The Lines at Monte Socorro
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Serra do Socorro
Casal Barbas
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Home arrow Historical arrow Geography arrow The heart of the Lines

The heart of the Lines Print E-mail
Wellington´s Eagle’s Nest at Mount Socorro.

The Peninsular Army withdrew to the Lines after the battle of Bussaco and was in position by 10 October 1810. Wellington set up his headquarters southwest of Sobral, at Pero Negro, near Mount Socorro, from where he rode out daily to observe the enemy. Mount Socorro is the best and highest observation post of the Lines, standing 1,292 feet high (394m). From Mount Socorro, Wellington could scan the whole countryside between the Atlantic and the River Tagus. Indeed, it would have been impossible for the French to advance without being observed from here.
serra do socorro
The main telegraph signalling station , operated by British marines, was erected on Monte Socorro where, on a clear day, the view from the top is uninterrupted in all directions. It was the principal signalling station and look-out point on the Lines and was known as Wellington’s Eagle’s Nest . White farm buildings and a very ancient and beautiful chapel crown the top. From there, Wellington would take only a few minutes to communicate with every part of the Lines. The signalling mast was situated in front of the chapel.

The hill was not itself fortified, but was defended by several forts constructed nearby.

South of Mount Socorro two strong isolated forts, numbers 28 and 29 , were constructed near Wellington's headquarters, to protect the Ribaldeira-Enxara dos Cavaleiros paved road, in case of a rapid advance by the enemy on the Second Line.

Campbell's and Coleman’s independent Portuguese brigades were positioned on this road, the main line of communication between Torres Vedras and Lisbon. These two forts were occupied by the Spanish corps under General Marquis de La Romana, whose headquarters was situated at Enxara dos Cavaleiros. These forts were the strong point situated midway between the First and Second Lines.

Forts 150 and 151 were situated northeast of Serra do Socorro, on the heights above Portela do Bispo and Patameira. These served to impede the use of the Royal road through the pass of Torres Vedras to Cadriceira-Casal Barbas, as well as the Ribaldeira-Enxara dos Cavaleiros road.
The redoubts of Serra da Archeira, numbers 128, 129 and 130, situated Northwest of Mount Socorro, re-enforced this defensive position, as did the defences behind the lower Sizandro river. The greater part of the military paved road, built to serve the forts of Portela and Archeira, is still in a remarkably good state of preservation today.

The Serra da Archeira/upper Portela position, above Bispeira, was defended by 1,350 men and 17 cannon of General Spencer’s division, positioned at Quinta da Póvoa and Quinta do Vale do Corvo below Mount Socorro.

Wellington had become convinced that the great mass of Junot´s 8th Corps, visible behind the paved road from Sobral to Zibreira and from Sobral to Ribaldeira, constituted the main danger to the allies’ position. No defensive position had been previously built here, so consequently the two armies might have come into contact with each other without the invaders having to attack any defensive position.

So Wellington had thus concentrated his whole force in readiness to act on this weakest point of the first line, with the Spencer, Cole and Campbell Divisions.
Altogether 30,000 men were concentrated on this comparatively short front of about four miles.

The advanced posts of the enemy arranged themselves very close by along the Dois Portos/ Runa valley.

The strengthening of the heights to the west of Sobral consequently became vitally important. Large working parties of the troops, frequently relieved, were employed to throw up strong redoubts on the commanding points above Ribaldeira and Runa (works nºs 128, 129 and 130). The heights above Portella and Patameira were scarped and defended by works 150 and 151. At the same time the defences behind the lower Sizandro were greatly increased.

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