Sunday, 12 March 2017

Walking Waterloo (Off Topic #25)

As part of my ongoing special birthday celebrations my daughter paid for me to spend last weekend staying in Hougoumont on the Waterloo battlefield. The farm has recently been renovated and the Landmark Trust has created a self-catering apartment on the top two floors of what was once the gardener’s cottage.

My companions on the trip were Andy and our respective wives and we arrived in the dark after a fairly gruelling drive from Scotland. I immediately perked up however on parking the car by the famous south gate of Hougoumont and taking in the atmosphere. We were the only people there (the caretaker was on holiday) which added to the magic as I set about exploring the courtyard by torchlight.

All I can say is I had a fantastic time and Andy and I managed to complete a short circular tour of the battlefield next day taking in La Haye Sainte and La Belle Alliance. I took quite a few photos and here is a selection of the most interesting ones.

Me outside the south gate of Hougoumont. This is the door used to get to the self-catering accommodation in the apartment above in what was the gardener's cottage.
The same place on a slightly busier day.

The living room in the Landmark Trust apartment. The standard of accommodation was surprisingly good although in common with all Landmark Trust properties there was no TV or Wi-Fi
The view from our bedroom window in the gardener's cottage looking more or less southeast towards the French lines. You can almost hear the drummers beating the pas-de-charge.
The view from the first floor (kitchen) looking down on the courtyard of Hougoumont. The white building on the right is the chapel.
The gardener's cottage from the courtyard. The guest accommodation covers the whole top floor and attic.
The north gate from the courtyard. The famous gate where the French managed to break in briefly before the gates were heroically shut and the intruders wiped out by the garrison.
The monument to the British defenders of Hougoumont.
This is the chapel - the only remaining part of the Chateau that must have dwarfed the courtyard before its destruction on 18 June. What surprised me the most about Hougoumont is how small an area it actually occupied.
The memorial to the Guards on the chapel wall.
This is a view to the south of Hougoumont looking from the direction of the allied lines. It struck me just how isolated the garrison was from the rest of the army and they must have really felt it when the place was surrounded by smoke, noise and the French.
A few hundred yards to the northeast of Hougoumont there is a foot path that leads towards the Lion's Mound and the visitor's centre. This path follows the crest of the ridge marking the front of the allied line. To my companions this was just a muddy field but to me this was an amazing place to be - the same ground walked on by men like Mercer and Maitland, the ground that 1,000's of cuirassiers rode over, the ground that the Imperial Guard attacked but failed to take.
To the left of the path the reverse slope of the ridge falls away quite steeply (it doesn't really show up in a photo) and would have provided relative safety to troops deployed behind it. It must have been a huge shock to the front ranks of French cuirassiers to have crested the ridge and seen the allied squares waiting on this ground.
A boyhood dream come true - Mercer's battery once stood here, I first read of his exploits in 1970!
A plaque dedecated to Mercer's troop of the RHA.

The Lion's Mound - a controversial monument built in 1826 for the Prince of Orange. The Duke of Wellington visiting in 1828 is said to have exclaimed "They have altered my field of battle!". Well, I'm with the Duke on this as its construction wiped out the sunken lane and reduced the height of the ridge.
The recently built visitor's centre is excellent and a must on any visit. It has been cleverly constructed under ground and blends sympathetically into the landscape - unlike the Lion's Mound.
There are some great life size mannequins displaying Napoleonic uniforms - really useful for finding out what some of those odd accoutrements are that are modelled on wargame figures.
Next to the visitor's centre is the Panorama displaying a 360 degree painting of the battle completed in 1911. I've seen some of the images from this painting before but it was quite something to be able to look at the whole thing. This section shows Marshal Ney I think.
A view of La Haye Sainte from the top of the Lion's Mound (yes I did climb all the way up the bloody thing but had to stop several times and pretend to be enjoying the view -  I did wonder if Belgian paramedics refuse to attend for tourists having heart attacks at the top of the 225 steps).
The path in this picture marks the crest of the ridge we'd just walked on viewed from the mound (looking towards Braine L' Alleud). The ground to the left is where the French cavalry and later the Imperial Guard would have advanced.
This is La Haye Sainte from ground level (coming down 225 steps is easier than going up them). Interesting to see how it is in quite a dip when viewed from the allied lines.
At this point Andy and I continued on our circular walk by ourselves whilst the ladies retired to Hougoumont to prepare dinner for us. This picture shows the ground to the east of La Haye Sainte looking towards the French lines. This is the ground that D'Erlon advanced over and there is a substantial dip in the middle (again the photo does not really show it). This would have been hard going on muddy ground. This is also where the Scot's Grey's made their charge.
La Haye Sainte looking down the road (now very busy) in the direction of La Belle Alliance.
The gate of La Haye Sainte - looks just like my Airfix model.
Andy and I pressed on towards La Belle Alliance but it was raining quite hard and starting to get dark by the time we got there. It looked to me as if the place was empty although it had clearly been a restaurant quite recently. Nice business venture for someone?
We headed back across the battlefield towards Hougoumont (and dinner) but this time on the French side of the lines. From this perspective the land looks deceptively flat and I could see how the French might have thought Wellington's position was weak.
This is a close up of the the field on one side of the track. The mud is very gloopy and this combined with the gradient up towards the allied line must have been a serious problem for the attacking French. No wonder no flanking moves were attempted on 18 June.
Having sampled just a bit too much red wine apres-battle tour Andy and I decided to set out in the dark to look at a monument in the grounds of Hougoumont. We scaled the garden wall like brave grenadiers and set off through the field however we weren't expecting to see the Lion's Mound lit up like some sort of giant spaceship. It was so impressive we had to go back and get the ladies, even they were a bit impressed although they thought we were stupid scaling the wall rather than just opening the gate (we thought it was locked).
Having forced everyone to spend a day walking Waterloo it was only right that we spent the next day in Brussels - something Napoleon never managed to achieve.

If any of you want to suggest to your own daughter that they pay for a similar trip then full details can be found on the Landmark Trust website – click here.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Unit histories

Not much happening here on the painting front as all the Hinton Hunt’s, brushes, paints etc are packed away in preparation for an imminent move north of the border.

Meanwhile though, I have taken the opportunity of a spare couple of hours to update the unit histories pages on the blog. I’ve added an entry for each of my infantry units and updated those I’d already done to include their exploits at Vintage Leipzig (my two most recent unit additions are not listed as they have yet to see any action).

Follow the links from the side menu or click below.

French infantry
British infantry
Allied infantry

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Musketeer Regiment No 4 Hoch-Und Deutschmeister

It’s taken a year to finish them but here they are at last the Musketeer Regiment No 4 Hoch-Und Deutschmeister painted as per the Hinton Hunt painting instructions. My original intent had been to have these ready for Vintage Leipzig but that ship has long since sailed.

For the record the figures are:

AN.7 Musketeer, marching x 17
AN.5 Musketeer, firing x 2
AN/25 Hungarian musketeer, firing (painted as Austrian) x 1
AN.1 Officer, charging (DK) x 1
AN.6 Officer, marching x 1
AN.9 Standard bearer (Clayton) x 1
AN.2 Drummer (DK) x 1

The marching figures are all reproductions however the firing figures are very nice vintage castings. The Hungarian is hiding in the middle of the base of three firing figures (if you’ve been trying to spot him).

I haven’t altogether enjoyed painting this unit as you may have gathered by the time its taken, although I did have to break off to paint all those Prussian cavalry last year. However I’m please with the result now they are finished and based up. Next I need to paint an additional 6 Jager figures to bring my Tyrolean’s up to strength.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

85e Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne

I feel slightly guilty that I hinted a few posts back that I would be slowing down a bit on this project because as a result The Archduke immediately offered to paint a unit for me. Now as you know I have units in my collection painted by various talented Hinton Hunt aficionados so I wasn’t going to pass up such a chance to swell the ranks. As I’m short of French troops I thought another unit of fusiliers would be just the ticket, so here they are.

This unit will represent the grizzled veterans of the 85e Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne who have an impressive list of battle honours (Ulm 1805, Austerlitz 1805, Eylau 1807, Friedland 1807, Essling and Wagram 1809) and also took part in the battle of Waterloo. I quite like the irony that a unit painted by the Archduke's own hand had such a significant part in thrashing the Austrians.

All the figures used to make up this unit are vintage ones. The rank and file are FN/5 Fusilier (charging) and the command figures are FN/1 Officer (charging), FN/4 Colour bearer (charging), FN/6 Drummer (charging).

My thanks to Nigel for equipping these splendid reinforcements and for helping to reduce the lead pile by a further 24 figures.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Back to warm woollen mittens

You may recall that I began the year with a bit of an Austrian theme going but then got diverted into painting Prussian cavalry. With Vintage Leipzig out of the way I thought it would be a good idea to try and complete the Musketeer Regiment No 4 Hoch-Und Deutschmeister and with luck I’ll have them done by Christmas.

I’ve just finished the command group which consists of 2 officers, 1 drummer and a standard bearer. I’ve got a real mix here of vintage, Clayton and DK although I can’t remember which is which as the figures are currently stuck on bottle tops and I can’t check the bases. The flag bearer is of course easily identified as the Clayton one.

I’m not particularly good at painting flags free hand (as is clear from the photo) and in fact when I got out my 51st Gabriel Spleny Regiment for the recent game I felt compelled to re-touch their flag as it was pretty poor (for some reason I’d completely missed out the white). This one is a bit better although a tad on the impressionistic side however from a gaming distance it looks quite alright especially if I take my glasses off.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

They’re all Greeks to me

Although I’ve been interested in wargaming since I was twelve years old I’ve never really dabbled in the ancient period. I did have quite a few Romans and Britons when Airfix first released them but I never replaced these with any metal figures when I entered my ‘serious’ wargaming phase. I may have been put off by playing a game with one of my school friends who insisted on pushing heaps of Airfix Robin Hood figures around the table alleging they were Carthaginian veteran spearmen. I think if you can’t be bothered to stand the toy soldiers up you really shouldn’t be playing wargames at all.

AG/7 Officer waving sword
AG/10 Hoplite thrusting with sword
AG/11 Hoplite thrusting with spear
AG/13 Hoplite marching

As a result of this I don’t know very much about the various Ancients periods and was certainly made to feel a bit inadequate when observing WRG competition games back in the 80s. The games didn’t look like much fun and always seemed to be small scale affairs rather than the large pitch battles I imagined from my limited knowledge of Hannibal, Alexander and Caesar. About ten years ago I did buy a copy of Warhammer Ancient Battles which looked more like the sort of rules I might enjoy to play. I even painted up a few 28mm Carthaginians (and based them so they stood up!) but not long after this I was seduced by the Hinton Hunt’s and Hannibal’s lads were boxed up and forgotten.

Now some of you may not be aware that Hinton Hunt actually did produce a range of 20mm Ancient figures. It wasn’t a very big range but covered Greeks, Persians, Romans and Celts so when this lot came up on eBay last week I couldn’t resist particularly as nobody else bid on them. It’s a nice little batch of figures as it includes one of each type of Greek figure released. Not much use from a wargaming point of view as this really is a tiny army however it’s really interesting to see them as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Vintage Leipzig (Conclusion)

By now Blucher was developing his attack towards Leipzig on the north table. Here Saxon's defend the outskirts of the city whilst 3 battalions of Young Guard newly arrived from the reserve bolster my line.
This is another view of the Poles advancing towards Schwarzenburg's line. As I was absorbed in my own sector of the battle by this time I never really did find out what Poniatowski's plan was - if indeed he had a plan!
Augereau's men press forward in an attempt to capture Connewitz (right of photo) which by this time had fallen to the Austrians. It looks as if the ranks of the 105th ligne are a little disordered.
Schwarzenburg's white coated steamroller has come to a halt content to let the Poles advance and do their worst. I have to say that Roy's Austrian army is most impressive.
An unusal occurrence - Russian hussars catching a French battalion out of square. I don't know how this encounter ended but as the infantry are disordered I'm thinking that the cavalry must have got the better of them.
The hand of Napoleon attempting to command the Russians to run away. I don't think they were taking any notice however.
The French are still hanging on to Markkleeberg but by now both the other villages were firmly in allied hands.
The Austrians again - I found that my eye was constantly drawn towards them! The outskirts of Leipzig (south) can be seen top left of the photo however Schwarzeburg's decision not to advance further meant the city was spared.
Blucher's line presses in against my flank at Leipzig (north). Over half of the Army of Silesia was comprised of Landwehr battalions but they behaved well during the battle and I don't think a single unit routed.
In the centre of the French position on the south table my very own 45th ligne and 9th legere are about to enter the fray against the attacking Russians. Good luck lads!
Back on the north table Bernadotte had outflanked me on the right and taken the village of Sellerhausen. There was a lot of excited dice throwing by now as the two sides traded vollies of musketry. Those 6's look useful.
Ex Wargames Holiday Centre Landwehr with obligatory over-sized metal flag from Roy's collection. These troops last saw action at Vintage Waterloo.
These are the Poles again. Somehow Poniatowski has hooked up with a unit of hussars - I'm not sure it is the business of a corps commander to join in with cavalry charges.
The Austrians in Connewitz - it doesn't look as if this unit has taken a single casualty in securing the objective.
More of the fighting around Connewitz. A cavalry melee rages in the distance whilst French infantry prepare to wrestle the village from the Austrians.
And what of that cavalry melee on the left flank of the south table? As you can see, yet more French reserves have been committed this time Guard Chasseurs-a-Cheval (FN48 horse attached).
A view along the French line towards Markkleeberg. Both the troops and the players are starting to get exhausted now.
Blucher is making progress towards Leipzig - yes that really is a French battalion routing.
The centre of the south table - Austrian cuirassiers appear to be seeing off French cuirassiers. Hopefully those carabineers will have something to say about this.
So where are the Old Guard? Well for all the use they were in this game they might as well have gone back in time to the 1960s. Here are 2 battalions propping up the Poles. I don't think a single guardsman became a casualty during the whole battle.
Try as they might the French just could not take Connewitz. You can see that both the 105th ligne and the Swiss have taken a lot of casualties in the attempt and both are now disordered (yellow marker).
More of the French attack on Connewitz as the battle reaches its climax.
Now what did I say about the proper place for a corps commander during a battle? If Ponitowski puts spurs to his horse he might just make it to the banks of the Elster before those Austrian dragoons get there.
Marmont's flank under immense pressure from Bernadotte but still holding out in square.
The centre of the French line at the end of play. Markkleeberg has now fallen to the Russians and with all 3 villages in allied hands the game was declared a marginal victory for the allies.
Shwarzenberg (left) and Augereau (right) taking a moment to reflect on the days events.
The north table at the end of play - the view from behind Bernadotte's lines looking towards Leipzig in the distance.

My thanks to all the players for making it such an excellent and memorable game and once again to Roy for providing the venue, most of the troops and a truly magnificent lunch!