Thursday, 15 April 2010

Albuera re-fight 2010 - Part 2

9-10am The re-deployments continue,

By the end of the last hour a German officer attached to the Spanish caught a glimpse in the fading sunlight of glinting bayonets on the high ground to the south-west. This was the men of General Girard's Division advancing to the fords on the Chicapierna brook. Crossing with them were the Dragoons of General Bron's command, the Vistula Lancers, the 2nd and 10th Hussars and two horse batteries with more to follow. In a frenzy of activity General Beresford positioned himself at this point to witness these events unfolding as the men of all three Spanish divisions began to wheel in slow motion towards their right to gain the southern heights before the French could re-form and take them. The situation became one of frantic action to put in motion the entire Spanish army. Meanwhile the British 2nd Division of General Stewart was set in motion and ordered off the heights to the north to double time it to the rear of the Spanish position. However, they would not make it in time to face the French first, this honour would go to the Spanish first.

By 9am the flank movements of General Girard, and all of his supports began to cross the river, at this point in the battle the forces on both sides of the battlefield were to follow historical orders as closely as possible. What you will see in this hour's play is the carrying out of those orders). We kept the sequence of events close to the original historical orders of the real battle from 8am to 10am. The reason for this was to ensure the battle would be set to replicate the real battle up to the point of Girard's main attack on the south flank. From 10am onwards all orders and command control would revert to player control.

In the following photos can be seen the French flanking movement of all three arms as they snake across the fords and form up behind the high ground to the south and astride the Spanish positions.

The following photos show the French forces now straddling the Spanish position as they stretch out across the open ground of the south extreme of the battlefield. The Vistula Lanciers, 2nd Hussars and the Dragoons of General Bron can be seen galloping towards the left flank to take up position almost behind the Spanish who can now be seen wheeling to face. General Girard's forward regiments of Infantry continue to stream across the river rapidly to form up on the other side, voltiguer companies out in front to cover this delicate operation.

In this picture the Spanish troops of General Zayas can be seen after their right wheel and are now heading directly for the high ground about 500yds north of the French positions. This division had several Guard and veteran units who were very well trained and drilled so carrying out this manoeuvre for them was relatively easier than it would have been about 6-8 months earlier. Amongst these troops can be seen the lone Spanish battery of Miranda, it was critical they gain the heights fast.

This photo shows General Zayas's division arriving at their destination with the forward units taking position atop the crest to await the French advance. Miranda's battery is now almost in position to begin firing on the advancing French. This angle is deceptive at many of the French troops arriving are actually further south and about to arrive on the field.

The following picture shows the advance of General Werle's Brigade still on the eastern bank of the Chicapierna brook, this formation will probably not arrive for at least an hour after the first attack goes in. Meanwhile, General Gazan's Brigade is much closer and about to appear to the south not long after Girard launches his assault on the Spanish positions.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese dragoons of General Otway's command make an appearance on the far northern flank of the Allied positions in response to the success of the French attack on Albuera. In this picture can also be seen a Brigade of Portuguese Infantry under General Campbell also advancing towards Albuera in support of the hard pressed KGL light btlns.

This photo is taken from another angle showing the Portuguese Infantry advance down from the heights towards Albuera. It also shows the British under Genral Stewart and their positions prior to the order to right turn and double time it towrds the Spanish positions to the south. In the distance can be seen General Werle's French columns heading south while the Spanish army also heads in this direction. Also, due to the appearance of General Otway's dragoons the French troops under Genral Godinot have decided to withdraw back over the bridges to the relative safety of the river line. This was the purpose of the French attacks on this position anway, to pin the allied left flank in position and draw them away from the main attack to the south.

In this picture the entire Spanish army can now bee seen completely deployed by 10am and ready to fight the French attacks. The formation comprises of two lines of defense, the first line facing south comprises the Spanish 5th Brigade of General Mourgeon under General Zayas while on his left is two Brigades of the divisions of General's Ballesteros and Lardizabal. The rest of the army stands in reserve behind the main line ready to advance into action when called. Miranda's Spanish foot battery is now unlimbered on the heights about to bombard the advancing French.

This photo is a close-up of General Zayas's first line of defense, General Mourgeon's 5th Brigade consisting of the foot battery, 2nd & 4th btlns of the Real Guardias de Espans, de Irlanda regiment, Veteranos de la Patria and a Zapadore coy. To their front is the Campo Meyer light infantry regiment of General Lardizabal's division. In the real battle they pushed forward to the Albuera river to defend the crossing points but here they were ordered to take position ahead of Zayas. This decision may prove a crucial one in defeating the French voltiguer advance next hour...

In this image the Spanish second reserve line is more clearer showing General Zayas's 2nd line and the troops of General de Espana's which are part of the Spanish 5th army under General Zayas's command.

This picture shows the deployment positions of the allied cavalry comprising the British Dragoon brigade of General Lumley on the left, the 5th army Spanish cavalry brigade of General de Villemur in the centre and Genral Loy's 4th army cavalry brigade on the right of picture. Sadly there are many "ring-ins" here because we simply did not have the time to paint these up for the battle but its how they fight, not how they look that is important...

Stewart's 2nd Division

Once the French were detected moving down from the heights Beresford ordered general Stewart to march his entire division south. These men, comprising three brigades of infantry under general's Colborne, Houghton and Abercrombe had to act quickly to the changing situation. In order to speed up the process the btlns were ordered to stay in two rank deep formation and each man was ordered to make a right turn and march off effectively turning the entire division into one long snaking thin column of march with Colborne leading. To quicken the pace even more the division was ordered to double time it to the south.

You would be hard pressed to find a set of rules that shows figure frontages for such a narrow frontage as just two men so we have placed the btlns in typical single company frontages for simplicity's sake. To show how they turned left again once they faced the French we will revert to line formation first to show it, (provided that is what the British player intends to do of course). In the following two pictures can be seen the begining of this advance order from two different angles to gain perspective.

The French Positions

The following two pictures show the forming up positions of General Girard's Division in attack formation poised ready to strike directly at General Zayas's Spanish division. In the foreground are the voltiguer companies and to their right is the two combined Grenadier btlns in line formation who are ready to drive towards the right of the position directly at brigades of General Lardizabal and General Ballesteros.

The next picture shows the final positions of the French cavalry formations on the extreme left flank opposite their counter-parts on the allied right flank. These regiments although numerous were also severely understrength as we found out and maybe contributed to explain why their impact in the battle was so minor against the inferior allied cavalry.

This image is taken from the rear of the French flanking position looking north. It shows clearly the width of the deployment areas of the French and what they can see in front of hem. General Gazan's Division is still off field at this point but closing in fast from the south east. Also of note is the position taken up by the two French horse batteries who caused such devestation to the allied forces in the real battle. It is hoped they will do the same here.

The final two images here show two different angles taken of the battle array of the Spanish positions showing their battle line ready to receive the French onslaught. The commanders of both sides are now poised ready to take control of the action and either change history or repeat it here...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Albuera re-fight 2010 - Part 1

Hi all,

This year my group and I have been busy setting up a re-fight of the battle of Albuera, British/Portuguese/Spanish vs. French in the Peninsula. This battle has been designed with as much research as I could to ensure a close simulation of this action. We are using my rules system which is perfectly designed to fight actions of this size. Sadly, we only get about two hours play in each Tuesday night due to family and work commitments so I feel this Battle will go on for several weeks, but this is not really a bad thing and I will update the action as it unfolds after each gathering.

The tactical unit in my system is the battalion, squadron or battery. However, the rules are designed to cover the micro level of tactical combat right down to individual company level, a btln in my system is designed to portray each company. Each figure is 40 actual men for Infantry and Cavalry and 20 for gunners. The system uses national characteristics and several classifications for experience coupled with several troop ability factors such as fire disciplines, melee factors, Morale ratings, CV's (command values) and many more. The casualties are scored in actual men, not figures so when you fire you cause "X" amount of "men" casualties to the enemy who removes figures as per the above figure amounts.
This system is very "morale" driven and thus morale plays an important part in the system. The goal is to cause as much damage and loss of cohesion to the enemy to force morale checks and cause his morale to deteriorate and eventually rout. Each rout thus causes ill effects on surrounding friendly troops who may panic and rout also. If this occurs in sufficient quantity you can achieve what is called the, "snowball" effect which can cause an several units to break such as a brigade or even worse, an entire division. Once this occurs (and it is hard to achieve) the battle can effectively be, "won or lost in a quarter of an hour"...

The terrain for the re-fight has been placed as faithfully as possible to a correlation to the real battlefield but due to a lack of quality terrain pieces I have fallen short in giving justice to the battle. However, I have laid out what we do have as closely to the actual battlefield distances and layout as close as possible. Every "1"mm in our scale equals "1" real yard so each terrain piece has been measured against the maps to reproduce the battlefield as faithfully as possible.

As for the figures used, we have a large variety in our respective armies to ensure that we can deploy every unit on the field, however, there will be several obvious "ring-ins" as we call them. This is the use of other figures to represent formations that we have not had the chance to paint up. Thus you will see some of these ring-ins and go, "hmmmm, that is not the uniform of the such-en such regiment". We make no apologies for this, you can't have every btln ever deployed in your armies to suite your needs precisely.

As for the battle sequence of events, we are starting it at 8 am as in the real battle and the initial deployment locations of every unit is faithfully reproduced as accurately as possible. The Allied army cannot turn to meet the right flank threat until 10am once they see the French appear over the hills to their right. They must concentrate on Albuera town and the advance of the French until this time. So basically, all formations of all armies concerned must go along with the actual orders of the day until 10am when the French show their real intentions on the right flank. Once this occurs full control of the formations is transferred to the players involved.

The weather for this battle will be as the real battle, rain storms, showers, hail and thunderstorms etc. This will become prevalent during the battle and play a decisive part in the progression of the action I am sure. Battlefield sighting distances will be effected severely when these situations occur.
I will update the battle by battle reports on an hourly basis, each turn will be described in detail providing there are interesting events to report on. Already the first hour has been played out with the initial French spoiling attack on Albuera township In the first four turns (4 per hour). Several events have occurred worth describing already, so I hope you will enjoy the reports as much as we enjoy playing the actual battle.

Shane and crew.

8am to 9am - The initial positions of the armies.

In this photo can be seen the rear of the British position on the heights overlooking Albuera township. On the left top of the picture is depicted General Stewart's 2nd Division comprised of the British brigades of Abercrombie, Hoghton and Colborne. On their right flank in a more southerly position can be seen part of the left flank position of General Blake's Spanish 4th Army showing part of the division of General Ballesteros and General Zayas behind him.

Next is a panoramic view of the positions taken up by the Spanish 4th army showing elements of all three divisions protected by the cover of the undulations on the ground. This is the position taken up by the Spanish army around 7am after they were recalled back from their exposed position on the forward slopes overlooking the French approach. Easily seen is the forward position of General Ballesteros's 3rd division centre top, General Larddizabl's Vanguard division can be seen bottom centre of the picture with General Zayas's 4th Division positioned behind.

This is another shot of the entire Allied position from the south overlooking the Spanish deployment areas for all three Divisions ready to engage the enemy front they think. This ridge line runs in a north-south orientation comprised of gentle undulating slopes which although look difficult to walk are really very gentle. What is notable is that the entire allied army is looking eastwards towards the township of Albuera and the bridges. In this position the allies can clearly observe the French approach to the battlefield. The heights to the south are discarded at this point in the battle and not perceived as a threat at 8am and thus not protected.

Yet another close-up view of the Spanish position overlooking the expected approach path of the French advance. This picture shows the position of the Spanish right flank. In the rear can be seen elements of the Spanish Cavalry in reserve before their order to move towards the Spanish right flank.

In the following shots are close-ups of the initial positions of General Stewart's 2nd Division on the heights overlooking Albuera, to the north are some woods that played no part in the battle.

The bottom right photo shows the Portuguese foot battery of Arriaga placed in a forward position overlooking the new bridge south of Albuera. Although a commanding position of the bridge approach it was also isolated and exposed.

The following two pictures show General's Godinot and Briche discussing the coming attack over the Albuera river to take the township. They have decided to cross at three separate points, the old bridge nearest to Albuera, the new bridge to the south and also a ford south of the new bridge. The three btlns of the 16th Legere will each cross over at one of these points each while the 2nd btln of the 51st Ligne regiment will follow the 3td btln of the 16th over the old bridge.

After consultation with Marshal Soult it was agreed that General Briche's cavalry brigade comprised of the 21st and 27th Chasseurs a Cheval Regiments would remain on the east bank of the Albuera river so as not to provoke a counter move by allied cavalry. Notable is the bottle of wine, the generals know this is going to be a tough nut to crack, Alten's KGL light btlns are no push over they will had good need for the wine before the day is over...

The attack begins...

At 8am the troops of Godinot's brigade streamed across the Albuera river full of confidence, the 16th Legere led the way advancing over at the three designated crossing points. in this picture the 1st/16th Legere can be seen fording the river just a couple of hundred yards south of the new bridge. In the background can be seen the 2nd btln crossing the new bridge while several hundred yards to the north the 3rd btln 16th Legere crosses via the old bridge with the 2nd btln 51st Ligne following behind directly at the Albuera township situated on a low height.

As the crossing began the lone Portuguese foot battery of Arriaga began to fire from its commanding position overlooking the crossing points, however, he directed his fire at the French foot batteries engaging in counter battery fire instead of firing on the columns of French dragoons under General Bron who were at that time crossing the Nogales Brook heading south. Arriaga missed a perfect opportunity this target offered, instead, his own battery now suffered at the hands of the combined fire of the two supporting batteries of the French. Arriaga's battery sustained heavy casualties in less than half an hours fire. In trying to retire the guns back over the crest the gunners became demoralized and subsequently broken fleeing towards the Spanish position behind the heights where they eventually rallied. Meanwhile the French Cavalry escaped unmolested south towards the olive groves and out of sight in the hills.

Meanwhile, the 16th Legere regiment and the supporting 2nd btln of the 51st Line begin their attack of Albuera. Assaulting it from several directions. The 2nd btln faced the fortified church at the south end of town coming under heavy defensive fire suffering over 120 casualties within half an hour. At this point the 1st btln 16th Legere was called up and placed into Line directly behind the 2nd btln ready to add preasure to the 2nd Light KGL btln and Alten himself. Also suffering severely at one point Alten was almost hit by a stray musket shot.

The 1st btln 16th Legere and the 51st Ligne regiment meanwhile were assaulting across the old bridge to the north. The quickly pressed home their attack on the 2nd KGL Light btln which were occupying the northern buildings. Outnumbered, the KGL still put up a great resistance from their vantage point of higher ground to cause severe casualties on the Legere and also the 51st while they advanced. However, they are beginning to suffer mounting casualties themselves as their defense continues. They may be in need of help before too long...

To be continued...