Tuesday 24 October 2017

The battle for Papelotte

The Belvedere - note also the fruit trees grown up the west facing wall 

I wrote an initial post on Papelotte over a year ago and commented on how difficult it is to get good evidence of what the farm looked like in 1815, or indeed to determine the actual course of events at this important flanking outpost, which could have served much the same function on Wellington's left flank as Hougoumont did on the right.  I say 'could have' because the fighting at Papelotte never developed the same intensity as it did at Hougoumont.  This may explain the lack of good sources, or it may be the fact that it was German not British troops that fought there.  I've now been able to find out a little more and to complete my version of the farmhouse.  

The farm track leads towards the main entrance.  This track existed in 1815.  The fruit trees grown against the wall no longer exist and the white-washed front is now back to its weather beaten brick
Here the lane bends round to the west
The fruit trees have an ethereal, slightly unworldly quality to them

This representation of the farm looks very different from any other that I've seen.

I've also found a photograph which looks much like the post-1860 structure, but without the belvedere or the fruit trees.  In this photograph you can see the same haystack.  This has aroused my suspicions: could this photograph have been doctored to show the farm as it might have looked or should we take it at face value?

Perhaps it is impossible to know the true answers to these questions.  So I've gone ahead and produced my Papelotte Farm as shown in the pictures below.  It is still not complete: the paintwork is still quite basic, the walled area to the north of the farm needs to be built, there are no trees, hedges or other vegetation beyond the basic grass and the farmyard and lanes are a brown baseline rather than the finished product.  And of course there are only a few Nassauers and no French.  More to follow!
West side with damaged roof

Farmyard with farmhouse in corner.  No well yet.

The Great Barn

The lane is made of coffee granules

The view southwards
This shows a nice view down to the annex and again indicates whitewash across much of the building.

Farmhouse looking north


Farmhouse windows with Nassau defenders

The annex looking north
This modern photo shows the annex from the south looking north.  It also shows the garden wall.  The evidence suggests that the French got across this wall into the garden.  There are some buttresses on this wall which I need to put in.  The garden looks very over-grown and would have been in productive use in 1815.

Sunday 8 October 2017

1st Battalion KGL

This is my second square from Du Plat's KGL Brigade.  I've previously mentioned that it is Ompeda's brigade that draws most of the attention, but research into Du Plat's Brigade reveals the critical part it played in the battle.

While attention on Hougoumont tends to focus on the fighting for the chateau itself, it is clear that Wellington became increasingly concerned that Reille's Corps would bypass the actual buildings and use the park to threaten his right flank.  In a sense this reinforced his belief throughout the whole campaign that he would be outflanked from the west - which is why he put Chasse's division in Braine and keep Prince Frederick's Corps at Halle.

But as the battle developed it was not a broad outflanking manoeuvre that developed, but an infiltration of the park by swarms of French skirmishers with artillery.

This explains why Wellington repeatedly ordered troops into the Hougoumont area to support the original Foot Guards Light Companies in the chateau - the Brunswick Avant Garde, the Leib Battalion, 1st Light Infantry, Nassau Grenadiers, more Foot Guards and Kielmansegge's Feldjagers. 

But even this does not seem to have been enough, so Du Plat's KGL Brigade and Hugh Halkett's Hanoverians (contradicting the usual reverse slope tactic) were ordered onto the forward slope to plug the gap between the British line and the end of the Hougoumont park.
It is also clear that Du Plat chose to group the four light companies of the brigade in a single composite battalion.  Not to be confused with the two green coated light battalions of the KGL, these red coated light infantry were also armed with Baker rifles and formed a square of their own, suffering tremendous casualties from French artillery and skirmish fire.  The other battalions stood a little back, but still in a very exposed position where they too took extensive casualties.

I like this image of two KGL veterans drawn from life

Light company and centre company officers

Flank companies
Original coat

Coat tail details

My square shows 1st Battalion The King's German Legion in that forward position.  They are temporarily placed on a piece of teddy bear fur to give a sense of the crops, but don't be distracted by the obvious join.

The front view

Most the figures are Revell and Esci with some metal figures of varying types

Grenadier Company

The officer is a 20:20 figures by Vandrad, a short lived company that also produced RSM figures in the early 90s.

The Light company is still with the battalion, before being detached to form a composite rifle battalion

The Drum Major is an Esci Zulu Wars officer conversion

Yes, those lips again - sorry!

Comparing notes
Some Hinton Hunt among the Revell.

The corner of one KGL square was blown away by artillery.