This is the second part of my conversation with Frenchman Alain Collas, passionate about the Napoleonic Era and a cuirassier during the historical reenactments of the battles of the Napoleonic army.
What’s exactly happening during the reenactments? I was curious to find out whether they were above all a show for the audience to see action and costumes or whether they were precise and based upon actual facts and details. Historical reenactments really are a passion for which many enthusiasts from all countries gather together, meeting on the very sites where Napoleon fought his battles. They are also a way for them to share their findings and reads on their favourite topics!
During these events, and during the Journées du Patrimoine (a yearly event in September), the audience gets to see how war surgery was performed before the invention of anaesthetic – we’ll talk about this a bit too!
Alain will also describe his impressive cuirassier uniform (see photos in the shownotes of the episode). You’ll learn that each feature has a specific function going way past ornamental purposes; indeed they can add extra protection to the soldier. For instance, the long ponytail falling at the back of the helmet protects the neck of the cuirassier from sabre blows.
We’ll end the conversation with a quote from Englishman General Wilson and discuss why French soldiers are said to be particularly brave and determined – they defend the hard-won values and principles inherited from the French Revolution.
à blanc = blank (blank bullet, shoot blanks)
adroit,e = dexterous, deft
balle (nf) = bullet
boulet de canon (nm) = cannonball
campement (nm) = camp, encampment
charge (nf) = charge (attack); load (weight)
clairon (nm) = bugle
dragonne (nf) = strap
écurie (nf) = stable
empaler = to empale; to put on a spit
fonte (nf) = cast iron
fusil (nm) = rifle; gun, shotgun
fusillade (nf) = shootout, exchange of gunfire
jugulaire (nf) = chinstrap
laiton (nm) = brass
pistolet (nm) = pistol, gun
plastron (nm) = breast plate (armour); plastron (fencing)
poitrail (nm) = breast, chest (horse)
portée (nf) = range
rêne (nm) = rein (horse)
selle (nf) = saddle
tresser = to braid, to plait, to weave
- What kind of food did the Napoleonic soldiers eat in the camps?
- How thick is the breast plate protecting the chest of the cuirassier?
- What is the difference between the sabre of the cuirassier and the sabre of the hussar?
- Simple food, like a modern pot-au-feu / stew: a big pot in which soldiers would boil whatever food they could find (meat, veggies, potatoes, etc.)
- The cuirassier’s had a straight blade whereas the hussar’s sabre had a curved blade
Links & Resources
Did you like this podcast? You can support my work by leaving a review on iTunes. Your kind words warm my heart and also help me be found by more passionate learners of French. Merci beaucoup!
Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and never miss a new episode!