Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hagen Spanish Cavalry

Images courtesy of Hagen Miniatures

Got myself some of these lovely figures from Hagen Miniatures (which were commissioned by none other than MS Foy of Promotheus in Aspic fame). I bought one pack of the command set and  two of the troopers. Like all metal figures shipped to the Antipodes from the other side of the world, once shipping costs were added, the costs caused a sharp intake of breath! However, as there aren't any other Spanish cavalry commercially available in my chosen scale, it's either time consuming conversions or pay up.

I feel my Spanish forces need a little stiffening in the cavalry department to make them a well rounded force. Not that it really matters as Spanish cavalry really are rubbish in our rules (although in my latest report to come, my Spanish cavalry punched well above their weight in an awesome display of derring do, so stay tuned, folks!)

Below is an image of Spanish Line Cavalry by the Spanish artist Dionisio Alvarez Cueto which I'll be using as a guide for these figures.

Monday, January 25, 2016

My Grandfather's Seagoing Tent

HMAS Patricia Cam

The provenance on the back of the picture (clumsily redacted as per Mrs. R's wishes to protect family privacy.)

I rescued this lovely piece of militaria from the cupboard under the stairs at my father's beach house. He's moved down there permanently and has had to cull a lot of stuff from his other house to fit into the new one, and had always intended to give this to me, but somehow we never got around to managing the transfer!

It's a painting by renowned Australian naval history artist and RAN veteran Dacre Smyth of HMAS Patricia Cam, a coastal supply ship based in Darwin during the war. Apparently Grandpa commissioned the artist to paint the picture after getting in touch with him to tell him his story. Grandpa was a Chaplain in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and part of his duties during his posting to Darwin was sharing the pastoral duties with chaplains of other denominations and other services out in the Tiwi Islands. The islands were used as a early warning station for incoming Japanese air raids on Darwin and other communities in the Top End. With these raids in 1942 and 1943 Australia suffered its first and only attack by a foreign enemy. While the attacks pale into comparison when compared to the devastation suffered elsewhere, they certainly heightened anxiety in Australia, especially at a time when Britain was not surprisingly more concerned with home defense and the US had still to make its presence strongly felt in the Pacific War.

My dad and uncle both grew up knowing their father as well as becoming older brothers to their little sister. Their lives could well have been so very different; they may well have grown up without a father and have never had a little sister. Grandpa made one of those life-changing (indeed, life-saving) decisions when he agreed to swap rotations to the Tiwi islands with Rev. Leonard Kentish, who was to be on leave during his rostered trip to the islands. But for a fateful decision to help a colleague, it would have been my grandfather and not Rev. Kentish who would have been aboard the Patricia Cam when it was bombed and strafed by a Japanese floatplane. It would have been my grandfather, and not Rev. Kentish, who was then taken prisoner by the crew of the float plane and beheaded in 1943.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Fighting Cocks of the Army!

"Morte ou glória, meninos!"

Club games started this past weekend, so I thought I'd give my Anglo-Iberians a run for the first time this year. Robin said he was coming with his French, so I challenged him to a game. He gamely picked up my thrown gauntlet, so we settled on an 1813-14 Peninsular War encounter. I had a mixed Anglo-Iberian force of 2 brigades of British troops, and one each of Portuguese and Spanish (the Spanish were there mainly for comedy relief: Spanish cavalry? Pfff!) and cavalry and artillery.

3 elements of my army: (closest to furthest) Spanish, Portuguese and British

The Iberians

The Portuguese. They had a very good game.

The British: skirmishers to the fore

The Portuguese in the centre supported by British dragoons and horse gun battery.

I love my Spaniards; They just look so dashing!

My favourite command stand: the friar will bless you then blast you!

Leading from the front: "Follow me, boys!"

The Enemy!

"Thank God we didn't get sent to Russia!"

"On to Madrid!"

I won the initiative, so of course I set about marching my British troops to the nearest ridge line on the left, while my allied troops held the line in the centre and right flank. I had no great expectations for the game, even though I was up against Robin and his notorious bad dice mojo, as I seem to still not really know how to play the brittle British line tactics to their full potential. Especially if my opponent plays aggressively en masse, which is the only way to play the French when facing the British, and which Robin was sure to do.

The British advance on the ridgeline, the skirmish line stopping just before the broken ground

On the right, the Spaniards aren't sure how far forward they dare to move...

...while the leading Portuguese infantry skirt the woods to link up with them.

Sure enough, he started off VERY aggressively when I moved my small dragoon regiment in the centre, throwing out a vedette to see what was over the other side of the slope to the front. His own vedette spotted the movement and the plucky Chasseur commander ordered an opportunity charge on my dragoons. For the worst cavalry in the French command to charge the best cavalry in the Allied command was a fairly ballsy act, to say the least. I think he mistook them for my Spanish cavalry and was licking his chops at an easy victory. Still, it could have gone a lot worse for him as he rolled very well in his melee, while I didn't. Even though he was charging and I was caught mid-manoeuvre, he still only managed a draw, forcing us both back to our starting points with disorders. If I'd rolled better, I could have really mauled him! Anyway, that stopped things in the centre for the moment, while he brought up his guns and formed up his brigade into closed columns. I was expecting him to launch a charge at the cacadore line in the walled field, which could have been dicey, so I positioned one of my reserve battalions to threaten the flank of his approach and kept the dragoons back as well.

Balls-out  Chasseurs charge the dragoons...

...before realising they'd bitten off more than they can chew!

Things seemed stabilised in the centre, so the left flank became the next area of contention. Robin occupied the farm buildings on his right flank to stabilise his flank and then marched his brigade up on to the ridge, dislodging my artillery battery, who felt discretion was the better part of valour. My skirmishers bested his, then peppered his columns with a disorder or two, for added effect. This is where I decided to act more aggressively than I usually would have; our rules have the option for a fire-fight, which is where the active player marches his troops up to the enemy and engages in a brief intense exchange of fire at one and a half times their usual fire factors. As both the units I activated were some of my best, the firepower unleashed on his frontline was devastating. I usually either forget about the firepower option or act too conservatively, but this time I'm glad I took the option! It stopped his advance in its tracks and forced him to retire back to his starting point, while I kept control of the ridge. Huzzah for the Thin Red Line! (Robin's never been too happy with the firepower of British infantry in our rules; in this instance the equivalent of roughly 300 individual soldiers in his brigade were made hors de combat in that one exchange of fire. Still, he took it on the chin and carried on sportingly.) He soon found success in the centre, charging the buildings occupied by one Portuguese battalion and expelling them in a short, sharp combat.

Skirmish lines blaze away at each other, while the foot battery and infantry lines form up behind

Preparing a welcome for any French move to the front
Same view from above

With the French skirmishers disposed of, the French line troops advance in column...

...while the British artillery takes its toll!
The gunners are soon put to flight...

...but in the ensuing firefight

...the 92nd and 71st plaster the enemy, sending them reeling! Huzzah!

The Portuguese line is skirted by the dragoons who head off to the right flank.

The Portuguese occupied buildings are successfully charged by three French battalions

The pickings seemed a lot better on his left flank where my Spanish brigade were poised to be swamped by a wave of French horseflesh. The Portuguese shook out into line to link the Spanish to the centre and not allow the French to outflank their Iberian neighbours. I transferred the British dragoons over to that flank and brought my Spanish cavalry into the gap between the Portuguese and Spanish infantry. I came to regret that decision, as there wasn't enough room to deploy either unit into line. I then sent the Spanish dragoons across the face of the infantry to the right, hoping to get them into a position to threaten the advancing French dragoons. I ran out of functions in that turn to face them towards the threat, however, so they were presenting a nice juicy flank to the enemy instead! Thankfully I'd got the Spanish infantry into an anchored line, so when the inevitable happened and the French dragoons squashed their Spanish counterparts, the infantry were prepared and were only forced to retire in the ensuing combat, which I thought was as good as a victory!

The Spanish infantry form up in anchored line, with the British dragoons on the left and the Spanish dragoons heading for oblivion on the right.

They failed the attempt to turn to face the threat...

...and paid the price! The Spanish infantry did succeed in emptying at least a few saddles, taking a figure with their defensive fire.

That was the signal for Robin's own anchored line to charge the Portuguese line to his front. My British dragoons charged his nearest closed column, which although resulted in an inconclusive draw, prevented them from joining in the charge on the Portuguese. Those doughty infantry unleashed a defensive volley, which, combined with the aforementioned cavalry charge, ruined their momentum and resulted in the charge failing! Huzzah!

The Portuguese line straightens up to face the threat

The British dragoons take the opportunity charge and hit the closed column on the end of Robin's charging anchored line.

And then promptly rolls rubbish in the ensuing melee! No matter; they've stopped one battalion taking part in the charge on the Portuguese line.

The line blazes away at the oncoming foe and stops them in their tracks!

To keep the momentum up, the cacadores advanced on the line to their front and engage them in another firefight. This also had a successful result, sending the French into retreat. My success had left the cacadores' flank open, so I had to rush the nearest Portuguese line up to cover the hanging flank. I fired on the nearest French column and caused a casualty, which had the added bonus of forcing a morale check which was duly failed. Another French battalion retreating! Huzzah! My Portuguese infantry were earning their pay this day! Just to rub salt into the wound, Robin charged a single battalion at my horse guns. My gunners weren't to spooked this time and stood to their guns, firing a volley at very close range, which devastated the head of the column and caused another failed morale test! The third enemy battalion sent into retreat! Huzzah!

To follow up, the cacadores (to the right of the yellow flag) advance on the enemy line in front of the building and launch a firefight

The enemy is defeated!
Though now the cacadores' flank is in the air close to the enemy!

Never fear! The line troops advance and deliver an accurate volley which takes another figure, forcing a failed morale check on the enemy! Huzzah!

Robin suffers a rush of blood to the head and charges the guns...

...who stand to their guns and see them off with a whiff of grapeshot.

Robin got a measure of revenge when he charged the remaining Spanish infantry closed column with another of his battalions. My hard-working dragoons opportunity charged his attacking infantry, but had too many disorders and were sent reeling, allowing the French to smash the Spanish column. Unfortunately for Robin, the victorious battalion then got their blood up and went battle-mad, careering into my rear, where they were never to be seen again after one of my recovering units advanced onto their flank.

A last desperate counter charge by my exhausted dragoons fails.

The 2 red dots indicate the 2 routing units caused by the one French charge!

Unfortunately, they went battlemad, deep into my rear, where the only battered Portuguese unit redeems itself

My right flank is suddenly free from mortal danger: most French infantry is heading the wrong way. Only the French cavalry presents a threat, but without support it's not a big one.

On the right, the guns have been re-manned and the Scots are on the forward slope of the ridge.

From my right, the remaining Spanish infantry from squares to block the French cavalry, while the rest of the division stretches off in a continuous line. No reserves on either side.

Spanish gamely holding the cavalry at bay.

The brave Portuguese definitely punched above their weight!

While there was no cavalry action on the far left, my threatening move forced Robin to remove his Chasseurs and horse gun battery out of the line, which took the pressure off my centre.

By this stage, neither of us had the upper hand: I could swat every attack he launched, but had no reserves to exploit his failures, and while every attack he launched caused me damage, he also had no reserves to exploit the damage caused. He held the advantage in cavalry, though, and was slowly forcing my far right flank with weight of numbers. His dragoons on my right flank also only had Spanish and Portuguese infantry squares to hold up their advance. As it was we called it a draw with the honours shared, my Portuguese brigade being mentioned in dispatches!

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