In the year 2002 Joaquin Blasco strolled across the battlefield of Waterloo. Unlike Napoleon, he didn’t meet his nemesis, but he did meet a lot of people from different countries who, like him, were fascinated by history, and especially by events of the 19th century when Napoleon narrowly failed to turn Europe into a French-speaking colony.
Eight years earlier in 1994, Joaquin and a group of like-minded friends had already started meeting to discuss and collect items relating to their mutual interest in Spanish history.
The weekly meetings in Joaquin’s hometown of Algemesí grew and they now have various handfuls of regular members who attract the attention of the local media with their frequent displays of military drilling, fencing and fighting and their participation in national and international events.
The first of these events in which they participated seriously and successfully was at historical Castalla in Alicante province, scene of two battles during the Napoleonic War in 1812 and 1813.
Over 400 uniformed participants from Spain, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Russia and the USA took part, along with 4 cannons and 25 horses.
In the first battle in 1812, Spanish forces were soundly defeated after some earlier successes and retreated to Alicante. In the second, British troops participated under General Murray along with three Spanish battalions under Felipe Roche. Marshal Suchet was narrowly defeated and forced to retire to Onteniente.
Joaquin’s group, the ‘Asociación Napoleónica Valenciana’, with their uniforms and weapons of the epoch, now participate in a wide range of events and, with the collaboration of friends with similar interests from other countries, have been participating in the anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Almansa in which now takes place most Aprils, when a re-enactment of that battle from The Spanish War Of Succession is the highlist of the pacific festival.
Joaquin’s fascination with the Napoleonic era dates back over many years, and he now has well over 500 books on the subject and also writes his own essays and articles for various specialist publications.
Among the members of his group is the present Marquis de Turia, Tomás Trenór, who is a descendant of Philip Keating-Roche, who was sent by the government of Great Britain to do a feasibility study on the possibility of assisting the Spanish rebellion against Napoleon.
The group is varied; Joaquin himself has his own small business, other members include lawyers, teachers, draughtsmen and firemen. As Joaquin is quick to point out, the group is interested in history not militarism and the last thing they’d want is to be confused with some kind of para-military group.
One aspect of these activities that appeals to Joaquin is the fact that they permit contacts between people of different nationalities who were enemies 200 years ago; friends such as a British enthusiast and Spanglophile, Ronald Brighouse.
One of the specific activities of the group has been the recreation of the Regimiento de Infantería de Línea 1º de Valencia”, a regiment that was created in 1658 and which participated in battles at Tudela, Alcañiz, Zaragoza, Tarragona, Lerida and Sagunto, before being taken as prisoners when Marshal Suchet captured Valencia in 1812.
Joaquin, as President of the association (and Captain) of the group, each of whom has a rank and role, is largely responsible for the group bulletin which is sent out to other enthusiasts in many different countries.
Another of their historical research activities was to provide the Castellón Military Museum with an ‘authentic’ reproduction uniform of the Napoleonic epoch, similar to the ones they themselves wear during their re-enactments.
Joaquin’s wife is equally enthusiastic about the ‘regiment’ and usually carries the flag; and their daughter’s also has her own uniform.
For the events of Almansa, the group dedicates long hours to researching and preparing new uniforms as the battle took place a hundred years before the Napoleonic era.
The uniforms are extraordinarily complex, including as they do 25 different parts and 85 buttons of four different types. To create the buttons they use originals borrowed from collectors to make the moulds. An infantryman’s uniform costs about 800 euros to make and an officer’s is even more expensive.
And then there are the weapons!
Joaquin also does his own drawings of scenes from the epoch.
Undoubtedly a lot of dedication is involved, but the group as a reward get to travel all over Europe and are increasingly in demand for ‘performances’, including one at El Escorial Royal Palace near Madrid.
If anybody is interested, I believe the part of the Duke of Wellington is still available.
ASOCIACIÓN NAPOLEÓNICA VALENCIANA
President: Joaquín Blasco Nacher
Plaza de la Constitución, 3 -2º -7º
46680 Algemesí (Valencia)
Tel. 96 242 62 63 / 626 00 89 96