Thursday, 4 March 2010

Crossing the Bidassoa

Fuenterrabia would not be one of the first names to spring to mind if asked to list Wellington’s Peninsular Battlefields. However on the morning of 7 October 1813 it was to be the scene of one of his most daring battles.

The cities of San Sebastian and Pamplona has finally fallen and were now occupied by the Spanish army. The French had been forced to abandon Spanish soil and retreat into France.

The river Bidassoa formed the border between France and Spain. Marshal Soult had 55,000 men deployed on the French side from Vera to the sea. Wellington had 44,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops with which to force a crossing and secure the northern bank.

The French believed that the estuary of the river at Fuenterrabia could not be forded. However local fishermen advised Wellington that it was possible to ford the river at low tide.

At first light on 7 October 1813 the First and Fifth British divisions crossed the estuary at a point where it was never more than waist deep. The French were completely surprised and their earth works and fortifications were over run before they could be reinforced. By nightfall Wellington was in command of the north bank and the French in retreat.

You can read about our visit to Fuenterrabia at

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