Tuesday, 29 December 2015

101 uses for a French Marin

So apparently my French marines are not marines at all but are sailors, thanks to Stuart A and Roy for pointing that out – if only I’d applied myself more during my CSE French lessons.

Steve noted the fact that Roy has a surplus of Sailors of the Guard and kindly sent these photos of a suitable paint job conversion - these are FN96 Marine (marching) converted to Young Guard Tirailleurs Grenadiers.

I’m pretty sure that I’d heard before that the Hinton Hunt French Marine figures were often given paint job conversions. Some of the figures that I have came originally from Don and look to have been painted as either Westphalians or Saxons.

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Tell it to the Marines (2)

There is no doubt that as far as wargaming is concerned Roy is a thoroughly accommodating fellow, however the one unit that he absolutely refused to let me field for Vintage Waterloo was my British Naval Battalion. This unit composed of 12 marines and 12 sailors, is one of my favourites although their only recorded action was at the Battle of the Crossroads where they didn’t quite live up to the traditions of Nelson.

Historical scenarios for this unit are admittedly thin on the ground but there is one other nautical range in the Hinton Hunt catalogue to which Roy can have no objections – French Marines of the Guard. The figure is FN/93 French Marine of the Guard 1804-15 (charging).

Now here is a unit that really did fight at Waterloo albeit in company strength but I will stretch this to a whole battalion. They are also the one unit type currently missing from the combined order of battle of our troops for the Imperial Guard. I’m not sure if they served at Leipzig but I hope on this occasion Roy will say yes!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Vintage Waterloo (Conclusion)

5.00pm (turn 7) and the Young Guard begin to advance passing to the left of  Hougoumont. Three guard horse artillery batteries are about to unlimber to their front whilst the Old Guard advances on their right. The emperor himself has come up to urge them forward.
The Old Guard pass through the French artillery line causing them to cease fire for one turn. There are no less than 7 gun batteries on this ridge and they had been pounding the allied line for hours, surely not even a rabbit could still be alive on the other side of that hedge! I think Roy's chasseurs in bicornes are another of his clever conversions.
The RHA rocket battery had also been firing for several turns. I knocked up the rule mechanism for rockets in just a few minutes (without much thought) and they proved to be ludicrously but hilariously effective. The rule allows for rockets to go astray and hit the allies own lines (the French player got to choose the targets) and they managed to take out 2 of Mercer's guns as well as some British infantry. However, the real damage was caused to the French horse artillery and heavy cavalry who were falling in complete ranks as they advanced. It gave everyone (on both sides of the table) a good laugh so the rule will probably stand.
My combined guard cavalry unit and what was left of the guard horse artillery, engulfed in the smoke of exploding rockets. Wellington claimed 2 artillery batteries, 2 cavalry units and 1 infantry unit destroyed but this may be propaganda.
Revenge is sweet! The remaining troopers ride over the RHA rocketeers, I fear there was little mercy offered to the crew members of the battery.
It was now 6.00pm and Hougoumont had fallen for a second (and last) time. The Nassauers are heading for the rear, their colonel dead and the French have occupied the farm.
The guard are now halfway across the valley between the opposing ridges. I think there were 5 battalions of OG, 3 battalions of YG plus several line battalions on either flank. They completely filled the space between La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont.
Not just rabbits but rank upon rank of redcoats were waiting behind the hedge still virtually untouched by the French artillery. I can't work out why the casualties were so light but it may be that the French gunners had been concentrating on counter-battery fire and also because a number of guns had been tasked with firing on Hougoumont.
What was left of the French cavalry was heading for the gap between the commands of Wellington and The Prince of Orange. The defending infantry here chose sensibly to form into square.
Behind the squares the remnants of the combined blues&greys were waiting. The yellow marker denotes that they are disordered and therefore unable to charge.
On the allied far right Roy's splendid Scots Greys saw off their third successive enemy cavalry unit - and all without losing a single casualty!
By now the Prince of Orange had quit the field (something about getting a new dress uniform for the victory parade in Paris) and I found myself demoted from the command of the French army to take his place. The good thing about this for me was that whatever happened next I could rightly say that I had fought on the winning side. Wellington immediately insisted that I advance my hotchpotch of Dutch-Belgians in line to re-take Hougoumont even though the French cavalry were on my flank - and to think they call ME Silly Billy!
This is a view along the main table at 7.00pm (turn 9). My Dutch-Belgians are making their tentative advance in the foreground. The Old Guard can be seen advancing in the centre of the table but I can't see much in the way of French forces remaining on the other flank.
Now this is the biggest mystery of the game as far as I'm concerned. For some reason Hill ordered Baring's KGL to withdraw from La Haye Sainte allowing the French to occupy it uncontested. There will be mutterings at Horse Guards. However, as you can see the rest of D'Erlon's command has ceased to exist, I don't know what happened to it - the second biggest mystery of the game.
Back over at Hougoumont I managed to get the rest of my men into square. I should point out that this was due to my sound tactical sense and not due to some oiyky Rifles colonel shouting "Oi, Silly Billy, you don't advance in line with cavalry on your flank ee-by-gum!"
The first line of French cavalry rode straight past the squares and were eventually destroyed by my cavalry. This is the second rather thin looking line of cavalry shortly before they were blasted away by musketry. The French cavalry was now a spent force.
8.00pm and the French drummers of the guard are getting ready to beat out the pas-de-charge. Everything now depends on the guard breaking through the centre of the allied line to win the day.
It's getting tense and its getting dark. The French come on in the same old style.
Picton rides forward, "Now Maitland, now's your time!". He orders a nifty passage of lines that puts the British foot guards into the front line just as the enemy grenadiers reached the bottom of the ridge.
The huge mass of the French guard approach the allied line. You can see through the window that it really is dark now!
10.00pm (turn 12) - the British see off the French in the same old style! We even fought an extra round of melee taking us to turn 13 but it was obvious that with the British front line almost at full strength, and with a melee bonus for defending the ridge and hedge, there was no way the French were going to break through without reserves and the guard WAS the last reserve.
Wellington raised his hat "The army will advance!" Hill's highlanders move forward in the distance while the rest of his command prepares to advance towards La Haye Sainte.
A somewhat dejected D'Erlon surveys the scene at the end of the game. What happened to his fine command? We may never know...


Roy - for providing the venue, 80% of the figures and a fantasic lunch and refreshments.

Stuart (and the chaps from Cirencester Wargame Club) - for playtesting and refining the rules.

A small army of painters - for helping to get the troops ready in an incredibly short period of time.

To the many generous gamers who have kindly donated figures to my project over the years (you know who you are)

The Cast:

Napoleon Bonaparte - Myself (of course)
Marshal Ney - Mark F
Lt Gen Count D'Erlon - Neil
Lt Gen Count Reille - Nigel
Lt Gen Count Lobau - John

The Duke of Wellington - Stuart
The Prince of Orange - Richard
Lt Gen Lord Hill - Matt
Blucher - Steve S

Final thanks goes to eBay and Napoleon Bonaparte without whom none of this would have been possible!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Vintage Waterloo (Part 4)

Although I took a lot of photos during the game I can see as I publish these posts that they mostly cover the first 4 or 5 turns. Apologies for any repetition but I thought you'd probably want to see them anyway. Here are my DK French heavy cavalry (combined cuirassiers and dragoons) advancing into the teeth of the rocket battery.
The French left flank at Plancenoit. Looks like a bit of a cavalry clash developing with cuirassiers and some guard light cavalry engaging Prussian lancers. The French cavalry are rated 'A' and 'A+' whereas the Prussians are rated 'B', this gives the French a decent advantage in melee.
More ex WHC troops from Roy's collection sporting a Peter Gilder flag - who knows, these lads might even have taken part in the 150th anniversary battle?
Silesian hussars move forward to support the infantry. The Prussians did seem to take quite a long time to get forward here, possibly because their ranks contained a fair few 'C' class Landwehr units.
Back on the main table we can see that one of Bylandts units has broken and D'Erlon has continued his advance. This must be turn 5 or 6 - about 3.00pm. In the distance a French unit has sensibly formed square as protection from the milling allied cavalry.
The position at La Haye Sainte is looking quite secure with plenty of reserves on hand.
At this stage the Duke appears quite confident as he chats with Picton and Uxbridge in his position safe behind the ranks of the 30th Cambridgeshires. "I say Uxbridge, do keep your legs tucked in old chap!".
The left-centre of the field from the allied lines. Wellington has committed several heavy cavalry units to stop the French from advancing and his tactics seem to be working.
Another view from Hill's position on the allied left flank. D'Erlon is pressing closer but Hill has substantial untouched reserves waiting in column behind the Scots while the Prussians attempt to roll up the French flank.
A view along the whole of the main table - I must say that all the Generals look very engrossed in the game!
At the end of turn 4 the French finally suceeded in ejecting the British garrison from Hougoumont. However, in a controversial umpiring decision (made by yours truly) the supporting Nassau Grenadiers managed to rush in before the French attackers could make it through the gate and Reille was back to square one!
The 1st Cuirassiers were on the extreme left of the French army. This is my most recently completed unit and the paint was barely dry on their bases. However, they were soon joined by a new addition to Roy's  forces - a unit of French Guard light cavalry that he actually based up and delivered to the table during the game!
French heavy cavalry is about to mix it with the Blues&Greys next to Hougoumont.
I think this is the last in my sequence of photos from Plancenoit. The Prussians seem to have the church firmly under their control.
Even more French cavalry pile forward - these are my combined guard lancers/horse grenadiers. I think though that I can hear a sort of ominous fizzing noise as the rocketeers on the hill light their fuses...
Controversial it may have been, but the Nassau Grenadiers are definitely in control of Hougoumont, although they do seem to have left the gate open!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Vintage Waterloo (Part 3)

This is the section of the Allied line on the ridge to the right of La Haye Sainte. British battalions are lining the hedge and Hanoverians (I think) are in support. This must be about turn four and so far these troops appear untouched by shot and shell.
Further to the left are the Highlanders - the Gordon's with my own Black Watch to their right. Below the ridge a fierce fight is raging as a result of Lord Hill ordering Bylandt's Dutch/Belgians forward into D'Erlon's advancing columns. I have to confess that I missed the detail of this action as I was involved at the other end of the table but I'm sure His Lordship wasn't merely using his Allies as cannon fodder.
A closer view of Bylandt's brigade from the Allied lines. The RHA batteries appear to be making a dent in the advancing French columns whilst light cavalry pass their flank. Some Prussians are just coming into action as well.
Meanwhile in La Haye Sainte, Barings brave lads are holding on.
Bylandt's men are taking casualties and that red marker denotes the fact that a Colonel has become a fallen leader. This will put the Dutch/Belgians on a minus 2 for morale ('C' class troops with fallen leader). This is only going to go one way.
Here is a better view of the Prussians arriving. We allowed 5 units of Prussians with a gun and some cavalry to arrive on the flank of the main table. The bulk of the Prussian army was at Plancenoit and they were not allowed to cross to the main table until they had captured the village.
The Brandenberg Uhlans did quite well on what was their first outing making short work of these French lancers.
The view of the action involving Bylandt from the French side of the table. The unit being blasted by canister courtesy of the RHA are the Poles from my own collection. I know there were no Polish regiments at Waterloo but I wasn't going to leave these off the OOB, although I bet they wish that I had.
Moving slightly to the left we can see the 95th Rifles engaging a French line regiment that sensibly chose to deploy from column into line.
Beyond the riflemen the French are trying to batter down the gates of La Haye Sainte.
The Old Guard making ready to advance against the Allied centre. There are five battalions here - a sixth was fighting in Plancenoit. The unit in the foreground are the 2nd Grenadiers from my own collection.
The Emperor watches as his 'daughters' pound the Allied line in the hope of softening up the defenders.
The French line just to the left of La Haye Sainte. Some of Lobau's battalions are moving forward while a cavalry melee develops in front of them. Guard lancers are engaging some British heavy cavalry.
The French heavy cavalry reserve advances to the right of Hougoumont (and to the left of the Guard infantry). On the hill in front of them you can just make out the British rocket battery.
The French are pressing hard at Hougoumont - it must be just a matter of time before it falls?