Monday, 17 May 2010

Albuera re-fight 2010 - Part 4

Situtation 11am,

to be continued...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Albuera re-fight 2010 - Part 3

Situation 10-11am the battle begins,

At this point the rain began to pour down in torrents, soaking everyone and everything. Subsequently the gun powder of the men's muskets became wet severely hampering the effects of all small arms fire. The wind drove into the faces of the men also causing them to become more cautious in their movements. Observations ranges also dropped to as little as 100 yds causing all artillery fire to become ineffectual as well. In the real battle the rain and wind on the day was severe with driving rain storms and squalls.

In our system we took this into account by activating the rain storm rules which uses a D10 to roll for a storm each turn needing a 1-2-3 which continue on until a 7-8-9 is rolled each turn thereafter. It just happened that at 10am this actually occurred right as the French attack went in and this rain did not stop until 11:45am!! This was to have major consequences in our re-fight for both sides.

General Girard's division now in place at 10am launched its strike on the extreme southern end of the battlefield, the Spanish of Zayas's division were ready as were elements of General Lardizabal and Ballesteros's divisions on his left flank. However, right at the start of this attack the rain fell in torrents causing all visibility to be reduced to no more than 100yds, this had a major impact on the tactics that were used. The approach was as a result more cautious as the formations did not know exactly where the enemy was, this was true for both sides now.

The French advanced their skirmish screen out in front which was met by the light btln of Campo Mayer. This unit had fanned out on the forward slope of the southern knoll to face the French. The ensuing skirmish fight between this light btln and the voltiguers of General Girard's btlns was ineffectual due to the wet cartridges but the Spaniards were gaining the upper hand. However the advancing columns soon forced the Spanish light troops to withdraw.

Meanwhile on Girard's right flank the two combined grenadier btlns began their advance through the driving rain towards the heights of the Spanish positions of Lardizabal and Ballesteros. With no skirmish screen to protect them they advanced in line into the grey of the rain not knowing when to expect to see their enemy. General Gazan's division had also by this time formed up after crossing the Chicapierna brook positioning themselves directly behind the grenadiers.

In the real battle Gazan's men actually advanced behind General Girard's formation to drive in the same direction. This is where they met the British btlns of Colbourne's brigade. In our re-fight the French decided not to do this but instead advance on Girard's right flank behind the grenadiers. General Werle's formation in the real battle also crossed the brook to fight on Girard's extreme left flank later in the day. In our re-fight the French players decided not to do this but instead turn around and re-cross the river and back towards Albuera. Once they had arrived at the "new" bridge which is the more southerly of the two they would cross over to launch an attack on the central positions of the allied line at the junction between the British and Spanish formations. It just so happened to the shock and amazement of all that the allied players had also decided not to repeat history and advance Stewart's division to the south but to move them at right angles behind the Spanish and face the new bridge!! No one saw this coming but the result for all concerned was amazing. Both sides had not aticipated that these choices of orders would cause Stewart's division and that of Werle's command to advance directly at each other in a completely different part of the battlefield than expected. The result of this will be interesting to see unfold.

With the countermanded order given to Werle to about face and re-cross the Chicapierna this left only the formations of General Girard and Gazan to face the Spanish. The idea to turn Werle around was to take an initiative to launch an attack over the new bridge into the exposed left flank of the Spanish position which was observed just before the rain began to poor down. The reasoning behind this was that in doing so the Spanish player might be forced to turn several units to face the new threat thus thinning out his lines facing the southern attack. This would mean that the French attacks would all coordinate together from left to right of this horse shoe position that the Spanish were on from left to right with Girard on the left, Gazan in the middle and Werle on the right.

Meanwhile, on the extreme French left the cavalry formations of both sides had remained fairly quiet with neither side wiling to advance to contact. The distance between both sides formations was kept at over 500yds with neither side willing to commit to any attacks or to support their infantry. Orders were also given for the British heavy dragoon brigade to move southwards to support their Spanish mounted brethren, however, three failed activation rolls in a row caused a lengthy delay to this order being carried out. They finally arrived three quarters of an hour later but luckily the French had not advanced in this sector so no harm was done.

In the real battle both sides were very reluctant to cross swords and I could not figure out why, I was very frustrated at the seemingly lack of initiative by the French and for that matter the allies on that day. It was not until actually doing the re-fight that I learned and fully came to realise why. For obvious reasons the Spanish cavalry were reluctant to force the issue due to lack of numbers and quality. However the French were very experienced and had numbers but did not attack. The reason for this was because many of the regiments were low in complement compared to organisational strengths for their squadrons and regiments and thus it seemed this caused them to have a lack of enthusiasm to initiate any forceful attacks. Most sets of rules severely reduce the chance to charge for units with severe casualties or losses as do our system. With several dragoon regiments reduced to 40-50% losses this was very understandable and clear to us why they did not attack to eagerly. In our system a formation that fails to charge must still advance towards the enemy target and come to a halt within 150yds. The obvious repercussions to this are very obvious, it is little wonder that the French players were reluctant to commit to any significant charges at the time.

As all of this was happening the northern flank had now become very quiet with litle troop movement or action. The light btlns of Alten were still in occupation of Albuera township and the French had withdrawn back over the Albuera river. Both sides settled down to merely observing the other side as best they could during the driving rain. But when later that hour Werle's men began to cross the new bridge Godinot's men became active once more as they re-crossed the river in support.

As already stated, Lawrence (playing Beresford) had decided not to send Stewart's division to the extreme south position to support Zayas, he later confessed that he was worried of repaeating history for Colbourne's brigade in the rain so instead he ordered these men to occupy a position facing the new bridge because he had a gut feeling that General Werle's division would halt and turn around to cross the new bridge which was infact exactly what occurred. He had obviously seen the dangers that this position and the exposed flank the Spanish had at the time. With both sides now committed to their orders the French were in for a rude shock once the rain stops and the British suddenly appear over the crest and fire down on them instead of the Spanish as was expected!!

So in summary, yes, history has changed dramatically for our re-fight. The deciding factor in all of this was the weather, yes there were rain storms during that day in the real battle but they came and went fairly quickly. in our battle it just happened that one began at 10am just as the French attack commenced and this altered the way in which the battle flowed because of the length of time it rained for. From 10 to 11am the rain was continual so much so that sighting conditions were reduced to 100yds maximum, this had a dramatic effect of the performance of small arms fire and pretty much put the artillery arm of both sides out of commission during this time. Consequently, both sides begun to redeploy formations to positions not taken up by their counterparts in the real battle in fear of repeating history. This has had an affect on the overall dynamic of the battle where both sides have redirected the focus of the fight not on the extreme southern flank but more towards the apex of the Spanish positions and that of the heights overlooking the new bridge. This area is now the setting for the crucial part of the battle which will decide the fate of both armies. The weather has also delayed the sequense of events due to movement reductions, lack of effective musketry fire and the lessoned effect of artillery fire. None of us expected this nor realised that events would unfold this way but as it is now realised both sides have had to compensate for these changes and redirect formations to cope with the changing battlefield conditions and dynamics.

Next report continues with the actual combat which really hots up once the rain fades away and visibility increases...