Friday, 29 August 2014

Wargames Soldiers & Strategy Magazine - Operation Market Garden

I received my copy of the new issue, number 74, of Wargames Soldiers & Strategy Magazine yesterday, which is themed around "Operation Market Garden", the Arnhem campaign.

If you are the slightest bit interested in WWII and especially the battles in and around Holland in late 1944, then this is a very "meaty" edition of the magazine, with several company and platoon level scenarios, together with ideas on how to model the forces involved and a review of the different ranges of figures available to build those forces.

The last time the Horsa was in action, "Pegasus Bridge" at the Devon Wargames Group in June 2013

As a "shameless plug" I have some of my WWII collection of figures pictured in this edition with my Paras and Horsa glider pictured in the article "Utrinique Paratus" by Bjorn Arvid Kappe and my Americans and Germans do battle in the article by Allen E Curtis "Meanwhile in XIX Corps..."looking at US operations against the Siegfried Line on the right flank of British XXX Corps 10-19th September 1944.

Wargames Soldiers & Strategy Issue 74 was published this week and should be in stores in the UK from Monday 1st September

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Roman Legionaries - JJ's Dacian Wars

Back in February I announced that JJ's Wargames would be branching out into a new period and new scale of figures.

Regular readers of the blog will have noticed the occasional post in between the Peninsular War project posts of references to adding figures to my Dacian War collection using the Warlord Games and Wargames Foundry ranges. Over the recent months I have been doing a lot of reading around the subject together with looking at rule systems, basing norms and looking at related blogs to educate myself in the unfamiliar world of Ancient Wargaming.

In addition I have been practising painting techniques for using on my new 28mm collection and working out how I want my new forces to look, also thinking about extending the forces to include other enemies in time.

Early Imperial Roman cavalry

I did promise this new collection would get going in the second half of this year and so started putting the first of the plastic ranges of Roman infantry together whilst on holiday this summer.

So it gives me great pleasure to introduce the first Legionary cohort, the first of many, to kick off the new collection.

At the moment, this is a Hail Caesar Roman unit straight out of the box. I am thinking of increasing the unit to 6 x 4 thus modelling the cohort at 1:20 with the six sub sections or centuries replicated per base. The first cohort (veterans) will then have ten bases to up-strength it to 800 men.

I have learnt quite a bit, with putting this unit together, not just the how too's but the "oh I'm not doing it that way again!" stuff as well. As a "newbie" to painting 28mm Ancients, I am planning to put together a how to, or how not too set of notes, more anon.

I am learning a lot about flesh painting and shading and that will only increase as I move on to the Dacian's. All great fun, and my collection of YouTube references is growing. There are some very talented painters out there who are only too willing to share their techniques

I aim to put in the odd "Dacian Wars" unit in between the Napoleonics over the next few months and so the plan is to turn to the artillery units of the German Division as I wait for my Baden Fusiliers to arrive from Spain (there in the post to Warmodelling before they get to me) and I will do a unit of Auxiliaries next. Once I have several units of Romans done I will get stuck into the Dacian's.

As part of my reading up on the Dacian Wars, I thought I would also highlight an excellent book on the subject that I picked up direct from the author Radu Oltean. The artwork that heads up this post is from Radu's book and shows the quality of the illustrations throughout the text. At the time of writing the book is not available from the usual channels and I dropped Radu an email and arranged for a signed copy to be delivered. Radu's email can be found on his web site below.

I have only speed read my way through and have started to read it through in more detail, so will post a more considered review later, but there are other very positive comments elsewhere and the book was referenced in Ancient Warfare which is where I got the "heads up" originally. I am also thoroughly enjoying the exploits of Macro and Cato in the first of Simon Scarrow's series of Eagle books, "Under the Eagle", egged on by Tom and Will to get reading them.

Radu Oltean - Dacia, The Roman Wars Vol 1

So the Dacian Wars are up and running at JJ's Wargames and as part of the launch I thought I would put together a new banner that will accompany any updates to the collection and eventually some battle reports and rule reviews

Next up, Kingdom of Holland Horse Artillery.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Kingdom of Holland, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment

2nd [German] Infantry Division 
GdD Jean-Francois, Baron Leval,

OB Heinrich, Freiherr von Porbeck,
Baden Infantry Regiment Gross-Herzog Nr. 4: OB Heinrich, Freiherr von Porbeck, 2 battalions
Nassau Infantry Regiment Nr. 2: OB August von Kruse, 1st Battalion
Nassau Infantry Regiment Nr. 2: OB August von Kruse. 2nd Battalion
Baden Foot Battery: 2 – 7pdr howitzers, MAJ Franz-Friedrich-Christian von Steinmetz

GM David-Hendrik Chasse,
Composite Dutch Infantry Regiment: OB Baron de Grave,1/2nd Infantry Regiment
Composite Dutch Infantry Regiment: OB Baron de Grave, 2/4th  Infantry Regiment
Dutch Horse Artillery Battery Nr. 3: 6 guns, HPT Hendrik-Rudolph Trip

Hessen-Darmstadt Foot Batterie: 4 – 6pdrs, LT Ludwig Venator

The completion of the second of the two Dutch infantry battalions under General Chasse leaves just the two battalions of the Baden infantry contingent and the artillery to complete the German Division for Talavera.

The figures used, as with the first battalion, are from Warmodelling with the Regimental Colour from Maverick Models. A few conversions were added as mentioned in the post covering the 1/2nd Infantry, just follow the link above to see that post, which covers off a bit more of the information behind the construction of these units.

The Dutch brigade add a great splash of white to the German Division and together with the Nassau battalions in green help to offset all the blue.

I am awaiting the arrival of my Baden infantry, and so before embarking on them and the artillery units I will be amusing myself with a 28mm unit of Early Imperial Roman Legionaries which I will post up next.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Mr Pitt's Ditch - The Royal Military Canal, Hythe

Memorial to the Royal Staff Corps in Hythe
Last weekend we were travelling back from our holiday in France and staying overnight in Hythe gave the opportunity to have anther look around prior to heading back to Devon.

As I mentioned in the first of this series of posts covering our trip, the two key areas of interest that I wanted to explore more was Shornecliff Camp, the birthplace  of the famous Light Division trained by Sir John Moore and the Royal Military Canal, "Mr Pitt's ditch"; the defensive work designed to make a landing by Napoleon's Grande Armee, on the south coast closest to France, a much more problematic affair.

We did go and look at the modern Shornecliff Camp which is now home to the Gurkha's, but being an active MOD base, obviously there are no pictures, but it was great to see a place I had only read about, and get to chat to some of the Gurkha's who were great and very familiar with the history of the place, and themselves a famous elite regiment in the best traditions of the Light Division.

William Pitt the younger, British Prime Minister 1759 - 1806
William Pitt the Younger

So it was off to find the memorial to the men that built the Royal Military Canal, the Royal Staff Corps.

The Royal Military Canal was the "brainchild" of the British Prime Minister William Pitt, as a response to the threat of invasion in 1803. The canal was built between 1804 and 1809 with the British naval victory at Trafalgar in 1805 making the work pretty well redundant during its construction.

I spent time, a few years ago, touring the Lines of Torres Vedras in Portugal and found myself amazed at the work there, done without the availability of modern machinery, and can say that on a much smaller scale the Royal Military Canal left a similar impression.

Royal Military Canal

One only has to think of the difficulties the canals and waterlogged areas of Walcheren Island caused the British to see how this work combined with the Romney Marshes in front could have held up the Grande Armee.

Map - Royal Military Canal site (see link above)
The work on the canal was overseen by the Royal Staff Corps under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Brown, established, only a few years prior, in 1798, to provide an engineering service for the army. This unit was small with just five companies including the HQ later increased to a full battalion in 1809.

The unit was trained and equipped as infantry and was responsible for field defences and fortifications and often worked hand in hand with the Royal Engineers. The uniform is illustrated below with the familiar redcoat without lacing on the ordinary ranks tunics and being a "Royal" formation having blue facings. In full dress they would be in blue grey trousers with short gaiters.  The Corps would later go on to greater things when attached to Wellington's Peninsula Army being involved in the repair of the famous Roman bridge at Alcantara in 1812 and the construction of the bridge of boats over the River Adour in 1813.
Sourced from the Osprey Men at Arms 204, Wellington's Specialist Troops

The life size figures on the monument really capture the look of these soldiers with great attention to detail. One thing I noticed was the muskets looked slightly small for the regular Land Pattern "Brown Bess".
The Osprey title makes a curious reference;
"In 1801 the Inspection Returns notes that their muskets were smaller than those in general use, unable to take ordinary ball ammunition."
So it would seem the attention to detail even extends to their muskets.

Now this would be an interesting scale to paint!
The other unit very much involved in the construction was the Royal Waggon Train established in 1799 and responsible for the delivery of supplies and materials for the project.

The Royal Waggon Train

Fantastic attention to detail, with sadly a missing bayonet scabbard

As I mentioned earlier, works such as these were done without the aid of modern machinery and at the height of its construction, in 1805, involved the labour of 700 navvies (working men who travelled the country looking for manual labouring jobs on building projects).

The second monument recognises these men and the information board stated that a good worker could shift three cubic metres of earth in a day.

These workers faced day to day hazards in construction work of those times but also had to contend with the ditch being overwhelmed several times by high spring tides at the seaward ends of the diggings.

Today the former military defence is a significant asset for the local nature and a very pleasant place to walk and picnic beside. A fine monument in its own right to the men who built it over two hundred years ago.

Next up, the 4th Dutch battalion in the Peninsula.

Friday, 8 August 2014

France 2014 - Montmirail Reenactment

As a bit of a postscript to the Montmirail battlefield post I had an interesting discussion with Matthias on the last post looking at Montmirail. He was able to comment on the sight lines on the battlefield having taken part in the recent 200th anniversary  reenactment in the area of the battlefield discussed.

He very kindly sent over some pictures from the day that capture the atmosphere and help recreate the events 200 years ago. There are some very fine units with obvious attention to detail and thanks to Matthias who was very happy for me to share them on the blog.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

France 2014 - Montmirail, Vauchamps & Champaubert

Battle of Montmirail - Horace Vernet, showing the final attack on Marchais by Ricard's division and two battalions of the Old Guard
The six days campaign of 1814 has rightly been described as perhaps Napoleon's finest. The campaign was fought from the 9th to the 14th of February during which Napoleon, with an army of about 30,000 men, took on Marshal  Blucher's force of around 120,000 men. In a series of four battles he inflicted 17,750 casualties whilst only suffering about 3,500 and stopped the allied offensive against Paris. The campaign is a fascinating but complex series of movements that enabled Napoleon to outmanoeuvre his opponents separate corps . One of the best presentations I have seen on this, is at the Art Of Battle site with a series of animated maps by Jonathan Webb. Just download the  PowerPoint slides and follow the action, it's really cool and will be a lot quicker than me blathering on about how we got where we are.
The Art of Battle/six-days-campaign-1814

Another very useful site with some interesting data on the armies involved in this series of battles can be found here
1814 around Montmirail

The useful summaries on Wikipedia and the Nafziger orbats are linked as well, further into the post. So on with the tour.


Chateau de Montmirail
On the day after the Battle of Champaubert, the 11th February 1814, the Emperor arrived at the Chateau de Montmirail at 9.00am and after a quick breakfast left at 9.15am stopping on the road just before the village of Marchais, the present day position of the monument to the battle.

Outside the Chateau an explanation of the campaign and battle as part of the 200th commemoration
We followed the same road that Napoleon used that morning and along the way found another smaller monument to the resistance against Nazism, in another more recent struggle for freedom.

The red dot on the map shows approximately the position on the road where the monument is and to help illustrate where I have taken the pictures. The old map is really very good as the position where Napoleon placed himself gives a good view of the French right flank where York's advance guard are shown arriving at Fontnelle and Les Tourneux, however the folds in the ground to the front  give a view of the edge of Le Tremblay, but not Marchais beyond. That village only came into view as we headed down the road  towards General Sacken's position and the slight valley between the opposing lines.

I have outlined Marchais as I spent a bit of time getting some pictures of this village, ravaged by close up house to house fighting on the day.

The monument at Montmirail marks Napoleon's position in the battle
The picture below is taken from the monument looking down the road to Haute Epine with the outskirts of Le Tremblay in the left centre. You can see the folds in the ground as illustrated in the 1848 "Alison's History of Europe" map. Likewise the next picture shows the view out to the French right flank where York's advance guard arrived.

The road from the monument to Haute Epine

The view from the monument out to the French right flank
Moving off down the road, you crest the next low ridge, and find the whole battlefield opened up before you. A little way further, on the left, is the road leading off towards the bitterly fought over village of  Marchais seen here from the road junction, with the church spire in the right background. Note how open the fields and lines of sight are once over the French ridge, and try to imagine the columns of Ney's and Ricard's infantry moving left to right into the Russian position.

The road to Marchais with the village church spire in the right background


Marchais is a small sleepy village that gives no indication to the carefree visitor of its violent history save for the plaque on the wall on the farm building as you enter its main street.

The old farm on the entrance to Marchais

The rough translation is
"This farm, formerly named Brazen Court Farm, was taken after heavy fighting with allied powers by the Imperial Guard and the Conscript Division Ricard 11th February 1814".

General de Division Ricard
The fighting in Marchais was up close and personal

The church was also heavily involved in the fighting, becoming a significant strong point for its Russian defenders.

The Church in Marchais

Many old buildings modernised
Battle of Montmirail
Nafziger Order of Battle - Allied & French forces at Montmirail

Walking battlefields really opens the eye to the advantages and disadvantages the ground has to offer the forces involved. Montmirail is a great position for the French, a reverse slope that the Duke would have approved of, with good views of the French right flank to give adequate warning of any approach by York's corps.

General von Osten Sacken
Fabian Gottlieb von Osten-Sacken

The initial force under Napoleon would have been able to use the ground to hide its exact strength as Sacken attacked and attempted to push them back on Montmirail. The arrival of Mortier's troops would have been a big surprise and the counterattack that developed. Once Marchais was taken the whole of Sacken's line would have become unhinged with the French line and guard cavalry able to roam about on his left flank and rear area.


Driving down the D933 from Montmirail we came to our next site, the Battlefield of Vauchamps. The battle was the last engagement of the six day campaign and saw Napoleon come to grips with "Old Marshal Vorwarts", Blucher.

The 3rd Cuirassiers under Grouchy broke several squares in the pursuit at Vauchamps

Old Blucher was attempting to snatch a small victory from what was threatening to become a minor disaster by attacking the rear most corps of Napoleon's army under Marshal Marmont, about 4,000 men who had been detailed to observe Bluchers two corps of Kleist and Kapzevitch each about 11,000 men. However Napoleon was one step ahead of the old Prussian warhorse and had anticipated such a move by marching with 19,000 men of his own under Grouchy, arriving at Vauchamps on the 14th of February to support Marmont. Most importantly Napoleon's force contained the bulk of his battle cavalry under Grouchy and Nansouty and would see him have the advantage in this arm for this battle, something of a novelty in 1814.

Once Blucher became aware that Marmont had been reinforced by the Emperor he attempted to break contact, but by then he had overextended his forces and his withdrawal came under pressure from the combined arms of Napoleon's force, inflicting severe casualties on the allies as they attempted to fall back in square formation. With squares being broken under the relentless pursuit, Blucher could be thankful that in February the days are short and darkness comes earlier, allowing his army to make a nighttime retreat to break contact.

We approached Vauchamps along the road that Napoleon's troops approached the village, as shown on the map. As before I have indicated the position of the monument to the battle with the red dot and circled the two areas I focused on, Jenvilliers and Sarrechamps Farm; the key areas of cover that Blucher's men sought in their harrowing retreat through the flat open fields outside of Vauchamps.

The monument to the battle near to the church
The church in Vauchamps in the suitably named Rue du Garde

I think the picture below amply illustrates the nature of this battle, for once Nasouty on the left and Grouchy on the right with their Guard and Heavy cavalry squadrons got past the broken terrain preceding the village of Vauchamps (check the map above showing the woods on the left side of the map opening out to clear terrain on the right) this was the terrain that greeted them. The battle then became one long cavalry pursuit with only the wet soggy ground preventing the French infantry and guns being able to keep pace with the mounted troops and thus saving the Russo-Prussian force from a more devastating defeat.

The road out of Vauchamps and the fields that Blucher's men had to cross whilst under attack
The village church in Janvilliers, a temporary haven from cavalry attack

The 1st (Polish) Lancers of the Imperial Guard at full tilt

The monument to the 1st Lancers of the Imperial Guard
Again a rough translation of the monument reads
"During the Battle of Vauchamps this village and surrounding farms were the witnesses of several battles that involved the first regiment of lancers of the Imperial Guard under General Count Krasinski".

A few thousand yards further on out into the fields (see map above) is Sarrechamps Farm now a peaceful mass breeding establishment for ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys, but in 1814 became an Essling Grannary style defensive position as the 10th Prussian brigade sort shelter from the storm amid its formidably strong walls.

The formidable stronghold of Sarrechamps Farm

The plaque on the wall records the fighting, two hundred years ago
Again roughly translated
"The heroic fighters of a battalion of the 10th Prussian brigade and Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard who fought in this place, February 14th, 1814"

It would seem the Prussians resisted for two hours until being overcome.

Battle of Vauchamps
Nafziger Order of Battle Allied & French at Vauchamps


Our final battlefield of the day was in fact the first battle in the set of four and was instrumental in enabling Napoleon to occupy the central position among Blucher's dispersed corps and thus to defeat them, as he did, in detail. To get there was just a short drive on from Vauchamps along the D933.

Battle of Champaubert - Langlois

The Battle of Champaubert was a straight forward envelopment battle designed to completely annihilate the enemy force and, in that design, was completely successful. More than that though was the domino effect this battle had by opening up the other allied corps to be picked off individually or in groups before they could come to each others assistance, such was the military genius of Napoleon.

General Olssufiev commander of Russian IX Corps
The fact is that Russian General Olssufiev should have refused battle as soon as he recognised his situation, his 4,000 men vs the 15,000 of the Emperor's, and beaten a hasty retreat to the east and the approaching corps of Kleist and Kapzevitch. These two allied armies would hear the gunfire from the battle but not change their direction of march to the sound of those guns.

Instead, perhaps feeling pressure from previous poor performance and not being Blucher's favourite Russian General, he gave battle in front of the village of Champaubert. The end result was that after five hours of battle his corps was destroyed and many of his men captured including himself, a guest at the Emperor's dinner table at the Blue House on the crossroads in the village.

The monument to the battle erected by Napoleon III
and situated where the red dot is on the map
The Blue house on the opposite side of the crossroads to the monument where Napoleon stayed the night after the battle
The plaque recording the visit of the Emperor and his guest and the ubiquitous cannon ball lodged in the masonry, this time French, given the direction of travel. Rumour has it that this one may have been placed there!
The road that the French army used to move on Champaubert seen from the circled position on the map. The French artillery would have been set up in the centre right of this view whilst the Russian guns are to the left of camera
This would be a challenging scenario to set up as a wargame. The Russians are in a terrible position and the challenge in a scenario would be to see if you could better their performance over a five hour battle with a slight possibility of some of Kleist or Kapzevitch's troops coming up to save the day.

Battle of Champaubert
Nafziger Order of Battle French & Russian forces at Champaubert

Thus ends my series of posts touring the Napoleonic sites of Paris and Eastern France. It's been a great holiday and I have put on a bit of weight, giving in to the lovely food that is French cuisine. I must also thank my wife Carolyn for indulging me in allowing this time to really absorb and understand the terrain of the 1814 campaign. I really have come away inspired to do something with this Napoleonic period. Thank you to everyone who has shared a comment on the posts, it really has been nice to have a dialogue with fellow travellers in this period of history.

Back to Blighty on Saturday with a post covering off stuff at Hythe that we couldn't do when we set out, and then it will be normal service resumed with some painting to do on the German Division and perhaps a start on those Romans I put together during my time in Gaul.