Monday, 9 September 2019

18th Century mini-campaign - Raid on Vestisle: Part 2 - Mainly about sailors

Two blog posts ago I gave the Introduction and first blood about our mini-campaign which culminated in a weekend of wargaming in mid August 2019. Please take a look at that post if you need a reminder, or have just arrived - welcome!

18th Century Special Forces or just an excuse for some fun?

You might recall that I said the British and Hanoverian Allies had a sort of wild card in an independent battalion sized unit of sailors which could be landed anywhere on the West, South or East coast of Vestisle Island and operate as light infantry. Ken chose to land them near the Chateau du Roi on the north-west tip of Vestisle and had given me the following instructions:

"..........initially tasked with locating and securing any prizes present around the Chateau du Roi. If circumstances permit, it may be possible to infiltrate them into Abrantes in the guise of Jacobite supporters. If successful, they should disable the battery pieces protecting the harbour (intelligence suggests that a magazine explosion would not come as a surprise to the residents). Volunteers to assist in this endeavour should be sought from the highland battalions with the expedition. – NOTE TO UMPIRE, just think Hornblower, Aubrey, Ramage or any of the other naval fiction from this era – you know you want to ."
Yes, indeed I did want to! Without me prompting him Ken had got the idea exactly that I saw these as a kind of 18th Century Special Boat Service and he had worked a background idea into the campaign for me to develop.

Guy had chosen not to have any of his characters nor troops at the Chateau yet both sides knew that this was the guest residence being used by Prince Charles Edward Stuart as his permanent HQ. Guy chose to have Charlie doing unseemly acts elsewhere on the island so I saw no reason not to allow the sailors a free hand. They landed at 5am in sea mist and took an hour (as per my rules) to sort themselves out on shore so by 6 a.m. I needed to roll a die to decide how long it would take them to work out there was nothing of strategic value at the Chateau or its neighbouring farm, and to loot what Royal valuables and farm livestock were worth taking. The answer was 3 hours and so they were stuck till 9 a.m when the next part of the plan could be enacted. Since there were only passive servants and a few farm hands present there was no need for any shots to be fired to alert anyone to trouble, so initially I gave Guy no clue there was a landing there.

What I did give to both sides, as I have said, is a series of situation report (sitrep) photo maps, and here is the one at the West side of Vestisle around 0900. The ones I gave to the players had key elements blurred when units were beyond their proper knowledge. Ken's sailors (B4) were blurred to both sides and under my GM control, but Guy was able to order the Abrantes Militia battalion (F3) to break camp on the Cime de Cassatte and march towards the Chateau to investigate that "mysterious red blurry blob" which I had tactfully made him aware of!

Ambush in Chateau Woods
Unwittingly this was falling into Ken's hands as this coincided with the time the sailors were free  to occupy the wood; they could see the Militia marching along the road and laid a trap. Time for a small solo game.... I had made them Superior quality though Standard Light Infantry for firing. The poor Militia were only Inferior quality. It was pretty predictable but nevertheless I wanted the dice to take their course and see what happened. Please follow the photo captions

I determined that the sailors were sufficiently disciplined not to spring the
 ambush early, so positioned the marching militia
where they were surrounded on both sides of the road
The Sailors were all still "under command" as the road was only 5cm wide
The Sailors are some of the superb new set from Crann Tara Miniatures sugar-islands-campaigns range
 (see more pics below)
The Militia are an eclectic mix from my days of French and Indian Wargaming - painted as Pennsylvania Provincials, now with an Imagi-nations flag
The first volley caused 3 hits. Not enough to stop the Militia but sufficient to
blunt their already poor performance ability
The Militia scored 6 for their Initiative, a Double Move!
Yes I could have retreated them but it served my campaign purpose better to fight on.
 So they formed line and attacked......
Not surprisingly, when the sailors had a chance for pre-melee fire they scored another 3 Hits and the Militia broke 
In the sailors' turn they were able to follow up with sufficient speed to catch every
fleeing base, which suited me. The resultant hacking resulted in 2 more Hits and
 nothing in return on the Sailors

Now with 8 hits, even under my Post Battle Attrition rules the Abrantes Militia could not survive, so it was an easy decision to say that by around 1030 they were about 50% killed and 50% captured with no one allowed to escape to tell the tale .....or so they thought.......

None of this was going to be known to Guy and Ken for some time so as GM, how best to convey the news, and when, so as not to unrealistically influence events?

This and the remainder of the photos are my Crann Tara 18th Century Sailors just photographed in my cabinet

Aftermath of the ambush(French)

As previously reported The Duc de Vestisle was busy in Abrantes Town Square organising the local Homeguard Citizens Militia and as its members had to come from far and wide I reckoned it would take till midday to fully assemble. But around 1000 am it was going to be obvious there was a lot of firing coming from Chateau Woods, so I told Guy and he asked for a volunteer to come forward from the citizens to ride to investigate and report back ASAP.
One Caporal Jeannes, an Abrantes Charcutier, stepped forward with a flourish. "I will go Sir! Just give me a fast horse and I will go sort out those rosbifs Your Honour! And if they give me any trouble I will use by bayonet and my sabre as they don't like it up 'em!   I was in the Navy in the War of the Spanish Succession y'know, Sir?"   So Caporal Jeannes was given a horse (all the fast ones had been commandeered already by officers) and set off through the North gate. 
Guy's response: His portly captain who is given to pomposity said something along the lines of ‘well done Jeannes, I was waiting to see who would spot that. Quiet Pyke or I’ll send you home to your mother’.
Fast forward a bit and Caporal Jeannes, using his hard earned scouting skills from the Boer War, took till about 11 a.m. to reach the battle site......
No more was heard from him till, back in Abrantes, a messenger found the Duc de Vestisle about 7 pm that evening, and said:

"Caporal Jeannes of the Abrantes Citizen Militia has appeared at the North gate badly wounded and much distressed. This is a verbatim account of what he told us.

“Your Honour, as I set off from Abrantes by horseback the firing in the Chateau woods died down. From the amount of smoke it was evident that the Abrantes Militia had met their match  in numbers.  Distressed figures emerged running from the smoke, Sir, then they were followed by men with  muskets, bayonets and cutlasses.  I knew that these were British sailors, your Honour, as I had fought them in the recent war for the Austrian Succession.

They slaughtered all the fleeing Abrantes men and I took shelter by a tree, or so I thought, Sir…but the devilish British had sneaked up on me Sir and shots rang out and killed my horse and wounded me. I crawled into a ditch and played dead.

They did not find me Sir and I peered up later only to see our brave fellows being marched off under guard towards the Chateau.

Don’t panic, Don’t panic! I said to myself! I did not panic, Sir, but had to wait till it got dusk and then crawled back in considerable pain to give you my report, Sir.”

Guy, (as the Duc) seemed rather unmoved by this dramatic account and carried on with his supper! I blame the rather good wine brought by a certain Mr Cummings :-)

Aftermath of the Ambush (British)
Meanwhile Captain Cochrane RN, in charge of the Naval contingent, had been very busy and wrote to his superiors with the result and intentions:

Message for the Duke of Marlborough’s Headquarters
From Captain Cochrane RN

(Delivered by Lieutenant Bradshaw RN)

Chateau du Roi 1100 10 Aug 1756

I am delighted to be able to tell you my battalion of the Royal Navy contingent has carried out its orders so far without a single loss.
We found the Chateau and farm undefended. The chateau was searched from top to bottom but no persons of Scottish royalty were found; there were merely servants and evidence of the Prince’s private quarters but no papers of any significance nor monies.

We lay in wait as instructed in the nearby woods and about 0930 a battalion of local militia approached by road. I had my men arranged either side of the road in ambush and their discipline was such that we did not open fire until the French were totally within our trap. Many were killed in the first volley but they attempted to charge us and so lost many more and the rest broke. But they were not able to get away as my sailors ran them all to ground and we captured probably 200 or so. As far as we know none got away to tell the tale.

I have had to allocate a company to guard them all in the chateau and farm.

My intention is to wait until dark and then approach Abrantes town with the remaining four companies and enough gunpowder to cause mischief if we can infiltrate during the night. Our French speaking Scots volunteers may be useful. My priority will be to silence the bastion battery and secure the harbour, beach and harbour gateway until relieved.

I base this partly on instructions and partly on intelligence gained from an “interview” held by Bosun “Bruiser” O’Halligan with a captain recently taken prisoner (see attached)

Any further instructions will be gratefully received and acted upon

Your Servant 
Charles Cochrane
Captain RN

(The Attachment to the letter) Following gleaned from “interview”:
  • Abrantes is garrisoned by a battalion of the German Bentheim Regiment
  • The church bells ringing at 0900 on a Saturday indicates that the citizens militia is gathering in the town square. This usually takes 2 to 3 hours as there are about 500 men from all around.
  • Duke de Vestisle is likely to be there
  • Prince Charles was last noted at Bellune the previous day and presumably night
  • A senior official from the French treasury arrived on Wednesday said to be carrying a significant amount of gold for the Jacobite army. He did not know where it is stored but suggested some safe places are The Duke’s Residence, The Hotel de Ville,  the cellar of the Town Inn, or  the stone bastion casemates.
  • A very prestigious force of French regulars, led by the Duc de Richelieu is due to arrive mainly in Abrantes in late afternoon with the aim of a joint exercise with the Jacobite Army on the morrow. However, plans might be changed due to the invasion!"

Lieutenant Bradshaw RN had a difficult journey - a fast boat from the Chateau landing stage to Cassatte harbour, which was by now well under guard from the German Jagers, then commandeering a horse to ride across country where the sounds of battle (see next part) indicated much action on the East of the Cime d'Abrantes where he eventually found the Commander in Chief about 3 pm. I asked Ken to write some instructions in reply and he was to make good use of this information for the next day's action.........but I'm getting ahead of myself.....

Our weekend of gaming had arrived and there was a big battle to fight!

NB These CT Miniatures are very slightly smaller than other 28mm figures in the range so be careful how you mix them. As you may see later on they got juxtaposed with big "28mm" Redoubt Miniatures" and it was not a happy union visually. But super figures in their own right and I will be using them for my next "pirate adventure" at Christmas.


  1. Tremendous! I just need to set my brain working to lift as many ideas as I can 😉

    1. Glad your enjoying it Colin - more to come.....

  2. It's interesting to see how this campaign unfolds. All the extra details we didn't get to see at the weekend. Well done.

  3. Thank you Dillon. It's even more fun for me to tell the tale after the event and get your reactions.

  4. A fine, salty skirmish with your usual humour-filled narrative!
    Regards, James
    (As an aside, I have a chateau from Sarissa Precision, undercoated and awaiting a suitable colour scheme. Your addition as a background of what I discovered is the Chateau de la Douve D'Armaillé is a perfect guide. Thanks!)

    1. Thanks James. I have to confess now I dropped the French force in it somewhat as i wanted to give the sailors a decent role to play in what follows, as we shall see.......Glad to be of service on the chateau.