Tuesday 29 May 2018

Hompesch Mounted Rifles and the 90th Foot

The Hompesch Mounted Rifles are another of the émigré units serving with the British in Egypt, and the only such cavalry unit. Raised in 1798 by Baron Charles de Hompesch-Bolheim, a Prussian in British service, chiefly from German, Austrian and French nationals  the regiment served in Ireland, Ferrol and  Cadiz before sailing to Egypt. The unique shako gives them the honour of being the wearer of headwear type 16 in this army.

Also completed in time for last Sunday's game is the 90th (Perthshire Volunteers) Foot, a light regiment raised in Scotland in 1794. Its light infantry status is the reason for its use of the Tarleton helmet – that differs from the cavalry version of the helmet in that it is smaller thus justifies the claim to the millinery style type 17. Before its exploits in Egypt the regiment served in the Quiberon Expedition and later supported the French Royalist General de Charette with this battles against the Republicans (that followers of Hornblower will recognise this as the episode “Frogs and Lobsters” in the television series or the chapter by the same title in the book "Mr Midshipman Hornblower"), before participating in the capture of Minorca.  

Another interesting snippet related to this regiment that my friend Keith pointed out in a comment a few days back is that its founder, Thomas Graham, had a deeply personal reason to detest the Revolutionary forces of France. Although somewhat sympathetic to their ideals at first, when his wife died in France and was being repatriated to Britain, a group of Revolutionary soldiers opened the coffin and disturbed the body, changing his view of the Republican cause. His military career became his means for revenge against the actions of those men.

Sunday 27 May 2018

Egypt Game – the Battle of Al Flat-ula

Today marked the culmination of several month’s work on the French and British in Egypt projects as the two armies met on the tabletop. The scenario was a pretty simple one, the background of which is:


On 1 July 1798 Bonaparte led an invasion force to Egypt, landing at Marabout, west of the city of Alexandria. Two days later the French captured the city. They then occupied Rosetta on 8 July and advanced on Cairo, taking that city on 22 July. Bonaparte then undertook an unsuccessful expedition to Syria returning to Egypt in the middle of 1799. Bonaparte left Egypt in August of that year, leaving Kléber in command, but when Kléber was assassinated command passed to Menou.


The British, fearing that a French presence in Egypt might undermine their influence in India sought to oust the French and in March 1801 a British expeditionary force under Sir Ralph Abercromby landed at Abukir Bay. Two sharp British victories followed and the French defenders retired on Alexandria. Abercromby left a force to besiege the city while he, with the main force, moved on Cairo.


The plan was to move to Rosetta on the Nile and follow the river up to Cairo, but when a French force was reported to be moving directly on Alexandria, the army diverted to meet them.


The march across the desert was difficult and, since both armies lacked suitable equipment to transport water, the various oases enroute became critical.


On April 14 both armies approached the oasis at Al Flat-ula.


Note that in the text above, the italic texts indicates where the alternative history that is our fictious battle starts.


The Terrain

Both sides marched on the table from diagonally opposite ends of the table: French bottom right, British top left.


The lead elements were 600mm on the table, in column of march.


The object of the game of to control the oasis at the end of the game.

The British forces (in order of march):


11th Light Dragoons (1 stand mounted) – detached from cavalry brigade

Stuart’s Brigade

Major General John Stuart

  Watteville’s Regiment

  De Roll’s Regiment

  13th Foot

  90th Foot

  1 6lb gun (attached)


Major General Ralph Abercromby (CinC)

  11th Light Dragoons (2 stands dismounted)

  12th Light Dragoons (2 stands dismounted)

  1 12lb gun (attached)

  1st Marines

  2nd Marines

Cavalry Brigade

Brigadier General Finch

  8th Light Dragoons (2 stands)

  12th Light Dragoons (1 stand mounted)

   Hompesch Hussars

The Guards Brigade

Major General Ludlow

  1/Coldstream Guards

  1/3rd Foot Guards

  1 6lb gun (attached)

Moore’s Brigade

Sir John Moore

  23rd Foot

  28th Foot

  42nd Foot

  58th Foot

  Corsican Rangers (Rifle Armed)

  1 12lb gun (attached)


Note: Unattached troops could count as being in command if within 300mm of the Abercrombie, otherwise counted no general commanding.

The French Forces (in order of march)

Cavalry Brigade

General de Brigade Murat

  3rd Dragoons

  7th Hussars

  22nd Chasseurs a cheval

  1 horse battery

4th Division

General de Division Friant


General de Brigade Robin

  85th Demi Brigade de Ligne (3 battalions)

  88th Demi Brigade de Ligne (3 battalions

  1 light artillery battery


General de Division Menou (CinC)

  Dromedary mounted infantry (note cannot fight mounted)

  3 field batteries


General de Brigade Baudot

  Combined (22nd and 4th) Demi Brigade Léger (3 battalions)

  75th Demi Brigade de Ligne (3 battalions)

  1 light artillery battery


Note: Unattached troops could count as being in command if within 300mm of the Menou, otherwise counted no general commanding


Rule Differences for this game


Unit Sizes

• All units are three stands strong, unless stated otherwise in the orders of battle.


• There is no road movement

• All hills and slopes are classed as rough terrain

• Without horses the British artillery are being drawn by hand so must move at the same rate as infantry in line


•  The French light batteries were small (sometimes only two guns) so will always re-roll hits.

Since the action will take place in desert terrain the effect of sand on round shot bounce for field and heavy batteries is deemed to limit artillery effect (there is absolutely no scientific evidence for this, it just seems reasonable):

• ALL targets beyond 700mm will re-roll hits

• ALL roundshot when firing too or from higher ground

And so the game...

In the distance the British column, with Stuart's Brigade leading, can be seen approaching Al Flat-ula.


The French cavalry approach from the diagonally opposite direction.

As the main British column arrived, Stuart made for the ground between the village and the oasis, while the marines and dismounted dragoons moved to occupy the village. The cavalry and the Guards moved to the right with Moore's brigade in the centre, with the Corsican Rangers  holding the estreme right.

The French cavalry rode quickly forward to take position close to the oasis. Robin's brigade is taking the high ground on the French right, while Baudot's Brigade moved form on the French left.

The British cavalry take position in the centre, but become a target for the French horse artillery and suffer badly.

The Brirish lines formed, although the artillery lagged far behind.

Meanwhile the Dromedary troops took possession of oasis with the cavalry and artillery in support.

The British strengthened their lines.

And the marines and dismounted light dragoons took position in the village, facing Robin's imposing lines, while Baudot formed a seemingly unstoppable mass on the French left (on the right below).

In the hope of driving off Baudot, the Guards, the 58th Regiment and the Corsicans attacked (their advance can be seen at the top of the image below).

Baudot's Légére demi brigade drove back the Corsicans and 3rd Foot Guards, but failed to break them, while the 75th Demi-brigade de Bataille (below) routed the Coldstreams and the 58th and then broke through onto the 28th foot and a 12lb battery, breaking them too.

The 75th Demi Brigade attempted to press forward against the British artillery, but they took fire from the Black Watch and the Coldstreams, that had halted their rout. 

The 75th were repelled and when the Black Watch charged they dispersed.

The rest of Baudot's brigade drove back the 3rd Foot Guards and the Corsicans, but took such heavy losses that their brigade morale failed and they too dispersed.

The French cavalry prepared to invervene.

The 3rd Dragoons charged and came within a whisker of breaking the 28th Line, but were driven back.

Meanwhile in front of the village the dismounted light dragoons and the marines were attacked by the 88th Demi-brigade. After an extended fire fight the British got the better of the action and the French were driven off.

In a final desperate attack the 83rd Demi-brigade attacked between the village and the oasis, in the upper ground below, while the 7th Hussars prepared to attack the Black Watch.

Despite having the advantage in their favour, the 88th was repulsed.

And eventually broken by the marines advancing from the village. The attack of the hussars came to naught.

Both sides had suffers serious losses. Only a few units remained intact on each side. The French dromidaries, supported by the artillery still controlled the oasis, but the British held the village and had more units on hand. An honourable draw was called.

Friday 25 May 2018

Scottish Torture!

Back in October 2014 I completed the Highland Brigade for the Crimean War armies. After painting 54 kilted figures I swore never again

So why did I decide to model Moore's Brigade for the Egyptian campaign when it contained the 42nd (Black Watch) Regiment? I blame a sudden rush of blood to the head. What makes these highlanders even more of a pain for me is that they are not wearing the sporran so the actual area on which the tartan is to be paint is about double the area as in the Crimean figures.

Nonetheless they came with the last batch of figures and they are done...perhaps not as well as I would like, but as a unit they look OK. I have long ago lost the ability (and patience) required to paint the fine detail required for kilts, sock tops and bonnet bands. 

The completion of this unit accounts for headwear variant number 14 in this army.

Also completed with these are some pieces I have had sitting in the cupboard waiting for a few additional figures to come:

The 12th Light Dragoons, mounted...

...and dismounted.

And the 8th Light Dragoons with their distinctive grey coats and flowing horsehair helmets...headwear variant 15...

Sunday 20 May 2018

War of 1812 Blockhouse

Half a dozen posts ago I showed a couple of images of the blockhouse component of a blockhouse and stockade model that will be used to guard a bridge in an upcoming War of 1812 game. Here is the story of the construction of the blockhouse and stockade.
For the blockhouse part of the model I wanted a roughhewn timber structure with a small stockade to one side in which a gun can be mounted on a rammed earth rampart. 

The lower level of the blockhouse was set at 60mm square and the upper level at 80 mm. These dimensions are important because I only want four stands to be able to fire from any one face of the building and since the stands size we use has a 30mm frontage it only allows for two from the lower level and two above.
The first step was to cut the basic shapes from cardboard  and glue them together.

Next was put the roughhewn or split timber on the face. For this I chose to use balsa, but not milled balsa. I had a 50mm x 50mm block left over from an earlier project, so using a straight edge and a sharp blade I cut strips from the block about 2mm thick. Because all of this was hand cut it had the advantage of creating a variable thickness for the strips, enhancing that roughhewn appearance I notched each piece to appear as though the whole structure was notch assembled.

The roof was made from thin card cut to appear like cedar shingles. I then painted it black, drybrushed a base coat of brown and then dybrushed three coats of ever lightening tan over that, finishing with a vey light dusting of white. A black wash over the shingles and a few water stains on the timberwork finished the job.

For the stockade I wanted to make something a bit different. I wanted the gun ramp to look as though it had been added hurriedly, so part of the stockade was made from rough hewn timber, layed horizontally, while the rest was to be made in the traditional form of vertical sharpened logs, which I built using twigs from the garden. I deliberately cut some long lengths with variable thicknesses and allowed them to dry out in the garage for a couple of weeks, before sharpening the ends. These cut "logs" were then set in an epoxy putty base. The gun ramp was built from a piece of foamcore board onto which I glued some matchsticks and then applied some artists modelling putty and sand to look like rammed earth.

I also needed a giun for the fort but I wanted something that looked as though it had been rushed into service, perhaps something that came from an earlier time and had been modernised. So I went to the big box of bits. I found the trail from a Krupp gun, some wheels from an old Hinchliffe British limber and the barrel from a French 6lb gun. I roughed up the trail a little and assembled it. I left it in wood tones. I think it looks just the part.

And the finished item.

The bridge that this structure will protect in the game is under construction and will be completed in a week or so.