Big games are what excite me most about Napoleonic wargaming! The planning, the deadline to finish some new toys, the excitement, the drama and the scale of the spectacle all combine to provide a weekend which can't possibly meet the unrealistically high expectations I set for them, surely? Well this time Rich had stepped up to the mark and done all the work for us, so all I had to do was turn up with the right toys and play the game. What luxury!!!
We booked a 16 x 6 foot table for two days at Triple Helix Wargames near Westbury, Wilts. We then booked another 6 x 4 to put boxes and books on, dead toys, drink & lunch. Great venue, many thanks to Steve, Charlotte, Tom & most of all to Adrian for opening up on Sunday to let us play & waiting on us hand and foot, you are a star Sir.
Chris was unexpectedly off courting so I was to play the French on my own against Rich and Tony as the Brits in the Peninsular. However there was no time for a leisurely lunch and siesta with a flagon of Rioja in the shade. I was tasked with conducting rear guard action against both Wellington and Picton with a sea of redcoats and some local Iberian talent. Yes Rich had cast me as Joseph Napoleon at Arinez some miles west of Vitoria on 21st June 1813. Luckily for me I was playing defensively with the French as handling such a large formation in an attack would have been beyond me. As it was holding a ridge and then conducting a series localized counter attacks with late arriving reinforcements over two days was quite enough for my work wary brain and frazzled nerves!
|Looking south from the crossings on the River Zadorra towards the ridge & village of Arinez in the far distance.|
|The first Brigades of Picton's force cross the Zadorra. The flimsy foot bridge simply marks the ford.|
|Wellingtons first brigade deploys across the Zadorra with rifle armed skirmishers to the fore.|
The "folds in the ground" didn't seem as prominent on the day as the photos now reveal.
For a while it looked as if the Brits might just walk into my position and we could reset the toys and start again. Everything went wrong for me...My light cavalry brigades covering the right were shot to bits by skirmishers from across the river Zadorra and eventually both regiments broke under frightfully accurate skirmisher fire. Then a battery run out of ammo just as Wellington began to sort out a charge, then the Italians decided to retire from Arinez and finally General of Brigade Monquary(?) was shot. Luckily he was taken to the rear, given a stiff drink and Sent back for more - I think I needed that brandy more than him! Things weren't all bad, two big charges were seen off with four enemy columns unformed or faltering - maybe a better general would have fitted bayonets and charged down the hill to rout them. My view was that we weren't even half way through a two day, 20 turn turn game and a counter attack now might be locally successful but cost me a lot more long term - who knows?
|Picton stalls in front of the guns and the log jam begins to grow.|
Down at Arinez my reinforcements began to arrive, a brigade of three battalions of Spanish conscripts, a Spanish light cavalry brigade with 2 regiments of conscript hussars led by an "excellent" general, (crazy dice) and a French cavalry brigade with two Dragoons regiments on inferior mounts led by a "poor" general - Vive etc! Despite all this we held on.
|"Log jam" - we have grid lock! Note the pesky skirmishers on the left, - they have already dispatched one Regt Hussars!|
Picton/Rich was struggling with how to get so many troops to attack quite a small area of ridge without artillery support. The guns were stuck on the north side of the river with the hookers and hangers on, (not so daft). However he had got a frightful amount of men over the river including six, yes six, regiments of light cavalry.
|Wellington urging his men up the ridge - he wasn't afraid of a frontal assault when needed.|
Wellington was happily taking pot shots at the redoubt and the ridge line eventually causing one Swiss battalion to be pulled out of the line before it got serious. However, behind the front lines he was moving towards Arinez with more than just a tourist's curiosity...
|The British commanders looking for a way through. They had all the toys but just couldn't make it count, yet...|
|What a predicament! The position was undone! French and Bavarian units started to rout which created the space for more British units to climb the escarpment and chase them down.|
|The last intact French battalion on the northern end of the ridge prepares to cover the retreat of its fellows as Redcoats occupy their former positions.|
|Arinez is reinforced and my attack is about to launch. Note Spanish hussars circling in the far distance.|
Day two to follow shortly.