Sunday, 22 March 2015

Japanese Jumbo

Something new for my growing Bolt Action IJA force, a pack elephant! 

I've been finishing up a whole pile of miniatures this past few weeks, both Napoleonics and WW2.  This one was done as part of a group build project on one of the forums I belong to.
Remarkably for those who know my track record on such things, I managed to complete it before the actual deadline- will wonders never cease.
 
This is the resin model elephant from Company B.  Couldn't resist it when I saw it on the Brigade Games website, so I ordered it along with some pack mules and an 47mm A/T gun, which I've still to do.
More holes to be filled than in the fleshpots of Rangoon.
It was a bit of a bugger to work with, as the resin was brittle and the model not all that well cast.  The tail in the kit was pretty poorly done, so I replaced it with one fashioned from epoxy putty around a wire armature.  

It won't take too much handling, so when basing it I strategically placed some bamboo trees, which while giving the base a "jungly" look, will also protect the tail from clumsy fingers (mainly mine!).
 
I filled holes, added stowage from epoxy putty, wood blocks and plastic scrap, and for the rider I decided at the last minute to do a head-swap using one of my spare Warlord Games heads. The figure provided by Company B was very ordinary; a little wooden and rather uninspiring. The head swap improved it considerably.

To be honest, it would have been cheaper- and just as much work- to have picked up a plastic elephant from the local toy shop and started from there.  But as I will only ever need one, this will serve.

On Googling elephants in Asia, I saw that they tended to be a lot more brown than grey, with patches of brownish-pink, and I think I've achieved a pretty convincing result.  

The whole thing was based on a Flames of War plastic base.  I built the base up with acrylic wall filler and sand, then painted it with artists acrylics.  Once everything had dried thoroughly I drilled holes for the trees and shrubs, and these were glued in with PVA.

After the glue had set, I then covered the base with static grass.  

The tall bamboo trees were obtained through E-bay, and the smaller plants courtesy of the aquarium accessories section of our local pet shop.

More to come. I've more Japanese that are coming along quite nicely.  in time I want to post a picture of a whole squad with its support weapons and some terrain I've been working on.  It won't be long, as there are only a few more to finish.  

Friday, 13 March 2015

La Victoire est a Nous!

Given my track record when commanding the French in our games, one learns to celebrate French victories of the Hundred Days wherever one can find them.



Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Assault on La Belle Josephine: Conclusion!

Long overdue, but here it is.  Given the time that has passed since the game was played, some of the details of the game I may have either forgotten, or else memory has played false- but nothing my rum-fueled imagination couldn't fix.    

For those interested, it may be worth re-reading Part One and Part Two so as to get up to speed with the situation so far. 

So rig up your mosquito nets, check your supply of gin and quinine, and read on...
If all goes to plan...
It will be remembered that those sweepings of the Glasgow slums, the villainous (and oft-times craven) scallywags of the 74th Foot, had been tasked with taking the storehouse that supplied the fort.

When it was realized that this would not be possible in light of the horde of French infantry and guns bearing down on them- not to mention the valiant fight that had been put up by the men and guns of the Chasseurs and Artillerie Coloniaux de Guadeloupe- the 74th had been ordered to stand their ground and if necessary to lay down their lives in an effort to delay the advancing French.  
"Awa' an Boil yer heeds, ye hooreson rogues!"
Their sacrifice would help to ensure the success of the mission; and anyway, any losses incurred among the lower ranks would no doubt be more than made good by the magistrates at the next Assizes in Glasgow. 

The 74th exchanged volley after volley with the defenders, and made vigorous assaults on their enemy which saw intense hand-to-hand combat over the piles of stores and compound walls.

But fatigue, a determined foe, and an eventual attack from the rear by the 2nd Batallion of the French 39e de ligne proved too much for them. Some fell; others asked for quarter; yet more made for the safety of the jungle. 

Alas, and to their everlasting shame, in the confusion of battle, the hapless 74th lost their King's Colour to the victorious Chasseurs.  
Shame... shame... and eternal shame...
The Gazette this year was to be noted for the lengthy entry of the names of cashiered officers of the 74th.

However, the situation was becoming critical for both sides.  The garrison of La Belle Josephine, having declared for His Britannic Majesty's forces, was now actively engaged against the enemy. 

The French 6pdr battery had run up and unlimbered on the far bank of the stream that ran alongside the fort, with the intention of covering the approaches; but with the defection of the garrison, the gunners soon found themselves under fire from the British advance party of riflemen, as well as from the German marksmen.
After taking heavy casualties the crews limbered up the guns to the remaining horses, and the battery soon retired- not to return for the rest of the engagement.

*****
Whitelocke was both relieved and concerned about how the situation was unfolding.  The readiness of the disaffected garrison not merely to lay down their arms, but to actively stand alongside the Allied forces against the French was more than he had dared to count upon.  

But stacked against that was the rapid advance of the French, and the resulting failure to take the storehouse.  

All had depended on the timely appearance and success of Jackstaff's column, and of his efforts to destroy the fort with the pyrotechnics at his disposal. 

In order to facilitate this, Whitelocke set himself the task of organizing his own brigade in an effort to delay and discourage the French, who were now arriving in force.
"The bear came over the MOUN-tain"

*****
As related previously, Lt. Jackstaff had been having problems of his own.  The dense jungle and wetlands through which his detachment had been advancing made for slow going, and both visibility and communications had proved extremely difficult.  

That the enemy had been engaged in the area of the fort had been plain to all, as the sound of musket fire and artillery could clearly be heard.  But not having received any word from Whitelocke nor his own scouts as to what was happening, he could but continue onwards in his mission, and trust that all was more or less going to plan.  

Eventually, he had finally received word that the advancing skirmishers of von Romberg's battalion had arrived at the fort, and soon received the welcome news that the garrison had already turned.  But only minutes later the arrival of the French infantry and guns was also reported.  With most of his force still strung out on line of march with the harsh terrain to deal with, there was no time to lose as he struggled to get his men in order, and to prepare for the destruction of the fort.

His loyal tars, having to drag along their guns, match, and kegs of powder, had been making slow going.  While keen to get the job done, they found themselves increasingly exhausted from the rigours of the march and the intense tropical heat and frequent sudden downpours of rain

To compound the delay, they had found themselves separated from the Royal Marines, whose weary officer had misunderstood an order and had blundered some distance off the path he was supposed to have taken.  

Upon realizing his error he made great efforts to retrace his steps, losing several of his men to heat exhaustion as a result, but valuable time had been lost.
The forces engage...
All this time Whitelocke had been forming his line of battle, now joined by the Regt. von Tippleskirch. 

On "the other side of the hill", the French general de L'Ague urged his own infantry forward against the wall of redcoats, his men enraged to see the treacherous Germans now forming up on the English right.  

This was to be a fight without quarter.

*****

While the action developed in the cane fields just outside the fort, as Jackstaff's men finally stumbled wearily into the nearby clearingtheir commander apprised the situation. 

He had found Whitelocke and the Germans already heavily engaged with the enemy.    
After first sending a messenger to General Whitelocke notifying him of his arrival upon the scene, Jackstaff then ordered that the two naval cannon under the command of Mr. Midshipman Holystone be set up to cover the approaches to the fort, while he himself took charge of the demolition party as they entered the fort.

Once inside, the heavy cannon pointing out to the sea were first spiked, then hurled over the battlements.  
"Over she goes, shipmates!"
Once they had  then evacuated any sick or wounded left inside, including the incapacitated Col. Graf von Liebtwurst, Jackstaff went down into the magazine and directed his men to start stacking the powder barrels, and to see that fuses be set leading down the dark stairs to the powder magazine.

It was then that his hapless bosun, Herrick Spinnaker, came running up in a clearly agitated state to deliver devastating news. 
"Beggin' yer pardon, sir,  but ye see, young Billy Ratlines, well, ye know 'e was a-given care of the fuses, like.  And bein' as the lad is mortal a'feared o' snakes, and on so seein' a prodigious great viper fall from aloft and a'fore of 'im from one of them there palm trees, the whoreson cove panicked worser than any damned poxy'd Frenchie.  
But long as a forty-two pounder, an' near as thick it were, mind; Aye, t'was a right fearsome creature, t' be sure.
Anyways, didn't the daft bugger then done gone an' dropped the keg o' fuses he was a-carryin'; an' didn't it then done sprung a stave a'fore rollin' right into some foul-smellin' fetid pool o' bilge water.
By 'eck, an' right covered in filth an' leeches we were after draggin' it out fer 'im, damn 'is clumsy mitts. Well worth a floggin' round the fleet fer the lubber if yer ask me, and even stoppage o' grog is too good fer 'im.
An' bless ye sir, but as to the state of them fuses- in truth sir, an' seein' as 'ow they are now wetter than the waters off Spithead, I wouldn't nary vouch for these 'ere fuses bein' able to set off as much as a tinder in a clay pipe, let alone all this lot 'ere.  Least not in all this damp- no disrespectin', sir!"
Jackstaff let forth a fearsome oath, but with no time to dry out the fuses, nor to find replacements, his options were limited.  He quickly decided to lay out a trail of black powder leading to the magazines.  

What length of remaining fuses Jackstaff thought stood a decent chance of working would be used to set of a smaller charge near the entrance, which would- in theory- light the trail of powder down to the magazines deep in the bowels of the fort.
Handle with care!
With any amount of luck, it would serve; but there was no guarantee that the powder itself was dry enough to light in this accursed humid climate with its sudden thunderstorms.

*****

Whitelocke, relieved at the news that Jackstaff had reached the fort, now had his hands full with a French brigade coming at him in a wave of attack columns.  Fortunately for him, it seemed that they were attacking the British line piecemeal. 

Having already advanced his light infantry and Trunnions' Battery towards the fort, where they were to be joined by the Regt. von Tippelskirch and the Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korpshe then ordered them supported by the Regt. von Romberg and- before they had barely time to catch their breath- the battalion of Royal Marines.  These he placed in reserve, the whole giving him an overwhelming local advantage over the single French brigade that faced them.
At the same time, Whitelocke had been much concerned about the possibility of a French flanking maneuver on his left.  Consequently, he had been holding back two of his best battalions in reserve to counter any French flanking moves, and to cover the retreat once the fort had- hopefully- been destroyed.   

These were none other than the famed 88th Foot (Connaught Rangers) and the 45th Foot (the Nottinghamshires).  These two veteran regiments had bloodied French noses in many an engagement; this day would be no exception.
Hot work...

"Old friends!  Let them have it with the King's compliments, lads!
Merde! A two!  A stinkin' TWO!
As expected, the French did advance in this sector having had dealt with the 74th Foot.  However, their attack by a single battalion of infantry, with only a battery of colonial artillery in support, inevitably came to naught; the attackers were easily seen off by the seasoned old warriors of the red-coated battalions.  

The French may have done better had they been supported by the Chasseurs de Guadaloupe.  But after the success of these troops in defending the storehouse, the French command seemed to have just ignored them, and they would take no further part in the battle. 

They had taken casualties to be sure, but were still a viable unit; the failure of their commander to show a more active energy and initiative would be the subject of fierce debate in French colonial military circles for some years after the event.
"See off those fellows, if you please, Mr. Cholmondsley."
Having seen off any threat from this direction, Whitelocke was able to order the 45th and 88th to the clearing around the fort.  There they were to add their considerable firepower to what was already a force that outnumbered the French attackers.  

In fact, the French now found themselves with the whole British expeditionary force now concentrated in the area against them  The narrow frontage of the clearing between the river and the copse gave them some protection from being outflanked, but on the other hand the British were able to defend in depth, and the French had to attack without an advantage of superior numbers.

De L'Ague continually pushed his infantry forward against the wall of redcoats and Germans, his men burning with a desire to punish the treachery shown by their erstwhile allies.
The French commander had much to contend with.  The rapid march up along the coast of Marie Galante had taken its toll on his infantry, and while brave and dedicated to their Emperor, and anxious to give les rosbifs a bloody nose, the exertions they had been making in the the heat had affected them even more so than it had their enemyFew had had any experience with conditions outside of the continent, let alone the heat and torpor of the Spice Islands.
In the dark days before the coming of deodorant...
The result was considerable straggling, a certain breakdown in order and increasing lethargy in carrying out commands and maneuvers.  This was compounded by perceptible slackening in the frequency and accuracy of their musket fire.
British 9-pdrs find themselves in a target-rich environment .
And if this wasn't enough, Captain Trunnion's battery was by now dealing out frightful carnage and disorder upon the French advancing columns, while the numerous skirmishers, both English and German, outnumbered, out-ranged, and out-shot their foes. The appearance of a wall of Allied line infantry was a most unwelcome development, and de l'Ague realized that Whitelocke held a potentially winning hand.

Despite their exhaustion, the French did not give up easily; but in the energy-sapping heat, it proved extremely difficult for the French commanders to organize a coordinated attack, despite the exertions of their officers- a number of them dropping dead on the spot from heatstroke.  
Some French in retreat- but there were more where they came from!
Still the attacks continued, and even their enemies admitted that there was no faulting French courage and élan that day.

Particularly fierce were the successive attacks by both battalions of the French 29e de ligne on the Regt. von Tippelskirch.  The brave soldats were determined to settle accounts, and to see that the price for treachery be paid in full.  

There was no love lost between the two former allies; quarter was neither asked for nor given, and each launched fearsome bayonet charges against one another over the wet and marshy terrain.
"Ein Bajonett aus dem Vaterland!!
The attack of the French 3/29e de ligne was eventually repulsed; but the assault was immediately taken up by the 1/29e, who charged into the enemy with drums beating and eagle proudly carried aloft.  The Germans fell like ripe wheat before the French scythe.
"It's payback time, Hans!"
The French paid heavily in the assault, receiving almost as many casualties in return as those they inflicted; but the men of von Tippelskirch's regiment were cut down without mercy, almost to a man.
French success was short-lived, however; they found themselves subjected to a hail of rifle fire followed by a devastating salvo of canister by Trunnion's battery.  This was enough to send the battered 39e de ligne packing.
Whitelocke holds the French in check.
In the end, the French attack on the British line had been beaten back with considerable loss.  Nevertheless, morale remained high, and the survivors were seen in the distance rallying and reorganizing for another possible attack.  
A French battalion in line covers the brigade's withdrawal.
"You haven't seen the last of US, Rosbif!
The last shot fired that day would be from the Anspach-Kartoffelkopf Feldjager Korps, who lined the edge of a jungle copse and fired into the flanks and rear of the French infantry as they fell back to their start lines.

It was reported that it was Maj. Aufstander himself, burning in a jubilant rage, who pulled the trigger.

"Don't let the door hit you on your way out, Jean-Claude!"
Looking through his telescope, Whitlocke was thoughtful.  Upon seeing de l'Ague's force evidently licking its wounds, but with no apparent intention of quitting the field, Whitelocke decided that having had the upper hand in the engagement, and with the fort in his hands, it was high time to finish the job and to head back to the transports.

Riding up to Lt. Jackstaff, he ascertained that the charges had been set for the destruction of La Belle Josephine.  Despite his concern at Jackstaff's explanation of the situation regarding the fuses, he knew his own men were by now running short of ammunition and powder- not to mention precious drinking water- and he ordered his men to prepare for a fighting withdrawal if need be.
Jackstaff takes charge.
Jackstaff was to command the rearguard, and once the main body had moved back into the jungle along the trail, he was to set off the charge.  There wasn't a moment to lose.

Time was of the essence, and the British began their journey back.  Jackstaff, at great personal risk, ordered his men to remain some distance from the fort, and then entered it alone to set off the fuses himself.  
"Err... does anyone have a light?"
Having set the matches, he stayed some moments to see that they were burning steadily.  satisfied that they were indeed lit- but not knowing for how long they would burn in the damp interior- he turned tail to make his way out of the fort, not knowing when- or if at all- the powder magazine would blow. 

While he wasn't certain the charge would go off,  he hurled himself out of the forts of the gates as fast as his legs would carry him- he wasn't taking anything for granted.
Make way for the Lobsters!
The British column had just disappeared back into the jungle, with the Royal Marines and von Romberg's men of the rearguard standing in line with ordered arms.  Jackstaff caught up with his men, and turning around with his telescope to his eye, he could see the French in the fields beyond preparing another advance.  

He was suddenly sick with worry at the thought of them entering the fort and either finding the charge and disabling it, or else finding that the fuse had failed to ignite the trail of powder to the magazine.

Either way, that would signal failure for the British expedition, with all the blood expended over the morning having been spilt in vain.

Nevertheless, he ordered his rearguard to make good their escape.  No sooner had he lowered his telescope and turned to join them than the earth began to shake; a sudden blood-red and gold flash lit up the tropical sky; and all his senses were overcome by a soundless roar that knocked him and all around him to the ground.

There he lay a while, winded and senseless.

After what seemed an hour (and was in fact only about two minutes), he groggily rose to his knees.  He slowly became aware of shouts of awe and elation from his comrades.  On glancing towards what had been the fort, a towering pillar of smoke and debris shot out from its middle like some new-born volcano.
"Get a move on, damn your impertinent eyes!" he bellowed at his men, as he was able to see that they were in danger from the burning embers and falling masonry.  But it was with a light heart that he made his way back to the jungle.

Half a mile off, Whitelocke breathed an audible sigh of relief; the deafening sound of the fort erupting into an inferno was like a sublime symphony to his ears.  He realized that all he need now do was to replenish his stocks of powder and water, and then he would send a deputation to parley with the enemy commander to negotiate a French surrender on terms of his own choosing- for how could the French expect succour, with Marie-Galante now at the mercy of the Royal Navy?

***** 

The man who had overall responsibility for the British enterprise, Admiral the Lord Keelhall, stood beaming at his delighted officers upon the quarterdeck of his flagship HMS Belleisle, now tacking parallel to the northern coast of Marie Galante in the waters between the small island and its larger neighbour, Guadaloupe. 

Jubilation was everywhere throughout the squadron, as his men manned the masts and rigging, all giving out great cheers upon having heard the blast and now seeing the immense cloud of smoke that signaled the end of La Belle Josephine.  Cheers that were redoubled upon the sight of Lt. Jackstaff in his boat, setting off from shore to report directly to the Admiral and bearing a note in his pocket from Whitelocke stating that all was, indeed, well.  

Lord Keelhaul soon ordered course to be set for the island of Marie Galante.  With a demoralized French squadron taken care of, he could now look forward to writing a report on the proceedings which would no doubt considerably please Their Lordships in Whitehall.

And in time, the echoes of the explosion would also be heard in Germany, where the story of the rising of the garrison against the hated French oppressors would- with embellishment- be told in hushed yet admiring voices across the land.  Many would be inspired by these tales in their own determination to throw off the Gallic yoke.  

The poet Koerner was to write an ode celebrating the patriot, Major Aufstander, and his men. Even the great Beethoven himself dedicated a sonata in his honour.  

Aufstander would eventually be welcomed into British service, and would go on to command a battalion of the King's German Legion in the Peninsula, where he would continue to distinguish himself.  During the Befreiungskriege of 1813 he served in Northern Germany, and was to find himself showered with honours from a grateful Frederick William III of Prussia, as well as from the Czar of Russia.  He eventually met his death while defending La Haye Sainte at Waterloo in 1815, whereupon he was much mourned by his countrymen.

*****

For his part, a feverish, exhausted and bitterly disappointed de l'Ague, already showing the first signs of malaria, sat upon a drum to ponder his fate and to commiserate with his officers.  He had failed; his expedition was in ruins, and he along with his force were now stranded in the hell of the tropics, with little option but to treat with the enemy.  

But while he may have lost the battle and campaign, he had not lost his reputation.  The expedition had been a bold gamble, taking the war to an enemy far over distant seas.  And who knows what the outcome may have been were it not for the treachery of the German garrison?  Certainly, the conduct of the French infantry that day had been in the finest traditions of French arms.  

Pierre Hippolyte de l'Ague and his men would be treated with the greatest courtesy and respect by his British captors, and upon his eventual exchange and return to Paris, he was hailed- if not as a victor, then as a hero.  His countrymen would celebrate a man who had upheld the reputation of the French army for glory and martial valour in the face of fearsome odds, and while thousands of miles from La Belle France.  

Honour had been satisfied.

*****

Finished!  This was a fun game- one of the best we have had- and I enjoyed it immensely despite not actively taking part. I was umpiring it, as fortune needed a (somewhat) neutral hand.  

Both sides stood a fair chance of success.  I had drawn up a sequence of chance tables;  one for the entry of the French infantry brigade and guns; another for the chance of the garrison defecting, going neutral, or fighting tooth and nail for the French.  A third table would see whether and how long it would take for the charge in the fort to explode. 

The garrison would have a higher chance of going over to the British if von Romberg's regiment could advance to within haranguing range of the fort!  As it turned out, this wasn't necessary.  Things moved quickly; the garrison defected early in the game, and the French infantry appeared at about the same time, so things came to blows quite quickly- much earlier than anticipated, in fact.  

The odds of the Germans actually fighting alongside the British, as opposed to just leaving the fort, were only one in six- yet that's just what was rolled.

With hindsight, I wished I had allowed the French a regiment of cavalry as well, but as someone famously said some few years ago, you fight your battles with the army you have, not the army you want. 

Besides, the odds of any significant number from a regiment's worth of horses having survived both an Atlantic crossing and a myriad of tropical miasmas would have been hideously small anyhow.

The Chasseurs de Guadeloupe (Giovanni's Tirailleurs de Po) really did sit back on their rumps and do nothing after having seen off the 74th Foot.  Giovanni had been spending too much time shooting the breeze with other club members, and had basically forgotten to move them until it was too late; and even then they kept failing their order rolls!

The blunder rule in Black Powder accounted for the tardy arrival of the Royal Marines!

The Prussian infantry unit representing the fictional Regt. von Tippleskirch had been painted quite some years ago by James, a recent recruit to our club ranks.  These were Old Glory miniatures, and were originally painted to grace the pages of the old La Gloire magazine published by Old Glory itself some years ago.  And as it turned out, this was their first ever appearance in an actual wargame!  They certainly acquitted themselves well.


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Be Pink and Proud!

First of all, apologies to all those who have been waiting for part three of The Assault on La Belle Josephine.  

The reason for the delay is simple; while I have been able to devote time to my hobby, it needed to be rationed.  I could spend it on two out of the three; painting, gaming, or blogging.  

Now, while I enjoy the creative process involved, these AAR's take some time to write.  But my job over the last few months has had me spending a lot of my working hours sitting in front of the computer churning out documents and reports for some major projects, all involving revision and tight deadlines.  It took its toll, and consequently killed a lot of the motivation for blogging as I often found myself in no mood to even so much as look at a keyboard on the weekends.

In contrast to this, these last few months since Christmas have seen me on something of a painting roll; wanting to take advantage of the positive mojo while it was with me, I opted for painting and gaming instead.

Having made very good progress on those two fronts, I will post the last installment of the report before the weekend is out.
*****

Here are some of the results of my labours so far this year, at least as regarding Napoleonics.  

Voilà, c'est le 7e régiment de Chasseurs à Cheval. 
 
 
Talk about your delayed gratification...these have been in progress since 2009!  But like a fine wine, hopefully better for a suitable period of aging.  Despite the long gestation period, I quite like how they've finally turned out.
These are all Front Rank miniatures, with some head swaps for variety- forage caps and covered shakos.

And here is the fine fellow who will be the Brigade commander, GdB Antoine, Baron Maurin.  
 
Commander of the French 9th Light Cavalry brigade at Leipzig,  he is wearing a very non-regulation uniform of the 4e Chasseurs à Cheval
 

He's a Front Rank ADC figure, but with such a haughty demeanor, the miniature cried out for assignment to a position of high command.  Wonderful detail and a real joy to paint.   

This dapper light cavalryman will be commanding the 4th and 7th Chasseurs along with the 6th Line Lancers.  

Each regiment in the brigade had a strength of only two squadrons, so will be represented by just twelve figures each.   The 20th Chasseurs were also attached to the brigade according to some sources; but I might send them off on detached duties- depending on whether I will be wanting to paint up any more chasseurs once these are out of the way 

I like cavalry, but I've been much less keen on painting them and the 7th regiment had been cursed; it suffered from the fact that this is the first cavalry regiment I have painted for some decades now.  During their long stint in the painting queue, they have had the paint stripped off them twice.

The first time was as a result of our kitten managing to get into the closet where they were in an open plastic tray, and- but naturally- he chose to pee on the miniatures, despite having had a host of other options to choose from.  Cue really bad language on my part, and I wasn't able to wash the smell away despite having had to take off some of the paint in the process; so out came the paint stripper, which removed not just the smell but some considerable hours of hard work.  

Gutted.

The second time was because the horses just weren't turning out the way I wanted them, and the green I had first used on the uniform was way too bright.  Efforts to paint over them was just resulting in overly-thick coats of paint, so back in the turps bath they went.

But third time lucky.  Green, like dark blue, is a tough colour to get right for 28mm models.  In the end I applied Ceramcoat Jungle Green over a black undercoat, and highlighted with my old bottle of Ral Partha Olive Green.  It worked; dark without losing its "greenness".

These miniatures were finally finished last month, but then came the issue of basing; I had based my Dutch lancers three to a 60mm x 60mm base, but this wouldn't work for the beefier Front Rank charging horses for the cuirassiers and carabiniers I'm working on.  If I put the heavies two to a base, they would fit, but then each figure would have a wider frontage than the lights, which is not at all the effect I want. 

I also didn't want any figures individually based.  With no individual figure casualty removal in Black Powder, that would just complicate storing and transporting the models to and from games.

After a lot of experimentation, and looking online at what others have done, I finally decided to mount them three to a stand, on bases 80mm wide x 60mm deep (the same sized bases I use for my artillery, turned 90 degrees).  This is about 26mm per figure, which looks better than the 30mm I was considering.  For the heavies, I will base them two to a stand on 50mm x 60mm bases.

While I was at it, I also went for a radically different method of modelling the bases.  This time I decided to move beyond the standards of the 1980's and to get with the program at last; I used static grass as well as tufts which I had picked up at the local Warlord Games store.  This resulted in much brighter and natural looking bases, which set off the miniatures much better than my traditional way of painting them.  It proved a lot quicker to do as well, so this will be the way of the future for me.



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 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.