Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Over the Hills (Play-test) - Rolica, 17th August 1808


British involvement in the Peninsular War may be said to have started on the 14th June 1808 when Sir Arthur Wellesley was appointed to command the British expeditionary force to Portugal of 9,500 men. 

His instructions from Lord Castlereagh, the Minister of War, were to support Portugal and Spain in “throwing off the yoke of France, and the final and absolute evacuation of the Peninsula by the troops of France.”

He discussed his task with an old friend, John Coker, and when asked his thoughts on the mission he said.

"Why, to say the truth, I am thinking of the French that I am going to fight. I have not seen them
since the campaign in Flanders, when they were capital soldiers, and a dozen years under Bonaparte must have made them better still..... My die is cast; they may overwhelm me, but I don't think they will out-manoeuvre me. First, because I am not afraid of them, as everybody else seems to be; and secondly because if what I hear of their system of manoeuvre is true, I think it is a false one against steady troops. I suspect all the continental armies were more than half-beaten before the battle was begun. I, at least, will not be frightened before-hand."

The confidence in his and his army's ability to overcome based on his appreciation of French tactics appear prophetic now with the benefit of hindsight; and display a sharp intellect that had led to the young Lieutenant General Wellesley established as a senior military advisor to the British government and now about to begin his association with the Anglo-Portuguese Peninsular Army.

The expeditionary force sailed from Cork on the 13th July, with Wellesley going ahead in the fast frigate Crocodile. They landed unopposed on 1st August at Figuiera de Foz at the mouth of the Mondego River, 80 miles north of Lisbon, and on the 5th, Wellesley’s 9,500 men were joined by an additional 5,000 men from Cadiz under Major General Sir Brent Spencer.

Wellesley's three columns of British infantry approach Delaborde's hill-top position close to the village of Rolica

Once ashore, Wellesley divided his force into six small brigades, each with three guns; he was very short of horses, having only enough to mount two-hundred and forty of his three-hundred and ninety light dragoons and to pull three of his five batteries of guns. But he immediately started to build up his supply system, which would give him a marked advantage over the French.

On 10th August he moved off south towards Lisbon, following the coast road, so that he remained in close touch with the Royal Navy. About this time he received news that his force was to be increased by a further 4,000 men, but as a result, command would have to go to someone more senior. The 39 year old Wellesley would therefore be superseded not only by General Sir Hew Dalrymple, but also beneath him by Lieutenant General Sir Harry Burrard.

When the French commander, General Jean-Andoche Junot, heard of Wellesley’s landing, he sent his ablest commander, General Henri François Delaborde, to delay him until reinforcements could arrive from Abrantes.

On 15th August the first encounter of the Peninsular War for the British Army occurred when there was a brief skirmish at Alcobaca. On the 16th Wellesley occupied Obidos, and the next morning he observed that Delaborde had taken up a defensive position just north of the village of Roliça, some four miles beyond Obidos.


Knowing that he out-numbered the French, but that reinforcements for them were only half a day’s march away, he decided to attack without delay. He divided his force into three columns and tried to outflank the French; but Delaborde saw through the manoeuvre and skilfully withdrew to a much stronger position on a steep ridge a mile south of Roliça.

Wellesley repeated his pincer movement, but the plan went wrong when one battalion attacked the enemy centre prematurely, and he was forced to launch a full attack to support them. The French were finally overrun, and by 16.00 were in full retreat southwards having lost 600 men and 3 guns against 479 British casualties.

Roliça was not a major battle, but it was significant simply because it was a victory.

General Hills column of the 1/5th, 1/9th and 1/38th Foot

The interesting aspect of this particular engagement is in the fighting of what was a common mission in the Peninsular War and wider Napoleonic conflict when a much smaller force was required to conduct a delaying action by forcing a much stronger foe to manoeuvre it out of its position and have to deploy off the march into its fighting formations to do so.

The two battalions of the 70me Ligne supported by the 8 lbr battery of foot guns 

General Delaborde was a highly efficient and experienced commander, so much so that Wellesley's earlier attempts to cause him to withdraw by parading the size of the British army had no effects other than to cause the British commander to close on his enemy to force the situation.

Wellesley oversees the sighting of his guns separating the columns of Generals Nightingale and Fane

Delaborde's skill was in judging precisely the right time to issue orders to his smaller command to revert from a holding stance to an immediate withdrawal; looking to keep just ahead of the advancing British columns and, by turning to face occasionally, cause them to deploy into line or face damaging defensive fire on their march formation whist enduring harassing skirmish and artillery fire.

General Delaborde's view from Rolica Hill with the two battalions of Legere and the 4me Suisse to his right

Wellesley's skill was to cover the ground as quickly as possible with the minimum of casualties by using his columns to pin and turn any French rearguard as the advance pressed and sought to take advantage of any French confusion.


The design of this game required to look at the timings involved to allow the simulation to progress at a similar rate.

This meant looking at creating likely terrain bottle-necks that might delay the Anglo-Portuguese columns whilst also allowing the French to pull back and prepare another holding position as other parts of their force fell back to occupy similar positions.

Two squadrons of the 26me Chasseur a Cheval covering the French left

To work out a scenario time limit required us playing this advance to see if Delaborde could with careful use of his small force delay the allied advance to the two hours it took them to move up to the ridge line, covering ground that could be moved over unopposed in little over an hour and a half.

The forward French position with the stronger second ridge-line position closest to camera

My picture of the ridge-line at Rolica during a visit to the battlefield back in the nineties

With that in mind, the battle for the ridge that would inevitably occur was a much secondary concern as, being familiar with OTH and its combat mechanisms, the success of a French holding action on the ridge would be determined by how well they had performed the first part of their mission by reducing as much as possible the time allowed for any allied attack on their line whilst minimising their own casualties.

The British columns began their advance on Rolica at about 12.00 on the 17th August 1808

As the French commander my mission didn't start particularly well as my opening shots from my skirmish screen and gun line all missed but to make things worse my guns used up their ammunition in the attempt.

The French open fire on the British advance with little effect

Having toyed with the idea of contesting Rolica for a further turn to delay Fane's rifle brigade having already seen Nightingale's centre brigade waste time by deploying into line, I now decided I needed to put more space between my troops and the allies to allow my guns to replenish and hope to find another delaying point.

Simply looking to delay the British without becoming enveloped and destroyed, the French begin their withdrawal

The French about turned and thread their way down the back slopes of Rolica Hill accompanied by their flanking forces taking a few skirmish hits as they withdrew, but managing this time to return the compliment.

Rolica village is abandoned without a struggle

As the French commander I wasn't quite sure I was right to have pulled back as soon as I did, but with my orders given and my troops on the move had to think about things as they were not how they might have been.

The first elements of the French force enter the second position at about 13.30

It was then that an opportunity presented itself as Fane's riflemen chose to march through the broken terrain in and around Rolica in company column causing their approach to slow and allow my Legere battalions to extend the gap between them and their pursuers.

Every now and then as the British troops became entangled in the various obstacles likely to impede their progress the French would turn to face and cause casualties

Not needing a second invitation, the 3/2me Legere formed line on the road junction south of Rolica and prepared to contest the the allied advance covered by a strong skirmish screen and the deployed foot guns.

Skirmishing and harassing artillery fire characterised the French withdrawal

This manoeuvre felt quite nerve racking as I observed the multiple columns of British infantry threading their way forward down the rear slope of Rolica Hill.

However I felt slightly more assured as I started to move other French troops into the narrow defiles at the foot of the ridge and if we could delay the allies for another turn and get the Legere out we would be tracking Delaborde's performance.

The 70me Ligne firmly in position by 14.00 ready to contest any further British advance via the narrow defiles on the ridge

The next part of the French move went quite well and the combined fire of the guns and skirmishers were able to get several hits on the allied columns although my Legere in line missed, but had at least caused the troops to their front to waste more time deploying to meet them.

The 3/2me and 3/4me Legere supported by the 4me Suisse cover the other defile as the artillery looks to get in position to support

To get the most out of this scenario you really need to play the order issuing mechanisms which only add to the uncertainty of things going horribly wrong when everything seems to be going great. However I can't say it does much for ones blood pressure or stress levels checking everyone is in command and then to see if your couriers have arrived and the orders successfully transmitted.

The 26me Chass a Cheval cover another likely access point on the flank of The French position

So it was for me as having caused another delay in the allied advance and now needing to get all of my force onto and into the ridge line defence position I noticed one of my battalions was now out of command!

Fortunately it was not disastrous as it could have been as it was the 2/70me Ligne who were the furthest way from any potential British threat.

General Hill's column deploys ready to attack supported by the 20th Light Dragoons

The next moment of French stress came with the need to issue orders from Delaborde to his brigade commander Brennier to revert to hold orders otherwise the French infantry would end up marching off the table without any attempt at delaying the allies in such a strong position.

I rolled the dice getting a '4', indicating the orders would be received but with a one turn delay just about allowing my force to get into position and prepare to receive the allied attack.

As Wellesley's other two spearhead columns move in, Crawford'd brigade remains in reserve alongside the British guns atop the rear of Rolica Hill firing in support of the attack.

As with the actual engagement the British columns arrived at the foot of the ridge at 14.00 in readiness to begin the second phase of this little battle.

Fane's Rifle brigade supported by the 1/45th Foot deploy in readiness to attack the left most defile while Nightingale's column closes on the centre.

We didn't fight the final stage of the scenario as the concept of the set up was proven and the last moves of battle would be determined on how well the respective troops came out in the combat within the narrow defiles, with the allied troops well placed to stretch the French defences with attacks along most of the access routes.

The French had suffered on their withdrawal but looked in relatively good shape to make a fight of the last few turns to the scenario end and have a chance of bettering Delaborde's result.

The British attack about to commence at 14.00

As with other play-tests in this series, the playing is always the proof of concept and both Steve and I found this a challenging test of command and, for the British, particularly frustrating, as they attempted to come to grips with their slippery opponents. I could almost detect the eagerness of the allied columns to finally come to grips with the French line at the close.

Next up Market Garden battle sites from our trip to Holland this summer and the combat at Ventosa Farm, the next scenario in this series of OTH play-tests.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Dutch Wildlife - Holland 2017


This summer in Holland we found ourselves using the standard mode of transport for the country a lot, namely the bike, which was great because Carolyn and I are keen cyclists.

In the two weeks of our holiday we reckon we must have cycled about 200 kilometres or about 124 miles in real money.

The beauty of travelling on a bike is you really get a chance to take in the beauty of the countryside and the natural fauna and wildlife with a bike allowing you to get close enough without them knowing you are there.

The Hare pictured here was one such case as we cycled out to Boxtel following the course of the River Dommel and immediately spotted those rather obvious ears and then the legs that so differentiate this creature from its cousin the common rabbit.


We don't get to see many hares in Devon so this was a real treat watching this chap enjoying his day on the banks of the Dommel.



One thing we do have a lot of in Devon is the Heron and I never tire of watching these birds concentrating on catching fish and frogs.


That spear like beak is perfect for the job of securing any slippery likely food and when they strike it is with lightning fast speed.


Another common waterway bird here and at home is the Great Crested Grebe often seen patrolling waterways with a keen eye on anything moving in the water.

Like the heron that dagger like beak indicates the Grebe is a fish catcher and will often be seen upending to dive below the surface in pursuit of its prey.



The chap pictured below was a bit of a surprise on our visit to Den Bosche and is definitely not part of the local wildlife, if certainly wild.


I would guess this is a particularly orange variety of Canary now out from his previous home and very tame as the proximity of these pictures might indicate.


And finally, one creature I was very wary of getting too close to were these Hornets seen on a cycle ride out to the Son Bridge.

The butterfly on the tree gives a good idea of scale and that these chaps are a very big wasp indeed and definitely not to be annoyed in any way.


My eye was attracted when one of these chaps flew past my left shoulder whilst cycling, looking like a yellow tracer round as its yellow bullet shaped body passed close by.

It soon landed among a mass of other large yellow movement which became clearer as we got close to the tree whose sap was obviously the main attraction



The hornet is a fearsome creature when seen close up and more so when he has a lot of his mates with him.


Next up, more Over the Hills playtests this time covering the 1808 period and more from Holland 2017 looking at the other Market Garden battle sites close to where we were staying.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Second Barons War - Simon De Montfort & the Battles of Lewes & Evesham By John Sadler


I bought this book along with some others as part of a special deal Pen & Sword were running recently because it’s a period that isn’t much written about outside of the odd magazine article.

Having visited Lewes during my Great Southern Tour a few years back travelling along the South Coast of England supposedly looking at all the Roman Saxon Shore Forts and Henry VIII’s later versions, I already had an interest in the subject. I remember staring out at yet more empty fields wondering if I was looking at the correct empty fields where the battle had taken place without realising that as normal there is some doubt over what happened where.

The book itself is not that long and although covering both battles and some of the history that goes with the war the author has padded it out a bit.

Chapter one is called Background of Arms and Men and explains what medieval warfare was like in this period together with descriptions of the armour, weapons and sieges; some of it is interesting but it doesn't warrant twenty-six pages.

Chapter 2: The reign of Henry III. Only thirteen pages long and covers Henry's father King John and the reasons why the barons where unhappy with current events, I would have liked to have seen more in this section.


Chapters 3 and 4 cover the battle of Lewes, twenty-eight pages: here the author is on better form and does a good job describing the build up, forces concerned, pre-battle negotiations and then the battle itself. The possible battlefield options are discussed in this chapter and his conclusions are well thought through.


Chapters 5 and 6 Evesham: forty-one pages; again a good section covering both the campaign and the battle itself, there is conjecture on the dispositions and marching routes taken which the author addresses, his reasoning and conclusions are again very sound. This section also covers the attack on Simon’s son in Kenilworth.


Chapter 7 Legacy: an eight page chapter which rounds up events after Evesham.

Appendix 1: Alternative Evesham: Another very short chapter discussing the popular alternatives to what happened and the author’s opinion on them.

Appendix 2 The Battlefield Trail: 6 pages with OS numbers and what to look out for, not really of much use.



Appendix 3: Wargaming the Battles, four paragraphs: nice to see but totally useless. The book ends with a Glossary of terms including things such as Broadsword, Helm and Bolt.

Chapter Notes with some extra material included, I enjoy these types of notes rather than just the normal document references. which lets be honest I will never use but I do like extra information that expands on topics.

Index.

That is probably the shortest review I have done and I padded out the start.

It’s a mixed bag, the battles themselves are well done but there isn't really that much that the author can use to expand on, his best section is when he goes over the campaigns and his diagnosis of possible events which is very good. He first explains all the options, then gives the two main views held and explains his reason for why he chose what he did.

Outside of that the rest isn't that interesting, there are current day location photos and the sketch maps are OK.

As I said I bought this book as part of a deal and I paid around £15 for it, a week later it was on special offer for £8. If it’s still at £8 then its worth getting as there is not a lot else out there which covers this period. If Medieval Warfare ever does an issue on the Second Barons war then that might be a better idea.

Also I haven’t yet bought the new Osprey Campaign (£14.99) which covers these two battles so cannot give you a comparison. (I see Amazon have it in stock for £10.03)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lewes-Evesham-1264-65-Montfort-Campaign/dp/147281150X

Death of De Montfort

Finally for the thousands of you out there wondering, Simon De Montfort was the younger son of Simon De Montfort of the Albigensian crusades fame for which an award winning review of a book covering his interesting life is available elsewhere on this blog.(Well I thought it was good)

JJ Note: Yes so did I and here is the link.
http://jjwargames.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/kill-them-all-cathars-and-carnage-in.html

Hardback and Kindle
Readable pages 143 out of 160
RRP of £19.99 ,
Best price 30th Nov 2017 = £8.00+p&p Pen & Sword

This has been a Mr Steve presentation

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Over the Hills (Play-test) - Dawn Attack, Talavera


One of the great pleasures of historical wargaming and playing with the actual set ups, recreating some of the issues that were presented to the chaps doing it for real, is the insights it gives, that you can't always imagine from simply reading a description from the book.

One of the key sources used to put these series of Talavera games together has been Andrew W. Field's book Talavera, published in 2006 by Pen & Sword.

View of the end of the British line facing out into the northern valley - the range stick and dice towers indicate the area of the battle for this scenario, 'Dawn Attack'.

In his book, Field describes the events preceding the French attack at dawn on the 28th July and the deployments of the respective forces.

He explains that after a very unpleasant night spent by both sides following the alarms and excursions of the French night attack on the Cerro de Medellin the British troops were awakened well before day-break, in preparation for any French dawn attack; this following several French deserters coming across the line offering reports of such a plan.

The view of our table set up shows the two lines arrangements as the early light of day showed the scene to both sides and from a wargamers perspective the immediate aspects that start alarm bells, particularly if you are British is the proximity of the French lines to the forward brigades of the four battalions of Kings German Legion and the wide open space of the northern valley with the weight of Wellesley's position centred squarely behind General Sherbrooke's front line 1st Division.

The French forces of Ruffin, Lapisse and Latour-Maubourg ready themselves for the attack

Field's book has a liberal amount of maps illustrating the situation at dawn on the 28th July and even then with those and the text describing this set up, it only really strikes one on the issues this set up creates when you see it like this.

The British position is very unbalanced with the cavalry brigades covering the centre but the Medellin looking rather exposed

The description of the situation the British faced that morning continues:
"Of particular concern to the British must have been the number of guns that faced them, given the meagre means at their own disposal. This powerful artillery was well placed in a seemingly endless line across the front of their position that was not covered by olive groves. With a distance between the two protagonists of 600 to 800 yards (Nicol claims it was only 200 yards), they were well within their maximum range and the lack of cover for the British soldiers did not bode well."


Those KGL battalions just across the stream and staring down the barrels of multiple French cannon.

For those that are familiar with the French attack at dawn the whole affair seems like an exercise in arrogant disregard for the capabilities of the British soldier when Victor seemingly sent the nine battalions of Ruffin's division, already badly fatigued from the previous night's failed attempt to take the Medellin, in against General Hill's troops firmly ensconced on their hill top redoubt.

The subsequent battering of the French columns by the British infantry lines and their rapid retreat back from where they came seems to herald every other French attack on future Wellingtonian hill features from then on, and can put the Peninsular student off trying to model the situation with seemingly little learning to offer.

The Medellin defence is nowhere nearly as well formed as it would be in the afternoon.

That might be the case, however this dawn set up is not what you would expect from the future Duke and one can only surmise that the confusion and consternation caused among British ranks during the night left little time for redressing the lines prior to the French attack the next morning.

However we decided to look at the plan that Victor actually devised and not the attack that was actually delivered.

It would seem, according to Field, that Joseph and Jourdan were not convinced that an attack the next day was entirely necessary as they were of a mind that the potential of Soult coming down from the north would force the Anglo-Spanish to withdraw or face encirclement and thus avoid the need for a battle at all.

Six of Ruffin's nine battalion division lined up behind the forty gun grand battery
Field goes on to explain:
"After his check the night before, Victor had sent his chief of staff, General Chataux, to report what had happened to the King and to inform him that he planned to renew the attack the next morning if he did not receive orders to the contrary. General Chataux takes up the story: 'I arrived at midnight close to the King to give him an account of the situation of I Corps and to take his orders. I was given nothing.'"


The weight of the defence is in the centre with three British cavalry brigades
The description of the French planning continues:
"At first light Joseph and his headquarters were still not on the battlefield. Once again Victor sent General Chataux back to him, this time to explain his plan to renew the attack and to request that Sebastiani and the Reserves support him...... instead of countering Victor's plans, Joseph decided to endorse the attack but to exert a certain measure of control and authority over his difficult subordinate by refusing to commit any other troops than the I corps until there was evidence of any success."


With the KGL forward Hill's division has no reserve

With the King's somewhat less than fulsome endorsement of his plans, Victor then opted for the tactic of Alexander the Great, namely to attack the strongest part of the enemy line knowing that that is where your enemy most fears an attack.

There would be no attempt at manoeuvring his enemy out of position by feeling out the open northern valley with a strong flanking manoeuvre, no this would be an "unsophisticated frontal assault".


Donkin's brigade, part of 3rd Division (second line extreme right) would be pulled up on the Medellin in the afternoon but here seen supporting Langwerth's KGL forward of the road.

Field describes Victor's plan thus:
"....to launch a diversionary attack with Lapisses's division supported by Latour Maubourg's cavalry, on the lower southern slopes of the Medellin, while Ruffin delivered the main attack on the heights. Villatte's division would be in reserve. Ruffin deployed his men with the 24me Ligne on the left, so that they faced Tilson's brigade, and the 9me Legere on the right opposite Stewart's. The 96me Ligne remained in reserve. In this encounter the French would have an advantage in numbers of 1,000: 4,900 Frenchmen against 3,700 British."


Latour Maubourg's Dragoons bring up the rear of Lapisse's Division
The accounts of the actual attack make it clear that following a forty-five minute barrage* (*Oman) the columns of Ruffin's division advanced briskly to press their attack.

Field takes up the account of the activities of Lapisse:
"Meanwhile just to the south of this attack, it quickly became apparent to Sherbrooke that his front, though covered by the division of Lapisse, was not in danger of attack. He therefore ordered his 5th KGL to pivot to the left and take the columns of the 96me Ligne in the flank. Had Lapisse advanced in echelon in support of the attack as we have heard was Victor's plan, Sherbrooke could not have dared do this, but now was the folly of Victor's unsupported attack  fully exposed, as the 5th KGL  opened fire on the vulnerable and already shaky flank of the 96eme. Not even the French accounts offer an explanation for Lapisse's inactivity and apparent ignoring of orders."


Lapisse's twelve battalion division were part of Victor's original plan of attack
So there we have the preamble to what proved a very interesting game to test out Victor's actual plan of attack that started with the firing of a signal gun at 5am, that heralded the three turn (forty-five minute) barrage.

The orders for the French were as envisaged, with Ruffin's division on 'Attack' orders to commence after the barrage.
General Lapisse supported by Latour Maubourg was then to move forward in echelon to Ruffin on 'Advance' orders which could be changed to attack once the first units of Ruffin's division had engaged in close combat, this in deference to King Joseph's demand to see some initial results before the committing of further troops to the attack.

The signal gun fired at 5am heralding a forty-five minute battering from Victor's massed guns
The first thing that set the character of this game was the punishing French artillery that hit the British line for the first three turns.

After fifteen minutes, Wellesley ordered the forward units to lie down (the round discs), whilst the RA guns returned the fire

We had the British and KGL on "stand to arms" as described in the accounts and that it was only after Wellesley had seen the French artillery starting to affect his forward lines that he issued the order to lie down, and thus our units only lay down on the second turn of the French fire.

Suddenly Ruffin's division were on the forward slopes of the Medellin


In addition we created the surprise effect of the French gunnery by not allowing the British to respond until the turn following the first French barrage.

Lapisse demonstrates towards Sherwood's KGL and Donkin's brigade 

As the British commander, my fears about the forward position of the KGL brigades, only two battalions strong, proved only to right as Low's brigade was rapidly reduced to half its initial Fatigue rating and Langwerth's by about a third, dramatically reducing their chances of standing up to the French voltigeur screens as the attack was pressed.

With Low's KGL battalions forced to  withdraw after the battering from the French guns, Heyse's KGL battery are caught by the 24me Ligne before they can limber and are cut down on the forward slope

If that were not bad enough, the French shot was ploughing on through my forward lines and causing multiple casualties in the rear units.

With pressure building on the Medellin, Fane's Heavy brigade of cavalry move up to support the hard pressed infantry

I had a modicum of revenge by firing, for the first time in any of our play-tests, British shrapnel rounds that caused multiple casualties to the oncoming columns.

Hill and Wellesley halt the battered KGL brigade of Baron Low, intact but out of the fight.

With this enhanced dawn attack it was obvious that the British position needed to be rebalanced towards the left and so General Payne was quickly ordering his squadrons out of the olive groves and out towards the Medellin.

The 16me Legere, part of Lapisse's division threaten the British right-centre

It seemed that in no time the columns of Ruffin's division were on the forward slopes of the Medellin and pressing the forward battalions of light troops and the flanks of Low's KGL.


This proved too much for the battered Germans and after a few rounds of skirmishing the brigade broke and fell back through the British line in full retreat.

The moment of decision as Ruffin's 9me Legere are met by Stuart's brigade as the 1st Battalion of Detachments takes fire from French horse guns on the lower slope

The rearwards move of the KGL battalions unhinged the forward British defence and exposed Heyse's KGL guns to an attack from a column of the 24me Ligne before it could limber up and get away.

The rest of Ruffin's division close on the British line with the three battalions of the 24me Ligne to the left of the 9me Legere supported by the tree battalions of the 96me Ligne

As the French pressed closer and with KGL troops destroyed or in retreat the British troops under General Stewart could only look over their shoulder for the support of the British cavalry but they were still two moves away having laboured to get clear of the olive groves.

The 1/48th and 2/48th Foot step forward to confront the 24me Ligne, with French dragoons hovering on any breakthrough

Well as any British commander knows, when it comes down to it you have to put your faith in the reliable British redcoat to pull the "proverbials" out of the fire and so the three battalions of Stewart's brigade stepped forward to contest the advance of the 9me Legere and 24me Ligne.

The infantry battle under way, Retteburg's battery is withdrawn to the rear along with the KGL infantry 

Just when it couldn't get worse it got worse. The 1st Battalion of Detachments took a combined total of four hits from French horse guns and the two columns bearing down on it.

The British heavy cavalry were pulling out the stops to get into position

This was unfortunate as their firing was very good but the effect of the four hits reduced what could have been punishing volley fire into something the French columns could manage.

The two battalions of the 48th Foot present arms

Oh well lets see if the veteran fresh 29th and 1/48th Foot can make up for the disappointment, but sadly not, only inflicting two hits between them, my firing dice were pathetic and now the situation was getting a bit desperate.

With four fatigue hits on the 1st Detachments the writing was on the wall as the 9me Legere moves in

With nothing else to do I waved my hat, getting a cheer from Stewart's men, and in they went with the bayonet.

The 1st Detachments fought heroically driving off one of the Legere  battalions before succumbing to too many hits in three rounds of close combat with the 1/9me Legere.

The poor old Detachments fought like lions but, despite winning two rounds of combat, their previous hits caused the unit to break leaving a hole in the middle of Stewart's brigade and a battering to the brigade morale.

It wasn't all bad for Hills division, managing to drive back the 24me Ligne before the French infantry were struck by a charge from Anson's 23rd Light Dragoons here seen pulled back after cutting down the 1/24me Ligne

On the plus side, Tilson's brigade together with the 1/48th easily drove off the 24me Ligne happily seeing the 23rd Light Dragoons finish off their efforts by barrelling through their lines and cutting down the 1/24me Ligne.

The aftermath of Ruffin's attack on the left of picture with the battered 9me Legere atop the Medellin alongside the equally battered battalions of Stuart's brigade. The rest of Ruffin's battalions have been driven back, but at high cost

With the first attack having gone in from Ruffin's troops and now with Lapisse's division successfully changed to attack orders I conceded the game.

With General Stuart forced to prepare to withdraw his brigade only Fane's heavy cavalry can hope to cover his movement

The wash-up session revealed the battered state Wellesley's army was in with both KGL brigades and Stewart's brigade almost or definitely out of the fight.

With Ruffin's first attack stopped, Lapisse's division moves from advance to attack orders and the situation just got a lot worse for Wellesley's troops.

Even with Payne's cavalry now up on the Medellin and threatening a counter-attack on the 9me Legere, there was no British infantry to support them and they would be forced back by ever more French infantry and with Latour Maubourg's Dragoons and Beaumont's light cavalry coming up, the British were only going to be fighting a rearguard action as they were levered off their key position.

The Force-morale cards tell the story of how battered the British brigades were after the first French attack and in no state to contest another

British army morale now into double figures

Some of the French brigades, equally battered, but with more in reserve

The French army morale ahead on points to the British
This scenario offers lots of options, either to fight the battle as it happened or as it was planned, 
with a distinct contrast between the British defence in this and the later afternoon attack where Wellesley had had time to address the weaknesses that are all to apparent here.

If you fight both in close succession you get an immediate impression of Wellesley's developing skill at organising a defence that would only get better with time and experience.

As always OTH produced a thrilling game with lots of drama and worked well with multiple brigades on the table.

I write this AAR with a tinge of sadness as after this game the Talavera table is done and consigned to the history of JJ's Wargames. The next round of OTH play tests will be looking at earlier Anglo-French encounters in the Peninsular War and the table will be realigned accordingly.

I hope you have enjoyed all the Talavera encounters we have played and reported on as much as we have had playing them and I look forward to bringing you reports of new games as we approach a new year.