Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Reading on the Great Procession #3 1805 Tsar Alexander’s First War with Napoleon.

More book reviews I’m afraid, at least until later in our tour of India. We’ve been to Mumbai and Goa and are presently in Bangalore where it’s a beautiful 31 degrees Celsius. Once the wedding celebrations are finally over we head further south to Mysore, en route staying at a jungle lodge and then on to Cunoor. We were planning on coming home on 20 March but we have a flexible ticket so may well (will) extend our stay for a few more weeks. I also have the Burrowers’ 2023 campaign to plan and get rolling ready for my return.

One of Helion’s recent publications caught my eye; ‘1805 - Tsar Alexander’s First War with Napoleon, the Russian Official History’, originally published in 1844 by Alexander Ivanovich Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky and translated for Helion by Peter Phillips.

The Austerlitz campaign has always been a big attraction for me. The author used original military and diplomatic documents plus witness testimonies (always my favourites) to create a comprehensive and by no means partisan account of the campaign. The original has been sensitively translated, providing us with an immensely readable book, beginning with the causes of the war and a description of the condition of the opposing armies, plus the various political activities of the key national players.

The campaign itself, from Kutusov’s initial advance, the disaster at Ulm, and the numerous actions fought during his subsequent retreat are covered in detail, as is the lead up to the battle of Austerlitz. The battle itself is described clearly and one might almost forget that this is a work translated from the original Russian; it make easy yet absorbing reading, best done with pen or pencil hand for note taking. The narrative of the battle is broken down into manageable and informative sections, such as the defeats of the Russian Guard and later of Langeron and Przhibyshevsky. The book also includes subsidiary theatres of war, such as in Hanover and the Mediterranean.

The book includes eight maps of the theatres of war and of the various stages of the battle of Austerlitz together with the order of battle of Kutusov’s corps. All in all this is an honest and comprehensive history of the campaign, and contrasts and complements very well the myriad of other books available on the topic.

Highly recommended and a great addition to the ‘From Reason to Revolution’ series.

ISBN 978-1-915113-85-6 151 pages, paperback.

Monday, 6 March 2023

Reading on the Great Procession #2 ‘More Like Furies than Men’


More Furies Than Men’ is one of the latest books in Helion’s ‘From Reason to Revolution’ series. The exploits of the Irish Brigade in the service of France during the close of the seventeenth and most of the eighteenth centuries are well known and documented, yet this new study by Pierre-Louis Coudray takes us deep into the heyday of the brigade using many previously unused records from French, British and Irish sources. The book also examines the decline of the brigade in the service of France at the beginning of the French Revolution and how many of the officers and men joined new regiments raised by the British to pursue the war against the Revolution. Others stayed loyal to France and the new republic but were regarded with suspicion and many met a grisly end as a result. Many of those fighting under the British flag were to face disease and death in the West Indies.

Much of the book is devoted to the battle of Fontenoy, arguably the brigade’s high water mark. Casualties were high, and suitable recruits and replacements hard to come by, a critical issue discussed at length by the author. The use of many first hand accounts and correspondence adds as always adds a degree of intimacy, and particularly poignant are the letter from senior brigade officers pleading to be utilised in continuing the war against a common foe.

The book is well illustrated with a great many contemporary black and white images, nine pages of colour plates depicting the changing uniforms of the brigade, a contemporary colour map of Fontenoy and also contains an extensive bibliography.

To conclude this surely is a must for anyone interested in the Irish Brigade from its creation to its demise. Highly recommended.

ISBN 978-1-914059-82-7 206 pages, paperback.

Reading on the Great Procession #1 - The Battle of Rocroi, 1643.

This new book from Helion in their Century of the Soldier series is a remarkable re-examination of this iconic and, as suggested by the research of author Alberto Raul Esteban Ribas, potentially misunderstood battle between superpower rivals Spain and France on 19 May 1643. After his excellent previous book for Helion ‘The Battle of Nordlingen’ this latest, ‘The Battle of Rocroi 1643’ analyses the common-held myths surrounding the battle using a vast amount of French and Spanish primary and secondary sources, as detailed in the extensive bibliography.

The book is well written and an engaging read. I couldn’t claim to know much of the detail of the battle but after finishing the book (on a 13-hour train trip from Goa to Bangalore) I now have a much better understanding of battle and events relating to it., and Mr Ribas’ conclusions certainly bear thinking about and put events in a new light.

The author takes us through the political and military background, the armies of France and Spain, the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself, outcomes and repercussions. The final chapter is the author’s analysis of the battle, which you will have to read yourselves and perhaps come to your own conclusions or agree with his.

As ever with Helion books of this quality, it is full of contemporary black and white illustrations, several very useful maps showing each phase of the battle and eight pages of specially commissioned colour plates by Sergey Shamenkov depicting the officers and men of both armies. Lastly the two appendices detail the orders of battle of the French and Spanish forces which will be especially handy for wargamers among the readership.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the battle and the later Thirty Years’ War.

ISBN 978-1-915113-97-9. 168 pages. Paperback.

I’ve brought quite a few books with me to review and plan to do so as we continue our travels.

Thursday, 23 February 2023

Wedding photos

 A couple of pictures of my step son Homi and his bride  Shara’s wedding. Parsi ceremonies are much shorter than Hindu ones and involve lots of meat products and booze!

The cake was 12 kilos of cheese we brought over from the cheese stall in Durham market!

Yes that’s me at the back in trad Parsi clobber. The reception is this evening at the Parsi temple. Only about 700 guests expected!

Tuesday, 21 February 2023

Mumbai Monday

A few snaps from today’s jaunt around Mumbai.

The ceiling of the main railway station.  Gold leaf  decoration. 

Inside the RC cathedral

Mother Theresa sat here. I had to shift an old biddy out of the way to get the photo 

View from Malabar Hill over the bay and the Arabian Sea.

The Dhobi Ghat. Amazing hive of activity.

Inside the RC cathedral

Cannonball tree at the hanging gardens on Malabar Hill.

It’s stepson’s wedding ceremony (part #1) this evening. Parsi weddings are a little less OTT than Hindu ones. No elephants or grooms on horseback thank goodness. Looking forward to it.

More soon.

Monday, 20 February 2023

Another trip down Route 1866

Last Saturday the Burrow was home to a capacity crowd with nine of us playing another 1866 Austro-Prussian War game using suitably amended Picket’s Charge rules. (Thank you Neil).  Dave, Richard, Ivor and myself were the Prussians while Nigel, Shaun, Mike and John H were the Austrians. Neil adjudicated.

The scenario was simple. One Prussian division with a cavalry brigade attached was deployed on the table. Another infantry division commanded by yours truly and more cavalry would arrive around midday (real time) somewhere along the baseline. ALL the Austrians (a full corps of four brigades plus heavy and light cavalry) were permitted to start on the table. They had to move fast if they were to drive the invaders back (again!) before enemy reinforcements arrived. 

Here are some pictures and a brief narrative of the game, in more or less the right order as I lost track of what was going on in the centre and on the right once my troops arrived.

The Prussian high command. 
The Austrian CinC looking unconcerned at the sight of the Prussians deployed  to their front.
The Prussians refused their left and held the centre weakly with a small North German infantry brigade, the cavalry, and the divisional artillery, while a brigade of solid Prussian infantry held the right.

The Saxon brigade on the Austrian left.
The Prussian right and beyond the thinly held centre

The Austrians massed their infantry in the centre but they were unable to take advantage of their superiority in artillery due to the congestion in front of it. 

Enthusiastic Austrians in storm columns
Two North German battalions facing a brigade of Austrians bearing down on them. No pressure guys!
On the Prussian left my leasing brigade had marched up the road into a maelstrom as they were facing another Austrian infantry brigade and a brigade of light cavalry.

Richard’s cavalry in the centre wisely kept out of the way.
More Austrians….

The Austrians just keep on coming.

The Prussian centre was only held by a thin line of guns.

Mike’s cavalry ready to pounce on my brigade in march column. I wouldn’t have chosen to join the battle in this formation but the scenario rules I created forced me. Doh!


The central Prussian brigade faltered as the enemy pressed home their attack. Thankfully they passed the test and carried on.
Mike threw his cavalry and infantry towards my Prussians. Despite being caught in march column every Austrian attack was bloodily repulsed. That result seemed very wrong but as my units were well supported and I threw much better dice than Mike the Austrians were destroyed or forced to retire beaten.
The right wing of the Prussian army advanced against the Saxons facing them.

Saxons on the Austrian left. 

Storm Columns
The Saxe Altenberg battalion engaged in the centre.

In order to buy some time in the now crumbling centre Richard launched his cavalry against the advancing Austrians. A brave sacrifice indeed.

Austrian artillery. The Austrians weren’t able to make very good use of their artillery as they were crowded out by the massed infantry columns in the centre. Austrian doctrine called for the artillery to be brought into action as soon as possible.

Mike’s Austrians attempted to halt my brigade as it marched up the road. Again march columns prevailed over the assault columns. Mmm?

Another futile charge by the Prussian dragoons in the centre.

The Austrians pressed on in the centre.

Cuirassiers and Uhlans of the Reserve Cavalry made a late entrance to the fight. Too late to influence the outcome.

We called a halt at this point due to running out of time (4pm and we’d been playing for about five hours). The outcome was technically a draw - neither side had achieved their objectives although I suspect that when the remaining Prussian reinforcements arrived they would be able to push the Austrian right wing back; the Austrian and Saxon troops on their left had already been pushed back so the centre was at risk of being enveloped, given time and a few good dice rolls.

A tremendous game I thought which everyone seemed to enjoy. Some useful lessons learnt for next time as well and a very few anomalies need tweaking eg march columns, and maybe the skirmish rules we’ve imported from GdA need a minor adjustment. The poor Austrians don’t get ANY brigade skirmish screen bases as they didn’t use them; the j├Ąger can skirmish but in reality they were used as elite shock troops and frittered away.

This is my last game until I’m back off holiday in India at the end of March. Can I survive Seven weeks without a game or without painting anything?