1. Troops at Fuengirola.
2. "Come and Take It !"
3. The Recoats Fled Faster Than They Came.
Troops at Fuengirola.
Fuengirola is southwest of Malaga, east of Cadiz, in Spain. To the north of Fuengirola is Sierra Mijas. See map. (ext.link) The British forces were commanded by Andrew Thomas Blayney, 11th Baron Blayney (ext.link), veteran of Irish, Dutch, Italian, Egyptian and Indian campaign and participant of the siege of Malta. He sailed from Gibraltar toward Fuengirola defended by Poles, about whom he had very low opinion saying that "little dependence could be placed" on them.
Picture of 4th Infantry Regiment in 1810-1812 (napoleon.gery.pl)
"Come and Take It !"
Blayney's troops landed at noon and marched northeast along the shore toward the old castle. At 1 pm "large group of Spanish guerillas" attacked the Poles, captured their cattle and killed and wounded 2 Polish guard. Approx. 40 Poles grabbed their muskets and ran out after the Spaniards. But when Mlokosiewicz saw British warships he recalled the pursuers.
The British frigates and gunboats opened fire. The Poles were forced to serve their old cannons after the Spanish gunners deserted. The Poles sank one gunboat and caused numerous casualties on the remaining 4 gunboats. Soon the Brits withdrew out of range and only 2 frigates continued fire.
The British and Spanish infantry advanced toward the castle and the frigates moved closer to the shore. The Poles opened fire and killed commander of the II/89th Foot Regiment "Connaught Rangers" and many others forcing the redcoats to fell back. On the Polish side was wounded Mlokosiewicz, 3 were dead and 13 were wounded. In the night the Poles expected that they were joined either by 60 Polish infantrymen stationed in Mijas or by 200 Poles and 80 French dragoons in Alhaurin. It wasn't long before 60 Poles slipped through the positions occupied by British infantry and joined the defenders.
In the morning the British opened cannonade from land and sea - it broke the tower that collapsed. The British again asked Poles to surrender but Mlokosiewicz didn't even let the emissary in. The bombardement continued and the castle went on fire. There were very many wounded and at 1:30 pm. Mlokosiewicz called a war council - all officers voted for fight. A British ship-of-the-line (ext.link) Rodney" arrived with its 74 cannons, carrying the entire I Btn./82nd Regiment of Foot. Lord Blayney ordered the 89th Regiment to leave the hill and march to the beach and draw rations, in the same time he sent boats for the 82nd Regiment. British battery on a hill was left guarded by Spaniards and "foreign battalion".
Mlokosiewicz saw all British movements and - in the same time - saw 11 French dragoons coming from the direction of Fuengirola village. These dragoons were commanded by Polish officer Bronisz. Mlokosiewicz immediately took 130 infantry and ran out of the castle and up the slope where stood British battery. They were joined by French dragoons and together attacked 1.060 recoats.
They routed the entire battalion and captured 40 as prisoners including Blayney's adjutant.
The Poles loaded British cannons with British ammunition and bombarded the British infantry on the beach. Blayney was shocked, he took the 89th Foot Regiment and rallied the foreign battalion.
The Redcoats Fled Faster Than They Came.
On picture: the battle of Fuengirola.
The British infantry advanced up the slope against the handful of Poles. The Poles detonated ammunition, left the battery and happily returned to the castle. Blayney retook his guns and formed 350 British and 1.000 German and Spanish infantry into line.
Officer Bronisz arrived with 200 Polish infantrymen. They set their muskets to talking and whistling about their ears so lively that majority of the redcoats broke and fled before bayonets touched them. Blayney fought to the end, before he was knocked to the ground and taken prisoner. The Poles wanted to kill him but Frenchman Frederic Petit saved him. The "foreign battalion" was also routed, it was Mlokosiewicz who attacked them. The Spaniards after few volleys at long range retreated to the beach where groups of panick stricken redcoats attepted to get on the boats. The Poles retook battery and cannonaded the Brits before 11 French dragoons drew sabers and charged.
The 82nd Foot landed on the beach under the cover of 74 cannons from "Rodney". They formed a "red line" but soon broke ranks and joined the 89th Foot in flight to the boats.
Meanwhile the Poles brought their prisoners, including Blayney, to the castle. Blayney had to step on the castle wall and signal to the ships to cease fire. So he did without any hesitation. The warships sailed away. Napier writes: "He was immediately made prisoner; his troops again fled to the beach ..." (Napier - "History of the War in the Peninsula 1807-1814" Vol III, p 19)
General Sebastiani de la Porta commanded all French and Polish forces around Malaga. He arrived to Fuengirola on October 16th and showered the Poles with praise. He also praised them in the report to Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult (ext.link). Mlokosiewicz was awarded with Legion d'Honneur. Blayney's saber is today in Poland, in the city of Krakow. In Warsaw, in the Museum of Army is a picture depicting the heroic defence of Fuengirola. Blayney described the Poles: "The scene that presented itself at this moment can never be effaced from my memory; both [Polish] officers and soldiers had all the appearance of those desperate banditti described in romances; their long moustachios, their faces blackened by smoke and gunpowder, and their bloody and torn cloaths, giving to their whole appearance a degree of indescribable ferocity."
During Blayney's long incarceration, the 2nd Earl of Caledon looked after his financial, domestic, and political affairs, and on his return, Blayney was given a seat in parliament for Caledon's infamous "rotten borough" of Old Sarum, Wiltshire. Lord Blayney died on 8 April 1832 and was succeeded by his son Cadwallader, the 12th and last lord.
"The casualty returns of the II Btn./89th Foot Regiment (preserved in the War Office, signature W.O.25/2105) have had the three sheets with the casualty listings for Fuengirola torn out". [Nafziger "Saxons and Poles" p 109]
David Chandler calls this old castle as a fortress and the Poles as French ("The French-occupied fortress refused to capitulate ...") and blamed the foreign troops for Blayney's defeat. He also writes on page 163 "General Sebastiani at the head of 5,000 French troops was heading for the scene from the interior." and on the next page "His [Blayney's] error was soon clear as Sebastiani's column appeared through the smoke ..." There appeared fresh troops, but these were not the 5,000 led by Sebastiani, but only 200 Polish infantry and 11 French dragoons. Chandler also doesn't mention Lord Blayney and many of his redcoats being captured. He writes: "This abortive but colorful and gallant action thus came to an end." (David Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars" publ. 1993)
In the 17th century, a new urban settlement developed, once the threat from Turkish and Moroccan pirates disappeared, and at the beginning of the 18th century, an inn was opened near the beach, offering accommodation to travellers, muleteers and seafarers. Fuengirola used to be a quaint fishing village; it's only recently that it has become a busy tourist resort. Today Fuengirola is probably most famous for its sandy beaches, with high-rise hotels offering magnificent views of the Mediterranean (ext.link). Of the approximately 60,000 inhabitants registered in the municipality, 25% come from other countries, mainly United Kingdom and Sweden, and also from Morocco and Argentina. In the summer especially, the town plays host to throngs of visitors both Spanish and foreign, but in particular British. The English community in particular is large enough to support a fully developed programme of activities and local groups.
Sources and Links.
Nafziger - "Saxons and Poles"
Chandler - "Dictionary of Napoleonic Wars."
Bielecki and Tyszka - 'Dal Nam Przyklad Bonaparte"