Thirlestane Castle at Lauder fell to the Napoleonic French army on the last Sunday of March in 1988.
But their occupation was short – the castle was regained the following day by the might of a European army. The engagement lasted 45 minutes and the castle was accepted in Scotland’s name by its owner and occupier, Captain The Honourable Gerald Maitland-Carew.
Over the two days there was much musket and cannon fire, and drums of both armies could still be heard over the thunderous noise.
Southern journalist Gordon Anderson reported how the battle was the first foray across the border by the 15-year-old British Napoleonic Association. There 150 men and women in uniforms that cost between £60 and £600, as well as a host of camp followers.
War correspondent Gordon reported: “The casualties looked realistic enough – but they are now back in real life as anything from London tube drivers, to doctors, nurses, civil servants and people who work in the nuclear research industry.”
This wasn’t Thirlestane’s first encounter with the Napoleonic French. Captain Maitland-Carew is quoted as saying: “After Waterloo, Captain Sir Frederick Maitland accepted Napoleon’s surrender on board HMS Bellerophon which he commanded, and in the castle we still have some china which came from his cabin on the ship – accommodation which both men shared.
“There have been many battles fought in this area – but this was an enjoyable one.”
Enjoyable perhaps, but the leader of Napoleon’s 20th century army admitted to our war correspondent of the day: “We are very careful ... the only danger is that we might accidentally fire off a ramrod from a cannon. We take training from the army in the use of gunpowder – so even that chance will soon be eliminated.”
That would be very reassuring news indeed, because the association planned to put 1,000 soldiers onto the field of Waterloo a few weeks later to commemorate the 1815 battle at which Wellington secured an allied victory.
– compiled by Bob Burgess