Sunday, 6 September 2015

Battlefield tourism: Rocroi

The last place we visited in June was Rocroi. This is an old garrison town on the Franco-Belgian border, which has seen its share of war. The city is best known for the battle fought in 1643 between French and Spanish forces, in which the legendary Spanish army of Flanders was decisively defeated. The Spanish army never really recovered and, consequently, French historiography has elevated this battle as the turning point for the beginning of France's century of greatness. Viggo Mortensen has immortalized this battle in the Spanish film "Captain Alatriste", which I urge everyone to watch: Rocroi battle scene

The city itself is built in the form of a star fortress, which has changed very little since the early 17th century. The walls and many of the military buildings are still intact and the parapets can be accessed freely. The layout of the city can be seen in the model below.

A view from one of the bastions

Demi-lune (outer defences)

The scarp of one of the bastions

The fossé is a good place for a football field

One of the guard houses contained a small museum. The curator very nicely took the time to give us a tour and there was a nice film about the battle of 1643. The best part about the museum though were the huge number of miniatures it housed.

Storming a breach

28mm miniature version of the battle of Rocroi

Condé and the French high command contemplate their battle plans

A stunning set-up of a Swedish and Imperial army of the Thirty Years War facing each other. There must have been several thousand 20-30mm miniatures in this display.


Francisco de Melo surrendering to the Great Condé

Cavalry fight

Infantry fight
Storming of a fortified town during the Thirty Years War

The naked lady seems a bit out of place

Protestant cavalry charging Imperialist infantry

One of the things I liked most in the museum were the diorama representations of famous woodcut drawings by Jacques Callot (c. 1633). 

Attack on a coach:

The Camp:

Plundering a large farmhouse:


Finally, we also visited the battle field itself. The site was rather unspectacular, consisting of very flat fields that are enclosed by tall hedges and copses that block line of sight. My understanding is that the battlefield was not this segmented in the 17th century. There was also a small memorial on the spot where the Spanish finally surrendered with some fresh flowers placed on it.

Myself near the position of the tercios viejos

The point of Spanish surrender

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