British Troops Occupy Valencia!

Tuesday 24th of January 2007 came and went in Valencia unnoticed, and without the expected massacre of British residents in the city of Valencia, although it was the 300th anniversary of the occupation of the city by British troops commanded by the Earl (or Count, depending on which version you read) of Peterborough.

earl of peterborough

The occupation was not due to an increase in Ryanair traffic but formed part of the manouevres of the different armies disputing the Spanish throne during The War of Spanish Succession.

Peterborough arrived in Lisbon on 25th June 1705 with 5,000 men but then swapped two regiments of newly raised foot for some of Galway’s Dragoons, and sailed on to Barcelona.

Later in August Peterborough took the fortress of Denia, and then laid siege to Barcelona.

Peterborough personally led an assault by 1,800 men on the fortress of Monjuic and forced the garrison back into the city. The British constructed tunnels and breached the city walls, whereupon the Governor surrendered the city on 9th October. Archduke Charles, the would-be future King of Spain, who represented the House of Habsburg against the French-supported pretender King Felipe V, then ordered the army into winter quarters.

In the early spring of the following year, The Marquis de las Torres besieged San Mateo with 4,000 foot and 3,000 horse and Peterborough set out to assist the 500 man garrison.  With only 1,200 men at his disposal Peterborough resorted to deception: using of a false message and good positioning of the men to persuade the Spanish that they were facing a much larger force, thereby raising the siege. Peterborough pursued the Spanish with only 200 cavalry, however, the Spanish were still convinced they were facing a larger force and retreated.

Meanwhile the Duke of Arcos was besieging Valencia. Having saved San Mateo Peterborough led his small force to the rescue of Valencia. The British entrenched near the besieging Spanish, and Peterborough tricked the Duke of Arcos into believing that his chief engineer, Mahony, was a traitor. Arcos arrested Mahony and his force dissolved in disarray, whereupon Arcos raised the siege and Peterborough entered the city to welcoming acclaim from the Valencian people who supported the Austrian monarch rather than the French one.

The Marquis de las Torres headed for Valencia to reopen the siege. He had 4,000 men with him, and a heavy artillery train embarking at Alicante. Peterborough heard of both forces, and managed to have both intercepted before they reached Valencia.

In April a large French force besieged Barcelona by land and sea, and so Peterborough took 2,000 men to raise the siege.  While Peterborough watched from the hills the French reduced the fortress of Monjuic and breached the city walls. As the French prepared for a final assault, Peterborough ordered the British fleet to sea. He drew the French squadron out of Barcelona harbour, and then ferried his men into the city in fishing boats. Upon seeing their supporting squadron depart, and reinforcements entering the city, the French raised their siege.

Subsequently differences between Peterborough and the newly acclaimed King Charles III led to Peterborough being replaced in command by the Earl of Galway.

In the largest action in the Peninsular during the War of Spanish Succession a Franco-Spanish army of 25,400 (Marshal Berwick) defeated an Anglo-Portuguese army of 15,500 (Earl of Galway and the Portuguese General Das Mina) at Almansa on 25 April 1707, practically ending the brief period of Valencian and Catalan independence from French-Castillian domination.

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