Friday, 5 October 2018

The York and Grubenhagen Double Battalion square

Private Heinrich Dening served in the Luneburg Light Battalion.  His Waterloo Medal. 

The fighting in the centre of the British position was at its most intense adjacent to three brigades: Colin Halkett's consisted of two double squares, the 73rd and 30th and the 69th and 33rd.  To Halkett's left was Kielmansegge's Hanoverian brigade, again of two double squares, the Bremen and Verden and the York and Grubenhagen.

A fifth battalion, the Luneburg Light Battalion, had been despatched to defend La Haye Sainte but was caught in the flank and largely disintegrated.  A similar fate befell the 5th and 8th KGL battalions of Ompteda's brigade which were also fed into the fight for La Haye Sainte and were punished by Cuirassiers, each losing a Colour.

The precarious nature of the British position resulting from these reverses were further exacerbated when the Divisional Commander, Sir Charles Alten, was wounded.  His departure from the battlefield led to one of the most unfortunate incidents that followed Waterloo.  Alten (who was himself a Hanoverian in the British service) became convinced that Kielmansegge had encouraged the survivors of the Luneburg Battalion to leave the field.  When informed of this after  the battle Wellington was incensed and ordered that Kielmansegge should be arrested.

Alten, whose wounds meant that he had not personally witnessed the closing stages of the battle, to his credit, was quick to realise his mistake and rectified his report to Wellington.  Wellington, in turn, quickly had Kielmansegge released and went out of his way to make amends.

Shaw Kennedy, one of Wellington's ADCs present at Waterloo, explained what happened in correspondence of 1863:

"I am able to assist in clearing up the point as to the day on which I had the interview  with the Duke of Wellington in regard to Count Kielmansegge. I have found a diary which I kept of the march of the army from Waterloo. The army moved from the field of Waterloo on the 19th  and bivouacked that night at and near to Nivelles, marched on the 20th to Binch and on the 21st marched from Binch to Bavay entering France on that latter days march. The headquarters were at Nivelles, on the 20th; from which place the Duke issued his famous cautionary order as to the entrance of the army into France and of thanks to the Army for its glorious conduct on the 18th. It was between Binch and Bavay that he passed the Guards and Third Division on the 20th and placed Kielmansegge in arrest. 

A letter from Shaw Kennedy of 24 December 1863 explains more about how Wellington, after he had realised his mistake, treated Kielmansegge in Paris: 

"The Duke took Kielmansegge to the levee of the King of the French in his carriage. After the Third Division arrived at Paris and was quartered near Passy, I dined with Kielmansegge and was a great deal with him every day. The conduct of the Duke of Wellington to Count Kielmansegge, under all the circumstances of the case, was just, high minded, noble & honourable. He was justified in the first instance, by the unintentionally false report of Count Alten, in dealing so harshly as he did with Kielmansegge; but, when, after a most searching cross examination, I completely proved to the Duke that Alten's report was totally erroneous, he offered every reparation to the much injured Kielmansegge. You are aware that Alten had left the field wounded, and knew nothing himself of what had taken place, so that I positively contradicted what Alten had reported, and Alten himself fully confirmed my contradiction when subsequently referred to, and fully confirmed Kielmannsegge’s gallant conduct up to [the] time of his (Alten's) leaving the field wounded."

The cause of the original injustice lay in Lieutenant General Charles Alten's first report to the Duke of Wellington dated Brussels 19th June 1815, which contained the following statement:

"....The squares had been so much reduced in number by the continued fire of cannon, musketry, and ultimately grape shot of the enemy, that they had hardly men enough left to remain in squares, and therefore were withdrawn from the position by Count Kielmansegge; and the remains of the Legion and Hanoverian brigades, and part of the British brigade, reformed on the high road in rear of the village of Mont St Jean."

Alten issued a correction which read as follows:

"My Lord Duke, 

It is with the utmost concern that I have been informed by Major-General Count Kielmansegge that an unintentional error in my report to your Grace representing the action of the 18th instant has been productive of incurring your Grace's displeasure on the General officer. 

Towards the close of the action, and immediately previous to my being wounded, I found one of the squares of Count Kielmannsegge’s brigade, on which the fire of grape was so tremendous that the four faces of the square are marked by the bodies on the field of battle, give way a little. As I found myself at that time with another square, which was equally critically situated, I remained with it, and directed the Count to stop the square which was giving way, and bring it up again; which the General immediately complied with that zeal he always shows to comply with the orders of his superiors, to the best of his power. I was immediately after wounded and obliged to quit the field; and it was from the circumstance which was mentioned to me that the remainder of the division had been collected in rear of the village of Mont St Jean without my being able to learn the positive reason how they left the position, and having witnessed the gallantry of every individual regiment of the division during the whole of the day under the most severe fire and trying circumstances, I concluded they had not quitted the position without order, but under the sanction of the General officer commanding by higher authority. 

The expression, however, ‘withdrawn from the position by Count Kielmansegge, ‘ which I used in my report, was not the proper one; and I have to appeal to your Grace's indulgence to make an allowance for the hurry in which the report was dictated by me, and at a time when I was suffering under the effects of a wound. I have doubly to regret the circumstance, as, independent of my giving your Grace the trouble to peruse this letter, it had for a time implicated the military character of an officer who, on the day of the 18th in particular, has given proofs of the greater intrepidity, and is indeed the last man I know of who would abandon his post if he could help it without orders. 

After this explanation on my part, who gave the unintentional cause of its becoming necessary, may I be allowed to ask it as a particular favour that your Grace will be pleased to have the Count's conduct so far publicly cleared as to order an inquiry of the Commanding officers whether the Count gave such an order; and, injustice to the troops with such bravery on that day, whether the squares were not so far reduced in number as no longer to allow of that formation, which I understand to be the case, but, as I was no longer an eye-witness, cannot vouch for, although inclined to believe from what I witnessed as long as I was with them. If I could still further hope to meet with an indulgent ear, I venture to express a wish that in case your Grace has not already superseded the Count in command of the 3r Division, you will be pleased to allow him to retain it for a short period, in order to do away the appearance of his being superseded on account of the above unfortunate circumstance. I have the honour to be, my Lord Duke, Your Grace's most obedient and most humble servant Charles Alten".

Much revisionist history of Waterloo has tended to focus on unfair criticism by the British of their German and Dutch allies.  Yet what is so interesting about this incident is that it is one Hanoverian officer casting aspersions on another, before retracting his accusations and thereby allowing Wellington the chance to make amends.

But was the smoke really without fire?  The story of the Luneburg Light Battalion is certainly less than glorious.  Having been despatched to defend La Haye Sainte, the Luneburgers were overrun by Cuirassiers and routed.  Captain Jacobi of the Luneburgers wrote that:

"A number of men who happened to be nearby attached themselves to the officers; they told us that more men had fled to the houses behind the rear of Mont St Jean.  We went there, and after some time Captain Call, Lieutenants Borries, Creydt, Ritter and Adjutant von Peltz gathered here together with about 50 men.  Captain Rall could not make up his mind; he was completely exhausted and let me be in charge and stayed with us.  We marched without delay to a spot directly behind our brigade.  Adjutant von Pentz had been riding ahead in order to report to General Count von Kielmansegge our coming: he now returned to us and brought the general's order to march to Brussels with the remaining core of the battalion and to gather as many of the battalion's men as possible."

I was going to show the Luneburg Battalion, but given its disintegration I decided to paint The York and Grubenhagen double battalion square, one of those mentioned by Alten in his despatch.

The Grubenhagen Light Battalion is described by Siborne as wearing red coats, but all other sources state they were in green, so I have painted them thus.  The York Field Battalion were previously the Benigsen Battalion which wore white British tropical shakos.  I was tempted to paint them with these white shakos but all the evidence suggest that they gave them up in 1814 and wore black belgic shakos, red coats and blue facings.

Painting 800 figures has taken up rather a lot of time but I hope you enjoy the results!

The York and Grubenhagen Double Square
Grubenhagen Light Infantry
I've tried to give a sense of the casualties in this square.  
The drum major and drummers, which are of course Airfix.
Corner of the square
The double battalion squares weren't very square
Strelets officer
Grubenhagen officer - Zvezda Russian artillery conversion
Imex ACW conversion
The bulk of the Grubenhagen battalion are Hat Prussian conversions.
Many of the Grubenhagen front rank are conversions from the new Strelets ACW skirmishers.
Newline Cuirassier casualty in the foreground
Along the line
You can just see an Odemars officer with a pistol
The standard four ranks
Esci conversions
Qualicast officer
Colour Party with Drums Platoon in front
Waterloo 1815 Prussian officers converted to British - these are the new oversized figures but change the horses and put them on their own, they are nice figures
Italieri officer
Falcata officer
Most of the front rank are conversions
Add caption
Wellington drops in for a chat
Wounded and dead outside the corner of the square
Wounded move to centre of the square
Grubenhagen buglers
Schilling pair - wounded officer and soldier
York Battalion in the foreground
The drum major is an Imex Mexican conversion
Many of my figures are conversions and much of the Grubenhagen Battalion are conversions from Hat Set 8084 Prussian Fusiliers.  I turn their heads with a pair of pliers.

I've added a plume by inserting the end of a wooden toothpick into the shako and adding a Trotter pack to his back.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

51st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

The 51st are shown here in square, which is how the bulk of the companies were formed at the peak of the French cavalry attacks, but my researches revealed a rather more classically Light Infantry role for the Regiment earlier in the battle.  While the overall role is easy to grasp there are aspects of the detail that are harder to follow, as this Regimental account shows:

"On the morning of the 18th June, the 51st was composed of two field officers, nine captains, 28 subalterns, six staff, thirty-nine sergeants, eighteen drummers and five hundred and twenty-one privates.  The battalion was part of Colonel Mitchell’s brigade being ordered to occupy a portion of the narrow road leading to the junction of the Hougoumont avenue with the Nivelles road towards Braine le Comte.

On the morning of the 18th, the brigade moved down to the right of the British position, and halted in columns of regiments about four hundred yards in rear of Hougoumont, awaiting in intense expectation the commencement of the action. The light company of the 23rd [Royal Welch Fusiliers] was then pushed forward to hold the avenue at its junction with the road. On its right was an abattis thrown across the great road, and close upon the right of this obstacle a company of the 51st was posted. Four more companies of the regiment, led by Captain Phelps, and the light company of the 14th were extended along the hollow way stretching across the ridge to the extreme left of the French position. It was their duty to engage the skirmishers covering the advance of Reille's corps and then inflict what loss they could upon the denser columns as they passed.

Siborne's map showing the 51st in square with skirmishers to the front

The remainder of the 51st stood initially in column of support and then in square, about 200 yards in rear of the hollow way. Owing to the undulating nature of the ground and the high standing corn, the skirmishers of the 51st, led by Captain Phelps, did not come in contact with the enemy's light troops covering the advance of their columns until within about forty paces; then opening fire and cheering loudly they pushed forward resolutely, causing the French to fall back, although supported by cavalry. [This would suggest that Reille's Corps advanced much further and in greater numbers around the North-West side of Hougoumont, it is hard to believe that is true so early in the battle].

Directly afterwards an order from Lord Hill caused them to retire upon the regiment where they remained the whole day close to Hougoumont, alternately advancing and retiring with the ebb and flow of the tide of battle.

During the heavy fighting between the British and French cavalry, who strove to penetrate the allied squares, a body of cuirassiers, having been intercepted in its direct line of retreat by a party of British Light Dragoons was induced to surrender; but taking advantage of the weakness of their escort, the cuirassiers suddenly broke away and galloped down the Nivelles road hoping to reach the French lines. They were fatally deceived. As they passed the high bank, covered with brushwood, on the right of the road where a detachment of the 51st was stationed in support of the light troops extended in front of the extreme right, they were fired upon, though but partially, in consequence of the close pursuit of the Light Dragoons.

The 51st take the surrender of Cuirassiers

This firing attracted the attention of Captain Ross of the 61st, who was stationed with his company more in advance, and close to the abattis thrown across the road, near the head of the Hougoumont avenue. Captain Ross, being thus prepared, also fired upon the cuirassiers, whereupon their commanding officer finding all further retreat cut off by the abattis, surrendered to Captain Ross, declaring he would not give himself up to the dragoons. Eighty of the cuirassiers and twelve of their horses were killed, and the remainder, about sixty, taken or dispersed.

In this position, which the regiment held until the close of the battle, it was several times furiously assailed by the French artillery as well as the cavalry. It also participated more or less in repelling the attacks on Hougoumont; but its severest struggle was, as we have already mentioned, with the skirmishers covering the advance of Reille's corps. Its total losses were eight rank and file killed: Capt. S. Beardsley, Lieutenant J. Flamank, Lieutenant 0. W. Tyndale, and twenty rank and file wounded. In the action with Reille's skirmishers. Captain Phelps's company of seventy men is said alone to have lost twelve men killed and wounded in about ten minutes.

In consequence of the victory. Colonel Mitchell and Lieutenant-Colonel Rice were appointed Companions of the Bath. The regiment bears the word " Waterloo " upon its colours. During the night succeeding the battle. Colonel Mitchell's brigade lay on their arms in the wood of Hougoumont, and early next morning commenced their march to Nivelles and its vicinity, where they remained for the night, as the troops had not been rationed for two days. At Nivelles Sir Charles Colville thanked the 4th Brigade for its distinguished bravery."

51st skirmishing

This picture shows a private of the 51st, but in a Belgic shako.  These replaced the old conical shakos after Waterloo, so this picture would not be right for 18 June 1815.

Turning now to my square, the figures are the usual mix of Hat, Emhar, Kennington, New Line, Hinton Hunt, Kriegspieler, with a great many conversions.

The Colour Party is Hinton Hunt

Emhar mounted officer with Mitchell the Brigade commander in the blue frock coat.

The officer is a Zvezda Russian artillery conversion

The whole square

A few pictures below of other squares, which are placed on some green scenery - clearly, in the final model they will be properly integrated with the landscape, following the crop scheme shown on the Siborne model.  The squares are also much closer together than in reality.