This year’s battle for the annual Donald Featherstone weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre was Blenheim. This was particularly appealing, as I have had a desire to fight the battle on the wargame table for getting on for 30 years – I have painted one Anglo-German brigade so far! Also this was the battle in which I first commanded the forces of the “Grand Alliance” in 1830mm scale with live action (i.e. Historical re-enactment).
As usual we arrived on Friday afternoon to find the table ready with some forces in their pre-determined positions, like the French dragoons in Blindheim village. We had ten players who had all been present copies of the period amendments to the Black Powder rules that we would be using for the battle. The picture heading this post shows the starting positions, viewed from Blindheim towards the west.
We split into teams and prepared our deployment. I, as commander of the Franco/Bavarians, foolishly opted for the historical set-up. I took command of three French brigades in the centre. The Grand Alliance, which included one player who was a much called-upon walking encyclopedia of the rules, opted for a different set-up.
Thus, when the battle started, I found myself in the centre of the French line opposed by a Dutch brigade reinforced by General Cutts’ brigade that had historically attacked Blindheim.
During the course of the battle I suffered greatly from the Anglo-Dutch Platoon fire (which we discovered on day 2 should have only been used for the first firing), but was able to counteract this by the French “Ferocious Charge” (which we later discovered was actually supposed to be only used for cavalry)
By the end of Saturday it was declared a victory for the Grand Alliance against the Franco-Bavarians. The centre – my area – had collapsed with three broken brigades.
We reset the battlefield and changed sides.
This time my team, as Grand Alliance, decided to simply screen Blindheim on the left flank and Lutzingen on the right flank and punch a hole through the Franco-Bavarian centre.
We adjourned to spend the evening at a formal dinner in a nearby hotel. Many anecdotes were exchanged about ancient wargames figure designers. Chris Scott told us some tales about the late, great Donald Featherstone. I was invited to recant the stories of the 2004 re-enactment of Blenheim. Henry Hyde told us of how our hobby had helped him through a recent bereavement.
Henry then conducted an auction of items donated by those attending. We raised between £300 and £400 for Combat Stress, a charity for which Henry has now raised over £26,000.
On the right flank it became very sticky. One Swabian brigade which could have been very useful spent the entire battle misenterpreting its orders and marching hither and thither.
On the left flank the screening of Blindheim resulted in a repulse, and in the centre the massed cavalry attack not only failed, but got in the way of any supporting troops. My own command was interesting. The troops screening Unterglau ran away. The rest of their brigade was useless at causing enemy casualties, but took no end of punishment before breaking. The Hanoverians, rescued the English troops. To my satisfaction, the only English battalion that did not break was Orkney’s – my own re-enactment unit in another hobby.
The Irish troops holding Unterglau for the Franc0-Bavarians simply stood and took whatever was thrown at them.
After some very hard fighting it was clear that the Franco/Bavarians had held their line.
So, the result of the weekend was: Grand Alliance vs Franco-Bavarians 1-1. Team A vs Team B 2-0
At the end of the weekend Steve Thompson was declared the winner of the “most gentlemanly wargamer” award. He gets his name engraved on the glass trophy jar, free entry to next year’s game and a miniature diorama of the period to keep. Well deserved, as throughout the weekend he not only commanded his own brigades but was always available to explain the rules to all who needed help.
Next year we will probably return to the American Civil War.