By smacdowall, Jan 30 2018 03:43PM
I have been once again bitten by the Marlburian bug and planning is well underway for the second part of the Battle of Oudenarde which will be fought out in 15mm scale in May. Imagine my joy when the prospect came around for another game, this time with vintage 20mm Les Higgins figures.
These beautiful miniatures, formally from the collection of Tom Brown, are now lovingly looked after by Ernie Fosker. 20mm is a great scale and I think it a shame that scale creep caused them to be overwhelmed by 25 and then 28mm scales. Only a little bigger than modern 18mm miniatures these figures have great charm. They are slightly toy-soldierish, elegant and crisply cast.
The game was a re-fight of Wynendael in 1708 shortly after the Battle of Oudenarde. The French with 40 battalions and 60 squadrons attempted to intercept a vital convoy of supplies for the Siege of Lille escorted by 24 allied battalions and a regiment of dragoons.
I played La Motte, the French commander. Looking at the table-top I despaired of our chances. Although we had the numbers we would have to attack through a narrow defile between woods with no hope of using our superior numbers to outflank the enemy.
We decided to send the 4 battalions of the Irish Brigade through the woods on our left to prevent the allies from harassing our left flank and maybe to give them a surprise. Our dragoons would advance to the woods on our right, dismount and then make their way through it to head off the supply column while the rest of our forces would push hard through the defile, attacking without respite.
As we advanced in a long column with cavalry leading, the enemy began to deploy to block the defile with their mounted dragoons. Confidently I led the lead regiment of Bavarian Curiassiers to brush them aside. After all, heavy cavalry on good mounts had little to fear from mounted infantry on poor nags. What I did not know was that, flushed with their victory at Oudenarde and re-mounted on captured cavalry steeds, the German Dragoons fought with the élan of the best regiments of Horse. I had to pile in two more regiments of Horse before the enemy Dragoons were finally forced to retire.
By this time the English, Scottish, Dutch and Danish foot had deployed to close the defile, ending our slim chance of a rapid cavalry break through. It would now be up to our foot to do the hard fighting. We had plenty of them but in such a tight space we could only deploy on a 3 battalion frontage.
We decided it best to pull our horse back to the edge of the woods on our right and use them to hammer the enemy foot in a succession of charges to wear them down enough for our foot to break through. Cavalry charging infantry frontally had no hope of breaking through but with three lines of Horse I could afford to send each one forward in turn and then let them rest and recover as the succeeding lines took their turns to charge while the enemy had no such respite.
Meanwhile our dragoons dismounted and began to winkle their way through the woods on our right. Doing their best to avoid a battalion of Scots, they pushed on. But as soon as they were out of sight of their commanders they lost their enthusiasm for the task and milled about in the woods for the rest of the game and did very little other than to make their presence known.
Our initial assessment had been that we would have no chance of breaking through the centre once the allied foot had deployed and that our only hope was for either the Irish on our left or the dragoons on our right to break through the woods. As it turned out the opposite was true.
Surprised by the Irish Brigade and worried about the Dragoons, the allies drew off their third line to hold the edges of the flanking woods. Their centre battalions took hard pounding from repeated cavalry charges on their left and close range fire from a battery of light guns on their right. Although they successfully repulsed the first attempts of our foot to close they were being gradually worn down.
When our second line of foot passed through the first the allies began to waver. A Dutch battalion was routed, an English battalion was forced to retire and as new French battalions closed in on them the enemy morale began to waver. At this point La Motte, the French Commander, took personal charge of a regiment of horse and led them forward in a gallant charge, supported by foot. This charge broke through on the enemy left while two battalions of French foot shot apart the Danish guards on the right.
The cumulative effect of several battalions routing or retiring at the same time broke the morale of the other units in the allied centre and the day was ours. We had broken a hole in the enemy line and we had several regiments of horse waiting to exploit it. The vital supply column would never reach Lille!