Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
This is Part II, continued from Part I here: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/26045027#26045027
Turn Five: 1800 16 June
The 1800 turn begins with D’Erlon’s troops linking the two battlefields together. Quatre Bras remains relatively quiet, while the French lust for blood seems to have settled near Ligny, and they only move to engage in a small area north of the town of Ligny. All told, some rather unimaginative move by the French in this fifth hour of the battle.
Despite the unimaginative moves, combat favours the French near Ligny, and they force the Prussians back further away from the town.
The Allies begin to push their advantage near Quatre Bras by moving around the western flank of the French position. The Prussians also secure the link with the Allied forces near Quatre Bras, and together, the Prussians and Brunswickers [grey counters] stop any potential French outflanking manoeuvre. South-west of Quatre Bras, the Prussians also move to shore up this space and adopt a slightly more secure defensive position in front of D’Erlon’s corps. Once again, instead of falling back, the Prussians move to engage the French around Ligny.
The only combat, just north of Ligny, is mixed, but largely uneventful. Directly north of Ligny the Prussians force the elimination of another French brigade when it fails to retreat. Again, this small success boosts Prussian morale, but they still have much ground to make up for in terms of balance of losses.
After five hours [turns] of combat, losses are still relatively light. The loss of the Prussian I Corps has had the biggest impact, but aside from that, both sides have been managing their forces quite well. These are the casualty boxes. The top boxes show units technically eligible for reorganisation, while the bottom boxes show those units permanently eliminated. To date, no reorganisation has taken places as all officers have been busily engaged in organising their forces. The numbers below the boxes indicate the number of losses needed to demoralise the corps. Thus far, only the Prussian I Corps is demoralised, but there are so few of them left that it is of little consequence. Total French losses are 25, compared to 8 Allied, and 45 Prussian [of which 32 are from I Corps].
Turn Six: 1900 16 June
East of Quatre Bras, D’Erlon’s Corps moves in to attack one of the northern-most Prussian brigades. Further south, just north of St. Amand, the French rotate their forces around to the west, then move to strike at the Prussian angle, which bends sharply to the north. Prussian forces here are relatively weak and the French hope to open some gaps. In the meantime, fighting continues in the centre of the lines near Ligny.
Quatre Bras remains quiet. The French are concerned that they don’t have superior forces nor a sufficient position to launch an attack, so most of the fighting occurs near Ligny. In their first engagement, D’Erlon’s Corps forces the Prussians back in the north, and they advance after combat, once again threatening to poke a hole in the Allied/Prussian lines. Further south the attacks go as planned, and the Prussians are forced back in many places throughout the line:
With night approaching, the Prussians begin to disengage. They continue to rotate their forces west along the line to address D’Erlon’s advances, and they take an opportunity to make a small counter-attack north of the town of Ligny. Near Quatre Bras the Allied forces launch a focused attack on an exposed French position in the centre of the French lines south of Quatre Bras.
The Allied attack near Quatre Bras forced an AR, and the Allied brigades pull back to lick their wounds, but near Ligny the Prussians score a nice stroke of luck and force the elimination of another French brigade. With the lines now stretching north towards Quatre Bras, both sides are finding themselves stretched thin in this area, of course, the French have the Guard in reserve should they be needed, while the Prussians are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Bulow’s corps.
Turn Seven: 2000 16 June
In the final turn before nightfall, D’Erlon sends his corps into action along the line, hoping to inflict some damage on the Prussians. But further south, the French are exhausted, and they only launch two light counter-attacks near Ligny.
D’Erlon’s assault is reasonably successful, it forces the elimination of one Prussian brigade and sends the others retreating, but it’s unlikely he’ll be able to take advantage of this with night coming. Down the far south-eastern end of the line, a French cavalry attack is successful, and exposes a nice hole in the Prussian line. But again, it may be too late to do anything with this.
With gaps and weaknesses appearing in their line, and night about to fall, the Prussians make the decision to fall back. Where possible, they pull away from the line, putting up a thin cavalry screen to deter the French. Around Quatre Bras, the Allied forces are also tired, and decide to hold their position rather than attempt any futile advance.
Two small skirmishes on the Prussian ‘angle’ force ARs, which is the the Prussian advantage anyway, and so they gladly fall back.
And so, at the end of the first day, the blessings are mixed. Quatre Bras is a stalemate, with neither side able to strike any decisive or even mildly damaging blow. Ligny certainly leaned towards the French, and the destruction of the Prussian I Corps was the highlight of the day, but the Prussians were still able to defend the area, slow down the French, prevent a breakthrough, and remain in contact [quite literally, as the Prussians and Brunswickers are directly adjacent] with the Allied forces further north. D’Erlon’s manoeuvre east certainly threatened the Prussian line, but they were able to respond rapidly by loosening their command structure [ie. those units were mostly out of command] and sending a few Prussian brigades north, and this effectively protected their flanks, and joined their Allied/Prussian forces together. At the end of the day, the front line of the battle snaked its way across roughly 9km of terrain, from west of Quatre Bras, to north-east of Ligny.
Here’s another glimpse of casualties at the end of the first day. Of particular note is that, despite the loss of their I Corps, the Prussians performed some timely counter-attacks to whittle down the French. The French have now suffered 41 losses [up from 25 earlier], compared to 8 Allied losses [unchanged from earlier] and 51 Prussian losses [up from 45].
Turn Eight and Nine: [Night] 2100-2259 16 June
Mouton’s reinforcements continue to rush north-east along the road. While they may not be able to fight, they can still threaten the Prussian position, and they hope to threaten the eastern Prussian flank [or at least, cause some concern].
Despite Mouton’s advance, darkness brings some respite for the Prussians. They move to close the gap between themselves and the Allied position near Quatre Bras. The Allied forces hold in place while the Prussians withdraw. By shorting that north-south Prussian line between the two positions, they free up more brigades, then they’ll withdraw with the Allied forces together.
However, the French are in no mood for a rest, and every time the Prussians withdraw, the French go with them. By 2259, the Prussians have fallen back to form a solid east-west line alongside the Allied force, aligned with Quatre Bras, but the French are only just behind them. It looks like there may be a fighting withdrawal coming up on 17 June...
Part III is now up here: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/26062213
- Last edited Wed Jun 7, 2017 4:37 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Jun 4, 2017 10:56 am