The Spanish compound
Brian and Peter had rallied their stalled attack on the fortified compound and were once again advancing. Reaching the walls, the assault succeeded in gaining a foothold ion the compound but the fight continued for the rest of the day with no clear winner. The Spanish held their ground well considering their reduced reserves.
On the central hill Scotty (Wellesley ?) was having a quiet day – perhaps even a snooze. But there could now be heard the refrains of Captain Scarlet (he of the Mysterons) – what relevance that had to the current situation I don’t know but somehow it brought out the gung-ho spirit in Scotty. He decided to attack – Simon would advance on his right and support the Spanish defence of the compound in the process and Chris on his right would extend his line to cover the probable collapse of the Spanish in the north. Scotty himself with the Gentlemen’s sons and the devils in skirts would press forward onto James and Jonathon’s French divisions opposite.
There began a long running firefight and combat around and across the stream drawing in much of the French infantry and most of the British. The British were making progress and reducing the pressure on the Spanish but not enough to break the French centre. Ultimately when the first British units broke the prospect of success disappeared but left the British too heavily involved to retire.
The Spanish attack in the south had failed. The cavalry attack collapsed and the division was routed and fled in time for a siesta, leaving a weakened infantry division horribly vulnerable and exposed. Possibly in a fruitless attempt to support them, the Spanish infantry emerged from their entrenchments and advanced – some were almost immediately ridden down by French dragoons but others seem miraculously to survive. The momentum of the French counterattack subsided as attention was drawn elsewhere – perhaps to the centre.
In the north the Francis’s Spanish finally gave up the ghost and with the losses in the south to add in the whole Spanish army was in danger of breaking. Mike’s gritty defence in the centre might be all for nothing - betrayed by the rash attacks in the south and the hopeless task in the north.
The Road to Madrid
Even before the French attack faltered and with disregard for the potential difficulties in the Spanish in the centre, Cuesta embarked on a massed cavalry attack skirting round the end of the Spanish line and heading for the massed ranks of the French dragoons. With infantry following them up much of the Spanish reserves which Mike might been relying on for support disappeared.
At this point there was some debate as to where the Road to Madrid was – no not a reference to one of Bob and Bing’s lesser known adventures – but a rather strained excuse for the Spanish attack in the south – apparently intended to cut the French line of retreat. Cuesta’s knowledge of Spanish geography was seen to be woeful as the road to Madrid was not that heading south-east just across the battlefield from the Spanish but far to the north. Cuesta would have to ride through nearly the whole of the French army to succeed – beyond even his vainglorious ambitions – but not enough to stop him ordering the Spanish infantry to emerge from the comfort of their entrenchments to ‘assault’ the French dragoons later in the day
The northern flank
Far in the north Rob pressed his attack, the French columns advancing steadily with cavalry support to their flank. James was moving forward in support and the Spanish looked to be in serious trouble. Just in time the British heavy cavalry arrived and were thrown into headlong charges on the French columns. Some columns were broken and others formed square – but ultimately the British were seen off with the arrival of French dragoons brought north to bolster the attack. The attack had bought some time for more British cavalry, mostly hussars, to move north. Rob’s French cavalry, venturing into decidedly uncavalry like country, had pushed on and after several combats and renewed support from the infantry had destroyed much of the Spanish forces.. Francis’s day was not going well – a crisis was brewing on this flank.
On a drizzly day in August, 12 wargamers gathered at Rob’s War room to re-fight the battle of Talavera. They came from places far and wide and included James, a long lost comrade returning from the thrusting real world to the gentle world of the old farts and young fools we wargamers inhabit. Rob had laid out an impressive battlefield terrain with a range of hills towards the ‘northern’ end and a long line of entrenchments stretching away at the ‘southern’ end .
The armies were divided into commands, which were assigned to the players on some basis or other that I can’t remember.
Francis, having arrived late after some trauma crossing the Thames at Wandsworth I believe, drew the short straw being given command of the Spanish forces at the very northern end of the line - they seemed a mite exposed with no defences to bolster them. Mike commanded the central compound and adjoining forces and is always happy to defend as long as he has his artillery. Noel was the other Spanish general and possibly fancying himself as the unpredictable and unreliable Cuesta was threatening to live up to that expectation.
As an ex-Household Cavalryman, Scotty was keen to take charge of the Guards and Highlanders and regaled us during the day with tales of the amazing feats of spit and polish required to attain the superb turnout expected of the Household Cavalry. Of the 3 British commanders, Scotty, Simon and Chris none seemed to actively take on the role of Wellesley - in fact the British deployment seemed very unWellesley like – not a reverse slope to be seen.
Whilst the British and Spanish gathered outside in the drizzle, and failed to make any recognisable plan, the 5 French commanders, Peter, Rob, James, Brian and Jonathon surveyed the battlefield under the leadership of Peter in the roles of either Marshall Jourdan or King Joseph - depending on frequent dice rolls. A plan was agreed which was the opposite of the historical one – obviously arrived at with either the benefit of hindsight or a complete failure to identify the main objective of defeating the British. The French intended to not attack the British at all, but to go for the Spanish in the centre and on the northern flank – so much for the initial deployment.
Meanwhile the British and Spanish plan was summed up when Cuesta (Noel) trod in it – literally – was that dogshit or just mud – we will never know.
At our club Phil’s 15mm Napoleonic collection is legendary and he is now adding to his forces some of the more obscure armies and units. His latest addition to his Napoleonic collection is the very colourful Neapolitan army. Although they looked the part, being dressed by Murat, their fighting reputation did not match their famous commander by any stretch. The Neapolitans were going to have the first outing against the British Redcoats. Using Phil’s homemade rules which have a strong connection to Shako this was the only army that we have played with that fielded units with a MR of 2.0!
The scenario entailed a small Anglo Portuguese force returning from a punitive raid with their loot to get across the table. They were being stopped by a much larger Neapolitan army. The terrain was set up to form a valley with the Brits moving through the valley. Facing them was a Division of Neapolitan Infantry. Off table for the Neapolitans were two cavalry divisions, one further infantry division and a Guards division. The Brits had 2 small Infantry Divisions and a small cavalry division. The Brits started in column of March in front a small village in the valley. Rob and Mike commanded the Anglo Portuguese whilst Noel, Simon and Jonathan commanded the colourful Neapolitans.
Rob scarred from his recent Saxon experience in similar situation tried to move his forces quickly through the valley. The Brit army was attacked by some angry citizens from the village which were swiftly crushed. The Brit cavalry sped off down the valley leaving the infantry behind. Whilst halfway down the valley the rest of Neapolitan army arrived unseen to the Brits left flank and rapidly moved to intercept the Brits. The Brit cavalry decided to get off table rather than support their infantry. The Brit commanders hoped the fabled redcoats would brush aside the weak opposition. However without cavalry support they were soon forced into square and after losing a key initiative roll had several of the battalion destroyed in the flank whilst still in line. Game over by 9.30pm! Red faces all round for the Brits. We replayed the game again with Noel taking on the Anglo-Portuguese who put a much better fight seeing off 3 Neapolitan brigades but his casualties (large numbers caused by victory casualties) reduced his force too much to get enough units off table to secure a Victory under the scenario conditions.
Noel brought along his fabulous 15mm Spartan and Theban army. The later equipped with their infamous Sacred Band. We used a version of Armati for rules with a few modifications made by Noel. We had a fair basic terrain layout with a few hills and woods. We used some old estate agents boards to split the table in half to allow both sides to deploy without seeing their opponents forces. The Theban army which had more cavalry (Led by Simon, Mike and Rob) opted to deploy all of their heavy cavalry (save for a few light cavalry units) on their left flank.
The Theban cavalry charged forward on their left flank and were met by the Spartan cavalry. On the Spartan left their cavalry advanced towards the Theban right flank which was only covered by a few weak light cavalry units. The Theban infantry advanced towards the Spartan lines. The Theban cavalry on their left were not able to use their superior numbers to brush aside the Spartan cavalry. In the centre the light troops engaged in missile fire. The Spartan light Infantry completely out classed its rivals (thanks to particular good die rolling for the Spartans and woeful dice rolling by the Thebans). Richard skilfully manoeuvred his Spartan cavalry on their left wing and proceeded to rip a huge hole in the centre of the Theban light infantry and then went on to destroy the Theban light cavalry covering its right flank
The destruction of the Theban light infantry allowed the Spartan light infantry to soften up the Theban heavy infantry as it advanced to meet the Spartan phalanxes. The two heavy infantry lines met. The Theban Sacred band lived up to its name destroying the Spartan allies opposite it. However the main Spartan phalanxes crushed the Thebans opposite. To compound the Theban problems further the Spartan cavalry had got around the rear of the Theban army and were destroying its second line. The Theban cavalry on their left wing finally overcome the Spartan cavalry in front of it but were too late to save their infantry. A great victory again for Sparta. The deployment gamble of putting all of the Theban heavy cavalry on one flank did not pay off.