Tuesday 21 March 2017

The Battle of Blenheim : at the Wargames Holiday Centre

Our annual Donald Featherstone Memorial Weekend.

This time, Mark Freeth had laid on the troops and terrain for Blenheim with Black Powder rules being used, with amendments as well as the suggestions in the Last Argument of Kings BP supplement.

Here's the table upon our arrival and before we deployed the troops

Rear tables are where reserves will await instructions

Paul "Whiskers" even has a Blenheim beer stein in his hand (tea only at this time of day !)

British Order of Battle. Phil, Tony, Steve Thompson and I had these troops and because Henry Hyde was late, we appointed him as John Churchill in his absence so he could take the blame if it all went disastrously wrong !

Mark Freeth's hand drawn map of the tables (each square is 3 feet x 3 feet)

Command bases

Some lovely little vignettes

The troops are being placed on the table by the French side

and here is my command on the right of there Allied Line. I was given Prince Eugene's force. Anhalt- Dessau's Saxons, Prussians & Swabians plus Bielke's Prussians and Fink's Swabian infantry.

Backed up by the Prince of Hanover's Austrian Cuirassiers & Hussars and Bayreuth's German Horse, seen here on the reserve table. I also had 3 medium guns and 1 heavy gun to deploy.

Here we see Allied troops in the centre crossing the Nebel

Tony had responsibility for Orkney's command, placed on our left

This is the village of Blenheim just beyond the bend of the River Danube 

With plenty of French to defend it !

Troops massing before crossing the river

Here's a look along the French lines, right to left, beyond Blenheim
 Cavalry awaiting their moment

Here's the French commander, Marshal Tallard

The Marquis de Hautefille, in charge of French Dragoons defending Blenheim

The Marquis de Monperoux, in charge of the French cavalry reserve

Marquis de Valseme in the midst of his French and German infantry

yet more French troops march in column

These are the Elector's Bavarians on the French left flank, behind Lutzingen

This is Lutzingen, defended by Bavarian reserves

The Elector's guns move up towards a rise where they can deploy

Lumley's British cavalry in reserve.

Plus my German horse on their left

Tony is trying to bring troops and guns up on the other side of the Danube

as these troops negotiate marshy ground where the Nebel has dried out

Another view of the Dragoons defending Blenheim

British and Hanoverians wait their turn to cross the bridge

Hautefille's Dragoons appear unconcerned behind their barricades !

Rowe directs his troops to cross the Nebula

These are Fink's Swabian foot, reluctant to advance

Whereas, Bielke's Prussians dash towards Lutzingen, followed by Anhalt-Dessau's brigade

The Bavarians await the storm

Here's a copy of the French Order of Battle seen at this stage.

More Bavarian foot in reserve, left of the line

and masses of cavalry under the command of the Comte d'Arco!

The Elector himself

French troops advance in the centre of their position

Now my Prussians have started the attack on the village - and getting hurt in the process - white smoke represents disorder and the white rings unit casualties. Three rings and they are shaken, more than that, they have to take a break test.

My gun battery has been targeted by the enemy guns and a piece is in trouble !

a good view of Lutingen and its Bavarian defenders

Massed French in the centre

The British push on in the centre

and through the marshes

The French drag a battery of guns up to face Tony's across the River Danube

Still a long way to go !

View from behind the French lines, centre of the line.

This looks like Beck's men making progress

The French hold their ground

This is the view from left of the French, camera above Lutingen

Back to my struggle - one Prussian unit has been destroyed and the next one disordered in their attempts to take the village.

and there's plenty more Bavarians behind the village too.

My guns continue to pepper the enemy infantry in front of their position

These are Phil's Germans waiting the order to attack

Some splendid cavalry

British guns now crossing the bridge

All quiet at Blenheim

But the Allied push into the centre is making progress

Cavalry are brought on to the main battlefield

At last the defenders of Blenheim have something to worry about !

Both sides still look well ordered.

Henry and Steve T seem to be preparing an attack against Steve Clarke's troops.

Its hotting up now - look at all the disordered white puffs !

Infantry have been deployed to the right of Blenheim

An Allied general contemplating a swim ?!!

Allied horse in amongst the foot

My Anhalt-Dessau brigade has managed to swing in to the left of the Bavarian battery and take out a gun as well as some infantry.

Can we create a gap in their line here ? More troops try to exploit before Gary can plug it with more Bavarian infantry.

Here's the view from Gary's side of the table, behind Lutingen

A big cavalry clash in the centre.

and some French cavalry try to charge our guns

Hand to hand fighting as Cutts' men charge

More disordered units !

The view from behind Blenheim at this stage

Meanwhile, my Prussians have finally got into the village on our right flank !

and cleared out the enemy defenders. But not for long.

With casualties so high on Bielke's command, the whole brigade is going to have to withdraw as broken - all that work for nothing !

There's just so many of these dratted Bavarians !

Its starting to look ragged in the centre now

With the Prussians retreating, I have brought on Hanover's cavalry to bolster the end of the line.

Three of the French commanders looking remarkably relaxed !

Steve T is now pouring cavalry onto the battlefield

Sensing this is the time to press the enemy centre with horse flesh.

Meantime, my troops attack to the left of Lutzingen is faltering - but a quick calculation by the umpires works out that a Bavarian brigade has fallen below strength and broken so the effort has been  worth it and we have been able to take out two of the enemy guns.

More and more cavalry is committed to the fray

 Its all going to be about the centre, just as in the real battle

Not a good time to be taking your horse and cart out for some fresh air !

Briefly, Bavarian troops recaptured Lutzingen before they are ordered back as part of the broken brigade.

French cavalry still in large numbers on the battlefield

Its a real slog now.

Where's all this cavalry coming from ?!!

All the French reserves have been committed now.

But the British attack is relentless

The French are being pushed back.

and even Blenheim is feeling the pressure

This is a sorry sight - broken troops !

Whereas as this is great - look at all these troops !

Can the French cavalry save the day ?

The French cavalry sweep across the slopes to try and save the day

so much action going on - its difficult to report on it !

French infantry to the left of Blenheim hold the line

Allied troops try their best to take Blenheim

The Prince of Hanover's Cuirassiers have been committed on the Allied left as our Prussian infantry fall back 

and the Austrian Hussars and German Horse attack beyond the swampy ground in front of my two remaining guns

at the same time, Steve T threw in cavalry reserves to my left, just as Steve C on the French side hurled his cavalry into combat !

The French were thrown back behind their infantry again

Some of our Horse force the broken Bavarian brigade to retreat, including gunners.

At this point, late Saturday afternoon, Mark announced that the British had won because of the number of broken French brigades.

Incidentally, this is how we had portioned out the commands on the British side

We were then told to swap sides and the French commanders now had a go at being British & Allied.

Mark and Henry confer at the end nearest to Blenheim. I'm now handling The Elector's troops just left of centre with Tony beside me.

This is Tony's command with guns interspersed between infantry units

To my left, Phil has the Bavarians defending the village against John's attacks.

My battery of guns straddling a rise in the ground with my infantry to the left

I've put the Irish Mercenaries in our forward position, Oberglau, as they were in the real battle.

With Henry departing early, Steve T has now taken control of the defenders in and around Blenheim.

Right, let's see what the lads can do as British this time !

Steve Clarke has command of the British centre - is the responsibility weighing down on him ?

Hmm ... what to do ?

Gary is enjoying himself so much, he's about to clamber onto the table and join the fight personally !

"Whiskers" has thrown his troops against Oberglau with a large gun battery unlimbered behind the swamp.

Phil has advanced his Bavarians to strongly support Lutingen

"Whiskers" scratches his head seeking inspiration !

Mel out on the British left wing seems perfectly happy !

Here they come !  The British & Allies manage to leap across the table in strength in the centre

I've sent forwards some French foot to provide some fire support for the defenders of Oberglau

Phil pushes Bavarians and guns forward to the right of Lutzingen, on my left

British cavalry now trot across the bridge over the Nebel, building up to a massive cavalry attack in the centre

Meantime, the Allies press their infantry attack in the centre against Tony's command

This is where we got to at close of play on Saturday evening.  Back to the hotel to spruce up for our Donald Featherstone Memorial Dinner !

As has become tradition, on the Saturday evening we held a formal jacket and tie dinner in memory of "The Don". We had anecdotes of wargaming with Don Featherstone from his pal, Chris Scott and Henry Hyde held a charity auction in aid of Help for Heroes

Another little quirky tradition we have is to present the most dapper dresser with an award. Melvyn, last year's winner, had the dubious pleasure of handing this over to Yours Truly on this occasion - I've never been given anything by a Welsh Wizard before !

Seems we only have one bottle of booze left, judging by the table behind us !

 Right, enough of that, back to the fighting in the Centre,  this is now Sunday morning, British and Allied cavalry on open ground in the centre

Steve Clarke's infantry have been forced back with casualties but have caused some damage to Tony's French defenders.

The French are grimly hanging on here

but right of them, the position looks much stronger

The French dragoons in Blenheim are supported by a gun on the road

Melvyn has pushed forward a brigade to try their luck

as more troops are pushed over the bridge to assist

This is definitely the British at their most dangerous in this refight

and yet more cavalry arrive

Can the French hold off this lot ?

View along the French line at this point - sorry about the tea cups !

A weary Tony assesses the state of his command - but they have held the line.

Steve Clarke pushes more troops forward against Steve Thompson's command

Phil's Bavarians still have Lutingen and the extreme left is holding firm

Steve Clarke celebrates a breakthrough in the centre !

his infantry have charged Steve T's lines

This tussle hung in the balance for a while

and "Whiskers" has attacked my Bavarians beside Oberglau where I am about to launch three Bavarian Leib regiments into the clash

Masses of British cavalry advance in the centre as "Whiskers" attacks with a brigade around the side of Oberglau, heading for my French on the higher ground.

Phil's Bavarians have got their hands full with John's troops on the attack

Here's a view all along the line at this stage of the battle

Steve Thompson seems to have weathered the storm up his end

Both sides assess the situation, as broken brigades are added up by Mark

Allied infantry regroup in front of the Nebel bridges

These infantry have yet to fire - hence the First Fire markers beside each unit

Here we see Gary's massed British & Allied cavalry waiting to pounce on any disordered or shaken French infantry !

I have thrown forwards a Cuirassier unit to threaten the flank of one of "Whiskers" brigades which will set in motion a chain reaction !

"Whiskers" infantry supported by John's cavalry engage the Bavarians under my and Phil's commands

British cavalry surge towards the fight !

There's hardly an inch of space to spare in the fight all along the line - Phil and I have managed to push back the British assault.

Gary's cavalry engage my Cuirassiers as the rest of his brigades wait

They are a formidable sight

My Cuirassiers recoil but they have given as good as they got and one enemy cavalry brigade has broken

My French troops have beaten off one of Whiskers infantry brigades too

Now my Bavarians go on the attack and break another British brigade

Phil is having one heck of a "ding dong" with John's troops but successfully protecting his side of the battlefield

The high water mark for Gary's British cavalry - one regiment is in amongst my lines after breaking the Cuirassier brigade and my guns are in danger

Another panoramic shot along the table, looking from the Blenheim end

Steve Thompson's infantry are heavily engaged with Melvyn's infantry and getting some results

These Allied troops are falling back with casualties opposite Tony's ridge

Mind you, looking at all these cavalry, you wouldn't think the British were in trouble !

but attrition happens and bit by bit, casualties are mounting to the point where brigades will break

My Bavarians are definitely getting the better of it on the left of Oberglau and the Irish in the village hold on despite attack after attack on them

Two broken British cavalry brigades watch as others try to make some room to make a difference

Steve Thompson orders the French cavalry reserve onto the table and they crash into the enemy horse

The mood has changed and all along the line British and Allied troops are falling back.

It is now that Mark announces the French have won - game over !

As is our custom, at the end of the weekend, we choose "the most gentlemanly wargamer" and Steve Thompson justly won this as he had not only participated in the best of manners but also patiently advised friend and foe on the intricacies of the rules.

Here is receiving his prize from Mark Freeth

His name will also be engraved on the Donald Featherstone Memorial Trophy which is kept at WHC.

Another fantastic weekend with great people - roll on next year - which may be a return to American Civil War gaming !

And grateful thanks to Mark for putting up with us yet again - how he keeps his sanity with Melvyn's Penguin jokes, I just don't know !!!