Monday, 11 August 2008

Guards, Grenadiers And Waistcoats

If there was a church near me with a conveniently ill-guarded set of bells I think I would be ringing them now in celebration. My third regiment of infantry (fusiliers) is complete. In retrospect, the tactic of painting en masse did not suit me at all: I did manage an unprecedented 36 Olley painting points in just over a month, but painting large numbers of figures was not as enjoyable as my usual method of painting in small sub units. So I will return to my old routine of a company at a time.

Now what does a wargamer, of a certain age, do when he finds himself in possession of three regiments of infantry - each one boasting forty-eight bayonets - in all their glory? Well, at least in my case, he finds himself attempting to resemble 'so far as a slightly bulging waistcoat permits, an eagle about to swoop'. I don't actually possess a waistcoat, nor any bulge where the waistcoat should be, but those are the precise words from the book. Of course, if you are not familiar with Charge! you are left at this point wondering what this fellow is blathering on about. For you it's a bit like the US cavalry spotting Indian smoke signals: you know there's something up, but you don't know quite what and you really would rather like to know if they refer to you.

The description in Charge! of the stand of the 'Pultava Guards' against the combined might of the 'Douro Grenadiers' and the 'Musselburgh Fusiliers' was a part of the book that I read over and over in my youth. If I read it now, I find I am so familiar with the words that I hardly read them off the page at all. So it was a delight to finally be able to play it out. My Guarde Grenadier regiment took the place of the Pultava guards, my Fusiliers the Douros (as they have pointy hats) and my musketeers were the Musselburgs.

The Guarde Prepares to Receive The Assault

I shall not attempt to recapture the prose of Young and Lawford in recounting what happened. However, the Guarde mounted a magnificent defence, total casualties to the attackers being 51 shot down and 6 prisoners taken, while losing only 12 men in return (the 'fusiliers' were left with only the unengaged company standing). The dice did take a decided bias towards the Garde and 'salty expressions' would have been the order of the day if this had been played against someone else. But there was more to it than just the dice. Company strengths of only twelve men left the power of the attacking columns greatly diminished while increasing their vulnerability to musketry.

The Columns Make Their Assaults

This leads me to speculate over the reasons for one apparent consistency in the Charge! rules and why it was there. If we look at Light Infantry and Pioneers they both use 12 man company establishments. This would appear to be the natural organisation for line infantry too: four companies form a square far more readily than three. It is notable that, later in the book (ie. at Sittangbad), four companies are indeed adopted, although this is done while retaining a strength of 16 men.

The Defeated Columns Prepare To Hand Over Prisoners

Fighting this action has finally laid another childhood dream to rest, and at the cost of only a few uncomplaining metal lives. I am not a reader of Horace, but I do read Kipling and it was in 'Stalky And Co' that I found Kipling quoting the following lines from Horace, Ode 17, Bk. V, which seemed to me to be a suitable (if somewhat pretentious) way to end this blog entry:

How comes it that, at even-tide,
When level beams should show most truth,
Man, failing, takes unfailing pride,
In memories of his frolic youth?


Capt Bill said...

A lively recounting! Thanks

Stokes Schwartz said...

Hello Andy,

A great action and lovely troops as well as an interesting description of the re-enactment! I'm eager to see you collection develop and read more about it here. By the way, like you, I find painting in company or squadron size-d chunks of figures much easier going than trying to do all 48-60 at once. I tried doing my first unit of 60 or so a couple of years aga, and it seemed to take forever just to complete one item, for example hats!

Best Regards,


Der Alte Fritz said...

They came on in the same old way, and they were repulsed in the same old way. It looks like even in Charge a column is not the best way to attack a line. Musketry usually wins over cold steel.

When I work on 60 man SYW units, I usually break them down into 24 or 30 figure lots. For cavalry, I break them down into 12 figure squadrons.

A J Matthews said...

A nice array of figures, and a lovely job of paintwork.

I agree, painting up figures in small batches is the best way to go. My tolerance is for nothing more than 16 infantry at a time.

guy said...

In contrast, I paint in larger units and at present I'm doing a 72 figure Prussian regiment No 15 (battalions 2 and 3) with their different coloured mitres and one battalion in tricornes. I find that although it does take me longer, I like to concentrate on one unit and do as much reading/researching on that unit and that usually keeps my interest going.

I am also painting at the same time a command stand with my metal Art Miniaturen Frederick figure, 2 converted Revell mounted staff officers and 2 converted Revell Garde de corps curassiers who are
guarding him. So in all 83 Olley points in one hit. Madness really.

Interesting and appropriate Kipling quote. He is a v interesting author and led a facinating and at times tragic life.


Bluebear Jeff said...

And here I thought that I was the only one who had read "Stalky and Co." . . . well, not really . . . but it isn't quoted often.

Good-looking figures, sir . . . of course you know that now that you have three units, you need a fourth (and so it grows).

-- Jeff