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 Glasgow Assizes. 

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 'em 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.  

On his arrival back in London, the major would eventually be welcomed into British service. He then went 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 Aufstander served in Northern Germany where he received much acclaim for his service at the Battle of Göhrde, 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 charts on a whiteboard;  one table to roll 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.