Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Examination for General - the answers!

Neil Cogswell

If readers will refer to the November 1969 number of the Newsletter the objective of the exercise will be revealed.

Five generals replied to the invitation:

M. Gibbs-Harris of Cardiff (MG.H)

K. Robinson of Winchester (KJR)

Alister Sharman of London (A.JS)

Christian C. Strachan of Copenhagen (C.C.S)

P.M Street of Southport (P.M.S)

I believe that the standard was high by comparison with 18th century, and cer­tainly my own standards. Here is a brief analysis of the replies.

1(i) The soft knoll found great favour as an artillery site and infantry were station­ed behind it. Such artillery would certainly be blown away by the superior enemy and the infantry would suffer little better. Only K.R. recognised the ford between the villages - what other reason could the Northern village have to exist. M.G-H whose reply I preferred kept his army well in hand out of harm’s way south of the villages to attack the enemy when he was half across.
ii) Many ingenious solutions here but I preferred P.M.S. who fortified the high ground either side of 'H’

2(i) Some blood and thunder here as M.G-H attempted to escalade 'A’ by a coup de main and then march on 'S'. The most comprehensive solution was K.R. who attempted the ford, a bridge opposite the knoll, and still remembered to contain the garrison of 'A'.
(ii) Fortifying the villages (C.C.S., A.S., K.R.) seemed the best solution with the bridge, (and ford K.R.) between. Fortifications on the knoll are commanded by the next hill and that hill by the one after.

3(i) The heights south of 'A' found favour but they are too far back to deny the enemy the villages - which he could hold defensively and turn one flank with the rest of his force. Incidentally the higher of these hills is distinctly convex and those who placed artillery on the top would leave a lot of dead ground in front. There were some attempts at ambushes C.C.S. and M.G-H from the woods but these would not succeed against an alert enemy. I preferred K.R's fluid position behind the villages.
(ii) The three hill line North-West of 'F' was generally favoured. K.B. preferred a more forward position behind the wood and village 'F’ and superbly supported his right wing with an enfilade battery from the North bank of the river.
(iii) A variety of tight defensive positions but I believe the P. M.S. was very right in thinking discretion the better part of valour against such odds. He retired on 'D’ and sought opportunities to interfere with the enemy's convoys and await reinforcements.

4. Only P. M.S. and K.R. threw everything (except a rearguard) against one enemy column and I preferred P.M.S's selection of 'B' as the target to K.R's selection of "E’, since the latter can be reinforced by two columns while the former by one only. The danger of splitting the force into two medium and one large is that the larger one (lay not be large enough.

5(i) Two generals, who shall be nameless, omitted any scouting and could have ended upin an ambush. M.G-H moved on 'A’ from the East - an excellent stratagem since the 350foot hill S.E. of 'A' is very advantageous to him - such an approach made the answersto J(i) look pretty sick and it holds the possibility of achieving the objective with-out fighting a battle.
(ii) No one put any pickets on the hills south-west of 'L' which are 100 ft. higher than 'L' but there were some impressive redoubts along the ridge north of 'L'.

6 Three favoured the eastern route through the marsh - a nasty march by night. C.C.S. left his camp fires burning which would be a useful direction finding ploy as well as confusing the enemy. K.R. offered the splendid choice of marching to the ford at the twin villages and crossing to the north bank — a longish march with the danger of an ambush at 'L’ he also offered an alternative (if the north bank was blockaded) of the relatively easy march along the watershed North from 'G’ and the dash at dawn - favoured he hoped by a sortie from an alert garrison. P.M.S. also marched along the watershed but delayed his march until daylight. I think he would be caught by cavalry in the last two miles.

7 (i) and (ii). Three generals split up their force into fragments but K.R. and C.C.S. relied on pickets with a central main body. C.C.S. was thoughtful enough to allow his troops some rest - he bivouacked during the day - and gave full alert during the night. C.C.S. also used a cunning stratagem of a false camp with fires burning at night to guard part of the perimeter - a trick that might serve a turn but would not do for very long.

8. Some fought in front of the defile at 'L' - a risky performance, others held the line of hills - another risky business if the enemy does anything but a frontal attack. K.R. passed the defile held the 'KL' line lightly with a central reserve at 'F’ to await eventualities.

9. There was a considerable wastage of good troops in a succession of frontal attacks. K.5. and A.S. tried to turn the position from the North, but I liked C.C.S's choice of expending treasure rather than soldiers and as he put it "gaining access to A" and then turning the position - it would be well worth trying.

10. I had no intention of comparing peoples rules but I believe with Don that rules on a postcard is an objective well worth aiming at.

To select a winner is invidious as in war there is so much luck that an apparent blunder could possibly be a potential brilliancy - but I hand the Marshal's baton (metaphorically) to:-

K. Robinson of Winchester

His selected rules are appended.

Movement (mm) - Line - Column - Road
Infantry – artillery 200 L 250 C 250 R
Cavalry 400 L 400 C 400 R
Infantry charge 250 L 300 C 350 R
Light cavalry charge 1000 L 1000 C 1000 R
Heavy Cavalry Charge 850 L 850 C 850 R

Firing – range (mm) - Short - Medium -Long
Artillery 0-300 S 300-800 M 800-1500 L
Musketry 0-100 S 100-225 M 225-400 L

Artillery 1 average dice per gun
Musketry 1 average dice per 8 men
Musketry 1 average dice per 6 Grenadiers or Light Infantry

Short range - undivided. Divide by 2 for cavalry
Medium range - divide by 2 open order or behind cover
Long range - divide by 3. Deduct 1 for each gunner killed

Firing and moving simultaneous – cannot fire and move


Infantry 1 point
Grenadiers, Guards 1¼ points
Light Cavalry 2 points
Heavy Cavalry 2½ points

Throw 1 die per 10 points. Throw is number of casualties. Winner is side with least casualties. Loser retreats 1 move.

Surrender if outnumbered 3 to 1

Defeated troops become disordered; troops after charge become disordered; deduct 1 from all dice throws.

Troops behind cover add 1 to all dice throws.

All formations at 50% strength must retire from field.

I hope the MINIATURE FIGURINES (who are rewarding the winner) will approve my selection.

I sincerely hope that this will be of interest to more than the first contestants – I was a bit disappointed at the size of the reply. Perhaps the sheer length put some people off!

Neil Cogswell wrote extensively in Wargamer’s Newsletter. Among his other contributions was the well remembered War of Bombar Succession Campaign Series. These articles will appear her in their entirety in due course.

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