Tuesday, 29 December 2015

West Country Waterloo Project: La Haye Sainte Refight at 1:3, Part Four

Here's your reminder link to  La-haye-sainte-refight part 3

And to start off a photo by Dillon Browne which seemed to be near the beginning of Day 3 of our refight back in mid- July.

All eyes on Mike as he is about to decide what the long lines of 95th Rifles skirmishers will do next. At this point the French are able to direct a lot of volley fire on the sand pit....and watch those lancers lurking on the "extra bit" just to the right of Richard. (Photo DB)
3. 45 - 4.00 pm
We'd now got to Move 10 and the Event dice came up with both Ney and Alten deciding their presence was required with units other than those in our sector, so each side was a bit down on Initiative Tokens.

Two squadrons at the corner of the "extra bit" of terrain, actually very near and poised to charge the sunken road 

Poor photo, sorry, but this is the first line of 2nd Dragoons further down hill on the "extra bit"
There were potentially significant events on the British extreme left where the Scots Greys had got through Rogers' battery and down the rear slope.

Ponsonby has now got his Scots Greys remnants to a safe position to rally
 This left the way clear for the French lancers to charge that portion of the 95th skirmish line near the sunken road and which had been providing some covering fire. The Riflemen were overwhelmed suffering 10 hits of whom failed saving rolls took off 6 figures, the Lancers only losing 1. The remnants of the gallant Rifles fled away, but happily for the British, Rogers' men had a clear line to send canister into the exposed flank of the Lancers at close range sufficient to send them scuttling back in disorder.  It could have been worse as James had used the respite given him by the 95th to form the 32nd Foot into square on the North side of the sunken road, and the canister saw off the most immediate threat.........But not far behind were massing several squadrons of the French 2nd Dragoons.

In the foreground Scots Greys are rallying and getting in the way of the 32nd forming square! In the distance Rogers can now get the lancers in his sights for canister
All squadrons of 2nd Dragoons are now on the table, jostling for position in the relatively confined space. Red plumed Elite Squadron on their right
...........and in close-up. This lot are Perry plastics painted by me but were only about one third of the total provided by others in metal.
Further down the slope of Mont St Jean you will recall the 1st Life Guard Squadron had charged the Fusiliers of 1/28th Ligne, come off worse and boosted the morale of the French unit as a consequence. The French had initiative first here and surrounded the luckless troopers, destroying the squadron to little loss themselves with James rolling "c**p dice!"

This focuses on the Riflemen holding out in the sandpit but in the distance can be made out the red coats of the Life Guards about to meet their demise
French infantry were steadily advancing up the chausee and along to the East where they now brought the Riflemen in the sandpit under volley fire. Mike's men had superior fire skill but the rifle advantage was lost at this close range as they had to return quick volleys using their smaller balls in prepared cartridges, just like the French, for this kind of exchange.

Fusiliers of 55th Ligne approach the sandpit in line while a skirmish company engages the 95th Rifles at close range. A good view of some of the hundreds of Perry French carefully painted by Kevin for these battles.
Close up of the sandpit fire fight. Voltigeurs - Perry metal painted by Kevin East; Riflemen - various manufacturers painted by CG. Digital effects by CG.
So began more attrition with the British green jackets sustaining their position through better cover from the sand pit rim.

Looking up to LHS farm from behind the Horse Artillery howitzer that had contributed to setting it on fire earlier 
To the East of LHS Paul is manoeuvring his French infantry against the garden and sandpit
The KGL in La Haye Sainte itself were under severe pressure.  Fighting was still going on in the courtyard so these German Rifleman were pressed from both sides as the Engineers broke through the stable door and infantry crashed over the barricade at the open barn door. Behind the farm a firefight was ensuing across the chausee from KGL infantry in the garden.

LHS gate and walls under attack. The barricade has been brushed aside by the mass of infantry
Fighting goes on inside. More French infantry will soon take the hard pressed defenders in the rear through the barn and stables. The northern roof continues to blaze.
The courtyard is filling up with even more troops. Reinforcements from 1st Light Battalion KGL are now in evidence including a company echeloned back from the NW corner of the farm.
This photo shows 1LB KGL companies and Light Company 8th KGL defending the garden
In the steep cutting between the sandpit and the elm tree the remnants of Advanced Wing of 2LB KGL have rallied behind the abatis across the chausee, but since they have suffered about 60 - 70% casualties they can't stand with any further loss...
.............Shortly afterwards they were practically surrounded and destroyed by musketry; only 6 figures got away
On the British right flank things were changing. The Luneburg Battalion Rifle company skirmishing inflicted another 10% losses on 1st Cuirassiers Elite squadron bringing them to 40% casualties. Even their higher Morale factor couldn't save them with such losses and they retreated, leaving the much stronger three remaining squadrons to press on uphill. However their loss had created a bit more clear space which gave the Luneburg battalion line companies plenty of time to form square on the south edge of the sunken road.  This proved too much temptation for Richard commanding the Grand Battery and subsequent artillery fire felled 16 figures from Luneburg. Their morale still held though.

The Luneburg Battalion's Rifle company has fallen back to form square with their musket-armed compatriots at the lip of the sunken road. 5th and 8th KGL still in line on the other side.
4.00 - 4.15 pm
Event dice brought back Uxbridge for the Allied cavalry and Baron Milhaud for the French Cuirassiers. Their Initiative tokens and morale boosting ability would prove useful for both sides at this time.  The 27th Foot became available to Wellington just to the East of the chausee.

Allied centre rear: 27th Foot make an entrance; Uxbridge organises the now-tiny cavalry force of Scots Greys and Life Guards; remnants of of a wing of 1/95th Rifles flee off, totally shattered
The French Cuirassiers continued a cautious advance up hill, possibly their ardour slowed by seeing the intact Luneburg square ahead.

Smoke filled sky casts an eery light over 1st Cuirassiers Regiment in its entirety, although the elites at the front have, by now, suffered badly from artillery and skirmisher fire. The Horse Artillery, except the howitzer, are limbering up to take up a new position. Foreground figures are from Paul D's collection and you may already have seen them in our 1:100 refight of Waterloo. The remainder are mostly Perry metal from the collections of Kevin East and Paul H. Photo digital effects by CG.
Cuirassiers' eye view of Mont St Jean ridge line.
The Horse Artillery now in motion
And the reverse view, by now that Cuirassier Elite squadron has been badly reduced and is retreating to recover.
Attrition carried on for both sides in and around LHS itself. Most of the action was taking place now on the Allied left flank.

The French Lancers lined up to recover parallel with the sunken road but received more canister fire from Rogers' battery and the 2nd Squadron broke and fled.

 Tempting Lancer flank. Mike was very happy to give Kevin an excuse to use his special Perry lancer action casualties!
At the hedge line 32nd Foot Light company is about to be overwhelmed by French infantry
Rogers' guns, even though gaining some cover from the lip of the sunken road, was targeted by the Grand Battery and the few extra losses caused a morale reaction pulling the guns back down the reverse slope out of the direct line of fire.

Allied left flank is temporarily clear as Rogers' Battery falls back down the rear slope, and the 32nd square appears complete
In this closer look we can see beyond the hedges  the backs of the French infantry who have surrounded the 32nd's Light company
Nearer the hedge line the light company of the 32nd Foot was overwhelmed and destroyed by 1/28th Ligne Fusiliers still enjoying their +1 Elan, but at least the Battalion and Grenadier companies of the 32nd were able to complete their square in anticipation of further cavalry attacks.

4.15 - 4.30 pm
Rogers' battery was in a sorry state having been under artillery fire on and off for over two hours, half their limbers and teams had gone and many crewmen. Although disordered their morale still held and Mike decided to virtually abandon the teams to bring all his remaining soldiers to scrape together a viable gun line just down slope of the sunken road, awaiting any enemy incursion over it with loaded canister. They intended to sell themselves dearly.

Rogers' scratched together crews stand ready on the reverse slope
In the LHS courtyard it was like a rugby scrum of heaving men under the dark smoke of the burning farmhouse and stable roof. The pushing rule for the initiative side in melee was breaking up the small pockets of KGL riflemen, who now garrisoned less than half the buildings, as the numbers of French infantry was overwhelming.

LHS blazes as the garden is attacked on the East side and Cuirassiers thunder past on the West.
 In the garden an attack went in against the Light Company of 8th KGL and pushed them back from the hedge.  Men of the 55th Ligne were attacking and surrounding the sandpit but the garrison of 1/95th still held out.

8th KGL Light Company is pushed back from the garden boundary
Combined with this, the move of the 1st Cuirassiers and their supporting artillery to the West of LHS meant the umpires deemed LHS farm was now surrounded and the rifle armed troops would have to start accounting for ammunition expenditure until more supplies were gained. This involved James counting up the remaining rifle armed figures for which he got 2 "rounds" each. Subsequent firing and melees would diminish this and, once used up, severe penalties would ensue on infliction of casualties and the units' morale.  This had been a GM-inspired rule unknown to the French which only kicked in when we deemed the farm was completely cut off. Had they pressed up MSJ with more vigour instead of getting obsessed by the farm itself, and the cavalry intimidated by the main infantry lines above it, the rule could have come into play earlier.

The strong 2nd Squadron of 1st Cuirassiers echelons to the right past LHS instead of pressing on into Luneburg. This movement was to contribute significantly to the umpires' decision to deem LHS surrounded. You can see the small but plucky Elite squadron rejoining the fray just ahead of the Horse Artillery
4.30 - 4.45 pm
Although things looked bleak for the Allies they now had reinforcements available where it mattered. The 50-figure-strong Nassau Voltigeur company arrived at the Allied right rear, and to the West of the chausee two squadrons of Kings German Legion Hussars. Fortunately Uxbridge had stayed around and could organise them.

Two Squadrons of KGL Hussars and a large Nassau Voltigeur company arrive at the Allied rear right flank
 For the French there were now 3 strong battalions of the 13th Legere coming onto the field of play; but as is the nature of an advancing force, these reinforcements were further away from the business end of the action.

95th Rifles fighting back to back in the sandpit, now fending off French on all sides
The 28th Ligne by this time had passed the sandpit and was in a position to fire down into the sunken road at the now-reformed Life Guards; the latter charged up the sunken road at skirmishers of the 28th.

Remnants of the Life Guards charge up the sunken road at a Grenadier company skirmishing but prove vulnerable to fire from 28th Ligne lining the hedge
Things took a slightly surprising turn inside the LHS courtyard where the commander of the 55th Regiment de Ligne, Colonel Morin, was killed, and subsequent morale on the very worn 1/55th Fusiliers (which had started the game with 126 figures) saw them break and flee, much to Pat's chagrin. Apart from individual Voltigeur and Grenadier companies this was the first "big" French unit to break, so they had done rather well really to last that long.  Even so Pat still had the 2/54th Ligne inside LHS with no sign of flagging yet, and as stated, the 13th Legere champing at the bit to get into action nearby.

1/55th Ligne Fusiliers break from the action at LHS. In the foreground is a battalion of 13th Legere moving up the lower slope of Mont St Jean. 
 At the farm rear the Elite squadron of the 1st Cuirassiers had recovered from its retreat and, undaunted, now charged the defenders of the LHS garden western  hedge. They were terribly weak in numbers and the hedge gave the KGL infantry better saving rolls so, not too surprisingly, the Cuirassier attack was held.

Elite Squadron attacks the KGL light troops in the garden.
2nd Squadron 1st Cuirassiers veers to the left flank of Luneburg's square
And the same view from behind 5th Line KGL
But shortly afterwards James opted for 5th KGL to form square too......
....and for the moment kept 8th KGL in two lines 
The "crisis point" had at last been reached between 1st Cuirassiers  and the Luneburg battalion formed in a shallow (oblong) square along the southern edge of the sunken road. Who would get the higher Initiative number? Since the Allies felt short of Initiative tokens this turn Luneburg remained "unplayed". so it was the Cuirassiers by default. 2nd Squadron, still quite strong at this stage, shifted to the right and headed towards the Elm Tree crossroads. 3rd Squadron, also strong, charged at the front face of the Luneburg square.

2nd Squadron nears the Elm tree and 3rd Squadron hits Luneburg's front face....... 
 .....formed in two company lines
View behind 2nd Squadron 1st Cuirassiers
An aerial view shows 8th Line KGL has now decided to form square too. French Lancers are trying to make some  sort of claim to the crossroads, not for long...
Close up of the 8th Line KGL in square. Figures mostly plastic painted as British Guards by James and Richard for the Hougoumont game, hence the white not grey trousers. This smoke is kapok not digital effect!
The clash of Cuirassier steel as seen from the 5th Line KGL square above the sunken road.  This battalion was made up mostly of metal blue-facings, grey trousered British and KGL from the collections of Kevin and Pauls D and H
Luneburg diced to see if and when they fired and James failed to get sufficient score to fire at all due to the Hanoverians relatively ordinary fire discipline. A melee ensued in which the height and power of the Cuirassiers was tested against the massed numbers and bayonets of the infantry. Neither side inflicted enough casualties to cause a morale test. Luneburg now got a volley in due to our special rule allowing infantry in a "proper" square to use the front rank of (kneeling) figures to keep cavalry at bay with bayonets while the rear ranks fired. Even so 3rd Squadron hadn't had much loss on the way in and held firm, "milling" round very close by.   4th Squadron moved up in two company lines to give back up to their comrades fighting Luneburg.

4th Squadron waits to exploit any advantage gained by the front squadrons
One advantage for the Allies this turn at least was that the French infantry and cavalry had advanced so far the troops on the MSJ crest were masked from fire from the Grand Battery. To compensate Dillon was moving his Horse Artillery battery up at best speed past LHS and towards the crest formerly occupied by Ross' battery earlier in the battle, planning to canister those squares at close range.

The whole French HA battery advances past LHS encouraged by General Milhaud
Above and below: The mass of 2nd Regiment of Dragoons had taken up a threatening position athwart the right angled gap between the "extra bit" and the main table. At the back are two battalions of 13th Legere just arrived. Lancer Squadron has rallied

4.45 - 5.00 pm
The Allied random Event this turn gave them an ammunition supply wagon on the chausee  theoretically to help relieve the dire situation of rifle balls in LHS.  Unfortunately the reality was that by this stage of the battle not only was there a mass of Allied troops ahead on the road but the entire defile to the farm was filled with Frenchmen. So this was to prove of no use.

General Ompteda continued to encourage resistance by the remaining garrison of the farm but the French pioneers were now gathering to batter down the back door from the LHS garden. So it appeared that this would not be an Allied stronghold for much longer. Even so the garden was still being held as the hedge-bound Elite Cuirassier squadron finally broke for good and fled off back past the farm.

The remainder of the 1/95th in the sandpit was finally surrounded, overwhelmed and destroyed by Paul's French infantry.

This move failed to secure a decision where 3/1 Cuirassiers were battling Luneburg's square. According to our rules Luneburg could not move in square and the cavalry could extend their line to engage other faces of the infantry formation. But the infantry were close packed 3 ranks deep and that brought more bayonets to bear which offset the advantage of the big men on big horses. Consequently both sides suffered more casualties and neither gave way, but the tactical situation favoured the Cuirassiers for the following move.

In the centre exciting things were happening. The weak 2nd Squadron of Life Guards made a final charge against 1/28th Ligne which was the +1 Elan unit, this failed and the Life Guards broke and fled to the rear. By now Mike had reformed the Scots Greys' remnants and had taken the time to regain full morale (but not of course any more numbers). This meant he had a small but highly motivated heavy cavalry force at the crossroads which charged downhill on the remaining Lancer squadron. The Scots took the melee to a second round in which the Lancers were at a significant disadvantage. Losses caused Morale checks on both sides, and with lower dice scores being better, the Scot's '1' was well received by Mike, and Richard's "3" was enough to see off his tired Lancers.

The Scots Greys have seen off the Lancers from the cross roads area
But no time to congratulate themselves as the Scots Greys were immediately charged by 2/1 Cuirassiers. Summoning the energy to countercharge, somehow they managed to hold the fresh Cuirassiers to a draw right on the crossroads. Limited volley fire from 8th KGL into the French flank did some damage but not enough to alter the outcome yet.

2nd Squadron, 1st Cuirassiers takes casualties from fire from 8th KGL; ranks are thinning but ardour is maintained. Perry metal by Kevin
2/1 Cuirassiers hit the Scots Greys while receiving more fire from 8th KGL
Close up of the heavy cavalry clash. Photo by Kevin East
A third squadron of KGL Hussars now arrived behind the position occupied by 32nd Foot and gave a bit more stability to the threatened British left.

A third KGL Hussar squadron arrives near to Rogers' battery, and beyond them 27th Foot have completed the Allied units deployment in squares
Meanwhile the first two squadrons advanced downhill towards the crossroads where the Scots Greys were buying time.

This photo shows the KGL Hussars taking up counter attack positions at the crossroads, still intact. Note the sandpit has by now been emptied of 95th Rifles.
This brought 1st Squadron KGL Hussars into a position where they could be targeted by the Grand Battery and they lost a staggering 12 figures in one go.  The Earl of Uxbridge was lucky to escape this devastating fire while he was preparing an attack and James rolled a "1" for the KGL morale which made him very happy for them to sustain their position!

The overall position at the end. The KGL Hussars at the crossroads now have distinctive gaps in their ranks from Grand Battery fire.  Cuirassiers are now milling round two sides of Luneburg's square. At the far right distance can be seen the first squadron of another French Cuirassier regiment - the 4th.
What next?
But, this had brought us to early evening real time even though it was  merely 5 pm on the tabletop. All had journeys to make back home and it was impossible to persuade them to stay on further. The narrative must end here. I had hoped for 18 Moves which would have been 6pm - the historic time when LHS fell, or I would have been content with 16, but in the event I only got 14 Moves and was now presented with the problem of trying to decide who to declare the winners of an incomplete situation......

I might be accused of trying to milk this game for too many blog posts, but frankly, we had been anticipating it for nearly two years, we'd used about 3000 of the 3500 figures on the orbats, and played for three days solid. So, rather than rush it, I will devote the next post to a wrap up analysis of my decision and what we learned from the detailed refighting of a most significant portion of probably History's most famous battle.  

I'll finish this part with two of our favourite photos.
First mine -
General Milhaud supervises the advance up Mont St Jean. Part of Kevin's wonderful 1:3 scale Horse Artillery battery and Paul D's Cuirassier general
And this one apparently is Kevin's -
One of my squadrons of KGL Hussars. This one is made from Perry plastic British Hussars. Kevin is too flattering since they were painted quickly with just an ordinary wargames standard paint job not hyper detail like his! Anyway the verve conveyed by the superb Perry sculpting cannot be denied.  Photo by KE.
Many more of Kevin's superb close-ups of this game will be featured in further blog posts.