Saturday, 20 September 2014

Another Real Hussarette

One of the more enjoyable aspects of taking part in our West Country Waterloo Project is the excuse it has given me to re-read Waterloo books already in my collection and also seek out others which are either newer, or fascinatingly, very old.  Among the latter I received earlier this year helpful notifications from Amazon that I could cheaply download the eye witness accounts penned by Captain Mercer of the RHA and "A Voice from Waterloo" by Sergeant Major Edward Cotton. Since  my boyhood introduction to Napoleonic warfare these have been names to conjure with but never read except in extract from secondary sources.

For this blog I'm focusing on a telling sentence that once again shows we who are fascinated by a beautiful woman in fabulous military costume are not just pandering to flights of testosterone driven fantasy!

Edward Cotton, apart from being a participant during the battle in a British hussar regiment, spent much of his later life as a "tour guide" to the battlefield and his "Voice from Waterloo", although often a rather jingoistic and colourful account, is laced with an air of authenticity due to his anecdotes from veterans whom he met there. It is a recommended read by me for its terrific atmosphere and detail if not necessarily for its coherency of narrative.

Here is the relevant paragraph at 22% of the way through the book (who needs page numbers when you can change the font size? :-) )  The action bit is above La Haye Sainte probably about 2pm.

Readers may recall my previous account of a-real-hussarette and like that one this too poses questions which can't be answered. Was it her own uniform, or borrowed? What did it look like? Why was she in the army at all in 1815 and particularly taking part in a charge so near the English line that she got shot.  For those not familiar here are some pictures relating to the Hanoverian monument taken on my trip in June.
The Hanoverian monument itself

The view looking due West from the monument towards the Lion Mound -
effectively along the British crest line just in front of  the "elm tree crossroads"

From the monument it is a very short distance to La Haye Sainte
These photos show that our lady hussar was shot dead in the heart of the British/KGL position and proves her bravery, along with the thousands of other French persons who died striving to wrest Mont St Jean from the Allied grasp. So warlike Hussarettes is no longer just a fantasy.

All my studies aimed at recreating the 300 metres round LHS on the tabletop next year do not show any French Hussar Regiments in this vicinity. So I conclude she was either an aide/mistress of a senior French officer (see for example my original post about Madame Leberton lady-hussars-anyone), or merely a field wife who borrowed any uniform to join the ranks because she could not bear the thought of her (possibly cuirassier) husband dying and leaving her alone. There is a risk of letting it get to you as it sort of sums up the Napoleonic cause on that fateful day - immense bravery in the face of incredibly difficult odds. Despite all the busy traffic a visit to Waterloo can be very emotive. 

Any comments very welcome.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Waterloo Project: 1:3 Second Test Game - "A Cloudburst of Cavalry"

Thanks to every one on this blog, and the AMG forum, who commented on the first-test-game. I hope you will enjoy seeing this one even more. Just to get started here is a sample.
British - Victrix painted by James Fergusson. Lancers - Perry painted by Kevin East. Photo by Kevin with digital effects by CG
For our 1:3 scale refight next year of the fighting round La Haye Sainte a big part of the fun and excitement will be how to represent the cavalry which were so critical at that part of the battlefield at various times from about 2 pm to 6pm. On the French side the 1st and 4th Cuirassiers and 2nd Dragoons were operating around the farm and up and down the slopes to the Elm tree crossroads; for the Allies we have mainly the British Lifeguards and KGL Light Dragoons. But of course we have to handle potential encounters with infantry too. In poor formations and taken by surprise there were the Luneburg battalion and the 5th and maybe 8th KGL Line, all destroyed by cavalry, as well as some of d'Erlon's French infantry being swept away by a tide of British dragoons. Then of course the stalwart squares have to be represented in the game without being either boring or too predictable.

Based on experience from the first game I decided to start this one off with various units already in very close proximity and having suffered either 10% or 20% casualties from fire on the approach to combat. This would help us test the morale rules and effects of attrition and disorder. It proved a good idea which got us into tense situations straight away and lots of varied action even though we only managed three game moves! More on that at the end.
Once more we cobbled together a makeshift basic battlefield approximately 6 feet square plus a little outlying table (on the right here) to accommodate a French Horse Artillery Battery and another out of shot, further back for French Foot Artillery.
Positions at the start Allies on the left, French on the right.
From behind the Allied ridge line. Foot Artillery battery in the foreground, then Line infantry in square. A Guards light company on the road and a Wing of 95th Rifles from farm out to the flank, with Royal Horse Artillery battery behind

From behind the French cavalry squadrons. We used what we had so from top left - Line Lancers, Chasseurs, then Guard Lancers behind  with Hussars behind them. A small squadron of Carabineers connects across to two squadrons of Dragoons ahead of a large one of Cuirassiers
I admit the above looks rather contrived but it was to test rules and formations and also simulate the smoke and mist haze which produced some situations on 18th June 1815 that wargamers would never willingly let happen, but we have to make them a possibility in our game.
Some closer views by Kevin of (mostly his) French cavalry,
today commanded by Richard Newcombe

First action was joined by testing the Chasseurs against a British square. 
 Both sides had 20% casualties already on the assumption of  cannon fire on the infantry and musketry on the cavalry. We know cavalry had very little chance of charging home on a good square but the "melee" dice are intended to reflect this and the cavalry lost enough to make their morale very poor, yet the infantry lost some too.
We should have some bodies really to represent all the cavalry casualties!
The outcome was that the cavalry rolled bad morale dice and fled the field ( they could rally off table) and the face of the square was left clear for French foot artillery to re-commence round shot fire from their off-field position. There were 3 model guns and a howitzer playing on this square and, after the first effect,  we had a 4,5,6 chance of a "second graze" bounce for ball in the muddy conditions and when this occurred the side companies and the colour party took casualties too.  Note this size square is only a "wing" or half battalion and made up of heterogenous units from larger scale games; in our refight most battalions will be about 75% larger.
At the same time the French Line Lancers braved some close range canister and ploughed into the Royal Foot Artillery battery. It was a foregone conclusion  and the surviving gunners were driven back onto their supporting teams with great loss.
 We deemed that the lancers would have their formation disrupted by going through the gun line but not suffer any morale detriment as they carried on to engage the fairly helpless teamsters.
The resulting losses destroyed the battery and what remained fled the field, leaving the elated lancers very disrupted and vulnerable if the initiative tokens fell right for the Allies.
Meanwhile losses had mounted on the British square who had been watching without any musketry targets as 95th Riflemen in the nearby wood used their longer range to pot at the Guard Lancers. A Morale check for the square forced a retreat and luckily they had the breathing space to form column, otherwise it could have been disaster. The Coldstream Guard Light Company is helping cover their retreat.
Why had the powerful Dutch and Polish lancers of the Guard not attacked earlier? The answer was that a lucky roundshot in the first move's salvo from the RFA battery had taken off the head of their commander. My WMaB1815 rules deliberately put great store on leaders so although their morale was sound they could not move forward until the Brigade commander got back to appoint a new leader.

Back up on the ridge top the initiative fell right for Kevin who had his Light Cavalry squadrons just off table at that point. They charged forward and the consequent morale check by the weakened Line Lancers was enough to see them scurrying back down hill without waiting to be sliced up.
British Light Dragoons and King's German Legion Hussars
Line Lancers scurrying back through a gap between the supporting squadrons
The road up the middle of the table, and the need to deploy cavalry away from the central farm effectively made two separate battles only connected by the wing of the 95th Rifles. Its three companies I'd  formed as one administrative unit of about 80 figures but with their own leaders so each company could perform independently if required. It took a bit of head scratching , and clarification of the "Disorder" status rules to make the best of this but I see it as an essential part of the transition from skirmish scale to "big game". The sizes of units combined with the terrain they try to occupy becomes much more taxing at this scale since very little is representational. This side of the battle opened with one Rifle company in skirmish line and the order of initiative was vital. It turned out that the French Dragoons moved first and the skirmishers were caught.
Perry plastic Dragoons by Richard Newcombe
Mixed manufacturer's 95th Rifles by CG
The Rifles fired first and the Dragoons took casualties but not enough to stop them so we fought through a melee in which, not surprisingly, the thin line of engaged Riflemen lost about half their figures. It wasn't a huge impact on the Wing as a whole and this company was able to withdraw at the double (being skirmishers - 120 paces per minute) to one side out of direct line of the cavalry advance. Kevin was able to bring them together with the reserve company and all formed a square near the walls of the farm. The IGO/UGO nature of the game may seem to give a rather staccato appearance to what should be a fluid movement, but what matters is the result and the "fog of war" we can't enjoy from our God-like wargamer stance. Put simply, heavy cavalry had suffered some losses but swept aside a skirmish line, the survivors of which ran away to reform with their mates. I think it worked OK so I'm going to celebrate with this brilliant photo by Kevin which I had fun digitally enhancing.
That mounted Major model is on loan from the Hanoverians till I convert something appropriate
Here's a photo of the RHA battery behind the Rifles which had already been taking out some of the cavalry as it approached.
RHA and photo by Kevin. We should really have twice as many gunners  at 1:3 so had to just
count them notionally. For the real game crews will be augmented by other project members. 
At this point Kevin was desperate to bring on his three squadrons of British Dragoons on his left flank but we had a good example of how the Initiative/Command system can catch you out if not careful. As Umpire I'd only given him one overall cavalry leader which he chose to use on the right flank. Each squadron had its own leader but poor Kev had stacked his up in squadron column and the Initiative number tokens fell in the wrong order. The consequence was that the French Dragoons lurched up the slope unopposed and could cross the hedge and were only then met by a single British squadron.

While this was going on Richard had eschewed the higher ground I had placed for his Horse Artillery in favour of limbering them up and bringing them onto the main table, clear of the cavalry squadrons where they could hammer the RHA battery with canister. The 95th Rifles square had conveniently got out of the way by retreating behind the farm when they saw the horse guns approaching.
A clear field of fire
Kevin has augmented his normal French HA crews models with extras  for this scale 
At that range the canister angle from all the French guns bracketed most of the British battery and quite a lot of casualties resulted including a team horse and rider just visible over the crest. Although the Artillery morale check was good Kevin still wanted to pull them back in view of the proximity of the cavalry, and that farm was becoming a useful safety barrier blocking line of sight.

Here's is one more photo to show that we had planned a lot more possibilities in that the French have two more infantry battalions to follow up the cavalry assault; here is one of them.

The British also had a Guards infantry battalion ready to come on via the road but we just ran out of time.
So we had planned to have about 1100 figures potentially in play but in fact about a third of them didn't make it onto the table in the time we had available - like the first game, about 4 hours play mixed with 3 more hours talking about rule mechanisms.  Only three complete turns were made so about 10-12 minutes "real time" and about 30-40 minutes in my "historical schedule". 

Kevin explains one of his movements to Richard
(A 1:100 model of the impending new Gregg dwelling on the mantelpiece) 
Nevertheless these three moves proved a lot to us. Getting stuck into the action straight away meant an awful lot happened and I was very pleased with the command/initiative system and movement. Morale testing is done "as it happens" and retreating/fleeing is a free move even though there is no such thing as free "space" - everything in the terrain is actual. This meant players had to really think like on the spot leaders about how to marshal their squadrons, companies, guns to have some effect, and in the right order, confounded by that accursed "fog of war" - random initiative tokens and morale checks.  We had beefed up small arms casualty infliction by introducing a "Very Close" range under 6 inches, and easier "to hit" dice, and improved the killing power of canister to penetrate three ranks of figures. Melee casualties were bloody without being too overwhelming. The Morale system also worked well with good or fresh units being unlikely to be checked, and weary or poorer ones having to worry if dice rolls were extreme. We will be trying one major morale change next time though in order to simplify record keeping and casualty number crunching. The latter can get difficult with such large units. We will need to get a bit more sophisticated  with status markers etc and I'm experimenting with the new ones from Wargamer Aide de Camp, but more on that in a future blog. 

As you can see from some photos the systems produced some sudden changes of fortune and on this scale large open spaces resulted. This felt right to me and I quote from Captain Kincaid's eye witness account of Waterloo from the sandpit near LHS when his Riflemen began to take a toll on Cuirassiers engaged with Allied Light Dragoons ".....when they instantly opened a terrific fire on the whole concern, sending both sides to flight; so that, on the small space of ground, within a hundred yards of us, where five thousand men had been fighting the instant before, there was now not a living soul to be seen".  

In the previous blog one reader very reasonably asked how we will cope with the timing to get the whole game done. My hope is based on the following:
- We will schedule two days over a weekend to play about 4 to 5 hours of historical time.
- so that means about 20 Moves
- there will be about 3000 figures in play but not all at once, over a table at least 12 feet x 6 feet plus extensions giving even more usable space.
- the command system means not every unit can be active every turn but at least one command from each side can play concurrently with two umpires adjudicating
- there will hopefully be about 5 wargamers per side so each will probably command only  2-3 major units at a time not the 7 to 10 in this test game.

I'll leave you with just one small part of the most amazing Waterloo Panorama painting, a memento from Kevin and my trip to the battlefield this June......I think we are getting it right.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Windmill Models

Some readers may know I make models to order. Recently I got into a discussion on the "A Military Gentleman" Forum concerning windmill models and showed some of my previously sold models. I was fortunate to get a commission from a Forum member and made a small batch, all very different, of which I have one remaining.
It's quite large and is typical of the style common in Belgium, Netherlands and North/Central Europe. Ideal for any 25mm - 30mm scale wargames set in that region from 17th Century up to mid 20th. Here are some some photos, using some of Kevin East's fabulously painted Napoleonic figures to set it off.

Now offered at a bargain starting price on Ebay here
Windmill on Ebay
But hurry - it finishes morning of 3rd August..
And if you want to see more photos and details of the other two recent windmills (now sold) please have a look at my Download sidebar "Windmill models" or the links here
Dilapidated Post Mill
Stone Tower Windmill
Post Mill with separate staircase and high gable
Details of how to contact me by email or phone are in the documents........or comment on this blog if you wish.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Waterloo Project: First Test game - Infantry and Artillery

I've made cryptic reference in previous posts to working on rules for our madness of refighting the actions around La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont in 1:3 scale next year. I drafted a set of rules, appropriately entitled With MacDonell and Baring, 1815 (WMaB for short), back in April but it took us till 17th June to assemble the gamers and a venue. In fact I had to have it at my present abode, commandeering the sitting room while the Duchess was away for the day and so the terrain is just cobbled together to make a space 6 feet x 6 feet 6 inches with a couple of gentle slopes made of basic boards and books covered in suitable green material. It's nothing like I hope to have for the real games, twice the size. Four of our 6 project members contributed - Kevin East took the French, and Richard Newcombe and James Fergusson the British, plus me umpiring. Being a rules test it was not so much a game more like "three blokes pushing around 1000 figures and talking a lot"! Consequently we didn't get any other result than a feel for handling such big units and the opportunity for healthy criticism of my rule writing.

The new frontispiece (above) for my blog gives you an idea of the spectacle when viewed from "mounted commander" level and this posting contains many photos of figures you'll have seen showcased on this blog since last Autumn, most in action for the first time.
My first photo shows the simple terrain - no it's not meant to be part of Waterloo but just containing some elements we will need - walled farms, hedges, orchard, woodland and slopes. The Allies had three companies of 95th Rifles on the table to start with, holding the far wood and both farms including the near orchard. the French brought on two battalions and a Horse Artillery battery deployed across the road. The allies reinforced with a similar battery deploying between the farms, and a large company of Nassau Voltigeurs on the right flank.
Testing the skirmisher rules James quickly advanced a company of Rifles from the wood to what is pretty close range on this scale.
Another French Battalion, this one has skirmishers out front .
The first French battalion throws out its Voltigeur company and the Rifles cheekily fire and retreat having taken a satisfying toll on the main column.
A third French battalion appears and is wheeling its Voltigeurs out to skirmish
A wider view shows the front battalion attacking a farm where Riflemen are lining the hedge and RHA give them some canister (not effectively enough - we changed the rules later). The farm had already been set on fire by French artillery fire.
On the Allied left flank James now brought on the 2nd Light Battalion KGL. Although a rifle-armed light unit I organised them in two wings of three companies each for this game.
Although the rules don't favour skirmish troops in melee Kevin thought it worth his Voltigeur company trying to force the hedge from the Riflemen. At first it was a stalemate.
Allied reinforcements on Richard's flank in the form of a half battalion (wing) of British Line infantry.
A general view showing most of the table. French Voltigeurs engage Riflemen in the right hand woods. The farm building burns more fiercely.
A fourth French battalion makes an appearance in the near corner and Richard's Nassau skirmishers will have to look out. 
View from behind the Allied right flank. On the right are 30 degree round shot angles and a 10 degree canister angle. On this scale canister could reach across the table, given line of sight, but ball proved useful for a narrower field of fire.
This general view gives a good idea of one of the delights of gaming in this scale - the solid masses of 130 -180 figure battalions.
 The Nassau Voltigeurs have pulled back and formed line to face their new foes and French line infantry engage the orchard hedge and the farm main gate.
I was pleased how my special rules for pushing melees with reinforcing masses quickly broke any sign of deadlock. No more a few skirmishers holding up hundreds just because they are defending soft cover. Here the 95th began to yield the orchard.
A nice view along the line of French attacking columns
This view from behind the same battalion shows a significant close range engegement building up with 2nd Light Bn KGL.
Allied light and line troops prepare to meet the French with volleys. In the distance a Rifle company has made its withdrawal from the orchard.
British Royal Horse Artillery battery, though at present we are having to use some foot artillery crews and teams to make up the strength. French howitzer fire has now set the other farm alight.
The second KGL wing takes up a reserve stance while their colleagues reinforce the wood.
Finding he could not break down the farm gate quickly enough Kevin reorganised his front to form a column of companies led by his Grenadiers to attack te RHA battery frontally. The casualties suffered were not enough to repel the attack and we all felt amazed that the French got off so lightly. However, I explained that the canister angle (Charles Grant style) was deliberately narrow due to the very long potential range on the table, therefore at very close range like this not many figures are actually hit. 

We didn't have time to see the melee through but just before we packed up two of us had a play around with the line versus line musketry dual hinted at in one of the photos. That was a worthwhile exercise because it showed that casualty rate attrition, and subsequent morale checks, was too slow for gaming purposes so we made some fairly drastic amendments for the next game.

In conclusion everyone involved said how much they enjoyed the day; whatever the outcomes it was sheer joy playing with these large formations, and particularly for Kevin who has put so much loving attention  into his figure painting and basing. We'd spent about 7 hours playing of which probably about 4 was productive due to constant debate about the new rules, and some really useful amendments resulted, including the observation that we need to set up a test with attrition already taking its toll on morale. So, coming shortly .....the cavalry test game.