"The Abbey at Ovila has been in situ since the 13th Century. Monks have worshipped here and traded with the nearby villagers. An orange grove to the north of the village provides the most delectable fruit. During my visit, I couldnt help but think what an imposing sight the Abbey would give passing travellers on the road to Barcelona" - Lord Byram Fartsworthy, Travels in Catalunya 1779.
The idllyic setting witnessed by Lord Byram had passed by the time of the wars with Napoleon. Ovila Abbey became the headquarters of the infamous Father Carlos Mozo, known as 'The Black Monk of Barcelona'. He and his followers (comprising of monks, local villagers, bandits and deserters) used the Abbey as a base of operations from which to raid and terrorise the surrounding area. In the Autumn of 1811, Father Mozo conducted two highly successful raids. One snatched the paychest destined for the French garrison at Punto der Fuentes, while the second raid hijacked a coach carrying the wife and two daughters of General Sir Francis Garnett, who only just managed to escape with their virtues intact thanks to the timely intervention of Captain Jack Cutter of the 95th Rifles. They did however lose the family jewels...
Due to this General Garnett despatched Captain Jack Cutter with a small force to recaptured his family jewels and return them to their rightful owner. At the sametime a force sallied force from Punto der Fuentes, led by the rather weedy but tenacious Colonel Rene Le Choux. By chance the two forces would arrive at Ovila at the sametime... Father Mozo, having been prewarned of the approaching enemy forces buried his family jewels in the abbey grounds and hid the pay chest under the chapel altar. He then sent his motley collection of Monks, Bandits and Deserters to their posts to resist all-comers.
The resultant skirmish was rather unpleasent for both the bandits and the British. While the French advance in clean supporting lines, a piecemeal British attack from the opposite flank supported by the worst rifle fire ever seen led to heavy casualties among the British and the defenders. The French meanwhile slowly advanced and with units supporting each other methodically swept away those in ffront of them. But the poorly coordinate dBritish attack was faster. British troops and their Spanish Dragoons fought their way into the Abbey courtyard, with Captain Jack Cutter bursting into the Chapel, but only after he had been saved from death at the hands of a bandit weilding what looked like a sack of rocks by the elderly but violent Major Cranston Hickbetter-Fannycraddock who shot the bandit dead. Captain Cutter kicked in the door of the Chapel to be greeted by Brother Bulke and his Blunderbuss. When the smoke cleared, Captain Cutter stood in the doorway, not a mark on him except for a singed moustache. He cut Brother Bulke down and faced his arch enemy, Sargeant Jerimiah Snorksbill, a deserter from the 3rd Foot & Mouth. But times was not on Captain Cutters side.
As he and Snorksbill fought in the Chapel, the French finally arrived and large numbers surged in. Unable to resist their superior numbers, Major Hickbetter-Fannycraddock called the retreat, and the British withdrew, Captain Cutter parting company, as he dived out the Chapel door, Snorksbill's voiced echoed out 'I'll get you Cutter' he cried. Captain Cutter then danced across the Abbey grounds as French musket balls bounced around him and vaulted over the wall and away. In the village the British survivors made their escape. The French despatched the remaining defenders and surrounded the Chapel. In a high pitched squeal Colonel le Choux called on The Black Monk to surrender. There was no answer. His men then poured shot after shot into the Chapel. When they finally entered they found it empty... The altar pushed away to reveal a tunnel leading to safety.
The Black Monk had eluded both Cutter and Le Choux once again... and this time with a full pay chest. As Le Chouc angrily ordered his men to burn the Abbey, Captain Cutter and his men spent the night dressing wounds by a small stream wondering how General Garnett would feel that his family jewels were still missing. As Colonel Le Choux, proclaiming himself the great victor, led his men back to their garrison he was watched from the mountains... The Black Monk would have his revenge on that petulant Frenchman, and maybe this time he may get Cutter to help him. After all... Only he knew the location of the Generals family jewels...
The abbey defenders, a collection of bandits and deserters, man the walls;
The French arrive;
Snorksbill sneers at the advancing French;
Riflemen and infantry in the orange grove;
British troops fire up at the abbey defenders;
French and Deserters exchange fire;
The French come on in the same old style;
Riflemen try to outflank the abbey;
But get an unpleasent surprise;
The British fight their way up the rocky cliffs, while the French pur in the fire;
A swirling melee rages around the abbey as the French arrive;
Chosen Men O'Reilly and Cannon cover the British retreat;