Tuesday 30 June 2020

18th Century mini-campaign - Raid on Vestisle - Part 4 Evening and overnight deployment

Many apologies for the extreme delay in presenting this fourth part of the series, blame lockdown distractions if you wish! (more on that in due course). This time I will describe the aftermath of The Battle for Bellune Hill and how we managed the arrival of the reserves and the deployment for the next day's battle.
For those who need a reminder here is a link to Part 3 - Battle of Bellune Hill and from that you can get back to Parts 1 and 2.
I'm sorry that this part will not have many pretty soldier pictures but it should interest those who want some insight into taking a mini-campaign from one big battle to another overnight.

Very quick recap: August 1756 - A British corps-sized force under the Duke of Marlborough has invaded the French island of Vestisle with the aim of disrupting a large gathering of Jacobites who are training, under French auspices, to try another attempt under "Bonnie" Prince Charlie on the English throne. A big battle has taken place across the middle of Vestisle island from around 1200 midday to 1420 in which an outnumbered French and Jacobite army has just about held off Marlborough's corps but had to give up vital ground. Both sides suffered fairly horrible localised casualties and, according to my campaign rules, needed to pull back at least one map square (500 metres) apart to recover.

Gratuitous view of the southern part of Abrantes City with French troops by Guy Barlow just for eye candy
Now I will have to ask your indulgence (bearing in mind this weekend was last Summer) in my describing what follows, as I'm having to condense about 8 real waking hours of campaign admin and socialising and about 5 hours sleep into a coherent whole. Also the description covers campaign time from about 3pm on Saturday 10th August to 0600 on Sunday 11th August.

I had written some post battle attrition rules especially and we now had to put them into practice. Here they are in case anyone wishes to adapt them for yourselves:

Post Battle Attrition (PBA)
The right hand column of the Orbat is to be used to keep track of the status of any unit that has suffered casualties (Hits). During a game this will be done by hit counters as normal and this column only needs updating after an action. Hits represent losses, disorder, desertion and general lowered morale or ammunition state etc, so can be recovered after an action.

For any unit that is in a reasonable state to recover (one or more complete map squares from enemy) Roll a D Average and deduct score from the end-of-battle Hits. Certain senior officers (see Orbat) can add 1 to this score). Units “done for” deduct 2 from D Average.

The result is their PBA:
Any 0 or Minus result will mean the unit enters the next battle completely fresh. 
Score of 1 to 3 - unit enters next battle with those Hit Points
But any score resulting in 4 or more the player has a choice:
Either: 1. Lose a base, reduce by one unit size, and enter next game with 3 Hit Points
2.  Stay the same size and enter next game unable to fight until rallied to 3 by normal HoW recovery system.

Outstandingly Good or Bad battle conduct
Any unit that performed particularly well in a battle, yet survives to 1 HP or less, may raise its status by one level (eg. Standard to Superior)
or if it did particularly badly and results in 4 HP or more then it lowers its status by one level (eg Standard to Inferior).
Performance is judged by umpire and two opposing players.  If they cannot agree then each rolls a D6 and the three are totalled. 
Score Total 3-7 = British view prevails
Score Total 8-13 = Umpires view prevails
Score Total 14-18 = French view prevails

Decide this before rolling for their success or otherwise in PBA score


So we had some fun in discussion about the conduct of certain units and generals in the Battle of Bellune Hill. Good naturedly there was a consensus but the only bits I remember were:
- The Cameron clan battalion was promoted to Superior due to facing and repulsing three Hanoverian battalions single handedly!
- General Trump was demoted to a Dithering commander due to his succession of failed initiative tests (what's in a name eh?)
- Lt General Barbier was upgraded to Dashing for his bravery and persistence in salvaging the French cavalry situation and conducting the entire left flank battle as a successful withdrawal action.
- I think the British 11th Dragoons were upgraded to Superior as they saw off the Apchon Dragoons and then pressed on to lead the repelling of Lauzun's Hussar brigade.

At that point I had each commander in succession up to my magnetic map board to agree on pull back positions and then, accompanied by some refreshment, they all agreed to assess the post battle attrition of all their units which had suffered hits.

Each set of players briefed me privately on how they saw the approximate state of the Army as a result. In fact neither viewed the total losses as disastrous; some units had been lost completely but with the addition of generals many recovered completely. A few units were left with Minus 1 or 2 hits to start the next battle and in a few instances that proved critical. To be honest my PBA rules as written are too lenient if you want more decisive results but they were fit for our purpose. In between the players all pulled together and cleared the table of troops and stored them on trays in their brigades, or packed the destroyed units for home.

In return for the briefing I gave each commander the results of the arrival times and positions of their reinforcements. This was not entirely down to me but was prints of photos of the map which I had done previously in response to Graham and Dillon's written instructions. We had kept the fog of war realistic during the weeks of emailing prior to our August get together. As I said in an earlier post, around 1100 game time I had got Ken and Guy to issue written sitreps/advice/instructions to their reinforcement commanders who were on the high seas just a few hours sailing off Vestisle. I arranged this so there was just time to get to the coast, send off the letters by cutter to the respective fleets and for the leaders to consider and issue orders. In reality those orders and intended timings were emailed back to me and I applied the rules for "Shore landings" to work out where the units might be at "end of play" around 7-8pm campaign time.

As a reminder here are links to PDF files of the two Orders of Battle for the campaign:
French/Jacobite Orbat
British/Allied Orbat

Space and time does not permit me to include the very detailed correspondence between the generals of each side at this time, but I must pay tribute to the four protagonists who entered fully into the spirit of the 18th Century in their period style language and courtesy to one another. Ken and Guy received their letters around 3pm campaign time (but with pre-dinner drinks in actuality!) which enabled them to consider the contents and discuss them privately with Dillon and the two Grahams. Hopefully the following two photos will give you what you need to know for the moment. I used Photoshop to blur out the enemy and own units beyond local knowledge to keep real intelligence information suitably vague.

Dillon had a powerful force of mostly German allies and mercenaries:
- Hessian Fusilier brigade, each of its 5 battalions equipped with battalion guns
- mercenary German infantry brigade of 5 battalions (of Ken's Imagi-nation Prussian types)
- brigade of mixed Grenadiers - 4 battalions
- British Dragoon Guard brigade (2 regiments)
- German Dragoon brigade (2 regiments)
- plus artillery

British: Dillon as the Marquis of Granby (still in favour in 1756!) landed everything at Beach 4 and
ordered his light troops up the road North from Cassatte as a flanking movement,
while his infantry and cavalry formed a reserve block beyond the beach where they could be called up
quickly to the front line. (Front line positions shown are c1100 hours prior to the Battle of Bellune)

Graham C was taking the role of the French supreme commander, General Le Duc de Richelieu, so had taken Guy's letter as advisory and issued his reply as orders.  He too had a strong force, some of the cream of the French army, which had originally been intended to impress the Jacobite Scots and test them in a mock battle exercise which was scheduled for Sunday 11th August. That, of course, was now cancelled as the British/Hanoverian invasion had turned everything real.
French reinforcements:
- sailors and marines each in battalion strength
- Guard/Elite infantry brigade of 5 battalions
- 2 Line infantry brigades totalling 7 battalions
- Guard/Royal/Elite cavalry brigade of 5 regiments
- brigade of a Dragoon and a Cuirassier regiment
- plus artillery

French: Richelieu had to consider, sight unseen, how the river bridges might affect his ability to reinforce whatever situation General de Muy had presented him with on arrival. So he had been cautious by only landing a small infantry brigade, plus marines, on Beach 1 and eventually decided to send them West as a reinforcement towards Abrantes. The bulk of his army landed in successive waves at Abrantes harbour and its adjacent beach. From there they would fan out to extend the French line towards the Chateau du Roi and bulk it up considerably through the city and south beyond its walls.
Armed with all the information they were going to get I asked the players to give me a rough outline of their hoped for deployment and intentions for battle due to take place the next day. They had the option of moving any map unit one square in the night but still leaving a sensible gap to allow for enemy piquets. With a rough idea of where battle would be expected I worked quickly with photocopies, pencil and ruler and finally on the iMac with Photoshop to produce the definition of the tabletops we required, shown in this photo.

For this one I needed to reverse the tables West to East as we could see that the Jacobite camp and Bellune Hill could provide a self contained smaller game that might then need to impact on the main event. The 12 x 6 table would contain much of Abrantes City and surrounding countryside to the South. Sadly I could not include the Harbour too. At the NE corner of Abrantes City is the stone bastion battery guarding the harbour.
I presented the players with their copies of the new map for consideration while we all went off to "The Butchers Arms" for a date with our pre-booked evening meal.
https://butchersarmsoakridge.co.uk/gallery/ (It's re-opening on 4th July - hooray!)
Much refreshed by Graham C's tales of running Crann Tara Miniatures and the other chaps' many wargaming adventures (and they paid for my meal - thanks Guys) we staggered the short distance back and there was still "work" to do.

I think it was somewhere around this point that my dear wife produced her delicious and legendary apple and blackberry crumble (with custard requested by Dillon!), Ken opened his vintage whisky, and Graham C the first of his several very fine bottles of Malbec. Did I say work?

Below is roughly what they were were working on. This is a photograph of my master map with magnetic unit markers showing the units surviving the Battle of Bellune Hill plus the new arrivals around 0600. Most markers are brigade size but some are individual units and the tiniest ones are the main leaders

The red marker in Abrantes City was not revealed to the French but it relates back to Part Two of this series and the British sailors who had infiltrated the City during the night - more on that in the next instalment.

I left the contenders in two huddles to plan the detail of their deployments as they wished, and were physically capable of, for their forces at 0600 on the 11th August. Meanwhile I grabbed the biggest glass of red that I could carry and headed downstairs to reconfigure the terrain for The Battle of Abrantes. This proved a longer job than I expected to ensure I got everything as close to the map as possible out of respect to the detailed work my mates were putting into their parts, and by about 1 am I was knackered and they had all gone off to bed. I couldn't face making up the small table that night so I got some sleep too and was up at 7 am to get some breakfast and get on with it.

I said it before and will say it again but I must pay tribute to this bunch of wargamers as they (mostly) allowed me to herd them like sheep, not cats. They performed all the tasks peculiar to their roles and helped me out with much general admin as we went along. As far as I was aware it all went off in good spirits and they were (mostly - you know who you are......) fit and alert for a new battle the next morning.

A lovely bunch of mates having deployed their troops and looking eager for a new day and another big game
The small table in the living room space showing the entrance corner of the Jacobite camp and the loyal Scots facing it from Bellune Hill.

Much more next time on crafty subterfuge,  the "fate" of a nonchalant Prince Charlie, and loads of pictures of our all day game. Don't miss it - I will try not to!