Thursday, May 21, 2015

Crossing the Meuse, May 1940, Dinant Belgium

Broke out the terrain boards I used at Tacticon several years ago, with the intention of utilizing them again this Labor Day. If you are in the Denver, Colorado region, end of August, come on down and give it a whirl.
Looking westward past the village of Leffe (left center) towards the village of Bouvignes-sur-Meuse, from the quarry above the river valley
Staying with our westward view, we are now looking at the east end of the great Citadel looming above the city of Dinant (just visible to right and left of citadel). The River Meuse seen upper right
Swinging to the south, we now view Dinant itself on right with the blown road bridge in center. That's the Collegiate Cathedral to the right of debris. Scratch-built to match photos.

View to the east from the heights across the Meuse towards Dinant
Aslo from the west, looking over Bouvgnes-sur-Meuse with Leffe right of center, and Dinant upper right.
Final view is from the north, Bouvignes-sur-Meuse on right, Leffe left, and Dinant upper left. Look for the Belgium bunkers staioned along the west bank, especially the one nestled between the two buildings in Bouvignes.
If interested, you may what to check out the rest of this board by opening my posts on Houx, with the accompaning battle report. You can just make out the figures used in that report in the upper right of the above photo.
As was the case years ago when I initially took this to Tacticon, I expect some interesting engagements to be played out this year. Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Battle of Houx, Part II

Now returned from Scotland, time to continue this battle:
Turn 13
The fight on the crest moves on as the French gain the iniative again. But their rolls for the turn are terrible. Only one KIA and a Pin. Artillery misses and so does the 2/1 who is down to three men. The Germans move 2 squads of the 3 Platoon up and gain 2 shaken. But the Germans are massing more troops!
With the French FO forced to move, his view of the vital Wier and Lock have been lost. Germans are moving their third Platoon across the Meuse.
Turn 14
Germans win iniative and move their 2/3 to the crest. They inflict x5 KIAs and a Shaken on the French! Return fire drops x3 KIA and a Pin. Germans end turn with 3/2 getting another KIA and Shaken. The French counterattack is faltering.
On the German right, the French FO brings down two 75mm shells on target, but they gain only x1 KIA. Overall not a good couple of rounds for the French
Turn 15
The French regain iniative, and their 2/2 advances to point blank range where they inflict x3 KIAs. However, the German 2/3 unleash a devastating fire on the French and drop x9 (out of 15 shots)!! French 2/1 and 2/2 both miss (down to one man each) and the FO loses contact! The French commander orders what remains of his forces located on the hill to dig in and wait for reinforcements!
Turn 16
Both sides used up some rounds to regroup, consolidate and call up reserves. Germans had four and the French 3 squads on the hill. It was now 1500 hours and the Germans won the init and advanced 2/3 who inflicted 2KIAs. French return fire gained 6 KIA a Shaken and 1 Pin! Further advance and fire form the Germans added 4 KIA and 2 Shaken. The French commander threw in his last reserves the 2/2 with Platoon replacements (right center), but they gained only 2 hits which resulted in another KIA.
The French also brought on the 1st Squad of the GRDI Group, holding the 2nd Squad along with it's 1 P16 AC to see what kind of resistance there was
Turn 17
The French regain initiative and activate 3/2 first to save two Shaken men (in the rules, a shaken taken into melee is instantly lost). Their fire is awlful however, resulting in a single Shaken. Two more squads will add 3 KIAs. The Germans fare little better with 1 more KIA. But then the MMG brought up the hill scores big and gets 3 KIAs (top of photo), missing only one in it's blast!
On the German left, the GRDI advances but the Germans hold their fire
Turn 18
Germans win init and 3/3 charges and mows down 3 KIA and an additional Shaken. French 1/1 from the second line supports with 4 KIA and a Shaken. German 2/3 sees one brave man rush the second line while the others fire. They get 1 each, KIA, Shaken and Pin. French 3/3 misses! German MMG misses but the platoon commander throws in the 1/1 who drop 2 KIA and 1 Pin. 
On the German right, theGRDI advance both squads. The HQ and P16 remain off board
Turn 19
Germans keep initiative and use it on the hilltop with 1/3 and 2/3 adding 2 more KIA and a Shaken and Pin. French return fire will drop only 2 Germans (but one is that brave or foolish trooper who charged the second line). The French Platoon commander (left center) is considering withdrawing to safer ground
The German 3/1 opens up on the advancing GRDI but only scores 1 Shaken and 2 Pinned. That convinces the French FO to adjust his 75mm fire and they score 2 KIAs and 2 Shakens including the German LMG on that flank.
Turn 19
French regain initiative and they get 2 KIA. But the German 1/3 advances and scores the fantastic hit on the French to basically end the fight. They score 8 KIA and wipe out the French 1/1 (notice those empty foxholes bottom center to top)! Now the hill is held by six French as their FO withdraws along with Platoon HQ.
The GRDI advances and misses with everything, so the P16 AC is called out and it does gain a KIA and a Shaken. 
That leads the German to activate his lone 37mm ATG which has been waiting all this time...
...it's first shot knocks out the French AC! German 81mm mortar opens up as well but fortuantely for the French it misses
Turn 21
Germans regain iniative and move 1/3 to the summit but all miss, several at point blank range! French return fire however only scores a Pin; those Frenchmen are obviously shaken. All German fire is brought to bear on the remaining French on the hill and 2 KIA and a Shaken result. The two remaining French on the summit throw in the towel. It's over!
As the GRDI withdraw, the German 81mm destroys a LMG team (upper center) and rifle fire drop another KIA. The French withdraw.
The Germans have their hold on the west bank of the Meuse River!
All in all a great fight. The French did reasonably well, but that round at the end broke their back. Oh well, vive la guerre! Hope you enjoyed.

Jaobite Rebellions 1689-1745

Having just returned from from a sojurn to Scotland, I thought I woud do something a little different. The following photos depict 8 engagements fought between the English forces and the Jacobites rallying to place a Stuart back on the throne. Sadly most of these sites are not well marked; Falkirk in fact has no signage to help the searcher locate the site!
To begin our tour, we see the Cairn raised for the officers killed at Killicrankie in July 27, 1689. The Jacobites were lead by Viscount "Bonnie" Dundee, while William's forces were commanded by Major General Mackay. A farmer living on this very ground, has kindly allowed a small fenced walkway (very muddy in spots I will say) to cross the battlefied approximately right down the middle (along with a major highway I might add!).
While Mackay placed his army in a rather difficult position (downhill from the Highlanders, with a river to his back and a small pass as his lines-of-communication) Dundee placed his men in an excellent spot to charge down at his enemies, utilizing the Highlander's chief tactic: a ferocious charge to reach melee. He even had his army wait patiently for the sun (which was in his men's eyes initially) to set so they could see their enemies!. They charged from right to left in this photo. The Cairn is in the right background. Mackay's men were slaughtered in about 20 minutes. Out of an initial 5000 or so men, Mackay reached Stirling with only 500. 2000 may have died on the field, while another 500 perished in the rout. 2000 simply vanished! Jacobite losses amounted to at least 700 who fell at the first volley of the government troops. Tragically for the Jacobites however, "Bonnie" Dundee was mortally wounded at the final volley Mackay's troops managed.
Following their victory at Killiecrankie, the new Jacobite commander was much more cautious, taking until August to push out of the Highlands towards Perth in the South. Somewhere between 500-1000 soldiers were commanded by Colonel Cleland representing the government. The Jacobites had several thousand men led by Colonel Cannon, leader of the small Irish Regiment sent from France. At Dunkeld (only a few miles down the pass from Killiecrankie), the small band of government troops successfully held off attack after attack on August 21. The Highland Army retreated back into the mountains and went home. The Rebellion was all but over! The photo above shows the village square which the small body commanded by Cleland, barricaded for their seemingly hopeless stand!
The next attempt to restore James to the English throne occurred in 1715. This is not the place to attempt to desribe the muddled attempts at organizing this revolt. Suffice it to say another Highland army was raised, led this time by the Earl of Mar, "Bobbing Mar". The government forces were led by a Scottish Duke, he of Argyll, head of the largest branch of Clan Campbell. The fight was on a desolute moor called Sheriffmuir, Nov 13, 1715. The Cairn above remembers that day
This view is towards the south and the forces of Argyll. There were no trees in 1715, so the appearance of the foreground would have stretched into the distance towards Stirling in the south. The battle was a strange one, with both sides defeating their enemies right wing, wheel and face each other at right angles to their original positions. But Mar (not a very good leader I might add) was a beaten man, and retreated, ending this uprising.
The next chapter is unique in that it involved a small force of Spanish troops landed in the Highlands to aid in the 1719 uprising. Again, there is much more to the story then I want to speak on here. What you see above, the Glenshiel, a few miles east of the Isle of Skye and the coast. The Marquis de Tullibardine (an exiled Scotsman) led some 1200-1600 Highlanders, even though he personally believes the men should go home and he with the Spanish return to the Continent. The Government forces  numbered some 1286 men lead by General Wightman. His forces advanced down the Glen from the background towards a very strong Jacobite position. Lord Murray had  detached a few hundred men to the summit on the right foreground, while the remainder of the Highlanders (inc Rob Roy and his MacGregors) stationed themselves on the slopes to the left. The Spanish were positioned in the center, from which this photo was taken. But Wightman had small coehorn mortars to blast away at the Jacobites, and while they were entrenched, could not respond. First Murray's men were driven off, then the Highlander's on the left. The Spanish troops maintained their position and then retreated up the hill that now bears their name: Sgurr nan Spainteach, Peak of the Spanish, where they surrendered the next day. Revolt over.
This is the view of the government troops towards the Spanish posiiton marked by the stones on the crest. Standing there I could not imagine, trying to attack up that slope!
And now to the final chapter of these sad tales; the '45. In 1745, the Old Pretender, James III sent his son, Charles Edward Stuart to raise the country against the Hannover King George. Successfully landing on the western coast of Scotland with only seven men, the young Prince (age 25) convinced some of the Highland Chiefs to call out their men. They quickly captured Edinburgh, then advanced against a govenemnt force led by General Cope at Prestonpans, a few miles east of the Scot capital.
The Cairn remembers that engagement. At least there was a sign neaby aiding me in locating this site.
The view is from a large mound just south of the main portion of the battlefield. On Sept 21, The troops of Cope, numbering some 2400, were located to the left center, seperated from the Jacobites by a marsh (where the trees now stand). The Scots, commanded by Lord George Murray, with about 2500 Clansmen,  marched through the marsh that night and took position on the right. At dawn they charged, and to make a short story even shorter, they broke the goverment troops in minutes! A grand start to the '45. That is the Firth of Forth in the background.
Having invaded England, and reaching Derby, some 100 miles short of London itself,  all but the "Bonnie Prince" advised retreat. They beleived they were being surrounded by some 30,000 troops. With only 5000 at his disposal, Murray convinced the Prince to retreat to Scotland. At Falkirk Muir, on Jan 17, 1746, they met the forces of General Hawley. This Monument is the only marker to this battlefield. Most locals I talked to didn't even know it was here!
With a raging thunderstorm overhead, the Highlanders charged from right to left after stopping an initial Hannoverian cavalry charge. Totally breaking the left flank of Hawley's forces they took his cannons, but allowed his right flank, which was protected by a steep burn, to retreat from the field. The Scots conintued it's retreat into the Highlands
In February, thanks in part to their captured artillery train, one Jacobite column, forced the surrender of the Ruthven Barracks. It probably helped the the English garrison numbered some dozen men!
The Jacobite Cause, which had tormented Scotland for decades, came to a bloody end here, on Drummossie Moor, some dozen miles east of Inverness. Ignoring Lord Murray's argument that this barren moor was not a place the fight the English cannon and cavalry, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" responded, "God is on Our side"! With some 4000 cold, wet and hungry clansmen against the Duke of Cumberland (the Prince's cousin, and son to King George) and his 7-8000 men with 12 cannon and additional coehorns, it was a slaughter, lasting perhaps an hour. The view above is towards the English lines (marked by red flags) from the center of the Jacobite army. Just as in 1746, this late April day had grey clouds threathening rain, and there was a chill wind blowing in from the east into our faces (as well as the Jacobites) 
This trip to Culloden I was able to journey to the southern edge of the moor to look up the burn that led to the right rear of Charlie's army. This is where Cumberland's Campbell soldiers tore down the stone wall so his cavalry could assault the rear of the Jacobite army. The steep slope and desperate defence by his reserves, saved his army from being surrounded.

And what better way to end the tragic story then by viewing the spot where legend has it that the Chief of the MacGillivray Clan, red-haired Alexander of Dunmaglass, after fighting his way through the English lines and half blinded, he crawled to some water, to die face down in that water.

So there you have it, a grand tour of Scottish battlefields. It was immensely satisfying locating each of these sites, especially the more remote and 'lost'. A sad story for a beautiful land and people. If you would like to read further, I highly recommend John Peebles Culloden, still arguably the best on the battle of Culloden. Picked up in Scotland on this recent trip, the book Raise the Clans by Martin Hackett which was fun and useful during my search. It is The Wargamer's Guide to Jacobite Britain and it covers all that I described and more.  Hope you enjoyed, and as my forefathers said: "S'rioghal mo dhream"