Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Mum's War and the Tip & Run Raiders

LACW Audrey Randell, Exeter 1943
Back in September 2013, I posted about a particular day in history that my Dad participated in during his service in WWII serving with Guards Armoured Division from 1943 to the end of the war.

Dad's War

Both Mum and Dad were volunteers during WWII and both played their part in the Allied victory in 1945 and it seems that women's roles in war have been very under reported and appreciated, although perhaps less so today as we move, gradually away from History to Herstory as well.

Mum, sadly passed away eighteen months ago and it had occurred to me whilst writing an email to a friend about Luftwaffe raids over southern England in 1943, as you do! that I could write a similar look back on Mum's service.

I should say that, when Mum was still alive, back in 2004, I got her to write down her memories of volunteering for the Womens Auxiliary Air Force or W.A.A.F.'s as they were more commonly known and posted her words on the BBC's "WW2 People's War" site.


Audrey (back row right) with other WAAFs at Pinhoe, Exeter

As you will see from her account on the BBC site, the WAAF plotters were a select group of women who were very much part of the RADAR backed Air Defence system that was instrumental in defeating the Luftwaffe in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. The plotting table with WAAFs using croupier poles to move friendly and enemy aircraft markers, as they received updates through their headsets telling them the position, height and estimated numbers of aircraft became one of the enduring images of Britain's air war. These updates would be not just from RADAR plots but also the visual observations made by the men and women of the Royal Observer Corps, using the mark one eyeball.

WAAF Plotters at work, The underground plotting room in 1943 was at RAF Exminster near the Black Swan pub.
By the time Mum volunteered in 1943, the air war had moved into a different stage from the dark days of 1940, when the RAF was very much on the defence. The mid war period saw the Luftwaffe stretched to its limits with an ever increasing commitment to the eastern front in Russia and units deployed to North Africa as, first the British 8th Army under Montgomery and later joined by US and British forces landing in French North Africa, drove the Germans back towards Sicily and the defence of mainland Italy.

In addition the RAF had moved over to the offence with first costly daylight incursions into France and the low countries, designed to draw the Luftwaffe fighters up to be destroyed, moving in time to the large night time bomber raids by Bomber Command.

It was the latter attacks by Bomber Command that forced the Germans into coming up with a retaliatory response, and with only a small force in Northern France of mainly fighters, they developed the use of FW 190 tip and run daylight bombing attacks, first tried out at the end of the Battle of Britain using ME 109's of 3/Erpr.Gr 210 carrying centrally mounted 250kg bombs. The raiders, usually in small groups of six to eight aircraft, would approach the English coastline low and fast to avoid radar, climbing when over the target to drop their bombs, strafe targets of opportunity and turn quickly for home.

Model of an Me109 from ErPr 210

The German raiders started their campaign in March 1942 with JG2 and JG26 making 17 tip and run attacks in Sussex and Kent and 13 attacks on Hampshire and the South West that month respectively. The first of these raids took place at 09.25 on the 7th March 1942, when four Me109's roamed unmolested in the Teignmouth - Exmouth area with houses and Teignmouth pier being machine gunned. Spitfire V's of 317 squadron from Bolt Head were ordered to intercept but they themselves were attacked on take off by two Me109s forcing Polish pilot Sergeant Kazimierz Sztramko to make a forced landing back on the field and with the raiders escaping.

The FW190 made its appearance in July 1942, proving superior in air combat with the RAF Spitfire V's and able to carry a centrally mounted 500kg bomb, soon became the mount of choice for these raiders replacing their Me109 F4/Bs. It would not be until the arrival of the Spitfire IX later in 1942 as a response to the new German fighter and the realisation that the new fighter from Hawker, the mighty Typhoon (the Tiffy) had the power and speed to be the German fighter bomber's nemesis, that suitable fighter defence would be available.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190
Supermarine Spitfire late Merlin-powered variants
Hawker Typhoon

Both Mum and Dad vividly remembered this campaign during their war time in Exeter and I remember them regaling me with the stories of the effect they had, although I was always impressed by the way they seemed to dismiss them as just another thing that was dealt with at that time.

One of these attacks affected a member of my wife's family who was living in Exmouth at that time and had her own close encounter with the Luftwaffe raiders. The account and pictures are from Chris Goss, Peter Cornwell and Bernd Rauchbach's book on these raids, "Luftwaffe Fighter Bombers over Britain"- The Tip and Run Campaign 1942-43

The attack on Exmouth on the 26th February 1943 was conducted by eight FW190's from 10/JG2 and they were targeting housing and the gas holder. Lt Leopold Wenger was the pilot who took the pictures, and his plane is pictured above.

He is quoted in the book from his record of the attack; 
"In February 1943, we could not fly very much because the weather was still bad. We could not go into action again until the 26th February. We attacked the town of Exmouth at noon. It was a very hard mission - very rarely have I encountered Flak firing so accurately. Still we taught the town a good lesson. In addition, I shot at a gasholder and set it on fire and harassed a moving train. Again, I was able to take some quite good photos. Unfortunately, we had losses in the aerial battle which followed the attack...."

The Germans were attacked by Typhoons from 266 Squadron and during a high speed low level chase across the channel, Squadron Leader Charles Green and Sergeant Richard Thompson shot down two of the German planes. The Typhoons were out of Exeter patrolling off Dartmouth when they got the call to intercept at 12.15 and they landed back at Exeter at 12.45.

A witness of the attack, Ken Randall aged 16 is quoted;

"Exmouth was hit by fighter bombers carrying bombs and firing cannons. I was a boy messenger for the General Post Office. When the sirens went, all the GPO staff went to the basement except three of us messenger boys who immediately went to the rooftop! There we saw three fighter bombers attacking our local gasometer, each in line astern. All three aircraft fired their cannons at the gasometer which did not blow up, but just caught fire and rapidly the stored gas was burnt up. The enemy aircraft then peeled off and beat a hasty retreat across the channel to France."

There is a very vivid description from Sgt. Thompson of his shooting down one of the raiders, closing in to about twenty yards and getting his spinner damaged by bits of the enemy plane as it hit the water and broke up, causing, as he puts it, his engine to run a bit rough!

My wife's aunt was coming out of Woolworths stores when the raid happened and she thought the Luftwaffe were after her personally as they screamed over head, heading up Albion Hill, to strafe the gasometer and leaving a trail of hot cannon shells as they went! At that time Mum could well have been directing the "Tyffies" on their intercept and I remember her describing them hearing the fighter pilots conversations from these battles, coming over the tannoy as they moved into combat.

The Luftwaffe air attacks ended suddenly in June 1943, principally because the fighter bombers were needed in the Mediterranean following the surrender of German forces in North Africa on the 12th of May 1943, and II Gruppe was rushed from France to Italy in the second week of June.

The Tip and Run raids on the Devon coast, showing towns attacked and principle RAF airfields and Exminster station
The raids had a far larger effect than the damage and casualties inflicted, with MP's under pressure from local constituents, raising questions in Parliament about allocation of extra assets to air defence on the south coast. The Luftwaffe only had up to 28 aircraft at any one time operating during the 15 month tip and run campaign, but with attacks along a 1,300km coastline, and insufficient antiaircraft guns for home defence; their tactics of negating the radar cover with low fast attacks, forced the RAF to mount standing patrols to counter the threat. These assets were thus unavailable for better use. However these attacks came back to haunt the Germans in the last years of the war as from 1943 onward, all RAF fighters had to have the capacity to carry bombs, and in northern Europe, the Typhoon carrying rockets or bombs became the ground attack aircraft par excellence.

It was during this time that Mum and Dad met in Exeter, when he interrupted an American GI dancing with her and then invited her for a drink at the Old Ship Inn (a favourite haunt of Sir Francis Drake when on shore leave). The rest, as they say is history!

The south west was an armed camp at that time with the US 29th Division based at Plymouth and Ivybridge and with Exmouth hosting the 4th (Ivy) US Division. The US forces had their beach landing training centre at Woolacombe in North Devon (Still used by the Royal Marines today) and Slapton Sands, between Plymouth and Torbay in the South Hams, had the notorious distinction of seeing more US casualties suffered during their training for Utah beach, than were suffered on that beach on the actual landing. 

The allied air-forces were equally very active in the surrounding countryside, with Exeter, and Dunkeswell providing bases for these aircraft and saw the launching of the US Paratroops on the eve of D Day. The men of the British 6th Airborne Division  were busy practising their attack plan for Pegasus Bridge on a bridge with similar characteristics just outside of Exeter close to RAF Exminster, a story I referred to in a post back in June 2013


Mum & Dad pictured in happier times
Today you would be hard pressed to imagine Exmouth and my home of Devon as part of the front line in World War II, but with a little bit of research and observing the various monuments about, that mark the events of just over 70 years ago, you quickly come to appreciate the understated activities of a previous generation.

If you are interested in knowing more about this little known air campaign in WWII, I cannot do better than recommend "Luftwaffe Fighter Bombers over Great Britain" by Chris Goss et al which has a comprehensive coverage of the attacks and the Luftwaffe and RAF forces deployed during that time. The text is accompanied by many pictures including the incredible combat shots taken by Wenger using his personal camera from the confines of his cockpit. It is amazing to see FW190's wheeling over South Coast towns, some of which I am very familiar, and seeing the smoke rising from their attacks.

Sources used in this post:
"Luftwaffe Fighter Bombers over Britain"- The Tip and Run Campaign 1942-43 by Chris Goss, Peter Cornwell and Bernd Rauchbach combined with family reminiscences that relate to the book.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line Cavalry

The Regimento del Rey, charge General Laval's German Division at Talavera
Spanish Army of Estremadura
3rd Division: Major-General Marquis de Portago
1st Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Antequera Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Light Infantry
Imperial de Toledo - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
Provincial de Badajoz - Militia Infantry
Provincial de Guadix - Militia Infantry

Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line

La Romana
The story of the Rey Cavalry Regiment's involvement in the Peninsular War starts before the war had begun, when in May 1807 it was part of a picked formation of the best troops Spain had to offer her ally at the time. This Spanish division was under the command of Pedro Cara, 3rd Marquis of La Romana and was destined to join an allied force assembled in Hamburg to lay siege to the Swedish garrison of Strausland.

Spanish Corps of la Romana, l4 May l807 (number of battalions)
Princessa Infantry Regiment (3)(2,282)
3/Guadalaxara Infantry Regiment (l)(778)
Asturias Infantry Regiment (3)(2,332)
2/Voluntarios de Barcelona (light infantry)(l)(l,240)
del Rey Cavalry Regiment (540)
del Infante Cavalry Regiment (540)
Almanza Dragoon Regiment (540)
Foot Artillery (270)
Horse Artillery (89)
Train (68)

It was whilst the contingent was in Hamburg that the Suhr brothers produced their famous pictures of the various Spanish units, including the Rey Regiment

Officers of the Rey Regt(left) and Engineers(right) pictured in Hamburg
In the year that passed with their movement to Northern Germany and later into Denmark, the relationship between Spain and France changed from allies to mortal enemies with the rising in Madrid in May 1808.  In what reads like a Bernard Cornwell novel, the Spanish contingent were spirited away from their former allies, by the Royal Navy, when it had been confirmed that the troops wished to be returned to Spain, to join the war in ridding their country of Napoleon and his imposed regime.


La Romana's Division was landed at Santander on the 11th October 1808, where the infantry immediately marched to join the Army of Galicia as its new 5th Division, whilst the cavalry headed down to Estremadura to gather new horses.

In December 1808, the Rey are listed with the Army of the Reserve in a poor state; 
Dragones del Rey 29/35/l50/l6l** , ** Numbers are officers, NCO's, soldiers & horses.

On the 28th March the Rey are shown as part of Cuesta's army at Medellin alongside their cavalry colleagues from La Romana's Division, the Infante and Almanza regiments. With a total strength of around 3,200 cavalry between eight regiments and an average of 400 men a piece, it seems likely that the Rey regiment were back up to strength. The battle was not one of the Spanish cavalry's best days and with 8,000 casualties and 2,000 prisoners lost to Marshal Victor's French army, they and the rest of Cuesta's force found themselves outside Badajoz looking to rebuild and prepare to advance with the British under Wellesley.

Battle of Medellin

It was at the forthcoming battle of Talavera that the Rey regiment was able to retrieve some of the lost reputation that Spanish cavalry had drawn to itself with its numerous failures; causing it to be distrusted by its own infantry and British allies alike.

Talavera - The Spanish cavalry are positioned behind Portago's Division by the Pajar, when Laval attacked in the afternoon
Under the command of Lieutenant General, The Duke of Albuquerque and in support of General Portago's 3rd Infantry Division, the regiment with a reported strength of 3 officers and 348 men (Spanish sources, WSS Magazine - not sure the number of officers looks right!), led by Colonel Don Jose Maria de Lastra managed to take advantage of the heavy fire that greeted the German troops of General Laval as they made their second attempt to take the redoubt at the Pajar de Vergara. The German troops had fallen into disorder from the fire they received and the charge by the Rey regiment hit the Hessian and Frankfurt battalions in the flank as they tried to regain their composure.

Colonel de Lastra was wounded in the charge, and his lead was taken over by Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Valparda, as the charge rapidly broke the forward momentum of General Leval's division and compelled it to withdraw for a second time.

The after report by General Cuesta about the action makes vivid reading
"......Captain Don Francisco de Sierra gained much distinction by taking a cannon while vanquishing its defenders; Ensign Don Pablo Cataneo, of 16 years of age, slew four Frenchmen, and all officers and men of the regiment manifested proof of its valour and discipline."

Andrew Field, in his account of the charge, states that
"The Hessians and Frankfurters were ordered into square. However, they were unable to do this before they were successfully charged by the Regimento del Rey (the King's Regiment), who sabred many (before they managed to fall back to the relative safety amongst the olive trees)........the Spanish cavalry also managed to overrun a battery of artillery that was struggling to move up in support of the infantry attack. Four guns, three from the Baden battery and one from the Hesse Darmstadt battery, were captured and dragged back to the redoubt by Lieutenant Piniero. In this charge the Frankfurt battalion lost an officer and thirteen men killed, and five officers, including the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Welsch and sixty four men wounded."

My Regimento del Rey are composed of the excellent Spanish cavalry from AB, and the unit completes the Spanish force detailed to support the artillery position at the Pajar de Vergara.

Sources referred to in this post
Wargames Soldiers & Strategy Magazine, Issue 50 - The Battle of Talavera 1809
Talavera 1809 - Osprey, Rene Chartrand & Graham Turner
Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain - Andrew W. Field

Next up, pictures of General Portago and his force as a whole and then a few Spanish skirmishers, casualties and the gunners that manned the Pajar redoubt.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Provincial de Guadix - Militia Infantry

The Surrender at Bailen by Jose Casado del Alisal, Museo del Prado
Spanish Army of Estremadura
3rd Division: Major-General Marquis de Portago
1st Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Antequera Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Light Infantry
Imperial de Toledo - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
Provincial de Badajoz - Militia Infantry
Provincial de Guadix - Militia Infantry

Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line

The Provincial de Guadix is the second battalion of militia and the final unit of infantry in General Portago's 3rd Spanish Division at Talavera.

The City of Guadix is in the province of Granada in Southern Spain on the left bank of the River Guadix and on an elevated plateau among the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

The Provincial de Guadix can trace their involvement in The Spanish War of Independence right back to the heady days of July 1808, when the whole of Europe was stunned with the news that for the first time a French army had been defeated in the field at the Battle of Bailen 16th -19th July 1808, something that hadn't happened since the days of the Revolutionary Wars.

Battle of Bailen

General Dupont
That French army was commanded by General de Division Pierre-Antoine, comte Dupont de l'Etang, a veteran French commander who had served with distinction at Valmy, been a senior aide at Marengo, had prevented the escape of the Austrians at Ulm in 1805 and had distinguished himself again at Friedland. Clearly the right man to march into Adalucia and cow the locals into submission!

Areas of interest in the story of the Provincial de Guadix, prior to Talavera
As part of Mariscal de campo Felix Jones' 3rd Division, the Guadix Regiment and been part of General Castanos' main force advancing behind General La Pena's advanced guard that came up behind Dupont's army and compelled the French to lay down their arms (see the map below).

3rd Division: Mariscal de campo Felix Jones
Cordoba Infantry Regiment (l,l06)
Valencia Infantry Battalion (359)
Campomayor Infantry Battalion (800)
Provincial de Burgos Infantry Regiment (4l5)
Alcazar de San Juan Infantry Regiment (400)
Provincial de Plasencia Infantry Regiment (4l0)
Provincial de Guadix Infantry Regiment (459)
Provincial de Sevilla Infantry Regiment (267)
Provincial de Lorca Infantry Regiment (490)

In January 1809 following the collapse of the Spanish position on the River Ebro and Napoleon's triumphant entry into Madrid in December 1808, the Provincial de Gauadix are at Cuenca as part of the Spanish Army of the Centre in General La Pena's Reserve Division with just 391 men left in the ranks. General Castanos had been replaced by the Duke of Infantado, following the defeat at the Battle of Tudela in November 1808. Infantado was to prove no great an improvement in command, losing nearly half his forces at the Battle of Ucles on the 13th January 1809 to Marshal Victor and ending up being chased into Murcia.

Battle of Tudela
Battle of Ucles

The remnants of Infantado's army was reinforced and commanded by General Cartaojal who recommenced threatening Madrid from the south whilst, following orders from the Supreme Junta, sending 5,000 men into Estremadura to reinforce the army their being formed under General Cuesta. It would seem that the Provincial de Guadix was part of that reinforcement.

On the 21st of March 1809, the Provincial de Guadix are one of the eight battalions under Lieutenant General Del Parque's 1st Division under General Cuesta at Medellin now back up to strength with 755 all ranks.

lst Division: Teniente general Duque del Parque as on the 21st March 1809
4/Reales guardias espan~oles (l)(850)
4/Reales guardias Wallonas (l)(300)
Jaen Infantry Regiment (2)(879)
Osuna Infantry Regiment (2)(895)
Tiradores de Cadiz (l)(600)
Provincial de Burgos (l)(5l0)
Provincial de Guadix (l)(755)

The Medellin Campaign area
With a force of 15,000 men, Cuesta had pushed Lasalle's French cavalry back up the River Tagus valley, destroying the bridge at Almaraz and forming a line on the high ground south of the river. Lasalle was forced to fall back and await the arrival of Marshal Victor's force fresh from its victory at Ucles and under orders to advance on the Portuguese border to support Marshal Soult's invasion of that country from the North. On the 15th of March 1809, after crossing the Tagus at Talavera and Arszobispo, Victor's forward scouts found Cuesta's right wing at the Ibor Gorge. After a stiff fight this position was abandoned by the Spanish and Cuesta's army fell back to the south via Trujillo, to unite with the 5,000 men detached from Cartaojal. Now with a force of 20,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry and 30 guns Cuesta advanced on Victor's position and his 13,000 infantry, 4,500 cavalry and 50 guns at Medellin

The French and Spanish armies faced each other between the towns of Don Benito and Medellin, with their flanks covered by the Rivers Hortiga and Guadiana. Holding a central reserve of infantry, Marshal Victor concluded that the French cavalry would not be able to turn the Spanish flanks and thus ordered his army to advance on the enemy looking to exploit head on attacks under favourable circumstances.

Colonel Carlos Carabantes leads the Provincial de Guadix Militia Infantry
The French advance commenced at 11.00am and as the two armies drew closer, General Latour-Maubourg sensed an opportunity to exploit was presented and ordered the 2nd & 4th Dragoons to charge Del Parque's position only to be badly shot up by the Spanish artillery which stood its ground.

With the failure of this French attack, Victor was forced to concede ground on his right flank causing his centre and left to fall back to maintain their line. Halting on higher ground, the divisions of Henestrosa and Del Parque were soon face to face with Latour Maubourg's men and attacking their artillery support.

The French dragoons charged, which prompted Cuesta to order his own cavalry to counter-charge. The Spanish cavalry failed miserably to rise to the occasion, falling back and leaving their hard pressed comrades in the infantry , including the Guadix Regiment, exposed.

On the French left, General Lasalle, who had seen the success of the French cavalry on the right flank, simultaneously launched his own cavalry into the attack, driving of the Spanish cavalry to his front and rolling up the Spanish line from their flank and rear. At the close of the battle nearly 8,000 Spanish had been killed and a further 2,000 made prisoner, with the additional loss of nine colours and 30 guns, for the loss of just 1000 French.

The Provincial de Gaudix fell back to the walls of Badajoz with the remains of the Army of Estremadura to rebuild and recoup their losses in time for a new campaign in the summer. They had experienced the highs and the lows of Spanish fortunes since the start of the war and their surviving soldiers were true veterans.

As with the Provincial de Badajoz Regiment, I have gone for the brown faced red look, but to illustrate the great choice we have in 18mm ranges have modelled the Guadix using the Warmodelling regular Spanish, with muskets at the advance or port. In addition, I decided to add in a few fatigue capped veteran members, who remember the surrender at Bailen. The figures look great alongside the other units, which are AB, and add the variety to the look of the division as a whole. The Colours are from GMB flags.

Sources consulted for this post
Spanish Militia Uniforms 1808
The Peninsular War Atlas - Colonel Nick Lipscombe
History of the Peninsular War, Sir Charles Oman

Next up, the last unit that supported General Portago's division at Talavera, the Rey or King's cavalry regiment together with the General himself and pictures of the force as a whole.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Provincial de Badajoz - Militia Infantry

Next unit in General Portago's Division at Talavera was the Provincial de Badajoz, one of two militia regiments in the division.

Spanish Army of Estremadura
3rd Division: Major-General Marquis de Portago
1st Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Antequera Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Light Infantry
Imperial de Toledo - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
Provincial de Badajoz  - Militia Infantry
Provincial de Guadix - Militia Infantry

Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line

The militia regiments in the Spanish army were, in the main, one battalion regiments and would under the 1806 uniform regulations have been dressed similarly to the regular infantry in a white uniform with red facings on collars, cuffs, lapels and turn-backs. However I was really interested to see Asku's post on his blog GeMiGaBoK, see link below, which suggests that, as in the illustration header, many units went to war in brown jackets.

I quite like the fact that the militia had a lot of units dressed this way as I intend to use it as a way of clearly identifying my militia units from the white coated regulars and so, unless their is a clear reference otherwise, will use this feature to define my Spanish army

The first reference I have of the Provincial de Badajoz is in September 1808 as part of the Army of Estremadura under General Galluzo

Spanish Army of Estremadura - September l808
Commanding Officer: Teniente General D. Jose Galluzo

lst Division: Mariscal de Campo Conde de Belveder
4/Guardias Espan~oles
Granaderos provinciales
2nd Mallorca Infantry Regiment (2)
2nd Catalun~a Infantry Regiment (l)
Tiradores (l co)
Total Infantry (4,l60)

Volontarios de Espan~a (Cavalry) (360)
lst Foot Artillery Division (92)
lst Horse Artillery Division (62)
l/2 Sapper Battalion (254)

2nd Division: Mariscal de Campo Juan Henestrosa
4/Guardias Walonas
Badajoz Infantry Regiment (l)
Voluntarios de Valencia y Albuquerque (l)
Voluntarios de Zafra (l)
Total Infantry (3,300)

lst Hussar Regiment (298)
lst Foot Artillery Division (92)
lst Horse Artillery Division (94)
l/2 Sapper Batatlion (254)

3rd Division: Mariscal de Campo Francisco de Frias
Trujillo Infantry Regiment (l)
Provincial de Badajoz
Voluntarios de Merida
Voluntarios de Serena
Total Infantry (3,580)

2nd Hussar Regiment (300)

In September 1808 the Army of Estremadura was part of the Spanish national mobilisation following the Madrid uprising in May and the defeat of Dupont's French army at Bailen in July. The French occupation army had fallen back to behind the Ebro and the Central Junta was directing the forming of the various Spanish armies. These various armies were organised and gradually followed the French to the Ebro with the Army of the Centre under Castanos and Galluzo, Blake's Army of the left composed of troops from Galicia and Asturias and the Army of the Right under Palafox and Vives.

Galluzo's force was tardy in its arrival alongside Castanos, not arriving until October, with the blame being laid at the reluctance of the Provincial Junta in Seville to release the Estremaduran troops for the national cause.

With the inability of the Central Junta to appoint Castanos as overall Spanish supreme commander and thus coordinate a Spanish offensive on a weak French army, the initiative swung back to the French and with the arrival of Napoleon in November and significant reinforcements the Grande Armee numbered over 350,000 men. The French offensive was a masterpiece in swift manoeuvre and the line of the Ebro was soon  pierced.

The Army of Estremadura now under the command of a headstrong young aristocrat, the Conde de Belevedere, following the recall of Galluzo to answer charges by the Supreme Junta, was caught and badly defeated at the Battle of Gamonal (Burgos) (see the post on the Badajoz Volunteer Infantry Regiment). The Provincial de Badajoz as part of the 3rd division failed to move up in time to join the rest of the army and so were spared the worst of its results.

The complete destruction of the Spanish armies was averted with General Sir John Moore's campaign, drawing the bulk of Napoleon's forces away into the Galician mountains as he was pursued back to Corunna.

The Army of Estremadura, was back in its home province by the spring of 1809, facing off against the French forces south of Madrid under Marshal Victor. Like their comrades in the Badajoz Volunteers, we see the regiment included in the order of battle for Medellin in March 1809 under General Cuesta, where they were involved in the defeat by Victor.

On the 4th of April 1809 they are shown with a strength of 500 men and with the Army of Estremadura, forced to retire on their home city, Badajoz, to "lick their wounds" and prepare for the upcoming campaign with a new British army, into the Tagus Valley and the retaking of Madrid.

My Provincal de Badajoz Regiment is composed of figures from AB with my Colours from GMB Flags. As a single battalion regiment I have given the Badajoz Militia two Colours, the Coronella and Ordenanza, alongside Colonel Montoya.

References and sites consulted for this post includes:
Spanish Militia Uniforms 1808
The Peninsular War Atlas - Colonel Nick Lipscombe
History of the Peninsular War, Sir Charles Oman

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Talavera - New Table

With the completion of the Casa de Salinas play tests, the Talavera game plan moves on to the next two scenarios, which take place on field of the main battle.

Night Attack scenario map
The night and dawn attacks made by Marshal Victor on the 27th and 28th of July were focused on French attempts to gain control of the feature that dominated the battlefield, the Cerro de Medellin.

Dawn Attack scenario map
I thought I would set the table up as if I were doing these two games as stand alone scenarios, and thus I have just set up the terrain for the northern half of the French and Allied lines.

The contours shown are 100 foot intervals, with the Medellin above and overlooking the lower height of the French position on the Cerro de Cascajal.

These are my contours constructed as per the map and they are taped together and then pinned to the foam board that underlays my gaming mat. To smooth out the levels into a more realistic slope, I simply place a heavier felt cloth over them before replacing the mat over the top.

The next stage is to lay out the road and Portina brook, with the brook being pinned to hold the mat down in the bottom of the valley between the two slopes, thus emphasising the gradient. In time I intend to add a few rocky outcrops to capture the rough terrain, particularly on the Medellin.

Fighting the battle in 18mm means that I can include the northern valley when we do the full battle, and using a few strategically placed areas of broken ground to show the treacherous nature of the terrain, should anyone think of planning a reckless cavalry charge, I have again been able to pin the bottom of the valley floor.

Nestling on the lower northern slope is the ruin of Valdefuentes Farm, with the lower slopes of the Sierra de Segurilla bodering the northern limit of the valley, where Bassecourt's Spanish infantry operated in the afternoon of the 28th July.

Looking from the French end of the northern valley, the rolling terrain effect can be easily seen

The top of the Medellin has two specifically placed little rough ground markers behind which is the military crest, should the British chose to step back and avoid the worst of any French artillery fire.

The Salamanca road snakes alongside the Portina stream indicating the forward position of Langwerth's and Low's KGL brigades

The two markers indicating the military crest line, centre left
I really enjoy setting up a new table and trying to capture the look of a given battle, and there is a feeling of excitement when the map gets translated into the terrain. With the orders of battle needing some slight adjustments and the figures in the tin ready to go, I just need to get some dates arranged to play the next scenario, Night Attack - Talavera.

Next up the Badajoz Militia