The Forgotten Wargames Army: XIVth Army in Burma (Part 6 – XV Corps Armoured Group)

As discussed in the last part of this series of articles, I’m presently looking at the British and Indian armoured units that fought in the Burma Campaign of World War 2.  In the last article I looked at the British 7th Armoured Brigade, which fought to delay the Japanese advance into Burma during 1942, then the 50th Indian Tank Brigade, which after having a difficult ‘birth’ in the 1st Arakan Campaign of 1942/43, went on to provide armoured units to XXXIII Corps for the relief of Kohima and Imphal in 1944 and then to support operations by XV Corps to finally drive the Japanese out the Arakan in 1944/45. 

This time I’ll be looking at the XV Corps Armoured Group and specifically the 25th Dragoons, who gave the Japanese their first real bloody nose in Burma.  

XV Corps Armoured Group

Following the defeat of the 1st Arakan Campaign of early 1943, Lieutenant General Bill Slim‘s XV Corps immediately began the process of learning the lessons of the campaign, re-training and planning a renewed offensive.  With the elevation of Slim to command the new XIVth Army later that year, command of XV Corps passed to Lieutenant General Phillip Christison, who continued Slim’s good work in hardening the army for jungle warfare and also developed Slim’s plan for a new Arakan offensive, with the limited objective of recapturing Akyab Island and its all-weather airfield and port.

The XV Corps plan was for the 5th Indian Division to attack down the Arakan coast, with the Mayu mountain ‘spine’ on their left.  On the other side of the mountains, 7th Indian Division would attack down the Kalapanzin Valley.  On the extreme left flank, the 81st (West African) Division would use it’s ultra-light capability to penetrate the dense jungle of the Kaladan Valley and guard against any Japanese attack from that direction.  The 26th Indian Division would be in reserve at Chittagong, with the & 36th Indian Division in deep reserve at Calcutta.  Elements of these divisions, along with elements of 3 Special Service Brigade, would be made available to mount amphibious attacks along the coast.

With the 50th Indian Tank Brigade having been withdrawn to India in 1943 to re-train for Operation ZIPPER, XV Corps was lacking an significant armoured capability.  It had some light armoured recce capability in the form of the Mechanised Wing of the 3rd Gwalior Lancers and the 81st (West African) Recce Regiment, but what XV Corps needed was a full regiment of medium tanks armed with 75mm guns that would be capable of destroying the types of bunkers that had been encountered during the previous Arakan Campaign. Slim therefore ordered 254th Indian Tank Brigade to transfer one of its two Lee medium tank-equipped armoured regiments to XV Corps.  The regiment selected was the 25th Dragoons, which was a new regiment, having been raised in India in 1941 from a cadre of the 3rd Carabiniers.  They were moved with the utmost secrecy to the Arakan. 

Some peculiarities of the 25th Dragoons’ organisation were that the Recce Troop (referred to as the ‘Scout Troop’ in most accounts) consisted of Universal Carriers and Jeeps instead of armoured wheeled scout cars.  The Intercom Troop however, included four Lynx Scout Cars (Canadian Ford version of the ubiquitous Daimler Dingo).  As soon as Japanese counter-attacks became apparent on 4th February, an ad hoc reserve squadron was created from spare tanks and personnel in the regimental rear-echelon area.  This unit, designated as ‘R’ Squadron, was placed temporarily under the command of 5th Indian Division (the rest of the regiment at that time was with 7th Indian Division).  Unfortunately I have no information as to the strength of ‘R’ Squadron.

A Lee of the 25th Dragoons, fires on Japanese positions in the Ngakyedauk Pass 1944

Owing to the secrecy of their move (not only to conceal the fact that tanks were being moved to the Arakan, but also to conceal which units were on the move), all markings were ordered removed from the vehicles of the 25th Dragoons.  Hardly any photos of 25th Dragoons’ tanks show markings of any kind, not even squadron markings.  However, some bore individual tank names, which were usually painted in white above or near the top of the side-doors or  front-quarter and sometimes at the top of the glacis, and occasionally a number on the upper glacis, being perhaps a troop number or individual tank number.

A tank regiment couldn’t survive in isolation and was going to need a lot of support from other arms, so ‘A’ Company of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Bombay Grenadiers (Motor Battalion) was assigned to provide close infantry support.  The Motor Company organisation was large, with four platoons, each of three sections.  This allowed a platoon to be assigned to provide close security for each of the armoured regiment’s four squadrons.  A troop of the 401st Field Squadron, Royal Bombay Sappers & Miners, along with an independent troop of 6x Valentine Bridgelayers would ensure that roads, tracks and bridges in the area of operations were capable of dealing with 30-ton tanks.  The Engineer Field Troop included some Universal Carriers for engineer recce tasks (e.g. going forward to survey routes, bridges, harbour areas, etc).

Lees of the 25th Dragoons in the Ngakyedauk Pass, 1944

There was no Armoured Brigade Headquarters within XV Corps, so in January 1944 an ad hoc Armoured Group Headquarters was created under Colonel S. H. ‘Atte’ Persse of the Indian Armoured Corps (who had earlier been directly tasked by Slim to get the 25th Dragoons, plus support to the Arakan) to take control of the growing number of RAC/IAC units and their supporters.

As mentioned above, the only ‘armoured’ unit initially under the command of XV Corps Headquarters was the Mechanised Wing of the 3rd Gwalior Lancers.  This regiment belonged to the ‘Indian States Forces’ (ISF), which were units raised by the myriad of quasi-independent ‘Princely states’ and seconded to the Indian Army.  The Mechanised Wing comprised two squadrons of Universal Carriers.  The regiment’s Horsed Wing, comprising two squadrons of the very last horse-mounted cavalry in Commonwealth service, was assigned to 7th Indian Division as their divisional recce element.

I’ve got very little exact information on the organisation, uniforms or markings for 3rd Gwalior Lancers, though as the Corps Recce Regiment their vehicles should have carried the XV Corps badge shown above, which was three ‘V’s on a red disc.  The Vs represent a corps of three divisions advancing south and when added together as roman numerals add up to 15.  The Vs could be white or black – both are seen in photos.  The Arm-of-Service (AoS) sign should have been a green-over-light blue square, with ’44’ serial and a white bar across the top to signify corps troops, with white squadron signs signifying an unbrigaded regiment.  I doubt that these were painted on the horses’ arses however, but never say never…

As the 81st (West African) Division had been sent to the dense jungle of the Kaladan Valley, the division’s heavier elements were largely left behind with XV Corps.  81 WA Recce Regiment was therefore adopted to supplement the 3rd Gwalior Lancers in the Corps Recce role.  The regiment comprised three squadrons; ‘A’ Squadron being Nigerian, ‘B’ Squadron being from the Gold Coast and ‘C’ Squadron from Sierra Leone. 

Universal Carrier of ‘B’ (Gold Coast) Sqn, 81 WA Recce Regt

Each Squadron had two mixed Recce Troops with Universal Carriers and ‘armoured scout cars’ of an unknown type (probably Dingos) and two Assault Troops, being large motorised infantry platoons, with four rifle sections apiece.  The HQ Squadron also included a 3-inch Mortar Troop transported by Universal Carriers.

The men of 81 WA Recce Regt unusually continued to wear KD uniforms through the first half of 1944 and generally wore steel helmets.  By contrast, the rest of 81 WA Division in the Kaladan Valley left their helmets in depot, wore bush-hats and began to receive JG uniforms (by air-drop) in January 1944.  81 WA Recce Regt’s vehicles were marked with the divisional sign of Ananse, the cunning spider of West African legend, depicted in black with two white eyes, facing downward on a yellow background.  The yellow background was usually square when painted on vehicles, though circular when worn as a uniform badge and there is a photo of an 81 WA Recce Regt Carrier with the circular version painted on the side of the barbette (between the headlight and the Bren-port).  The AoS sign was that of an infantry division recce regiment; green-over-light blue with ’41’ serial.  Squadron signs were white.

As mentioned in the last article, ‘C’ Squadron 149th RAC was temporarily attached from 50th Indian Tank Brigade and was a late addition to the XV Corps Armoured Group, arriving in April 1944 to replace the departing 25th Dragoons and being withdrawn the following month to rejoin its parent regiment at Kohima.  The squadron was equipped with Sherman V medium tanks and as such, was the first Sherman unit to fight in the Burma Campaign.

XV Corps slowly built up the pressure on the Japanese 55th Division in the Mayu Peninsula through November and December 1943 into January 1944.  81st (West African) Division had crossed over the mountains into the Kaladan Valley, where it was steadily advancing on Kyauktaw, meeting only light resistance, building roads and airstrips as it went.  7th Indian Division by contrast, was meeting stiff resistance in the Kalapanzin Valley, though was making reasonable progress.  5th Indian Division advanced down the western side of the Mayu Range until it reached the Maungdaw-Buthindaung road, facing the ‘Razabil Fortress’ which had proved to be an insurmountable obstacle 12 months previously.  During this period, the 81st West African Recce Regt had one squadron guarding the Naf Peninsula west of the Naf river, while the rest of the regiment patrolled the western side of the Mayu Range from Maungdaw to Bawli Bazaar, watching for Japanese infiltration in concert with covert recce parties from ‘Z Force’.  The 3rd Gwalior Lancers did likewise east of the Mayu Range, with some patrols east of the Kalapanzin River.

Vengeance dive-bomber

On 26th January 1944, 5th Indian Division launched Operation JONATHAN; a deliberate assault on the Razabil Fortress.  The assault started with a dawn bombardment by the Allied Strategic Air Force, followed by wings of RAF and IAF Vengeance dive-bombers and a heavy barrage by 5th Division and XV Corps artillery, concentrating mainly on the fortified hilltop known as ‘TORTOISE’.  Unfortunately, while the Liberator heavy bombers were accurate, some Mitchell medium bombers attacked the wrong target and tragically succeeded in destroying one of the 25th Dragoons’ tanks and damaging two others, with one man killed and six wounded. 

As the barrage lifted, the tanks of 25th Dragoons moved forward in their very first engagement, blasting at close range the Japanese bunkers that had been exposed by the high-explosive onslaught.  The tanks proved highly effective in this role, but couldn’t negotiate all of the terrain and couldn’t be everywhere at once.  Consequently, as the infantry moved forward, the Japanese infantry, who had remained relatively safe in their deep bunkers and tunnels, some of them 30 feet underground, now re-emerged to cause horrific casualties among some units.  For example, the Sikh Company of the 1/1st Punjab Regiment was reduced to only 21 men. 

During this battle, ‘A’ Squadron of the 81st West African Recce Regiment was unfortunately misused by 5th Division to support an infantry attack in the manner of tanks and as a consequence suffered the loss of four Carriers in quick succession to a 37mm anti-tank gun.  The tanks of 25th Dragoons by contrast suffered only light damage to a few tanks (ironically in some cases to British anti-tank mines re-used by the Japanese) and had only very light casualties.

After three days of fruitless assaults, Operation JONATHAN was declared a failure and 5th Division consolidated along the road from Maungdaw to the Tunnels, as General Christison wondered what to do next.  However, the Japanese were about to take that decision out of his hands.  Since August 1943 the Japanese had been formulating a plan to launch a limited invasion of India, taking Manipur province and its capital Imphal before the Monsoon (which falls roughly June to September each year) and then using Imphal as a firm base for a further invasion of Assam once the rains ceased.  This plan, designated Operation U-GO required a preliminary diversionary attack into the Arakan and this subsidiary plan was designated Operation HA-GO

Operation HA-GO struck 7th Indian Division with thunderclap surprise on 4th February 1944.  Sakurai-Butai, being the main attack force consisting of a heavily reinforced infantry regimental group, struck north up the eastern side of the Kalapanzin Valley, infiltrating 114 Brigade’s lines to capture Taung Bazaar.  It then crossed over the Kalapanzin and attacked the main body of 7th Division from the rear.  One battalion group, designated Kubo-Butai also passed west over the Mayu Range on the 5th, to cut the main Maungdaw to Bowli Bazaar road at Briasco Bridge on the 6th.  The main part of Sakurai-Butai struck southward, cutting the Ngakyedauk Pass on the 6th and linking up on the 7th with Doi-Butai, advancing from the south.  A wedge had now been driven into the heart of XV Corps, separating the 5th & 7th Indian Divisions. 

However, the Japanese did not have it all their own way, as the Horsed Wing of the 3rd Gwalior Lancers detected the Japanese move at Taung Bazaar, giving 7th Division and XV Corps some warning of the impending attack.  As the mist lifted on that same morning, a Carrier patrol of the Lancers’ Mechanised Wing also caught a Japanese supply column in the open and completely wiped it out, thus depriving Sakurai-Butai of much-needed supplies. 

Even so, many units were in abject confusion and individual battalions fought as isolated units.  7th Division Headquarters suffered worse, as it was quickly overrun.  Thankfully though, General Frank Messervy and most of his headquarters personnel managed to escape the disaster and made their way by whatever means they could to Sinzweya.

The village of Sinzweya sits at the eastern end of strategically-critical Ngakyedauk Pass and housed the XV Corps ‘Admin Area’.  This location contained the bulk of the corps’ forward logistical, medical, engineering and administrative elements, as well as a number of field, medium, light AA, heavy AA and anti-tank artillery batteries.  It also had the misfortune to be the convergence point for Sakurai’s and Doi’s columns.

Thanks to the early warning provided by the 3rd Gwalior Lancers, XV Corps HQ at Bowli Bazaar was able to quickly and accurately assess the Japanese intentions.  General Christison ordered the 26th Indian Division to move forward immediately from its reserve position at Chittagong, to secure the Goppe Pass, re-take Briasco Bridge (with the assistance of ‘R’ Squadron, 25th Dragoons, which was now frantically forming at Bowli Bazaar) and counter-attack to relieve 7th Indian Division.  5th Indian Division was ordered to counter-attack through the Ngakyedauk Pass and likewise relieve 7th Division.  36th Indian Division was also ordered to move forward from Calcutta.  7th Division (plus 9 Brigade from 5th Division) was put immediately on to ‘air-supply’ courtesy of the RAF, while 5th Division was to be supplied by sea via the recently-captured port Maungdaw.

Brigadier Geoffrey Evans, commander of 9 Brigade, was also ordered to take command of the ‘Admin Box’ position at Sinzweya and to defend it at all costs.  Evans swiftly moved to Sinzweya, taking with him two infantry battalions (later joined by a third) and a mountain artillery regiment.  He was soon joined there by two squadrons of the 25th Dragoons and the Armoured Group’s support elements (the Engineer Troop, Bridgelayer Troop and ‘A’ Company, 3/4th Bombay Grenadiers).  Evans was also soon joined by General Messervy and the survivors of 7th Division HQ.

The Japanese assumed that they were going to defeat each isolated Commonwealth ‘Box’ in the same old way; surround them, cut them off from supply and grind them down until they folded.  However, this wasn’t the same old Commonwealth army… This army had spent the last year training intensively and organising itself for just this sort of battle.  The surrounded boxes would now sustain themselves from supplies delivered by air and hold out to act as ‘anvils’, while the 5th and 26th Divisions would act as the ‘hammers’, crushing the Japanese between them.  Slim had tried to do this before, but his men now had the training to achieve it and with air superiority and unprecedented levels of integration between land and air forces, the supplies could now be carried by air largely unmolested, while the Vengeance dive-bombers and Hurribombers could provide precision close air support and harry the Japanese lines of communication.  XV Corps also had the tanks of 25th Dragoons and the Japanese simply had no answer to this new development.

Lees of the 25th Dragoons near Razabil, 1944

Over the following weeks, the Japanese dashed themselves to pieces on the ‘boxes’ of 7th Division and particularly the Admin Box, all the while being hard pressed by 5th Division attacking from the west, 26th Division from the north, 81st (West African) Division in the east and RAF and IAF from the air.  The besieged boxes were even supporting each other, launching attacks and strong patrols to support other boxes under attack, as well as providing mutual artillery support.  The 25th Dragoons in particular were constantly on the move, sallying out with strong infantry support to attack Japanese strongpoints and break up incoming attacks. 

The Japanese had planned to use the supplies captured from overrun Commonwealth units to sustain themselves, but apart from the 7th Division Headquarters, no units had been overrun and the Japanese were now starving and running low on ammunition.  At last on 24th February, the leading elements of General Briggs‘ 5th Indian Division, supported by the tanks of 25th Dragoons, broke through the Ngakyedauk Pass to relieve the Admin Box.  XV Corps ‘switched off’ the air supply system and supplies and reinforcements were soon flowing once again from Maungdaw, Bowli Bazaar and through the Ngakyedauk Pass.  However the Japanese, although severely weakened by heavy casualties, starvation and lack of supplies, were still dug into the hills around them and for the next few weeks, the 25th Dragoons were sallying out constantly from the fortified boxes, destroying one Japanese strongpoint after another.

General Briggs, GOC 5th Indian Division (in the bush-hat) hitches a ride on a Lee 25th Dragoons as his forces relieve the Admin Box on 24th February 1944.

The Japanese had suffered their very first major land defeat in their war against the Commonwealth.  However, the main event had now opened in Manipur province, as Operation U-GO commenced with a three-pronged advance on Imphal and Kohima.  With the 26th and 36th Indian Divisions already in the process of relieving the 5th and 7th Indian Divisions in the Arakan and the 25th also moving into the region, Slim was frantically shuffling the pieces around on the board.  XXXIII Corps, which for the last year had been preparing for Operation ZIPPER, was ordered to entrain for Dimapur and from there advance by road to Imphal (the road was still open at Kohima at this point).  However this would take several weeks to achieve.  The best option to reinforce Imphal would be to fly the battle-hardened 5th and 7th Divisions straight from Chittagong to Imphal and Dimapur; literally fly them straight from one battlefield and into the heart of another!

However, the battle for the Arakan was ongoing, as the fresh 26th and 36th Divisions took over the fight, still supported by the XV Corps Armoured Group which was now reinforced by the Shermans of ‘C’ Squadron 149th RAC.  81st West African Recce Regt now took on something of a new role.  While one squadron continued with the traditional mechanised recce role in support of 36th Division near Maungdaw, the bulk of the regiment left its armoured vehicles behind and instead operated in support of the Commandos of 3 Special Service Brigade, conducting raids along the Arakan coast, causing havoc to Japanese lines of communication and destroying a number of artillery pieces.  However, with the point of crisis now moved to the IV Corps front at Imphal, the Arakan offensive was halted and the new front line established along the Maungdaw to Buthidaung road.  The assault would be renewed after the Monsoon.

Men of ‘C’ (Sierra Leone) Sqn, 81st West African Recce Regiment, posing with a Japanese rifle and helmet captured on one of their amphibious raids.

In late May 1944 and with the Monsoon imminent, the XV Corps Armoured Group was disbanded.  The 25th Dragoons and ‘C’ Squadron 149th RAC were already moving back to Cox’s Bazaar, where their tanks were to be put into storage for use by 50th Indian Tank Brigade after the Monsoon.  The men of 149th RAC were sent north to rejoin their regiment at Imphal and the 25th Dragoons were withdrawn into India to re-equip with Sherman III and Sherman V DD tanks and to re-train for Operation ZIPPER.  The Engineers and Bombay Grenadiers returned to 254th Indian Tank Brigade at Imphal.  In August the 3rd Gwalior Lancers were withdrawn to India in August to completely mechanise and finally say goodbye to their horses.  The 81st West African Recce Regiment continued in their water-borne recce/raiding role throughout the Monsoon and completely divested themselves of their AFVs.  When the 82nd (West African) Division arrived later that year, the 82nd West African Recce Regiment was also immediately converted to the amphibious role and both regiments joined the 3rd Arakan Campaign when that kicked off in December 1944. 

In May 1945, ‘A’ Squadron of the 25th Dragoons was called upon to provide armoured support for 19th Indian Division on mopping-up operations in central Burma.  Leaving their tanks in India, the men were flown to Meiktila and there took charge of sixteen ‘clapped-out’ Sherman Vs of the 255th Indian Tank Brigade.  The squadron was split into two half-squadron groups, with one group going to Kalaw and the other to Toungoo.  This proved to be a depressing and demoralising experience for both groups.  The Japanese, although beaten and fleeing from Burma, still had teeth and even succeeded in destroying a Sherman with a 75mm gun, killing a troop commander and his gunner.  In another incident, the popular squadron 2ic was also killed.  Yet the Japanese remained elusive and the tanks were unable to decisively get to grips with their enemy.  After a month of fruitless driving around central Burma, ‘A’ Squadron was finally recalled to Meiktila and the men were flown out to rejoin their regiment; there to be either repatriated home or to prepare for the long-awaited Operation ZIPPER (now assigned to 50th Indian Tank Brigade, following that brigade’s final withdrawal from the Arakan in June 1945).  However, the Japanese surrender in August 1945 meant that Operation ZIPPER never happened.  Some elements of the plan were used for the re-occupation of Malaya, but the 25th Dragoons were not required and stayed in India until their final disbandment in 1947.

Modelling & Painting

The Lee models shown above are by Battlefront Miniatures/Flames of War.  They’re actually painted for the 3rd Carabiniers of 254th Indian Tank Brigade.  As mentioned above, the Lees of the 25th Dragoons were almost completely devoid of markings and don’t seem to have even had squadron signs painted.  Similarly, the Shermans of the regiment’s ‘A’ Squadron at Meiktila in 1945 probably still carried the markings of their previous owners (254th Indian Tank Brigade) and would have been a mixed bag.

The 81st West African Recce Regiment Universal Carrier model is by Skytrex.  Markings described above.

The Vengeance dive-bomber was scratch-built for me from balsa and plasticard by the supremely talented Martin Small.

The Shermans of ‘C’ Squadron 149th RAC were marked for 50th Indian Tank Brigade and are described in Part 5.

I covered the paint colours and recipes in Part 5.  The vehicles fighting with XV Corps Armoured Group in the 2nd Arakan Campaign would almost exclusively have been painted in S.C.C. 13 ‘Jungle Green’.

Anyway, that’s enough waffle for now.  Next time I’ll be looking at the 254th Indian Tank Brigade and there’ll be a lot more photos of my models!

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: WW2, Painted Units, World War 2, World War 2 - British Commonwealth Armies, World War 2 - Burma Campaign | Leave a comment

The Forgotten Wargames Army: XIVth Army in Burma (Part 5 – 7th Armoured Brigade & 50th Indian Tank Brigade)

The recent 75th anniversary of VJ Day and conversations with our friend Olivia on the Battle of Wetlet thread prompted me to re-read some history of the Burma Campaign and suitably inspired, I thought I’d add another post about the XIVth Army in Burma.  This time I’m looking at the British and Indian Armoured Regiments and Brigades that fought in the campaign (as well as some earlier armoured units that were fighting in Burma prior to the creation of XIVth Army).

7th Armoured Brigade

The first Allied armoured formation to arrive in Burma was the British 7th Armoured Brigade, which was originally ordered to reinforce Singapore (from North Africa), but was diverted to Burma, where it would come under the command of Eastern Army (the precursor to XIVth Army).  The brigade consisted of two regiments, the 7th Hussars and 2nd RTR, each with 52 Stuart Mk I (M3) light tanks, plus a Brigade Headquarters of 11 tanks, for a total of 115 tanks.  The brigade’s vehicles were repainted green to better suit the Burmese terrain and as part of the repaint, the red jerboa sign of 7th Armoured Brigade was changed to green.  The Stuart was an excellent tank and was in all respects far superior to the Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks being used by the Japanese in Burma, though the brigade was completely lacking in 37mm HE and canister ammunition and this considerably hampered their anti-infantry capability.

7th Armoured Brigade arrived in Rangoon in late February 1942, in the midst of the Japanese invasion and two days before the disaster of the Sittang Bridge and almost immediately was forced to retreat along with the rest of I Burma Corps.  The arrival of the 7th Armoured Brigade (along with the arrival of Lieutenant General William ‘Bill’ Slim to take command of the deteriorating situation) had a decisive effect on the course of the campaign; while not being enough to bring victory, the armour succeeded in turning what would otherwise have become a disorderly rout into a relatively orderly withdrawal to India (one of the longest fighting retreats in military history). 

Stuart Mk Is of ‘B’ Squadron, 2 RTR, 7th Armoured Brigade 1942

The tanks gave Slim’s command and his Chinese allies the power to break through roadblocks, to counter-attack and to break through to units that had become isolated.  Without them, it’s highly likely that the 17th Indian Division, the 1st Burma Division and the various garrison units, as well as various Chinese units retreating toward the Indian border, would have been utterly annihilated. 

Stuart Mk I of HQ 7th Armoured Brigade 1942

As mentioned above, the Stuart was far superior in all respects to the Japanese tanks in Burma (which initially consisted of a light tank company of the 2nd Tank Regiment which marched over with the first wave from Thailand, later joined by the 1st & 14th Tank Regiments which landed with the second wave at Rangoon in April).  The Stuart’s armour was largely impervious to Japanese 37mm anti-tank guns, but they could still blow off a track.  Japanese 75mm infantry guns and artillery had better luck against the Stuarts and the (thankfully rare) Type 88 75mm anti-aircraft gun was especially deadly.  The Japanese even tried knocking Stuarts out with chemical weapons!  These were glass ‘grenades’ (simply small glass bottles) filled with hydrocyanic acid that would turn to a gas when the glass was broken.  The gas attacks were unsuccessful, but further Stuarts were lost to air attack, to determined infantry with pole-charges, to breakdown and to simply running out of fuel (the Stuart’s powerful engine was particularly thirsty and required specialist high-octane aviation fuel).  One was even lost to a surprise attack by a captured Stuart!

Stuart Mk Is of ‘B’ Squadron, 2 RTR, 7th Armoured Brigade 1942

Captured Stuart Mk Is

By the time they reached the Chindwin River eleven weeks later, 44 Stuarts had been lost and as mentioned above, some of those had already been recovered and pressed into service by the Japanese, who were also making good use of enormous quantities of captured motor transport.  Only one of the remaining 71 Stuarts was successfully ferried across the river.  The remaining 70 were ‘scuttled’ either by blowing them up or in most cases, by draining the engine oil and running the engines until they seized.  The solitary survivor (named ‘Curse of Scotland’ – a reference to another historical Stuart) re-crossed the Chindwin in 1945 (now missing its turret) as the CO’s tank of the Indian 7th Light Cavalry. 

The few tanks recovered intact by the Japanese were formally adopted as the 6th Company of the 14th Tank Regiment and five of these were still running (along with a captured Lee) when the regiment intervened in the Battle of Imphal two years later.

‘Curse of Scotland’, the last survivor of the 7th Armoured Brigade, in its new role as CO’s tank of the Indian 7th Light Cavalry (254th Indian Tank Brigade) in 1945

The markings of the 7th Armoured Brigade are shown below.  However, note that they painted them in non-standard fashion, with the brigade sign on the ‘starboard’ mudguard and the Arm-of-Service sign on the ‘port’ side (I painted mine the wrong way round!).  7th Hussars and 4 RTR used standard squadron signs; red and yellow respectively, with the troop number painted in the same colour.

50th Indian Tank Brigade

With the departure of the 7th Armoured Brigade from the theatre, General Noel Irwin‘s Eastern Army had only three partially-formed armoured formations; the 50th, 254th and 255th Indian Tank Brigades.  These had only started forming at the end of 1941 and progress was further hampered by a severe shortage of tanks; a situation not helped by constant demands to send tanks to the Middle East!  However, with several Indian cavalry regiments being converted to armour for the first time, personnel were unlikely to be in short supply, even if the supply of British personnel dried up.

First to be combat-ready was the 50th Indian Tank Brigade, which was established in October 1941.  Its main ‘teeth’ units were three former British infantry battalions converted to armoured regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps, namely the 146th, 149th and 150th Regiments RAC, equipped with Valentine Mk III infantry tanks.  These were supplemented by Indian support elements (hence the ‘Indian’ part of the title). 

The organisation of these three tank regiments was very much the same as the regimental organisation used by 7th Armoured Brigade, with 52 tanks per regiment, though with two significant differences.  First, instead of the more commonly-used Daimler Dingo, the scout cars of the Recce Troop were India Pattern Wheeled Armoured Carriers Mk II.  Secondly, while the Valentine was an excellent, reliable and thickly-armoured tank, its firepower was somewhat anaemic, being limited to a 2pdr (40mm) gun, which at this time lacked an HE round, only one co-ax MG and no bow MG. 

India Pattern Wheeled Armoured Carrier Mk II

Ordinarily, British armoured squadron HQs of the time would normally include a pair of Close Support (CS) tanks armed with 3-inch or 95mm CS howitzers, though for some reason the British Army did not adopt a 3-inch CS version of the Valentine (the New Zealand Army by contrast equipped around one-third of their Valentines as 3-inch CS tanks when fighting in the Pacific).  Thus the Valentine had most of the tactical disadvantages suffered by the Stuarts of 7th Armoured Brigade.  However, to offset this lack of tank firepower a regimental Mortar Troop was added, consisting of six 3-inch (81mm) mortars, transported by Universal Carriers.  This Troop could be held centrally as a single fire support element, or could be distributed as sections of two mortars to each squadron.  Regiments equipped with Stuart in India were also eventually equipped with a Mortar Troop.  

A Valentine Mk III of ‘B’ Squadron, 149 RAC, 50th Indian Tank Brigade 1942-43

By late 1942 plans were afoot to launch a counter-offensive into Japanese-occupied Burma, initially with the limited aims of re-taking the Arakan coastal belt and the island of Akyab, with its all-weather airfield and port.  This plan was designated Operation CANNIBAL.  The heavily-reinforced 14th Indian Division, taken from Slim’s newly-created XV Corps was selected for the task, though the prickly General Irwin opted to by-pass Slim’s HQ and micro-manage the battle in person, feeding more and more brigades into the battle until the poor GOC 14th Division was controlling no fewer than nine brigades instead of the usual three! 

As the attack down the Mayu Peninsula stalled in the face of the heavily fortified Japanese ‘citadel’ at Foul Point, 50th Indian Tank Brigade was finally called upon in January 1943 to provide armoured support to take on the bunkers.  Slim and the local brigadier insisted that a full tank regiment was required to support the attack, but they were overruled by Irwin and just a half-squadron of eight tanks from ‘C’ Squadron 146th RAC (two troops of three Valentines and an HQ of two) was allocated.  The attack was a disaster, with some of the tanks being bogged in ditches and the rest being destroyed or immobilised by artillery fire and overrun by Japanese infantry.  The Japanese counter-attack drove 14th Indian Division back out of the Arakan.  Thankfully, Slim had once again been called forward to ‘pull the fat out of the fire’ and was again able to prevent the defeat from turning into a disaster.

In the recriminations that followed the disastrous First Arakan Campaign, Irwin sacked Slim out of sheer spite.  However, Field Marshal Wavell, C-in-C India took a very different view; he immediately reinstated Slim and removed Irwin from his command.  Irwin was sent home on ‘sick leave’, being replaced by the much more amenable George Giffard, whose priorities were to restore morale and train the British and Indian Armies for jungle warfare; a process that was continued and expanded under Slim when he was appointed as commander of the newly-created XIVth Army in November 1943.  Slim was adamant that tanks were essential to victory in Burma and were never again to be thrown away in tiny penny-packets. 

Valentine Bridgelayer (it should really be missing the sand-skirts, but at the time Martin was converting it the only available 15mm Valentine model had cast-on sand-skirts)

The freshly-blooded 50th Indian Tank Brigade meanwhile, was sent to the newly-formed XXXIII Corps, to prepare for the planned Operation ZIPPER (the re-conquest of Malaya) and for future amphibious operations along the Arakan coast.  However, it had been determined that the Valentine was unsuitable for jungle warfare and was therefore to be replaced in 50th Tank Brigade with medium tanks, namely the Lee and the Sherman.  However, around a regiment’s-worth of Valentine DD tanks were obtained for amphibious operations (later supplemented by large numbers of Sherman DD tanks) and Valentines were relegated to training, as well as being converted to ‘Scorpion’ flails, armoured bridge-layers and armoured observation posts.

The organisation of medium tank-equipped armoured regiments in India and Burma remained much the same as the previous organisation, though the Mortar Troop was disbanded and the scout cars of the Recce Troop reverted to Daimler Dingos, though it’s certainly possible that some India Pattern Carriers were retained.  However, the Indian Armoured Corps history records that some units found wheeled scout cars to be unsuited to jungle warfare and so switched to a mixed organisation of Jeeps and Universal Carriers.  Nevertheless, some units (such as the 3rd Carabiniers of 254th Tank Brigade) kept their Dingos until the end of the war.  The Indian Armoured Corps history also discusses a reduced tank regiment establishment, with RHQs reduced from 4 to 3 tanks and SHQs reduced from 4 to 2 tanks, for a total of 45 tanks.  However, several regimental war diaries, histories and personal accounts discuss having the full 52 tanks on hand at various times throughout the campaign, so this may merely have been a temporary measure for when tank replacements were in short supply.

A Grant medium tank of 146th RAC, 50th Indian Tank Brigade 1944-45 (N.B. the squadron sign should be an ‘A’ Sqn triangle, not a ‘C’ Sqn circle, as only ‘A’ Sqn had Grants, while the rest had Lees)

While waiting for Operation ZIPPER, 50th Indian Tank Brigade acted as something of an armoured reserve pool for the formations at the front line.  In March/April 1944, in the wake of the Japanese offensive Operation Ha-Go (the Second Arakan Campaign), and the subsequent Operation U-Go (the Japanese offensive to take Imphal and invade India), most of the personnel of ‘C’ Squadron 150th RAC were flown into the besieged city of Imphal to take over the reserve Lee medium tanks of 3rd Carabiniers (254th Indian Tank Brigade, which was the armoured component of IV Corps).  This ad hoc unit formed the Carabiners’ fourth squadron and was designated ‘YL’ Squadron (for Yorks & Lancs – the infantry regiment from which 150th RAC was formed).  These men fought at Imphal until May, when the trickle of tank losses meant that a fourth squadron was no longer viable and the men of ‘YL’ Squadron were then flown out to rejoin 150th RAC.  In the meantime, the remaining personnel of ‘C’ Squadron 150th RAC were sent to Dimapur in Assam, where along with some spare artillerymen and signallers, crewed five more reserve Lee tanks.  These five tanks were initially the only armour available to support the leading elements of XXXIII Corps as they advanced to relieve the garrison at Kohima and the besieged IV Corps at Imphal.

A few days later the bulk of 149th RAC (minus ‘C’ Squadron’), equipped with Grant medium tanks (essentially the same as the Lee, though with a larger, British-designed turret) arrived at Dimapur to greatly increase the armoured ‘punch’ of XXXIII Corps.  This growing mass of tanks was further reinforced by the armoured cars of the Indian 11th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Cavalry (Frontier force) (or ‘PAVO’) and the Stuart IIIs of the Indian 45th Light Cavalry.  The armoured cars and Stuarts were mainly used to keep lines of communication open while the Lees and Grants provided close infantry support.

A Grant of 149th RAC and a Stuart III of the 45th Light Cavalry carrying a strange mine-detecting device, near Kohima 1944

In the meantime, ‘C’ Squadron 149th RAC, equipped with 16 Sherman V medium tanks, was sent to join the XV Corps Armoured Group in the Arakan, reinforcing the 25th Dragoons who had been instrumental in defeating the Japanese offensive.  This squadron was the very first unit in the theatre to use Shermans operationally and fought in the Arakan from April to May 1944, before returning to the regiment which was now fighting at Kohima.  The squadron left its Shermans with HQ 50th Tank Brigade and picked up new Grant tanks en route to Kohima.  

Following the relief of Imphal in late June 1944, the 45th Light Cavalry were sent to the Arakan and were transferred from XXXIII Corps Troops to the 50th Indian Tank Brigade.  149th RAC meanwhile, came under the command of 254th Indian Tank Brigade at Imphal and was formally transferred to that formation in August, though was immediately sent back to India to re-train and re-equip with the Churchill infantry tanks.  149th RAC would not see action again.  In November 1944, 150th RAC was also brought to Imphal and was transferred from the 50th Indian Tank Brigade to the 254th Indian Tank Brigade, thus filling the gap left by the departure of the above two regiments.

A Grant medium tank of 146th RAC, 50th Indian Tank Brigade, on Ramree Island, February 1945

Aside from the previously-discussed transfers of armoured regiments, the composition of 50th Indian Tank Brigade was a constantly moving feast.  From August 1942 the 1st Cameronians were added as a Motor Battalion until April 1943.  There was then no Motor Battalion in the brigade until August 1944 when the 2/4th Bombay Grenadiers were assigned.  Also assigned in August 1944 were the Indian 19th (King George V’s Own) Lancers, who were equipped with Sherman V, many of them being DD tanks.  The brigade also included the 1st Independent Bridging Troop RAC, equipped with Valentine bridge-layers, as well as the most unusual 400th Independent Scorpion Squadron RAC, equipped with Valentine Scorpions.

Sherman Vs of the 19th Lancers, 50th Indian Tank Brigade, in the Arakan, 1945

With the commitment of XXXIII Corps to the Battle of Imphal and re-conquest of Burma, a new XXXIV Corps was formed in India to take over the long-postponed Operation ZIPPER role.  25th Dragoons, now equipped with Sherman and Valentine DD tanks, were allocated to the new corps, thus freeing up 50th Indian Tank Brigade, who were now transferred en masse to XV Corps.  At long last, the entire brigade was committed to action in support of XV Corps in the 3rd Arakan Campaign from October 1944 to February 1945, though the 146th RAC (mostly equipped with Lee, though ‘A’ Squadron included 10 Grants) and 19th Lancers (with standard Shermans and no DDs) were involved in amphibious operations along the Arakan coast until April 1945. 

Finally on 2nd May 1945, ‘A’ Squadron 19th Lancers landed at Rangoon as part of Operation DRACULA.  However, the Japanese had gone and the Lancers assisted 26th Indian Division in taking the city without firing a shot.  On 15th May the Lancers, driving north, linked up with the 3rd Carabiniers of 254th Indian Tank Brigade, who were the lead element of XXXIII Corps driving south.  After much celebration, the two units joined forces to attack a Japanese strongpoint, even engaging Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tanks and capturing one in perfect running order!  This was to be 50th Indian Tank Brigade’s very last engagement of the war.

Models

All the models pictured above are 15mm models by Battlefront Miniatures/Flames of War.  The Valentine Bridge-layer was converted by my good friend Martin Small.

If your chosen model manufacturer only refers to US type-numbers or even more vague descriptions such as ‘Honey’, here’s a quick guide:

Stuart Mk I – In US terms, this is the early-model M3 Light Tank with octagonal turret and protruding commander’s cupola.  Having just come from North Africa they were also fitted with sand-skirts, though these were quickly damaged or ripped off by combat and terrain.

Stuart Mk III – In US terms this is the M3A1 Light Tank with the same hull as the Stuart I (M3), but with a cylindrical turret.  By the time these entered front-line service in 1944 they were amply supplied with 37mm HE and Canister rounds, so were much better equipped to take on Japanese infantry than the Stuart Mk Is of 7th Armoured Brigade.

Lee Mk I – In US terms this is the M3 Medium Tank.  Some other marks (Lee Mk II (M3A1), IV (M3A3), V (M3A3 variant) & VI (M3A4)) were used in Burma, though these looked very much like the original Mk I and were rather rare.  Both short (M2) and long (M3) 75mm guns were employed and some of these also had prominent muzzle-counterweights.  Many Lees in Burma had the prominent commander’s cupola removed and instead replaced with a Sherman-style cupola with two semi-circular hatches.  Of those that kept the cupola, I’ve never seen one with the cupola MG fitted.  One unusual feature is that some Lees in Burma retained the twin bow MGs that were usually removed; these were operated by the co-driver, who could only elevate or depress the guns and relied upon the driver traversing the entire tank!

Grant Mk I – This was exactly the same tank as the Lee Mk I, except that it had a larger, British-designed turret.  Curiously, the British turret was also fitted to some Lee Mk IV/V.  The Grant Mk II (M3A5) was also used in Burma, but somewhat confusingly, these mostly had Lee turrets (some may have had British turrets)!  As with the Lee, both short (M2) and long (M3) 75mm guns were employed and some of these also had prominent muzzle-counterweights.

Sherman Mk V – In US terms this is the M4A4 Medium Tank.

Painting 

British and Indian vehicles in the Far East were painted a single uniform camouflage colour.  There were no official disruptive camouflage schemes and to date I have not come across any confirmed examples of locally-adopted disruptive schemes.  However, photographs of the 7th Armoured Brigade’s Stuarts in 1942 do tend to suggest a banded camouflage in some photos.  Some have suggested that this might be the remnants of their previous Middle Eastern camouflage, though records do state that the brigade repainted its vehicles in transit to the Far East.  It may therefore be merely a trick of light, dust, damp or poor photographic reproduction. 

The standard camouflage colours used by the British and Indian Armies are described below.  The suggested paint recipes come from the primary expert on the topic, Mike Starmer.  However, please note that having tried mixing up various shades of greens, I found that the difference on the table was so minimal that I simply stuck with my standard late-war ‘S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab’ for all vehicles, for which I start with a thinned Humbrol 33 Black undercoat, then a base coat of Humbrol 75 Bronze Green, a highlight coat of Humbrol 159 Khaki Drab and then a final light ‘weathering’ dry-brush of Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.

Middle Bronze Green (a.k.a. ‘Khaki Green No.3’):  This was the standard colour for all British vehicles in the Far East in the late 1930s and early 1940s and this was the colour used to repaint the Stuarts of 7th Armoured Brigade onboard ship, en route to Burma.  The closest match is Humbrol 80, though note that prior to the Japanese attack, vehicles belonging to garrison units would normally be polished to a shine resulting in a deeper, darker tone.  A suggested match is Vallejo 895(88).

Standard Camouflage Colour (S.C.C.) 13 ‘Jungle Green’:  This colour replaced Middle Bronze Green on British vehicles in the Far East from 1943.  It was a very drab and muddy green and darker than US Olive Drab.  The title ‘Jungle Green’ was not official and it was significantly different to the Jungle Green dye used in uniform manufacture, which was rather bluish and faded to a greyish tone.  S.C.C. 13 was however, used for weapons and personal equipment such as helmets.  Mix Humbrol 159 + 155 + 33 in ratio 4:3:1.  A suggested match is Vallejo 893(95).

S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab:  This was introduced in April 1944 and although not officially used in the Far East, vehicles and equipment delivered from the UK or Canada would normally arrive painted in S.C.C. 15 and might not be repainted prior to deployment in the field.  The colour was introduced to match US Olive Drab, which it did when fresh, though it faded to green unlike US Olive Drab, which faded to grey.  Mix:  Humbrol 150 + 159 + 33 in ratio 5:5:2.  A reasonable match is Humbrol 159 + 33 in ratio 8:1.  A suggested match is Vallejo 924(94).

S.C.C. 16 Very Dark Drab:  This colour was introduced in the Far East in 1944, though according to Dennis Oliver’s work, does not appear to have been employed in the field until 1945 and possibly only by 50th Indian Tank Brigade.  It was certainly used for the Shermans of 19th Lancers in the final Arakan battles.  It was a very dark, dull, dirty brown green.  Darker than both S.C.C. 13 and US Olive Drab.  It is also sometimes referred to as S.C.C. 207 and was recorded as being too dark to be used in the painting of personal equipment.  Mix  Humbrol 155 + 66 + 33 in ratio 10:2:1.  A suggested match is Vallejo 897(98).

US Olive Drab:  US equipment delivered directly from the USA would normally arrive painted in US Olive Drab and would often find its way into the field still painted in this colour.  The closest match is Humbrol 155.  A suggested match is Vallejo Brown-Violet 887(93).

Armoured crew were initially dressed in Khaki Drill (‘KD’) tropical uniforms, for which I use a Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill with a heavy highlight.  Uniforms gradually changed to Jungle Green (‘JG’) from late 1943 onwards, for which I use Humbrol 116 US Army Green with a heavy highlight.  However, tank crew seem to have continued to wear KD long after the infantry had universally adopted JG (see photo above of a tank commander in KD talking to Indian infantry in JG).  Berets were black for all regiments, though crewmen could also wear the RAC helmet, US tank crew helmet or for Sikhs, the traditional turban in KD or JG.

Markings

It has to be said that the markings for 50th Indian Tank Brigade have been an absolute nightmare to research and there is still much conjecture.  It doesn’t help that there are very few photos of 50th Tank Brigade tanks in existence and these are largely limited to the Grants of 146th RAC and the Shermans of 19th Lancers in 1945.  I have not found any photos of Valentines belonging to the brigade, no photos of 146th RAC Lees in the Arakan and no photos of 45th Light Cavalry Stuarts after their adoption by 50th Tank Brigade.  The only photos seem to be of a few Grants belonging to ‘A’ Squadron 146th RAC on Ramree Island in 1945 and of 19th Lancers’ Shermans at the latter end of the 3rd Arakan Campaign in 1945.  There is also a short sequence of film showing ‘C’ Squadron 149th RAC’s Shermans in action in April 1944.  There are however, lots of photos of random Lees from non-specific locations and seemingly devoid of markings (save perhaps a squadron sign), which does tend to indicate that tanks were frequently either devoid of markings or were so covered in crud as to make them invisible in black and white photography!

From the available evidence, it would appear that 50th Indian Tank Brigade initially used the same marking scheme positively recorded as being used by 254th Indian Tank Brigade.  This is indicated by the film of 149th RAC Shermans, who are marked with the Arm-of-Service (AoS) serial ‘5’ on a two-tone (red/yellow) square and light-coloured (yellow?) squadron signs, which would fit as the second-most-senior regiment of the brigade (squadron signs would be red, yellow and light blue for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd regiments of a brigade).  If this assumption is correct, here is how the marking scheme would work:

Note that I have not included the full array of support units, as I’ve no idea what their AoS serials would have been.  Note that when the 149th RAC and 150th RAC were transferred to 254th Indian Tank Brigade, their seniority would have been unchanged, so would have simply carried on with the same markings, just changing the formation sign (if it were painted at all).

In 1944 a new standard marking scheme was ordered for all Indian Tank/Armoured Brigades.  254th Indian Tank Brigade is known to have simply carried on using the old scheme shown above for a time before painting the new markings after the end of major operations in 1945.  255th Indian Tank Brigade meanwhile, immediately adopted the new scheme and was already carrying the new markings when they went into action for the first time in 1945. 

However, it’s anyone’s guess if 50th Indian Tank Brigade implemented the new marking scheme, as no photos show AoS markings of any type.  19th Lancers’ Shermans were clearly painted with the ‘mailed fist’ formation sign of 50th Tank Brigade, alongside a badge of unknown provenance, showing a hand rising from the waves holding a kris sword (colours thought to be yellow on blue).  These signs are painted centrally on the transmission housing below the glacis plate, as well as on the left side of the rear hull plate.  No AoS signs are visible, though some seem to have a curious white square on the tank-telephone box at the rear-right, which might be an over-exposed photo of an AoS sign. or might be an old painted-out AoS sign or a partly-painted new AoS sign…

This is the full list of AoS markings that would be carried if the 1944 regulation was applied:

Some markings were meant to be universal to all vehicles, but were not always painted.  Yellow ‘bridging discs’, with weight-class in black were almost always seen painted at the front-right of the glacis plate.  War Department registration numbers were painted on the tank sides.  From mid-1944 onwards, white Allied stars were meant to be painted on the sides and top of all AFVs and this order was enthusiastically obeyed by the 254th and 255th Tank Brigades, but seemingly not by the 50th Tank Brigade.  It’s been suggested that tanks in Burma, like most in NW Europe, did have a circled star painted on the turret-top or engine deck, even though no star was visible at the sides.

One mysterious marking that is commonly seen on photos of Lees, Shermans and Universal Carriers in India/Burma is a small white rectangle with ’20’ in black, painted at the front-right of the vehicle, usually just above or below the bridging disc.  The meaning of this marking is not known, but it has been speculated that it may relate to the capacity of auxiliary water tanks commonly fitted to ‘India Pattern’ vehicles.

Squadron signs were meant to be of the universal type; diamond for RHQ, triangle for ‘A’ Sqn, square for ‘B’ Sqn and circle for ‘C’ Sqn.  These were then coloured by regimental seniority; red, yellow, sky-blue or green.  However, 19th Lancers had a squadron signs of a completely unique type – seemingly black on a white background, with the troop designation painted in black in the centre.  This was in the format ‘HQ, 1, 2, 3 or 4’, so the number ‘1’ within the ‘B’ Sqn square would indicate No.5 Troop (the 1st troop of ‘B’ Sqn).  Other regiments used the actual troop number (1-4 for ‘A’ Sqn, 5-8 for ‘B’ Sqn or 9-12 for ‘C’ Sqn) or an individual tank number (between roughly 1 & 63, including the Recce Troop scout cars).

Anyway, enough for now!  Next time I’ll cover the XV Corps Armoured Group, 254th Indian Tank Brigade and 255th Indian Tank Brigade.

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: WW2, Painted Units, World War 2, World War 2 - British Commonwealth Armies, World War 2 - Burma Campaign | 2 Comments

The 2nd Battle of Caldiero, 30th October 1805: A Scenario for ‘Napoleon’s Battles’

Archduke Charles at Caldiero

The Battle of Caldiero is a surprisingly little-known, yet bloody action fought during the War of the 3rd Coalition in 1805.  The scene of Napoleon’s first battlefield defeat in 1796, this was therefore the second battle to be fought by Napoleon’s army on this site.  The position forms a natural choke-point for any army attempting to march along the northern edge of the North Italian Plain, from Milan, Lake Garda and Verona toward Vicenza, Venice and Austria, where the main west-to-east roads are hemmed in between the mountains to the north and the River Adige to the south.  The battlefield was fought over again in 1809 (also known as the Battle of Soave or the Battle of Castelcerino) and yet again in 1813.

As mentioned in the title, this scenario is designed for Napoleon’s Battles rules, which are a ‘grand-tactical’ ruleset where the brigade (or large regiment) is the smallest tactical unit.  

Historical Background

Masséna

In 1805 the Emperor Napoleon had given up on his plan to invade Great Britain and instead turned the attention of his supremely-trained Grande Armée to the east and the destruction of the Austrian and Russian armies, aiming first for Field Marshal Mack’s Army of Germany in the Danube Valley.  In the meantime, Marshal Masséna‘s French Army of Italy faced off against Archduke Charles‘ Austrian Army of Italy in the Adige Valley.  With only 49,000 men, Masséna was heavily outnumbered, though nevertheless his mission was to keep Archduke Charles busy in Italy and prevent him from uniting his forces with the rest of the Austrian army in the Danube Valley.

Archduke Charles

It had originally been intended that Archduke Charles would go on the offensive against Masséna, though 30,000 men, a quarter of his command, had already been stripped from him by Mack, leaving him with 90,000.  This was almost double Masséna’s 49,000, but Masséna held the ‘Quadrilateral’ of North Italian fortresses: Mantua, Peschiera, Legnano and Verona.  Any offensive by Charles would simply result in Masséna withdrawing behind his line of fortresses as he watched the Austrians bleed themselves white in prolonged sieges.  A stalemate therefore developed across the line of the Adige and in order to buy time, Masséna even proposed a truce to which the Austrians agreed on 29th September.  However, with Napoleon’s advance into Germany, there was a danger that the Austrians might use the truce to disengage a proportion of their forces to further reinforce Mack on the Danube and Masséna therefore advised Charles that hostilities would resume on 14th October.

On 17th October Archduke Charles received word that Napoleon’s army had arrived in Munich.  Foreseeing the impending disaster in Germany, Charles immediately made plans to disengage from Masséna and withdraw his army from Italy.  However, Masséna was not going to let the Austrians off the hook that easily and on 18th October he launched an assault across the Adige, driving out General Vukassovich and establishing his crucial bridgehead north of the river.  As the Austrians licked their wounds and tried to work out a plan, Masséna built up his strength and expanded the bridgehead.

Molitor

News arrived in both camps on 28th October, advising them of the cataclysmic surrender of Mack’s Austrian army at Ulm.  Both sides immediately resolved to attack the other and a series of sharp combats on the 29th saw the French push Austrian forces back to their fortified line at Caldiero, which effectively blocked the main road to Vicenza, Venice and ultimately to Austria.  Archduke Charles was determined to launch a counter-attack on the following day and ordered Simbschen’s Division to attack from the Colognola Heights on the right, via San Zeno and Caldellara, in concert with an attack by Nordmann through the marshes along the riverbank and Reuss-Plauen through Gambione.  Bellegarde’s Corps would then follow up with an attack through the centre to Calderino.  Davidovich’s Corps meanwhile, would cross the Adige and threaten the French right flank from across the river.

Gardanne

Masséna meanwhile, planned to launch an attack on Caldiero itself with Gardanne’s Division, while Duhesme’s Division attacked through Gambione and Molitor’s Division assaulted the Colognola Heights.  Partouneaux’s grenadiers, Mermet’s heavy cavalry and D’Espagne’s light cavalry would exploit any success.  Verdier’s Division meanwhile, would cross back over the Adige and using commandeered boats, would land in rear of the Austrian left, while covered by a large force of cavalry from Pully’s and Mermet’s Divisions.

Duhesme

As the formations formed up in the dark early hours, a thick fog rolled in, completely concealing the opposing moves.  Simbschen, attacking through San Zeno, bumped into Molitor and after a confused fight in the fog, fell back to the entrenchments on the Colognola Heights.  Molitor attempted to follow up, but was beaten off and the Heights remained in Austrian hands for the rest of the day.

Bellegarde

Realising that the French were also moving forward, Archduke Charles called back his attacking columns as French attacks developed around Caldiero village.  Gardanne’s initial assault on Caldiero failed, though the village was taken on the second assault.  Reuss-Plauen was also thrown back by Duhesme’s assault through Gambione.  However, Bellegarde was swift to respond and his counter-attack drove the French back out of Caldiero. 

Down at the river’s edge, the first boatloads of French troops from Verdier’s Division, consisting of Colonel Petit’s 62e de Ligne, slid ashore in thick fog.  However, the fog had led to poor navigation in the dark and instead of landing behind the Austrian lines, they had actually landed immediately in front of them and the French infantry were immediately taken to task by swarms of Nordmann’s Grenzer!  Verdier meanwhile had encountered Davidovich’s corps south of the river and thoughts of further amphibious operations were abandoned as Verdier faced the new threat.  The 62e de Ligne would have to fend for itself.  Nevertheless, Petit’s men did remarkably well, successfully pushing back the Grenzer before falling back to join with Duhesme’s Division.

D’Espagne

Back at Caldiero, the French rallied and Gardanne once again threw the Austrians out of the village, this time with support from D’Espagne’s cavalry, Partouneaux’s grenadiers and the 2nd Italian Infantry Regiment.  Bellegarde once again counter-attacked, and with the assistance of Reuss-Plauen, drove the Frenchmen out of the village for a second time.  The French rallied once again and now with Duhesme’s assistance, took Caldiero for a third time, only for the Austrians to eject them yet again!

Verdier

On the riverbank, Verdier, leaving Pully’s cavalry to screen Davidovich, had at last managed to land the rest of his division on the north bank of the Adige.  However, as Verdier advanced he soon came under intense pressure, first from Nordmann and then from Reuss-Plauen.  With his infantry threatening to break, he ordered Ormancey’s cavalry, who had been guarding the landing-site, to mount a charge, allowing the infantry to disengage and get back to the boats.

The bloodbath in Caldiero continued unabated as the two sides wrestled for control of the village.  At last, the the Austrians were thrown out for a final time and the French infantry pursued them into the fields beyond, only to be halted by fire from the redoubts behind the village, which forced the Frenchmen to fall back to the cover of the houses.  

Reuss-Plauen

As night fell, the fighting petered out as both sides took stock of the day’s action.  Casualties had been heavy – around 5,000 dead and wounded on both side and neither side had achieved its objectives.  The French had succeeded in taking Caldiero village, but at great cost and to no significant advantage, as all other positions, most critically the redoubts on the Colognola Heights and on the knoll behind Caldiero, remained firmly in Austrian hands.  Nevertheless, the clock was ticking and Archduke Charles desperately needed to get the bulk of his army back to Austria.  Leaving a small force behind to conduct a delaying action at the redoubts and ordering flanking divisions to mount diversionary attacks on Masséna’s rear at Veronetta, the Austrian Army of Italy began its withdrawal that night.  However, Masséna easily defeated the diversionary attacks and following a sharp rearguard action at the redoubts, was hot on Charles’ heels.

Partouneaux

Having to turn to fight numerous rearguard actions against Masséna inflicted serious delay on Charles’ march to Austria and despite uniting his army with that of Archduke John, which had retreated out of the Tyrol, they were still nowhere near Vienna when Napoleon crushed the combined Russian-Austrian armies at the Battle of Austerlitz on 5th December.  With the Russian threat removed, Napoleon now judged Archduke Charles’ force of 85,000 men to be the main remaining threat and sent the Grande Armée south from Vienna to destroy it.  However, the Treaty of Pressburg ended hostilities on 26th December before battle could be joined.

Game Sequence

The scenario starts with the Austrian 0900hrs turn and ends with the French 1800hrs turn, so lasts 18 turns.

The first four turns (0900, 0930, 1000 & 1030hrs) are conducted in fog, during which the visibility is reduced to 2 inches.  Combined-arms attacks are not possible during these turns.  The optional fog-of-war rules may be used (see below).

French Order of Battle

Notes:

  1. There is no intervening corps structure between Masséna and his divisional commanders. 
  2. Some smaller cavalry units have been incorporated into others in order to bring them up to playable strength.
  3. Lacour’s Dragoon Brigade actually belonged to Mermet’s Division, but was attached to Duhesme’s Division for this battle.  It may be commanded by either commander, but only counts against Duhesme’s strength for the purposes of divisional fatigue.
  4. Petit’s 62e de Ligne landed first out of Verdier’s Division and operated for some time as an independent regiment while Verdier delayed further landings due to the threat from Davidovich’s Corps.  This is therefore treated as an independent brigade for game purposes, with Petit as a general until such time as Verdier arrives, whereupon Petit is removed from play and 62e de Ligne comes under Verdier’s command and divisional strength.

French Objectives

You are to clear the enemy from Caldiero village, the entrenchments and the peak of Monte Castegioni or break the enemy army’s morale, whichever comes first.

French Deployment

Players deploy their divisions alternately in any order, starting with the Austrian player.  However, the 62e de Ligne (Colonel Petit’s command) must be the last French formation to be placed.

Note that the French have rather more flexibility in deployment than the Austrians.

Units may be placed on the table in any formation and facing.

Army and corps commanders may be deployed on table at the same time as any formation.  They must be placed within a friendly deployment area.  The exception to this rule is that Masséna may not be deployed within Area A. 

French formations may alternatively be kept off-table, to arrive as reinforcements on a turn pre-determined by the French player.  This must be declared to the Austrian player.  They will arrive on the edge of the table adjacent to the main French deployment area and may arrive in any formation.  They may move a full move on to table during the turn in which they arrive.

French Reinforcements

Turn 7 (1200) – Verdier, with Digonet’s Brigade, lands at Point A in any formation.

Turn 8 (1230hrs) – Brun’s Brigade lands at Point A in any formation.

Turn 9 (1300hrs) – Ormancey’s Brigade lands at Point A in any formation.

Note that units may only land at Point A if there are no enemy units present within the deployment area.  Landings may also be voluntarily delayed by the French player.

Austrian Order of Battle

Notes:

  1. Bellegarde is a Corps Commander, controlling the four divisions of the Centre: Vogelsang, O’Reilly, Lindenau and Lothringen.  The other ‘wings’ are independent divisions and report directly to Archduke Charles.

Austrian Objectives

You are to retain control of at least one key location (Caldiero, the entrenchments and Monte Castegioni) or simply break the enemy army’s morale.

Austrian Deployment

Players deploy their divisions alternately in any order, starting with the Austrian player.  

Note that the French have rather more flexibility in deployment than the Austrians.

Units may be placed on the table in any formation and facing.

Army and corps commanders may be deployed on table at the same time as any formation.  They must be placed within a friendly deployment area.  

Batteries of the Artillery Reserve must be allocated to divisions at the start of the game and deployed with that division.  They may not be swapped between divisions as the game progresses.

Austrian Reinforcements

Turn 6 (1130hrs) – Argentau’s Division arrives on the road at Point X in march column formation.  It may move a full move on to table during the turn in which it arrives.

Terrain Notes

Villages – Most villages may hold a single infantry unit and have a defensive modifier of +2.  The exception is Caldiero village, which may hold two infantry units and has been fortified, thus increasing its defensive value to +3.  There are numerous other hamlets and farms scattered across the battlefield, but these have no effect on play.

Entrenchments – These are linear defences with a defensive modifier of +2.  However, they are all placed at the crest of steep slopes, so the defensive modifier becomes +3 when you factor in the slope.

Marshes – These areas are classed as Rough Terrain and are impassable to artillery.  The numerous stands of trees, scrub and drainage-ditches will give infantry units a -1 fire modifier for partial cover.

Scrub – These areas are classed as Rough Terrain for all troop types.  

Hills & Vineyards – The steep slopes of the hills hereabouts are mostly covered in picturesque vineyards, orchards, olives and nut groves.  These areas are classed as Rough Terrain, though are impassable to artillery.  Cavalry may only pass through with difficulty in March Column formation at Half Rough Terrain rate, as they have to keep in single file to the narrow paths that wind up the slopes.  However, the shallower slopes (as shown on the map) are clear of vineyards etc and may be traversed as open ground.

Rivers – The river Adige is impassable to all troop types, though units of Verdier’s Division may cross at Point A, taking a whole turn to do so, provided they started the turn at that point (they may also rout in this manner, using the boats to escape).  Other rivers may be crossed as Rough Terrain, though are impassable to artillery.

Special Scenario Rules

Fog-of-War (Optional)

This rule is entirely optional, as it will undoubtedly slow the initial stages of the game quite substantially.  It is good fun, however…

The fog of war during the fog-bound turns may be represented by replacing every unit on the table with a playing card.  In addition, add eight cards to each side as dummy units.  Note on the order of battle which card represents which unit and which represent dummies.  Note that you will need two packs of cards once the dummy units are included.

Batteries and generals are placed on table as normal, but add three ‘dummy’ batteries per side and two dummy generals.  The dummy generals’ labels will duplicate generals on the order of battle.  Secretly mark each dummy as such, perhaps by using a sticker under the base. 

Before the start of deployment, each player may exchange one or more Free Roll Markers for dummy units, at a rate of three dummy units per Free Roll Marker.  One dummy unit in each group of three generated in this manner may be replaced with a dummy general OR dummy battery.

During the deployment phase, dummy units may be placed within any friendly deployment area.

The alignment of the playing card will show the formation of the unit – column or line.  Use markers to indicate Square or March Column formation. 

Units may never move faster than the normal movement rate for that troop-type as printed on the Unit Data Card.  However, dummy units may of course move at any rate selected by the owning player.

Dummy generals may not command units, though a wise player will make it appear as if they are (e.g. by commanding dummy units).

Units are revealed when they come within 2 inches of an enemy unit or battery, but not generals (this is to prevent generals, with their high movement rates, being used as recce units!).  Dummy generals will be revealed as such when they are contacted by enemy units.

Units moving to contact may immediately halt their move when their target is revealed to be a dummy unit.  Alternatively, they may continue the move as normal, up to their maximum move distance.

Cavalry units that fail a recall move must attack the next eligible unit if their first target is revealed to be a dummy (and so on if the subsequent target also proves to be a dummy).  

At the start of Austrian Turn 5 (1100hrs), all units are revealed and are placed on table.  All dummies are removed from play. 

Entrenched Austrian Artillery:  

Austrian artillery batteries emplaced behind entrenchments may increase their arc of fire to 45 degrees, but will suffer a -2 firing modifier for doing so.  They will fire with normal effect when firing within their normal firing arc.

Unit Labels

Posted in Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic Wars, Scenarios | 2 Comments

Gettysburg, 2nd July 1863: Sickles’ Salient (A Solo Refight using Brigade Fire & Fury 2nd Edition)

As Mrs Fawr will tell you, there’s nothing I like better than sitting around at home playing with myself and the lockdown has given me ample opportunity!  Last month I thought I’d set up something a bit bigger and better than another solo game of X-Wing, but my dining-room table isn’t all that big (3 feet by 5 feet), so I had to find a scenario that would fit the available space, or at least have a map that could be ‘trimmed to fit’ and which would also fit my collection of models.  The scenario ideally needed to be an assault on a fairly static defensive position, as those tend to work best for solo play, as you can play the attacker ‘against the scenario’.  Freewheeling encounter battles like the 1st Day of Gettysburg, Champion Hill or Cedar Mountain tend to be a little tricky when you’re trying to play against yourself!

I found lots of suitably-sized ACW attack/defence scenarios, but for some inexplicable reason, they invariably featured lots of Confederate cavalry, and I’ve only painted a small number of them thus far!  Eventually I found one on the Brigade Fire & Fury Scenarios Page that could be trimmed to fit, namely Rich Hasenauer’s ‘Sickles’ Salient’, which covers Longstreet’s assault on the southern end of the Union line, during the 2nd Day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  To save time and effort, I’m not going to discuss the details of the scenario here, so please follow the link to Rich’s scenario [note that I’ve now fixed the broken link to the scenario.  If it still doesn’t link (probably due to a subsequent update of the scenario) go to the scenarios page and follow the link from there].

The map in the original scenario (see below) is 5 feet square when using the usual scale for 15mm figures, though when playing with 10mm figures at a reduced scale, can be cut down by 1/5th to 4 feet square.  That was fine for the frontage of my dining room table, but what about the depth?  Well looking at the map, there is a fair bit of wasted space behind both front lines, so I was able to trim 3 inches from behind the Rebels and 9 inches behind the Union, thus reducing the table happily to 3 feet depth.  I also then added 1 turn to the Union reinforcement arrival times, as they’d have about one turn’s worth of extra movement to reach the new table edge.

One other compromise I made was in the topography.  I don’t have a lot of suitable model hills at home, so I put the Round Tops on the table and left the rest of the table flat.  As I was playing it solo, it was relatively easy for me to determine slopes and lines of sight, as per the map.  I didn’t argue with myself TOO much…

Above:  Here’s how it looked on my dining-table!

Above:  An overview of the starting positions, looking from the Reb side toward the Union side.  Apologies, but for some reason all my small ‘orchard’ trees are in autumnal colours and therefore look a little out of place for July.

Above:  In the centre of the Union III Corps salient is the Peach Orchard Knoll, which is occupied by Graham’s Brigade of Birney’s Division, reinforced by two batteries of artillery.  Graham’s Brigade included the very snazzily-dressed 114th Pennsylvania Infantry, otherwise known as the Zouaves d’Afrique, which I just so happen to have painted! 🙂  

Above:  Aligned along the Emmitsburg Road north of the Peach Orchard is Humphrey’s Division.  Carr’s Brigade, reinforced by two batteries, is deployed along the road itself with Brewster’s Brigade in reserve and Burling’s Brigade deployed behind the Trostle Farm.  Note that I haven’t painted any specific commanders for this battle, so the HQ flags have the XII Corps star badge instead of the III Corps diamond. 

Above:  Aligned along the low Cemetery Ridge to Sickles’ right-rear is the left-hand division of Hancock’s II Corps, namely Caldwell’s Division.  Note that the HQ flag here should be the shamrock badge of II Corps, not the crescent of XI Corps.  A battery of reserve artillery is also deployed forward near the Codori Hose.

Above:  South of the Peach Orchard, Barnes’s Division of Sykes’ V Corps had been inserted into the centre of Birney’s Division, in order to defend the Wheatfield position.  Tilton’s very weak brigade is deployed along the edge of woodland, on the bank of the West Plum Run, with his left flank linking with De Trobriand’s Brigade, whose line follows the river for a short distance before turning left to follow the line of the stone wall along the southern edge of the Wheatfield.  Sweitzer’s Brigade is in reserve at the Wheatfield, along with another battery.  Note also that I’ve used I Corps HQ flags for V Corps, so they have the I Corps disc badge instead of the V Corps ‘iron cross’.

Above:  On Tilton’s right, three batteries of artillery sweep the gap between Tilton and Graham.  

Above:   The left of Sickles’ line is formed by Ward’s Brigade of Birney’s Division, which is deployed at right-angles to De Trobriand and whose flank is protected by the rocks of The Devil’s Den.

Above:  To Ward’s rear, Vincent’s Brigade of Barnes’ Division (Sykes’ V Corps) has taken up a strong position on the commanding rocky heights of the Little Round Top and has spent its time wisely, building some hasty breastworks from the abundant lumber and boulders around the position.  An artillery battery is negotiating the steep, rocky and wooded slopes to join Vincent in his eyrie.  The single officer figure on a circular base indicates Vincent’s status as an ‘Exceptional’ brigade leader.

Above:  The right wing of Longstreet’s Confederate I Corps is formed by Hood’s Division, which is ideally placed to roll up Sickles’ isolated corps.

Above:  Law’s Brigade, on the right flank of Hood’s Division, has seized the Big Round Top without opposition and is preparing to launch an assault on Vincent’s Little Round Top.  In Fire & Fury game terms, Law can just reach Vincent in a single move from his starting position if he rolls a ‘Double Quick’ on the Manoeuvre Table.  I decided that as the Rebel commander, I would have one attempt at seizing the Little Round Top with Law’s Brigade, in the hope of capturing it ‘on the bounce’.  After that I would not commit any more resources to its capture and would instead concentrate on the other two objectives – the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard/Emmitsburg Road.

Above:  Hood’s remaining three brigades; GT Anderson on the left, Robertson on the right and Benning in reserve, move forward from the Slyder Farm to assault the Devil’s Den and the Wheatfield. 

Above:  On the left of Longstreet’s I Corps, McLaws’ Division is arranged in two lines, two brigades forward and two back, supported by seven artillery batteries, with the intention of launching a direct assault on the salient.  Here’s Barkshaw’s Brigade, deployed to the left of the Warfield House.  Wofford’s Brigade is coming up in reserve.  To the right of the road is Kershaw’s Brigade, with Semmes’ Brigade in reserve.  Just visible on the left of the picture, near the Spangler Farm, is Wilcox’s Brigade.  This is the right-flank brigade of RH Anderson’s Division of AP Hill’s III Corps.

Above:  Another view of the opening positions.

Above:   Longstreet’s assault is preceded by a massive cannonade by seven batteries of Confederate artillery.  In terms of numbers, the Union side has more guns, but the Rebels are able to concentrate all their guns on to a small number of targets.  Very quickly, the Rebel gunners damage and silence the two Union batteries on the Peach Orchard Knoll, aiding McLaws’ assault enormously. 

Above:  However, the Rebs don’t get it all their own way, as one of their batteries is silenced and driven off by Union counter-battery fire.  Additionally, in something of an own-goal, two Rebel batteries are temporarily forced to withdraw to replenish their ammunition limbers following the intense bombardment.

Above:  Union guns also put an end to poor Dobbin, loyal steed of General Hood.  Enraged by the death of his faithful four-legged companion, Hood (now on foot) attaches himself to Law’s Brigade and orders the charge!  The ‘Rebel Yell’ is heard for the first time this day, as Law’s men sweep down into the saddle and up the other side to assault Vincent’s breastwork’s.  Astonishingly, Vincent’s men fire high and do no damage whatsoever to the Rebel charge!  The returning Rebel volley however, is the very model of military efficiency, as dozens of Union soldiers are snatched back from the breastwork’s by Rebel Minié bullets! [in game terms. this really was the epitome of unlucky/lucky dice-rolling, with the Rebels inflicting suffering no loss and then inflicting Withering Fire on the defenders!  But worse was to come…]

Above:  Whooping in triumph, the Rebels swarm over the breastworks and get to work with their bayonets.  Vincent’s men are no match for the Rebels and are driven back from the Little Round Top with heavy losses.  The Union battery commander is shocked to see the infantry streaming down the hill towards him and frantically orders the drivers to turn their limbers around!

Above:  The rest of Hood’s Division pushes forward against Ward’s Union Brigade at the Devil’s Den.  Ward is occupying a strong position, but the sheer weight of enemy fire soon whittles down his strength.

Above:  Even though his artillery support has been silenced, Graham’s Brigade gives a bloody nose to Barksdale’s Rebels as they cross the valley in front of the Peach Orchard. 

Above:  Humphreys attempts to move one of his two remaining batteries to Carr’s left, in order to better support the Peach Orchard position, but the watchful Rebel gunners quickly destroy the Union battery as it attempts to unlimber. 

Above:  The fall of the Little Round Top triggers a scenario rule, allowing Caldwell’s Division to be released.  Historically Caldwell counter-attacked down the valley of the East Plum Run and fought over the Wheatfield.  On this occasion however, Caldwell advances past the Codori House to reinforce Sickles’ right flank , with the intention of eliminating the threat posed by Anderson’s Confederate Division and then rolling up Longstreet’s left.

Above:  With the Little Round Top having fallen and with Ward’s Brigade in the Devil’s Den being hard pressed and outnumbered 3:1, Barnes pulls Sweitzer’s Brigade back to cover the left flank and counter any advance by Law’s Rebel Brigade from the Little Round Top.  The battery in the Wheatfield also slews its guns around to face the new threat to the rear.

Above:  Sykes’ reserve battery meanwhile has narrowly escaped capture at the Little round Top and unlimbers at a safe distance to bombard Law’s exposed brigade.  This single battery was to be a constant thorn in Law’s side throughout the day, inflicting a constant stream of casualties and disorder.

Above:  The Rebels had been hoping for Graham’s Brigade at the Peach Orchard to be quickly swept away by the volume of fire directed at them.  However, with one Confederate battery silenced, two batteries withdrawn to replenish ammunition and most of the remaining Rebel artillery concentrating on counter-battery fire, Graham proves to be remarkably resilient.  The firefight for the Peach Orchard soon degrades into a battle of attrition, which is the last thing that the Rebels, with inferior numbers, want to get into.  Both Graham’s and Barksdale’s Brigades quickly become worn and both have depleted ammunition.  The Rebels suffer further woe as Barksdale (an Exceptional brigade leader) is mortally wounded by a Minié ball.

Above:  Behind the Peach Orchard, three Union batteries make like miserable for the Confederate gunners, successfully knocking out one of the batteries on the Seminary Ridge.  However, they are forced to switch their attention to Kershaw’s approaching infantry and the Rebel gunners renew their counter-battery fire, damaging and/or silencing off all three Union batteries in succession.

Above:  Ward’s Brigade, isolated and unsupported among the rocks of the Devil’s Den. is coming under intense pressure from Hood’s Rebels.  He decides that it would be better if his brigade were to fall back from the rocks and align with de Trobriand’s Brigade at the Wheatfield.  However, Hood isn’t going to let him escape so easily and orders an immediate assault on the Devil’s Den.  GT Anderson’s Brigade doesn’t receive the order and remains stationary, though Robertson, accompanied by Hood himself (who has now found himself a new horse) leads his men into the rocks.  Benning meanwhile, reforms his brigade into a column, with the intention of by-passing the Devil’s Den and attacking the Wheatfield from the rear.

Above:  Already weakened by fire, Ward’s brigade simply disintegrates and is soon fleeing in disorder up the East Plum Run!

Above:  Hot in pursuit of the defeated foe, Hood urges Robertson on through the Rose Woods and soon comes up against de Trobriand’s Brigade, which is strongly emplaced along the stone wall bordering the Wheatfield.

Above:  Ward somehow manages to rally the shattered remnants of his brigade and they take shelter behind a stone wall, alongside Vincent’s demoralised command.

Above:  Meanwhile, back at the Peach Orchard, Humphreys has inserted Burling’s Brigade into the line on Graham’s right and has thickened Carr’s line, ready for a left-wheel against McLaws, in concert with Caldwell’s attack on the right.  Brewster’s Brigade has also been shifted to the left, to replace Burling in reserve behind the Peach Orchard.

Above:  And not a moment too soon, as McLaws finally manages to coordinate a major assault on the Peach Orchard!  The remains of Barksdale’s Brigade charges across the road in concert with Kershaw’s fresh brigade from the right.  The silenced Union artillery and Tilton’s tiny Union brigade are unable to disrupt Kershaw’s charge.  Wofford’s Rebel Brigade meanwhile, shifts to the left to counter the growing threat from Humphreys’ Division.

Above:  After a long and dogged resistance, Graham is finally ejected from the Peach Orchard and the Rebels break through!  Kershaw captures a battery and Barksdale pushes back Burling’s Brigade.  However, Brewster’s Brigade, waiting in reserve behind the Peach Orchard, pours a withering fire into Kershaw’s men.  Kershaw himself almost becomes a casualty statistic as his ADC takes the bullet meant for him.

Above:  General Hood seems unstoppable this day, as sword in hand, he leads Robertson’s Brigade through the Rose Woods, in a charge to seize the Wheatfield!  De Trobriand’s Brigade lays down withering fire, which manages to kill Hood’s second horse, but the return volley is just as telling and is quickly followed up by the Rebel Yell as for the third time today, Hood puts an enemy brigade to flight!

Above:  As de Trobriand’s men scatter, Robertson’s Brigade breaks through to capture a Federal battery and the Wheatfield!  With two objectives now in Rebel hands, the Union forces now suffer a permanent manoeuvre penalty until they can seize them back.  That might not actually take too long, as Robertson is weakened and Sweitzer’s Union Brigade is in the ideal position to mount an immediate counter-attack.  However, the Union’s ability to launch charges is severely restricted in this scenario (they have to roll a ‘Double-Quick’ on the Manoeuvre Table) and that is now increasingly difficult.

Above:  Tilton’s tiny brigade, still positioned just west of the Wheatfield, is now completely surrounded by Rebel forces and Tilton wonders how he’s ever going to extricate his command.  His dilemma is resolved in short order, as his brigade is annihilated by a sudden storm of Rebel fire…

Above:  On Sickles’ right, Caldwell’s Division is advancing past the Warfield House with the intention of knocking out RH Anderson’s Division and rolling up Longstreet’s left flank.  Caldwell isn’t restricted by the Union scenario rule regarding charges, so should be able to launch an immediate assault.  However, Wilcox’s Rebel Brigade falls back from its advance position at the Warfield House and crosses back over the stream to take position behind a stone wall (here represented by a fence, because I’d run out of stone walls!), thus forcing Caldwell to come into the Confederate artillery’s killing ground.  RH Anderson meanwhile, narrowly escapes death as Union artillery kills his horse with a long-range shot (the Rebels are losing a lot of horse-flesh!).  Lang’s tiny Rebel brigade meanwhile (at the lower-right corner of the photo), comes under long-range musketry from Brooke’s Brigade and immediately suffers losses.

Above:   Back at the Peach Orchard, Burling’s Union Brigade manages to launch an assault on the remnants of the late General Barksdale’s Brigade and completely annihilates it.  Brewster was meant to follow this up with a charge on Kershaw to re-take the Peach Orchard, but refuses to advance, despite remonstrations from both Sickles and Humphreys.  Carr however, with his right flank covered by Caldwell’s Division, wheels his brigade forward to threaten Wofford’s flank.

Above:  With his flank being turned by Carr’s Brigade, Wooford has no choice but to withdraw his brigade back to the foot of Seminary Ridge, falling in with Semmes’ fresh brigade on his right and Wilcox on his left.  However, this now means that Kershaw is on his own at the Peach Orchard.

Above:  Help for Kershaw is soon at hand, as GT Anderson’s Brigade suddenly emerges from the woods , bypasses Sweitzer at the Wheatfield and hits Brewster in the flank!

Above:  Somewhat unsurprisingly, Brewster’s outflanked Brigade is defeated by Anderson’s charge and retreats to the Trostle Farm.

 

Above:  Caldwell commences his assault on the Rebel left: Zook’s Brigade is making slow progress as he comes under long-range musketry from Wilcox’s Brigade, though Kelly’s Irish Brigade manages to circumvent the stream and aims for Wilcox’s right flank.

Above:  Brooke’s Brigade, on Caldwell’s right flank, comprehensively smashes Lang’s Rebels and sweeps them from the field!  Breaking through, Brooke drives on to cross the stream and threaten Wilcox’s left flank.

Above:  On Caldwell’s left, Cross’ Union brigade assaults Wofford’s flank as he withdraws, though somewhat astonishingly is comprehensively beaten off and retreats back behind the Warfield House!

Above:  Shockingly, Sickles’ III Corps has now reached its Heavy Casualties threshold and all units in Sickles’ III Corps (and Caldwell’s Division from II Corps) will now have an additional penalty applied to their manoeuvre rolls in addition to the penalty already incurred by losing key objective locations.  Nevertheless, Brewster’s Brigade rallies and is soon advancing once again, to exact revenge upon GT Anderson at the Peach Orchard.

Above:  Speaking of revenge… Despite the loss of general army morale, Sweitzer’s Brigade manages to roll a ‘Double-Quick’ and launches a charge against Robertson in the Wheatfield.

Above:  Robertson may have won a stunning string of victories earlier in the battle, but his men are now worn and disordered, while Sweitzer is fresh.  Robertson is soon ejected from the Wheatfield and Sweitzer takes control of that key location!  However, Benning’s Rebel Brigade has now arrived and quickly deploys to outflank Sweitzer.

Above:  Benning’s manoeuvre is not without risk however, as de Trobriand has rallied near the Weikart Farm and threatens to outflank Benning in turn.

Above:  Not too far away, Vincent’s shattered brigade decides that they have had enough and shamefully flee the field.  Ward’s and Graham’s similarly-wrecked brigades also falls back, though rally at the Weikart Farm.  However, they will play no further part in the battle.

Above:  On the other side of the battlefield, Caldwell’s Division is building up to mount a three-pronged assault on Wilcox’s Brigade, just west of the Spangler Farm.  Wilcox (with RH Anderson in attendance) is positioned solidly behind a stone wall, though Brooke, having defeated Lang on the Confederate left, is now threatening to outflank Wilcox.  Wilcox has no choice but to refuse his left flank to face the new threat.

Above:  Caldwell’s assault finally erupts, with Zook attacking frontally as Kelly and Brooke take the flanks.  However, Wilcox’s refused flank somehow manages to halt Brooke’s charge by fire, while Kelly’s Irish Brigade is utterly destroyed by supporting fire from Wofford and canister fire from a battery on Seminary Ridge.  That leaves only Zook’s Brigade to assault the stone wall alone… Zook is handsomely repulsed with very heavy casualties!

Above:  Meanwhile, Humphreys and Sickles personally encourage Burling and Brewster to push the Rebels back out of the Peach Orchard.  Both brigades roll the required ‘Double-Quick’ manoeuvre and launch their assaults – Burling against Kershaw and Brewster against GT Anderson (who has in the meantime extended his line in order to maximise firepower).  Burling is comprehensively defeated by Kershaw in the Peach Orchard and retreats back to the Trostle Farm.  Brewster is also beaten off and grudgingly falls back from Anderson’s line.  However, despite these Union setbacks, the Rebels have also now reached their Heavy Casualties threshold!

Above:  At the Wheatfield, Benning halts his column and forms line to the flank.  His men pour a withering volley into Sweitzer’s flank, inflicting very heavy casualties.  Sweitzer’s men have had enough and retreat to the relative safety of the Trostle Woods.

Above:  However, Benning is himself outflanked as de Trobriand re-enters the battle!  Nevertheless, the Union musketry proves ineffective and they inflict only light casualties on Benning’s Rebels.  De Trobriand tries to persuade his men to close with the bayonet, but they’re not having any of it.

 

Above:  Thanking his lucky stars, Benning wheels his brigade back from the renewed threat of de Trobriand while the ragged remnants of Robertson’s Brigade recapture the Wheatfield.  However, a brand-new threat has just appeared on the crest of the ridge!

Above:  At long last, Union reinforcements have arrived from Sykes’ V Corps!  General Sykes himself appears, along with Weed’s and Day’s Brigades from Ayres’ Division.  The situation at the Wheatfield and on the Little Round Top is about to get interesting…

Above:  General Ayres meanwhile, appears at the Weikart Farm, along with Burbank’s Brigade and a fresh battery of artillery.

Above:  Seeing the fresh Bluecoats massing at the foot of the Little Round Top, Law starts to worry.  His brigade has continued to suffer a constant trickle of casualties from Union artillery and his men are starting to lose confidence.

Above:  While things may be looking up for the Union on the eastern flank of the battle, in the centre and west they are going from bad to worse.  Having been repulsed, Brewster’s Brigade is now being shot to pieces by the Rebel infantry around the Peach Orchard.

Above:  The rest of Humphreys’ Division is also collapsing.  As Semmes’ and Wofford’s Rebel Brigades resume the advance, Carr and Burling fall back in front of them as the broken remnants of Caldwell’s Division flee past their flank. 

Above:  The view from behind Carr’s Brigade as it all goes to rat-poo around them.  

Above:  Having comprehensively repulsed the rest of Caldwell’s Division, RH Anderson joins Wilcox in destroying the remnants of Brooke’s Brigade.  Caldwell, watching from the Spangler Farm, can only look on in despair, before spurring his horse for the relative safety of Cemetery Ridge.

Above:  Having destroyed Caldwell’s Bluebellies, Wilcox’s Brigade forms up on the left of McLaws’ Division and joins the general advance.  Behind them, the Rebel guns pound the last visible Union targets into submission.

Above:  Humphreys’ Division disintegrates in front of them!  Brewster’s Brigade, shot to pieces by GT Anderson’s Rebels, staggers back to the Trostle Farm, where they find Sickles standing around, wondering where his corps went…

Above:  While Burling’s brigade heads for the hills along with the remnants of Caldwell’s Division, Carr, Graham and a gaggle of damaged batteries attempt to make a stand along the banks of the East Plum Run.  However, some Bluebellies still have fight in them, as Burbank’s freshly-arrived brigade (at the right of the picture) crosses the river and plunges into the Trostle Woods, with the intention of attacking GT Anderson.

Above:  Back at the Wheatfield, Benning manoeuvres his brigade into position along the stone wall.  Robertson falls back behind the wall and forms up on Benning’s left.  A pair of Rebel batteries also unlimbers at the western edge of the Wheatfield, creating a lethal killing-ground among the trampled wheat-stalks.  The first victim is de Trobriand, who approaches too closely and who is then put to flight for a second time, this time carrying away General Birney with him!   

Above:  De Trobriand’s men this time don’t stop running, but Union forces continue to build up in this corner of the battlefield.  Ayres’ Division forms up for the assault (all the time under fire from long-range Rebel artillery) and he is now joined by Crawford’s Division.

Above:  Back at the Peach Orchard, McLaws and RH Anderson have now completely cleared the Emmitsburg Road of Union forces and claim it as their third captured objective!

Above:  With the infantry having taken the objective, Rebel batteries move forward to take up position on the Peach Orchard Knoll, from where they can better sweep the approaches to the Wheatfield and the slopes of the Little Round Top.

Above:  Back at the Wheatfield, Benning has reached the cover of the stone wall, but is taking heavy fire from several freshly-arrived Union batteries.  Day’s Union Brigade has formed line in preparation for an assault on the Wheatfield, but has been stalled by Rebel artillery fire and the general loss of confidence that is infecting the Union side.  Impatient at the delay, Fisher (from Crawford’s Division) orders his brigade to remain in column and bypasses Day, aiming to outflank Benning.

Above:  On the Little Round Top meanwhile, Weed’s Brigade is pushing forward and inflicting casualties on Law’s Rebels, though suffers losses in turn.  These casualties tip Sykes’ V Corps over their Heavy Casualties threshold.  Weed loses momentum at the critical moment and fails to press home the attack.  Law’s men use the opportunity to fall back to cover among the trees on the southern side of the crest.

Above:  Seeing Weed’s assault stall on the crest of the Little Round Top, Crawford sends McCandless’ Brigade up the slope in column, with orders to take the heights or die trying!  General Ayres also spurs up the slope in an attempt to get Weed moving.

Above:  Despite the support of McCandless’ fresh brigade and the personal intervention of General Ayres, Weed still fails to press home his attack.  McCandless however, is made of sterner stuff and his brigade column sweeps over the crest, taking back the objective and charging over Vincent’s former breastworks to utterly crush Law’s Rebels!  General Hood can only watch in despair from his position at the foot of the hill as Law’s Brigade is scattered to the four winds.  With one of the three key objectives now back in Union hands, it is imperative now that he maintains control of the Wheatfield!  The sun is now setting and he prays for God to bring him night!

Above:  Sadly for Hood, the Bluebellies are certain to arrive at the Wheatfield before nightfall!  Covered by four artillery batteries, Day’s Brigade has deployed into line and is about to assault across the East Plum Run.  Fisher’s column meanwhile, is marching to outflank the Wheatfield position, forcing Benning’s Rebels to wheel back away from the Wheatfield, in order to face the new threat.  Two more brigades (Wheaton’s and Bartlett’s) have also arrived as reinforcements from VI Corps, but are probably too late to achieve anything meaningful before nightfall.

Above:  GT Anderson’s Brigade once again becomes the focus of Union counter-attacks as Ayres’ Division launches its assault.  Day charges across the Wheatfield and Burbank emerges from the Trostle Wood.  Ayres also sends a battery forward with Day, in the hope that they will be able to assist him in defending the captured objective.

 

Above:  However, Day’s Brigade and the supporting Union guns are hammered by the Rebel artillery – two batteries firing canister across the Wheatfield, plus a third battery behind Anderson and another two batteries on the Peach Orchard Knoll.  Burbank, despite his covered approach through Trostle Woods, suffers losses to Anderson’s rifles and the Union assault is beaten off.  The two Union brigades retreat back across the East Plum Run.

Above:  With the latest assault beaten off, the Rebel artillery concentrates its efforts on counter-battery fire, as it’s unable to spot Fisher’s Brigade approaching through the Rose Woods.  However, night is starting to fall and the longer-ranged guns start to fall silent.

Above:  Shattered remnants of Sickles’ III Corps mill around the Weikart Farm.

Above:  Some remnants still hold a line along the East Plum Run, though luckily for them, McLaws is content to hold the line of the Emmitsburg Road and has no interest in hunting down the last of Sickles’ men.

Above:  Ayres’ Division soon rallies, but shows little interest in renewing the assault.  Thanks to long-range Rebel artillery, the two brigades from VI Corps are also slow to march into danger.  As the sun sets below the horizon, the Rebels start to breathe a sigh of relief, as they still have control of two of the three objectives; the Wheatfield and the Emmitsburg Road/Peach Orchard line.

Above:  Suddenly, a loud “Hurrah!” is heard as Fisher’s Brigade bursts from the Rose Woods and storms across the Wheatfield!  Longstreet is astonished at this last-ditch attempt by those Blue-bellied rascals to steal a victory point in the very last turn of the game!

Above:  Fisher’s column is utterly shredded by close-range musketry from Benning’s Robertson’s and Kershaw’s brigades firing into the flank, as well as two batteries firing point-blank canister immediately to his front and another four batteries firing shot and shell from the direction of the Peach Orchard!

Above:  However, there is no Rebel unit actually ON the Wheatfield and despite taking maximum casualties, there is nothing to actually stop Fisher’s Brigade from seizing the objecting for the Union!  “Christ on a velocipede!” rages Longstreet, as he realises to his horror that this is the last turn of the game and there is no way to get back that Victory Point! 

It’s clear to everyone that Fisher wouldn’t last one one more turn and that the Rebels would immediately take it back, but night had fallen and the guns suddenly fell silent, almost as though a spectral, fell voice had cried out “Have you finished playing that bloody game yet?!”

So the final scores on the doors were:  The Union had inflicted Heavy Casualties on the Rebels, so gained 2 VPs.  They also had possession of two of the three objective locations, for another 2 VPs, so had a total of 4 VPs.  The Rebels meanwhile, had inflicted Heavy Casualties on both Union Corps for 1 VP apiece and had inflicted overall Greater Casualties for another 1 VP.  They also retained control of one objective location for a further 1 VP, so also had 4 VPs…  It was a draw…

Yes folks, I’d scored a draw against myself…

I again ask the question if this is perhaps the hobby for me…?

Acknowledgement

My sincere thanks to Rich Hasenauer author of Fire & Fury, for the excellent scenario and also for providing me with a ‘de-trooped’ map that I could play with for this AAR.  Cheers Rich! 🙂

Models & Stuff

The figures are all 10mm models by Pendraken Miniatures.  The buildings, breastworks and rail-fences are mostly Timecast with some Pendraken.  The bridges and walls are by Battlescale Miniatures.  Snake-fences by Blotz.  Trees are by Woodland Scenics.  Rivers and roads by QRF

Posted in 10mm Figures, American Civil War, Fire & Fury (Brigade), Games, Scenarios | 9 Comments

The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw (Part 4: The Cavalry)

This is the last part of my series on my 15mm Army of the Duchy of Warsaw.  In Part 1 I covered the infantry, in Part 2 I looked at Prince Poniatowski and some of his generals and in Part 3 I covered the artillery.  This time I’m looking at Poland’s powerful and spectacular cavalry arm.

As with the infantry in Part 1, I’m not going to go into great detail covering all the cavalry regiments of the army, but will simply look at the regiments I’ve painted, namely the 1st Chasseurs à Cheval, the 3rd Uhlans, 6th Uhlans, 7th Uhlans and 14th Cuirassiers.  If you want to go into great detail and/or look at the other regiments, get the superb ebook on the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw 1807-1814 by W J Rawkins from the author himself at The History Book Man.

All the models here are 15mm AB Figures, painted by me.  The flags are by Fighting 15s (except for that of the 6th Uhlans, which I painted myself, back in the mists of time before printed flags were widely available). 

As previously discussed, my Napoleonic armies are organised for Napoleon’s Battles rules, where the smallest tactical unit is a brigade and the figure ratio is roughly 1:100.  Each ‘regiment’ here will therefore represent a brigade of two or three regiments on the table.  So with a small army such as that of the Duchy of Warsaw, I don’t actually need any more.  however, I may well paint some Duchy of Warsaw Hussars if Tony B ever does the figures… 

Speaking of which… The sainted Mr Barton for some reason has never got around to producing elite company figures for the Polish cavalry, nor indeed Eaglebearers.  I’ve done some Eaglebearer conversions which are shown below, but I’ve still not done any head-swaps for the elite troopers (I live in eternal hope that Tony might one day finish this range off).

IV Reserve Cavalry Corps 1813

As previously mentioned, I’m mainly building this army for the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, so need three cavalry brigades for Kellermann’s IV Reserve Cavalry Corps, one brigade for Dabrowski’s detached 27th Division and a weak cavalry brigade for Uminski’s Brigade of Poniatowski’s VIII Corps.  This equates to roughly the number of Polish cavalry at the Battle of Borodino in 1812.  There were other Polish cavalry units knocking around, but this is as many as were ever assembled for a single battle, so is really as much as I could possibly need… Yeah, like that’s ever stopped me…

A word on nomenclature: The Duchy of Warsaw didn’t group its cavalry regiments by type like the French and instead used a single numerical sequence for all regiments, much like the line cavalry numbering sequence of the British Army.  The 1st, 4th and 5th Regiments were Chasseurs à Cheval, the 10th & 13th Regiments were Hussars, the 14th Regiment was Cuirassiers and the 2nd, 3rd, 6th to 9th, 11th, 12th and 15th to 21st Regiments were Uhlans.

All cavalry regiments were initially organised along French lines with three squadrons (plus a depot squadron), each of two companies.  The 1st company of the 1st squadron in each regiment was designated as the elite company.  An additional squadron was added to each regiment in 1810.  The exception to this was the 14th Cuirassiers, which had only two squadrons throughout.

1st Chasseurs à Cheval (Strzelcy Konni)

Colonel & elite company, 1st Chasseurs

When first raised in 1807 the three regiments of Chasseurs wore a dark green ‘Spencer’ style coat with square lapels, fully coloured with the regimental facing colour (which in the case of the 1st Chasseurs was scarlet).  However, in 1808 the style of coat was changed to a dark green single-breasted habit-kinski with collar, pointed cuffs, front-seam piping and lace edging to the tail-turnbacks and pockets coloured in the regimental facing colour. 

Fringed epaulettes replaced the shoulder-straps worn on the old-style coat.  According to the source I used when I painted these, the epaulettes were plain white, though Rawkins states that they had facing-coloured crescents, while the top of the epaulette was covered in brass scales and was edged in the facing colour.  The elite company (i.e. 1st company of the 1st squadron) had scarlet epaulette-fringes.  Buttons were brass and and officers’ epaulettes and buttons were gold.

Breeches were dark green with a wide facing-coloured stripe at the side and worn with hussar-style boots, edged in facing-coloured lace and tassels.  On campaign green overalls were worn, again with a stripe or double-stripe in the facing colour.  Grey overalls were also used.

Headgear was a black shako, which in full dress had white cords and a green-over-red plume, over a green pompom… The observant will notice that I’ve painted black pompoms… That’s because I painted these before getting a copy of W J Rawkins’ excellent book and was instead referring to an internet source… sigh… The shako initially had an eagle-plate very much like the Uhlans, though this soon changed to a white rosette held in place with a white strap and brass button, as shown here.  A white cockade was fixed above the eagle/rosette.  The elite company had a black fur colpack with red cords, bag and plume (recorded as a hanging horsehair plume for the 1st Chasseurs).  Officers had gold cords and plumes or pompoms in either company colours or white.  By 1811 all officers wore fur colpacks and not just those of the elite company.  As mentioned above, AB still haven’t produced any elite company troopers, so I’ll add a fourth base to the unit when they do.  

Horse furniture was a dark green shabraque and round valise, edged in scarlet lace.  Officers’ shabraques were edged with a double row of gold lace.  Saddle-covers were white sheepskins, edged in scarlet dog-toothed cloth and as with the French, the sheepskin saddle-cover was often used on its own, with the shabraque saved for parade order.  Some sources show black sheepskins for officers, or none at all, just the shabraque.

Equipment consisted of a white cross-belt, supporting a black leather cartouche decorated with the regimental number in brass or a brass grenade badge for the elite company.  The sabre was carried in a steel scabbard and suspended from a white waist-belt.  Officers had black belts edged with gold and usually had black leather scabbards with gilded fittings.  Sword knots were white, with the elite company having scarlet and officers gold.

Trumpeters of the 1st Chasseurs wore a white habit-kinski with brass buttons and scarlet facings as for the rest of the regiment.  Epaulettes were the same as the rest of the regiment, with the addition of a mixed green & yellow aiguillette in full dress.  White colpacks were worn by the trumpeters of all companies.  These were decorated with a scarlet bag and cords, with scarlet-over-green plume or a scarlet pompom.   Breeches were initially green with scarlet stripes, though may have later changed to scarlet breeches with gold stripes and Hungarian knots.  Overalls were dark green with a double scarlet stripe.  Had I waited for the Rawkins book to arrive, I would have discovered that the trumpeters of the 1st Chasseurs typically had the same shabraques as the rest of the regiment, with black sheepskins (possibly having white shabraques edged red at some point).  However, I followed an internet source which suggested reversed colours of scarlet with a green edge… sigh…

As with their French figures, AB Figures don’t produce any Polish light cavalry standard-bearers, due to a general order from Napoleon, banning light cavalry regiments from carrying their standards on campaign.  However, Polish standards do look pretty spiffing and emphasise their ‘Polishness’, without which these chaps could easily be mistaken for French, Italian or even flippin’ Neapolitan Chasseurs!  So I made my own Chasseur Eaglebearer from a spare trumpeter figure, utilising a Polish Eagle taken from an old Battle Honours figure (also sculpted by Tony Barton back in the day). 

The photo above shows an unmodified trumpeter on the left and the donor Eaglebearer sans Eagle on the right, with the finished Eaglebearer in the centre.  I carefully cut away the trumpet and filed down the trumpet cord over the shoulder (I did some more filing after this photo, as it was still obvious) and then opened his hand to take the brass rod pole.  I then (badly) drilled the eagle and stuck the pole up its arse.  You can see the painted, finished Eaglebearer in the photos above.

3rd Uhlans (Ulani)

The standard dress of all Polish Uhlan regiments was a dark blue kurtka coat with dark blue, tight-fitting trousers, with facings and other details varying by regiment.  In the case of the 3rd Uhlans, the collar, lapels, tail-turnbacks and pointed cuffs were crimson, piped white.  the pockets and seams at the rear of the kurtka were also piped white, as were the rear sleeve-seams.  Buttons were brass.  Trousers normally had a double stripe in the piping colour, though the 3rd are recorded as having yellow trouser-stripes.

Shoulder-straps were dark blue, piped crimson, though the elite company wore scarlet fringed epaulettes.  Other regiments had brass scales on their epaulettes, though the 3rd are recorded as having plain red.  The other companies in the regiment at some point replaced their shoulder-straps with white fringed epaulettes.  Chelminski shows these as having brass scales and crimson crescents, but given that the elite company’s epaulettes are recorded as not having scales, I’ve stuck with plain white.  Officers had gold epaulettes.

The czapka was made of black leather with a blue cloth-covered ‘box’ and brass fittings.  The black lower part was separated from the blue upper box by a band of white lace.  The box was originally edged with white piping, plus a white ‘X’ across the square top, but this had changed by 1809 to black piping.  I actually painted the czapka top in a very slightly lighter shade of blue to make the black piping stand out.  The front of the czapka was decorated with a white metal eagle, standing on a brass crescent, on which was enameled the number ‘3’ in black.  A white cockade was worn on the front-left face of the box and was fixed in place with a brass button and white or brass cross.  Above the cockade was a black pompom or full-dress plume.  Full-dress cords were white. 

Officers had gold lace and piping on the ‘box’, silver cords and a gold cross on the cockade.  Plumes and pompoms were black for junior officer ranks and white for senior ranks.  After 1811 all officers’ pompoms were gold.

Uhlan elite company headgear varied quite widely from regiment to regiment, though that for the 3rd Uhlans is well-recorded, being a bell-topped shako, covered with black fur and fitted with a red ‘bag’ to make it resemble a colpack.  The front was decorated with the same eagle-and-crescent badge as the other companies, with a white cockade and scarlet pompom above.  In full dress the cap would be decorated with scarlet cords and a scarlet hanging horsehair plume.  However, as discussed above, AB Figures haven’t yet done any elite company troopers, so I live in eternal hope… 🙁 

Horse furniture consisted of a blue full-dress shabraque and round valise, edged crimson (gold for officers) and a white sheepskin saddle-cover, edged with crimson dog-toothed cloth.  As with the Chasseurs, it was often only the sheepskin that was worn on campaign.  

Equipment consisted of white leather belts, including a waist-belt for the sabre that was worn over the kurtka and secured with a large brass buckle.  Scabbards were steel.  Pistols were often carried instead of carbines, attached to the carbine-belt by the trigger-guard, as carbines tended to get in the way when fighting with the lance. 

Lances were officially natural wood, though the 3rd are recorded on one occasion as carrying lances painted with white and crimson spirals, barber-pole style!  I can only imagine that this was a special paint-job for a parade or honour guard for a special occasion and in any case, that would be a terminal ballache to paint, so I’ve painted mine dark brown!  Lances were wound around at the mid-point with a whitened leather thong, which formed a hand-grip and wrist-strap.  Two patterns of lance-pennants are recorded for the 3rd Uhlans: scarlet-over-white and dark blue-over-scarlet with a white ‘wedge’.  I’ve opted for the latter option, as I’d already used scarlet-over-white for the 6th Uhlans.

The elite company trumpeters are recorded as having white kurtkas with crimson facings and piping, with white fringed epaulettes.  Trousers are recorded as either dark blue with crimson stripes or the reverse, crimson with dark blue stripes (I opted for the latter).  Headgear for the elite company was a ‘proper’ colpack of white fur with crimson bag and white cords and plume.  Headgear for the other companies isn’t recorded, so I’ve opted for the most common pattern for trumpeters, which was a white-topped czapka, with scarlet lace and piping and a scarlet pompom.

Again, I converted some Uhlan Eaglebearers (and a Cuirassier Eaglebearer) from other figures and some donated Polish Eagles.  Fighting 15s don’t produce a 3rd Uhlans standard, but they do include some generic Polish standards without regimental numbers, so I used one of those and added a yellow Roman numeral III in the bottom corner of the fly, as that was a common way of indicating the regimental number.  I did the same for the 7th (VII) Uhlans and the 14th (XIV) Cuirassiers. 

6th Uhlans

I painted these waaaay back in the mists of time in the early 90s, when AB Figures had only just begun and they were still years off producing a range of Duchy of Warsaw figures!  They did however do these fellas – Vistula Legion Lancers.  They had originally been modelled as part of the Battle Honours range, but when Battle Honours went catastrophically tits-up, Tony B managed to hang on to these master figures as part of the new company’s range.

The uniform is basically the same as the 3rd Uhlans mentioned above, except that these are in campaign dress, so they’ve covered their czapkas with linen covers (black waxed covers were also common), have removed their pompoms and epaulettes and have reversed their lapels to reveal the dark blue reverse side (the lapels were completely detachable and could be reversed like this to protect the coloured facings).

Regimental distinctions for the 6th Uhlans were a white collar piped crimson, crimson lapels and cuffs piped white, dark blue turnbacks piped crimson and crimson piping on the rear of the kurtka.  Trouser stripes were crimson, as was the shabraque-edging.  Elite company headgear is not certain, though was probably a Chasseur-style fur colpack.  A trumpeter of the 6th Uhlans is described as having a white kurtka with light blue facings and no piping (I clearly didn’t know this when I painted mine!).  One other mistake I made is that the piping around the reversed lapels should probably be white, not crimson.

Lance-pennants are recorded as either scarlet-over-white or as scarlet-over-blue-over-white.  All other details were as for the 3rd Uhlans.  The officer is wearing a crimson Morocco-leather cover over his cross-belt in order to save the expensive gold trimmings from the elements.  This was a very common item among cavalry officers of the Napoleonic Empire. 

Also note that back in those days printed flags were a lot less available than they are now and the internet didn’t exist, so we had to paint our own flags… And then lick road clean wi’t’tongue before father would cut us in two wi’t’breadknife and dance about on our graves singing ‘Hallelujah’…

7th Uhlans

Senior Officer of the 7th Uhlans with an ADC

I must confess here that the 7th Uhlans didn’t take to the field in 1813, as the shattered remnants spent the campaign locked up as part of a fortress garrison.  However, they fought in 1812 and I do like the colour scheme, so what the heck…

Once again the 7th Uhlans wore the standard pattern of Uhlan uniform described above, with the following regimental distinctions:

Collar, cuffs, lapels and turnbacks were yellow piped scarlet.  The trousers should have been striped in the regimental piping colour (scarlet), but they are recorded as having atypical yellow trouser-stripes, like the 2nd and 3rd Uhlans.  Some sources describe the epaulettes as being yellow, though I’ve stuck with the standard white.  

Shabraques were edged yellow, as were the sheepskin saddle-covers.  Officers are shown as having black sheepskins.

There are no specifics recorded for the uniform of the elite company.  Lance-pennants are recorded as being either scarlet-over-blue-over-white, or as yellow-over-blue-over-scarlet.  I’ve opted for the latter version, as it fits with the yellow theme.

Trumpeters are described as wearing a white kurtka with yellow collar and cuffs piped scarlet, scarlet lapels and turnbacks without piping and all other piping scarlet.  Epaulettes were scarlet with yellow crescents and brass scales.  The czapka had a white ‘box’ with scarlet lace, piping and cords and a scarlet plume or pompom.  Overalls were dark blue with a double yellow stripe.  Saddle-covers were made of black sheepskin with a yellow cloth edge.  Trumpet cords were mixed scarlet and white or mixed scarlet and yellow.

14th Cuirassiers (Kirasjersky)

Officer, 14th Cuirassiers

The magnificent Polish 14th Cuirassiers were something of a pet project for Poniatowski, who had long desired such a regiment as part of the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw.  However, Cuirassiers were a very expensive class of cavalry and only two squadrons were formed.  Napoleon was not impressed, as he would ultimately have to pay for them.  He ordered Poniatowski to convert them at once to a light cavalry regiment. 

As fortune would have it, it was 1812 and the build-up for Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was rapidly gathering pace.  Poniatowski procrastinated long enough for the 14th Cuirassiers to be included in the order of battle of the Grande Armée.  They were brigaded with the Saxon Garde du Korps Regiment and Zastrow Cuirassier Regiment, under the command of General Johann Thielmann (part of Lorge’s 7th Cuirassier Division of the IV Cavalry Corps).  This superb brigade, possibly the best heavy cavalry brigade in Napoleon’s army, won eternal fame during the Battle of Borodino when it stormed the Great Redoubt on horseback; a feat arguably unmatched in all the wars of the age.  

However, the regiment had suffered grievous losses at Borodino and worse was to come during the long retreat back to Poland.  Nevertheless, the survivors, amounting to 20 officers and 77 men, finally made it back to Warsaw and joined with their depot squadron and new recruits to rebuild the regiment.  However, as Poniatowski rebuilt his army during the first half of 1813 it was clear that the regiment could not reform as Cuirassiers.  It kept the title, though lost the iconic steel cuirass and was now classed as a regiment of light horse, being brigaded under General Uminski alongside the newly-raised regiment of Krakusi.  Uminski’s Brigade would form the cavalry element of Poniatowski’s VIII Corps for the coming campaign. 

Krakus Cavalry 1813

At the commencement of operations in August 1813 the brigade totaled around 1,000 men, of whom only 240 or so belonged to the 14th Cuirassiers, the remainder being Krakusi.  The intense scouting, flanking and rearguard actions fought by the corps south of Leipzig rapidly whittled down the strength of the brigade and by the time of the start of the Battle of Leipzig the brigade had lost around a third of its strength.  By the end of the battle, the regiment had ‘covered itself in glory’, but had virtually ceased to exist.  When disbanded on 29th December 1813 there were only 3 officers and 36 men left with the standard. 

In modelling and gaming terms, I could never field a full ‘brigade’ of Polish Cuirassiers, as there were never more than around 300 of them.  In 1812 their brigade mostly consisted of Saxon heavy cavalry, so they would definitely be more representative of that brigade (and I’ve already painted the Saxons!).  In 1813, their brigade was only one-quarter to one-third Cuirassiers and the rest Krakusi, so the Krakusi would be more representative.  However, AB Figures don’t make Krakusi… There are Krakusi available from other manufacturers and Sho Boki‘s Krakusi are rather nice… But they’re not AB…  However, AB don’t make a Cuirassier figure without cuirass, which is what you’d need for the 14th Cuirassiers in 1813, so I’ve simply painted them as the 1812 regiment, even though I’ll be using them for 1813… But that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, as I love Cuirassiers and I have no shame… 🙂 

AB’s new(ish) range of Late Cuirassiers are perfect for the 14th Cuirassiers, as they’re wearing the shorter-tailed coat.  However, they don’t do a late Cuirassier standard-bearer, so I’ve used an Early Cuirassier figure for that job (again modified with a Polish Eagle).

The uniform was VERY similar to that of the French Cuirassiers; namely a dark blue, single-breasted habit-kinski with scarlet collar (piped blue), scarlet tail-turnbacks and scarlet piping on the tail-pockets.  Cuffs were also scarlet (piped white) with a blue cuff-flap piped scarlet, though these last details were normally hidden by white gauntlets. 

The back-and-breast cuirass was of French pattern and was polished steel, with brass rivets and brass-scaled straps.  This was lined with scarlet cloth, which showed at the neck, waist and arm-holes and was piped white at the edge.  The helmet was again of French style, being polished steel with a black leather peak, black bearskin turban, brass crest and chin-scales, black horsehair mane, black houpette crest and in full-dress, a scarlet plume worn at the left side. 

Breeches were white buckskin, though grey cloth breeches were worn on campaign.  these were worn with tall black leather ‘cuffed’ heavy cavalry boots.  Belts were white leather and scabbards were steel.  Sheepskin saddle-covers were white, edged with scarlet dog-toothing.  Cloaks were white with scarlet lining.  In common with French practice, these would be stowed on top of the valise with the scarlet lining showing outward.

Thus far they looked just like French Cuirassiers, though there were some significant differences.  To start, the ‘metal’ colour of Polish Cuirassiers was yellow, whereas the French had white metal.  Thus the Poles had brass buttons and gold officers’ epaulettes, as well as yellow edging and grenade badges on their blue square shabraques and the number ’14’ in yellow, within a box of yellow lace on the ends of the square valises.  They also had brass scaling on the straps of their epaulettes.  Most unusually, officers had shabraques and holster-covers of a completely different colour; namely crimson, edged with gold.  As discussed above, they lost the cuirasses in 1813, though kept the other uniform details, including the helmets.

Officer, 14th Cuirassiers

Trumpeters initially wore a white habit-kinski with scarlet collar, turnbacks and cuffs, with white cuff-flaps.  The breast of the coat was decorated with five double strips of mixed scarlet & yellow lace, while the epaulettes were scarlet with yellow crescents and mixed scarlet & yellow fringes.  Trumpets had mixed scarlet and yellow cords.  The helmet was of the usual pattern, though with a scarlet mane, houpette and full-dress plume.  The shabraque and valise were scarlet with yellow decoration and the sheepskin saddle-cover was black with a scarlet edge. 

When the regiment was reformed in 1813 the trumpeters wore a plain scarlet habit-kinski with collar, cuffs and turnbacks in dark blue, with white epaulettes.  The helmet now had a white mane, houpette and crest.

Right, that’s it!  My next post will be an American Civil War after-action report for a solo game I played recently of ‘Sickles’ Salient’ during the Battle of Gettysburg.  I never knew that playing with myself could be so much fun…

Posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic French Army, Napoleonic Minor States, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units | 6 Comments

The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw (Part 3: The Artillery)

Duchy of Warsaw Horse Artillery at the Battle of Raszyn 1809

In Part 1 of this series I looked at some infantry regiments of the Duchy of Warsaw and in Part 2 I looked at Prince Poniatowski and his generals.  This time I’m going to look at the artillery.  All models are 15mm AB Figures, painted by me.

Foot Artillery

Foot Artillery 1809-1811

Polish Foot Artillery initially wore a dark green kurtka coat, of the same pattern as the infantry.  This had collar, half-lapels, cuffs and turnbacks in black, all piped scarlet, with additional scarlet piping down the lower breast and on the tail-vents and pockets.  Buttons were brass and scarlet fringed epaulettes were worn.  This was changed in 1811 to a French-style habit-veste in the same colours.  This had a cutaway at the lower breast, revealing a dark green waistcoat.

Breeches were white and worn with black or white gaiters.  However, white coverall trousers were worn on campaign, or heavier dark green trousers in winter.

Headgear was initially a black czapka of the infantry pattern (basically a square-topped felt shako), decorated in the same manner with a brass band above the peak surmounted with a metal eagle above and a white cockade.  Above the cockade was a scarlet pompom.  Scarlet cords and a scarlet plume were added in full dress.  In late 1809 the czapka was changed for a French-style black shako, with all badging and decoration remaining the same, though the pompom was now carrot-shaped.

Equipment consisted of two white cross-belts, supporting a sabre-briquet and a black cartouche decorated with a brass grenade badge.

Curiously the AB Figures Polish Foot Artillery are dressed in the early kurtka with the later shako.  Going by the dress regulations, this pins them to the period of relative peace after the end of the 1809 war with Austria, but before the start of the 1812 war with Russia…  Ah well, they look great… If you want to, you could use French Foot Artillery figures for 1812-1813 period.

Horse Artillery

Horse Artillery 1810-1813

Polish Horse Artillery were initially dressed  similarly to the Foot Artillery, in a dark green kurtka with black facings and scarlet piping and scarlet epaulettes.  However, the cut of the kurtka was of uhlan style with full lapels going all the way down to the waist and pointed cuffs, without flap and buttons.  The collar was decorated on each side with a scarlet grenade badge.  The scarlet epaulettes had brass scales along the strap.

In 1810 this coat was changed to a habit-kinski of the same style as the Chasseurs à Cheval, which had a different tail-turnback arrangement and instead of lapels had a single row of buttons and scarlet piping.  All other details were the same as before.

Breeches were dark green with a wide black stripe down the seam, piped with scarlet.  These were worn with hussar-style boots with scarlet lade edge and tassels.  On campaign dark green overalls were worn, again with a black stripe edged in scarlet piping and reinforced with black leather.

Headgear was initially a black uhlan-style czapka with white piping and cockade, scarlet cords, scarlet pompom, scarlet full-dress plume and badges very similar to those of the Foot Artillery.  This was changed in 1810 to a black fur colpack with green bag piped scarlet, scarlet cords, white cockade and scarlet pompom, topped off with a scarlet plume in full dress.

Equipment consisted of a brass-hilted sabre with steel scabbard, suspended from a white leather waist-belt secured with a large brass buckle.  The black leather cartouche was decorated with a brass grenade badge and was held by a white cross-belt worn over the left shoulder.

Guns

The artillery arm of the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw was initially equipped with captured Prussian guns, but soon began to receive French Year XI Pattern guns.  Following the 1809 war, they were also then equipped with a large number of Austrian guns.  Carriages were initially left in their original colours (light blue for Prussian and yellow-ochre for Austrian guns), but all were eventually repainted to French ‘Artillery Green’ and some captured guns were remounted on French gun-carriages.

If you’re interested, the recipe for French Artillery Green was 99 parts yellow ochre to 1 part lamp black, which also happens to be the same recipe as WW2 US Olive Drab.  So you can’t go wrong painting your gun-carriages the same as your Shermans…  In Humbrol Enamel terms that’s 155 US Olive Drab, but as a personal choice I like my French guns looking a touch greener, so use Humbrol 159 Khaki Drab, which is the colour I use for WW2 British vehicles.  Gun barrels were generally polished brass, though some captured Austrian guns might have been painted black.  Metalwork on the carriages was painted black.

That’s all for now.  In the fourth and final part I’ll look at some cavalry regiments.

A Note Regarding Bases

Someone was asking recently how I do bases.  There’s no great science to it and I don’t buy pre-made PDF or metal bases.  I simply use Daler-Rowney artists’ mounting board, which is cheap, is about 1.5mm thick and comes in a variety of sizes, but which I buy from my local art supplies shop in large A1-sized (roughly 2′ x 3′) sheets.  It’s coloured on one side and white on the other and can be easily cut with scissors.  It has the advantage of being far less prone to warping than ordinary cardboard when painted and then dried.

Having cut base to size, I stick a piece of magnetic vinyl on the underside that’s about 2mm smaller than the base, so that it doesn’t protrude from underneath the base on any side due to my usual inaccuracies in cutting.  The magnetic vinyl stops the troops from sliding around and damaging themselves in the steel tool-boxes I use for storage.  My dear departed signwriter mother used to use this for making removable vehicle signs and I would then get the off-cuts.  My stocks lasted for nine years after her death, but finally ran out last year.  There are companies selling magnetic vinyl directly to wargamers, but I bought a load from a company called First4Magnets, which works out quite a lot cheaper than dealing with a hobby middle-man.  I’ve also bought magnets for tank turrets and aircraft from them – all excellent and a hell of a lot cheaper than those sold by wargame companies.

I then stick the painted figures to the base using UHU contact adhesive, which takes about two hours to dry before applying the base-texture.  I then paint the base with slightly-watered PVA glue and dip into fine, DRIED sand (I used to use fine dune-sand off the beach, but now use supermarket play-sand, which was very cheap and one sack provides enough sand to last me decades.  The PVA and sand takes about two hours to dry at normal room temperature, but I usually stick them in a long biscuit tin and sit them on top of the radiator, which usually dries them in less than half an hour.  Then I paint the bases in Humbrol 29 Dark Earth and after drying, dry-brush in Humbrol 94 Brown-Yellow.  Once the paint is totally dry I paint irregular patches of well-thinned PVA and then dip into Woodland Scenics Blended Turf flock, which in the I buy from Hattons.  Done. 🙂

Posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic French Army, Napoleonic Minor States, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units | 2 Comments

The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw (Part 2: The Generals)

Napoleon and Prince Poniatowski at Leipzig 1813

In Part 1 I looked at some infantry regiments I’d painted for the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw, circa 1812-1813.  This time it’s the turn of the generals.  These are all AB Figures 15mm models, painted by me.

All my Napoleonic armies are organised and based for Napoleon’s Battles rules, which is a ‘grand-tactical’ game, where the smallest tactical unit is the brigade.  Divisional commanders are single figures based on a 25mm square and corps commanders are groups of figures based on a 40mm square.  I’ll sometimes use general of brigade or an infantry or cavalry Colonel in lieu of a general of division, just for a change of scenery.

As mentioned previously, my Duchy of Warsaw army is mainly geared for the latter part of the Duchy’s brief existence, namely the campaigns of 1812 and 1813.  In the case of the infantry there were some fairly major uniform changes between 1810 and 1813.  However, the uniforms of general officers did not change significantly, so these chaps are good for the entire period from 1807 to 1813.

Prince Józef Poniatowski

Prince Poniatowski

No person embodies the tragedy and heroic struggle of Poland’s fight for existence than the dashing but ultimately tragic figure of Prince Józef Poniatowski, the ‘Marshal of Three Days’.  Born into royalty in 1763 as nephew to King Stanislaw II Augustus of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (with whom he became a close and lifelong friend), he chose a military career and was initially commissioned into the Austrian Army in 1780.  Quickly reaching the rank of Colonel, he became aide-de-camp to Emperor Josef II during the Austro-Turkish War of 1788.  During this campaign, Poniatowski saved the life of the young Prince Karl Philipp von Schwarzenberg, who would become a lifelong friend and sometime ally, though frequent battlefield foe to Poniatowski.

Poniatowski

Poniatowski returned to Poland in 1789, receiving the rank of Major General and a military command in Ukraine.  By 1791 he had reached the rank of Lieutenant General and was commander of all military forces in Ukraine.  An enthusiastic supporter of political reform, he used the threat of military force to bring the Great Sejm to a conclusion, bringing about the 3 May 1791 Constitution, which (briefly) converted Poland to a British-style democratic constitutional monarchy. 

However, Catherine the Great’s Russia was never going to tolerate a resurgent, strong, democratic and stable Poland on its border and in May 1792 invaded.  Poniatowski’s army, outnumbered 4-to-1, mounted a bitter fighting retreat, inflicting a number of defeats on the Russian Army, most notably at Zielence, but were ultimately unable to stop the Russians from reaching Warsaw.  The Polish Army was more than willing to fight a last great battle at Wasrsaw, but the King was persuaded to sue for peace and ordered the army to stand down.  Poniatowski briefly considered mounting a coup to capture the king and force a continuation of the war, but then changed his mind at the last moment.  In 1793 the Sejm of Grodno, dominated by the pro-Russian Targowica Confederation party and corrupted by Russian bribes and entryism, cancelled the Constitution and brought about the Second Partition of Poland

Prince Poniatowski

Disgusted, Poniatowski and other Polish generals resigned their commissions and Poniatowski was forced into exile.  However, in 1794 Poland rose up against the Russians, led by General Kosciusko in what would become known as the Kosciusko Uprising.  General Jan Henryk Dabrowski, who had remained in the Army following the Sejm of Grodno, backed the insurrection, bringing a considerable regular cavalry force with him and frustrating Prussian efforts to join the Russians in crushing the insurgents.  Poniatowski returned to Poland to join the insurrection and again achieved success on the battlefield, though it was all for nothing and the uprising was bloodily crushed by Russian and Prussian armies.  Kosciuszko was captured and taken to St Petersburg and Poland was then partitioned for a third and final time and ceased to exist as an independent country. 

Poniatowski

Poniatowski was forced once again into exile, this time having his estates confiscated (they were later restored to him by Tsar Paul, though Poniatowski refused offers of a Russian military commission).  He went into something of a funk during these years, touring the palaces and salons of Vienna and Berlin, becoming a socialite and friend to Prussian, Austrian and exiled French royalty.  General Dabrowski meanwhile, initially tried unsuccessfully to win support from Prussia for the resurrection of Poland as an ally-state against Austria and Russia.  He then approached Revolutionary France with rather more success and in 1797 formed the first Polish Legions, who would go on to fight in France’s wars from the Carribbean to Moscow in the vain hope that France would back the recreation of Poland as an independent state.   

Dabrowski

In 1806 war broke out between Prussia and Napoleonic France, with the Prussian Army being swiftly defeated by Napoleon at the twin battles of Jena and Auerstädt.  Faced with complete collapse, King Frederick-William III of Prussia asked Poniatowski in early November 1806 to become governor of Warsaw, in the hope that a popular and well-known name might hold Prussia’s Polish possessions together.  Poniatowski accepted this post, seeing it as a possible route to a recreated Poland.  However, Dabrowski had been recalled by Napoleon from Italy, to lead a ‘Greater Poland Uprising’ against Prussian and Russian rule.  Dabrowski entered Poznan on 3rd November 1806 and declared the new uprising, which was enthusiastically supported by the Polish people, ironically just as Poniatowski was being installed as the Prussian Governor of Warsaw! 

Dabrowski

This conflict of interest between Poniatowski and Dabrowski could easily have caused major problems or even civil war, but Poniatowski was a very canny political operator and welcomed the French Marshal Murat when his cavalry arrived at Warsaw in December.  Poniatowski and Murat immediately warmed to each other (as is becoming clear, Poniatowski’s charm never failed to win him powerful friends) and Murat declared Poniatowski to be the military commander of all Polish forces, much to Dabrowski’s chagrin and indeed that of many Polish veterans, who compared Dabrowski’s record of leading the Polish Legions to that of Poniatowski, who spent that time touring the salons of the European elite.  That view was only reinforced when it was Dabrowski, not Poniatowski who led a Polish division alongside Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Friedland in 1807.  

Poniatowski

With Russian capitulation to Napoleon at the Treaty of Tilsit on 7 July 1807, followed by the subsequent Franco-Prussian Treaty two days later, the Duchy of Warsaw was created from most of the lands lost during the Third Partition of Poland.  However, it was not allowed to become an independent kingdom and was instead subordinate to the Kingdom of Saxony, who had held kingship of Poland for some time during the 18th Century and who had a tenuous claim on Poland following the death of King Stanislas II Augustus.  As disappointing as this must have been for the Poles, they largely saw the creation of the Duchy as a stepping-stone toward future independence and grabbed it with both hands, providing Napoleon with one of his most willing and able allied states and armies.  Cynics might therefore suggest that Polish independence was the last thing that Napoleon wanted, just as long as he could keep the hope of independence alive…

Poniatowski

Poniatowski was made Minster of War and commander of the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw, though Napoleon still did not fully trust him and left Marshal Davout in overall military command of the Duchy until mid-1808, when Poniatowski was granted overall command.  In 1809 a new war erupted between Austria and the Napoleonic French Empire and Archduke Ferdinand‘s Austrian VII Korps was soon advancing on Warsaw.  Despite being outnumbered 2:1, Poniatowski’s Poles fought the Austrians to a standstill at the Battle of Raszyn.  Nevertheless, Poniatowski was forced to retire and took the controversial decision to abandon Warsaw, instead falling back behind the line of the Vistula.  The strategy worked and successive Austrian attempts to cross the Vistula were defeated by Poniatowski and General Michal Sokolnicki.  Seizing the initiative, Poniatowski mounted a counter-offensive, liberating Lvov, Lublin and Sandomierz.  The Austrians eventually managed to re-take Sandomierz, but were forced to withdraw from Warsaw.  With Austrian resistance collapsing, Poniatowski arrived at Krakow to find the Austrians attempting to surrender to Poniatowski’s Russian ‘allies’, who until now had been conspicuous by their absence from the campaign.  Ignoring a roadblock of Russian Hussars, Poniatowski rode alone into the city to seize it for the Duchy of Warsaw.  At the successful conclusion of the war, Poniatowski saw the Duchy of Warsaw’s territory expand to incorporate those parts of Galicia that had been occupied by Austria and the army expanded accordingly.

Poniatowski at the Battle of Raszyn 1809

In 1812 Poniatowski led the V (Polish) Corps as part of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.  Poniatowski and the Poles distinguished themselves at the Battles of Smolensk and Borodino, but by the end of that disastrous campaign, only a shattered remnant of the Corps returned to Poland and Poniatowski himself was wounded.

Kellermann

Recovering from his wounds, Poniatowski rapidly assembled a new Polish army at Warsaw and remained loyal to Napoleon, resisting entreaties to come over to the Russian side as the Prussians had already done.  On 5th February 1813 Poniatowski abandoned Warsaw to the Russians and marched his army to Krakow, where he would continue their training.  Dabrowski meanwhile was raising another Polish division in Germany from the survivors of various units and fortress garrisons.  Consequently, the Polish Army was absent from Napoleon’s resurgent Grande Armée which stalled the Russo-Prussian advance into Germany at the Battles of Lützen and Bautzen

Kellermann with a Polish ADC and escort from the Polish 1st Chasseurs à Cheval

With the Russians approaching once again, Poniatowski left Krakow on 7th May and marched his army through Bohemia to link up with the Grande Armée.  An armistice had by this time ended the present round of hostilities and the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw was reorganised to become the VIII Corps and IV Reserve Cavalry Corps.  Poniatowski commanded VIII Corps, while command of IV Reserve Cavalry Corps was given to the French General Kellermann, a superb cavalry leader and son of the French Marshal of the same name.  However, Dabrowski’s newly-numbered 27th Division, while officially part of VIII Corps, remained independent.  It’s been speculated that friction between Poniatowski and Dabrowski had finally spilled over into mutual loathing, hence the separation of their commands.  I can’t find anything to back up that theory, but there doesn’t seem to be any other good reason to keep Dabrowski separate, especially as VIII Corps was woefully understrength (consisting of a single infantry division of three brigades and a weak cavalry brigade). 

ADC to Poniatowski

With the recommencement of hostilities in August 1813, Dabrowski was operating on the northern flank near Berlin.  Poniatowski meanwhile, found himself under the command of his old friend Marshal Murat, on the southern flank in Upper Saxony, covering the passes through the Bohemian Mountains.  His other old friend, the Austrian Feldmarschall Schwarzenberg now commanded the Allied Army of Bohemia and Poniatowski’s task was to prevent the Grande Armée from being surprised by Schwarzenberg emerging from a mountain pass behind their right flank.  Even though Poniatowski theoretically only commanded VIII Corps, Kellermann and his cavalry frequently came under Poniatowski’s command as a combined Polish army-wing.  

Sokolnicki

Eventually, as the Grande Armée was pushed back by the converging Allied armies into a pocket around Leipzig, Schwarzenberg finally emerged from the mountains and Poniatowski’s Poles fought numerous small delaying and rearguard actions against Schwarzenberg’s advance-guard.  Murat’s wing formed a defence line south of the city, from Markleeberg in the west to Liebertwolkwitz in the east, with the Poles being responsible for the Markleeberg sector.  The Poles were only lightly engaged during the Battle of Liebertwolkwitz on 14th October 1813, but immediately following this action, General Kellermann was elevated to command a cavalry wing consisting of his IV Reserve Cavalry Corps and General Pajol’s V Reserve Cavalry Corps.  To replace Kellermann, the Polish general Michal Sokolnicki was elevated to command IV Reserve Cavalry Corps. 

Sokolnicki, with escorts from the 3rd Uhlans

A most significant promotion followed on 16th October (some sources say the 15th), as Napoleon awarded the Marshal’s Baton to Prince Poniatowski, who became the first and only non-French Marshal of the Empire.  However, there was no time for Poniatowski to enjoy his new status, as the titanic Battle of Leipzig erupted that same day.  The battle commenced with a general assault by Schwarzenberg’s Army of Bohemia against Murat’s command, around the villages of Liebertwolkwitz, Wachau, Markleeberg, Dölitz and Connewitz.  Poniatowski’s Poles, defending these last two villages, were assaulted by vastly superior numbers of Austrian troops and suffered horrific casualties as they doggedly held a number of river-crossings. 

Sokolnicki

The Poles lost over half their number in three days of bitter fighting as they slowly gave ground and fell back on Leipzig.  At last on 19th October, Napoleon ordered the army to withdraw through the city, crossing the Weiss-Elster river by means of a single bridge.  The battered but unbroken remnants of Poniatowski’s command formed part of the rearguard and resisted attack after attack while waiting patiently to cross to the west bank.  However, the unthinkable happened as a French engineer panicked and blew up the bridge while it was still packed with troops and while a considerable number, including the Poles, were still on the eastern shore!  As resistance completely collapsed in Leipzig, thousands of troops attempted to swim the river in an attempt to escape, among them Poniatowski.  However, being badly wounded and exhausted from days of constant combat, the Marshal of three days tragically drowned in the attempt.

Poniatoswki meets his end crossing the Weiss-Elster 19th October 1813

Duchy of Warsaw Generals’ Uniforms

Generals of Division

Polish general officers’ dress was very similar in style to that of their French comrades-in-arms, though with a Polish flavour.  As a general rule, their coats were dark blue, facings were crimson, metalwork was silver and horse-furniture was dark blue, edged silver.

There was a variety of coat-styles from the kurtka for cavalry generals’ full-dress, to lapelled and heavily-laced coatees, to simpler double-breasted coats and the very plain single-breasted surtout.  Collar, cuffs, turnbacks and lapels were typically crimson, though there were variations, as can be seen in the portraits above: the collar would typically always be crimson, though the other facings could be dark blue, sometimes piped in crimson.  Waistcoats were white.

A Cavalry General of Brigade

Collar, cuffs, lapels and tail-pockets were typically decorated with zig-zag silver lace indicating rank – a single row of lace for Generals of Brigade and a double row for Generals of Division.  Rank was also indicated by gold stars on the silver epaulettes – one star for Generals of Brigade and two stars for Generals of Division.  A silver aiguillette could also be worn in full-dress.

Breeches were crimson, with a silver stripe down the seam and Hungarian knots on the thighs.  Generals of Division had wider lace strips and larger knots.  For cavalry generals these could be replaced with uhlan-style crimson trousers, edged with two parallel silver stripes. 

Cavalry generals wore hussar-style boots with silver lace edge and tassels, while infantry generals wore tall boots.

A General of Division and a Cavalry General of either rank

Headgear was typically a black cocked hat.  This had a silver cockade and cockade-strap and would be edged in either a strip of black silk or scalloped silver lace.  It was crested in split ostrich-feathers, which were black for Generals of Brigade and white for Generals of Division.  Cavalry generals could alternatively wear a czapka with a dark blue top and silver decoration.  This would usually have a white egret-feather plume with a black base.

Sashes were mixed silver and crimson for both general officer ranks and were not coloured by rank like French generals.

Czartoryski, wearing a surtout

For my Duchy of Warsaw generals I’ve used AB Figures’ French generals, which fit the bill well enough, though if you want lapels on the coat, you’ll have to paint them on (as I’ve done with one figure).  I’ve also used one spare French Guard Lancer officer, which isn’t 100% correct in terms of uniform details due to the sunburst-plate on his czapka, but he looks the part from a distance.

AB Figures do a truly superb Poniatowski figure, in a set that also includes one of his ADCs.  As can be seen from the portraits above, Poniatowski wore a uniform based on the regulation style, but which was mainly a confection of his own devising, including a magnificent brown bearskin cloak, lined with crimson silk.  The details of Poniatowski’s dress vary from painting to painting and it’s possible that all were correct at some time or another!  When I painted my Poniatowski (about 20 years ago) the reference picture I was using showed a sky-blue shabraque, which is different to the ones shown here.  As can be seen from Dabrowski’s equestrian portrait, other Polish generals were also not averse to embellishing the dress regulations! 

Poniatowski’s ADCs wore a unique hussar-style uniform in crimson, sky-blue and silver, as shown above.  Other Polish ADCs wore a far plainer uniform, as modelled alongside Kellermann and shown in the background of the General of Brigade painting above.  This was a relatively plain uniform in Chasseur à Cheval style, consisting of a dark blue habit-kinski with sky-blue collar and crimson piping down the front and around cuffs and turnbacks.  Buttons and epaulettes were silver.  This was worn over a crimson waistcoat, decorated with silver hussar-lace.  Trousers were dark blue with crimson side-stripes and the shabraque was dark blue, edged crimson.  Belts were black, edged silver.  this was topped off with a black fur colpack with crimson bag and sky-blue pompom.  The AB Figures Polish Chasseur à Cheval officer figure is perfect for as an ADC.

Enough for now!  Polish artillery next time and then the cavalry. 🙂   Oh go on then, have some more generals…

 

Posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic French Army, Napoleonic Minor States, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units | 9 Comments

The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw (Part 1: The Infantry)

Since this lockdown started I’ve been looking forward to the games I’m going to have once it’s all over and that has served as an impetus to my painting, as well something to keep my mind occupied and positive. Consequently, I’ve been attacking the North Face of the Lead Mountain like a man possessed (don’t tell Mrs Fawr, but I’ve got about 3,000 unpainted Napoleonics… and the rest…).

With luck (and if we’re spared) my first game is going to be the Battle of Liebertwolkwitz, which was fought on 14th October 1813, being a major cavalry clash and precursor to the titanic Battle of Leipzig (the southern portion of which was fought over the same ground two days later). I’ve played the scenario before, but not for a VERY long time and I do recall it as being a fun, ding-dong of a game. It’s also quite a cosmopolitan battle, with Russians, Prussians and Austrians all present on the Allied side and a large Polish contingent fighting on the French side, which all adds interest and tabletop ‘colour’.

I’ve already got enough ancient and battered models to play the scenario, but thought it would be nice to FINALLY re-base and re-flag my mate Jase’s old Russian army (which he left with me when he emigrated to New Zealand and which was still based for WRG rules, which we stopped playing in around 1991), add a load of new AB Figures units to my own Russian army, paint an Austrian corps in shakos and finally paint Poniatowski‘s Poles…

Poniatowski’s 8th (Polish) Corps 1813

Let’s get one thing out of the way at the start; The Duchy of Warsaw was never a GRAND Duchy.  Nobody seems to know where or when this nomenclature started and it’s been refuted often enough, but the fictitious ‘Grand’ bit of the title is like a persistent weed that seems unwilling to die in wargames circles!  I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest…

Duchy of Warsaw uniforms are something of a bugger to research, with lots of contradictory sources.  I’ve gone with the information supplied in W J Rawkins’ latest booklet on the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw.  If you’ve never come across him before, he started out in the 1970s selling very useful photocopied booklets on every Napoleonic army under the sun (many of these were ripped off and sold by someone else for a long time).  He now sells them as ebooks or DVDs from his site The History Book Man and the advantage of doing them electronically is that he’s able to regularly update them as research develops.  Consequently, his new booklet on the Poles differs in details with the 1970s version I used to own.

1st Infantry Regiment 1812-1813

Starting with the infantry, here’s the 1st Infantry Regiment.  I’ve dressed them in the regulation uniform stipulated for all Duchy of Warsaw infantry regiments from 1810.  They are recorded as wearing this uniform, though some sources also describe distinctly non-regulation sky-blue collar and cuffs and even yellow cuffs (these may all have been worn during successive years from 1810 to 1813).  Prior to 1810 the 1st to 4th Infantry Regiments had yellow lapels, scarlet collar and cuffs and brass buttons, though the 1810 regulation changed that to a uniform very similar to the French line infantry uniform, though cut in Polish kurtka style with half-lapels and using crimson as the cuff and piping colour instead of scarlet.

Here’s a close-up of the 1st Infantry, showing the post-1810 regulation uniform in detail: The half-lapels and turnbacks were white, while the collar and shoulder-straps were dark blue, all edged with crimson piping.  The crimson piping also extended down the front seam of the coat below the half-lapels.  Cuffs were crimson with white cuff-flaps and may or may not have been piped white.  Buttons were brass. 

Descriptions and depictions of drummers’ uniforms vary wildly from source to source, but I went with one described for the 1st Infantry, namely a white uniform (which were very common for Polish drummers and trumpeters), with scarlet lapels and shoulder-wings edged sky-blue, with sky-blue collar, cuffs and turnbacks edged scarlet and a scarlet shako, drimmed with yellow.

The infantry-pattern czapka headdress was essentially just a squared-off black felt shako, unlike the cavalry czapka, which was a heavier leather helmet topped with a cloth-covered square ‘box’.  All regiments had a brass band just above the brim, pierced with the regimental number.  This was then surmounted by a white metal eagle and a white cockade.  Centre company pompoms were sky-blue for most regiments and white cords were worn in full dress.

Elite company distinctions were very much like the French.  The Voltigeurs had green fringed epaulettes (some had yellow, scarlet or white crescents), yellow collars and yellow or green pompoms, topped off with a yellow and green plume and yellow or green cords in full dress.  The upper edge of the czapka was normally decorated with a band of yellow lace.

The Grenadiers wore scarlet fringed epaulettes (some had white crescents or even white epaulettes with scarlet crescents) and bearskins with brass plates and scarlet rear-patches, decorated with a white lace cross. White or scarlet cords and scarlet plumes were also added in full dress.

8th Infantry Regiment 1807-1812

Prior to the 1810 regulations, the 5th to 9th Infantry Regiments had crimson lapels, collar and cuffs with white piping and cuff-flaps, dark blue turnbacks and shoulder-straps with crimson piping and white metal buttons.  Chelminski recorded the 8th Infantry Regiment as retaining this uniform until at least as late as 1812, so I’ve dressed the 8th in this uniform by way of a change of scenery.

Some sources show the 8th Infantry as adopting the 1810 regulation uniform or a variant using rose-pink instead of crimson.  While that would certainly add a splash of colour, I wonder if the pink is a mis-translation of crimson from a faded picture or faded survivng uniform?

While I haven’t painted any of these regiments, the 9th to 12th Infantry Regiments originally wore uniforms with white facings with scarlet piping and brass buttons, though again, most adopted the 1810 regulation uniform or other oddities of their own making.

The 4th, 7th and 9th Infantry Regiments were detached to the French Army of Spain in 1808 and by 1809 supply issues meant that they were wearing uniforms of French/Confederation of the Rhine style; namely square-lapelled ‘Spencer’ coats (as worn by many German contingents) and cylindrical French-style shakos.  When these regiment returned to the Duchy of Warsaw in 1812 they continued wearing these French-style uniforms that were coloured roughly according to the pre-1810 regulations.  I haven’t done any yet, but I do intend to do the 4th Infantry Regiment, using AB Confederation of the Rhine figures and a transplanted Polish Eagle standard.  I’ll also do some Vistula Legion infantry using those same figures.

When a 13th Infantry Regiment was raised in 1809, it wore an esoteric uniform made from captured Austrian uniform cloth, being white with sky-blue facings.  I did want to paint this unit, but it doesn’t appear to have been reformed following the 1812 campaign and wasn’t therefore at Leipzig (the remnants ended up as a fortress garrison).  Nevertheless, I think I might have to paint the 13th one day, as it’s such a spectacular uniform.

15th Infantry Regiment 1810-1813

Here’s the 15th Infantry Regiment.  The 14th to 17th Infantry Regiments wore the 1810 regulation uniform, though once again some regimental variations crept in, such as some units allegedly replacing the crimson piping with scarlet.

One notable feature of the 14th to 17th Regiments is that their centre companies are recorded as having pompoms coloured by company as per French regulations: 1st – green, 2nd – sky-blue, 3rd – aurore (orange) and 4th lie-de-vin (violet).  Sky-blue pompoms with company-coloured tufts are also recorded.  Some of the 1st to 13th Regiments may also have used company-coloured pompoms.

In the 1st Edition of Mr Rawkins’ Army of the Duchy of Warsaw book, he stated that the tops of infantry czapkas were decorated with a box of lace tape around the edge and an ‘X’ of lace across the centre, very much like cavalry czapkas.  However, in the latest edition, he has revised this to ‘infantry regiments may have decorated the tops with piping or lace’.  However, give me an inch and I’ll take a mile… I like the look of the ‘X’ and it makes them stand out as being Poles not French, so I’ve painted it on all my infantry.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Generals, artillery and cavalry to come.  All the figures here are 15mm AB Figures painted by me, with flags by Fighting 15s.

Dabrowski’s 27th (Polish) Division 1813

Posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic French Army, Napoleonic Minor States, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units | 10 Comments

Hobart’s ‘Funnies’ – 79th Armoured Division in Normandy

I was half-way through writing another Napoleonic post, when it suddenly occurred to me that I really should do a WW2 post to commemorate the D-Day anniversary. So here’s a look at ‘Hobart’s Funnies’.

Following the disastrous Dieppe Raid of 1942, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, identified the need for an armoured, 20th Century equivalent of a mediaeval siege train; capable of carrying ‘siege engines’ right up to the enemy’s fortified walls and breaching them. He tasked Major General Percy Hobart‘s 79th Armoured Division with becoming the new ‘Experimental Armoured Division (Royal Engineers)’.  However, Hobart was initially resistant to the idea and only agreed to it once he was assured that the 79th Armoured Division would be a ‘fighting’ division at the spear-point of the assault on German-occupied Europe.  Monty (who happened to be Hobart’s brother-in-law) managed to convince Eisenhower of the need for specialist armoured engineering vehicles in the coming assault on Europe and Hobart’s place in the assault on ‘Fortress Europe’ was assured.

Hobart was a very interesting character with a somewhat chequered past. In 1934 he had commanded the British Army’s very first Armoured Brigade and upon the start of the war, had gone on to create the embryonic 7th Armoured Division (‘The Desert Rats’) in Egypt. However, petty politics and resistance to his innovative and unorthodox views on armoured warfare saw him being forcibly retired, whereupon he became a Corporal in the Home Guard! Churchill’s personal intervention saw him reinstated and given command of the new 11th Armoured Division, which he trained to become arguably the best armoured formation in the British Army. Politics again saw his removal from command and Churchill once again intervened personally to have him re-instated, this time as GOC of the new 79th Armoured Division.

By the time of Operation OVERLORD, the 79th Armoured Division consisted of three brigades: 1st Army Tank Brigade was equipped with the very strange and top-secret Grant CDL (‘Canal Defence Light’), 30th Armoured Brigade was equipped with Sherman Mk V Crab flail tanks and 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers was equipped with the Churchill AVRE (‘Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers’), as well as Churchill ARKs, armoured bulldozers and other specialist equipment.  The division was also responsible for the development of  the Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) amphibious tank and for training crews in their use, though these were operated by other units in Normandy.  

As the war went on beyond Normandy, some of the division’s sub-units were converted to amphibious vehicles such as the Buffalo Mk II, Buffalo Mk IV, Sherman DD and Terrapin, while additional units were added, such as two Armoured Carrier Regiments (equipped with Ram Kangaroo APCs), the 33rd Armoured Brigade (which had been converted to Buffalo Mk II & IV amphibious vehicles) and the 34th Tank Brigade (which had been converted to Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tanks).  

It’s probably worth noting at this point that Churchill Crocodiles were NOT a part of the 79th Armoured Division until after Normandy, when the 34th Tank Brigade was absorbed into the division as an all-Crocodile brigade.  As discussed in my recent Churchill Tank article, the sole Crocodile unit in Normandy was 141 RAC, which belonged to 34th Tank Brigade, but in practice served as an independent unit.  They did however, often work with elements of 79th Armoured Division on numerous occasions during the Normandy Campaign.

Churchill Mk IV AVREs

The Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers or AVRE was the core of 79th Armoured Division’s combat power.  This vehicle was based on the Churchill Infantry Tank, which was suitable for a number of reasons: 1. Thick armour.  2.  Excellent mobility over rough, steep or soft ground and trenches.  3.  Plenty of internal capacity for engineering stores once the main gun and ammunition had been removed.  4.  Side and floor hatches meant that engineers could easily dismount and conduct engineering tasks outside the vehicle (e.g. dismounting to lay Bangalore  Torpedoes).  The vast majority of AVREs were built from Churchill Mk IV hulls, though a few were built from Mk IIIs (the only difference being the turret-shape). 

Instead of the usual main gun, a highly unusual 290mm Petard Spigot Mortar was fitted.  This weapon shared the same ancestry as the infantry’s PIAT and fired a very large demolition charge or ‘Petard’ (often known as the ‘Flying Dustbin’ or ‘Earthquake Bomb’), with the intention of destroying (or at least suppressing) concrete fortifications.  Somewhat alarmingly, this low-velocity weapon had a range of only around 80 yards and in order to reload, the co-driver had to slide open a hatch above his head and expose his arms to enemy fire as he inserted a fresh round into the breech (which ‘broke’ upward, rather like an upside-down shotgun, as shown below).

In addition to the Spigot Mortar, the AVRE retained the hull MG for self-defence and the crew would also often carry other engineering stores such as demolition charges, wire-cutters and Bangalore Torpedoes.  To use these, the AVRE would drive up to the obstacle and a crewman would crawl out of one of the hatches (usually the floor-hatch) and use the vehicle as cover as he place the charges.  He would then crawl back in and the vehicle would reverse before detonation of the charges.  A variety of demolition charges were also developed that could be mounted on frames at the front of the AVRE, which would drive up and push the charge against the obstacle to be demolished and hold it in place as it was detonated (I presume that the crew were also issued with ear-plugs).

Other kit commonly carried included the Small Box Girder (SBG) Bridge (which was useful for ramping sea-walls or bridging anti-tank ditches), Fascines (which were huge bundles of chestnut palings, used to fill smaller trenches and craters) and Bobbins (which were huge reels of matting that would be laid out onto soft mud, to provide a more solid roadway for following vehicles).

The two AVRE models above, carrying SBG Bridge and Fascine, are by Skytrex, with modifications such as the cables, block & tackle for the SBG bridge by Martin Small.  The other AVREs are by Flames of War.  They’re marked with the triangular bull’s head badge of the 79th Armoured Division and the cobalt blue Arm-of-Service flash of the Royal Engineers, with the ‘1233’ serial of 5th Assault Regiment Royal Engineers (ARRE).  6th ARRE had ‘1234’ and 42nd ARRE had ‘1235’.

Another element of the 1st Assault Brigade RE was the 87th Assault Dozer Squadron RE, equipped with armoured versions of the Caterpillar D7 Dozer.  Their unit serial was ‘819’, again on a cobalt-blue backing.  This is a lovely model by Skytrex.

The Otter Light Recce Car (LRC) actually belongs to someone else, namely the 18th Field Company Royal Canadian Engineers, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, as identified by the ‘French Grey’ (i.e. a pale greyish-blue) square with gold maple-leaf and the ’51’ serial on a cobalt-blue square.  The Otter had been retired from Canadian Recce Regiments in NW Europe, having been replaced by the Humber LRC. However, it was still used for engineer recce duties by both the British and Canadian Armies.  Humber LRCs and Morris LRCs were also commonly used for engineer recce.

Another vehicle used by 1st Assault Brigade RE was the Churchill ARK Mk I (Armoured Ramp Carrier, abbreviated by a dyslexic).  This was a turretless Churchill hull, designed as a quick and easy way to place a ramp against a sea wall.  It had two treadway-decks added on top, plus two matching ramps at the rear.  They would usually carry a fascine at the front, in order to create another ramp at the front of the vehicle.  I’m not sure which unit(s) within the brigade operated these, so I’ve marked it as belonging to the 149th Assault Park Squadron RE, whose serial was ‘1236’.  This lovely model was converted for me from a Flames of War hull by the supremely talented Martin Small.

The ARK Mk II was developed in Italy, which had matching ramps at front and rear.  If trying to bridge particularly deep ditches, ARKs could also be stacked! 🙂

As mentioned above, the 30th Armoured Brigade operated Sherman Mk V Crab flail tanks.  This is a lovely Skytrex model, modified by Martin Small with ‘flails’ made from wire.

Here an AVRE belonging to 5th ARRE follows a 22nd Dragoons Crab.  A dispenser on each side of the hull dropped a trail of white chalk-dust to mark the cleared path for following vehicles.  At night, following vehicles used the array of four small red guide-lights (each mounted in the centre of a white disc) to keep station directly behind the Crab.  

30th Armoured Brigade used the standard markings for an Armoured Brigade belonging to an Armoured Division, so as the senior regiment, 22nd Dragoons had the serial ’51’ on a red square.  The 1st Lothians & Border Horse Yeomanry had ’52’ and the 2nd County of London Yeomanry (Westminster Dragoons) had ’53’.

On D-Day and on innumerable operations afterwards, the units of 79th Armoured Division proved their worth time after time in cracking German defences and aiding the infantry in seizing their objectives. However, they never operated as distinct units and instead were doled out as squadron, half-squadron and troop-sized penny-packets and placed under the command of the infantry. The various disparate elements of the division were then mixed up to complete various tasks and nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than in the creation of mixed ‘Breaching Teams’ for Operation OVERLORD. Each Breaching Team was given a very specific task and the composition of each team was tailored to the nature of the German defences and terrain at their objective. So where there was a muddy beach, the team would included a Bobbin. Where there was a sea wall, the team would include an SBG bridge and so on. All teams had a mix of AVRE and Crab, plus a Dozer in many cases.

The actions of the Breaching Teams on D-Day are exceptionally well-described in the book ‘Iron Fist’ by Bryan Perret. Here’s an extract:

‘To the east, the breaching teams on Queen Sector of Sword Beach, where the British 8th Infantry Brigade was coming ashore at Lion-sur-Mer, consisted of ‘A’ Squadron 22nd Dragoons and 77 and 79 Assault Squadrons RE (5 ARRE).  On the right No 1 Team beached at a point overlooked by high sand dunes.  In the face of fierce fire, the Crabs flailed up the beach and over the dunes, one commander killing two snipers with a grenade thrown from the turret.  The leading AVRE, commanded by Sergeant Kilvert, was hit as it emerged from the LCT and drowned in the shallows.  Undeterred, Kilvert and his crew grabbed their personal weapons and made their way across the beach to storm a fortified farmhouse and rout an enemy patrol, later handing over their prisoners to the infantry.  The team’s remaining AVREs assisted the Crabs in completing a route inland then set off to assist 48 (also described as 41 in other accounts) RM Commando in the capture of Lion.’

[NB it seems clear that the AVREs here actually landed ahead of the Sherman DDs of 27th Armoured Brigade, who were meant to land five minutes earlier, but who were struggling through heavy seas and were overtaken (in some cases run over) by the LCTs of the Breaching Teams]

‘No 2 Team lay off the beach until the DDs of the 13/18th Hussars had touched down, and in the process drifted west of No 1 Team,  The first Crab to disembark, commanded by Sergeant Smyth, immediately charged and crushed the 75mm gun that had opened fire on No 1 Team.  The Crabs then cleared a lane across the beach until one blew a track on a mine.  It was bypassed and an SBG bridge was dropped across the wrecked gun pit, thus completing the exit.  After this, the team’s AVREs also headed for Lion.’

‘No 3 Team’s Crabs completed one lane, along which a Bobbin AVRE unrolled its carpet; the vehicle then struck a mine and, having also been hit by antitank fire, was drowned by the rising tide.  A second lane was then flailed, at the end of which an SBG bridge was laid to provide an exit from the beach.

‘No 4 Team’s LCT became the target of a heavy calibre gun and was hit repeatedly.  The leading Crab got ashore safely but the second was hit while on the ramp and nothing could get past.  When more hits caused explosions aboard the craft, killing the sector’s senior engineering officer, it was forced to withdraw and sail back to England.  When the team’s solitary Crab had part of its jib shot away by antitank fire, its commander, Lieutenant R. S. Robertson, jettisoned the rest and fought as a gun tank.’

Note that this only describes the actions of the four teams on ‘Queen Red’ (the right-hand or eastern sector of SWORD Beach). There were another four teams on ‘Queen White’ and many more on GOLD and JUNO Beaches. There has been much speculation as to what might have happened, had armoured Breaching Teams (or something similar and American, perhaps using Sherman variants) been landed at the spearhead of OMAHA Beach instead of soft, squishy combat engineers, but that’s a discussion for another day…

Here’s a drink to my father-in-law Harry, who 76 years ago today, was bobbing around off the landing beaches in LCT(E) 413, repairing the landing craft that has just landed those leading waves. Here’s to you, Harry (sorry I don’t have any rum in, so it’s gin. Hope that’s ok?)!

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: WW2, Painted Units, World War 2, World War 2 - British Commonwealth Armies | 6 Comments

And Now For Something Completely Different: 1809 Chess-Set

A blast from the past appeared on my Facebook feed this week, when an old friend posted some photos of the chess-set I made for him about 21 years ago, based on the French and Austrian armies of the 1809 Campaign. I’d totally forgotten about this! I’m amazed how well-preserved it is, so he presumably found it too baffling to play as a chess set…

The figures are all AB Figures 15mm Napoleonics, which then were made by my mate Mike just up the road, here in West Wales. For the pawns, I used a selection of line infantry regiments. The rooks were bearskinned grenadiers and Imperial Guardsmen. The knights are sword-waving cavalry officers for the Austrians and Generals Nansouty and Lasalle for the French (waving a cane and a briar pipe, respectively). For the bishops I used standard-bearers. The queens were represented by the top Marshals on each side – Archduke Charles for the Austrians and Marshal Lannes for the French. Lastly, the kings were represented by Kaiser Franz & the Emperor Napoleon.

In retrospect I think a small cannon with a gunner or two would have been a better choice for the rooks. The bearskinned grenadiers look too much like the pawns, despite their larger bases.

The bases were made by stacking pennies for the pawns and 2 pence coins for the ‘rear rank’ and supergluing them together. The bases were then painted with several thick layers of varnish, then painted blue or white, labelled and varnished again. After supergluing the figures on to the bases, they were then ‘terraformed’ in my usual manner – painted with PVA glue, sanded, painted earth-brown, dry-brushed sand and then garnished with a few patches of Woodland Scenics flock.

Thanks for the pictures, Pete! And thanks for looking after them! 🙂

Posted in 15mm Figures, Boardgames, Napoleonic Austrian Army, Napoleonic French Army, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units | Leave a comment