Monday, 26 October 2015

Return to Shevardino

In July, Steve and I played through a Shako scenario based on the battle for the Shevardino Redoubt.  (link).  Although we had a good game, we thought that the position was rather cramped on my 6 x 4 table and Steve kindly offered his 8 x 6 table for a re-run.  The same terrain was used (see map below), except for increasing the depth of the woods and broken ground on the Russian left, through which the Polish infantry had to advance.

With the experience of the first game I bolstered Voyeikov's forces on the Russian right by adding a horse battery and a regiment of Uhlans; also Duka's cuirassier division gained a fourth regiment.

The Polish infantry move through broken terrain
On the French left Compans struggled to make decisive progress as a marshy stream ran across his front and Voyeikov had deployed his cavalry forward making it hazardous to cross unsupported, Eventually, the French did cross, but only after considerable manoeuvring to try and find an unopposed crossing.This delay allowed the Russian skirmishers to whittle away at the French infantry, the 5th Legere in particular really struggled.  In the centre, Teste had no such problems.  His main concern was the batteries of guns supporting the redoubt he had been ordered to attack.  As his men moved forward they began to take casualties as the roundshot tore through the columns.  On the right, Bruyere's light cavalry, led by the 2nd Hussars and 4th Chassuers, moved forward to try and pin the Russian jaegers in place whilst Krasinski's Polish infantry moved onto their flank.  To try and maintain some freedom of manoeuvre, Gogol ordered his hussars to charge the French cavalry. Sweeping forward the Alexandrinsk Hussars overwhelmed the 2nd Hussars, driving them from the field.  Without pausing they then charged the 4th Chasseurs and also defeated them, forcing the French to retire and reform.  Unfortunately, the exuberance of the Russian hussars had carried them beyond their supports and before they could reform they were charged by 4th Lancers.  Caught at such a disadvantage the Alexandrinsk were driven back in confusion and took so many casualties they were out of action for the rest of the battle.   Bruyere had only one fresh unit, the 3rd lancers and decided to wait whilst the rest of his command reformed.  This allowed just enough time for Sievers to bring forward his dragoons to support Gogol.  

The Alexandrinsk Hussars driven back by the French lancers
Sievers leading dragoon regiment, the Riga dragoons, crested the small hill on Gogol's right and Saw Sulkowski's Polish light cavalry which had just arrived. Supported by horse artillery, the dragoons charged the Polish uhlans.  As they swept forward they ran into fire from the newly arrived French artillery reserve which emptied some saddles.  The uhlans won the melee, but decided to fall back rather than take on the second Russian dragoon regiment, Neu Russland.
With all the cavalry in the area, the infantry of both armies mostly adopted square formation or, in the case of the 4th Polish infantry remained in the wooded broken ground.  However, when a battalion of the 15th jaeger formed line to attack the 2nd battalion pf the 4th Polish infantry as they moved out of the woods, the colonel  of the 4th Chasseurs decided to ride them down.  Unfortunately, his move was spotted by the colonel of the jaegers and the battalion rapidly formed square.  Inevitably the French light cavalry made no impression against the square, losing heavily from the volley fired by the jaegers as they closed.  With their morale shattered, the chasseurs fell back and took no further part in the battle.

Teste's advance continues
Whilst all this was going on, Compans was making slow progress on the French left.  The 3rd Etranger regiment (Irish Legion) had managed to move round the left of Voyeikov's line and caught the 2nd battalion of the 8th Jaegers in the flank and drove them from the field. Pushing on, the 1st battalion of the Irish attacked the remaining battalion of the 8th Jaegers.  As the jaegers turned to face this threat it allowed the 5th legere to cross the stream unhindered.  Voyeikov's cavalry was on his right, countering the threat posed by the battalions of the 10th line.  His horse artillery was doing a great job supporting the cavalry, but the pressure was increasing.  He was relieved when a courier arrived from Gortchakov with orders to fall back to support Beverovsky's position around the redoubt. However, this manoeuvre was made rather more difficult when St Germaine's heavy cavalry division (cuirassier and carabiniers) arrived and immediately moved in support of Compans.  In no time at all Voyeikov's infantry were all but destroyed by the combined attack of infantry and cavalry. The remnants were saved by the brave advance of the Tenguinsk and Bielevski regiments from Neverovsky's division and also the intervention of Emmanuel's dragoons.  The over-confident French heavy cavalry were repulsed by the squares and then driven back by the dragoons, blunting the French advance.  Gortchakov had been able to allow Neverovsky's counter-attack because Mecklenburg's Grenadier division had arrived and was taking up position on the right of the redoubt. Compans also received further infantry support when Morand's division arrived on his left.
St Germaine's heavy cavalry advance
In the centre, Teste continued his advance.  The French skirmishers were now engaging the Russian infantry and the infantry battalions were ready to close.  However, losses from the Russian artillerycontinued to mount, the 9th Legere in particular seeming to be the 'target of choice'.  The French reserve artillery was unable to support the advance as it had been slowed by the advance of Sievers' dragoons, so Teste's infantry suffered. 

13th Polish infantry caught in line by the Neu Russland dragoons
On the French right, the cavalry battle became more intense as Wathiers Heavy Cavalry Division (cuirassiers and dragoons) moved forward against Gogol's hard pressed infantry.  The battered remains of Sievers dragoons were glad to see Duka's Cuirassier Division moving in their support. Soon the field was filled with cavalry regiments charging, meleeing and falling back to reform. Gogol tried to extract his infantry, but Krasinski had at last managed to get his infantry organised and supported by the French reserve artillery they crushed the jager battalions one by one. Their stubborn resistance had tied up resources which should have supported Teste and also delayed the advance of the Polish infantry which should have combined with the Wurttemburgers of Marchand's newly arrived division on the left flank of the Russian position.  The cavalry melee was to continue for the remainder of the battle, with the French gradually gaining the upper hand, but the Russian cuirassiers had done enough to prevent the French cavalry intervening in the fight for the redoubt.

Heavy cavalry melee on the French right
On the French left it was predominantly an infantry battle.  Emmanuel's and St Germaine's commands fell back to reform.  Indeed, the French were so shaken by their losses that they took no further part in the battle; a great loss to Compans attack on Mecklenburg's grenadiers.  Compans and Morand moved forward, preceded by a swarm of skirmishers.  The Russian guns exacted a price for the advance, but still the French pressed forward.  The Irish found themselves in the front line yet again and were attacked by the Kiev and Moscow grenadiers.  As the grenadiers closed the Irish fired a volley which stopped both battalions in their tracks.  The Irish charged, ignored the Russian volley and drove the grenadiers backwards.

The Irish stand against the Russian grenadiers
However, this proved to be the high water mark of the French advance.  Morand's division had suffered severely from the Russian heavy guns and when the third of the battalions of the 46th Line was forced to retreat due to casualties, the attack stalled.  In the centre Teste's division had come to the end of it's tether.  Swept by canister and the volleys from the Russian infantry the battered remains of the French infantry began to fall back.  The Russians had held the redoubt and inflicted heavy casualties on the French, but had suffered themselves.  It would be up to Kutusov to decide whether to remain in position, or fall back to the Borodino line further back. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Hadrian's Wall

I will get back to wargame reports eventually, but over the weekend we visited Hadrian's Wall.  It is 40 years since I was last in the Housesteads fort area and that was for a rather rushed visit.  With more time I was able to appreciate the use of terrain and the amount of work which went into the construction of this defensive wall.

A shot from near the Steel Rigg carpark, just west of Housesteads fort.  The route of the wall can be seen on top of the Whin Sill feature and in the distance, leading up to the small wood.

With the clouds brushing the tops of the surrounding hills and late autumn shafts of sunlight failing to instill any warmth, you felt every degree of windchill from the sneaky breeze.  For the garrison of 800 men it must have been a thankless posting, I bet many wondered which God they had angered.

The guiding within the remains of the fort is useful, helping to interpret the foundations which have been excavated.  From the north wall you can see the line of the wall to the east; the gap in the valley is the location of a later gate allowing easier access for wagons.  The original north gate being bricked up.

In the museum you can see a selection of late Roman arrow heads which were discovered during the excavations.

Once the Roman troops left the wall became a very useful 'quarry' for the locals to use.  Over a thousand years later they used the ruins of the southern gatehouse to construct a Bastle House as a defence against Border Raiders.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Farewell to the Vulcan

When I read that the Vulcan would not be flying after the end of this month, I thought that I had missed the chance to see it in the air again.  However, by chance one of it's final flights happened to pass within 10 miles of home and so yesterday afternoon I popped up the road to see it go by.

I found a quiet spot with a good view to the north, where the Vulcan was expected before turning west and flying past my position.  All went well until the Vulcan turned west further south, ie behind me!  Naturally, the other side of the lane was lined with trees and therefore I couldn't get a photograph although I did get a few glimpses through the branches.

Here is a still from a video clip I took at the International Air Tattoo six years ago, when the Vulcan made an appearance.  A truly iconic aircraft.

There is a website which gives details of the Vulcan