Grande Armee's Invasion Practice
for Invasion of Britain


By Richard Moore

While in camp at Boulogne waiting for the right time to invade Britain, Napoleon Bonaparte's men of La Grande Armee spent their time training to maintain fitness and discipline.

In Marshal Michel Ney's VI Corps, based at Etaples, the men were able to do so outdoors in better weather but in the colder months another plan had to be devised.

Ney gave the orders for each regiment to erect two large buildings behind their huts so the troops could fence and dance, while a third gave the officers somewhere to study.

But Ney was even more determined to have his men at battle readiness and he conducted embarkation drills into gun-sloops, which could carry five guns and a company of infantry each, and gun-barges that would transport horses, artillery and ammunition.

The marshal's drills initially involved divisional practice and then when they had got the embarkation right he moved on to the next division.

Once satisfied he ordered a full-scale exercise with all the troops from VI Corps.

The troops were kept in the dark about whether it was a real invasion or not and assembled in front of their boats awaiting the orders to embark.

A canon shot began proceedings and the staff officers dismounted and joined their troops. Drums rolled and the men's bayonets were sheathed.

A second shot was then fired signalling the officers to order the men on to the vessels.

At the third gun the men quickly made their way aboard.

It took only 10 and a half minutes to load Ney's 20,000 men! An astounding piece of military work.

A fourth shot told drummers to sound to arms for the shipboard troops.

In his terrific book following the history of Napoleon's 9th Light Infantry regiment called Incomparable, author Terry Crowdy details life in the camps and the reaction of the men to what they thought was the order to sail for their enemy's homeland.

"Believing this was the signal to raise anchor, thousands of voices spontaneously cried out 'Vive l"Empereur!' They were bitterly disappointed when told it was the order to disembark. Thirteen minutes later the grumbling soldiers were back on the beach formed in line."

NB: A review of Terry Crowdy's Incomparable: Napoleon's 9th Light Infantry Regiment is underway and is a wonderful history of the formation, taking it from the Revolutionary Wars through to the 100 Days' Campaign. I'm enjoying it so much I am reading the book slowly. - RM



Napoleon Bonaparte
Career Portraits
Quotes Family
Loves Letters
Plots Murdered?
His will Places
Era of Napoleon
Powers Opponents
Coalitions Allies
People Timelines
Key sites Shrapnel
Campaigns Battles
Armies Generals
Marshals Winners
Glossary Medical
Weapons 1812 War
Uniforms Battlefields
War at Sea
Naval War Heroes
Artworks Signals
Nelson Trafalgar
Key Maps Peninsula
Animated 1796/1800
1809 Russia
French Revolution
Revolution Guillotine
Posters People
Art, Film, Games
Education Goya
Sharpe Hornblower
Books Movies
DVDs Music
Wargames Images
Cartoons Caricatures
About Us Sources
Awards Sitemap
Links Militaria
Miniatures Reenactors
Forum Quizzes
Home Waterloo Diorama
Copyright Richard Moore 1999-2017 | Privacy Policy | Contact Us