Wednesday 8 April 2020

French Revolutionary Wars campaign, battle at Hondschoote, turns 6 to 14

Apologies for the delay in posting Part Two of this game (Part One ici ). Well, things are hotting up! In fact they hotted up, gone to boiling point and are now on a gentle simmer in the old pressure cooker of wargaming. It’s been exhausting just playing the game solo at a leisurely pace so I could send updates and photos to each of the players involved in the game from afar. I tried as a rule to only sent photos to the players of what they or their ADCs could actually see, mostly at horseback level, although one of the French commanders has spent much of the battle at the top of a windmill. I bet the French was regretting not deploying his Aerostatier Corps prior to this game.  No helicopter or hot air balloon views for the commanders in this game which I do think has proved to be rather frustrating, which was the objective. (Cue evil laugh).

Since the last post I’ve finished the game and played turns 6 to 14, taking us in 'Campaign Time to 6.30pm on 4 September 1793. As the game is over and the commanders are already aware of the result, normal ('ish) commentary will be resumed. I will prefix each caption with an E or a W to indicate which end of the table the action refers to. If you’ve not already done so, it might help to refresh your memory of the event that unfolded in turns 1 to 5 here .
E. French light infantry working their way around the open flank of the Hanoverian  Guard.
W. French grenadiers, supported by several battalions of ex-regulars, have taken the Hanoverian position and overrun their artillery.
E. Houchard's attack against the Eastern end of the village, defended by several Hanoverian battalions. The latter are seriously outnumbered.
W. Seen from the Hanoverian position, the French have occupied the captured earthwork and are forming up for  an attack across the road.
W. The same location but this time from the French perspective.

E. The Hanoverian cavalry brigade has forced the enemy into square but even charges against unformed and faltering squares were bounced.

W. Jourdan's heavy artillery advancing, but finding somewhere to deploy is an issue at the moment.

E. As the French legere battalions ease around the flank of the Hanoverian line, a battalion of Hessian grenadiers from the reserve moves to stop them, which it does.
E. The Hanoverian Guard were engaged in a lengthy musketry duel with French skirmishers and artillery and were being slowly worn down.
The brigade facing the Hanoverian Guard must retire soon as its battalions are all close to breaking.

W. On the other side of the village the one of Jourdan's less enthusiastic brigades prepares to assault the Hessians. 
W. The Hessian jager have dispersed the French skirmish screen but the brigade still advances.

W. The same scene from the Hessian perspective.

W. An assault across the road by one of Jourdan's brigades is repulsed. The leading French battalion disperses due to  casualties.
W Jourdan's horse artillery has run out of targets as the dastardly Hanoverians are hiding behind the raised causewof the road.
W. Hessians holding the barricade across the road where Jourdan's attack yesterday faltered.
W. French skirmishers, the survivors of the brigade skirmish screen, take pot shots at the Hessian battery.
W. Hessian jager lurking in the undergrowth.

W. Jourdan's troop poised to attack the Hessians.

E. Meanwhile on the other side of Hondschoote Houchards division is pressing hard to overwhelm the outnumbered Hanoverians facing them. What the French didn't know at first was they were facing the Hanoverian Guards.
E. The Hanoverian Guards slowly being whittled down holding back the French, who are also attempting to  edge past their open left flank.
The Guards giving the French a pasting.
Finally after several hours of dithering Jourdan's cavalry brigade joined the fray.
French and Hanoverians face off across the road. The causeway is high enough to prevent either side seeing the other unless one elects to shoot.
E. The fictitious Polish Legion of the North supports the attack on the town.

E. Houchard's legere battalions have suffered badly. One battalion has already broken and can be seen the one on the right already carries nine hits!
Houchard's cavalry also make an appearance, and their attached horse artillery races forward to engage the Guards.

W. Looking from the North. The Hessian brigade holding the road leading northwards out of Hondschoote.
The Representative of the People urges two battalions of volunteers to attack down the road, still carpeted with the French dead from yesterday's failed attack.
E. Houchard's dragoons take advantage of a dicey situation for the Guards. The Guards failed their Discipline Test so were unable to form square. Battered and unformed they were ridden down!
E. A rather pointless advance by the Hanoverian Lifeguard sees of the Polish skirmish screen but makes no impression on the square.
E. Sadly an exposed Polish battalion was charged in the rear by Hanoverian cavalry and broken. To be honest I'd forgotten about this battalion as they'd shimmied off to the left to avoid more punishing fire from the Guards. They were ridden down.
W. On the road the Volunteers survive a truly awful volley from the Hessians and make it into contact. They force their way over the barricades and push the Hessians back into the town.

W. Jourdan takes a chance and attacks the Hessian fusiliers exposed on the wrong side of the hedge. The French are forced to retreat with heavy casualties.
E. Meanwhile the victorious Hanoverian cavalry get to 'Charge On!' and hit another battalion of Poles, breaking them also. Sadly for the Hanoverians this puts them too close to Houchard's artillery who blow them to Kingdom Come the following turn. Back in the box!
E. The victorious French dragoons also charged on into the flank of the second Guards battalion, who are miraculously also ridden down.
E. They repeat the trick against the final battalion in the now much reduced brigade, who were formed up behind half completed gabions and easy prey for another flank attack. The Hanoverians are broken and the entire Guards Brigade has been destroyed.

W. Jourdan charges the Hessian battery.
W. Despite heavy casualties to the French the battery is overrun and the guns captured.
W. Another attack against the Hessian fusiliers gets into contact but fails to make any impression on the enemy.
E. Houchard looks on, making good use of the windmill to get a better view.
W. The Hussars du Mort charged recklessly across the road into a retreating Hanoverian battalion and rode over it.
W. In the same turn the two volunteer battalions, flush with their successful charge down the road turned onto the flank of the Hanoverians. One battalion failed and was dispersed, while the other forced their opponent to retire.
W. The Hessians have pulled back behind the hedge as the loss of the battery caused them to be faltering. Luckily they were forced to retreat, but they didn't break.
E. French horse artillery cover the withdrawal of two brigades of French infantry , or what was left of them.
The Hanoverian infantry brigade threw low so it was Sauve qui Peut for them! Covered by  Hanoverian cavalry.
The victorious Hussars du Mort. Weren't going to risk anything silly at this stage.

I called the game at that point. I'd played 14 turns over three days, and it went pretty well and was actually really good fun. Both armies were terribly battered thanks to a stout defence by the Hanoverians and some unlucky dice rolls for mainly the French but also for their foes. Again we had turns where the availability of ADCs was almost zero, and some horrible shooting dice (or great if you were the target) left the enemy unscathed. It was clearly a French victory but they were in no fit state to pursue. Two of Houchard's brigades were demoralised, and another had each of its battalions down to the last hit they could take before running. The Volunteer battalions were pretty untouched, likewise the cavalry and the artillery, but the cavalry didn't pursue as they were busy looking the Hanoverian Guards' tents and billets. Joubert had a faltering brigade and another that had been faltering on two occasions during the game but had come through both tests ok. It was fragile to say the least. Joubert's cavalry was still a force to contend with although not against Hanoverian cavalry even after this battle, but his artillery had taken some punishment, especially that caused by throwing really low several times and racking up approx 4 fatigue casualties on the horse company alone!

Given the state of the armies.....well I can't really say without giving even more secrets away, other than to say the French were in no fit state to pursue especially when the Hanoverian cavalry was almost intact. By comparison to the French brigades referred to above, the Hanoverians only had their cavalry under orders and and in good shape. The Hessians had to withdraw North off the table, which they did except for one battalion that was captured en masse in Hondschoote. The Hanoverian brigade withdrew south'ish covered by the cavalry, and no doubt joined by survivors from the Guards.  The French plan was sound but things just didn't roll their way enough, and the Hanoverian (& Hessian) defence was solid, until it all just crumbled at one.  For added fun I diced for commanders to see if anything happened to them during the rout/retreat. This resulted in the Hanoverian General Diepenbruck and the Hessian von Buttlar coming to sticky ends while the Duke of Cambridge, commanding the Hanoverian Guards, had been captured when his command ran away. None of the French were lost as they didn't do any pursuing.

Many thanks to the players for being on hand to respond to my emailed sit reps, questions and photos each turn.  It worked really well and I definitely felt that I wasn't just playing it solo by myself. I hope the photos and the narrative made enough sense to follow the game and anyone reading this will have enjoyed the experience.

Throughout the battle I was also feeding the relevant French commanders and the Anglo-Hanoverians and other Coalition commanders of other stuff "brewing" in their locale. For example, the French garrison in Dunkirk made a sortie to upset the English left to hold the almost complete siege works.

In campaign terms we have by the time this is published, started on September 5th. Some interesting developments and trouble brewing in a few places...... (cue evil laugh).


  1. Great game, nice AAR, and as always love your collections. I love the campaign context to it too. Plus I'm glad to see a French victory.

  2. Well done on organising this Colin as it looks to have been a great scrap and a challenge, in the nicest sense of the word, for all involved.

  3. A great report! Epic, intense and bloody...We are just at the beginning of this period on our club, and watching this kind of battle that encourages us to continue...Splendid units!

  4. Thanks for brightening my isolation! I really enjoyed working through that!

  5. Lovely and a ton of work to write up, which is appreciated.