MONTGOMERYSHIRE became the unlikely home to hundreds of French prisoners of war in 1812.

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s advance across Europe had been slowed.

French and German prisoners of war were placed on parole across the country, including rural Wales with Llanfyllin, Montgomery, Newtown and Welshpool becoming home to hundreds.

Records of 300 prisoners being marched through Kerry toward Newtown

Some were also imprisoned in Oswestry and Bishop’s Castle.

A total of 148 had been stationed in Llanfyllin alone, many together in two large houses at Bachie Place and the Council House on the High Street.

Border Counties Advertizer: The hills of Llanfyllin. Picture: Geograph.The hills of Llanfyllin. Picture: Geograph.

The hills near Llanfyllin. Geograph.

Records suggest the prisoners had been well treated and in some cases had come to relish life in rural Wales though others had complained of boredom and there had been several escapes.

The prisoners had been given an allowance and permitted to walk no more than a mile from their parole town.

Evidence of one notable prisoner’s longing for home remains etched in a drawing room wall of the Council House.

His name had been Pierre Augeraud and like most of the men paroled in Llanfyllin had been captured at the Battle of Badojos in Spain in April, 1812 as part of a vastly outnumbered army.

For almost a month the French armies led by General Phillipon had held the town against 32,000 British troops led by the Duke of Wellington which lost more than 4,500 men in taking the town.

Border Counties Advertizer: The Battle of Badojoz. Picture: Wiki Commons.The Battle of Badojoz. Picture: Wiki Commons.

The Battle of Badojos. Wiki Commons.

Philipon and the surviving French army were taken to Britain and the Welsh borders.

Phillipon was paroled in Oswestry but did not spend much time in the town and escaped along with General Garnier in the same summer while another General, Bron, had been captured.

The punishment for aiding the prisoners had been death as a man known as Hubbard from Welshpool discovered when he was put to death for his role in helping two French generals escape.

Four men had also escaped from Llanfyllin.

Jean Lempereur, Jean Girault, Jean Dibarboure and Leon Le Roux escaped back to France.

However the vast majority had stayed and remnants of their time in the town survive today in pieces of art and a mural on a town house wall painted by one Pierre Augerand.

Records of the time reveal the locals had regarded the French prisoners as ‘stout’ and ‘pock marked’ though such men had also been protected under law.

Over time the prisoners earned the respect of many locals.

Border Counties Advertizer: Llanfyllin Church. Picture: Wiki Commons.Llanfyllin Church. Picture: Wiki Commons.

Llanfyllin Church. Wiki Commons.

The French prisoners of Welshpool had become heroes in December 1813 when a gunpowder explosion set fire to a shop and they had formed a line to the Lledan Brook to extinguish the flames.

Likewise in Newtown when prisoners ‘exerted themselves greatly in putting out a fire at the New Inn in Severn Street, and were to be seen like cats about the roof’.

Love and friendship blossomed in Montgomeryshire in a time of war which came to an end in April 1814 with the Treaties of Founainbleau which ended with Napoleon’s exile to Elba and the return of prisoners to their homeland.

Not all had returned.

Captain Adolphe Herff started a family with Jane Williams in Llanfyllin while Dr. P. L. Serph settled down at Welshpool where he practised as a physician and surgeon until his death in 1837.

The rest had returned to France in late 1813, including Pierre Augerand who had seen his love for Mary Williams, the rector’s daughter, stifled by her father who had not welcomed the growing affection between the pair.

However peace had not lasted and Napoleon rose again only to be defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

Pierre did not fight at Waterloo but had no way of telling his beloved Mary he was still alive and resolved to return to Montgomeryshire as a free man to ask for her hand in marriage.

Pierre completed the 700 mile journey in the Spring of 1817 and, with her father now dead, it had been Mary's mother who had given her blessing for daughter to marry.

The pair were wed on May 9, 1817 in Welshpool and began a life and family in Preuilly Sur Claise and Loches in France.

However their love of Llanfyllin lived on long after their deaths and in 1913, a century after his grandparents love had been forbidden by his great-grandfather, William Augerand was entombed in death alongside the Reverend William Williams in Llanfyllin church yard.

Border Counties Advertizer: Loches. Picture: Wiki Commons.Loches. Picture: Wiki Commons.

Loches. Picture Wiki Commons.