Friday, 28 November 2014

The Assault on La Belle Josephine: Part Two

Continuing from my last post, the story of the attack on Fort La Belle Josephine.
Lt. Jackstaff supervises the disembarkation of the Royal Marines.
At the rising of the sun, the inhabitants of Grande-Bourg on the small island of Marie Galante awoke to the rare spectacle of a French ship-of-the-line and two frigates anchored offshore, and the unloading not the usual stores for the plantations, but rather boatload after boatload of armed men, cannon, and shot. 

The Emperor's army had arrived.

Their commanding officer, De l'Ague, knew that he could ill-afford every minute that it took to complete the disembarkation. It had been reported that the British navy had reached the island almost simultaneously, anchoring well over a three-day's march further up the coast. 

There they were seen putting ashore their own landing force with the object of taking La Belle Josephine, the vital fort that controlled the surrounding seas leading to the main island of Guadeloupe.

Aboard the 74-gun flagship d'Haupoult, Commodore Troud was hurrying about in a highly-agitated state, urging his men to more haste and constantly scanning the horizon for any sign of a dreaded white ensign.  The Royal Navy could be counted on to get their own troops ashore with a well-practiced efficiency; once this was completed their own commanding officer, Admiral the Lord Keelhall, would be certain to raise anchor and continue on to seek out the French squadron.

So for Commodore Troud it was imperative that the soldiers and their equipment get ashore quickly, and that his squadron once more set sail. For the French navy to be caught in harbour at Grande-Bourg would mean certain defeat and destruction.
"Plus vite!  Plus vite!"
De l'Ague had agreed with Troud that as soon as his men were ashore, the ships should return immediately to the shelter of the powerful defenses of Pointe-a-Pitre harbour in Guadeloupe.

The French commanders had gambled all on success here on Marie Galante.  Their control of Guadeloupe depended on a decisive victory; if the British seized La Belle Josephine, they would then have access to the harbour at Grande-Bourg, and a secure base from which to bottle up the French squadron at Point-a-Pitre.   

And there was the very real possibility that the Royal Navy might intercept, engage and take the French ships as they tried to make for the safety of Guadeloupe; De l'Ague had little faith in the likelihood of a French victory over the Royal Navy in any action at sea.

In either eventuality, De l'Ague's force would find itself marooned on the island, leaving its commander facing a stark choice; either surrender to the British, or see his men waste away from the effects of tropical miasmas and starvation.  This would mean the certain loss of the entire French colony, as Paris had made it clear that it would then cut its losses, and in no way commit any more troops or resources to the its defense.

By nightfall the French landings had been completed, and at sunrise the following morning they bid adieu to their navy, as Troud made his way in haste back to Guadeloupe. They were barely in open water when De l'Ague set his troops off northwards along the coast, all of them heartily glad to be on dry land once again. 

La Belle Josephine lay north of the settlement of Sainte-Louis.  In the heat of the tropics, it was a two-day march to Sainte-Louis from Grand-Bourg.  On reaching Saint-Louis the French force halted, exhausted from the heat of the march and its exertions of the previous three days since their landings.  They remained at Sainte-Louis for a day; there they prepared hot meals, refilled their canteens with wine from the local taverns, and awaited any news of the progress of the British force from local fishermen.

Thus rested, they then continued on their way, eventually bivouacking in an open field at the Anse de Mays. From here, the fort was a mere three-hours march away, but such was the heat they were unable to go on any further.

For a brigade of infantry, with all its guns and supplies, to continue on during the hours of darkness along narrow and unfamiliar jungle paths was not an appealing prospect with the enemy reportedly nearby.  To make matters worse, the first cases of fever had appeared among the ranks.

*****

And nearby the British indeed were, although not as in such close proximity to the foe as they would have liked. 

At the same time Troud was anxiously pacing his quarterdeck in Grande-Bourg, Lord Keelhall had anchored his force off l'Anse Bois, some distance north-east of Saint Louis and the fort.  

Approaching La Belle Josephine within sight of its heavy guns was of course out of the question.  But a landing within a day's march of the fort had been impracticable for reasons both of the heavy surf and fickle tidewaters.  L'Anse Bois was chosen for its sheltered and wide beach, and was very suitable for such a landing to be made. 

However, it would mean a march of up to two days for the force to approach the fort from the landward side. But it would have to do.
l'Anse Bois- the British land in force
Once the British troops were all ashore, Lord Keelhall immediately raised anchor and set off in hot pursuit of Troud and his squadron, which was by this time itself now setting all sail possible in its dash back to the relative safety of Pointe-a-Pitre.

Command of the landing force had now devolved to Col. Lord Bayley Campion Whitelocke (half-brother of the ill-fated general who had commanded the disastrous Buenos Aires expedition three years earlier).
The British hold an inspection prior to getting into march order as they prepare to move out.

Whitelocke rested his men for the night, and the next morning assembled his force into order of march.  He had detachments of the 60th Rifles scout out the land, their captain accompanied by a Royal Navy non-commissioned officer, who in peacetime had been well-acquainted with the island through working on a merchant ship that traded in the region. 

This man had remembered talk of a narrow road that led through jungle and plantations past the hamlet of Cambrai and on towards Sainte-Louis.  
"What a damnable place for a fox hunt, hey what?"
The route was soon discovered.  However, it proved a narrow path for the force this size, and for all to use it would leave the British dangerously strung out should they contact the French.  So when his force reached the Grosse-Pointe, Whitelocke ordered the Royal Marines, the naval landing party, and von Romberg's Volunteers to march down via the coastal beaches.  Whitelocke would continue on via the plantation road with the remainder of the infantry and Capt. Trunnion's guns.

The main force was amply supplied with water, and made relatively good progress despite the heat. However, the force advancing along the beach were having a hard go of it. The beach- initially firm and making for good going up near Grosse Pointe- had become more waterlogged as they progressed southwards; the ground soon become too marshy for them to continue on.

The officer commanding this column, Lt. Aubrey Jackstaff, found it necessary to go inland instead, along a disused path that was overgrown with thick vegetation that had to be laboriously hacked away.

It was likely that Lt. Jackstaff's detachment would be late to their planned rendezvous just north of the fort.  As his party had been detailed to transport the explosives needed to destroy the fort, this was a potentially disastrous blow to the British plans, and the determined Jackstaff drove his men relentlessly on through the jungle.
"Come along now, no time to lose, eh?"
*****
All this activity had been reported- with varying degrees of accuracy and contradiction- to the garrison of La Belle Josephine, and the mood there was tense.

Since they had reached La Belle Josephine, considerable antipathy had developed between the German troops in the fort, and the locally-raised Guadeloupe regiments who had been posted there in support. Neither much trusted nor respected the other, and after a series of incidents that threatened to escalate to outright blows, the Germans had refused the colonial troops entry to the fort, leaving the resentful islanders to billet themselves in the nearby storehouse.
"Lang lebe den Kaiser!" (...until further notice...)
Despite the ill feelings, Col.  Graf von Liebtwurst, commanding the German contingent, had on his part expressed to the local authorities his determination to stay loyal to the Emperor in the event of any attack.  For him, it was a matter of professional honour.  

However, the colonel was in poor health from the effects of malaria, jungle sores, and the consequences of insisting upon maintaining a German diet in the heat of the tropics, and had recently become bedridden.  His second in command, Major Aufstander of the Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korps, felt much less inclined to have his men die for the French cause.

Bitterly resentful at the treatment meted out to his beloved regiment, Aufstander had been vociferous in his hope that the colony would fall, the regiment leave the West Indies, and that they could then go on to aid in the liberation of das Vaterland.  
Maj. Aufstander harangues the Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korps.
Indeed, it had been a bungled attempt by the colonel of the Chasseurs Coloniaux de Guadeloupe to place the popular Maj. Aufstander under arrest for such treasonous talk that had led to the Germans barricading themselves in the fort.

Negotiations by the respective commanders had so far failed to significantly defuse tensions, which were coming under increasing strain as rumours of the approach of a British landing force spread.

  *****
The rival forces continued their way forward.  In due course, and with contact imminent, both sides were up before dawn.  In the humid air the smell of cooking from the the men of the colonial battalion wafted through the air towards the advancing British, who knew from the distinctive smell of garlic that the old enemy was near.

On their part, The French infantry under De l'Ague were soon upon the final stage of their journey, and were looking forward to the chance to put the British to flight and to enjoy a few days of subsequent rest.  

But the previous evening word had reached their commander of the troubles that had been afflicting the garrison of La Belle Josephine.  He was deeply disturbed by the news from Col. de Clouseau,  the hapless leader of the Chasseurs Coloniaux de Guadeloupe, that the garrison had shut itself up in the fortress.  

De l'Ague was beside himself with rage with the colonel for having mishandled the situation. He decided to go on ahead of the main body and to return to the fort along with Col. Clouseau, and he himself would command the forces there until his men could come up and join them.

He entrusted his aide, Col. des Dragons Claude Rênes,  to bring up the rest of the brigade.  Although a cavalryman, Rênes had always worked closely with the infantry and his commander had faith in his ability to lead them.
"En avant, mes braves!" Col. Rênes urges the French infantry up to the fort.
The battlefield looked roughly like this.
The storehouse and French camp to the south, with La Belle Josephine situated to the west,  near the mouth of the stream.  on the western end of the stream were patches of scrub and vegetation.  East of the fort and stretching to the north were with two  areas of jungle terrain.  The battlefield would be mostly open sugar cane fields, just recently harvested.

The British would be entering from the north above and/or below the forested area contiguous to the plantation building. The French brigade would enter from the left, beyond the storehouse and/or along a coastal path that necessitated crossing the stream to reach the fort.  The stream was fordable at its southern end.
The table before the game, looking southwest.  The British forces are laid out, but these would be entering from the table edge once play began.

  *****
Day of Battle 

Lord Whitelocke had been camped within hours of the fort for the last thirty-six hours, waiting as long as he could for word of Jackstaff and his wayward column.

But with a force of unknown size approaching from the south, he felt that he could no longer delay any attack.  Advanced parties from the 60th Rifles had already ascertained the presence of infantry and some artillery in the storehouse and encampment.  
De l'Ague and the 8 pdr. guns of the Vol. d'Artillerie Coloniaux de Guadeloupe await the British attack.
As time was of the essence he gave the order for the 74th Foot to attack the storehouse and see off the men assembling there. 
The sweepings of the Glasgow slums; the ill-starred 74th Regt. of Foot.
It was to do so without support; at this point in time Whitelocke believed that no other seasoned French unit was in the immediate vicinity.  One battalion would be enough to do the job while the rest of his force was employed against the fort.  Once the fort was taken, the storehouse would then be burnt almost as an afterthought.  For now, the 74th would go in as a diversionary attack.

Despite subsequent events- and the criticism that was to follow- Whitelocke would later receive praise in military circles for not losing sight of his main objective.
"You will retain your neck-stocks, damn your impertinent eyes!!"
Defending the storehouse were the French colonial troops, the Chasseurs et Artillerie Coloniaux de Guadeloupe.  These were the sons of merchants and planters, as well as other assorted residents of European descent who had been encouraged, ordered, or impressed into service to defend the Emperor's overseas interests.  They were to give a good account of themselves this day.  
The Chasseurs Coloniaux, in uniforms remarkably like those of the Tirailleurs du Po from Piedmont
The action began around 10:20 AM.  To the thunderous beating of drums, the doughty Glaswegians hurled themselves at the storehouse.  No mean objective, for it was a substantial structure with thick walls, into which many loopholes and barricades had been prepared.  The defenders poured a murderous fire down into the redcoats.
Two veteran regiments- the Connaught Rangers and The Nottinghamshires.
Meanwhile, the rest of Whitelocke's force advanced in line towards the fort.  He was hoping that the Germans there would either lay down their arms or even come over to the British.  But he could not discount the strong possibility that they might remain loyal to the Emperor and resist the attack.  

He had been counting on the efforts of von Romberg and his men who, it had been hoped, would be able to persuade the garrison to defect, but they were as yet nowhere in sight.
Whitelocke's men approach the fort.  But where is Jackstaff?
Should the garrison decide to make a fight for it, he would have no choice but to take the fort by escalade before the French reinforcements could arrive.  And as most of the ladders, powder, and other engineering equipment were also with Jackstaff's missing column, it was questionable if he could succeed.
Capt. Trunnion's Composite Battery.  Not enough heavy metal to take on a fort, but they would soon demonstrate how well they could shred French infantry columns.
But at this point, events were to start moving quickly.  

The skirmishers of the 60th Rifles had been ordered not to fire at the fort without provocation; however, and in response to some sporadic shots from the walls, they had been putting up an increasingly accurate fire.  Suddenly, the musket and rifles in the fort fell silent, and a voice was heard calling out for a parley. 

From the fort, Major Aufstander had seen not only Whitelocke's force, but also Jackstaff's tardy column emerging from the distant undergrowth.  He could also make out, from his vantage point atop the tower, the approaching French columns.  

With Col. von Liebtwurst incapacitated with a malarial fever, Aufstander realized that it was now or never if the garrison wanted to break away from their French overlords.   It didn't take him long to convince his colleagues to rise up- the sooner they could leave this accursed island, the better.
The Navy's Here!
No sooner had the message been delivered to a relieved Col. Whitelocke, when from the British left came word of the arrival of French skirmishers.  Their old foes were upon them.
Les Français arrivent!

The situation that greeted the arriving French columns was mixed.  Fighting was fierce at the storehouse, but it was clear that the British force attacking it was alone and unsupported.  This indicated that it was either a feint or forlorn hope, and the sudden absence of gunfire from the direction of La Belle Josephine was a very worrying development for De l'Ague.

On the British side, it was soon learned that the garrison was not merely content to surrender, but that the charismatic Aufstander had persuaded his men to actively join the British in fighting against the hated French.  
Deutschland über Alles!  von Rombergs men arrive to find that their fellow countrymen have already seen the light!
Now Whitelocke was known for his excellent strategic brain, and with this sudden change of situation, he soon decided to abandon his original plan to destroy the storehouse and its contents.  The French force now upon him was too strong for him to carry out both objectives.  

His priority was the destruction of the fort, and in getting as many of his men off the island as he could, so as to leave enough manpower for a descent on Guadeloupe.  
"Ge' yerselves a move on, ye lubbers!"
He was sure Admiral Keelhall knew his business; with the fort out of action, Lord Keelhall would then deal with the French navy in his own time.  Whitelocke could simply leave the French here to perish from hunger and yellow fever.

As for the 74th, they would be on their own.  Sacrificed, if needs be, to buy time for the destruction of La Belle Josephine.  Every French unit that engaged them was one less to hinder Whitelocke in his efforts to achieve his goal; it would be blood well-spilled, and if it was their duty to die for King and Country- well, what better epitaph?

De l'Ague was not going to give up easily, however.  The battle was about to reach a critical stage as the French prepared the pas de charge.  And Jackstaff still had to get into the fort with his demolition party. 

France means business...
The lines close!  The French were happy to wear their greatcoats- kept off the mosquitoes.
*****
To be continued- enough for one more post!  I also want to post the mechanics of the scenario for posterity- it's one we might want to come back to in the future.



Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Assault on La Belle Josephine: Part One

All is in equilibrium;  the planets and stars are back in their proper places in the celestial firmament, and the natural order of the universe has returned.  

It was back to Napoleonics gaming with Black Powder this past Sunday. 
Rumble in the Jungle
And this time with a difference.  Having made all that jungle terrain for our Bolt Action Burma/ Pacific theatre games, and wanting to maximize the return on the investment, we decided to leave the green fields of Europe and instead do battle in the lush, disease-ridden tropical rain forests of the Caribbean.  

As Matt had recently finished a Royal Navy landing party to go with his battalion of Royal Marines, and I have been a life-long fan of C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian, this scenario practically wrote itself.

First the potted history bit (but don't check the sources too closely- I'm playing loose and fast with the facts here).   No apologies for its length.  I know a lot of people have neither the time nor inclination to read a lot of text, and if you are one of these people, stop here and move on.  Each to their own.  I like to place our games in some kind of context, and just enjoy writing this kind of thing.  This blog is the place I can do it.
*****
1809, and with the decisive naval dominance of Great Britain, much of the French overseas empire has practically ceased to exist; a decade of conflict has seen territory after territory taken by the naval and land forces of His Britannic Majesty.  One of the few remaining French possessions is Guadeloupe, and the British government has its eyes firmly set on adding this Caribbean island to the rising tally.
Sugar, Spice, and Everything Malarial. Map from Wikipedia.
Service in this disease-ridden corner of the globe had long been seen as a practical death sentence, with many a soldier on all sides being carried away by the bloody flux without ever having seen any combat.

After years of campaigning, a shortage of manpower was beginning to become a major issue for Napoleon.  On top of that, war was looming once more on the continent as Austria was once again rattling its (by now somewhat dented) sabre.   

So it was decided at Fontainebleau that instead of sending experienced French troops to garrison the island- men who were far more urgently needed in Spain- Guadeloupe would be just the place to send some of the less desirable, undependable, and potentially mutinous "allied" battalions that were currently devouring the Emperor's rations and resources throughout Europe.  

The reasoning was that if these foreign outposts were inevitably to fall, better to lose expendable foreign riff-raff than to waste valuable French soldiery. Besides, most would probably succumb to yellow fever within weeks of their arrival anyway.

Two of the more particularly surly Confederation of the Rhine units were chosen for Operation Early Grave,  the Westphalian Regt. von Tippelskirch, still in their old Prussian uniforms, and the Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korps.  

These two units had never taken kindly to their French overlords, and had been giving trouble to the provosts for months.  Their French divisional commanders cheerfully nominated them for service overseas in the hope that they would see neither sight nor sound of the scoundrels ever again.

So the transports were loaded and their sullen human cargo sent on their way to the small island of Marie-Galante, off the coast of Guadeloupe.  From the main port of Grand-Bourg they were marched north to the settlement of Saint-Louis, and then sent on to garrison La Belle Josephine, an old but strongly-constructed 17th C. fort that lay on the north-west corner of the island.
La Belle Josephine
Looking out towards the neighboring Saints, the fort covered the area north and west of the island.  With its 48-pdr guns and facilities for making heated shot, La Belle Josephine dominated maritime traffic to and from the secure harbour of Pointe-a-Pitre in the middle of Guadeloupe.  
Marie Galante, from an old map
There they would spend the rest of their (potentially short) lives in boredom amongst the ague, delirium, and numerous creepy-crawlies in the dank, humid tropics. 

But fate was to intervene. Not long after the departure of the hapless Germans to Guadeloupe, back in Paris it was becoming evident that losing all ones overseas assets didn't exactly make for good reading in Le Moniteur, and that to give them up without a struggle was resulting in an unacceptable loss of Imperial prestige among the nations of Europe. 

In an effort to be seen- well, making an effort, the authorities had a change of heart and resolved on sending an expeditionary force far across the ocean to Martinique in the West Indies to reinforce the garrison there, and if possible to turn the situation around.   While a risky policy, at the very least it was reasonably certain that the British themselves would have to divert precious manpower from the Peninsula to counter any threat to their own possessions.

This force, under Commodore Amable-Gilles Troude, consisted of the ships of the line Courageux, Polonais, and d'Haupoult, and two frigates, La Félicité and La Furieuse. Between them, these ships transported a brigade of six battalions; this time not of sullen and mutinous foreign rabble, but of experienced troops that were used to the rigours of service, and unswervingly loyal to their emperor.

However, it was a case of too little too late, and despite having successfully evaded the Royal Navy blockade off The Loire, the convoy sailed on undetected as far as the Leeward Islands only to learn from an American whaler that Martinique had already fallen to the British.  

Quelle dommage, but having gotten this far, it would mean an unacceptable loss of face to the Emperor if the squadron would turn back and brave the elements in an effort just to sneak ignominiously back to France. So after some considerable and heated discussion aboard the flagship, Courageux, it was agreed that the force would continue on and make landfall on Guadeloupe instead.

Walls have ears, and placed in the corridors of power in Paris was a young captain of engineers, Samuel Alphonse de Gravino, equerry to Maréchal Berthier.   A man whose bravery on the field of Austerlitz and Freidland had made him a favorite of the Marshal, trusted with many a top-secret dispatch.  

He was also a rather impetuous, rash young man fond of drink, women, gambling and of danger.  

This had made him a perfect target for British intelligence, who with the promise of taking over his ever-increasing gaming debts, had no problem in "turning" him. 
"'Ave another drink; c'mon dearie, you can tell l'il 'ol me.  What was the name of this 'ere big boat again, and where was it a' headin' to?"
In exchange for cold hard cash he soon proved a one-man Enigma machine; and soon, through its efficient network of spies and couriers, Whitehall was in receipt of the change in destination even before it had been reported to Napoleon.

They acted quickly.  A squadron was duly dispatched under the command of Admiral of the Blue Sir Troubridge Marlinspyke, Lord Keelhall, to intercept the French force, while a convoy carrying a brigade of infantry which had been originally intended for service in the Peninsula, was to be diverted instead to the West Indies.  The two would rendezvous at Jamaica.

All this was as the French command had anticipated, and it was with very grudging reluctance- and under pressure from the highest authorities (many said to have considerable business interests in the sugar trade)- that General Wellesley agreed to giving up the much-needed reinforcements.

So the stage was set for what was to be one of the most bitter campaigns to be fought in the West Indies. 

The French brigade, under the command of GdB Pierre Hippolyte De l'Ague, arrived at Guadeloupe, and disembarked at the port of Basse-Terre.  There they soon set to work on improving the island's defenses.  However, word soon came of the impending arrival of the British.  The Royal Navy was more experienced, and had made an easier crossing with more favorable winds, thus gaining on the French and arriving a full two weeks earlier than expected.

With landfall on Guadeloupe imminent, Lord Keelhall decided after a conference on HMS Belleisle that the weakest point in the French defenses was an attack from the south.  But first, the island of Marie-Galante would have to be secured if the force was to land in safety.  A daunting prospect, but thanks to their agent in Paris, one made easier by the knowledge that the fort there was held by the unenthusiastic Germans. 

Among the British units on board the transports was a volunteer contingent of German émigrésvon Romberg's European Rifle Volunteers.  These were of dubious quality, and quite ill-disciplined themselves; but they were united in their hatred of Bonapartist rule over their homeland, and could be counted on to try and encourage the disaffected garrison at Grand-Bourg to turn over the fort.
von Romberg's ERC.  Eurotrash maybe, but they have their uses.
It was thought that if the garrison could be convinced to surrender or even to change sides, the island could be secured at minimal cost to the British. 

Admiral Keelhall was very experienced in amphibious operations in the West Indies, and knew that speed was of the essence before disease would start to decimate the ranks of his hard-to-replace troops.  He did not have the numbers to occupy both Marie-Galante and Guadeloupe, so his intent was to destroy the fort in a bold hit-and-run attack, to burn a nearby camp which was used to store cordage and supplies for local trade, and after re-embarkation to sail on to the main island and begin the invasion proper.

His squadron tacked along the Guadeloupe passage, and then set a course south down the eastern coast, where it sailed past the island of Grande Anse.  Here it was seen by a local fisherman who- for a small consideration- brought word of the approaching force to the French commander De l'Ague, who was now setting up a camp at Petit-Bourg for his men.

De l'Ague was a man of action despite his large bulk, and quickly devised what the British were up to.  He made the bold decision to immediately embark four of his six battalions, sail over to Marie-Galante, and inflict upon any landing force a sharp reverse which would buy time for the defense of the main island.  
Men of von Tippelskirch's Battalion mount guard
He knew that only a few days earlier the Governor of the island had sent a unit of local Chasseurs Coloniaux de Guadeloupe and a half-battery of the Voluntaires d'Artillerie Coloniaux de Guadeloupe over to the island with the task of stiffening up the resolve of the garrison to hold out against any attack, so he felt confident he could deal with any attempted descent upon the fort.
The French break camp.

*****
 
In the glory of a magnificent West Indian sunset, the rival squadrons could see each other off in the distance as they both approached Marie Galante from opposite directions.  The British force was embarked aboard the 74's HMS Belleisle, HMS Pompee, and the frigate HMS Acasta.  In the distance they could just make out the shapes of the French 74-gun d'Haupoult, accompanied by two frigates, La Félicité and La Furieuse.
Trouble ahead...
Aboard the British ships, and once landed to be placed under the command of Col. Lord Bayley Whitlocke, KB, MP, were the following:
  • 1/45th Foot
  • 1/74th Foot
  • 1/88th Foot
  • Capt. Blunt's company, the 60th Rifles
  • Capt. Trunnion's composite battery, Royal Foot Artillery. 
  • Converged Battalion, Royal Marines
  • Naval Landing Party,  HM ships BelleislePompee,  and Acasta under the command of 1st Lt. Aubrey Jackstaff, HMS Belleisle  (including two 9pdr naval guns)
  • von Romberg's European Rifle Volunteers

Aboard the French vessels, De l'Ague had embarked the following units:
  • 1er et 2e Battailons, 39e de ligne
  • 1er et 3e Battailons,  29e de ligne
  • 8e batterie d'artillerie

In the camp near Sainte-Louis:
  • 1e Batt. Chasseurs Coloniaux de Guadeloupe 
  • Vol. d'Artillerie Coloniaux de Guadeloupe
 Garrisoning La Belle Josephine:
  • Regt. von Tippelskirch
  • Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korps

*****

With both French and British ships laden with troops waiting to be landed, neither commander was in a position to fight a naval engagement; but nor were they prepared or willing to sit out a siege of La Belle Josephine and to watch their respective forces waste away in the malaria-ridden jungle and plantations.

It was evident to all present they would soon find themselves with a serious fight on their hands.

This post is too long already, so next will be the report on the battle and how it turned out.  Lots of pictures!



Saturday, 15 November 2014

Trio of Tanks

The latest addition to my Japanese tank park.  A Warlord Games Type 97 Chi-Ha.  Painted and generally tarted-up since its last outing in a near-naked state.
 
This is one of the most iconic Japanese tanks, so having one in my force was pretty well a must. 

I tried to give this one more of a faded, worn and beaten-up look. 
To be honest, a bit of a swine to put together and paint; I didn't find myself developing the same "affection" towards it as I did the other two as I was working on it, so I'm relieved its finally done.  Can't really say why, it just didn't grab me the same way as the Ha-Go did.  

All three vehicles I've painted so far.  
 
Two more to go, a Chi-Nu medium tank and a Ho-Ro self-prepared gun.  

Earlier this week I cleaned up the parts of an LVT-4 for my US Marine force, another icon of the Pacific War from the other side.  It is a massive piece of resin, one I really am looking forward to painting.  But only once my Japanese are all done, and I've a bit of work to do there first.


Monday, 10 November 2014

Loose ends

Yesterday I had the time, energy, and motivation to get some painting in.  Three particular ducks that haven't always been willing to get themselves into a row recently.

The latest finished product off my painting table.  This is a Ha-Go light tank, a resin model from Warlord Games.
 
A vehicle I've always liked the look of, and one of the most iconic in Japanese service- although it must have been a death sentence to have been serving in one when there were Sherman and Lee tanks around.  Or much anything else in the Allied arsenal for that matter.  

Still, with its two machine guns and light cannon it will be a welcome addition to my Japanese force.

I've also got back into painting Napoleonics.  The tank was done in between production-line painting of long black coats with red piping, which should be a clue as to what I'm working on now.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Pub Brawl!

More Bolt Action, where a bunker that I recently completed has seen the elephant.

On Sunday we had another WW2 Burma theatre game featuring Matt's British and my Japanese.  This wasn't held at our usual venue, but this time we had it at a British-style pub near Shibuya here in Tokyo.  The owner, Paul, had been a wargamer himself at one time, and kindly gave us the run of the place during the day, subject to us buying lunch there and downing a pint or two.  Twist my rubber arm...

There were two Bolt Action games in play, as well as a number of boardgames.  And having the author of Bolt Action, Alessio Cavatore, in attendance as well was a nice treat for all.  Not to mention being the ideal person to go to should we have any rule queries! 

Alessio had been staying with a mutual friend; my neighbour and the Grand Poo-Bah of the West Tokyo Wargamers, Giovanni. 
Alessio and Giovanni: La Bande Nere, a.k.a. The Torino Mafia of Gaming
So there was lots of wine, beer and gaming talk throughout the whole weekend for us, which was really fun.

Having the game at a pub had its merits from the beer and food point of view, with the best fish 'n chips I have had in many a year- certainly the best I have had in Tokyo.  A piece of succulent cod the size of my forearm.  
On the other hand, space was a little tight for setting up tables, and the lighting could have been a lot better. This was especially a nuisance as the sun started going down.

Not a huge problem, but it didn't make for taking very good photos, so I had to play a lot with iPhoto just to make them barely presentable.
Aquarium plant producers are probably scratching their heads at a totally inexplicable spike in sales.
It was a really narrow table, liberally covered with jungle, although we had a lot more we could have added had we a larger table.  Alessio remarked that it was one of the more heavily-terrained tables he had seen for its size in a Bolt Action game.  All that vegetation certainly made for a flavourful game.

Lots of greenery and meandering paths through the brush meant plenty of scope for infiltration, cautious advances, short-range gunfire and sudden ambushes- which was just our image of what jungle fighting should be like!  

In fact, at one point Matt's A/T rifle squad fell victim to my sniper team, largely because Matt hadn't noticed it in all that underbrush!
 
The game also featured my latest terrain piece, a large bunker.  The basic shape of the bunker was made from foam board, wooden doweling and papier-mâché.  I then coated it with layers of a sand and PVA mix to build up the earth banking.  
 
The top is removable, and I made it so that it will hold about five or six miniatures.  The sandbags lining the top of the weapons pit were made from epoxy putty. 

Other additions to my force included a Chi-Ha.  I had airbrushed on the undercoat, but I hadn't been able to get around to adding the tricky camouflage. Still, it was painted after a fashion.  

I could have brought a Ha-Go light tank, which is closer to completion, but I really wanted the (relatively!) heavier gun of the Chi-Ha.

We rolled for the demolition scenario, where each side had to try to take out the opponent's command HQ.  We had set our respective HQ's on the opposite diagonal corners of the table, mine in my bunker and Matt in a thatched village hut.  

A fordable river crossed the centre, and the rest was jungle with winding paths through it.  
Alessio commented that this is a tough scenario for either side to win, usually ending in a draw.  That proved to be the case this time round as well, but it was close!  we were both using the flank march rule, and as it turned out the British almost scored a coup as a result. 
 
 
The sport begins and Matt moves his troops, the illustrious King's Own Academicals.  A rare picture sans his trademark flat cap, which we had to press into service as a dice bag. Good on 'ya for "taking one for the team" there, Matt.
A ground-level view of my bunker looming menacingly out of the jungle.  You can almost smell the jungle-rot.  Although it must be said that all our club members do, indeed, bathe...
The Chi-Ha was eventually knocked out by a flame-thrower after trading shots with a nimble Daimler, which dashed in and out of trouble taking good advantage of the recce rule.  The Chi-Ha had managed to collect pins like they were hockey cards, but it succeeded in holding the road crossing over the river.
 
When incoming artillery was imminent, I moved my mortar out of the bunker, but artillery and mortar fire on both sides was pretty pathetic that day.
Note giant venus-flytrap-like plants, more at home in a John Carter novel.
"畜生!!"
Flank attack!  My tankette had been immobilized by A/T fire from somewhere, and by this stage of the game was no more than thinly-plated pillbox.  You can imagine my chagrin when, and at the beginning of the penultimate turn of play, Matt rolled for a successful appearance of his dreaded Grant- and as luck would have it, it emerged smack between my defensive line of Japanese infantry and the bunker itself.  

Completely impervious to whatever fire I was able to throw at it, the jungle-green, heavily-armed behemoth merrily dispatched the tankette.  It then proceeded to rake one of my infantry sections with all guns blazing, depleting our ranks dreadfully. 
Matt then had the good fortune to draw the next order dice, and promptly sent one of his own sections of infantry racing out of cover towards my bunker (now empty of troops, as I had had to commit the garrison elsewhere).  It looked like being all over for the Japanese.   

Only one thing left to do...
BANZAI!!

Out of time and options, and with the help of Alessio who walked us through the complexities, I was successfully able to mount a charge against the British troops in the rear, wiping out the platoon and saving the bunker. Being fanatics they were able to shrug off their pin markers and throw themselves at the hated round-eyes.

Next turn they of course paid the ultimate price for their devotion to the Emperor, but only after they had tried close-assaulting the Grant.  These guys were rabid!

Having the Grant perched so close to the bunker was of no avail to Matt, as only infantry could take it out, and his nearest infantry was more than a move away.  So--- the game ended a draw!!  One huge sigh of relief from the Japanese player.  

Loads of fun;  I'm really starting to enjoy playing with my Japanese army.  I'm learning that with the Japanese in Bolt Action, a really aggressive game play pays dividends.  

A visit to the Warlord Games store here last month saw me acquire some more goodies that I can use to smite Matt the next time we face each other in the steamy jungles of Burma.

But our next get together on November 16th is a return to Napoleonics.  One possibility is an all-cavalry action, or possibly a naval landing- if I can get a Martello tower done in time, which is doubtful.  We haven't played a Napoleonics game for some time now, and are itching to get back into it.  

Also on the horizon for early next year is some Wars of the Roses skirmish action, using the Osprey Lion Rampant rules. And Giovanni is anxious for us to try a Darkest Africa game, where I might run an expeditionary force using my long-in-the-tooth collection of Foundry Indian Mutiny miniatures.

Unfortunately, our gaming opportunities haven't been keeping pace with our aspirations!  Hope springs eternal, though.