On 27th September 1810 the French were given a bloody nose at the battle of Busaco. Three Scottish regiments were involved in the battle. 2nd Bn 42nd, 74th and 1st Bn 79th Highlanders. Many of the senior officers in other units and the Portuguese army were also Scottish. The most senior of these, ‘Black Bob’ Crauford, was in command of the famous Light Division and came from Ayrshire.
The French commander Marshal Massena underestimated the resilience of the British and Portuguese troops. He had been forcing them back to Lisbon and egged on by Marshal Ney attacked them at the Busaco Ridge.
Of the Scottish regiments the Cameron Highlanders suffered worst in the battle with 55 casualties; the 74th had 29 casualties and the Black Watch only 7.
After beating the French Wellington slowly took his army back behind one of the wonders of the day. A series of breastworks and redoubts protecting Lisbon which had been built by Wellington in secret. On this day 200 years ago the 79th Cameron Highlanders took their places in these famous fortifications.
Three days later the French first discovered the Lines of Torres Vedras. They were unable to break through them and for six months they starved in front of them; not strong enough to break through and too scared to retreat and face Napoleon’s wrath.
To borrow a Churchill phrase - It was the end of the beginning for the French in Spain.