There is no doubt the battle of Waterloo has something of a draw for me. A dramatic battle that ended the Napoleonic Wars and part of a campaign that could have developed very differently. The Volley & Bayonet scenario book “Napoleon Returns” details the four major battles of the Hundred Days campaigns. Specifically Quatre Bras, Ligny, Wavre and of course Waterloo. I have refought all with Volley & Bayonet and all have provided interesting refights in their own right, despite their variation in size.
Occasionally I hear of other wargamers refighting Waterloo in miniature. Yet these refights almost always ignore the battle of Wavre, no doubt being considered something of a sideshow. Yet David Chandler writes in his book Waterloo The Hundred Days of the importance of both battles. His words describe it well.
“It is important to realise that the climacteric moment of the Napoleonic wars was a double-battle. Waterloo has always received most of the attention, but events ten miles away to the east were also important, if on the smaller scale, and had a considerable effect on the outcome of the main battle”.
Interestingly Frank Chadwick in his Napoleon Returns scenario book allows for the linking of Waterloo and Wavre on a single table and this concept has often interested me. To do this even with Volley & Bayonet a large table is required. At the normal scale where 1” equates to 100 yards, some 18’ in length and 6’ in width. Fortunately, we use half scale with our 6mm armies. Now 1” equates to 200 yards and the battlefields of Wavre and Waterloo when linked together will fit on a more manageable 9’ long table.
As mentioned previously I have refought all the battles of the Hundred Day Campaign individually. However, I have never been in a position to fight these linked battles. It was always a project for “someday in the future”. However, the first lockdown of the pandemic found me thinking of possible projects. So the project of fighting Waterloo and Wavre on one table was conceived.
My project was further complicated as I have moved to denser basing resulting in having fewer, though individually more visually pleasing, stands in my collection. While I have been slowly rebuilding the collection the pandemic clearly provided something of a catalyst to focus my attentions. So over a series of evenings I started pondering options.
How many figures would be required? Well the French have ten corps spread across both Waterloo and Wavre. These comprise 34 divisions. Now, I use Heroics & Ros figures for my armies and having acquired a number of unpainted second hand Heroics & Ros figures I started to organise the miniatures in a detailed stock take. I required 41 infantry brigades, 23 cavalry brigades, 28 artillery battalions, 34 divisional commanders as well as 13 corps and army commanders. It soon became apparent that my previous seemingly uncontrolled purchases could almost provide the required numbers.
In late March of 2020 the project got underway, with the initial focus on some cavalry. For clarity I would break the project in to several sub-projects as there are only so many horses, or indeed anything, I can paint in one batch. Due to my previously described rebasing my French cavalry were now low in number. So some of these would be the starting point. Above, a selection of four brigades of Dragoons and four brigades of Cuirassiers. On each base I have modelled at least two of the regiments that were historically brigaded. As a result a mix of facing colours are often visible.
Over following months, in between other projects, further brigades were added including Lancers, Chasseurs, Hussars and mixed brigades of Chasseurs and Hussars.
Above, four stands of light cavalry while below, some Guard cavalry comprising Chasseurs a Cheval and Grenadiers a Cheval.
The infantry needed to be heavily supplemented, again in part because of the denser basing I had adopted, but also the fact I was intending to fight both battles simultaneously.
As with the cavalry, each brigade base measured 1.5” square and I found I could achieve a visual interesting effect by placing around 29 miniatures on a base. For a few I added an artillery model to provide further interest, these modelling dispersed batteries. On others I deployed some battalions or officers in greatcoats, with some variation with greatcoat colour. All new stands included a thick skirmish screen. To provide a greater variation with the existing units, which had slightly fewer figures, all the stands received new labels with divisions receiving a combination of newer and older brigades. This created a themed look but with plenty of variety. Below, a small selection of infantry. You will note I have used earlier standards because the miniatures will also serve in earlier campaigns.
The artillery component was to prove complicated. The older “Napoleon Returns” scenarios have discrete artillery stands, mostly massed at corps level. In contrast the Road to Glory army lists model much of the artillery as distributed to the various brigades – as distributed batteries. After further reading, as well as a couple of 1815 games, I opted for the massed guns defined in the “Napoleon Returns” scenario book, though players can distribute them if they wish. Consequently the artillery park needed considerable reinforcement. Now 18 Line and four Guard artillery battalions formed the bulk of the artillery park. To this must be added six horse artillery battalions, of which two are Guard horse artillery.
While a few of my existing artillery stands were of suitable painting quality most were replaced and all the guns repainted. Horse artillery stands were completely reformed and now include limbers, or at least a limber and a couple of horses, to ensure they are easily discernible as horse artillery. Above, a small sample of foot artillery.
To this of course I needed to add generals. In total 34 divisional commanders and 12 corps and army commanders were required. Again, many of the original stands were retired and new ones added. At half scale each command stand is just 3/4” square with a divisional command stand having one figure, corps two and army commanders three.
Now, after several months of on and off work the French for the Hundred Days are complete. Such a moment requires something of a parade.
Above, those on the left the formations engaged at Waterloo, while on the right, and separated by two woods, those at Wavre under Grouchy.
Above and below the forces at Waterloo at different angles. They are actually arranged in their various divisions and corps.
Below, the three infantry divisions of the Imperial Guard supported by the two Guard cavalry divisions.
Grouchy’s forces at Wavre are markedly smaller with just three small corps. Below, a view of these forces.
If you recall back to Chandler’s quote above there is some distance between Waterloo and Wavre. Further, the battlefield of Waterloo is actually relatively compact. What you have between them is a significant distance which eventually will be filled with Prussians moving from around Wavre to support Wellington. With the forces deployed on a single long table some of my questions about the battle can be explored. We can for example see how few Prussians can be left at Wavre. At the same time Grouchy must apply pressure to slow the movement of. Prussians to Waterloo. Perhaps Napoleon can delay the arrival of the Prussians. Or perhaps the Duke of Wellington can win without the Prussians?
However, before I can answer these questions I must complete the few remaining Anglo-Allied troops and expand the Prussians. Now back to organising the Allies so they can have their time at the painting table.