Steve Sands as Napoleon at Waterloo 2015 in Wellington. It’s obviously hard work herding the French commanders into something approaching a winning team! 😃 Image from the Radio New Zealand website
The weekend of the 13th & 14th June 2015 has passed meaning that the local 200th anniversary refight of Waterloo has passed into history … just as the original has.
To recap – one did not need the brain the size of a planet to realise that there would probably be one or two refights to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the epoch ending Battle of Waterloo. But there was only one refight that was being held in the Grand Banquet Room at the Wellesley Club in the city of Wellington … both of which names have distinct associations with the battle.
von Peter himself and The son & heir had both managed to inveigle their way into the game and with extreme good fortune had both been allocated Prussian commands. As gentlemen we could both rest easy that we had been cast on the side of the angels! 😃 von Peter himself was cast as Major General von Ryssel overseeing the operations of the 14th Brigade while The son & heir masqueraded as Cavalry General Prince William of Prussia commanding the Reserve Cavalry of the IV Army Corps. Luckily for The son & heir his last university exam of the current batch had been on the Friday immediately preceding the game and he was available to play.
The game involved around 40 gamers some of whom had travelled from around New Zealand for the event. Over 8,000 28mm figures were used to represent the three armies of the battle. The Black Powder rules were used to adjudicate the game. A set of rule amendments, clarifications etc had been supplied to all involved along with the scenario setup, orders of battle, victory conditions and administrative details for the weekend.
Four tables were set up as per the graphic above. However only two – ‘La Haye Sainte’ and ‘Plancenoit’ were actually fought over during the game. ‘Mont St Jean’ and ‘La Belle Alliance’ were used as staging areas for the reserves.
An interesting aside: The following pictures show the base cloths bespoke for the game … and that these clothes are covered in a patch work of differently coloured fields. Apparently a British officer surveyed the terrain of the battle environs noting the different fields and the crops growing in them. Paul Goldstone had discovered this and used the information to replicate the fields including researching the colours of those different crops in June and getting the colours right. Brilliant! And then our troops arrived and marched and stomped unceremoniously all over them. What can you do?
The organising committee had excelled.
von Peter himself will now present a series of photographs of the event with an only slightly biased commentary based on the little he has gleaned from those parts of the game where he was not directly involved. Unfortunately these are not technically the greatest photographs one will ever see. The lighting could have been better. To add to this challenge it was discovered that the lights were turned down via a dimmer during the first day … d’oh! The strategy used was to snap a scene several times with the hope that one of them would be ok! Explanations of each photo follow that photo. Each photo is clickable for a larger and clearer view. Onwards …
Above: Ready for the starters cannon. Looking down most of the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table with the French on the left, and Wellington’s army on the right. Out of shot in the bottom left corner is ‘La Haye’. Looking up the table ‘Papelotte’ is the first building to see followed by ‘La Haye Sainte’ and then ‘Hougoumont’. The dear reader may be familiar with some of the names. 😃
All the buildings were produced by Alan Hollows who has been concocting paper/card buildings for decades and has become quite the artisan with them. They have all been sized as required for the game.
Above: A view of the same table but from the other end.
The starting positions for the armies was historic but after that anything went … and they certainly did. The French lead by Steve Sands acting as – and dressed as for the first day – Napoleon decreed that the major attacks would initially occur on the flanks of the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table. As a result the area between ‘Hougoumont’ and the table edge – bottom of the photo – became a veritable maelstrom of units firing, hacking, slashing bayonetting and dying.
Above a close up of ‘Hougoumont’ and immediate surrounds.
Above: The view from behind the Allied lines in the central sector of the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table showing ‘La Haye Sainte’ itself prior to the starting cannon being fired. The ‘Plancenoit’ table can be seen in the background.
Above: The view several turns in of the ‘Plancenoit’ table. The Prussians have started arriving on the near edge of the table and the village on ‘Plancenoit’ can be seen way in the distance. Neither von Peter himself or The son & heir have yet put in an appearance which suited them just fine as they were free to wander around, chat, admire the game elsewhere and reacquaint themselves with the rules. In fact the game play on this table was so quick for the first few turns the Prussians went out for a
coffee military planning meeting for the commanders.
To replicate the troubles of marching to the battle and to get the Prussian players involved from the beginning the French and Prussians started at the extremes of this table. The Prussian brigades had their order of march and would form a procession marching on. The catch was that while the infantry were able to march on through the woods the artillery and cavalry had to use the single road. This created traffic jams on the road and the dice rolling for movement often resulted in a miserly one move advance – even with the route march modifier applied. The nadir came with a blunder that had the whole column move backwards! Obviously a wheel had come off a cannon which had then rolled backwards!! 😃
The Prussian advance fell behind what the organisers had anticipated. This was later remedied by allowing all units on the ‘Plancenoit’ table a free two turn move to speed up the action.
Above: ‘Plancenoit’ itself. This is the only close up of the town that the dear reader is going to see. Before a single Prussian boot was to make a mark on the table Lobau’s Corps, a Young Guard Division and the Guard Light Cavalry Division were striding down the table … presumably to welcome Grouchy’s arrival. 😃
As a result the action on this table would take place around the middle of the table … which suited the Prussians just fine. The fighting would come quicker, the soldiers would be less foot sore and there would be no attacking into ‘Plancenoit’.
Above: Half of the leading Prussian brigade takes the road to ‘La Haye’ on the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table.
Because the Prussian brigades were so large – more like the divisions of the other two armies – and because the Prussian army and a habit of ‘kampfgrupping’ off portions of them to perform particular tasks the Prussian brigades were allocated an extra commander and the ability to divide their brigades as they saw fit. In this case Mark Conroy had broken his 15th Brigade in two and was sending half of it to aid the extreme left flank of the Allied army on the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table. If the Allied army broke then the French would be adjudicated the winners . This would obviously be a travesty for western civilisation and could not be allowed to occur. Supporting the Allied army was the Prussian armies chief concern.
Above: The Prussian 15th Brigade seen exiting the ‘Plancenoite’ table in the previous photograph appears on the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table to succour the hard pressed Allied left flank. ‘La Haye’ itself is under attack and beyond that building the French can be seen pushing through the woods.
Kerry Thomas – aka Valleyboy – had travelled down from Tauranga for the game and had betrayed his heritage to take the roles of Jaquinot and Durutte for the French on this extreme flank. von Peter himself is sure that he appreciated the extra attention the locals lavished upon him! 😃
Above: Action in the middle of the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table a few turns in. With the French attacking on the flanks their centre between ‘La Haye Sainte’ & ‘Hougumonte’ was not as strong as it could have been. This induced a Hanoverian brigade – Keilmansegge? – to advance off the ridge. Not all of the allied commanders were thrilled with this idea but that is one of the beauties of a game with a large cast of players. Command and control confusion is built in. You never know quite what is going to happen.
Above: The scene around ‘Papelotte’ a few turns in. The French are coming.
Above: Meanwhile back around ‘La Haye Sainte’ the action is heating up … literally!
Terry Swain was one of those who had organised the weekend’s activities. As a reward for his efforts he had been assigned a three way split personality. Simultaneously he was …
- van Trip with the Dutch-Belgian heavy cavalry,
- Uxbridge overseeing the Allied cavalry,
- William, Prince of Orange as whom he was expected to dish out the occasional bizarre order to add a little colour to proceedings.
When talking to Terry during the game you always had to look deeply into his eyes to fathom who was talking back!! 😃
As such an important personage he was given the honour of firing the British rockets for a turn … and it is the expectation of von Peter himself that he was never asked to do so again. He managed a direct hit … on ‘La Haye Sainte’ and set it on fire!! Rumour has it that Napoleon himself granted a military award for such a sterling effort on behalf of the French! 😃
von Peter himself is unaware of whom had created the firing rocket but it was quite spectacular on the table.
Above: The mincer gets underway as the French attack on the flank beyond ‘Hougumont’. The mincer was destined to mince for the two days. There must have been many tales of daring do here but sadly von Peter himself was not privy to them.
Above: French advancing between ‘Papelotte’ and ‘La Haye Sainte’. At some stage the French stripped the Allied guns from the sector nearer ‘La Hatye Sainte’ in preparation for a later significant attack. Perhaps this is the attack that did the stripping.
Around 4:30pm the gaming, err … reenacting for the Saturday ended for we had an appointment at the War Museum. Rhys Jones had organised for us to get into the museum a little late in the day so that we could see the Gallipoli diorama that had been created care of the assorted inputs of Peter Jackson, The Perry twins, Weta Studios and a bunch of New Zealand Wargamers. See the Mustering the Troops site for more details on that project. Some of the players had contributed their painting to the project and were keen to spot their contributions. Good luck with that were the thoughts of von Peter himself with such a large diorama and so many figures. The task was easier for those who had painted some of the specialty figures.
Dinner was hosted at the Leuven ~ Belgian Beer Cafe. What choice did we have? Of course dinner had to be in Belgium!
Sunday naturally followed the Saturday. Unfortunately The son & heir fell prey to the weakness inherent in his generation and crashed with a bad head-ache and was unable to take his place in the firing line. For all the doubters this was genuine. He had enjoyed his Saturday and he had been present of his own free will not because of an overbearing paternal parent.
Above: Back on the ‘Plancenoite’ table the French and Prussians are about to collide … and the congestion on the road shows no sign of abating.
Above: Alan Hollows wonders what fool put his lovely ‘Papelotte’ so far across the table.
Above: The Prussians and French have commenced their deadly work on the ‘Plancenoite’ table. The significant features of this photo are what the dear reader cannot see. In an attempt to clear the three Prussian batteries three French cavalry regiments had charged them. It is a testament to the courage and skill of the Prussian artillerists that all three of their batteries are still to be seen but none of the French cavalry remain in the frame. Much lamenting will be heard from the wives, mothers and orphans of those brave cavalrymen! 😃
The more educated of the dear readers will have noticed the presence of two Saxon battalions and one from Nassau amongst the Prussians. By way of explanation the Prussian orbit required many MANY battalions of landwehr and they were just not available. These battalions helped make up the shortfall. And besides there were Prussian troops at Waterloo still in their old uniforms from Berg, etc so a few oddball uniforms was not totally unhistoric.
Also to be seen in this photograph is the French Guard Light Cavalry – the Chasseurs a Cheval de la Garde and behind them the Dutch Lancers. Earlier the Dutch Lancers had pounced on a
foolish brave unit of landwehr cavalry that was in march column and way in advance of any other Prussian units. The expectation was that there would quickly be a finely sliced and diced landwehr cavalry regiment fertilising the battlefield but to everyone’s surprised they survived the first round of combat inflicting a casualty … but sadly not the second yet they did inflict another casualty(s?).
However it happened the Dutch Lancers were Shaken which in Black Powder terms meant that they were vulnerable. On the road at the top of the picture can be seen a unit of Prussian dragoons. These are sitting there in a disorganised state because of an audacious plan von Peter himself had dreamed up. With The son & heir’s non appearance due to illness command of the cavalry reserve had fallen to von Peter himself. A follow me order was issued and the dragoons had attacked the shaken Dutch Lancers. The dragoons had ended up throwing nine D6s – six sided dice – needing threes to hit and the Dutch Lancers hit back with ten D6s needing fives to hit. von Peter himself would happily take those odds on most days and the chance of removing the dangerous Dutch Lancers was well worth the risk. Sadly the dice were not with the good guys and the dragoons had bounced to where they can be seen here … and from where they would eventually be removed from the game as control of them was never regained due to ongoing disorders until they ceased to be. Sigh – a chance at an Iron Cross or better had gone begging. 😃
In the bottom left of the picture are some the Prussian troops that have started to chew their way through the French Young Guard Division.
Above: the same scene from down the table. Another brigade of Prussian heroes has appeared and still the road is a congested nightmare. At least the brigade artillery of von Peter’s 14th Brigade has finally made it onto the table … even if it is still stuck in traffic.
Above: In the foreground the Prussians of Steimetz’s – who looked suspiciously like Rhys Jones – 1st Brigade are making a statement on the ‘La Haye Sainte’ table. Further along the table a life and death struggle continues as the French desperately try to break the Allied army before the Prussian wrath is applied. And the Allies are not that far off breaking Napoleon declares … or is this just one of those bulletins for which Napoleon is renown?
Above: Apologies for the picture – click on it for a larger and clearer version – but this is the sort of image that gave the French heart. French Guard infantry in bearskins hats supported by Cuirassiers and line infantry on the ridge which the Allies are meant to be holding. If only there had been Allied artillery left in this sector.
Above: Perhaps von Peter himself may get his Iron Cross after all. A French brigade tried to deploy so as to bar the way forward for the Prussians but blundered and advanced on the Prussians instead. Seeing a limbered French battery leading the way von Peter himself bravely placed himself at the head of a Prussian landwehr cavalry regiment – yellow and red pennants in the image – and charged. The cavalry came up with five dice to roll in the melee and the image records the result of that throw … btw sixes are good! Fear well lead landwehr cavalry!! 😃
Above: Steinmetz goes to work on both sides of ‘Papelotte’.
Above: Those French chaps in their bearskin hats consolidate on the ridge.
Above: And it doesn’t look a whole lot better for the Allies on the other side of ‘La Haye Sainte’ either!
Above: The end game on the ‘Plancenoite’ table. On the Prussian left a division of French Young Guards has been consumed and the French are attempting to use their cavalry to cover for their lack of infantry.
On their left the Prussians are trying to reorganise themselves for a push into the woods where the French are ensconced. A series of single moves and disorders – and no doubt some inefficient decisions! – are making this a frustrating exercise for von Peter himself. The infantry supporting the Prussian central batteries have also been released by the high command to aid in this endeavour. The French have created a grand battery which dominates the area between the woods and the Prussian battery. At last the 14th Brigade’s supporting artillery has cleared the chaos on the road and has nearly reached the front. The first battery up is the newly painted 12 pounder battery. The plan was to have it felling lumber and Frenchmen in the wood. Note to self – should paint the limbers.
Above: The same position but looking down the table. The road is still chocked full of artillery while more infantry march to the sounds of the guns … unlike certain Frenchmen that could be mentioned. 😃
A National Radio consequence
On the Saturday Simon Morton from Radio New Zealand’s program This Way Up was in attendance with his microphones and easy conversational ways. As a consequence of this visitation the forty minute “Waterloo 200” has resulted and will be broadcast on Saturday 20th June early in the afternoon at 12:11pm.
Currently you can hear the program as a podcast here … for now. I’m not sure where it will be hosted in the future. 😳
The weekend came three weeks after the infamous left hip replacement. Fortunately the recovery went about as well as could be expected. von Peter himself was able to hobble around either unaided or later in the day with one crutch or even later in the day with two crutches! A generous regime of pill popping helped. 😃 A big thanks to all those that helped out moving troops etc to and from cars for von Peter himself as he was unable to do so for himself. Also thank you Terry for taking care of von Peter himself once the Sunday gaming finished and the Fraulien von Peter herself was delayed collecting von Peter as she was out at a very nice eatery with friends!
Given the significance of this game and the wide cast of characters involved von Peter himself is not the only blogger to record their thoughts on the refight. At the time of going to press von Peter himself is aware of the following ‘reports’ …
And as alluded to way back at the beginning this was not the only 200th anniversary Waterloo reenactment game played over the weekend. There were two note worthy efforts in Australia. These can be checked at …
Did history repeat?
Having suffered through so much the dear reader may be curious as to the result of the battle. To win the French needed to break the Allied army. To do so they needed to break 15 of the Allied army’s brigades. 13 had been broken when time was called. Conversely the French would loose if 21 of their brigades were broken and they too had lost 13 brigades. But because of the inroads being made by the Prussians and because the Allied army had not been defeated in time the game was officially adjudicated as an Allied & Prussian victory … by a nose. As in the original 200 years earlier a damned near run thing.
Good times played in a good spirit backed up by good organisation. A big thank you to all involved.
As always don’t forget that you can click on any of the pictures to see a larger and clearer view of them.
Until we meet again …
von Peter himself