Saturday 20 May 2017

Battle of Hoeke Valley - Day One action

I set the scene in an earlier post quatre-bras-test-game-5-imminent, and thanks to all those who commented on it.  As I said it was to be a two day wargame held over the weekend of 13-14th May, and the size of it means that there were about 260 usable photos. So I will limit myself to reporting only the first day's play in one blog post.

To start off have a Map

Objectives ad Deployment
I had devised and built the terrain but had left Kevin to think up a scenario for it. We didn't want the standard French attack a defensive Allied position so he gave each side a forward post in the BUAs - Chatelet hamlet and Pironchamps Farm. Victory points were allocated for locations as shown on the map, and, to encourage aggression, 2 points would be awarded at the end for every unit in the other side's "Area A". In addition 2 points could be gained for each enemy unit destroyed; we did not realise how crucial that would be for the outcome.
The blue and red dotted areas indicate very roughly where each side was allowed initial deployment. The map was divided up into 1 foot squares on the table which were labelled A-F and 1-10, and these were used to determine a phased arrival of reinforcements. Each  C-in-C had to make the decision two moves ahead of where reinforcements would arrive, but this could alter if the enemy was within 12" of the arrival point.
The full briefings and orders of battle for both sides can be found in the Napoleonic Downloads sidebar at right, with a link here

On Day one the players were:
Richard Newcombe
James Fergusson
Tony Dillon
Graham Ward
Eastern Half - Chris Gregg
Western Half - Kevin East
Apologies in advance that while my knowledge of events in the eastern half of the table are good, they are are a bit patchy for the western part. 
The Initial Dispositions
Comparing with the map, and the briefs if they interest you, here is a photographic tour at the start
Day one line up, from left - James, Richard, Graham,Tony, Kevin 
British 1st Foot Guards arriving 
Most of the Allied defence around Chatelet is hidden
Dutch, Belgians and Nassauers line the Ramskapelle heights

Jerome's French Division in and around Pironchamps Farm......
.....closely supported by Imperial Guard lancers 
Bachelu's Division deploys to attack Chatelet and its woods
The action begins 
British Guards move up to support the defence of Chatelet 
Tony commences by Bachelu's skirmishers attacking the
Luneburg battalion rifle companies in the garden 
Graham has moved Jerome's skirmishers into Piron Wood and is developing
 an attack to the left of the wood. Lancers of the Guard are still in reserve but
across the valley Richard moves forward the DB cavalry
Above and below: The DB and Nassau brigades look more formidable than
they actually are, but the artillery will be effective enough

Skirmishers fight for Piron wood across the Hoeke River, and the Belgian Hussars negotiate it at the trickiest spot, all the while under artillery fire.....
....watched by the Prince of Orange

 The Western Flank- opening moves
Bachelu presses forward against Chatelet and the woods
British Guards deploy to right and left of Chatelet, behind the 30th Foot
The French attack through Chatelet Woods with skirmishers and round
it with more columns
Where a battery of Kings German Legion Horse Artillery has deployed in the cornfield to give them a  hard time
The view from the French lines

Above and below: General Reille supervises Bachelu's columns
enveloping Chatelet village

French Light infntry engages the Grubenhagen battalion in Chatelet wood
But the French attacks are pushed back and the Hanoverians hold onto the
hamlet and surroundings....for now

Eastern Flank - opening moves
Looking beyond Bachelu's attack one wing of the Lancers of the Guard can
be seen advancing on Hoeke Hill well supported by French artillery fire (below)

The unfortunate DB cavalry had suffered from two batteries of artillery firing and retreated back to the relative safety of the ridge road
The Nassau Brigade has a good view of two battalions coming down the hill to support
the defence of Pironchamps farm
Graham was busy building up a coordinated column attack at the West  of
Piron wood, but at some cost from those two batteries of DB artillery
French Light Infantry fight hard for Piron wood
French artillery fire and the skirmishers eventually push the DB lines back
from the ridge crest
On the extreme eastern end a combined battalion of Nassau Elite companies
 threatens to cross the Hoeke to outflank the farm
A useful general view: Along the ridge the DB cavalry are held back watching one wing of the Guard Lancers advance up to Hoeke Hill. Infantry await the French onslaught with Graham's columns massing just across the river, still under bombardment from the DB batteries. 2/1st Legere have thrown the 27th Jagers out of Piron Wood

Both sides get Cavalry reinforcements
The British Heavy Cavalry Brigade arrives to boost the Allied right flank
On the right the 30th form square as they have just seen French light cavalry approaching off field
Skirmishers withdraw and French columns attack the crop fields behind
View from the1st Dragoons just arriving on the highest point on the field
The 30th Foot in square, backed by a line of Guardsmen, about to see what
 they can do against the 1st Chasseurs a Cheval
Above and below: supported by some artillery fire from their ridge both of
Bachelu's columns are successful  - destroying the KGL HA battery and pushing
back the 33rd Foot beyond 2/1 Guards

Tight contest round Pironchamps Farm
Above and below: The Nassau brigade advances while the two battalions of
French 2nd Ligne form line to prevent outflanking, which made them vulnerable to
enfilade from the hilltop guns

As the French pulled back the "Veteran" firing class Nassau skirmishers get
into close range of  1/1st Legere occupying Pironchamps walled farm
Graham watches anxiously as Richard advances the hitherto passive DB Militia down to the river
Above and below: Graham was trying to coordinate his attacking columns
 which meant holding some back while others caught up. As there was no dead ground
on that side of the river they suffered from artillery fire until the DB infantry
moved forward. Then a musketry exchange took place with both sides suffering
 casualties - that tipped one French battalion to 50%

And the 27th Jagers once again contest Piron Wood against 2/1st Legere
An overview shortly after: In the distance the DB cavalry and 1st wing of Guard Lancers are about to clash on Hoeke hill.  2nd wing is in support. At right centre of the picture more of Pire's French cavalry are arriving in the form of two regiments of Line Lancers and Horse Artillery. The three regiments of the British heavy cavalry are massing in the crop fields on the lower slopes of Ramskapelle heights.  Some of Bachleu's infantry are at last making progress ejecting Luneberg from part of Chatelet's buildings and garden. In the foreground the 1st Chasseurs are flexing their sabres for a charge.
                                    Some gains for the French on the Western flank

At left is a 50% Grubenhagen battalion now pushed out of Chatelet Woods
As the 1st Chasseurs charge the 30th Foot square something seems to be amusing Tony, Kevin and James!

2/1 Guards are assailed by the proverbial "cloud of skirmishers", but it isn't mist that
causes Maitland to be wounded (below) and sent to the baseline to recuperate

Success at last for Tony under General Reille's personal direction
as the Luneburg battalion command stand is repelled into Chatelet high street
and Allied hold in the hamlet is now only in the Western most building
Not all good news though as the 30th Foot square has seen off his attack
by the 1st Chasseurs a Cheval

Cavalry action in the Centre

The Scots Greys, 1st Dragoons and Life Guards head down through the crops to cross the river, not yet suffering cannon fire
Brave Van Boreel Hussars charge up Hoeke Hill towards the Guard lancers...
....who counter-attack, urged on by General Lefevre-Desnouettes masquerading
 as a Lord Uxbridge figure (it's a long story...sigh!). The lancers have
received casualties from cannon fire in that exposed position
Not surprisingly the Lancers won and have pushed the Belgians back. Behind them 2nd wing changes facing to cover an attack by the Scots Greys
A view from the other side
Opposite this struggle, at the French baseline along the lower slopes of Lissewege heights, Wathier's Lancers and Horse Artillery have deployed

Even Honours on the Eastern flank

Although now lacking one battalion forced back to try to reform, and a colonel killed, Prince Jerome personally urges on the 1st and 3rd Ligne regiments at last in a coordinated attack......
....which seems to pay off as the 8th National Militia battalion is reduced
 to two stands and forced back to the road. Morale tests on the French,
 though, were to have unpleasant consequences for Jerome
In Pironchamps farm the 1/1st Legere held firm despite nagging losses from the guns
 on the ridge and sniping from two companies of Nassau volunteer Jagers with rifles
2nd Ligne had pulled back to avoid the damaging Nassau skirmisher fire
but in doing so potentially left the way open for them to creep round the right flank
A melancholy final photo for this day shows Colonel Cubieres
 of 1st Legere a victim of Nassau rifle fire, out for the rest of the game!

It was now 7pm and we had played 7 moves. It appeared  on all fronts, from the photographs, that the French had the upper hand, but this was illusory. Graham's near final act was to check Morale for his damaged battalions and the results were not good even with Jerome present, as we shall see in the next instalment of this thrilling tale!

Meanwhile the rest of us were off to the The Butchers Arms for dinner.