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Flamborough III: Week 7 – 5th July

So, the battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815. Sir Frederick Ponsonby, commander of the Twelfth Light Dragoons, was wounded in a cavalry charge, lost control of his horse and careered into the ranks of the French, where he was wounded again and knocked to the ground unconscious. When he woke up he was lying in the mud in a sort of no-man’s-land between the two armies, badly injured and unable to move. A French skirmisher came up and went through his pockets, robbing him. Then another came and made a more thorough search, and left disappointed. Later still, a French officer came past, stopped, gave him a drink of brandy, made him comfortable and put a knapsack under his head, and left. Finally another French skirmisher decided to use him as cover and lay down behind him, loading and firing “many shots” at the British lines, and “chatting gaily” with him all the while. Then he wished him “Bon soir, mon ami” and left. Remarkably, Ponsonby survived.

Flag Iris

That afternoon at Waterloo the French launched mass cavalry attacks on the British, who formed defensive positions called “squares” (basically each regiment forming into a hollow rectangle, and presenting a wall of bayonets on all sides, which horses would naturally shy away from). As the French cuirassiers milled impotently about the squares, unable to break in, they made “fierce gesticulations and angry scowls” at the soldiers below them. To prevent their men being intimidated, and to reciprocate, the officers of one regiment gave my favourite order in entire the history of warfare: “Now men, make faces!”

Meanwhile, in gansey news, I’ve finished the back and made a start on the front—and I’m delighted to say that I managed a complete diamond at the top, before the beginning of the shoulders. All things being equal, I’ll get the front finished this week and the shoulders joined.

St Fergus’ in the fog

In parish notices, Judit has raised the bar by knitting up a replica of a fisherman’s pullover from Hailuoto in Finland, a traditional pattern knit there from the 1800s. It’s a practical combination of ribbing combined with a double moss stitch centre panel on the yoke, and very fetching it looks in light grey lambswool. Many thanks to Judit for sharing this with us, for adding another chapter to the book of ganseys from around the world, and for bringing it to life so splendidly.

Harbour Lighthouse, in the fog

Finally from Waterloo, there was the famous case of Lord Uxbridge’s leg. You probably know that Uxbridge, winner of the British stiff upper lip all-comers championship 1815, was sitting on his horse talking to the Duke of Wellington when a cannon ball struck his leg. “By god, sir, I’ve lost a leg,” Uxbridge observed; Wellington, not willing to be out-sang-froided by a mere subordinate, glanced over and coolly replied, “By god, sir, so you have.” (Honestly, I make more fuss than this when I get a hangnail.) The leg was amputated without anaesthetic, but Uxbridge’s only reaction was to mention to the doctors that the knives appeared “somewhat blunt”. The leg was buried on the battlefield with its own tombstone, where it apparently became something of a tourist attraction. And, as if this wasn’t cool enough, Uxbridge is apparently said to have referred to himself for the rest of his life as having “one foot in the grave…”

7 comments to Flamborough III: Week 7 – 5th July

  • Lois

    Interesting history lesson! My great (I think its about 4 greats) grandpa fought at both Salamanca and Waterloo. Was posted afterward to the West Indies, came down with fever, was discharged and returned home to Bridlington. In his forties by then, he married a young woman, raised a family and I have a picture of him in his gansey. The gansey pattern is largely covered by his beard, but looks to be Flamborough. And died in a sawmill accident in his eighties. Tough old bird, huh?

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, vey interesting, thank you. I often think if Doctor Who came along and offered me a ride in the Tardis I’d politely decline—I wouldn’t last five minutes in olden times! (Picture me in the background at the OK Corral coughing at the gun smoke and vaguely objecting that the wifi connection is really poor…)

  • =Tamar

    I might have doubted some of those stories except that I once injured myself seriously and went into completely-calm mode (though I’m sure my blood pressure skyrocketed).

    Beautiful ganseys, both yours and Judit’s.

    • Judit Mäkinen

      Hello Tamar and thanks for your comment .

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, all validated first-hand accounts from actual books, with paper. But you’re right—apart from the fact that the English public school system prides itself in removing any trace of excitability in its charges, shock and loss of blood I think accounts for a lot of it!

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