Saturday, 16 October 2021

Drums along the Danube

Rob and I are about to embark on another Campaign set this time in Austria. It will be very (very) loosely based on Napoleon’s Campaign of 1805 but as I don’t have many Austrian troops the Russians, Prussians and Swedes have all been drafted in on the allied side.

We’re using the same Campaign system as before with the locations of our various forces plotted on an Excel spreadsheet that we pass back and forth after each turn. Each page on the spreadsheet relates to a town on the map and our forces remain hidden until scouted by the enemy. An infantry force moves one town each turn and may scout one adjacent town prior to moving. A lone Light Cavalry unit moves up to two towns each turn and can scout two adjacent towns.

This is the campaign map (courtesy of Murat Maps). The yellow areas are the deployment areas for the Austro-Russian army, the black area is for the Prussians and the blue for the French (click to expand the map).

Scouting is carried out in secret by looking at the relevant page on the spreadsheet to see what, if any, enemy forces are present. The scouting unit may attack or retire depending on what remaining movement allowance it has. Using this system allows us to make hidden movement without the need for an umpire.

A sample of the spreadsheet used for hidden movement. Each page along the bottom corresponds to a town in the index.

At the start of the Campaign each player breaks down his OOB into 'Divisions' and Light Cavalry 'Brigades'. Each Division or Brigade must be assigned a named leader from a limited pool of commanders. A Division can have a maximum of three units (they can be all infantry, all cavalry, or a mixture of the two), one battery and a skirmisher Company of six figures. A cavalry Brigade is a single Light Cavalry unit with an option to include a horse artillery battery.

There is a stacking limit of two Divisions plus a Cavalry Brigade in any town, this has been kept deliberately low to ensure that any battles are quite small as I play all the games solo. Once during the Campaign Napoleon may initiate a Major Battle which allows a third Division to be added to an attacking stack, the defender then has a march to guns option to bring in a third Division to their own stack, although these will arrive during the game as reinforcements.

The campaign lasts for 15 turns and there are VPs to decide the winner. The turn record chart also shows the chances on a D6 of the Prussians being activated.

Rob has chosen to command the allies which means that I will be playing Napoleon again (so glad I painted all that Guard cavalry). We’ll be taking this a bit more sedately than the previous Campaign, not least because I’m still painting those Austrian Cuirassiers, but I will post the battle reports here as and when they come up.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Austrian Limber

Having produced a limber for the Russians it seemed only fair to knock one up for the Austrians. This didn’t take too much effort as I painted the limber several years ago and never got around to completing the set.

The horses are artillery draught horse H/1 and H/2, Driver AN.58 and Limber AL/5

The horses were reassigned from my four-horse team for the RHA so the only figure I had to paint was the limber horse rider AN.58 Driver, positioned for riding horse (H/1) Artillery Drivers’ Corps (wearing shako). The HH painting instructions for this figure state “Sword Belt Black Leather” but as I couldn’t see a waist belt, I’ve assumed this was the shoulder strap. All the figures, including the limber are vintage castings.

Here's the full team together with Austrian gun A.5.

I have reverted to two-horse limber teams as a four-horse team takes up too much table space and would involve painting too many horses for my liking. The only Nationality now without a limber is the French so I must do something about that.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Trooper of the 5th Cuirassiers Regt. Sommariva

That’s what it says on the Hinton Hunt painting instruction sheet for AN.73 Austrian Cuirassier (mounted) charging so that's what my next unit will be.

As I painted the test figure, I realised that it's very similar to the Austrian Dragoon figure in the unit I painted last year, basically the only difference is the addition of the cuirass and the removal of the carbine and wooden stake.

When this unit is finished, I will have a full brigade of Austrian Heavy Cavalry which the Allies are going to need if they’re to stand a chance against all that French Guard Cavalry.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Taking the high road (Off Topic #31)

We spent last week in a holiday cottage on the banks of Loch Ewe on the northwest coast of Scotland. We’ve been living (or more correctly ‘staying’ in the Scottish vernacular) north of the border for nearly five years now but I’m still blown away by the sheer beauty of the Highlands each time we venture out.

Bonny Scotland - the view east from Mellon Udrigle (no I didn't make that name up).

Until we arrived at Loch Ewe, I had no idea of the significant part it paid in WW2 as the base for the Arctic Convoys, where the ships assembled before heading out on the dangerous route to Murmansk in Russia. The Loch banks still contain many relics of that activity of 80 years ago which, of course was fascinating to me (not sure if Mrs S was so pleasantly surprised).

This was just a few hundred yards from where we were staying and appears to be a base for some sort of gun-mount.
These concrete blocks were originally used to anchor the submarine nets at the mouth of the Loch (old git is for scale).

This is the remains of a jetty near the position where the anti-submarine booms would have been.

A serious looking gun position near Aultbea (again the old git is for scale).

There is a small Russian Arctic Convoy Museum in Aultbea which is worth a visit if you’re driving the North Coast 500 and need a break from tailing all those camper vans. The exhibits tell a lot of personal stories from the participants in the convoys, explaining the incredible conditions that the sailors had to endure at sea during the Arctic winter.

This model in the museum had been made by the son of one of the crew of HMS Honeysuckle. I like the way he has modelled it with ice covering the decks.
'The worst journey in the world'

As the route home on Friday took us to Inverness Mrs S indulged me by agreeing to a visit to Fort George. Although I’ve been to Culloden a couple times before I had never made it to Fort George and I’m really glad that we finally got there because saying it’s impressive doesn’t really do it justice.

The imposing entrance to Fort George.
There are quite a few cannon dotted around but none of them are original.

Fort George sits on the banks of the River Ness and was built by the British following the Jacobite Rebellion to control access to the Moray Firth and inland to the Great Glen. It is a huge construction based on a Star design that remains virtually intact. It took 22 years to build and was said to have cost the equivalent of a whole years’ Scottish GDP (the modern equivalent would be the cost of five Trident nuclear submarines).

Mrs S took this rather arty looking photo - how does she do that?
A member of the old git Home Guard on lookout - who do you think you're kidding Mr Jacobite?

Mrs S thought that was a bit of an overreaction by the British, but I explained to her (patiently) that King George was understandably just a little paranoid that the Jacobites would have another go unless he cracked down hard on them. The main point of the fort was to prevent the French from sending troops, money or supplies to the Highlanders as they had during the 45.

These flags on display in the Highlanders' museum were carried by the 79th Cameron Highlanders at Waterloo and the bag-pipes were thought to have been played there too. I like seeing such tangible links to the past.
Some of the barrack blocks - they looked quite cosy.

I had no idea (until we got there) that Fort George was still an active military base being home to the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The accommodation blocks (improved from the original 18c ones) are neatly laid out in the centre of the fort around an impressive parade ground. There is also a very good Highlanders’ Museum which as far as I could work out houses exhibits on every one of the Highland Regiments except the Black Watch (who have their own museum in Perth).

An unusual sight in Scotland - the Union flag flying over Fort George.

I would say that Fort George is an absolute must for any history buff/wargamer wandering the Highlands but allow yourself at least 3 hours to look around (they do a great bacon butty in the café and a nice cheese & tomato bloomer for veggies - vegans can pick out the cheese).

To visit Fort George you must book in advance.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Russian Artillery

For quite a few years now I have wanted to find enough Russian gunners to field a battery or two of guns. Finally, I have scraped some together although they are the DK version of Hinton Hunt gunners as the real things are rarer than hen’s teeth.

The figures are:
2 x RN70 Officer, pointing, holding map
2 x RN71 Gunner with porte-fire
2 x RN72 Gunner ramming home
2 x RN74 Gunner holding hand spike for traversing
The guns are by Newline Designs

The limber rider is a vintage casting of RN76 Artillery Driver riding on DK versions of draught horses H/1 and H/2. The limber is an unknown make I had hanging around.

One of the things that has always impressed me with Roy’s Hinton Hunt armies is that he has a limber for every model gun – and there’s loads of them! I have determined to field at least one limber per army and hopefully over time a few more than that.

It’s been a nice break to paint these gunners after a year so far spent painting cavalry but there are already more horses undercoated and waiting on the painting desk.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Napoleon and all his friends (plus a relative)

It's taken me a few years but I finally have all the French Personality figures and Generals finished so I thought I'd better catalogue them here for posterity. All the figures were painted by me unless otherwise credited.

FN/224 French General in cocked hat (mounted)
FN/350 NAPOLEON, in hat and riding coat (on horse FNH/10)
FN/351 PRINCE MURAT, in plumed "lancer" cap and fur trimmed braided coat (on horse FNH/11)

FN/352 EUGENE DE BEAUHARNAIS uniformed as Colonel of the Chasseurs a Cheval (on horse BNH/11)
FNH/353 MARSHAL BESSIERES in uniform as Colonel General of Cavalry (on horse FNH/10) - painted by Tony
FN/354 MARSHAL NEY with riding coat worn over his shoulders (on horse BNH/10) - painted as Marshal Grouchy

FN/355 MARSHAL DAVOUT, in marshal's uniform raising his hat (on horse FNH/4) - the painter is unknown

FN/356 MARSHAL MASSENA, in marshal's uniform (on horse FNH/10)

FN/357 MARSHAL SOULT in uniform of Colonel-General of Chasseurs (on horse FNH/10)

FN/358 GENERAL JUNOT, in uniform of Colonel-General of Hussars (on horse FNH/11) 

FN/359 GENERAL LASALLE, in pelisse, hat and full trousers (on horse FNH/11)

FN/360 GENERAL DORSENNE in uniform of Colonel General of Grenadiers (on horse FNH/10)

FN/361 GENERAL NANSOUTY in Cuirassier General's uniform with cocked hat (on horse FNH/10)

FN/362 GENERAL BARAGUAY d'HILLIERS, Colonel General of Dragoons (on horse FNH/10) - uniform painted blue by mistake!

FN/367 GENERAL CAMBRONNE, in Generals' uniform and cocked hat on foot, with drawn sword and waving arm. 

FN/371 Aide de Camp, holding letter (on horse FNH/13)
WN.30 MARSHAL PONIATOWSKI, in Lancer cap and flowing fur cloak (mounted) pointing

I suppose I'll have to get a shift on now with Wellington and his chums.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

General Junot, Duc d’Abrantes

Junot first came to the attention of Napoleon during the siege of Toulon and went on to distinguish himself in the campaign in Italy. It was there that he received a head wound that was said to have changed his character making him unpredictable and rash.

In common with many of the other French officers he hated campaigning in Egypt and alleviated the boredom by duelling. After one duel where Lannes, Murat and Bessieres acted as his seconds they were all reprimanded by Napoleon who said they were “like silly crocodiles fighting in the reeds”. This didn’t go down too well with any of them, but Junot had to be sent home with a resulting wound.

FN/358 General Junot, in uniform of Colonel-General of Hussars (on horse FNH/11)

He was sent to Spain in 1807 and created Duc d’Abrantes for capturing Lisbon but the humiliating defeat at Vimiero blotted his copy book further with the Emperor. The final straw came with his failure to pursue the Russians after the battle of Smolensk in 1812 and a furious Napoleon determined that he should never receive a marshal’s baton.

He returned to France in disgrace and is believed to have committed suicide, dying in 1813.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Empress’s Dragoons

Continuing the theme of my cavalry unit expansions, I have managed to add a further 6 Empress’s Dragoons to the existing half dozen to turn them into a full unit. This time I was able to carry this off without any surgery to the castings other than to convert a trumpeter.

The figures are all original Hinton Hunt one-piece castings of FN/60 Empresses Dragoons (mounted) charging that I stripped and repainted. My thanks to Tony for providing the last few figures I needed via his EK collection.

And here’s a question on the correct spelling - is it Empress’s (as on the HH painting instruction sheet), Empresses (as in the HH catalogue) or Empress’? Answers on a postcard please.

Friday, 30 July 2021

The limits of glory

The latest addition to my collection of French personality figures is General Charles de la Bédoyére, ADC to Napoleon during the hundred days campaign. The figure is FN/371 Aide de Camp, holding letter (horse FNH/13).

La Bédoyére was played in the film Waterloo by Philippe Forquet who interestingly was at one time engaged to Sharon Tate. His acting career never really took off although he did have a part in a US TV series called The Young Rebels set in the American Revolution.

Napoleon: “When I am dead and gone what will the world say of me?”
La Bédoyére: “They’ll say that you extended the limits of glory, sire.”

La Bédoyére was to meet an unfortunate fate after Waterloo being amongst the few French officers who were caught by the allies and shot by firing squad.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Battle of Three Generals

On Thursday I was able to host my first in person wargame in the Hinton Hut since 2019. General Foy and none other than the Archduke himself took arms against Napoleon (me) in what turned out to be another great table-top battle.

Nigel played the Prussians and Tony the British whilst I commanded a slightly smaller force of French who were playing on the defensive.

I deployed the forces of both sides in advance giving the visiting Generals a chance to reorganise before play commenced however they both declined this offer and we got stuck in straight away. The red star 'victory locations' were worth 5VP's each to the Allies but nothing to the French, additional VP's were awarded for enemy units destroyed.
I chose to push forward in the centre with my heavy cavalry to deny the ridge to the enemy. The Allies, rather timidly, replied by sending forward a single regiment of Prussian Dragoons to oppose them.

On my right I advanced the 6th Chasseurs against Nigel's Uhlans, however they immediately fell victim to his Jagers who appeared to be armed with machine guns.

On my left I charged forward with the Guard Horse Artillery who found themselves alone facing off against the Scots Greys and the RHA. After a half-hearted cannonade they quickly limbered up and retired.

The Allies soon recovered their composure and ordered their entire heavy cavalry to attack my horsemen on the ridge. Luck was with me however and both the Greys and the Prussian Dragoons were routed in the same turn.

All my shiny heavy cavalry seemed to put the fear of God in the Prussians infantry who milled about in confusion until finally managing to form square. 

On my extreme left flank I sent forward the 5th Lancers and their presence had a similar effect on the British infantry, except that I must say the British drill was a tad better.

With the Greys and the Prussian Dragoons defeated my Cuirassiers now saw off the Prussian Cuirassiers (these gentlemen didn't stop running until they reached Berlin I believe). Time now for lunch, this game would be wrapped up in a couple more turns I thought.

Back from lunch, and having been slightly goaded by wily old Blucher I took a chance and charged the 30th Foot with my Lancers. This didn't end well and next turn they were reduced to four figures and removed from play. It would be safe now for Tony to bring his infantry out of square and continue to advance.

As the cavalry melee continued in the centre of the field I consolidated my position on the ridge with infantry and artillery. Before long the Allied skirmishers and artillery were concentrating fire on the French gunners and starting to whittle them away, by the end of the game both batteries were destroyed.

Following some useful rallying die rolls both the Greys and the Prussian Dragoons had composed themselves and were getting ready for round two.

Early in the game the 24th Line had occupied the village VP location but their ranks were being gradually thinned by artillery fire. They were still hanging on at the end of play but only just.

Finally the Allies were getting the upper hand in the cavalry melee, the Carabiniers were disordered and the Cuirassiers had been routed by the Blues. Napoleon ordered his shiny new unit of Horse Grenadiers forward in response.

Meanwhile, back in 1970, a similar looking battle was unfolding.

The tipping point of the battle had arrived. Nigel charged forward with the reformed Dragoons shattering my infantry whilst Tony brought up the Greys in support. On the ridge, the Blues and the Horse Grenadiers crossed sabres as the last on my gunners were ridded down.

The same view from the Allied perspective (so that Nigel and Tony can savour the moment). The Blues were to rout my lovely new Horse Grenadiers in the final turn of the game.

Suddenly the Emperor found himself surround by a sea of legging Frenchmen.

On my left Tony charged forward with the 49th Foot and promptly disordered the 45th Line in melee.

Turn 8 and Nigel threw the Silesian Landwehr against the ridge. I was touched by Nigel's faith in the Landwehr in using them to attack the French line, such is the legend they have built up over the years! The entire Prussian phalanx of 120 infantry only took two casualties in the whole game.

"Hard pounding eh Blucher?"
"Ya, I am zeventy one years old unt a proud toy soldier!"
"Don't tell him your name Wellington!"

"Ah La Bedoyere, I had won the battle by turn 3 but lost it at the end of turn 8"

The situation at the end of play. Units bordered in white are routing, yellow are disordered. A count up of VP's revealed a convincing win for the Allies.

This was a fun game with plenty of twists and turns but in the end, I was soundly beaten by my opponents. The rules were my standard Muskets & Marshals, but we introduced written turn by turn orders which worked really well.

My thanks to the visiting generals for making the long hike here and for providing excellent company for a long overdue day of playing soldiers.