Vive l’Empereur! Another return to my Napoleonic project

I have been planning to get back to work on my Napoleonic project for some time … but until now I have not managed it!

I have begun work on renovating, varnishing, and basing a batch of eighteen French Napoleonic Foot Artillery figures. This will enable me to form nine additional French Artillery units, which will be more than enough for my needs. I also have some Horse and Veteran Artillery figures ready to follow them, and by the time that they are finished I will be able to include them in the French Order of Battle. The former will be used to support my French Cavalry units and the latter will be used as garrison troops.

Until recently I had not realised how long I have been working on and off on this project. The original intention had been to use my collection for a re-fight of the Battle of Waterloo … but I am almost two years late already! Admittedly the collection has grown somewhat in the meantime, and is probably between twice and three times its original size. As of today the numbers of figures that have been completely renovated, varnished, and based are:

  • Dutch-Belgians: 49
  • Brunswick: 25
  • Hanover: 37
  • Prussia: 163
  • Britain: 230
  • France: 373
  • Total: 877

I have not included the current batch of figures that I have just begun work on in these figures, nor any of the other French figures I have yet to do. I also have a small Russian army (the figures have been acquired via eBay and are from the Del Prado RELIVE AUSTERLITZ! range of pre-painted 25/28mm figures) to add to the collection as well as some odds and ends that include a few Austrian and Italian figures. I estimate that when finished I will have close to 1,000 figures in my collection.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I hope to write and publish a set of rules entitled THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME at some time in the future. It will use the same basic mechanisms but with a few changes that reflect certain aspects of Napoleonic warfare. For example, units will mostly have two bases as this allows them to be arranged to show what formation the unit is in.

In These Times … and Taboo

I am currently reading Jenny Uglow’s IN THESE TIMES: LIVING IN BRITAIN THROUGH NAPOLEON’S WARS 1793 – 1815 (ISBN 978 0 571 26952 5). It is based on first-hand accounts written at the time, and although the majority of the sources seem to be middle and upper class, it does give a somewhat different idea of what life was like from what one might have gathered from reading Jane Austen.

I am also watching the BBC series TABOO … or what I recently called in a Facebook comment, PRIDE AND EXTREME PREJUDICE. This is set during the War of 1812 with America, and is so dark that it makes most Nordic Noir look almost light-hearted! (It is directed by Kristoffer Nyholm and Anders Engström, who respectively directed THE KILLING and JORDSKOTT.) You can almost smell the filth … and life is cheap. If you haven’t seen it yet, try to imagine a combination of Jane Austen and Dicken’s OLIVER TWIST, with a touch of RIPPER STREET. (I know that the latter is set in the late nineteenth century, but it has a similar uncompromising attitude to portraying the casual violence and social hypocrisy of the era.)

James Keziah Delaney (played by Tom Hardy).

TABOO tells the story of James Keziah Delaney, who has returned from eight years in Africa to claim his inheritance (a defunct shipping company and a treaty that gives his family ownership of Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island), and the machinations of the East India Company, the British Government, and the American Government, all of whom are trying to get their hands on it. It might not be historically accurate, but I am finding it compulsive viewing.

James Delaney and one of his confederates, Atticus (played by Stephen Graham).

Time Commanders

Over the Christmas break I have been catching up on any TV programmes that I missed whilst Sue and I were on our recent cruise. Amongst these was the latest incarnation of BBC’s TIME COMMANDERS.

The concept is to pit two teams of three players against each other using a computerised game engine (developed by The Creative Assembly). Unlike the previous two series, which were hosted by Eddie Mair and Richard Hammond respectively, the host is Greg Wallace. He is assisted by Dr Lynette Nusbacher and Mike Loades.

The first programme saw a team of Scottish wrestlers take on a group of historical board gamers from London. The battle that was recreated was the Battle of Zama, with the wrestlers being the Carthaginians and the board gamers the Romans. In two initial skirmishes – which were intended to give both teams an opportunity to practice using the game engine – the Carthaginians won quite decisively. In the actual re-fight, the Roman side drove off the Carthaginian elephants (which had attacked without support) and then overwhelmed the enemy cavalry. The Carthaginians then attempted to regroup … whilst the Romans stood and watched. The Romans then slowly moved forward, using their cavalry to first outflank the block of Carthaginian infantry and then attack them from the rear. In the end the battle degenerated into a massive infantry slogging match, with both sides winning on their right flanks and losing on their left. Eventually the Romans prevailed … although both sides lost their commanders.

The second programme featured a team of aquarium workers (Imperial France) fighting a team of archers (Allies) in a re-fight of the Battle of Waterloo. The programme followed the same basic format at the first programme (two short trial skirmishes followed by the re-fight) and ended in a narrow victory for the Allies … but it was one hell of a messy battle, during which Napoleon was killed!

I think that the new format works better than the previous one, and Greg Wallace’s enthusiastic hosting – which could easily have been quite annoying – actually made the programmes more interesting to watch.

I look forward to watching the rest of the series.

A bag full of goodies

On Sunday David Crook gave me a wonderful bagful of goodies including:

David Chandler’s THE CAMPAIGNS OF NAPOLEON (published in 1966 by Wiedenfeld & Nicholson Ltd [ISBN 0 297 748300]), …

THE FIRST CARLIST WAR 1833 – 1840: A MILITARY HISTORY & UNIFORM GUIDE by Conrad Cairns (published in 2009 by Perry Miniatures [ISBN 978 0 9561842 0 7}), …

THREE WEEKS IN NOVEMBER: A MILITARY HISTORY OF THE SWISS CIVIL WAR OF 1847 by Ralph Weaver (published by Helion & Company Ltd [ISBN 978 1 908916 57 0]), …

… and a third-edition copy of Columbia Games Inc.’s wargame NAPOLEON: THE WATERLOO CAMPAIGN, 1815.

I was amazed at this gift, and I know that I am going to get a lot of use and ideas from all of them.

Thank you very much David!

The hunt for William Richardson continues

Yesterday Sue and I paid one of our irregular trips to the National Archives in Kew in order to continue our hunt for one of her forebears, William Richardson. (Earlier blog entries about our search can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

My searches proved to be more successful that Sue’s, and I have now traced him through his entire eleven years of service in the West Indies, his return to the UK, and his first year back in Woolwich, the then home of the Royal Artillery. Bearing in mind that being sent to the West Indies was often tantamount to a death sentence (very few soldiers survived a posting there, and many often died within a few months of arriving in the Caribbean), he must had been a very hardly soldier. He was also a lucky one, as he sailed home on HMS Anson, a frigate that had taken part in several successful actions in the Caribbean before returning to Great Britain. Only months after her return, HMS Anson was wrecked off Loe Bar, Cornwall on 29th December, 1807.

HMS AnsonHMS Anson was a member of the fifteen-strong Intrepid-class of 64-gun third rate ships of the line. She was built in Plymouth Dockyard between January 1774 and October 1781. She was converted into a frigate in 1794 when her original forecastle and quarterdeck were removed and her former upper deck was remodelled to give her a new lower forecastle and quarterdeck. This process was known as being razeed, a term that is derived from the French vaisseau rasé(i.e. a shaved down ship).

HMS Anson was now a 44-gun frigate and embarked on a very successful career:

  • 10th September 1794: Along with four other ships, she was involved in the capture of the Tordenshiold.
  • 16th July 1797: Helped to drive the French corvette Calliope on shore, where she was wrecked.
  • 29th December 1797: Recaptured Daphne, which had been captured by the French in December 1794.
  • 7th September 1798: Helped to captured the French frigate Flore after a 24-hour long chase.
  • 18th October 1798: Helped to capture the French frigate Loire.
  • 2nd February 1799: Helped to captured the French privateer cutter Boulonaise off Dunkirk.
  • 10th April 1800: Detained the merchant ship Catherine & Anna bound for Hamburg with a cargo of coffee.
  • 27th April 1800: Captured the French brig Vainquer.
  • 29th April 1800: In action with four French privateers, Brave (36 guns), Guepe (18 guns), Hardi (18 guns), and Duide. HMS Anson inflicted damage on Brave and managed to capture Hardi. The latter was taken into Royal Navy service and after being known as HMS Hardi, she was renamed HMS Rosario.
  • 1802 to 1805: HMS Anson served in the Mediterranean. She was then sent to the West Indies.
  • 23rd August 1806: HMS Anson, in company with HMS Arethusa, attacked and captured the Spanish frigate Pomone near Moro Castle in Cuba.
  • 15th September 1806: Unsuccessfully engaged the French ship of the line Foudroyant (84 guns) 15 miles off Havana. HMS Anson‘s sails and rigging we badly damaged during the action , and two members of the crew were killed and thirteen wounded.
  • 1st January 1807: HMS Anson, along with HMS Latona, HMS Arethusa, HMS Fisgard, and HMS Morne Fortunee, captured Curaçao. The British force also captured the Dutch frigate Kenau Hasselar, the sloop Suriname (a former Royal Naval sloop which had been captured from the French on 20th August 1799 and then taken by the Dutch on 23rd June 1803), and two armed schooners.

HMS Anson was wrecked on 29th December 1807, having been driven onto a lee shore by a gale on the previous day whilst attempting to sail into Falmouth.

The loss of the HMS Anson as depicted in 1808 by William Elmes.

As was the custom at the time, the bodies of the drowned sailors from the wreck were buried without a shroud or coffin in unconsecrated ground. A local solicitor – Thomas Grylls – was so incensed by this that he drafted a law to provide drowned seamen with a proper, Christian burial, and this was eventually enacted as the Burial of Drowned Persons Act 1808. Furthermore, Henry Trengrouse, who had witnessed the wrecking of HMS Anson, was so distressed by the fact that it had proved impossible to get lines over to the ship to help rescue survivors, that he developed a rocket apparatus to shoot lines to shipwrecks so that survivors could be taken off in an early version of a breeches buoy.

The Waterloo Project: The next stage?

From the end of February to the middle of August last year a large chunk of my time was taken up with my Waterloo Project. It culminated in what I termed a ‘A Grand Review‘, and at the time I had plans to add a few more figures to the collection as and when I could. (These included figures some from Del Prado’s RELIVE AUSTERLITZ that I managed to buy via eBay.) To date I have made no progress in either adding the additional figures or using the ones that I have varnished and based in a wargame … but I have acquired a lot more figures thanks to Stuart Asquith and Tim Gow!

Back in early March I visited Stuart Asquith and took delivery of his collection of Del Prado RELIVE WATERLOO figures, and in the middle of the month Tim Gow managed to buy one hundred and fifty figures for me from the ‘bring-and-buy’ at TRIPLES. I have yet to take delivery of the latter, but during a lull in my current model ship building project I finally managed to have a serious look at the figures I got from Stuart … and these can be seen below:

By the time I have varnished and based all these additional figures, my collection will be much larger than I ever envisaged it would be … and I really will have start wargaming with them!

The London Wargames Section

My recent bit of wargaming ‘detective’ work rekindled my memories of the rules produced during the late 1960s and early 1970s by the London Wargames Section. I certainly owned copies of some of them, and used them for a time.

From what I can find out, they produced rules for the following:

  • Modern
  • Napoleonic
  • American Civil War
  • Greek Naval
  • Napoleonic Naval
  • Samurai
Image © Noble Knight Games.

The writers included John Tunstill, Bish Iwaszko, Ed Smith, Sid Smith, and Ken Smith, and were quite innovative for their time.