Thursday 22 September 2022

West Country D'Erlon's Assault - Part Three : 2.45 to 3.45 pm.

 I hope readers will by now have had plenty of time to read Part Two.  Apologies for the delay caused partly by my holiday and mostly by my changing this battlefield for the one we needed for the next one (Althorp in December 1745 - much more on that later).

2.45 pm - A new French advance

Wellington, by his elm tree, casts a worried gaze along Mont St Jean (MSJ) to his left flank...

....where a renewed French infantry attack is under way. He has ordered the British main line back from the hedges to minimise fire from the Grand Battery

Luckily the fire from that will diminish in the next couple of turns as Donzelot's Division is now on the move from its central reserve position

La Haye Sainte still holds but the KGL are constantly suffering casualties from Quiot's attacks and artillery fire

Looking across the French attacking infantry it can be seen that Nassauers and Dutch-Belgians are still holding the left hand shoulder of MSJ. Some of those rear French battalions are trying to reform

Above and below: At the moment the Allied defence looks fairly strong but they are angled to meet a French brigade. Nassau skirmishers continue to harass Durutte's right flank

And the result of the close action was not favourable to the Allies who have retreated off the table and onto the map

A number of French battalions were also repulsed so the front line on MSJ
is still held by Allied skirmishers

A look at the table about 1130 real time. At this stage Richard asked Charlie if everything was OK on his flank and received an affirmative reply. 

Now the smoke has cleared round the Grand Battery it can be seen that Donzelot's nine battalions are resolutely heading for the British centre. Astute eyes will pick up Delort's Cuirassier Division has  entered behind the remaining cannon smoke.

20 minutes later poor Charlie had an uncharacteristic very low
die roll for a Destiny test on Ompteda's KGL brigade, and he can
 be seen removing the troops! He is up on a stool so he can reach!

So around 3pm game time LHS is deserted along with most of that part of the Allied line

More threats to MSJ left flank, and LHS falls to the French

Above and below: Time for drastic action and Wellington has ordered forward the Union Brigade through the deliberate gaps in the hedges. The speed of their advance over the crest catches a unit of French skirmishers

But on the Allied left Paul has his hands full trying to find enough good units to keep up some kind of line. So far the Dutch-Belgian and Nassau resistance has been surprisingly effective and the French columns keep thinning out too

Behind them Watier's Cuirassiers are zoning in on the newly
 arrived British cavalry. They could do with a double or triple move!

Donzelot's view of the Union Brigade to his front

On the extreme flank of MSJ exuberant infantry of Durutte's Division are about to chase up the retreating Dutch-Belgians

Overall view about 3.15pm game time. In the foreground the French are masking Papelotte and La Haye, refusing to be drawn to attack them. Best's and Vincke's Hanoverians are trying to hold off Marcognet's Infantry. The Union Brigade,  and Picton's and Lambert's British infantry are making the central position look strong....but Donzelot and Delort's Divisions are getting dangerously close.

JP desperately wants a good initiative roll for Watier's Cuirassiers......but he doesn't get it yet

Here is the view from the other direction......

.....and over the French. In the distance Wellington (and Charlie) are bringing up what they can to extend the defensive line along MSJ. 

Quiot's troops move to occupy La Haye Sainte

Tony brought this little vignette especially in homage to a scene
 in the 1970 "Waterloo" movie..
He has also taken the liberty of marching the Garde Imperiale band in too, 
 and someone has put my LHS roof back on the wrong way round!

That scene from the movie. Climbing a roof in heavy cavalry boots?!!

Baron Ompteda himself can only watch in horror

And the French attack surges on, watched by the apparently passive Orange Nassau contingent, hoping the Prussians will arrive soon.

Jacquinot's Division?

You may recall from the previous episode that we were extending the playing area by a foot or two beyond the table borders, plotting brigade sized units and batteries on an A3 size map on a magnetic wall board. Jacquinot's  4 regiments of Light Cavalry had exited stage right around Move 3 and got stuck by very poor initiative rolls in the sunken, hedged and tree-lined tracks southeast of La Haye. Around that time the 7th Hussars (according to die roll) were ordered off to the right to scout for Grouchy's arrival. This state of affairs continued for the remaining 3 regiments till Kevin's departure that evening.  He was due for later arrival on Sunday morning and so JP allocated ADCs and rolled the dice instead. Magic! Two or three squares on the map got them to the NE corner from where the flank of MSJ was visible. From Bijlandt's position, recovering past the Allied "back line", Paul B was now able to realise the existential threat to the left flank was not only from the French infantry.  I had already worked out some simple off-table combat rules...maybe they would be put to the test at last.

3.30pm - a Major Cavalry Clash

At this point Richard chose to send his first cavalry regiment - the Royal Dragoons, at the flank of the nearest battalion in Grenier's Brigade of Marcognet's Division
But they managed to form an emergency square just in time. And which regiment was this? Would you believe the coincidence, it was the  45e Regiment de Ligne

Behind the Royal Dragoons can be seen the Scots Greys racing towards Watier's Cuirassiers. One regiment to take on a Cuirassier Division! The Inniskilling Dragoons are too far back to support properly

Here they go - the heavy cavalry have clashed. In the foreground Allied bravery continues with two battalions of Vinke's Hanoverian Landwehr counter attacking downhill against more of Marcognet's men

Beyond all that Delort's Cuirassier Division continues to advance across the valley bottom

Scots Greys cross swords with the 1st Cuirassiers who are
closely supported by the 4th

The Royal Dragoons were not going to take the eagle of the 45th this time! They were repulsed and had to fall back beyond the sunken road
One of those Hanoverian battalions has gone and the brigade is being outflanked by a battalion of Durutte's Division

Given the weight of numbers the Scots Greys look fated to go the same way....

....and the battle noise rages round them....... the Grand Battery has fully resumed its firing at targets on Mont Saint Jean

Wellington anxiously awaits the result of the critical cavalry encounter........

.......mirrored in the look on D'Erlon's face too!

The clash ends in mutual withdrawal. Some relief to the Allies perhaps but 
the Inniskillings now look vulnerable to Delort's heavy cavalry

Here is a view of the magnetic map about this point. Just off the table on the north-east Jacquinot's cavalry are about to give Bijlandt's recovering Dutch-Belgians a hard time. My camera seems to have overlooked the remains of Pack's brigade joining the way-off-field recoverers

The view from Watier's Horse Artillery just after the cavalry engagement

3.45 pm - End game on Mont Saint Jean

Excitement rising - all the players have a view of how to proceed

JP intervenes to bring up Delort's French Cuirassiers

The Inniskillings don't stay long under a flank attack!

Grenier's Brigade marches on towards the sunken lane under fire from Whinyates Battery, while the Scots Greys consider how to react to their fellow Dragoons' departure.....

.....they counter-attack

Brue's Brigade are seeing off the final Hanoverians from MSJ front slope

Now Wellington brings forward the Household Brigade to try to get the better of  Delort's Cuirassiers

The wider view at this time shows the French pincer movement closing in. Delort front and left, backed by Donzelot's infantry, and Watier's cavalry coming in again at the right, all supported by the Grand Battery

Although these pictures show the Life Guards had not yet made contact, the tension was palpable

Above and below:Two great shots along MSJ with action at its height

To some extent destiny hinged on the already weakened Scots Greys at this stage. If they beat back the Cuirassiers then the Lifeguards might complete a rearward surge through the French ranks. If not.......

Destroyed Greys back in their box!

....the way lay open for Delort to sweep in among artillery and reforming Dragoons on the rear slope of MSJ - the French had done it!

Good natured hand shakes all round
after a hard "fight"

....and Tony brought up his Napoleon's carriage - ever the optimist
(well, he is a Liverpool FC supporter!)

Off the table I used my simple map combat rules and, hardly surprisingly, Jacquinot's cavalry destroyed the ill-fated Dutch-Belgian Brigade of Bijlandt who had started the battle under Grand Battery fire, got away, fought hard on MSJ then withdrew to lick their wounds, and later got sabred and lanced by marauding French cavalry! Sad but heroic.  
Bear that in mind when you look at this final battlefield overview and the map

Despite all their valiant efforts the Allies had been comprehensively beaten this time. Yes, there was some chronic bad luck, but the French plan was thwarted by dice too on occasion.  I must give credit to the French plan. The only bit I saw in writing was by Tony as D'Erlon, but I think the grand design was refined by JP and Kevin who mostly put it into action. Our scheduling a two day game gave them the luxury of letting the Grand Battery do the pounding while exploiting the relatively weaker area between MSJ and Papelotte by a less direct infantry advance (the right hook). The Light Cavalry were used as the extreme end of that hook but took a lot longer to achieve it than expected.  La Haye Sainte fell far too easily and too early, allowing the heavy cavalry pincer attacks to proceed, as we have seen.

Easy with hindsight to say Richard should have sent reinforcements to his left flank earlier, but he was not familiar with the consequences of some of the General d"Armee rules and maybe did not see the collapse coming soon enough.  I would have loved to have seen the Lifeguards actually engaged, but time had beaten us and no one disputed the result!

Grateful thanks to JP and Kevin for their wonderful armies and game design and much of the execution of the action. As a spectator/map movement manager I found it very exciting and wonderful to watch a Napoleonesque attack plan unfold. I hope you've enjoyed the report and pictures.

Well worth 10 minutes or so to watch JP's wrap up of the second day on his great YouTube channel

And if you haven't had enough yet JP has put together an absolutely marvelous video tour set to music through many of the photos I sent him of the game. Give yourself a treat, watch it on a desktop computer or a big TV - fantastic! 

Thanks to all concerned for a really fun weekend and a satisfying wargame result.

Chris G