Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The battle for Papelotte

The Belvedere - note also the fruit trees grown up the west facing wall 

I wrote an initial post on Papelotte over a year ago and commented on how difficult it is to get good evidence of what the farm looked like in 1815, or indeed to determine the actual course of events at this important flanking outpost, which could have served much the same function on Wellington's left flank as Hougoumont did on the right.  I say 'could have' because the fighting at Papelotte never developed the same intensity as it did at Hougoumont.  This may explain the lack of good sources, or it may be the fact that it was German not British troops that fought there.  I've now been able to find out a little more and to complete my version of the farmhouse.  

The farm track leads towards the main entrance.  This track existed in 1815.  The fruit trees grown against the wall no longer exist and the white-washed front is now back to its weather beaten brick
Here the lane bends round to the west
The fruit trees have an ethereal, slightly unworldly quality to them

This representation of the farm looks very different from any other that I've seen.

I've also found a photograph which looks much like the post-1860 structure, but without the belvedere or the fruit trees.  In this photograph you can see the same haystack.  This has aroused my suspicions: could this photograph have been doctored to show the farm as it might have looked or should we take it at face value?

Perhaps it is impossible to know the true answers to these questions.  So I've gone ahead and produced my Papelotte Farm as shown in the pictures below.  It is still not complete: the paintwork is still quite basic, the walled area to the north of the farm needs to be built, there are no trees, hedges or other vegetation beyond the basic grass and the farmyard and lanes are a brown baseline rather than the finished product.  And of course there are only a few Nassauers and no French.  More to follow!
West side with damaged roof

Farmyard with farmhouse in corner.  No well yet.

The Great Barn

The lane is made of coffee granules

The view southwards
This shows a nice view down to the annex and again indicates whitewash across much of the building.

Farmhouse looking north


Farmhouse windows with Nassau defenders

The annex looking north
This modern photo shows the annex from the south looking north.  It also shows the garden wall.  The evidence suggests that the French got across this wall into the garden.  There are some buttresses on this wall which I need to put in.  The garden looks very over-grown and would have been in productive use in 1815.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

1st Battalion KGL

This is my second square from Du Plat's KGL Brigade.  I've previously mentioned that it is Ompeda's brigade that draws most of the attention, but research into Du Plat's Brigade reveals the critical part it played in the battle.

While attention on Hougoumont tends to focus on the fighting for the chateau itself, it is clear that Wellington became increasingly concerned that Reille's Corps would bypass the actual buildings and use the park to threaten his right flank.  In a sense this reinforced his belief throughout the whole campaign that he would be outflanked from the west - which is why he put Chasse's division in Braine and keep Prince Frederick's Corps at Halle.

But as the battle developed it was not a broad outflanking manoeuvre that developed, but an infiltration of the park by swarms of French skirmishers with artillery.

This explains why Wellington repeatedly ordered troops into the Hougoumont area to support the original Foot Guards Light Companies in the chateau - the Brunswick Avant Garde, the Leib Battalion, 1st Light Infantry, Nassau Grenadiers, more Foot Guards and Kielmansegge's Feldjagers. 

But even this does not seem to have been enough, so Du Plat's KGL Brigade and Hugh Halkett's Hanoverians (contradicting the usual reverse slope tactic) were ordered onto the forward slope to plug the gap between the British line and the end of the Hougoumont park.
It is also clear that Du Plat chose to group the four light companies of the brigade in a single composite battalion.  Not to be confused with the two green coated light battalions of the KGL, these red coated light infantry were also armed with Baker rifles and formed a square of their own, suffering tremendous casualties from French artillery and skirmish fire.  The other battalions stood a little back, but still in a very exposed position where they too took extensive casualties.

I like this image of two KGL veterans drawn from life

Light company and centre company officers

Flank companies
Original coat

Coat tail details

My square shows 1st Battalion The King's German Legion in that forward position.  They are temporarily placed on a piece of teddy bear fur to give a sense of the crops, but don't be distracted by the obvious join.

The front view

Most the figures are Revell and Esci with some metal figures of varying types

Grenadier Company

The officer is a 20:20 figures by Vandrad, a short lived company that also produced RSM figures in the early 90s.

The Light company is still with the battalion, before being detached to form a composite rifle battalion

The Drum Major is an Esci Zulu Wars officer conversion

Yes, those lips again - sorry!

Comparing notes
Some Hinton Hunt among the Revell.

The corner of one KGL square was blown away by artillery.

Thursday, 7 September 2017


Work is busy at the moment so progress on the project is likely to slow.  I did however think this might be a good moment to take stock of how far I have got with the infantry of the Allied Army.

So far, the following units have been painted and are on the Blog:

  • 3rd Battalion 1st Grenadier Guards                                  
  • 2nd Battalion 3rd Scots Guards                                        
  • 2nd Battalion 95th Rifles                                                   
  • 1st Battalion 23rd  Royal Welch Fusiliers                         
  • 1st Battalion 27th Inniskillings                                         
  • 1st Battalion 28th Glosters                                                
  • 1st Battalion 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders    
  • 1st Battalion 52nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry                   
  • 1st Battalion 71st Highland Light Infantry                        
  • 1st Battalion 4th King's Own                                             
  • 2nd Light Battalion Brunswick Corps                               
  • 1st Battalion 2nd Nassau Regiment                                   
  • 2nd Battalion 2nd Nassau Regiment                                  
  • 2nd Battalion King's German Legion                               
  • 4th Battalion Dutch Militia                                               
  • Bremen and Verden Field Battalions                                
  • 1st Light Battalion King's German Legion                       
  • 2nd Light Battalion King's German Legion                       
  • Brunswick Leib Battalion                                                   

Total                                                                                              7,700

Nearly complete:

3rd Battalion KGL                                                                      

In production:

  • 1st/30th and 2nd/73rd                                                         
  • 1st Battalion The Black Watch, 42nd Royal Highlanders  
  • 1st Battalion 92nd Gordon Highlanders                             
  • 1st Battalion Coldm Gds                                                    
  • 1st Battalion 33rd/1st Battalion 69th                                  
  • York and Grubenhagen Field Battalions                             
  • Foot Guards Light Companies                                            
  • 1st Line Battalion Brunswick Corps                                  
  • 2nd Line Battalion Brunswick Corps                                  
  • 1st Light Battalion Brunswick Corps                                  
  • Brunswick Avant Garde                                                       
  • 3rd Battalion Dutch militia                                                  
  • 12th Battalion Dutch Line                                                    
  • 3rd Battalion Belgian Line                                                 
  • 5th Battalion KGL                                                            
  • Luneberg Field Battalion                                                    
  • 1st/51st Yorkshire Light Infantry                                        
  • 3rd Battalion 2nd Nassau Regiment                                     
  • 35th Dutch Chasseurs                                                         

Total                                                                                                8,300

Grand total                                                                                      16,000

I'm not trying to complete every unit in the Allied army, but I do need to show some from each of the brigades, so the obvious gaps are:

  • Hugh Halkett's Hanoverian Brigade
  • 1st/95th in the Sandpit
  • The remnants of Bijlandt's brigade
  • Vincke and Best's Hanoverian brigades
  • 2nd Nassau regiment at Papelotte
  • 28th Orange-Nassau Regiment

Friday, 1 September 2017

Paint It Black - 2nd Light Battalion The Brunswick Corps

The Brunswickers caught the imagination of the Victorians, whose own uniforms (notably the frogging, shell jackets and peaked caps) owed much to the style set by the black legion created in memory of the Duke of Brunswick, killed in the Jena campaign of 1806.

With its tail-less shell jacket and frogging, Brunswick dress was in the main a black version of a Rifles uniform.

While not as close as Hanover, Brunswick's relationship with Britain was tighter than any other German state, despite the stormy nature of Caroline of Brunswick's failed marriage to the Prince Regent.  The Brunswickers served with distinction in the Peninsula, where the Oels and the AvantGarde were among the best of Wellington's troops.

However, in 1815, the resumption of hostilities meant that the newly liberated Duchy could field a much larger army with Light and Line battalions added to the order of battle.  It is commonly assumed that Europe was exhausted of manpower by 1814, but while that may have been true of France, it was not the case elsewhere: Brunswick, Nassau, Hanover and the Netherlands all seem to have had no difficulty raising very large numbers of fresh troops.  Brunswick's newly raised and often very young soldiers were, to their Peninsular comrades, much as the Hanoverian landwehr were to the KGL.  And yet despite some wobbles, they served with distinction at both Quatre Bras and Waterloo.

The overall impression of this black clad legion was a sombre one.  As one account has it, they gave: "A most appalling and funeral-solemnic appearance. Drawn up in battle array they look an immense mourning hearse: the gloomy appearance of this determined band who had devoted themselves with their chief to avenge the wrongs of their prince...".  

The Duke with staff and hussars

The 'chief' in question was of course the younger Duke of Brunswick, brother of Caroline.  Like his father before him, he too would become a casualty, mortally wounded at Quatre Bras.  As with Picton's Division, Quatre Bras features almost as much in Brunswick accounts as does Waterloo.

The Duke is carried from the field.

The Duke of Brunswick

The Duke's frogged and fur trimmed coat

After Quatre Bras, Waterloo was itself an extreme test and one in the main that the Brunswickers passed with distinction.  The Brunswick contingent was divided into three parts: first, the cavalry; secondly, those committed to the defence of Hougoumont (the Leib-Batallion, the Avantgarde and the 1st Light Battalion).  Thirdly, the 2nd and 3rd Light Battalions and the three Line battalions stood with the other squares in the Allied right-centre.

These were initially in reserve until called forward by Wellington to cover the gap left by the Foot Guards moved to Hougoumont.   This blog entry is focussed on these Brunswick squares, notably the 2nd Light Battalion.  

Despite their relative youth, these Brunswick squares managed to hold through the cavalry charges but were deemed to be unsteady by Captain Mercer who commanded the adjacent RHA battery.    Near the climax of the battle, Colonel Detmers of Chasse's Dutch division described  the 35th Belgian Jagers battalion, the 2nd Dutch battalion of Line infantry and Van Wetering’s 4th Dutch Militia battalion deploying into line on the left of the combined British 30th and 73rd Regiments, described as still in good order, and in a position in front of retiring Brunswickers, reduced by casualties from a square to a triangle.

1st Light Battalion - detached to Hougoumont.  At Waterloo, its facings were buff but changed to rose red after the battle
2nd Light Battalion - the subject of this post.

So here is the square.  The figures are mostly the Esci Russians with the short tails on their jackets trimmed off.  I've added yellow over blue pompoms to their shakos.  There are also some Art Miniaturen among the figures.  There are quite a few ACW conversions, including many in the rear rank which are the new Strelets Picket's Charge set with Russian heads.

The whole square

The Colour party - by the time I realised only the Line battalions carried colours it was too late, the figures were painted and they were on the square.  They are ACW in origin.

I doubt the Light battalion officers wore frock coats, but most of these officers are ACW conversions who make great Brunswickers.

An Esci Zulu War Brit in the corner.

The man in the arm-sling is ACW.

The nearest mounted officer is the W1815 Duke of Brunswick, but of course by the 18th of June he was dead, so this figure has lost his head and had it replaced.

The wounded figure is ACW.

A light battalion needs buglers.

Another ACW conversion.

One of the sides.

An Airfix Prussian repainted.

Art Miniaturen.

The casualty in a Chasseur a Cheval of the Guard

The near mounted officer is a Revell Prussian.  His right-hand friend was once with British Rail. 

The two men with telescopes were an Esci RHA officer and an Esci Russian Crimean War Russian gunner officer.

Drum Majors are becoming a feature.