31st August

san sebastianSan Sebastian nowOn 22nd August 1813 the second siege of the highly fortified port of San Sebastian began. In a week of attacks repulsed by the French garrison 3,770 British and Portuguese and 850 French soldiers were killed or wounded. The final assault, on the 31st August, succeeded. Wellington’s forces had taken the town but it was not an honourable victory.
Fuelled by looted drink a week long rampage of the town began. British officers did nothing to stop the orgy of rape and massacre, nor did they prevent the town being completely destroyed by fire.
On 31st August 1967, 21 year old Carl Witherby (at the beginning of his career as an historian) ended the summer he had spent hitch-hiking around the battlefields of the Peninsular wars on the beach of San Sebastian.
His thoughts were of those who had fought so hard and died so horribly 154 years before. But they were also of Susannah. It was her 21st birthday. He loved her but they could never be together. He had been told she was his sister.
31st August, in various years, is an important date in The Last Dance, in Walking Alone and in Runaways, the three books which make up The Iniquities Trilogy.
Professor Carl Witherby (in 2014) features again in A Set of Lies.