Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Enniskillen and Derry - The personal journey of a fellow enthusiast - Part 1

Friend of the Blog - Peter shares with us all his exciting visit to many of the locations featured in the forthcoming LoA Campaign book for Ireland...

Enniskillen castle
When sorrows come… … they come not single spies. But in battalions…’ 

Shakespeare’s Prince of Denmark could as easily have been describing Ireland’s long history of troubles. Ireland is green, so green in the rain and a cold wind blowing… but it is a beautiful place, full of history and legends and mystery and in a short weekend a lot can be seen… in this first part I want to share with readers a look at the raising of the regiments and the defence of Enniskillen.

Montcashel, Galmoy, Jasmes, Berwick, Hamilton and Sarsfield - 15mm from Peter A.
Following the route from Dublin to Ulster taken by King James’s forces early in 1689 we head northwest and eventually come to a countryside of drumlins – glacial ridges now green-over and forested and perfect country for skirmishes and holding lines. This is the land south of Enniskillen and Newtownbutler where the running battles between the Enniskillen garrison and the Jacobite troops took place. 

Overkirk, Ginkel, William and Portland - 15mm from Peter A.

There is little to be seen today in this rolling landscape – no boards or brown signs marking the battle sites which remain in dispute – the height of Kilgarret hill and the surrounding wetlands close to Upper Lough Erne make this an intriguing scene… the road signs have changed now, the potholes briefly disappeared, we have gone from distances displayed in kilometres to towns described in miles – we have crossed the border into the North but with no fanfare, no notice – the wriggling frontier line on the map is invisible in every sense on the ground.

Bentinck, Wurttemberg and Ginkel - 15mm from Peter A.
Enniskillen is a small town, dominated by church spires and columns to Anglo-Irish landowners from the 18th and 19th centuries. A small town in the North, yet one which produced two famous regiments Horse and Foot, the Royal Inniskilling Dragoons and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

It is remarkable that such a small community, essentially rural in the beautiful landscape of Fermanagh could produce such a constant stream of excellent fighting troops over the years.

The Duke of Berwick
Enniskillen Castle is the famous landmark with the Watergate towers and the keep – seat of the Maguire clan – Chieftains of the lands of Fermanagh for centuries… the site now houses a museum to the two regiments from the town and the county museum of Fermanagh. Both full of fascinating exhibits

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Final report from the Front line Waterloo Part 6

210615 1015 - Zaventem Airport - the final dispatch from your front line correspondent at Waterloo 200. Last night's re enactment was quite different than the first.
British Light Cavalry
The Allies were all deployed already, no marching on. Napoleon did a circuit of the field to equal cheers and boos. The Allied guns (7 possibly 8 batteries) pumped out shots like they were using free money.
Falling back from the enemy attack
We had new seats almost exactly on the position of the 27th Foot (a little forward actually) so the view we had was not the end-on view of day 1 but a panoramic view of the French and Allied lines.

Take position behind the ridge!
Have I learned how to win it now?
The action was in some respects farther away than day 1 but the overall perspective on the battle was superior. We had a 'Wellington's eye- view' and that was indeed a privilege.
Big Entourage
The biggest take away for all we wargamers were two things - the smoke and the noise of the guns. I cannot emphasize enough the  sheer volume of smoke and unlike day 1 there was no breeze so it just hung in the air.
The Army will retire 100 paces!
Two important consequences of this were that vision was almost completely obscured for protracted periods of time and all colour changed to various shades of grey. Uniforms were indistinguishable, flags unrecognizable, the origin of fire indistinct.

Wargamers take note
counter battery fire
I am greatly looking forward to applying this new found knowledge in a wargame particularly when a player claims full visibility and reaction options to something which cannot be seen.
Hold steady lads!

The sheer spectacle was beyond adequate description and in the smoky fading light, when modern cameras cannot find an auto focus point I chose to switch to the i Phone in order to record the attack of the Guard - the climax of the evening.
With the British Guards lying in the corn right to our front and Old-Nosey riding in front of his line waving the hat the fire rippling down the British line backed by the fire of three batteries was not to be beaten by any Hollywood movie. I will see if it is possible to upload that to You Tube and link it.
They enemy are retreating!
Normal service will be resumed on the Blog as soon as possible and there has been lots happening on the 17th/18th century front but this diversion into the 19th century has I believe added value for the blog's members.
Too good not to share!

Signing off from  Belgium..............

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Report from the Front 5.. more action from Day 1

Setting a precedent for the blog today by posting twice in the same 24 hour period. The occasion I believe, merits a different approach at least for this week anyway.....

Walking to our seats this is the view of the reenactment field.
Having had a sleep I can write a little more about yesterday's action. The re enactment took place on the ground between the sunken road and the initial jump off position of D'Erlon's Corps.
On the very ground held by Bijlandt's Brigade
Effectively about one sixth to an eighth of the total ground area of the battlefield and with about 5% of the actual troops involved. Estimates were 7,000 re enactors. Lots of Napoleonic groups were roped in. I saw Swedish, Finish, Westphalian, Italian, Austrian, Swiss units plus 60th Rifles etc.
Bijlandt's Belgian Line infantry
No matter, that was all lost in the scale. The Allies had plenty of guns which seemed to be greater in number than the French. If anything, it appeared there were more Allies than French. Cavalry was thinner on the ground but even with perhaps no more than 100 - 150 per side they still filled a lot of ground and moved fast.
Wellington surveys the deployment
I watched cavalry pickets skirmishing with each other and they covered the ground between the armies swiftly and were up close within a couple of minutes.
The 92nd Foot Gordon Highlanders march onto the field
The buildings they fought around were temporary wooden structures erected in one of the many depressions between both positions. The red 'brick' one represented Hougoumont and the whit one La Haye Sainte. In one of the shots you can see the real Papelotte in the background.
Grand Battery fire and Bauduin's skirmishers move against Hougoumont
Our view was from Grandstand Z which was roughly positioned in front of La Haye Sainte. One of the biggest bonuses of the day was to be able to legally walk all over the land which is usually of limits when you visit the field.
Smoke from 5 or 6 Allied batteries early in the battle
To get to our seats we walked down from Picton's position (or VIP Champagne Tent was actually on the ground Pack's Brigade defended!), back across the route of retreat of Quiot's Division.
Long lens view across the field.. Wargamers.. TAKE NOTE PLEASE!!!
When the action started it was chaos, but beautiful chaos. The commentators were trying to make it understandable in three languages but I am unsure if anyone was actually listening to them.
Allied centre
It seems a little churlish to criticize what was perhaps one of the stand out moments of my life but they could have made it a little better with some extra thought.
Traver's Cuirassiers attack at La Haye Sainte
Suggestions from our group after included: a parade of the units around the field with public announcements of who they were at the beginning, large rock concert screens erected in key corners of the field (there were dozens of camera crews everywhere including hiding inside Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte!) and a 'Vive Le Empereur!" ride by Napoleon at the beginning which may have happened but we didn't see it.
Grand Battery line
Bauduin attacks Hougoumont
This gripes are very, very insignificant. The spectacle was on a scale so spectacular as to make any criticism sound like the whining of the worst pedant. 
Ready to go!
Waterloo intense!
Enjoy these pics. There are hundreds more. We are off again today. May be the same show but I believe our seats are different so the pix may well be too!
Beautiful uniforms .. but who are THEY??

Friday, June 19, 2015

News from the front 4 - Waterloo re enactment day 1

Union Brigade attack D'Erlon's Corps
I feel words are somewhat superfluous after this evening. I have just arrived back at the hotel and it is probably time to hang up my dice because no experience will top what I saw tonight. I took over 400 shots in less than 2 hours. This is raw stuff with no work so straight from the field.
RHA Battery

I think I'll reflect a little with my head on the pillow and leave you all with something to enjoy.

6th Division attack Hougoumont

Crabbe's Cuirassiers
British squares under pressure 
Skirmishing dismounted Polish squadron
Allied centre
RA battery give fire!
Pressing the attack on Hougoumont
The British stand firm

Actually they WERE Swedish but looked great - near Hougoumont
The Garde attack!
Firing at the Allied centre

Thursday, June 18, 2015

News from the Front Part 3 - Hougoumont and the bivouacs

Skirmishing practice by the 71st Foot at Hougoumont

Continuing my front line report from Waterloo on the very day 200+ ....
Cavalry! Cavalry! Close up!

We started off this morning in drizzling rain walking from La Belle Alliance along the route of attack by the Imperial Guard. The feeling in the group was very excited and full of anticipation. We had a rendezvous at Hougoumont for a showing round the farm at 1100. 
Brunswick muster
At the newly rebuilt North Gate I saw a familiar yet out of place little man with a strange face less than 4 feet in front of me... hmmm now who is this guy? someone I know from work? and why is he wearing a suit in this weather and on a farm track? No, it's..... Nigel Farage... eh??? and yes, it was. Doing his bit for Britain in a foreign land with absolutely no one knowing who he is and no one caring. Yes, the world does iron out its little wrinkles given time. 
Brunswick Avant Garde - a fine body of men
Hougoumont was a fantastic experience. I had expected a bit of a tidy up and getting rid of the rubble. What we got was an absolute treat and one of the museum exhibits of the year! In the Great Barn they have produced a stunning Audio Visual experience with CGI, mechanical moving sculptures, light show, rock concert sound track and wonderful re enactment over lays. I have never in my life heard an audience clap before for a show which involved no human beings. It happened here, twice. 
Leger drill at Rossome
A Red Lancer at the cafe!

Top it off with some of the pix in this post and you get the idea. The bivouacs were wonderful and the pictures tell the whole story. HLI, Avant Garde, Brunswicker Leib Battalion, 95th, KGL, Prussian Hussars, British Line battalions, Leger, Ligne, Garde Chasseurs and Grenadiers, Carabiniers, Grenadiers a cheval, Chasseurs a cheval, Spanish, Italian and Swiss battalions. We even had Austrian Cuirassiers and Uhlans!!
Infantry drill at Rossomme
Spanish Leger - no actually they were!
Chasseurs a pied a Le Caillou
Chasseur a cheval on the road form Le Caillou to Rossomme
Tomorrow we will go to the first of the reenactments. Belgium has really done the 200th Anniversary justice so far. The buzz is palpable the atmosphere crackling with electric anticipation and the weather... well, it turned out nice again!

To beat of drum they came marching down a lane from nowhere
How many chances will I even get to see this again
Offizier - Kurassier

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