Updated: 25-Apr-2013
News > 2013  

Battle Staff Ride to Sagunto, Valencia

Written by Manuel GORDO, OF4 ESP A
Pictures by Francisco BLANCO, OR5 ESP N

From 17 to 18 April 2013, more than 50 members of HQ Force Command Madrid participated in the visit to the site of the Battle of Sagunto, a city lying a short distance from the east coast of Spain, about 30 kilometers north of Valencia where one of the most important events in the Spanish War of Independence took place.

Battle Staff Rides such as these on the very terrain where historic encounters actually took place bring to life lessons, applicable today as in the past, in leadership, tactics and strategy, communications, use of terrain and, above all, the psychology of men in battle. The second objective is to build unit cohesion and camaraderie. A properly conducted staff ride consists of three phases: Preliminary Study Phase, Field Study Phase and Integration Phase.

On 17 April, the group travelled from Madrid to Valencia, where Colonel Nick LIPSCOMBE (GBR A), a Napoleonic Historian and Battlefield guide gave attendees a valuable lecture covering not only the battle of Sagunto itself but the general political situation that led to The War of Independence as it is called in Spain -or the Peninsular War according to the British- and the main military operations and aims throughout the war. Questions arose after the briefing, showing participants’ interest in the subject. The first day’s activities continued with a guided visit to Valencia, providing an opportunity to see the most typical monuments of this famous Spanish city.

The following day, activities started with a bus transfer to the castle of Sagunto battle site. This Battle, fought on 25 October 1811, saw the French Army of Aragon under Marshal Louis SUCHET fighting a Spanish army led by LTG Joaquín BLAKE.

In this first scenario FCMD members were briefed on the siege of the castle of Sagunto, visiting SUCHET’s Post of Command in Petrés, French gun positions close to the west wall (Dos de Mayo Bastion) and the castle itself. It was easy to appreciate the enormous difficulties overcome by the French engineers to position their siege guns. Just after lunch the group moved immediately to the actual battlefield site to receive an impressive description of the battle of Sagunto from the dominant position of Els Gemanells (the Twins). The different phases of the battle were studied, linked to the exact places where they occurred. The barrage of questions to Col Lipscombe reflected the interest and curiosity of participants in the event.

For those who didn’t have the privilege of joining the tour, a short resume of this historic military event: the action began 25 October 1811 during the Peninsular War, which were part of the Napoleonic Wars. Marshall Suchet had invaded the province of Valencia in September 1811. He tried to gain the castle of Sagunto, but its garrison repulsed the attack. When Gen Blake's army advanced from Valencia, Suchet reposted his army to resist the Spanish. Finally, the French-Allied troops put the Spanish army to flight and Blake's soldiers returned to Valencia.

The secondary instructor, Captain Germán SEGURA (ESP A) provided valuable complementary information on the battle.