Return to Wavre

With the terrain for Wavre still set up from our game earlier in the week we were able to revisit the battle, this time as a multiplayer affair. The Prussians were to be commanded by Jon and Adrian, while the French were commanded by Alastair and I.

As previously, elements of III Corps were launched at Wavre and spurred on by Grouchy. They took first the suburbs on the southern bank before ejecting the Prussians on the northern bank. Below, at 3pm the situation as III Corps begin to advance on Wavre. Bierges is visible in the centre and Limale on the extreme left.

Repulsing Prussian counterattacks Grouchy began to slowly reinforce his hold on Wavre. A tenacious French advance on to the fields north of Wavre was later countered by Prussian Landwehr and Berthezène’s Division was driven back through Wavre. In the process the bridges over the Dyle at Wavre were finally lost.

Around Bierges things were equally desperate. Here Vandamme, commander of III Corps, took a slightly more cautious approach. Rather than execute an immediate attack he first bombarded the Prussian defenders on the opposite bank using a combination of 12 pounders supported by lighter horse artillery as well as the batteries allocated to various infantry brigades. Thielmann countered with his own artillery, though it was less effective. As Prussian casualties increased replacement Prussian regiments were pushed forward. At this point Vandamme ordered the first of a series of attacks that would last for several hours. Below, the situation around Bierges just prior to the crossing of the Dyle at this point.

Around 8.30pm a bridgehead over the Dyle was secured at Bierges. Eventually comprising two brigades of from Pecheux’s 12th Division and Domon’s cavalry. Grouchy moved between his troops encouraging his veterans. The French were subjected to a desperate counterattack around 9pm that forced some French formations back across the Dyle. Undeterred, the bridgehead was reinforced and as darkness began to intervene Shoeffer’s brigade and III Corps heavy artillery, having repulsed another Prussian counterattack, held Bierges and the associated bridge across the swollen Dyle River. As last light fell Hulot’s Division began to cross the Dyle.

Alas at Limale the battle was unfolding very differently. The Prussians 19th Line, not part of Thielemann’s III Corps, held the village. The Prussians deployed forward of the village on the banks of the Dyle. With the Prussians soon to be reinforced by additional troops the French attempted to secure the crossing by coup de main. A series of attacks began around 5.30pm with later ones supported by artillery. Around 7.30pm, and having suffered heavy casualties, the Prussian 19th Line broke. However, the Prussian defenders had by now been reinforced by the Prussian 12th Brigade (Division) and later by elements of the Prussian cavalry reserve. Constrained by enemy positions only two French brigades were to establish a fragile footing across the Dyle. Alas, each was thrown back by determined Prussian counterattacks. In all five French attacks across the Dyle would have been made with all eventually unsuccessful.

Below, one of the many failed attempts to cross at Limale.

As darkness fell on the 18th of June the butcher’s bill was significant. Two Prussian Divisions of III Corps had collapsed or been eliminated, while a third was exhausted. Only Luck’s weak Infantry Division and Hobe’s Cavalry Division were combat effective, and then only marginally. French losses were equally horrific with many divisions suffering significant casualties. Some in particular had suffered terribly. Habert’s Division had collapsed, while Berthezène and Vichery’s Division were exhausted. It was true that a bridgehead had been achieved. However, with the decision at Waterloo soon to be known, both commanders opted to disengage rather than renew battle on the 19th.

Another excellent refight of Wavre. As previously the game ran to around four hours of playing time and covered the fighting from 3pm to 10pm or seven turns of play. There are of course only limited tactical options in this battle, being only three places to cross the Dyle. Yet all players were faced with on-going problems of when to attack, how to attack and how to reinforce success. Wavre, Bierges and Limale all require different approaches. Truely fascinating…

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A Bloody Day at Wavre

A regular wargaming opponent and I decided to take the opportunity of a recent public holiday to deploy some figures and refight the Battle of Wavre. While I’ve not played Wavre for a number of years I felt comfortable that it would fit well into our limited gaming window of four hours. In preparation I spent some time revitalising some Wavre specific terrain and reviewing the orders of battle for both armies.

The scenario is outlined in the Volley & Bayonet scenario book “Napoleon Returns” along with the other battles of the Hundred Days Campaign. The scenario book utilises ratings and organisations for the first edition of the rules. Not surprisingly wanted to use the ratings that Frank introduced in the second edition of the rules, so some updates were required. In a future post I will aim to outline these changes, including some variations I have decided to include. For now I will focus on a few photos of our game.

As a refresher the Wavre scenario, like the battle on the 18th of June, effectively starts at 3pm and runs until the end of the 9pm turn for a total of seven turns where each represents an hour. The scenario then allows a portion of the second day to be played.

As can be expected the our refight of the battle opened with a substantial and concentrated attack starting around 3.30pm by a massive assault on the parts of Wavre located south of the Dyle River. As the Grouchy hoped the position was carried Prussians reeled back in disorder.

Above, the general view with Wavre in the foreground being attacked by Lefol’s 8th Division and Berthezene’s 11th Division. While below another view highlighting the Prussian regulars. Behind them a Landwehr unit can be seen in northern Wavre.

Below, Lagarde’s Brigade occupies the southern sectors of Wavre.

The disorganised retreat caused considerable confusion to Prussians located on the north bank. With no substantial counterattack forthcoming Grouchy pressed forward. By a feat of arms he had by 4.30pm, and now supported by two batteries of 12pdrs, secured a portion of Wavre on the north bank. Below, Grouchy advances across the bridges into the areas of Wavre on the north bank.

Yet his advance was short lived and 5pm Grouchy and Lagarde’s Brigade had been routed completely out of Wavre! Another attack was launched around 6.30pm but unable to regain the momentum the northern parts of Wavre were to remain in Prussian control.

Some two miles south, at Limale, another attack was taking place. An initial bombardment had caused some casualties on the Prussians here. Teste, commanding the 21st Division now ordered an attack and the composite brigade surged forward to be meet by a hail of Prussian fire. Disordered by the confines of the narrow bridge French troops the attack suffered heavily and the brigade would play no further part in the action.

Following this repulse Gérard, commanding IV Corps, issued more conservative orders to General Vichery who commanded the 13th Division who had now been tasked with securing this crossing. As a result Vichery ordered a long range bombardment of Limale and surrounds – which was unfortunately woefully ineffective.

With the other attacks stalled Grouchy focused on the crossing near the Bierge Mill, slightly south of the village of Bierges. Initial attacks were supported by a bombardment but around 4.30pm Gengoult’s Brigade surged across the bridge.

Above, 10th Division supported by other elements engages the Prussians at Bierge.

Despite being repulsed after a bloody melee further brigades formed up and progressively attacked over the following hours. These attacks here were particularly confusing and difficult to summarise. Below, an attack around 6.30pm. Of note the Prussians are no longer defending the banks of the Dyle.

However, by 7.30pm a foothold was gained by the French on the north bank. In part as the Prussians opposite were paying a bloody cost for their determination. This bridgehead was no sooner gained than it was lost, only to be secured around 8.30pm. Below, the situation around 9pm.

Prussian counter-attacks were thrown back and by 9.30pm French artillery started to cross. Yet this foothold was fragile and by 10pm this tenacious bridgehead on the north bank of the Dyle was lost. As darkness fell so to did the French hope of securing victory. It had indeed been a bloody day at Wavre.

Wavre was an excellent battle to refight, I had forgotten how enjoyable it is. An error I did make was how to represent Limale. Due to the area the village occupied I represented it as as a V&B town sector. Further research confirms the buildings within the village were dispersed. As a result it would have been more realistic to model it as a village. All miniatures are from my own collection and are all from the excellent 6mm Heroics & Ros miniatures. They are all based at half scale where 1″ represents 200 yards. Trees are from Irregular Miniatures, hills and roads are home made while the river is a Battlefront “Stream Section”. The table measures 1.2m in width and 0.9m in depth.

Website Update

Moving to this site has provided many advantages, not least being it provides a more mobile centric format and easier update process for new material. Part of the move included progressively updating the many scenarios and other supporting Volley & Bayonet material to this new format. As you can imagine this is a time consuming process. This has been further balanced by my desire to add new material. 

Unfortunately, my Internet service provider recently announced they are retiring the infrastructure that hosted the original Volley & Bayonet Pages. This infrastructure is expected to be retired today. That means that old material, still on the old site and which I have not updated yet and simply linked to, will be off-line.

I will now need to reformat old material more quickly than originally planned. I will make periodic updates here as scenarios once again become available. I hope you can be patient while this process occurs.

Of course the material and scenarios that I have already migrated remain available.

Marlburian Mayhem 

Most of my Volley & Bayonet gaming is in 6mm, yet one of the great aspects of the rules is the they work well irrespective of the scale of the miniatures. This allows players to build armies using the scale they prefer. Personally, while I see many advantages of 6mm I’m more than happy to join games using figures ranging from 2mm to 25mm. So while last week it was an excellent 6mm American Civil War game last night we changed scales.

Adrian agreed to organise a Marlburian game using his 15mm figures and terrain, while Robin provided the venue. The scenario found a portion of the French army deployed forward and assaulted by the Prussian and Dutch while additional French and allied formations marched to their support. Interestingly there were several choke points, in the form of areas of broken ground, ravines and villages which reduced movement options. It is however worth noting that in this game the fields and hedges are visual enhancements and do not impact game play.

Not having the rosters or scenario details to hand I won’t try and provide a full summary of the game, but rather I’ll provide a few photos and a brief description.

Above, a view from the Allied right as Prussian and Dutch infantry advance on the French defenders deployed in and around two towns. In the top left Allied cavalry can be seen approaching the French on the other side of the defensive positions. The French would soon suffer attacks from two directions.

Below, another view of the French.

The attack on this portion of the French defences would occur first, but the French were still able to go stationary.

Above and below, a view of the Allies on the opposite side. The attack here would be initially smaller but involved infantry, artillery and cavalry. Later additional infantry and cavalry would deploy to reinforce the attacks.

Below, a more general view.

Above and below, two views of the attacks by the Allied right wing, with the Dutch advancing. In the preceding turns a portion of the French line had been driven back. The Prussians press their advantage with converged grenadiers now attacking. The allied attack was slowly developing from the left in an attempt to progressively unravel the French line. Allied artillery fire at supporting French formations.

Meanwhile French reinforcements, such as those below, are moving to reinforce the beleaguered French.

Allied reinforcements, shown below, are also now deployed. Several dragoon formations have formed up on the high ground on the Allied right. From here they can counter French cavalry or support the main infantry attack.

On the Allied left the attack was also well underway.

However, an area of broken ground caused considerable disruption and Allied infantry were often sent in piecemeal against solid French infantry. While some gains were made the French artillery was crucial in driving the attacks back.

The Allied right was the focus of French counterattacks as here Allied forces threatened to break the French position. To counter this threat French reinforcements threatened the extreme Allied right.

A ravine and town, secured by Allied infantry, channeled the French cavalry and disrupted the planned attack. Instead Bavarian attempted to storm the town but were repulsed with heavy casualties.

The repulse of these attacks were the final turning point. Now, the infantry and cavalry of the Allied right, supported by attacks by the Allied left, were launched in a series of coordinated attacks on the isolated French infantry.  Despite fighting valiantly the French infantry, now attacked from several directions, were soon in full rout. Another fascinating Volley & Bayonet game.