Tuesday 31 May 2016

A Visit to Waterloo

So following on from our brief visit to Azincourt we headed North into Belgium for the big visit to Waterloo.

I had previously booked to stay in the 1815 Hotel - a small but comfortable 3 star hotel which sits about 200 yards from the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte. Indeed it probably sits very close to the centre of the British Lines.

 I can strongly recommend this venue as it is not only very reasonable (We paid £160 all in for two nights for a twin room including breakfast) it also boasts a fantastic restaurant which is very popular with the locals. We ate here both nights.

The Hotel 1815 (our room was called Ney) - top left window

The battlefield is spectacular and just as I imagined it. The field is dominated by the Lion Mound (a celebration of the Allied Victory) which I understand was constructed using the ridgeline defended by the Allied forces. So although some of the topography has changed the atmosphere and sense of history is all pervasive.

The Lion Mound - the building to the right holds the panorama

A quick recce of the area revealed that you could buy a day pass for 19 Euros to visit the museum, the panorama, a climb to the top of the mound plus entry to  Hougoument on the British Right flank, the farm that Napoleon slept in on the night before the battle and Wellingtons general HQ in the village of Waterloo (some 4 miles from the battlefield. All these points can be found on the N7 (the main road that traverses the battlefield) and the one that takes you into the heart of Brussels.

So the following morning we headed down to the museum and bought our day tickets. We entered the museum.

The first part focussed on the events leading up to the battle with plenty of memorabilia. It did strike me that if you didn't read the notices present or were uninitiated with the battle you might have surmised that Napoleon had won ! It really was very French !

From the first hall you moved into a corridor exhibiting the uniforms of the day...

Having passed through the museum, including a rather interesting 3d experience, you find yourself entering the rather splendid round building alongside the mound. This houses the panorama. We'll come back to this shortly.

Because from the panorama building you find your self at the bottom of a very long set of stairs to the top of the mound. This is a steep staircase !

FRom the top the views are spectacular - I am looking North in the picture below and you can see the town of Waterloo in the distance.

The Old Man decided to stay at the bottom and smoke his pipe - he seems to have met a re-enactor

This is the view south from the mound - the farm buildings in the top centre are La Belle Alliance and to the left is La Haye Sainte.

La Haye Sainte

The Hotel & Other buildings - top of British Line (centre)

Having navigated my down the steps from the mound - not that easy ! We entered the panorama building. Commissioned for the centenary (1915) this circular building housed a picture of the engagement at the height of Ney's cavalry charges in the afternoon.It was truly spectacular and I imagine a hundred years ago this would have been a lot brighter and more vivid.

I believe it was finished in 1913 before the Great War broke out.

From the Panorama we hopped in the car and drove round the back of Wellingtons ridge to Hougoumont. This has been restored over the last few years and is a fitting memorial for the men who fought here.

The view below is from the North of the Chateau looking at the Northern Gate...the one the French stormed and opened. Only for the guards to rally and close the gates. This has been captured in bronze...a fine statue

The farms as I said has been restored and I think looks too pristine. I doubt it was this clean and tidy on the eve of the battle.

The small chapel used as a nursing station during the battle.

The gate into the chateau

The Barns complete with a 4D show....

The gate from the chateau into the orchard and walled garden

If you look carefully in the above picture you will see three old trees (elm I believe) in the top right  that are virtually dead. These trees were alive and full leaf on the day of the battle. Their trunks are scarred and punctured by hundreds of musket balls.

From Hougoumont we returned to the centre of the field and headed south along the N5 for about three miles.

Eventually we arrived at Bonapartes resting place the night before the battle.

Don't you love the bayonet gates !

FRom here we drove back North up the N5 and found La Hat Sainte. Sadly this is a private residence but still bears the scars of the battle. The gatehouse reminds me so much of the old Airfix kit.

By turning around 180 degrees at this point you can see the landscape of Wellingtons left flank. The buildings in the distance are not Papelotte (i think)

Of course no trip top France can be left without a visit to a booze store. This was one of three trolleys !

This was a fantastic weekend, two iconic battle fields, a chance to spent some time with my father and some great food and wine...

where to next...??

Wednesday 25 May 2016

A Visit to Azincourt

Last weekend I had the great pleasure to take my father (another history nut, and painter but NOT wargamer) to visit the battlefields of Waterloo and Agincourt. We had planned to visit them last year but unfortunately work and domestic commitments prevented that from happening.

This was a trip I was really looking forward to and our plans were set in motion earlier this year. We booked the Eurotunnel and found a fabulous little hotel on the Waterloo battlefield to stay in for two nights. Our journey started Friday morning with a 90 mile drive down to Folkestone and following a hearty breakfast at the rail terminal we boarded the shuttle with no issues.

Forty minutes later we were in France and heading off into the Pas de Calais on the wrong side of the road. (as every Englishman knows the left hand side of the road is the right side of the road)

Thank god for Satellite Navigation ! Because an hour later we found ourselves in the small village of Azincourt and outside the battlefield museum.

You'll note from the picture below the building has curved supports resembling giant longbows.

Its a great little museum dedicated to the 1415 battle. Albeit slightly biased to the French perspective in as much as they claimed the forces were much more equal than we were lead to believe and that it was a lucky English win !

The Museum contained a number of interesting exhibits (armour, weapons etc), a walkthrough story telling of events using mannequins and a large diorama. I could not place the figures but they looked like 15mm old lead style.

Following the museum visit we drove round the village a saw where the battle supposedly took place (no photos) - it really was just an empty field.

With Azincourt done we headed off to Waterloo (a journey of about 120 miles) north into Belgium.

Stop Press:

By chance I decided to fill my car with diesel in the UK - little did we know that France was gripped by an industrial strike and fuel was virtually non existent in the region. This also probably explained why the roads were so empty If you are driving to France in the coming days check fuel availability !.

Lots more to say in the next post

Friday 13 May 2016

ECW - The Inaugural battle

I was very excited to welcome the boys over to the Shed on Monday night. This was the grand opening battle of our English Civil War set of games.

As I am sure you are well aware by now Mark & I have been prepping our Royalist and Parliamentarian Armies over the the last few months and tonight was the night we were going to play with them !

The following pictures are in no particular order (I was having too much fun to chronicle the battle) and too be frank it wasn't until two thirds through the evening I became aware what was happening on the other flank.

Our armies filled the 16ft table with ease - if anything it was cramped.

The forces were very similar with some subtle differences in the number of guns and cavalry units.

Each army had three commanders (players) and each player typically had some infantry, guns and cavalry under his command.

Mark lead his Royalist forces from the centre (as King Charles) supported on the flanks by Charlie (Rupert) and Legatus. Whilst the Rebels were commanded by Lord Essex (John) supported by myself and Alastair.

Each side typically fielded seven foot regiments (1 pike block & two wings of shot), six regiments of cavalry, two units of dragoons and a couple of commanded shotte. Some guns were thrown in for good measure.

There were effectively eight commands on each side so once one side lost four the game was over.

The game played out very well, it was fast furious and very visual. With so few units to command each player was involved very quickly and the distances between armies effectively meant the show kicked off from turn one.

Whilst battling away with Legatus on the left flank (my Ironsides effectively knocked out his cavalry in t2 - but thanks to crap prders never ever made it back into the battle) - I learned that Charlie (Prince Rupert) had decimated our rebel right wing. Furthermore the Kings own troops had forced the centre in a rather brutal assault. This turnred out to be a rather convincing win for the Royalists.

Our first outing taught us a great deal about playing Pike & Shotte with 28mm big units,

 - it was fun and quick but we are going to need more space if we want big sweeping battles

Good thing I am extending the Shed !!

Enjoy the photos....

Thanks for looking...