Friday, 20 January 2017

The Battle of Windy Pass - Part 2

Satisfied by the artillery preparation, and the unaccountably feeble Prussian response, the Emperor ordered the resumption of the advance. Two massed infantry columns immediately marched to the assault, while to the south the Swiss also formed column and advanced towards the woods. With drums beating the infantry let out a mighty cheer: "Vive L'Empereur!".

Napoleon: Right lads, now go in there and sweep away that Prussian rubbish!
The crisis of the battle was fast approaching. Blucher remained confident, however, that if any of the French broke through his first line they would be swiftly ejected by his carefully husbanded reserves.

Blucher: Here zey come boys! Ve vill haf zem for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
General Quiestil led the crack 13th Légère against the Prussian right flank, closely supported by the Bavarian 4th Line Infantry.....

while Ney led the 45th against the Prussians regulars lining the heights.

Ney: Forward the 45th!
Behind them marched Cambronne, leading his beloved Chasseurs à Pied.

Cambronne: Courage, mes enfants. La victoire est à nous!

Meanwhile, the 3rd Swiss advanced almost unnoticed towards against the southern flank of the Prussian line.

Decimated by the relentless pounding of the French guns, the Prussian 21st fell back in confusion, leaving the gunners either side of them unsupported. Seeing his chance, Quiestil led a sudden charge which overran one of the Prussian batteries.

The 13th demonstrate the art of "Assault and Battery".
Blucher watched in dismay as his right flank began to collapse.

Blucher: Ooops, zat vasn't supposed to happen. Gneisenau, send in ze Guards!
The crisis was fast approaching, but the Prussians still refused to give way without a fight. The Silesian regulars fired a devastating volley into the 45th, who were also hit by canister shot from the few remaining Prussian guns. The 45th wavered and then stopped, their ranks in hopeless disarray.

Ney: It's nothing lads, barely a scratch. Charge, Goddammit!
Meanwhile the 3rd Swiss, having chased off the Prussian riflemen out the woods, prepared to assault the Landwehr, who wheeled in line to face them.

The Emperor watched intently. Everything seemed to be going more or less according to plan.

Napoleon: You'll see Marbot, it'll be 1806 all over again!
For a moment Prussian hopes were lifted as the 45th, after receiving another devastating volley from the Silesians, turned and fled. These hopes were dashed almost immediately, however, as the Neumark Landwehr broke in turn before the Swiss onslaught.

Soult: Splendid work, men! Shame about poor old Ney though, eh? Ahem.
Blucher's situation continued to deteriorate as the 4th launched an unstoppable charge against the disordered ranks of the 21st, who also broke and ran.

Only the Silesian regulars continued to hold the first line, but were now faced by the French Imperial Guard. A desultory volley failed to stop them and the Silesians braced for impact.

Cambronne: er.....I think it's this way, Chasseurs!
Blucher knew that it was time to throw in his reserves. Surely the cavalry and the Guard could stop the French? The Lieb Hussars led by General Bulow, were the first to charge, hitting the Swiss before they had time to form square. The Silesians, however, were pushed back in disorder by Cambronne's guardsmen.

On the right the Prussian 1st Foot Guards were barely able to fire a few shots before the Bavarians were on top of them. Despite  losing the first round of the melee, however, the guardsmen held their ground.

Sensing that the climax of the battle had arrived, the Prussian Garde du Corps now charged the 13th Légère, who failed in their attempt to form square. Amazingly, however, the 13th not only survived the impact but won the first round of the melee, forcing the Prussian horsemen back in disorder. Quiestil couldn't believe his luck.

Quiestil: Er....we'll just pretend that didn't happen, shall we?
The battle was not going all the way of the French, however. As the Swiss, broken by the Prussian hussars, fled towards the rear, Murat led a counter attack with the 7th Lancers. Having lost a quarter of their strength in the earlier fighting, however, the lancers were too weak for the task and were immediately put to rout, with the hussars in hot pursuit.

Murat: I've received terrible news from Naples and must return immediately!

But it was all to no avail. Although he was able to rally his Landwehr, Blucher watched helplessly as the Prussian Foot Guards were finally driven back in disorder by the Bavarians. The 10th Silesians, after a desperate hand-to-hand struggle with the Chasseurs, broke and ran.

Any prospect of restoring the situation with the much reduced Garde du Corps also began to fade as the 13th formed square and Ornano's Guard Dragoons appeared within charging range on their right flank.

Blucher: I hate to say zis, Gneisenau, but we're going to have to run for it!
And so the battle ended. As his army streamed away from the battlefield, Blucher could at least take comfort from the fact that the French were too disorganised to mount a pursuit.

Blucher: I am 72 and a proud soldier. We'll beat them yet, Gneisenau!

The following morning, the Emperor resumed his march towards Berlin. The events of the previous day troubled him.

Napoleon: The only ones who were any good were the Bavarians!

JC accepted his defeat with gallantry and grace. It could and indeed should have been otherwise but for those accursed Bavarians and his atrocious luck with the dice. 

My sincere thanks to Don, Ian, Steve, Roy, John, Chuck, Nigel, Tony H, Tony F, Rob, Richard and Tom, without whom I could never have got this far, and to all those whose kind words and encouragement kept me going.



Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Battle of Windy Pass - Part 1

My good friend, JC, aka "The Fendalton Fusilier", has been watching my progress on The Hinton Spieler with amused tolerance for a couple of years. Shortly before Christmas he expressed a desire to see the troops "in the lead". The price of admission, however, was a battle, so last Sunday we met to fight it out.

It is 1813 and Napoleon has set forth to teach the perfidious Prussians another lesson in good manners and humility. Battle is joined in the foothills of Thuringia, where a small Prussian Corps under Blucher has been charged with the defence of a border pass while the Prussian Army completes its mobilisation.

Although the French had a slight numerical and qualitative advantage, JC elected to be Blucher and defend the pass. The room for the French to manoeuvre was strictly limited, and through the deft use of firepower and counter-attacks he felt sure to win the day!

Opening Moves

The French massed against the pass. However, Murat's position on the far right suggested that the Emperor was planning something...

Blucher initial deployment was equally deceptive. Would he occupy the hills or concentrate in the valley between them?

Blucher: Zey shall not pass!!!!

Napoleon: Tell me Marbot, would you want your little son to be with you today?
Marbot: Yes, so he could see you, Sire.
Napoleon: See me, eh?....Well alright, just so long as he doesn't touch anything!

The Emperor's plan started to take shape immediately as Marshal Soult led the 3rd Swiss around to the south, bypassing the farm and the orchard. Murat's lancers also advanced while the combined voltigeurs swarmed in front.

Soult: Suivez-moi, mes enfants. We shall take them by surprise!

The Prussians immediately marched to occupy the heights, preceded by a screen of Silesian riflemen.

Blucher: On to ze hills, meine kinder! Ve vill sweep away zis rabble!
As two Prussian battalions ascended the hill, a company of Silesian Riflemen entered the woods to their left, intent on harrying the flanks of any French advance.

Blucher: We've got the drop on them, boys!

Meanwhile the French masse de manoeuvre, led by Marshal Ney,began its ponderous march towards the pass along the main road.

Napoleon: Tell them to beat their drums louder, Marbot!
As the tension increased, the 2nd/21st were ordered into the pass, while the artillery manoeuvred in support.

General Zieten was confident that with a battery on either flank, and the Foot Guards and Garde du Corps in support, nothing could penetrate the 21st, who stood firm if somewhat self-consciously in their curious British uniforms.

Zieten: Don't worry lads, nothing will get through this lot!
Blucher's plan was obviously to use the massed firepower of the Prussian line to stop the French assault in its tracks.

Clausewitz (commanding the 2nd Neumark Landwehr): Remember men, the defensive is the strongest form of war!

The Battle is Joined

Napoleon's foremost troops burned with impatience as the Emperor's ponderous masse de manoeuvre slowly plodded its way towards the front line.

Napoleon: For goodness sake, Marbot, tell Ney to get a move on, it's nearly lunchtime.
Contemptuous of the Prussian landwehr on the hill, Murat ordered the 7th Lancers to charge, intending to ride down the impertinent Silesian riflemen. Ornano took similar action with the Guard Dragoons from the northern flank. Both cavalry regiments were immediately raked with a hail of Prussian lead while the Silesians easily evaded behind their infantry.

Napoleon: And he wants me to make him the King of Poland!
 Prussian spirits soared as both French regiments were thrown back in confusion with heavy losses.

Blucher: Ha ha ha! Did you see that, boys? Zey are already on the run!
Wearily resigned to the recklessness of his cavalry, the Emperor let out a deep sigh and ordered forward his voltiguers. With four companies concentrating their fire against only two companies of the Silesians, the voltiguers swiftly began to dominate their Prussian opponents.

Napoleon: "Sigh". Why do I still have to do everything myself!
Protected by the skirmishes, the two batteries accompanying the masse de manoeuvre finally deployed for action. A frisson of anxiety rippled through the Prussian ranks.

Napoleon: Now we'll see what those Prussians are really made of!
Firing at medium range into the closely-packed files of the 21st, the French guns tore gaping holes in the Prussian line. Zieten steadied the ranks, trusting that his two supporting batteries would silence the French ordnance.

Zieten: Close ranks, 21st. Our guns will soon deal with them!
To be continued....


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

And behold, a pale horse....

....and he who sat on it had the name...Napoleon.

Well I couldn't fight my first battle without him. The battle was fought last Sunday, but before setting it all up I had just enough time to photograph him.

Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon
The Emperor surveyed the stricken field...

Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon
....mounted on his famous steed, Marengo.
Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon
"How different history would have been", he thought,

Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon
"if only I had been allowed....
Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon run away....

Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon
....and join the circus".

Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon

The figure, of course, is Hinton Hunt FN 350: Napoleon, in hat and riding coat, on horse FNH 10. He was that rare and special thing - a vintage Hinton Hunt casting which had never been painted before.  He is now firmly glued to his horse!

He is dedicated to Wellington Girl, who showed me how to make him perform circus tricks.


A Vintage War Games Table
The battlefield awaits!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Guard Gunners

Gunmen on the grassy knoll
War is about to break out chez Wellington Man and so I have been rushing to finish my last phase-one French battery. They will be receiving a newly painted gun in due course and a gun team and limber, which are all sitting on the painting table but couldn't be completed in time. What has been achieved, on the other hand, is a basic war games table and terrain. All will be revealed in the next post.

For the record, the figures are all vintage Hinton Hunts, and are described in the Hinton Hunt catalogue as follows:

Hinton Hunt, French Foot Artillery of the Guard 1808-15:

FN 172: Gunner ramming home
FN 173: Gunner holding cannon ball
FN 175: Gunner - ammunition carrier, running
FN 170: Officer looking through telescope.

The enemy is in sight....
The last has got to qualify as one the most attractive HH figures of all time. What a magnificent and really rather sinister looking uniform!

à bientôt