sheep in Wales 2

Almost immediately that we crossed Offa’s Dyke somewhere near Wrexham there were single carriageway roads with ever widening puddles and bleak gloomy conditions ahead as heavy grey clouds stuck like stubborn Velcro to the tops of the Welsh hills.  It rained in Llangollen, it rained in Corwen and it rained in Bala and it was about now that I was forced to concede that we probably wouldn’t be having a barbeque this evening.

Kim had never been to Wales before and with a preference for Mediterranean sunshine, balcony life and al fresco dining I sensed that she wasn’t too impressed.  She wasn’t too happy either when for no good reason I took an unnecessary detour for the final few miles along a single track road and got hopelessly lost.

Eventually however we reached our remote holiday cottage destination in the village of Llanuwchllyn where there were only sheep for company and by some minor miracle the clouds broke and the sun spilled some temporary golden light onto the surrounding meadows.  It still wasn’t barbeque weather but it was nice enough to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine.

We were the first to arrive, my son was an hour or so behind and lost somewhere along a remote mountain pass and my daughter had delayed her arrival until the following day.

The fine weather didn’t last very long and by the time Jonathan arrived we had been forced inside by the steady advance of grey clouds and heavy rain.

Later we went to the village pub for evening meal and drove back along the narrow lanes in rainfall of truly biblical proportions, hammering down and bouncing off the car roof like shrapnel.  It rained like that for most of the night, raindrops like lead weights crashing into the slate roof and pouring down over the gutters and drain pipes like a mighty waterfall.

As I lay awake listening to the surging river nearby swollen by the heavy rain and bursting its banks and the avalanche of water cascading off the roof I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had made a terrible mistake!

Heavy Rain in Wales

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

La Colonne de la Grande Armée Boulogne France

La Colonne de la Grande Armée, Boulogne-Sur-Mer, Boulogne

The column was erected in the 1840s and is a fifty-three metre-high monument topped with a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte. (Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square is shorter at forty-six metres high).  It marks the base camp where Napoleon massed France’s biggest ever army of eighty thousand men ready to invade England.

It was initially intended to commemorate a successful invasion of England, but this proved to be a bit premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now commemorates instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

La Colonne de la Grande Armée Boulogne France

La Colonne de la Grande Armée, Boulogne-Sur-Mer, Boulogne

The column was erected in the 1840s and is a fifty-three metre-high monument topped with a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte. (Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square is shorter at forty-six metres high).  It marks the base camp where Napoleon massed France’s biggest ever army of eighty thousand men ready to invade England.

It was initially intended to commemorate a successful invasion of England, but this proved to be a bit premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now commemorates instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

La Colonne de la Grande Armée

Napoleon Bonaparte and La Colonne de la Grande Armée

“Thou shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”                                                               Exodus 20:17 – ‘The Old Testament’

It marks the location of the base camp where Napoleon  assembled an army of eighty thousand men all reeking of garlic, impatient and ready to invade England.  It was initially intended to commemorate a successful invasion, but this proved to be rather premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now commemorates instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur. 

Originally, when it was first completed, the statue had looked out over the Channel towards England, the land Napoleon had confidently expected to conquer but after the Second World War, the French government turned the statue of Napoleon round to face inland, as a mark of respect to the British allies in the war and as a symbolic gesture that never again would France break one of the ten commandments and covet its neighbours property.

La Colonne de la Grande Armée

Read the full story…

Northern France, Napoleon Bonaparte and La Colonne de la Grande Armée

La Colonne de la Grande Armée

“Thou shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”                                                               Exodus 20:17 – ‘The Old Testament’

La Colonne de la Grande Armée

Today our plan was to visit the coastal town of Wimereux but on the way we passed once more through Boulogne-Sur-Mer and stopped first of all at La Colonne de la Grande Armée which is a monument constructed in the 1840s and is a fifty-three metre-high column topped with a statue of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. (Nelson’s column, by the way, in Trafalgar Square in London is shorter at forty-six metres high).

It marks the location of the base camp where Napoleon  assembled an army of eighty thousand men all reeking of garlic, impatient and ready to invade England.  It was initially intended to commemorate a successful invasion, but this proved to be rather premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now commemorates instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur. 

Originally, when it was first completed, the statue had looked out over the Channel towards England, the land Napoleon had confidently expected to conquer but after the Second World War, the French government turned the statue of Napoleon round to face inland, as a mark of respect to the British allies in the war and as a symbolic gesture that never again would France break one of the ten commandments and covet its neighbours property.

This of course was a rather obvious place to plan an invasion of England because the English Channel is only twenty-five miles or so wide so provides the quickest route across. Perhaps that is why they built the channel tunnel here? So it is not surprising that many invasions started here or were intended to start here.

La Colonne de la Grande Armée

Invasions of England…

In the course of his Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar invaded Britain twice, in 55 and 54 BC on both occasions from somewhere near Boulogne and almost a hundred years later the emperor Claudius used this town as his base for the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43 in search of tin.  William the Conqueror set off from just a few miles south of here in 1066 in search of the English throne and the French invaded twice during the middle ages in search of causing mischief, first in 1215 as part of the Baron’s War against King John and then 1326 by Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, neither of which enterprise was especially successful.  In 1701 with the the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession  French support for the Jacobites led in 1708 to James Stuart, the Old Pretender, sailing from Dunkirk with six-thousand French troops but this didn’t work out as planned either.

Napoleon’s invasion plans…

Napoleon Bonaparte should have taken note of all these failures but from 1803 to 1805 a new army of two hundred thousand men, known as the Armée des côtes de l’Océan (Army of the Ocean Coasts) or the Armée de l’Angleterre (Army of England), was gathered and trained at camps at Boulogne, Bruges and Monreuil (probably still near the sea at that time).  A large flotilla of invasion barges was built in the Channel ports along the coasts of France and the Netherlands from Etaples to Flushing and gathered together at Boulogne in anticipation of the invasion of the ‘Nation of Shopkeepers’.

Napoleon also seriously considered using a fleet of troop-carrying balloons as part of his proposed invasion force and appointed Marie Madeline Sophie Blanchard as an air service chief, though she advised that the proposed aerial invasion would fail because of the unfavourable winds.

Interestingly these invasion preparations were financed by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, whereby France ceded her huge North American territories to the United States in return for a payment of sixty million French francs ($11,250,000) and the entire amount was then squandered on the projected invasion. Ironically, the United States had partly funded the purchase by means of a loan from Baring Brothers – an English bank!

When it became obvious to Napoleon that the planned invasion was unlikely to succeed he eventually dismantled his army and sent it east instead to take part in the Austrian, Prussian and eventually the catastrophic Russian campaign of 1812.

Lessons from History…

But people do not learn the lessons of history!  I studied history at University and many people scoffed and said that this was a waste of time but history I find always comes in useful and it is important not to ignore it because if one thing is true then it is that – ‘what goes around, comes around’ and one hundred and fifty years later Adolf Hitler tried it again in operation Sea Lion and again it failed and again he sent his troops off to Russia to a similar spectacular defeat.

And so we move on and after walking through the gardens of the monument so did we, on towards our objective of Wimereux.

La Colonne de la Grande Armée Boulogne France