Category Archives: 1815

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.

Wavre Refight

With the recent 200th anniversary of the Hundred Days Campaign there have been a number of Waterloo re fights being played in different parts of the globe. Indeed, I would have organised a game myself if it were not for the fact my gaming room is out of action while earthquake repairs take place. However, Paul Reynolds took the time to organise a refight of Wavre recently in Wellington, New Zealand. The game looked excellent and well worth a report here. I’ll let Paul pick up the story at this point…

On Saturday 20 June 2015 we played a Volley & Bayonet refight of the Battle of Wavre to mark the 200th Anniversary of Waterloo / Wavre.

When I last saw Rob Cameron in January, before he passed away in May, he encouraged me to stage a Volley & Bayonet game to mark Waterloo. Roy, our regular host, also suggested that we should play a V&B game to mark the 200th Anniversary of Waterloo and suggested the 20th of June. Waterloo itself was too large especially as I didn’t have any British troops. I therefore settled on Wavre and used the scenario from the V&B “Napoleon Returns” supplement updated for V&B Road to Glory with the help of Keith McNelly. The figures used are 6mm figures from Heroics & Ros mounted on 3″ bases.

By 2pm the French had deployed III Corps on the hill overlooking Wavre, IV Corps was close behind and I Cavalry Corps was an hour or two behind on the road to Limale. The River Dyle could only be crossed at the three bridges at Wavre, Bierges and Limale. 

Cannon fire had been heard in the direction of Mont St Jean since about noon so Marshal Grouchy launched III Corps against Wavre to clear the south bank of the Dyle and pin the Prussian forces there. IV Corps marched past Wavre to cross the bridges at Bierges and Limale. I Cavalry Corps lead by 21st Infantry Division attacked Limale. Or so was the plan…

The initial deployments can be seen below with the Prussians on the left.

  

Some early success for the French.

  

  
  

The game swings back and forth.
  

Late in the day with little fresh infantry the French throw cavalry across the Bierges bridge.

  

As darkness starts to fall and the firing from the direction of Mont St Jean falls silent…

  

A really enjoyable and tense game, the French crossed the Dyle four times yet each time the Prussians had fresh reserves on hand to repulse the French before they could recover from the disorder caused by fighting across the river. The attempt to pin the Prussians everywhere and the time pressure to come to Napoleon’s aid had dispersed the French efforts. The Prussians were bruised but the careful use of their reserves had allowed them to hold the line of the Dyle.

A better plan may have been to concentrate on the bridge at Bierges where there was only a village providing less cover for the Prussians. I suspect this is the plan the French will use tonight as we play the game again with the players having swapped sides.