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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Les culottes des Anglais

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Les culottes des Anglais

Postby jf42 » April 5th, 2016, 6:38 pm

There is a subtle joke at the end of this passage from the Introduction to Lahure's posthumous Souvenirs de la vie Militaire (1895), which I am not quite getting.

Apart from the implied music hall comedy of the 'English' leaving their nether garments in the hands of the enemy and the image of the ragged French troops hanging out of theirs, I can't quite get it. Is the last sentence a play on the English term 'unmentionables'? I'd be grateful for any thoughts.

And what distinction is the editor making in 1895, if any, between culottes and pantalons- which in 1795 would seem to me to have been critically different garments; to the tune of 50%?


C'est alors que Lahure contribua glorieusement a la victorie de Hondschoote, où sa troupe, corps a corps avec les Anglais les delogea et en fit grand carnage. Le bataillon belge, félicité publiquement par Houchard, reçut en cadeau les sabres des prisonniers. Encore une heureuse journée pour Lahure, qui de plus eut la chance de s'emparer des bagages d'une colonne ennemie et de garder non seulement les sabres, mais des culottes Anglais. En effet on y trouva des pantalons britanniques, et corrects. La satisfaction du brave Lahure fut si grande qu'il ressentait encore a la fin de sa vie en ecrivant ses Souvenirs. Sans insister, il indique que le délabrement des culottes usees par ses hommes etait inexprimable en anglais et meme en francais.

My translation, so far:
"That's when Lahure contributed gloriously to the victory of Hondschoote, where his troop, dislodged the English in hand to hand fighting and made great slaughter. The Belgian battalion, congratulated publicly by Houchard, received as a present sabres [taken from] prisoners'. Another happy day for Lahure, who once again had the opportunity to capture the baggage of an enemy column and kept not only the sabres, but some English breeches. That is to say, British trousers were found, and ?in good condition. The satisfaction of the gallant Lahure was so great that he still felt it at the end of his life when writing his Souvenirs. Without dwelling on the matter, he indicated that the disrepair of the breeches worn by his men was indescribable in English and even in French...."

JF
Last edited by jf42 on April 5th, 2016, 9:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby Andrew » April 5th, 2016, 8:59 pm

jf42, I read it pretty much the way you do. However, 'corrects' can also mean 'decent', which may fit a bit better? I've only once had a French friend; his sense of humour completely left me bemused!

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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby PaulD » April 6th, 2016, 7:02 am

Hi JF

Obviously "Les Anglais" are actually Hanoverians (as you hinted with your 'English') - interestingly the memoirs only refer to culottes (page 60), so the reference to pantalons was introduced by the editor. I'm trying to track down details of the equipment lost by the Hanoverians in 1793-5 and will let you know if anything interesting comes to light.

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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby jf42 » April 6th, 2016, 9:23 am

Thanks, gents.

Yes, Andrew, 'decent' certainly seems to be the implication, though not easy to translate literally.

'English'- I did wonder, Paul. 'Culottes'- I should have checked the main text. So that ambiguity is cleared up at least.

I am intrigued to think that somewhere there is a document in German recording "XXX breeches, white. Lost to enemy action."
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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby PaulD » April 6th, 2016, 10:20 am

jf42 wrote: I am intrigued to think that somewhere there is a document in German recording "XXX breeches, white. Lost to enemy action."


You would be surprised! - they had to account for losses so that they could claim for compensation from Britain. The relevant files are (I think) in the Hanoverian archives, files Hann. 38 E Nr. 542-5 "Berechnung des Verlustes an Mondierungs-, Armatur- und Munitionsgegenständen und an Privateffekten für Offiziere, Unteroffiziere und Gemeine" - I have asked for copies so we'll see.

The equivalent for the British troops is in the National Archives file WO 30/11, which lists items lost for each regiment.
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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby jf42 » April 6th, 2016, 1:19 pm

Thanks, Paul. Not that 'WO 30' comes up in a search on the NA Kew website. Why do they bother....?
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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby PaulD » April 6th, 2016, 2:07 pm

It worked when I put WO 30/11 into Discovery - let me know if you want details of any particular regiment
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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby jf42 » April 6th, 2016, 5:22 pm

Ah, 'Discovery'. Yes. Thanks. I was looking via "Search our records." Stupid, really. I still maintain the website was designed by a llama.
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Re: Les culottes des Anglais

Postby jf42 » April 8th, 2016, 4:45 am

jf42 wrote: I still maintain the website was designed by a llama.



Apologies. Lemur. 'By a Lemur'
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