Friday 30 June 2017

Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland 1799 - The Wargame

Today saw the fruition of quite a few months of planning for a large French Revolutionary War battle between myself and my friend David Bickley ( using our not inconsiderable collections. David had arranged with Dan of Wargames Illustrated to use the games room on the premises they occupy with Battlefront Miniatures. We set the game up yesterday afternoon after what for me was a tortuous journey down from Durham which took four and a half hours through torrential rain and heavy traffic. Anyway, thanks to my stalwart, wife Katherine we made it and set the game up in no time.  

Not everyone will know about this totally obscure and ultimately pointless campaign of 27 August to 19 November 1799 during the War of the Second Coalition, in which an expeditionary force of around 30,000 British and Russian troops invaded the North Holland peninsular in the Batavian Republic.

The campaign had two strategic objectives: to neutralise the Batavian fleet and to promote an uprising by followers of the former stadholder William V against the Batavian government. The British sought assistance from Russia’s Czar Paul who agreed, probably/certainly influenced by a fair bit of cash, to send a corps to join the British in this venture. True to form the British didn’t really have a plan, and according to Fortesque, didn’t even know, or couldn’t agree, where to invade, beyond the general objective of ‘The Netherlands'. They eventually chose to land on the windswept low lying North Holland peninsular. It was a good choice as it was close to the Dutch navy’s anchorage. It was a bad choice as the land was flat, criss-crossed with dykes, was inundated with standing water, (and where it wasn't, was extremely sandy with high dunes,) had few roads, and invaders could be easily contained and prevented from moving south towards Amsterdam.   

The invasion was opposed by a combined Franco-Batavian army of approximately equal strength. Tactically, the Anglo-Russian forces were successful initially, defeating the Batavian defenders in an amphibious landing by the British at Callantsoog and later a joint French/Batavian army at Krabbendam, but subsequent battles went against the Allies, for example Bergen and Alkmaar. Following a defeat at Castricum the Duke of York, the Allied supreme commander, decided upon a 'strategic withdrawal' to the original bridgehead in the extreme north of the peninsular to await evacuation by sea. An agreement (a 'convention') with the French commander, General Guillaume Marie Anne Brune allowed the Allies to leave unhindered. The campaign had partly succeeded in its first objective, in capturing a significant proportion of the Batavian fleet (which to a large extent willingly surrendered).

The campaign is interesting for a number of reasons. I've mentioned these in an earlier post but its worthwhile repeating them. When they finally agreed on where to land, the British army successfully conducted an opposed amphibious landing onto the beach at Callantsoog. This was led by General Ralph Abercrombie who was a year or two later to carry out an even more hazardous but impeccably executed landing at Alexandria.  Many of the British regiments contained a significant number of drafted-in Militia and Fencibles , were short of officers and were thought by the likes of Moore to be barely trained to a standard suitable to be sent on campaign (indeed he even refused to take one of the battalions of his brigade overseas with him it was in such a poor state).There were exceptions, e.g. the Guards and Major General not yet Sir John Moore’s brigade (2/1st Foot, 25th Foot, 49th Foot, 79th Foot and 92nd Foot) but the quality of the British infantry was certainly not as good as it had been in the American Revolution and would become in theNapoleonic War. The English commanders included such 'notable' figures as the Duke of York, John Moore, Ralph Abercrombie, Eyre Coote and others. There were a fair few numpties like Harry Burrard, Lords Cavan and Chatham and HRH Price William to balance things out. Liaison between the Allies was pretty ineffective, contributing to the failure of the campaign and the ultimate evacuation, and was not helped by the fact that the Russian commander managed to get himself captured along with his second in command. Few if any of the Russians ever saw their homeland again as neither the British or Russians were able or willing to take responsibility for their repatriation, and they spent months, strike with disease and lack of supplies, languishing and forgotten in the Channel Islands as nobody was able or willing to take responsibility for them. Some bright spark in the government had even suggested sending them to Ireland, but as one rebellion had only just been put down it wasn't thought wise to provoke another!

This game is representative of the sort of problems that faced the Allies, with the Franco/Batavian army defending dykes and entrenched in villages, poor terrain and few roads. The objective was for the Allies to capture both towns and the interconnecting road in order to force the French and Batavian army to retreat, thus giving the Allies some room to manoeuvre  and advance out of the peninsular.

There were around 40+ battalions of infantry, 17 units of cavalry and 5 or so batteries of artillery on the table, and a ship offshore.  The French were from David's collection and the Allies (with the exception of a squadron of light dragoons and a late reinforcement of English infantry which  were David's) were mine. The big town, windmill and sloop were David's and I provided the rest of the terrain. We used Black Powder. On to battle.
 The armies drawn up for battle.

 The French took up position behind the dyke,
 while the Allies formed up in a far from organised way before commencing their attack.
 H.M.S. Truncheon, a brig of the Royal Navy, provided some much needed off-shore artillery support to the Allied right flank, while transports and larger Men o'War stood further out to sea.
The French left, with a brigade of cavalry preparing to advance over the bridge. The telegraph station is making urgent requests for reinforcements and the battery in the earthwork prepares to take pot shots at the Brig.
 The British contingent with the Duke of York on his hill to the fore.
 The French in the centre looked pretty menacing, to me at any rate!
 The town, lightly held by the French.
 The French CinC takes time to stop at the bakery for a baguette.
 David's lovely town.
 The Allies moved first. It didn't start well. One Russian brigade threw a blunder and headed off to the left flank. General Moore's brigade also threw a blunder and raced for three moves across the table to the opposite side of the dyke to the French! Every other brigade in my army, (yes, EVERY!) failed their command roll and remained immobile. Oh bugger I thought!
 The French countered this unexpected surge of redcoats by threatening their flank with cavalry, forcing three battalions into square where they were to remain for several turns.
 The other French cavalry on this flank advanced down the beach and charged my light dragoons, breaking them. The French then made the mistake of following up into a fresh unit of English cavalry and were forced to retreat. I didn't follow up as it would have exposed me to the fire of a French horse artillery battery.
 In the centre the Russians advanced piecemeal towards the French who had crossed the dyke.
 The Guards move slowly up in support of Moore's brigade. Supported by two british light guns they were able to drive off the French cavalry, enabling their comrades to form back into line.
 The Russian jager battalion steadfastly refused to advance and then blundered to the rear! The French occupied the town with their cavalry and moved two regiments across to my side of the dyke. The Russian cavalry charged, driving off both enemy units, one of which had been caught in column.
 The Russians in the centre were disintegrating, and although the French advance was stalled one Russian brigade lost two battalions broken and two more shaken and was forced to withdraw shattered.
 A large hole appeared in the Allied centre. The British (in particular the Scots) were grimly hanging on as I managed some pretty well-timed saving rolls which prevented them from destruction.
 The navy was effective in bombarding the French left.
 Causing the French hussars pictured above to break off and retire.
 The French cavalry brigade was shaken and had to retreat, along with its integral horse artillery.
 The British cavalry advanced and in the following turn charged the French, driving off the hussars and destroying the artillery which were caught limbered behind the hussars.
 Back on the Allied left the Russians have finally got moving and have driven the remaining French cavalry off, occupied the town and crossed the dyke.
 There was still a large hole in the Allied centre.......
 HM 92nd were forced to retreat shaken, but were rallied the following turn. HM 79th were hanging grimly on but were also forced to pull back, but a rout was avoided by some nifty saving throws on my part. The next turn French dragoons burst over the dyke and hit the 92nd in the front. (I have introduced a rule that British infantry charged to their front where their flanks are not threatened by the chargers do not HAVE to try and form square and can take a chance they will drive the enemy off. What worked 40 years earlier when cavalry charged the front of formed infantry should still apply imho). The French dragoons survived the closing fire but were destroyed in the close quarter fighting that followed.
 The remains of Moore's brigade was unable to exploit the destruction of the French cavalry and the garrison of the town as the most of brigade had by now become shaken and it was forced to retire. The Guards however were moving up to their rear and would soon be in a position to take the town unopposed.
 The French in the centre were reinforced but hoped for reinforcements did not arrive while more English (albeit 2nd rate ones) had arrived and more were due, landing on the beach.
 The Russian hussar regiment did not move a single millimetre the entire battle as they failed every command roll! Such a pretty unit too.
 The French were by now hemmed in. Both flanks were broken and both towns occupied by the Allies, thus controlling the road. With reinforcements a long way off and the centre crumbling the French commander ordered a withdrawal. 
 The French very very nearly broke through in the centre but just ran out of steam and luck.
 Russian artillery, one of only two batteries on the Allied side (plus the contribution from the RN). Despite a serious pep talk from me they were quite ineffective throughout the entire battle.
 At last the jagers advanced (now that the enemy had fled) and covered the Russian columns and cavalry as they formed up on the French right flank.
The French withdrew, abandoning their camp to the attentions of the rampaging Cossacks, who had been conspicuous by their lack of action during the battle.
Duncan MacFarlene entered into the spirit of the game with his bespoke T-shirt.

So, it was a cracking game, and a hard won Allied victory. I managed SIX blunders in seven turns while the French threw two, so I am surprised at the result.  I was very lucky with my saving rolls which compensated for a dismal showing when it came to getting my troops moving, as I was with winning the 'dice offs' in turns  5 and 6 which determined who was reinforced. As I mentioned earlier, this was a large game with 60 units or thereabouts in roughly 19 brigades on the table, but we rattled through with only a short lunch break and some pauses for photographs to get a result in a little under five hours of actual play. 

Much thanks must go to Dan of WI for arranging for us to use the facilities and for looking after and feeding us so well during the course of the day and a half we were there, and to Jamie who made us several cups of coffee and took dozens of photos which will appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine. Special thanks to Duncan for also looking after us and keeping us right with the rules. Everyone was especially helpful in lugging numerous heavy boxes of figures up and down the stairs as well.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our time as guests of Wargames Illustrated. The game was relaxed yet very challenging, and received a great deal of attention and positive remarks from everyone there. Our evening in the hotel was also really nice as we put the world to right and talked about our obsession with the most wonderful hobby. We've been invited back next year for another game as well. Seven Years War next time.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Rozamunde von Reusch

I commissioned my friend artist Chris Gregg to paint me another of his hussarettes, but this time a lady dressed in the uniform of Hussar Regiment No.5 Von Reusch from the Seven Years War.

I am very pleased with the final result, especially the winking deaths head skull on her mirlton.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Big game this week

On Thursday I shall be in Nottingham at Wargames Illustrated HQ to play a large French Revolutionary War game with my mate David Bickley. We're actually setting up on Wednesday afternoon and are staying at the Village Hotel which is right next door.  It has a spa and a big pool so my long-suffering driver, er....wife will be happy.

We've been talking about a game for ages but the logistics of getting me in the North East and David in the West Midlands together is a bit tricky, but David approached Dan from WI to see if he'd let us use the magazine's gaming area. There will of course (I hope) be a magazine article and hopefully lots of photos as a result of the 'deal'.

David and I have settled on a game based (very loosely) on the 1799 Helder campaign, solely because I wanted to get my Russians on the table, and they will be allied with the English, fighting a raggedy rabble of Frenchies and Dutchmen for control of the route to Amsterdam, hopefully without upsetting the mouse there on the stair in the windmill. (With clogs on).

No activity at all on the painting front as Ive still not unpacked from the AMG weekend. More on the 1799 at the end of the week.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

AMG17 weekend - a tale of two battles of Leuthen.

So, as both my readers will by now be well aware, last weekend was the AMG17 get together. I offered to put on a Seven Years War game, and after some discussion with Robbie, it was decided to stage Leuthen. Now, We've played Leuthen a few times at my house and it's never gone especially well for the Prussians, even on the occasions when they were victorious, so this was going to be a bit of a challenge.

The  Saturday and Sunday games were fought out with different players, with the exception of my lovely assistant Robbie who ended up (through choice I thought) commanding the Reichsarmee contingent and the Austrian left wing cavalry. The games could NOT have been more different in how they unfolded and in the final results. The terrain, buildings and all the troops were from my collection. We used Honours of War.

Prussian Army

C-in-C: Frederick II King of Prussia DASHING

Right Wing Cavalry:  GL  von Zieten DASHING (Lt-Gen)
GM Scipio Baron von Lentelus DASHING, on table
Cuirassiers                            5 x 12*
GM Czettritz DEPENDABLE, T1 behind Lentelus
Dragoons                                3 x 12
Hussars                                   2 x 12    

Left Wing Cavalry: off table SW short edge and enters after the right wing Austrian cavalry have exposed their flank, come within 30cm of Butterberg, or T5 on roll of 4-6 on 1D6 (+1 for each subsequent turn).
GL von Driesen DASHING
Cuirassiers                            3 x 12*
Dragoons                                2 x 12

Infantry Centre:
Advance Guard: GL Prinz von Wurtemburg DEPENDABLE
Grenadier Btns                                     2 x 36* (No battalion guns)
12pdr Battery                                       1 x heavy gun***

Independent units
Hussars                                   2 x 12

1st Line:  GderI Prinz Moritz von Anhalt-Dessau DASHING
Guard/Musketeer Btns                                    3 x 36*
Fusilier Btns                                                    1 x 36    
12pdr battery                                                   1 x heavy gun     ***

2nd Line: GL Frederick William Quirin de Forcade de Biaix DEPENDABLE (T2 right half of baseline)
Musketeer Btns                                     3 x 36*
Fusilier Btns                                          1 x 36
12pdr battery                                         1 x heavy gun***

****Artillery: Colonel Moller DEPENDABLE (T3 left/centre of baseline)
12pdr battery                     1 x heavy gun
Howitzer battery               1 x medium howitzer
Fortress battery                 1 x super heavy ‘Brummer’****

* superior troops
* *All line and the Guard battalions have battalion guns.
*** Deployed heavy artillery can be manhandled and moved to new positions after unlimbering but CANNOT limber up again.
*****the ‘Brummers’ are fortress guns. Treat as heavy artillery. Cannot move and fire.

Austro Imperial Army

C-in-C:  Prince Charles of Lorraine DITHERING
Assisted by FM von Daun DEPENDABLE (off table, 2D6 to recall – any double needed then he takes over command in D3 turns)

Right Wing Cavalry:  OFF TABLE TO NORTH WEST enter right of Leuthen T4
Gen der Kav Lucchesi DASHING
Cuirassiers                                         2 x 12*
Imperial Cuirassiers                         2 x 12**
GM Esterhazy DEPENDABLE T5 as above
Dragoons                                            1 x 12*
Cuirassiers                                         2 x 12*
Imperial Dragoons                            1 x 12**

Right wing reserve: GM Herzog von Arenberg DEPENDABLE
in column behind Leuthen.
Infantry btns                                     2 x 36 (no battalion guns)

Right Wing Infantry: FzM Kheul  DEPENDABLE (enter behind Leuthen in column T3)
Infantry btns                                     4 x 36 (no battalion guns)

Left Wing Infantry: FzM Colloredo DEPENDABLE (deployed in and around Leuthen)
Grenadier Btn                                               1 x 36 (no btn guns)
Infantry Btn ‘Rot Wurzberg’                        1 x 36* (no btn guns)  IN LEUTHEN CHURCH
Infantry btns                                                 2 x 36 (no btn guns)
Artillery battery                                            2 x 12pdrs* (on windmill hill)

Independent units
Hussars                                              2 x 12**

Reichsarmee Bavarians/Wurtembergers from Nadazdy’s Corps:  Marshal von Spiznatz  DITHERING (On table withdrawing to Leuthen)
Infantry btns                                                  4 x 36** (No battalion guns)
Grenadier btn                                                1 x 36  (no battalion guns)

Left Wing Cavalry: Gen der Kav Serbellini  DASHING (off table NE corner enter T2)
Cuirassiers                                         2 x 12*
Dragoons                                            2 x 12*
Marshal O’Donnell DEPENDABLE (off table NE enter T3)
Dragoons                                            4 x 12*

* superior troops;  ** inferior troops

Day 1: Saturday.
The Prussians were led by no other than Der Alt Fritz himself in the person of Jim Purkey, ably assisted by Chris Gregg (von Zeiten) and Tony Dillon (Forcade de Baix). The Austrians were command by Dave Hall (Lorraine), assisted by Robbie Rodiss (Serbelloni) and Gary Philips (Luchessi). I umpired and offered 'consultancy services' to the Prussians on occasion.

 The armies at the start. The Prussians have already driven off Nadasdy's corps and the Reichsarmee corps is in retreat towards Leuthen. The Austrian main line stretches off to the rear at 90 degrees to their baseline roughly where the windmill can be seen. More Prussians are on the way, and more Austrians will appear as they race from their positions in the original line.
 A Gypsy encampment in the woods.
 Do Kings **** in the woods? Frederick having a moment of thought accompanied by his staff before the battle.
 The Prussian hussars were  a great target for the Austrian guns on windmill hill and took some damage as they tried to avoid the rain of cannonballs landing around them! They chose to advance towards the Austrian hussars, seen above to the left.
 Von Seydlitz Hussars (HR No 7), the famous 'Red Hussars', venerable 1970's Hincliffe one-piece castings.
 In the distance Zeithen's cuirassiers are engaged with their Austrian foes under Serbelloni, while Czetritz's brigade holds back. In the centre Dessau's main body has pushed forward, driving back the Reichsarmee and to the right Forcade's command has entered the battle.
 The Prussian close with the Reichsarmee and Rot Wurtzberg which has left the safety of the churchyard for some reason.
 Leuthen church.
 Zeithen and Serbelloni's cuirassiers locked in combat.
 Behind Leuthen Austrian reinforcements pour onto the table.
 Zeithen's leading brigade under the splendidly name Scipio von Lentelus has been pretty much destroyed, so the reserve of dragoons and hussars has pushed forward to fill the gap.
 A conference. 
 Robbie and Dave laughing in the face of the Prussian assault!
 Lucchesi's cuirassiers enter the fray (two regiments each of Austrian and Reichsarmee troops)
 Der Alte Fritz himself moving the Prussian guard forward.
 Much of the Reichsarmee units and Rot Wurtzberg have been driven off and the Prussians are now fighting for control of the church.
 Prussian reserves moving forward in the centre.
 Colonel Moller's reserve artillery, together with guns from Wurttemberg and Dessau's commands.
 Von Driesen's cavalry had been hidden on the Prussian left, and they charged into the flank of the Austrian cavalry.
 Austrian reserves filling the streets of Leuthen.
 Lucchesi's cuirassiers swing round and threaten the Prussian centre, but dare not advance into the teeth of the Prussian grand battery.
 Meanwhile Esterhazy and Driesen's cavalry thrash it out on the Prussian left.
 Prussian grenadiers take possession of the church. It was to be a temporary occupation as they were bundled out the following move as a result of an Austrian counter attack.
 Prussian cavalry hit in the flank by Imperial cuirassiers.
More Austrian cuirassiers pile in against von Dreisen's depleted cuirassiers and dragoons.

At this point the Prussians conceded defeat. Their right wing cavalry had been pretty much demolished, taking much of the Austrian cavalry with it, and the left was struggling against superior numbers of Austrian cavalry. In the centre the attack had been repulsed, and although the Reichsarmee contingent had been crushed, the Prussian battalions had been ejected from Leuthen, were spent and in no state to fight the reinforced Austrian centre. We agreed that the Prussians would withdraw, covered by what was left of their cavalry and the heavy artillery, although to be fair the Austrians were in no fit state to mount much of a pursuit.

Day 2: Sunday

On Sunday we had a different cast, except Robbie who reprised his role of Serbelloni. Guy Barlow was Frederick/Zeithen and Steve Pearse played Forcade/Dreisen. We could've taken another player but everyone else was hooked into the other games. The Austrians were commanded by Angus Konstam, assisted by Mark Dudley as Lucchesi.

The Prussians adopted a totally out of the box approach to the battle, as will become apparent as this narrative develops.

 The armies deployed for battle.
 Austrian hussars advance on the open Prussian left flank.
 Wurtemburg's advance guard marches straight at the combined grenadier battalion to the side of Leuthen church.
 The Prussian hussars can be seen to the left of the wood, having been extracted from their exposed position in front of the Austrian artillery, where they are well positioned to counter any moves by the Austrian hussars. In the centre Dessau's brigade is forming a column of battalions to follow the grenadiers towards Leuthen, avoiding the church. Rot Wurtzberg have again left the safety of the churchyard to try and take the Prussian in the flank.
 The Reichsarmee battalions all shuffle to their left to counter the move of the second Prussian brigade under Forcade which has also marched to the right of the battlefield. 

 The Prussian infantry can be seen in the distance having redeployed to their right. The cavalry under Zeithen has not moved.
 The battle rages in the centre where the Prussians are assaulting Leuthen. Austrian and Prussian hussars clash to the left of the wood, the former being driven off and relentlessly pursued.
 Guy moved Czetritz's dragoons and hussars to the centre of the Prussian line, while the infantry readied themselves to take on the Reichsarmee battalions.
 Prussian grenadiers assault Leuthen. They break in, driving off the garrison and hold on for several moves before being expelled. The Austrians were unable to exploit their success and the Prussians brought up reserves to replace the shattered grenadiers in the town.
 IR 40 covers the flank of the Prussian attack. Rot Wurtzberg have been destroyed and there is now a massive gap in the Austrian centre which Angus was horridly trying to fill.
 The problem for the Austrians was that the Prussians had managed to assemble a grand battery of sorts in the centre which denied the Austrians any opportunity to counter attack in the face of so much artillery without taking unsustainable casualties. 
 Serbelloni's cuirassiers move up behind the Reichs contingent.
 Zeichens cuirassiers are held back in reserve as the Prussians didn't want to squander them needlessly.
 Guy's dragoons and hussars are now behind the gun line ready to emerge and fall on the Reichsarmee from the flank or continue their move to the left to counter the Austrian superiority in numbers in that sector.
 The Prussian assault, completely ignoring the church.
 The Austrian battalions emerging from the town were broken by a combination of artillery fire and later, musketry from the Prussians.
 The Prussians have been ejected from the town but will soon reoccupy it before the Austrians.
 Overview of the battle at the height of the Prussian attacks.
 The Austrians are feeding units into the town, only to have them driven back to reform.
The Prussian artillery continued to dominate the centre.

 On the Prussian right, the opposing cavalry have worn each other out in a series of melees and the Reichs battalions have collapsed. O'Donnell's dragoons have arrived to shore up the Austrian line but are immediately under fire from the Prussian guns.
 The Austrians have recaptured Leuthen again. (Well this part anyway).
 Meanwhile, on the Prussian left, the Austrian hussars have been driven off or in the case of the unit above are  about to be! Lucchesi's and Esterhazy's cavalry have appeared on the Austrian right.
 The fighting still goes on in the centre.
 The destruction of the Reichs contingent.
 Prussian dragoons emerging through the gaps in the gun line to counter the Austrian dragoons that are advancing to support the dissolving Reichs troops.
 O'Donnell's Austrian dragoons. Very pretty and cannon ball magnets.
 The Austrian cuirassiers sweep into the centre and charge the Prussians to the rear of the town. They close to contact but are driven off in pretty short order.
 The Prussian right seen from behind the church.
 O'Donnell's dragoons clash with the Prussians. One regiment managed to charge a battalion of Prussian infantry in the flank, but they in turn were charged in the flank by Prussian dragoons. In the very confusing fight that followed the Austrians were broken. The opposing cavalry then got down to it and despite an early success the Austrians were unable to exploit it and were driven off, a spent force.

The end. IR40 in the Prussian centre with nobody to fight as the Austrians all dispersed. At this point,  with Dreisen's cavalry appearing on their right, the Austrians conceded defeat. A great Prussian victory!

This was a clinically executed victory for the Prussians, and quite Frederickian as well. The decision to ignore the centre of the Austrian line, switch the infantry to attack each side of the church and hold the cavalry back (and redeploy some to the centre) was a smart move, although at the time both the Austrians and myself were a tad puzzled. The decision certainly avoided the usual mutual destruction of each side's cavalry wings in melee which has been the norm for this battle. The massed battery was also pretty effective and despite protestations from many quarters I am sure, was a perfectly acceptable move to make for a Prussian SYW army. Grand batteries were not the invention of Napoleon.

Two superb games. Everyone threw themselves into the games and I know enjoyed themselves. The rules worked well even with me having to take account of the slightly different interpretations of them by different players, and forgetting which rules were were even using at one point as I tried to enforce a decision based on Black Powder! It all worked very well. The banter was great. The sledging was furious and harmless. A true Fellowship of Gentlemen Wargamers! I was worn out I would do it again tomorrow. Indeed I shall be no doubt doing it again next year.