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..............


  1. I enjoyed your picture reports! Although I live in Belgium, I could not make it to reenactment itself, but I think your description of the smoke and noise are indeed relevant to wargaming rules. Unlimited visibility only blocked by a hill or a clump of trees is one of those dirty secrets that wargamers prefer not to discuss ;-)

  2. I've really enjoyed your reports Barry and although the colourful photos are excellent it's these last smoky ones that are my favourite. Having been to a number of ECW reenactments I agree with you about the sound of the artillery and you can often feel the concussion in your chest. God knows what it must have been like when these things are firing solid shot and aiming to blow you to bits.

  3. Since seeing your first pictures of the smoke the other day, I have been trying to,think of a way to apply this lesson to a wargame, but so far I'm drawing a blank. I look forward to hearing how you will approach the problem.

    Your pictures and commentary are fabulous and I don't think that any other media source has covered the event as well as you have.

  4. Praise indeed.. thank you.. makes it worth the effort

  5. Fantastic photos! Looks as if it was a terrific weekend.

    Really making me feel the need to get my Napoleonics out!

  6. Great reports Barry. It was truly a once in a lifetime event. Unless some of us make it to the 250th anniversary we won't see the like again. 70,000 spectators on Friday and Saturday. All crammed into a tiny area. The bus and train infrastructure struggled to cope - people on the tracks stopped the trains back to Brussels on Friday night but hey this wan't an easy gig to put on and make happen.... Overall the Belgians and all involved did so well...!
    The reenactments were spectacular. The smoke which developed and eventually engulfed the action and the relentless but unpredictable thud of the guns stick in the memory. The renewed Hougomont is a triumph. The refreshed Panorama with sound effects and superb painting is inspirational. But even more than the reenactments, visiting the bivouacs to see thousands of troops of all sides in camp, preparing for battle, practising drills and cooking meals was superb. To see Napoleon depart with his Guard from Le Caillou with his Mameluke, Chassuers a cheval, Polish lancers and Imperial Guard was outstanding. He was a rock star crowded round with supporters shouting 'Vive L'emprereur...
    In a building next to the Panorama was a superb layout in 15mm of the battle. 8000 figures on the table and excellent terrain. Loads of photos taken which will be forwarded to Barry for use on the blog as he deems fit. I think it is fair that the 17/18th century waits a while whilst we all celebrate the sheer scale and importance of this 200th Napoleonic anniversary. The press and TV certainly saw it as a huge story over the was awesome...!

  7. Great coverage Barry - especially for somone in Australia. You have managed to capture the excitments and grandeur of the event for somone not there. Also, your comments on visibility and imapct of sound and overall confusion on the senses made me think of Keegan's "Face of Battle" comments that no one really knew what was going on overall other than that which was happening immediatly in their own vicinity. So different to all wargames where we can see what's happening both locally and overall all the the time with accurate up to minute information. Not an issue for those who simply approach wargaming as a game but certainly should be for any of us who in a small way try to model reality.

    Thanks again

  8. Just awesome, thanks for sharing.

    Steve Price

  9. And the undulations, the folds in the landscape. It truly is a rolling countryside dotted with woods and hedges - which you can only appreciate on the ground. A whole brigade or a farmhouse disappears. You come to the edge of a ridge and a new scene opens out. It is all very well to view the battlefield from the top of the Lion Mound and all is clear and identifiable. A gamer's view in fact... but if you are sitting on a horse, beside an Elm Tree or alongside a country Inn, you have to rely so much on the eye-witness reports brought to you - for good or ill - and make your own interpretation of what is going on... that is why the 'feel of the land' the mental map, is such a crucial attribute in a commander - of men or figures...!

  10. Excellent reports Barry.
    As a participant at Waterloo (3rd Btn 1st Silesian Landehr IR) and a gamer it was quite an eyeopener and a fantastic experience to be a part of.
    There were a number of things that don't always reflect well in games, smoke as mentioned above it is very difficult to make out who is who and spotting approaching cavalry is not that easy.
    The noise makes hearing any orders very difficult, and responding to drums and horns equally so as they are going on all around and isolating which ones pertain to your unit is a challenge.
    Crop fields are difficult to stay in order whilst marching through, they conceal the nasty irregularities of the ground underneath. when trampled they are slippery and if you are going against the flow of the trample there is a significant trip hazard.

    Andy Warner

  11. I was also there - the atmosphere was remarkable.


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