Monday 25 May 2009
By nine we were ready to move into the War Room - at least, the Colonel was. I think I floated in on a haze of good grape juice. But I had digested not only his food - but also his Wargame Rules. Late though it was I wanted to take up my Command. I felt, just then, as though I could have routed the Emperor Napoleon's Army with a single staunch English Battalion!
Prior to dinner he had outlined an Order of Battle for a 'short' game. The opposing sides would be numerically even. They would consist of two battalions of infantry of the line, two companies of skirmishers, one battalion of Guards, one Regiment of Heavy Cavalry and three batteries of Field artillery - all in prepared positions. We spun a coin - and this decided I would command the British. (GAME NOTE: This, I might point out, was the Colonel's idea of a short game. We play nine or ten men, plus an officer, to a tray and this represents a Company - not a Battalion! It makes for an interesting game - but never a short one!)
I was, needlessly to say, soundly thrashed. I opened up with a line of skirmishers, followed by a battalion of line infantry, advancing beside a road which led almost directly to his Command position. They moved forward supported by a short artillery barrage and with a Regiment of Scots Greys close behind, the Colonel feinted with a desultory counter by one of his own line infantry battalions - then quietly withdrew. I continued to advance confidently. I remember thinking that the old boy was one of those 'theory only' commanders - it was, perhaps, a different thing putting his theories into practice...
Then it happened. My fine Scots Greys were caught in enfilading artillery fire from both flanks, behind the infantry. This left an awesome gap behind my advance - a gap soon filled by exultant Cuirassiers, which he had split into two squadrons, and who came at me, seemingly, from nowhere. I couldn't disperse them with artillery, because, by then, they were already engaging my rear ranks - and my own troops presented a much better target to my gunners than did his wretched cavalrymen! The only way 1 could retreat from this attack was - forward. And that shut tight the trap. My one battalion of line infantry and their two companies of skirmishers were set upon by his Guards Battalion, his cavalry and his original battalion of line infantry - the latter had merely about face and joined the Guards in the massacre. I'd had no time to form a square to hold off the Cuirassiers - I was badly extended in front to meet the infantry attack - my artillery was worse than useless - I was, in fact, in one hell of a mess. Of course, I brought up everything to try and rescue my advance troops - and brought them up far too quickly. He delivered a startling left hook with his now disengaged cavalry, joined by his reserve infantry battalion and fully supported by his deadly accurate artillery, now firing canister at witheringly short range. It was a horrible sight. It was a tragic sight. I draw a veil over the rest of the battle. My casualties amounted to a staggering 62% - the Colonel had sustained a mere 11%. My advance battalion had been reduced to about Company strength. My Scots Greys - would never forgive me - they hadn't even closed with the enemy, yet his artillery had cut down their numbers by nearly 50%. As for my gunners - they had fired a sum total of only three rounds per gun! Then, to add to my misery, I discovered that the advance battalion - the one that got itself decimated so early in the piece - was identified as the 16th Regiment of Foot - the Bedfordshire Regiment. I fully expected black flags of mourning to be hanging from every window of every house in my village when I returned.
It was after midnight when the stragglers from my routed battalions finally made it back to their base line. I was utterly exhausted - the Colonel was in a fine mood, his eyes twinkling with happiness and jubilation. His wife brought in two enormous mugs of steaming, creamy cocoa whilst the post mortem was delivered. It was after two a.m. before I was allowed to get into my car and drive wearily home. Resting in the glove locker was the tiny fictitious Dragoon - the reason behind the whole incredible evening.
But it wasn't going to end there. The Colonel had maintained that there was some hope for me as a commander. The deceased major, his old opponent, he pointed out, had suffered much more severely than I had in their first engagement. Within the first three moves, the Colonel said, his artillery had been completely overrun - at least I'd got my gunners back safely. I didn't mention that they were about all I'd got back in safety. Anyway, he said we would meet again next Sunday - but that I was to arrive early, so that we might have a 'decent tussle' - on a Divisional basis. Furthermore, I could bring my own troops. He added that perhaps I might feel more at home with Regiments I knew and had led before. As it happened I, too, had a battalion of the 16th - but I made a mental note to leave them safely behind when next the Colonel and I crossed swords over his War table!
The Bavarians, anticipating the arrival of the Hessians, deployed their main strength on the left wing. This wing advanced and deployed behind the stream. Two battalions were pushed forward to occupy the Ossenberg. The centre formed on the Schlatberg. The Right wing formed up south and west of Forgau in a rather detached position. The Reserve remaining centrally posted North West of Zotton.
The Hanoverian deployment was in two lines on the high ground opposite the Schlatberg. The cavalry covered the right wing with its right on the road. The light troops seized the Wiessenberg from which they obtained a splendid view of the proceedings.
The situation at 09.30 is shown on the map (see previous post). Fire was being exchanged between the artillery on the Schlatberg and opposite. The Hessians had not yet appeared.
Cumberland was alarmed to receive reports of the enemy on the Ossenberg. He at once detached half his second line to join Hardenberg with the cavalry. These he ordered to clear the Ossenberg. The two battalions must have felt themselves exposed on the Ossenberg and rued the fact that their artillery was behind the stream. Attacked by twice their number of infantry and cavalry, they fell back in disorder pursued by the Horse Grenadiers. These pursued to the stream where they halted and observed the Bavarians drawn up before them. The flight of these troops and the appearance of cavalry on his left flank alarmed Hildburghausen, who detached his Cuirassiers from the Reserve to stabilise the position. This was not his only alarm. Four squadrons had been detached from the Wiessenberg to investigate Forgau. This village the mounted jaegers found unoccupied. Swiftly they remedied this and opened fire on the dragoons opposite, Fearing a major turning movement through the Wiessenberg gap, Hildburghausen detached his Uhlans to secure this wings. He further instructed Xavier to retake Forgau. The jaegers did not wait but with news of this troop concentration they fled back to the safety of the hill top.
Cumberland now committed what should have been a fatal error. His pleas to the Hessians to speed their march were answered. At 10.15 these troops marched on to support the attack on the Ossenberg. Hardenberg was ordered to withdraw his battalion and occupy Ossen. This order was then countermanded and the Hessians ordered to the task instead. Not content with countermarching his troops once he suddenly realised his blunder (the Hessians were then on the Ossenberg and Hardenberg approaching Ossen) and sent messengers to bring back Hardenberg (who had at once set off for Ossenberg) and send back the Hessians to the berg. Had the Bavarian left made some attempt to retrieve the Ossenberg any such attempt must have thrown the Hanoverian right into disorder. The moment passed however and the Hessians took up positions in the woods south of Ossenberg while Hardenberg entered Ossen.
Cumberland now had reports telling him that the enemy wings were in strength. He guessed that the Schlatberg could only be weakly held.
Cumberland to Ohien - Assault Schlatberg
Cumberland to Lippe - Support Ohien
Cumberland to Hardenberg - Support Ohien
Cumberland to Hereditary Prince - Engage Bavarians behind stream
Hildburghausen realised the troops in Forgau had been but a feint and was most alarmed at the Hessians bursting from the woods round Ossen. The Uhlans were switched from the right to the left.
The Hanoverians in the centre now burst upon the Schlatberg. Despite heavy casualties in the approach they swiftly threw back the Bavarian centre, which retreated in disorder. Xavier with four battalions and nine squadrons attempted to counterattack but, outnumbered, he was soon in retreat.
On the Bavarian left all was in disorder as some Hanoverian dragoons burst across the bridge (which had been left unguarded). The Light artillery was abandoned and the whole, covered by the cuirassiers, retreated on Zotton.
The cuirassiers and other Bavarian squadrons covered the retreat, which was not pressed - the light troops on the Wiessenberg being too far back to change the retreat into a rout. Hildburghausen managed to fire his magazine as he retired.
Hanoverian: 2,200 (including 800 Hessians)
Bavarians: (2,900 + 1,000 captured and 40 guns; General Xavier)
The serious Bavarian losses (nearly 25% of their force), combined with the loss of the main magazine, resulted in a precipitate retreat during which many of the territorials deserted. The remainder of the force shut themselves up in the walled capital of Bombar; Major General Preysing was left in command while Hildburghausen went off to gather a relieving army. Cumberland, lacking siege artillery, contented himself with blockading Bombar, the investment of which was completed on October 3rd. The tale of the siege will be related later.
Despatch from Count Hildburghausen to the Elector of Bavaria dated September 29th from Bombar.
The forces under my command have succeeded in denying to the enemy the use of the Zotton magazine, although the cost has not been slight. I instructed the main body of Your Highness's Army to occupy the Schlatberg-0ssenberg position, pushing as far as possible along the river. A smaller force under General Xavier was detailed to defend our right flank in the Forgaufeldt area.
The enemy being reported in force north of Ossen, I ordered the Ossenberg-Schlatberg line to be held defensively, whilst starting to build up a striking force around Xavier's command to come in on the flank of the expected attack from the north. Regrettably the Ossenberg units were not kept together, and two exposed battalions were suddenly attacked by heavy cavalry and scattered with great Ioss. Prince Klemens then withdrew behind the brook. During this action enemy cavalry had been reported as occupying Forgau, and fearing that this could be a big raid on the magazine Xavier’s force was ordered to investigate before he advanced northwards to succour the main position. When at last he was enabled to advance it was too late. Massed infantry attacks had dislodged Your Highness's troops, who had defended themselves with great bravery against overwhelming numbers, thereby adding great glory to Your Highness's Arms. Xavier counter-attacked vigorously, throwing the enemy into disorder, but numbers prevailed and his attack was repulsed. Xavier was shot down while leading the Piosasque dragoons to the attack.
Our cavalry covered the withdrawal of our troops to Zotton where the magazine was fired. The enemy is believed to have lost six thousand out of their force. Our casualty lists are not yet complete, some guns had to be abandoned.”
Despatch from William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, to his Majesty Ceorge II, King of England, Elector of Hanover. Dated September 27th, Zotton. Extract (the original despatch being somewhat wordy).
Almighty God has been pleased to grant to your Majesty's forces under my command, this day, a great victory over the invasive forces in the neighbourhood of Zotton.
(There follows a minute description of the Duke's march to Worste).
I conceived it my first objective to form a junction with your Majesty's auxiliaries commanded by the Hereditary Prince of Hesse. To this end I deployed my army in two lines on the hills north of Ossen ..... The left wing was covered by the Light troops of General Zastrow posted on the Wiessenberg… The enemy commenced a brisk cannonade from the Schlatberg opposite to which our artillery replied. Towards ten o'clock the Bavarians made a desperate attempt to turn our right flank by occupying the Ossenberg. Ma,jor-General Hardenberg with the cavalry and three battalions of infantry from our second line severely punished this impertinence .... We despatched four squadrons of Stockhausen's Corps of Jaegers to investigate the neighbourhood of Forgau. These troops reported the enemy in great strength thereabouts…
The Hereditary Prince having come up on my right I ordered a general advance .... Your Majesty's infantry behaved with the utmost gallantry and drove the enemy from his positions. We instructed our cavalry to cross the stream at the Ossen bridge. This bridge they found unguarded and their appearance threw the enemy into great confusion ... The left wing repulsed a counter attack from the enemy advancing from Forgau after which the whole Bavarian force retired precipitately ...
The Bavarians retired in great disorder leaving forty guns and over 1,000 prisoners in addition to 3,000 dead and wounded. !n retiring they attempted to fire the town of Zotton which contained abundant supplies. Your Majesty's losses have been some 2,000 which nay be considered a small price for so complete a victory.
Bavarian Infantry wore a characteristic light blue uniform with various coloured facings. Cuirassiers white uniform - cuirass worn underneath coat. Dragoons red. Artillery grey.
Saxon (Kries-Regiments) local contingents wore grey uniforms with vari-coloured facings. The Hussars were lancers in a long white coat with a tartar headress.
Hanoverian Infantry - red coats, with brown or red trousers, vari-coloured facings. Dragoons white uniforms. Horse Grenadiers white uniforms with the mitre head-dress. The Horse Grenadiers of the Guard wore a red uniform. Artillery steel blue with red facings. Buckeburg Carabineers, black leather with cuirasses, tartar head-dress. Jaegers - green.
Hessians. Prussian style uniform but dark blue trousers.
NEXT TIME - THE SIEGE OF BOMBAR
The French were relying on the fairly open ground near the town to cause heavy losses to the British with gunfire. The four batteries had a clear field of fire from the ridge on the town edge. The British decided to move in wide arcs round the French flanks, so that the French could not decisively deal with both attacks at once, and to link the two attacks only with a squadron of heavy cavalry and a Guards regiment in the centre. They kept their inferior batteries screened behind their left wing attack until they got within range of the French big guns.
The French guns concentrated in the meantime on this left wing infantry, causing over 400 casualties, mainly among militia. Then the British guns began firing on the French guns, and the two largely cancelled each other out until nearly dusk.
When the British left got close enough, the French right attacked, cavalry circling round along the road. A much-battered militia unit actually beat off a cuirassier attack, but the light infantry broke when charged by Saxon light dragoons, and the rout carried away another militia unit. The dragoons cut down large numbers of fugitives, and only halted at nightfall. Meanwhile the cuirassiers recovered, and this time routed both the battered militia infantry which had been their first target, and then a line regiment. So the French had carried all before them on this wing, except along the river, where a British Line infantry regiment broke first the French Light infantry and then their supporting Line. The southern half of the town was jammed with French fugitives just as darkness came down.
The British right wing attack meanwhile had circled cautiously well away from the grand battery, leaving their attack almost too late in fact. The infantry went in first, but were immediately charged by one French infantry regiment and routed. So, about ten minutes from nightfall, it seemed that the French had won a notable victory all round. Then came sudden disaster. The British desperately flung in both Household cavalry regiments in a last attempt. The French infantry stood the charge, but were borne down in the melee by the weight of the heavies, and routed back into Exeter. Supporting companies in the houses discouraged British pursuit to some extent, but Guards infantry were now in the outskirts. Calling his own cavalry back from pursuit, Ney brought his rearguard over the bridge and abandoned the main part of the town, blowing the bridge behind him.
So the Exeter area remained disputed, although the British had at least the satisfaction of clearing the east side of the river. The French had the satisfaction of inflicting 1,200 casualties on the British for the loss of 480. The British began probing for a way round the Exeter area.
Relief of Plymouth and fall of Taunton (May 5th-9th).
Before dawn on 5th May, the main bulk of the English (Exeter) western army marched round the flank of the French to get on to the west bank of the Exe, leaving two militia regiments and artillery as a screen in the city and along the river. They advanced half-way across Devon during the 5th and 6th, sending a strong flying column ahead which met and chased back (into Launceston), a French force of about 2 regiments which was marching to reinforce the Exeter French. The single regiment of French watching Plymouth hastily draw back over the Tamar, and the flying column dropped a further regiment into Plymouth to strengthen the garrison, itself returning to Exeter, where the western army re-assembled on the 8th, to find that on the 7th the French had cautiously pushed across the river and driven the 2 militia rearguard units back along the Taunton road. On the 9th the English marched 24 miles to Wellington, and halted there about 4 p.m. when they heard that an hour earlier the French had driven the garrison from Taunton in a brisk action.
A force of 3 South Midlands militia infantry and 1 cavalry regiment had force-marched from Bristol to join the militia retreating from Exeter. The town was just over half-fortified, quite open along the river. The French laid down a heavy artillery barrage on the isolated westernmost redoubt and went straight into the attack.
The light redoubt guns began to lose crewmen quickly, the English withdrew them to the bridge and held up the French beyond the river for half an hour. Three English regiments had crossed the river originally to try and beat the detached French before they could be helped from the main force, but came back and through the town at about 2 p.m. (action started at 1 p.m.) when it became obvious that the main French attack was going to succeed, and that the extreme French right wing was not only the weak part of the French army but lay on the best line of retreat for the militia, towards Lyme Regis and Dorchester. So whilst the Somerset militia (already battered at Exeter on the 4th), held the defences between the Wellington and Lyme roads, all the rest of the garrison sallied out through the Lyme and Bristol exits and attacked the French right. The leading regiment ran into a storm of roundshot from horse batteries and suffered from light infantry harassing, and broke, but the remainder swept down in column, routed the French horse guns and a light infantry battalion off the field, and made the Devon republican battalion run. Luck ran with the English militia, and just deserted the French in this last part of the action. So the English escaped south to the Hatch Beauchamp Woods, and the French occupied Taunton.
The militia lost 960 casualties, the French 360, out of about 4,800 and 7,000 strengths respectively.
Friday 15 May 2009
Tuesday 12 May 2009
Monday 11 May 2009
Saturday 9 May 2009
Thursday 7 May 2009
Friday 1 May 2009
The first article from each series has been posted below, and I will complete these series over the next weeks.
Because the quality of the original typescript for some of these articles is not wonderful, I have scanned them for optical character recognition and then imported the text into the posts. I have taken the opportunity to make some very slight amendments where this has clarified the sense. The text of posts in blogger don't have extensive formatting options but I have done my best to keep things readable.
You will notice that the wargame itself was played by absentee commanders thus allowing a really realistic re-creation of the fog of war. The work is not intended as a masterpiece of strategy or tactics: indeed both commanders showed marked weaknesses and perhaps it would be worth inviting readers to comment on the initial deployments and consequent action.
The system of absentee commanders gave an exciting game to watch and it occurred to me that this would be a good spectators' type of game if ever the Newsletter had another convention like the Military Festival at Chelsea in 1964.
War of the Bombar Succession – 1
Some Account of the Battle of Zotton
1. Historical situation
The year is 1752. Europe is exhausted after the long struggles of the War of the Austrian Succession.
2. Political Situation
The Duke of Bombar, childless and aged 84, is enforced by his debtors to pawn his duchy to His Britannic Majesty in his capacity as Elector of Hanover. Maximilian Joseph, Elector of Bavaria, has pointed out to His Highness of Hanover that by the Treaty of Westphalia Bombar, on the failure of the direct male line shall revert to the Wittlesbach Inheritance of which he is the heir. His Highness of Hanover has let it be known that he is not impressed by the pretensions of His Highness of Bavaria.
June 2nd 1752 Duke of Bombar announces his marriage to Emily Clugg
July 9th 1752 Announcement of forthcoming happy event of the Bombar/Clugg union.
August 4th 1752 Duke of Bombar expires.
August 5th 1752 Elector of Bavaria announces that he proposes to annex Bomber. Order the mobilisation of his army.
August 12th 1752 Elector of Hanover announces that he will protect the rights of unborn children.
Attitudes of other powers
The Empire - Francis, husband of Marie-Therese Queen of Hungary, in his capacity as Holy Roman Emperor announces that the Diet will consider the matter.
Prussia - Frederic II states that he cannot allow the arbitrary resettlement of states in North Germany.
France - No interest shown.
Great Britain - His Britannic Majesty's Parliament states that it dissociates itself from his Hanoverian Highness's German ambitions.
3. Military Situation
Bavaria. Count Hildburghausen has accepted command of the Bavarian forces. These have been augmented by a contingent of troops from the Saxon Circles who have declared in favour of Bavaria. On September 2nd Bavarian troops occupy Bombar and begin collecting magazines at the town of Zotton on the Bombar/Hanover border.
Hanover His Hanoverian Highness has given command of his troops to his second son William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. In addition he has dipped into his private purse to hire some Hessians. He instructs Cumberland to liberate Bombar.
4. Strategic Situation
Cumberland sets out at once and orders his Hessian Auxiliaries to join him at Wasselburg, On September 26th his force is approaching this junction when he learns of a Bavarian force in the neighbourhood. His spies report this force as some 15,000 strong with a fair leavening of territorial troops, whose discipline is none too good.
Hildburghausen soon learns of the approach of the Hanoverians and gathers his forces at Zotton to give battle. Too late he learns of the approaching Hessians. To retreat is out of the question as this will uncover his magazine and his territorials may likely desert. He resolves to give battle.
5. The Game
Participants: H.J.C. Gerry; M.T. Brown; M.J. Majurey and F.N. Cogswell.
The game was played in two parts. The strategic captains sat in one room complete with maps and orders of battle. They received tactical reports from the tactical players. These reports were brief and only gave general descriptions. On receipt of these reports they analysed the situation and gave orders to their generals. As will be seen this can be a very interesting situation - afterwards both players felt that they had been through the very fog of war. They only drank half the beer supplied.
The tactical players were only to carry out their captains’ orders and report back. They had local initiative when enemy troops were within a quarter of a mile. The commanders could only “see” half a mile across the flat. This range of “vision* was increased when they were on a hill.
The rules used tactically have been outlined before (September 1968). The table was five foot square. The figures were 30mm Spencer Smiths. Tactical representation is one figure to 100 men, one inch to 100 yards and one move to 15 minutes. Infantry move is four inches deployed, eight inches undeployed, other arms in proportion. Long range of artillery is sixteen inches, musket three inches, one hit is scored for each six men firing at long range - each three men at short range. Melees are decided on a basis of head count times a morale throw. Morale dice are thrown in the usual situations with penalties for troops who are undeployed or have suffered severe casualties (25%). The highest dice of three is chosen for a line Infantry regiment deployed two figures deep. Other units in proportion. A dice is lost when there is a morale penalty. 5 or 6 is good morale, 1, 2, 3 or 4 is routed.
6. Orders of Battle
Commander: Count Hildburghausen
Figures (F) 1 Representative Strength (RS) 1
Prince Klemens (F) 1 (RS) 1
2 Battalions Grenadiers (F) 12 (RS) 1,200
4 Battalions Infantry (F) 24 (RS) 2,400
3 Battalions Territorials (F) 18 (RS) 1,800
2 Brigades Light Artillery (F) 7 + 2 guns (RS) 700 + 40 guns
Major-General Prevsing (F) 1 (RS) 1
4 Battalions Territorials (F) 32 (RS) 3,200
1 Brigade Field Artillery (F) 4 + 2 gun (RS) 400 + 20 guns
Major-General Xavier (F) 1 (RS) 1
9 Squadron Dragoons (F) 9 (RS) 900
4 Battalions Infantry (F) 24 (RS) 2,400
1 Battalion Franc-Tireurs (F) 6 (RS) 600
12 Squadrons Cuirassiers (F) 12 (RS) 12,000
12 Squadrons Uhlans (F) 12 (RS) 12,000
1 Battalion Infantry (F) 6 (RS) 600
Total 16,600 men: 31 Squadrons, 15 Battalions and 60 guns. (170 figures plus 3 guns)
Commander: Duke of Cumberland
Figures (F) 1 Representative Strength (RS) 1
Lieut-General Ohien (F) 1 (RS) 1
8 Battalions infantry (F) 49 (RS) 4,900
1 Brigade field artillery (F) 5 + 1 gun(RS) 500 + 20 guns
Count Lippe (F) 1 (RS) 1
4 Battalions Infantry (F) 28 (RS) 28,000
2 Battalions Grenadiers (F) 13 (RS) 13,000
CAVALRY RIGHT WING
Major-General Hardenberg (F) 1 (RS) 1
6 Squadrons Horse Grenadiers (F) 6 (RS) 600
9 Squadrons Dragoons (F) 9 (RS) 900
Major-General Zastrow (F) 1 (RS) 1
6 Squadrons Buckeberg Carabiniers (F) 6 (RS) 600
1 Battalion Buckeberg Carabiniers (F) 6 (RS) 600
4 Squadrons Stockhausen's Corps (F) 6 (RS) 600
1 Battalion Stockhausen’s Corps (F) 4 (RS) 400
Hereditary Prince of Hesse (F) 1 (RS) 1
6 Battalions Infantry (F) 38 (RS) 3,800
1 Brigade Field Artillery (F) 5 + 1 gun (RS) 500 + 20 guns
Total: 17,800 men: 15 squadrons, 22 Battalions, 40 guns (178 figures and 2 guns)
The respective camps are shown on the map. Both armies breakfasted and began deploying at 08.00 September 27th. The Hessians were timed to arrive some time between 09.00 and 10.30 - dependent on a dice throw. They were due to arrive over the Wasselburg Bridge.
7. Tactical Commentary
The battle may be conveniently divided into four phases;
A Deployment (08.00 to 09.30} Moves 1-6
B Probing (09.30 to 11.00) Move 7-12
C Attack (1100 to 1230) Moves 13-18
D Pursuit (12.30 to 14.00) Moves 19-24
(The game actually took three hours playing time).
Note: The design represents the Duke of Cumberland, as the white horse of Hanover, plunging amongst the standards and trophies of Bavaria while the striped bear of Hesse approaches.
TO BE CONTINUED
Like so many other serious addicts, I became a wargame enthusiast fairly late in life. Of course, 'things military’ had always fascinated me - the pomp and colour of ancient armies, the enthralling theories surrounding tactics and strategy, these had always commanded my deepest interest. And, again like so many others, I had the facetious knowledge, bordering on the absolute certainty, that if only the War Office had contacted me early in the Second World War I could have routed our enemies in a matter of weeks. This would have been achieved by a series of brilliantly conceived manoeuvres designed to strike utter fear into the Nazis, the Japanese, the Italians and any other foe who might dare to challenge our arms. It was all perfectly splendid in theory. In the field it would have been total disaster. I have subsequently proved this by putting those theories into practice on the wargame table. I am probably one of the unluckiest Wargamers who ever rolled a dice.
Anyway, my introduction to bargaining began when I bought an Avalon Hill game asa present for a young nephew. I made the terrible mistake of opening the box tocheck its contents and make sure the game was suitable for him. He never did get hishands on it. I bought him a racing car construction kit instead. The game subsequently became the first occupant of my Wargames Room, a room now overflowing with militaria of all sorts. The next stage of my addiction I blame entirely on DonaldFeatherstone - and his habit-forming book, 'Wargames'. I might have been able to resist the Avalon Hill temptation - but the book was my downfall.After reading it
once I was hopelessly hooked.
So I began to build up a collection of miniature armies. I think my name is emblazoned over the moulds of Neville Dickinson of Miniature Figurines. Evenings which should have been spent working on urgent television scripts (I'm a scriptwriter by profession) were eaten away painting 20mm high warriors and soldiers. Days were spent touring model and toyshops searching out tins of paint and new sets of Airfix figures. As for the latter, God only knows what will happen to my bank account if they ever do issue Napoleonic sets!
Finally the day arrived when I could field a fairly respectable army. I had what I thought were some pretty splendid brigades of infantry and cavalry, enough batteries of artillery to strike real fear into the heart of any opponent, plus waggon trains of supplies, some reserves and enough replacements to keep a battle going indefinitely.
Because I am a Writer and therefore supposed to be a Romantic (this is an utter fallacy, ' of course) the majority of my troops were Napoleonic. Nevertheless, I also had a secret hoard of ACW and WW I regiments hidden away for opponents who might specialise in those specific wars.
But opponents were something of a problem. Where on earth was I going to find them? As readers very well know, finding a compatible Wargame opponent is rather like searching for the ideal wife. I mean, after all, you've got to live with these people most weekends, haven't you? Ideally they should be spiced with a love of adventure, possess a modicum of dash and elan, be sweetly reasonable (especially when arguing the finer pointsof some rule), and never, never be infallible (there's nothing more boring than anopponent who has a counter to your every move). I live in a small Bedfordshirevillage - and I very much doubted if any of the local farmers wanted to mess aboutwith the Imperial Guard or the 11th Hussars after a hard days grind in the cowshed.
And so it came about that I met the Colonel. (Readers, I hope, will forgive me if I refrain from using his name. He is a man who jealously guards his privacy.) I had just bought a batch of fully painted, second hand cavalrymen from one of the 'Newsletter's' advertisers. Amongst them there were a dozen Light Dragoon-type troopers whose uniforms I couldn't identify. I phoned through to several military historians and experts - but no one could help me. Finally, a Regimental Librarian gave me the Colonel's phone number. He said there was very little the Colonel didn't know about Napoleonic uniforms - or any military uniforms, come to that. As it happened his home was in Northamptonshire - not all that far from my own. I rang through and told him my problem. His voice was gruff and formidable - and it scared the living daylights out of me. He gave me his address, told me to come around to his place at teatime the following Sunday - and to bring the cavalryman with me. It wasn't really an invitation - it was more of an order.
So I went, clutching the unfortunate lead Dragoon tightly in my hot little hand. The Colonel's house was a delightful place, a period home set amongst rolling lawns and roses. As for the Colonel's wife, she was a kind, petite and gentle lady. Her voice was as soft and lyrical - as the Colonel's was hard and militant. I was ushered into the 'War Room'. Here two formidable billiard tables had been stripped down, placed side by side, and upon them was arrayed the finest battle terrain I had yet seen. There were hills, rivers, villages, swamps, forests - the lot. And all in meticulous detail. Deployed over this countryside were two opposing armies - the redcoats of the British facing the blue uniformed French of Napoleon's guards. Scowling above them was the Colonel, a tall, lean seventy year old. He was busy organising the charge of a regiment of Cuirassiers into a British square. I waited till the last of the troop trays had been placed in position. He stood back and surveyed the coming slaughter. "Damn1 fools," he grunted. "They should have softened up the square with some artillery before committing themselves to a charge." He shrugged. "The square will hold. Bloody good regiment in a tight spot," he added. Then he looked at me. He growled an introduction and said: "Where's that Dragoon?" I handed him the offending cavalryman. He took a magnifying glass from a small bench behind him and studied the tiny figure. I stood at ease - and waited, stealing a glance now and again at the wonderful battlefield.
For the next three hours he delivered a detailed dissertation on the theory and practice of Wargaming. He went over every facet of strategy and tactics, as applied to the battlefield. He explained his rules (which he said were his own invention, although I'm certain they are, nonetheless, modified Featherstone rules) and hammered me with facts and figures. By then it was seven thirty - and I was invited to dine with him. I might add that his wife had already anticipated this. In the elegant dining room the table was laid for three. After we had eaten, the Colonel said, we would play out a small brigade skirmish.
TO BE CONTINUED