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12 June: Piquets and Patrols

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12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:05 am

If one didn't mind the sun, the heat and the dust stirred up by horses and men, then Portugal was a beautiful country. Captain the Lord Torrington of the Royal Engineers however by now did mind very much. Not so much for himself, but because the sun had dried out the plaines and made the soil as solid as rock, which together with the heat would make building any kind of fortification an exhausting struggle that would probably rather help the enemy than the own side.

He sneezed and turned in the saddle to look over the patrol he had joined to reconnoitre the landscape. As a newcomer, he didn't know most of the men, but both his own sense and Captain Vickery had suggested to change that soon.

Deciding that a question about their common enemy would best set them talking, he asked: "Do the French have commonly patrols out here as well, or might we hope for an undisturbed excursion?"


Last edited by Edward Torrington on Tue Sep 06, 2011 6:29 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Hiding how bad I am in geography. Apologies!)

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Edward Torrington
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:10 am

Cotton was carrying his rifle in the ready position: left hand on the stock, right hand around the small of the butt, finger very definitely off the trigger, though it would only be a matter of a second or so to move his finger to pull the trigger. It looked a casual position, but it allowed a Rifleman to be alert for trouble without straining to carry his rifle.

It was also almost the closest a Rifleman could get to actually hugging his rifle without being too obvious about it.

He wasn't quite sure why he had been chosen for this patrol, but he wasn't going to complain. It got him away from the fatigue of marching in column, after all. Captain Vickery was back with the Company, where he ought to be, and Cotton was glad that the officer had chosen him as part of this patrol. This was the sort of thing that he had feared he would no longer be able to do once the Captain had taken him on as batman.

He jogged forward to draw level with the Engineer officer, smiling up at him before looking along the road again. "Sometimes, sir. If there are Frog patrols out, they'll likely be cavalry, sir, an' we'll smell 'em before we hear 'em an' hear 'em before we see 'em. The Frogs don't like sendin' patrols out too far though, 'cause of the Portuguese." He shrugged. "You'll be safe enough with us, sir."

And wasn't he 'the Lord Torrington'? "Beg pardon. Milord, I mean, sir."

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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Tue Sep 06, 2011 8:53 pm

Edward's pride instantly prickled at the implication that he needed the riflemens' protection and that his only concern was to be safe, but he fought down the impulse to protest. Logically he would be much safer with a patrol than on his own, and the poor phrasing was more than likely accidental.

Forcing his hands to relax their grip on the reins before he disturbed Trueno, he just picked up again on the rifleman's last few words. Edward was slightly startled, because for a moment he had truly forgotten his title. He had felt offended purely as an officer and engineer. But of course he needed to be styled properly. Not wanting to make an issue of it, he simply nodded briefly to indicate that 'milord' was correct, but otherwise continued as if the other man had gotten it right the first time.

Forcing a light tone into his voice, he asked: "Cavalry? Then a few strategically placed brambles and branches on the piquet line should be quite effective."

Realizing suddenly that being on horseback himself made him and his patrol probably as easy to detect as the French, he dismounted, taking Trueno's brittle and fell in beside the rifleman. Quietly, but with a trace of irritation in his voice, he said: "Cotton, if it was just politeness that kept you from mentioning that on horseback I'd make a pointer to our patrol, I beg that you will in future be less polite."

But of course it would not have been Cotton's place to comment on something like this. Edward knew enough officers who would have cried 'insubordination!', and Cotton couldn't yet know how he would react. Even more quietly, he added: "That was uncalled for. I beg pardon. But I have no experience with this kind of duty. If there is something that is endangering the men, I need someone more experienced here to point it out to me."

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Tue Sep 06, 2011 9:22 pm

It was a good idea, although brambles in the road would impede the Rifles' progress as much as the French. That sort of thing was much better done when in camp.

The Engineer dismounted and fell in beside Cotton, who bridled a little at the officer's tone. "Sir." It wasn't his place to offer any sort of criticism on how an officer conducted himself - that was the sort of thing a Sergeant would say, though even a Sergeant would be deuced careful about how he said it, of course.

The officer obviously thought he had been a bit hasty, and Cotton turned his head to look at him as he lowered his voice further to apologise. A lot of officers wouldn't apologise to a ranker - Captain Vickery would, but he was an exception. It seemed Milord Torrington was another.

Cotton gave the Engineer officer a small smile. "'S all right, sir. I'll do that." That was more the sort of thing an NCO ought to do, though, but Cotton was willing enough - and it wasn't as though Vickery never asked him his opinion on the terrain. "Um, sir. I dunno if you prefer 'Sir' or 'Milord', an' I ain't used to sayin' Milord, so I'm sorry if I get it wrong."


Last edited by Gabriel Cotton on Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:49 am; edited 1 time in total

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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Tue Sep 06, 2011 9:51 pm

Edward knew that he should probably have this conversation with an NCO, but they seemed a lot more guarded around him than Cotton. Besides, he trusted Cotton on some level he didn't trust them. Perhaps it was because he was Captain Vickery's batman, and Edward had quickly realized yesterday that the Captain was no fool and that their families probably moved in the same circles of society.

Edward thought for a moment about Cotton's words. "If it is an official occasion or in front of another officer, you will have to call me 'milord'. Well, at least at the beginning of the conversation. But otherwise 'Sir' or 'Captain' will do just fine."

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Friedrich Rottländer on Tue Sep 06, 2011 10:32 pm

Freddie had been marching along with the other riflemen, feeling a bit awkward. This wasn't his usual platoon, but as a batman he was now supposed to join whichever patrol his officer went with.
When the captain dismounted and started to walk beside his horse, however, he quickly sprinted up to the other side of the animal, only at the last moment slowing down to avoid startling it. Surely an officer was not supposed to lead his own horse?

The Captain was talking to Cotton at the moment, so Freddie just unobtrusively took hold of the reins on his side of the animal.
When the Captain glanced over, he flushed slightly, but the Captain hadn't looked offended or anything, merely slightly surprised to see him there. So he managed to say with reasonable calm: "I ... lead ... him, Milord."
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:12 pm

"Yes, please do!" Edward surrendered the reins to the young rifleman, the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

He hadn't been able to duly appreciate the lad's efforts yesterday, but this morning he had woken to find his things neatly arranged, his coat and boots cleaned, shaving gear laid out, and hot water and coffee ready the moment he stirred. He hadn't even had to utter a single word before his first cup of coffee!

The moment he got up from the bed, Rottländer had become rather shy again, but some gentle coaxing had soon made him go about his duties with what Edward suspected was his usual exuberance.
Communication had of course been a bit difficult, as the lad's English was rather patchy. Edward read German well enough, but most of his vocabulary was linked to his profession, and he wasn't quite sure how most of the words were pronounced, either. Still, by pointing, using several languages, and general good will they had managed to establish some working communication.

Now he had to hide a smile because Rottländer so obviously glowed with pride to have once more anticipated his wants correctly. With a final pat on the neck of Trueno, he turned back to Cotton. He hoped that if the other riflemen saw that he didn't snub Cotton for answering his questions, they would join in the conversation, too. "So what do you commonly do if you detect a French patrol?"

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Wed Sep 07, 2011 3:20 am

"Check how big they are an' fall back to our own men to report to the officer, sir," Cotton said. "It's not likely we'll meet with the French though. Well, not all that likely, anyhow." He shrugged. "If they start firin', we'll fire back at 'em, of course - they can hear shootin' from a way off an' someone'll come to see what's up." He looked at the officer, slightly doubtfully. "We don't fight like the redcoats do, sir. If anythin' does happen, keep your head down an' let us sort 'em out. I don't want to have to report I managed to get you shot, sir."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:35 am

Ruefully realizing that with only two pistols and a sabre he would scarcely be able to do anything but duck his head if the rest decided to fight with rifles, Edward replied drily: "I wouldn't want you to have to do it either!"

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:52 am

Well, that made two of them, then. "Like I said, sir, we'll see you right." Cotton wondered if Captain Vickery had told Captain Milord Torrington about his skill with a rifle, and decided that he wasn't going to ask and risk sounding boastful - not all officers appreciated it when a man knew his own skill.

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
"Who'll be a soldier for Wellington and me?" ~ The Rochester Recruit, trad.
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Gabriel Cotton
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Species : 5/60th Rifles; Captain's servant
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:30 am

At the words, Edward stiffened. Did Cotton do it on purpose or was it just that the man really had such a poor notion of him? Just because he was an engineer, he was by no means totally incapable. But probably the rifleman just tested how far he could push the new officer.

Edward felt slightly angry at himself that he had let the opinion of a simple soldier affect him this much. Careful to keep his voice neutral, he replied: "In the event of the French attacking, we probably should all do our best to see each other right."

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Edward Torrington
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:43 am

Cotton noticed the slight stiffening in the officer's posture at his words and sighed. He hadn't meant anything by it - he'd see the officer right, as he'd see Captain Vickery or his mates right. Just because he wore blue didn't mean that Cotton was expecting to have to baby-sit him.

He nodded as the officer spoke, and managed a smile as he replied, "Just so, sir. We all rely on each other out here, after all, sir."

And if the officer managed to take any offence at that, there was just no hope. Cotton had hoped he would be able to get on with this officer, if he was going to be working closely with Captain Vickery's men.

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Sep 07, 2011 6:50 pm

Edward caught Cotton's slightly forced smile and felt once more like kicking himself. The man hadn't wanted to imply anything!
Why for heaven's sake was he so irritable? If he insisted to measure everything by London standards, he might as well ask for his papers and go back there.

Feeling that he owed Cotton once more an apology, he let a wry smile touch his face. It made him look younger, more a charming boy than an arrogant nobleman. "Your conduct is better than mine today, Cotton. Well, since blowing up the whole landscape for one patrol seems a bit drastic, I'll better ask Captain Vickery then to let me have a look over his ensigns' shoulders and find someone to show me how to fire a rifle."

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:06 pm

Showing an officer how to aim and fire a rifle was, again, something probably best left to a Sergeant, but Cotton nodded, and showed his own rifle. "It's easy enough, sir. Well, the idea is, anyhow. You jus' get a steady position an' line this here" (he indicated the notched V of the rear sight) "up with this here" (indicating the stub of the foresight) "an' make sure they'm in line with the target." He gave a shrug and let his hand go back to its place. "I don't s'pose it's so diff'rent to firin' a huntin' rifle, sir, not really."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:54 pm

Edward eyed the rifle a little dubiously. It certainly wasn't that different in theory from the hunting rifles he knew; but he never had been especially good with those, either. It had always been his brother who brought home the trophies. Besides, when hunting, he usually had time to aim and not much did happen if he missed. He somehow doubted that this would be the case here.

Perhaps it had been wrong of him to try for a position with the Light Division. He probably should have asked to be posted to a line regiment somewhere further back. But then for the most time he would have repair work to do, or some extensive, but tideouse work on some fortification, always hoping that a siege might relieve the boredom. He had hoped that out here, his wits could somehow make a difference, but at the moment, he couldn't see how.

Cotton on the other hand seemed very comfortable with their position; he seemed to positively enjoy going on patrol. Their conversation had put him on guard again, but at least he was still talking to him and didn't seem overly concerned. Edward shrugged: "It doesn't sound that different, yes. Circumstances might be, though." He hestitated for a moment, then lightly asked: "I guess you're all pretty good shots around here?"

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:22 am

Cotton nodded. "Pretty good, sir, aye. Reckon I'm as good as anyone." He wasn't going to tell the officer of the outcome of last month's training day; it would sound boastful, and the officer had probably heard about it anyway.

"We've got a couple of new lads who're learnin', but the most the rest of us can hit the target at a hundred yards, easy, sir."

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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:04 am

Edward frowned; something in Cotton's statement, or rather the underlying pride in his tone, had jogged a memory. Something one of the soldiers had told him on the way from Lisbon. And suddenly the connection was there: Some kind of shooting match between the 60th and the 95th, and the winner had been ... Well, obviously the man he was just talking to.

As he shook his head, an amused look starting to settle on Edward's face; this whole conversation seemed so set out to humble him that his sense of the absurd was tickled. "You seem to have an uncanny ability to catch me on the wrong foot, Cotton", he said, suddenly in quite good spirits, "I think I heard a rumour to the effect that you yourself can do considerably better than that. Didn't you win out straight against the best man the 95th rifles had to offer?"

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Edward Torrington
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:40 am

"I... sir? Sorry, sir." He had to resist a sudden temptation to examine the lock of his rifle, to avoid the officer's eye. "Yes, sir." He gave a self-deprecating shrug. "It was best of five at fifty yards. We was level right till the end - I though he was goin' to get it, sir. I was prob'ly the most surprised of anyone when I got it."

It was the guinea that he'd won in that competition that he had had made into Maggie's wedding ring.

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Character by Sharpiefan | Timeline | Wiki page


And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:50 am

"Well, I hope you will win the next several contests as well, so that you can get used to the feeling."


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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:54 am

Cotton shrugged. "I don't mind if I don't, sir. Reckon the other Riflemen ought to be as good. Well, ought to have the chance to be, anyhow." He shrugged again. "About earlier, sir, I never meant to... to upset you or nothin' like, sir."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:01 am

Edwards cheeks coloured slightly. "No need to apologize, Cotton. I fear my conduct was far more at fault than yours."

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:31 am

Cotton blinked. That wasn't the sort of thing he was used to hearing from an officer. And nor, he was sure, was it quite true. It wasn't his place to contradict an officer, however.

"You bin out here long, sir?" he asked instead.

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
"Who'll be a soldier for Wellington and me?" ~ The Rochester Recruit, trad.
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Gabriel Cotton
Captain

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:31 am

"No, not long. We put into Lisbon only three weeks ago. Before that I had been building bridges in Scottland." Edward shrugged, "Not too much chance at the moment that I will do that kind of work here, I guess. Although we certainly will need some good pontoniers when we advance again."

He walked on silently for a few paces, the asked: "How about you?"

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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:35 am

Cotton shrugged. "Reckon you'll be either blowin' bridges up or rebuildin' 'em, sir." He gave a quick grin. "We've bin out here since last year, sir. Ended up winterin' in Lisbon - much better than they poor sods who ended up retreatin' to Corunna. It was the worst winter they've had in nigh on thirty year, so I've heard tell, sir."

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
"Who'll be a soldier for Wellington and me?" ~ The Rochester Recruit, trad.
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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

Post  Edward Torrington on Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:48 am

Edwards face sobered. "I saw some of the officers who came back from there. Poor sods. One told me the only thing he can clearly recall are the shots when the cavalry had to put down their horses. But they all spoke very highly of General Moore."

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Story !  God bless you !  I have none to tell, Sir.
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Edward Torrington
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Re: 12 June: Piquets and Patrols

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