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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
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This is a report of a playthrough La Bataille des Quatres Bras [2nd Ed., 2005], by Clash of Arms Games using the Marie Louise rules (they’re the easiest of the lot).



It recreates the battle that took place on 16 June 1815, between Wellington’s Army of the Low Countries [left], and Ney’s Aile Gauche de L’Armee du Nord (Left Wing of the Army of the North) [right].



As you can see in this image, the French typically wore white and dark blue uniforms, and they’re typically present on the right side [south side] of these images, as they push north [left] up the road towards Les Quatre Bras. The Allied Forces are more diverse, the British are predominantly red, with white or grey, and they’re joined by the King’s German Legion, Hanoverians, Nassauers, Brunswickers, Dutch, Belgians [and possibly a few others] who are a mix of colours. The Allied force is typically on the left side [north side] of these images, as they try to hold off the French. At the start of the battle, the Prince of Orange is in command of a small force of Dutch, Belgians and Nassauers.

This was part of the Waterloo Campaign, an important prelude to the Battle of Waterloo [which took place two days later, roughly 18 kilometres further north]. During this campaign, Napoleon went on the offensive in the hope of destroying the separate Prussian and Allied forces before they could unite and work against him. Thus, he drove his Army north towards Brussels, along a road which effectively divided the Allied and Prussian forces.

Those forces met around Quatre Bras and Ligny. While Wellington’s and Ney’s forces fought over the vital crossroad at Quatre Bras, Napoleon led the bulk of the French Army against the Prussians at Ligny. The two battlefields were very close, and were connected by a major road running just north of Ligny in the east, through to Quatre Bras, and on to Nivelles in the west. Historically, Wellington held the vital crossroad at Les Quatre Bras, but was unable to assist the Prussians as they faced defeat around Ligny. Time will tell how this plays out...

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11:00



After a series of minor skirmishes throughout the previous evening, and the early morning, Prince William of Orange arrives on the scene and attempts to bring some order to the situation. Elements of the Prince’s I Army Corps have established a crescent-shaped defensive position south of Gemioncourt. Their position is centred on the Brussels-Charleroi road, but they’ve spread out to occupy the open ground between a stream in the east, and another in the west. This won’t necessary stop a French flanking manoeuvre, but it’s a strong deterrent, and they’re hoping this will funnel the French to their centre along the main road. They also use the local topography to gain a slight elevation advantage. This is quite a forward defensive position, but they’re hoping this will enable them to slowly fall back and delay the French long enough for more Allied reinforcements to arrive.



The French begin to align their forces north of Frasne, and the early news is good. Ney will arrive 40 mins earlier than anticipated, and Reille will arrive with additional elements of his II Corps 20 minutes earlier than anticipated. This will give the French an early opportunity to drive hard at The Prince of Orange’s 1 Corps.

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11:20



The French begin to march north before Ney and Reille have even arrived on the scene. The 5th Infantry Division marches down the main road, with cavalry escorting on both flanks: the Guard chasseurs and lancers lined up on the right [east], while the light cavalry of the 2nd Division lined up on the right [west]. Napoleon gave strict orders not to move the Guard Cavalry, but the impetuous Lefebvre-Desnouettes ignores this and begins to march the Guard north [Nb. I actually missed the rule about the Guard not being allowed to move, but corrected it below].

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11:40

The 9th Division arrives, and Ney and Reille escort the reinforcements up the main road. The 5th Division uses an activation to advance close to the centre of the Allied lines, while the French use their light cavalry activations. In the east [top], Ney demands that the Guards pull back south and adhere to Napoleon’s orders. In the west [bottom] the 2nd Division cavalry force the Nassauers into square. An element of the 2nd Nassau Regiment attempts to form square, but becomes disordered, and they present a juicy target for the cavalry who charge and force a rout! This opens a nice little gap in the Allied defences at a very early stage in the battle.


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12:00




After their brief sortie, the French 2nd Division Cavalry pull back to rest, while the 9th Division moves take up a position on the left flank of the line in the west. The French now have two activations per turn and they’ll use these to place early pressure on the Allied lines. The Allies respond by tightening their lines a little, and, wherever they can, getting back into line formation, but they otherwise hold their ground for now.

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12:20



At about 12:20pm, the French launch a series of assaults on both flanks of the Allied line. The 9th Division attacks in the west [bottom of this image] is stuck in square formation and they’ll have to do their best to resist the assault like that, while the 5th Division attacks in the east [top of this image] against the Dutch militia in line formation.



The assaults have mixed success. In the east they disorder some of the Dutch militia, but the defenders hold their ground. Over the in west the strong squares of Nassau hold very firm, and even disorder some of the attackers. This is only the first wave of the French assaults, however, and the Prince of Orange is concerned that he may not be able to hold this position for long.

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1240



In an attempt to recover order among the Dutch Militia, their forces are rotated. The disordered units are pulled back towards the centre of the Allied line and they’re replaced with good order units in line formation. At this point, the French seize the opportunity to strike. Pires’ light cavalry charge into these disordered Dutch units in the centre of the Allied line, and they immediately break and rout north towards Brussels. This creates a large gap in the Allied lines that the French cavalry rush through. The Prince of Orange’s force are now divided along either side of the main road. They’ve defended their flanks well, but French cavalry have quickly punched through their weak centre along the main road.

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1300



Pires’ light cavalry doesn’t activate, so they hold their positions in the centre of the battlefield and rest. The French attempt to blast the Allied flanks with fire, but it has minimal effect, and in fact the Allies return favour with some devastating salvos. In the west, the Nassau battalions pull back away from the French lines and shift to fill some of the space in the centre, while also occupying the strong position of Grand Pierrepont in the west.

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1320

Foy, commanding the French 9th Division, realises that this fire exchange is getting the French nowhere, so he orders his division to assault. In doing so, he completely by-passes the strong Allied position in Grand Pierrepont and hits the two more exposed positions further east. These are strong assaults, but the Allies put up a reasonably good fight.

This image shows the situation just before the assaults:



The 3/2 Nassau towards the centre-east routs and opens a bigger gap in the centre of the Allied line, but the forces under the Prince of Saxe-Winmar hold their ground, suffering only disorder. Over in the east the Dutch Militia continue to hold their ground against overwhelming odds. The 5th Dutch militia [surrounded on four sides by the enemy] are down to ONE increment, but still they hold their ground in good order.



Further east [up], the 7th Dutch Militia are disordered with three increments remaining, but they’ve also forced back some of the French and have defended this flank well. Towards the end of this turn the Dutch-Belgian Light Cavalry Brigade arrives along the road from Nivelles, and they rush down the highway. Finally, the Allies will have some horse to counter the French!

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1340

Constant French pressure proves too much for the Allied defenders, and through a series of concentrated assaults and persistent fire they force several defenders to break, while also eliminating the 5th Dutch Militia.

This image shows the situation just before the assaults:



For a moment, this opens the highway through to Quatre Bras and on to Brussels. But, just as the Allied line begins to buckle and break in the centre, Allied reinforcements arrive off to the north, and they rush down the highways and roads and onto the field of battle.



The Dutch-Belgian Light Cavalry take up a position to cover the retreat, prepared to counter charge and halt any French that pursue too rapidly. Meanwhile, large elements of Picton’s Reserve Corps begin to march towards Quatre Bras, and they pass routed Dutch and Nassau units on their way.

This image gives a better view of the Allied reinforcements rushing down the highway, while the French advance in a more orderly fashion:



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1400


As Allied forces move towards Quatre Bras, the French pick up the pace and try to clear out the remaining Allied defenders south of Bois de Bossu.

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1420


As Allied infantry rush through Quatre Bras and begin to move into defensive positions, the French continue to clear out a few remaining elements of the Allied forward defensive position. Those few remaining battalions have really slowed the French down here by occupying some key positions. The French have also been slowly recovering from a series of assaults, so they’re trying to regain some order and prepare to confront the larger body of the Allied force. The men of 2/28 Nassau decide to pull out of Grand Pierrepont, but the 27th Dutch Jagers hold their position in Germioncourt along the main highway, and thus do an effective job of slowing down the French advance.


PART TWO TO FOLLOW SOON...

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Alan Richbourg
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Arlington
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Nice presentation!

Just a couple thoughts: none of the King’s German Legion was actually at Quatre Bras, and that would be musket fire instead of rifle fire.
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Australia
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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
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chargetheguns wrote:
Nice presentation!

Just a couple thoughts: none of the King’s German Legion was actually at Quatre Bras, and that would be musket fire instead of rifle fire.


Ah I see, I have the 2nd KGL Brigade on the organisational chart, but have just realised they're not listed as reinforcements; thanks! Yes I should watch my expression regarding 'rifle fire' - thanks again!
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Gene Rodek
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One of my favorite games of the series. Looks like the Prince of Orange is doing a good job of frustrating the French. The French need to drive hard as the Allied reinforcements will be ever harder to dislodge once they settle in QB.
Looking forward to your continued AAR
 
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