Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Day is it?

You know very well what day it is.  As historians and wargamers we are all aware of the significance of today.  The sacrifice and heroics that were shown on all sides.

You'd not know of course if you looked at the TV schedules for the five main channels. Not a single one has any commemoration programme of this momentous battle.  I think we'll be lucky if it makes the top five news stories on the main news broadcast.  Disappointing is too light a word for it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Quatre Bras - Grimsby Wargames Society Action 13th June

What do you do on a cold and wet Saturday in June?
You go to the Grimsby Wargames Society and join half a dozen like minded souls to refight the action at Quatre Bras.  
Using their extensive collections Andy & Mark organised the table and troops so that players arrived and could get straight into the game.  They had decided to start the battle around 3pm - the time that Ney finally roused himself sufficiently to try and force the cross roads.  As a consequence the infantry were deployed and the horse in reserve.
 An overview above Jerome's formation looking across Foy & Bachelu with Pire in reserve.
 Bachelu deployed one of his brigades to attack along side one brigade from Foy.  The markers in mid-stream show the area of the stream that was deemed impassable.  As a consequence Bachelu sent his other brigade out to the extreme right to cross the stream further down. and to try and turn the Allied flank.  Whilst this ultimately failed it did force the Allies to draw in a large part of their reserves as they arrived to this section of the battlefield during the game.
 Foy also attacked alongside Jerome with more success.  The Dutch-Belgians holding their original positions put up a stubborn defence but were ultimately defeated.  Unfortunately for the French that defeat came at the point when the British Foot Guards had arrived and were in a position to utterly defeat all three French foot brigades facing them in a single then.
 Pire's cavalry.  Lots of light cavalry that were reluctant to move.  Five successive morale tests to get them to move delayed any impact they were to have.  In the end they moved forward at around 7pm real time which was sufficient for the Chasseurs to ride down a Brunswick battery (but being so badly shot over that regiment were forced to retire) and to utterly defeat the single squadron of Brunswick Uhlans (not led by the Duke this time).  Too little too late.

Quatre Bras is a surprisingly difficult battle for the French to win despite what may be read in some of the Anglo centric histories about the heroic efforts of the boys in red.  But that it is not to say it is not unwinnable.  The French had their chance on Saturday and it was the valiant efforts of a couple of batteries in the Allied lines adjacent to the woods that turned the tide in their favour.
Facing almost the entire right hand brigade of Jerome's division, these batteries repulsed the French attack.  Had they failed then the morale status of the allied brigades they were attached to would have been precarious and probably forced the two Allied brigades from the table.  At the point the Allied reserves newly arrived consisted only of the Brunswickers - not enough to repel four brigades of French foot heading for the crossroads.  But the Allied foot stood firm and gave the Allies the time they needed.

Superb day and much fun was had.  My thanks to Mark & Andy for organising it.  Thanks also to my gallant commanders of Ron (Bachelu) and Mike (Jerome) - I took Foy and the overall command.  Congratulations to the opposition of Chris, John & James for putting up such a sterling effort to thwart the French.
 I'll leave you with some photographs of really bad close ups of some really beautiful 15mm figures in Andy's collection.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Post Partizan Painting

Since the show in Newark painting has been a little slower than normal but it has taken place.
Nine more figures to add to the nine painted pre Partizan for the planed Dutch brigade to go alongside my Danes.  The Dutch brigade will be four or five battalions (I can't remember whether I bought two or three Ebor battalions to go along side the two Front Rank units I swapped for some painted metal at Newark last year).
 The first battalion to be painted are all from Front Rank.  Giving them a red cuff against the grey coat makes them suitable for a number of battalions and the final designation will be determined when I find some flags that I like (and you thought I had a plan).
 I've chosen to have them in firing positions for a change so the figures are a mix of firing poses, at the ready and standing, so there should be some movement in the unit rather than the stoic pose I prefer for the French in my collection.
I wanted the grey to stand out from the French and so have chosen a slightly darker grey than I use normally.  Using "Miniature Paints" (rapidly becoming one of my favourite brands) I've base coated with dark grey and then highlighted with mid grey.  Unfortunately it looks just like my French colour scheme.  Oh well.
The one thing I don't like is the flesh.  I opened a new pot of flesh wash from "Cote d'Arms" and it is rubbish.  Too thin by half.  So I think I'm going to adding some GW Dark Flesh to the pot to improve the pigmentation.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Partizan & A Military Gentleman After Action Report

There are times when a piece of writing comes along and captures exactly the flavour of the day.  The following was written by Neil Cogswell and ......well read it for yourself.

Report to Maréchal le Marquis d’Aulley

During the action on the 31st of May near the village of Ligny I had the honour to command the division in the Right Centre of your line.
Pursuant to your orders this division advanced in three lines to the right of the village of Ligny and engaged in an intense fire fight with the Prussian forces opposite. Those Prussians were commanded by General von der Raÿ himself and engaged us closely disputing the passage of the stream. Initially our attack was successful shattering the Prussian regiment next to the village, but those broken troops were instantly replaced and the pendulum of fortune swung to and fro. In these circumstances I consulted Colonel de St Paul (lately a volunteer serving with the Austrian army) who was attached to my staff.
Colonel St Paul had taken a wider view of the developing action and advised me that he considered that the Prussian commander had made a fatal error in his dispositions; he observed that the Prussian line was divided in two by the village of Ligny. Instead of being a strong point St Paul contended that this village was a potentially fatal weakness; he believed it to be without a garrison.

St Paul maintained that, earlier in the action, a regiment of jäger had deployed forward from the village and then moved to their right. There they had caused some discomfort to the division on my left commanded by General du Gan but not without receiving casualties themselves from musketry and artillery fire. Now, as General du Gan regrouped before renewing his attack, those jäger had taken a new post in front of the village whence their long range fire could incommode my attack on the right. St Paul maintained that there would be no other Prussian troops in the village – or none that were sober anyway – and begged me for a single regiment that he might drive those ruffians away, seize the village, and thereby smash the Prussian centre. I gave him Royal Italian from my second line for this purpose.

St Paul took command of Royal Italian just as it came level with the road that leads directly up to Ligny. St Paul assumed that road must inevitably lead to a ford that would negate the inconvenience of the stream. And so it proved. St Paul ordered the regiment: “By the left, by company, left form!” Each company of the regiment wheeled on its left flank marker thereby forming a column of companies. St Paul now ordered “March!” and the column drove down the road like a bolt from a crossbow into the heart of the Prussian position.

As expected the already weakened jäger fled into the buildings; the threat of bayonets held no appeal to them. As Royal Italian crossed the ford faces appeared at the windows of the houses. A Prussian prisoner who had fallen behind as the jäger retreated growled: “My colleagues are under cover and resting their rifles, now you will discover how foolish your rash attack is.” St Paul replied: “Their weapons are already foul from firing further impeding their already pathetic rate of fire; whilst a rifle is useful for the unsoldierly activity of sniping is an irrelevance or encumbrance in close quarter contact.” And so it proved. The volley from the houses touched barely one man in thirty of Royal Italian whilst the carefully preserved first volley from the rapidly deploying leading companies laid low almost half the defenders irrespective of their skulking. With the cry: “Vive le Roi! Victoire!” the regiment surged forward.

Surely there could be no opposition. The jäger must have lost more than half their strength during the battle – no troops could stand that; if they had not quit the village they would be in hiding in the cellars. But opposition there was. Had there been other troops in the houses? Had the dead risen? And how desperate was the opposition as Royal Italian forced their way into the houses!

Surely too late, von der Raÿ gathered whatever reinforcements he could find and hurled them into the opposite end of Ligny. St Paul growled: “Those reinforcements are the remains of two regiments broken by fire in the plain on either side of Ligny. If they enter the village their officers will instantly lose whatever control they had managed to regain since their previous defeat and the soldiers will either take the opportunity to hide or to desert; they will behave just as they did at Hochkirch and Maxen. Worse still, the Prussians within the village will be without unified command and those with a mind to fight will as likely fight each other.” In this view St Paul was confounded. General von der Raÿ himself must have intervened; only his charismatic leadership could have controlled those diverse elements. The Prussian reinforcements came forward through the village just in time to prevent the surviving jäger being overwhelmed; the struggle became intense. Royal Italian had now lost perhaps one man in ten whilst every Prussian they killed seemed to be replaced by two.

Finally night fell and the Prussian army began its withdrawal. The strike against Ligny had failed to break the line though it had taken a miracle and the personal courage of General von der Raÿ to preserve the Prussians.
Sire, I have the honour to be
Neil de Barbegris

Monday, June 01, 2015

Partizan and "A Military Gentleman of the Eighteenth Century"

Sunday 31st May.  Dawns wet and miserable.  Drive through the wind and rain along flooded roads populated by lunatics.  Arrive, with no small degree of anxiety it has to be said, at Kelham Hall near Newark.  To meet twenty strangers who have come together to play a game using unfamiliar rules.  Does this sound like a recipe for success?
But it was.  Indeed it was.
The "A Military Gentleman" forum is a bunch of individuals who all own a copy of the volume by John Ray and share an enthusiasm for warfare in the eighteenth century.  Coming together for the first time the group brought that passion in quantity and I think it shone through all day.

Overview of the table. 

Three of the French commander - Phil Olley, Neil Cogswell & Mark Allen

Opening positions

My troops cross the brook

French high water mark

Some of the Prussian Command - Dave Hall (I think), Jim Purky, John Ray & Dave Jarvis
There was a constant number of visitors to the table and we were kept busy all day.  So busy in fact that I was more than happy to spend that time talking to the interested parties and never play the game.  Indeed I could not tell you what happened in the game or how it developed.  I can also only apologise to those members of the group involved with the other table for not taking any photographs of the action there.
My many thanks go to Graham for pulling it all together, Charles for the work with the rules, John D for steering the players through the rules and of course John without whom none of this would have happened.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Partizan Sunday May 31st

On Sunday I will be in illustrious Company.  I'm probably only being included as part of the levy whilst the elite have the light shine on them but I'll be happy.
The games have been organised, with no little difficulty I suspect, by Graham from Crann Tara Miniatures and I've included his briefing for the game below.  A small number of my figures will be present as I hobble around spreading good cheer.  Apparently I've been designated an umpire, which as someone who is unfamiliar with the rules in use, is akin to a Southern hemisphere referee officiating at a Six Nations game.  Still, I'm looking forward to the day and hopefully will get to meet a few of you there.

A Military Gentleman of the 18th Century was written by John Ray and published in September 2013.
Only 500 numbered copies of this limited first run were printed.
This book of 304 pages has over 500 images, covering model soldiers, inspirational pen and inks drawings plus coloured military artwork specifically commissioned for this story.
Purchase of this exceptional book allows the owner to join the AMG Forum, where the hobby and all things 18th Century (and more!) are discussed and debated in what can only be described as a wonderful 'Private Members Club'
Members of the forum thought it would be a wonderful idea if we could meet and at the same time promote the 18th Century as a wargames period.
Hence the decision was made to present not 1 but two games
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo the games before you today represent an 18th Century take on the battles of Quatre- Bras and Ligny. The games are based around those presented by Charles Grant in his publication 'The Wolfenbuttel War' and of course we shall be using his rules 'The War Game' suitably tweaked for the day.
Over 20 members of the forum are here bringing together  800+ years of wargames experience.
On the Ligny battlefield we have the Prussian Army commanded by Feldmarschall Johann von Rae, over 30 Battalions of Prussia's best, ably supported by 20+ squadrons of cavalry.
Opposing them is the French Army commanded by Marshall Phillipe D'Olley. His army is roughly the same size as the Prussians. However neither army starts at full strength, when and where they arrive may have a significant impact on the battle. The French must take Ligny and cut the road to Quatre Bras in order to win.
On the Quatre Bras field of Battle the Hanoverians and their Allies must blunt the attack of the French Army and prevent them from seizing the cross roads at Quatre Bras. Initially outnumbered the Allies must hang on until reinforcements arrive and then hopefully counter attack the French army.
There will be over 4000 figures deployed across the two tables, from many manufacturers, including Minden Miniatures and Crann Tara miniatures, there are also figures from the private collections of John Ray and Phil Olley.
Whilst it is not possible to name all the participants today it is a privilege to welcome some of the doyens of the wargaming world - Charles Grant,  John Ray, Phil Olley, Mark Allen.
Jim Purky has flown in specially from America and the man who made Horace St.Paul available to the Seven Years War fraternity - Historian and Wargamer Neil Cogswell.

Feel free to ask anything about the book, the Forum, the game.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Malburians on a Monday

This gaming lark is getting addictive.  Another Monday and another game at the Grimsby Wargames Society.  Back to the War of the Spanish succession this time to test the new rule amends again.  It was also a chance to review the figures that I will be taking to Partizan in a couple of weeks for a game I am involved in.  More of that later.
 Slightly increased size for the French with a traditional deployment.  Ten battalions in the center and two on the left to help support the out numbered French horse there.  Some more French horse placed on the extreme right.
 This has to be one of my favourite photographs of the year.  Massed ranks of figures on good looking terrain as the French lines close with the first line of the English.  I hadn't realised until it was too late that Mark had placed his Foot Guards in the first rank.  The musketry duel was decidedly one sided.
The more numerous French did cause the English first line to fall back with the, now depleted, French then engaging the second line.  Whilst the French volley fire was comparatively ineffective their morale was resolute.  Twelve consecutive morale checks passed of eight or more needed allowed the French to continue advancing.  
 Even the French horse on the right were holding their own against the foot.  This was never about the French horse winning but trying to hold a battalion in place whilst the infantry in the center did their work.  Unlike other rule sets t is not easy to et horse to engage steady foot and once they the advantage only lies in the first round.  To pin the foot the horse had to be sacrificed.
 On the left it was never a real threat and the French held off the Dutch despite losing all of their horse in the process.
 In the center the lack of effect from the French muskets began to tell.  No matter how steadfast the French were the fact that they couldn't reduce the English told in the end and one by one the French battalions began to fall back causing disruption and a lack of cohesion that in turn allowed the English to reform and return to the fray.
As the right flank crumbled and the center wasn't going to be won the French had to withdraw and cede the field to the English.

Another good game against my long term opponent Mark and his Anglo Dutch forces.  Whereas in previous games Mark had always felt that the three rank units had the advantage, this is the second testing of the rule amends and the second time that we've had a much more balanced game.  The French with their smaller frontage can still get two to one but the effect is not so devastating and the morale not so easy to pass (despite my good rolls in the middle of the game).

Very pleased that the club rules are working again for a balanced game and now I can start to concentrate on making them a more public friendly copy.  My thanks to Mark for bringing his figures along and giving my French a work out.

The vast majority of the French will be at Partizan on Sunday 31st May.  They will be taking part in a large multi-player game organised by Graham through the "A Military Gentleman of the Eighteenth Century" forum and group.  There they will be joined by other contingents from the many and various collections of the members including some very well known and respected gentlemen of the hobby.