Monday, 6 March 2017

"Plucking the Cockerel's Feathers": Spanish Flanders, 1689


A Relation of the Recent Warres in Spanish Flanders”; auth. Don Alonso de Moncada, Marquess of San Lúcar de Barrameda; publ. Antwerp, 1690; 1st Edn., 2 folios, 364 pp., bound in old leather, darkening on some pages, but otherwise tight and surprisingly well conditioned for old volumes. Rare. Apply: F. de Monquisard, 14 Hertogstraat, Ghent.


"… And, after an uneasy evening suffered by all combatants, the ground in front of both armyes was soaked in mist and dew, the half-light of dawn barely yet breaking through the last shadowes of night. Along the battalia of the French and Italian armyes the sounds of drums, fifes, trompets and cries of awakening could be plainly heard, the noise carrying far over the field of Mars. It was at that time that Don Hugo de Velasco advanced with many divers grenadiers, drawn by volunteers from the Spanish regiments in the service of the City of Laarden. Don Hugo chose soldiers from the Tercios of Sevilla (los Morados viejos), Granada (del Casco de la Ciudad de Granada) and the German battalion of the Baron de Gorcy to accompany him, declaring that his assault over the covered ground would be nothing less than plucking the feathers of the King of France’s cockerel. His advance was undiscovered by French piquets, wreathed in the low mist of the Flanders fields through which Don Hugo’s grenadier company passed. Only when Don Hugo himself assailed the gabioned revetments of the French and Italian position did his enemies discover their peril….".

******




You can find Alonso de Moncada’s book in a dusty bookshop on Hertogstraat in Ghent, close by the north bank of the River Leie, on a high shelf in the back room of the shop, just along from the "History of The City of Laarden” (in Flemish) and the full five volume history of the Spanish expedition to Laarden in 1688 (in Old Spanish). 

You will have to brush the dust from each of these volumes - none of them seem to have been read for some time, if ever. I would expect that you might be surprised by the bookseller’s asking price - but, don’t worry, you can haggle the price down if you try hard. Extracting and translating the story of Don Hugo’s assault on the Franco-Papal lines in one of the battles of the summer of 1689 has been time-consuming, but worthwhile. Don Alonso de Moncada’s book is hardly an impartial source for the events of the Spanish Netherlands and Laarden in 1689, but it is a useful counterpoint (and corrective) to the journal of Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, a brief extract of which has already appeared on this blog earlier this year in January.



******

I thought Don Hugo de Velsaco's dashing assault would make a perfect vignette for the "Characters from a Book” themed round in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. My contributions for the Challenge have themselves been badly challenged this year by various family and work commitments and spending quite a few weekends away from home. Here’s hoping Don Hugo’s appearance amounts to turning a corner for me, as it clearly did for Don Hugo himself as his later career demonstrated (...another chapter for another blog post...).

The figures are Dixon Miniatures and Foundry, with a couple of small conversions. I swapped Don Hugo’s arm to add a sword, and fiddled with the grenade being thrown by the German grenadier from the Baron de Gorcy’s regiment. The collapsed gabion is from Frontline Wargaming, years back. And yes, I could not resist recreating Don Hugo’s assault in a wintry 2mm base to complete the submission (with the tiny 2mm forlorn hopes from Irregular Miniatures).




While the details of Don Hugo are (as you will have guessed) fictitious, the details and uniforms of the grenadiers accompanying him across the covered ground are accurate, taken from the (wonderful) “Spanish Armies in the War of the League of Augsburg 1688-1697” published by the Pike and Shot Society (thoroughly recommended).


Friday, 27 January 2017

"The Pikeman's Lament" - Pike & Shot skirmishing from Osprey Games


One of the great things about the wargaming hobby is seeing friends and fellow wargamers enjoying fantastic success doing the very things which make our hobby such fun.  For many years I've been enjoying the excellent "Dalauppror" blog authored by Michael Leck, who I had the great pleasure and privilege of meeting at Salute a few years back.


Michael's rules for pike and shot wargaming, "The Pikeman's Lament", written with well-known wargames rules supremo Dan Mersey, were published yesterday by Osprey Games.  I'd pre-ordered my copy, and they were waiting for me when I arrived home last night.

They are a lovely looking set of rules, and feature everything that you would need for recreating small scale engagements and large skirmishes in the 17th Century.  There are many fine illustrations from the Osprey books, and some terrific photographs from many well-known wargamers and modellers, including Michael himself, the super-talented Matt Slade and all-round blogging superstar Mr. Michael Awdry, who posted some great photos on his own blog HERE which didn't quite make it into the finished rules owing to space constraints.



I'me really looking forward to giving these rules a try.  The "petite guerre" of raiding, forcing contributions, scouting and skirmishing was a major feature of many seventeenth century campaigns, particularly during the winter months when main field armies were in winter quarters.  




Michael and Dan's rules should be perfect for recreating these kinds of actions - swirling cavalry skirmishes, desperate last stands of small companies of soldiers in remote villages, plundering of supply columns.  These types of encounters were a very popular theme in mid-seventeenth century 'battle-paintings' - and there's plenty of inspiration to be gained from searching out paintings such as the above canvases from the Dutch artist Pieter Meulener.

I really looking forward to using the rules for my own chosen period of the 1680s in Flanders - a brief read through of the rules last night gave me some (hopefully) good ideas for the games we can stage and the terrain I can build for these kinds of actions.

Here's hoping these rules spark everyone else's imagination.  Congratulations to Michael and Dan, and best of luck with the venture!!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Happy New Year, and more from Laarden, 1688


Happy new year, everyone! Slightly belated from me, but I’ve only just arrived back home a day ago. I hope the new year brings you all health, happiness and success in your endeavours, not least in our wonderful hobby.

It was a busy end to 2016 for me and the Roundwood clan. However, I had some time just before Christmas to make a start on my submissions for Curt’s splendid, annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.

Here’s the first submission I prepared, which is best introduced with a little background. (I would add that those of you not wanting to indulge in a little bit of ‘Alt-History’ – and no doubt there are many of you – please skip most of the post until you get to the modelling section, or anything else which catches your eye).


In the Autumn of 1688, the Lords of the Free City of Laarden, positioned between Brugge and Antwerpen on the Flemish coast, sent an emissary to the Spanish Court at El Escorial, just outside Madrid. The small party of Laarden plenipotentiaries, drawn from the five great noble houses of Laarden, had been given the task of seeking military support and financial assistance for their city’s expected involvement in a new conflict which almost everyone in the Spanish Netherlands was anticipating would start with the commencement of the 1689 campaigning season. While the Laarden plenipotentiaries were proud of their city’s independence in the turmoils of the frequent wars in the region between France, Spain and The Dutch Republic, they were pragmatic enough to realise that an alliance with the Spain was likely to be critical in securing their city’s survival in any future conflict.

Ever magnanimous, and sensing an opportunity to forge a profitable alliance with an important Flemish city, Count Oropesa, one of the leading advisors to the sickly King Carlos II recommended the immediate despatch of a Spanish military envoy to Laarden. Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, a veteran of numerous battles against the French, was selected for the mission. Don Fernando, although elderly and recently retired to his Castilian estates, was considered by his beloved Tercios as being a “soldier’s soldier”, as well as being a skilled diplomat. He was therefore a promising choice to negotiate the recruitment of a force of Spanish and Hapsberg allies to complement Laarden’s own militia and other Flemish and Walloon regiments gathering at the city itself during the winter months.



For our purposes, Don Fernando’s greatest legacy is perhaps his journal, which appears to have been written by him between December 1688 and March 1689. Commencing with details of his journey from the heart of the Empire to Laarden, his journal goes on to describe his experiences in Laarden in recruiting troops, skirmishing with outlying French patrols and preparing the Laarden forces in winter quarters for the campaigning season of 1689. 

The first extract, from 31 December 1688, is below, accompanied by a photograph of the (...ahem...) original journal, and a helpful map of the surroundings of Laarden, no doubt drawn by Don Fenando, or his faithful equerry Alfredo Ramos.

***

On a Frozen Shore: 31 December 1688

Little had I realised how absolutely the warmth of Spain would have departed my fingers, my hands, my very bones by the time my boots landed on the Flemish shore. Even the usually-cheerful Alfredo looked glum, sullen and withdrawn by the moment the longboat from the Sancta Maria scraped along the beach. The air tasted of dead iron, flecks of hail and snow whipping against my face even despite by furs and scarves being tugged higher. A fine welcome awaited us: three oystermen trawling their nets; two women with baskets of glassy eyed fish; a crow, limping along the sand. Each of them observed the landing of a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece on the sovereign territory of the Free City of Laarden. It was quite different to my departure from El Escorial; at least I was spared yet more speeches.

We landed the horses and baggage ponies with difficulty. They were even less inclined than myself and Alfredo to venture from the Sancta Maria. An hour we laboured, cursing frozen figures, rope as unyielding as iron, clothes and bots increasingly cold and damp. And once the work had been accomplished, and we were finally well-mounted, our escort finally arrived. A small company of soldiers, about 30 in number, dressed irregularly in earthen colours marched slowly from a place d’armes built on a low sand dune close by the mouth of the estuary of the Laarde. And, on that most grey, half-dawn morning, we witnessed a sight to amuse the most jaded of eyes: a young cavalier, dressed in the most outrageous French fashion of bright yellow and pale blue (which Alfredo whispered are the colours beloved of the Laarden noble houses), complete with a ludicrous black periwig and the affectation of a wooden sword. Even I could not forbid myself smile as I looked upon the most comical warrior. I resurrected my most urbane manner, as he flourished his hat in a deep bow.

“Antoine de Gautier, knight of Laarden, à votre service.”

“My God”, I whispered to Alfredo in deliberately accented Castilian, “he even speaks like the Damned French.”



***
For this Challenge, I wanted to mainly focus on my 28mm forces for the late seventeenth century. So here you have several heavily converted figures originally from Foundry and Dixons. As you might have seen on Twitter, I tried to add winter scarfs and bandages to the foot infantry escorting Don Fernando, which I painted in the uniforms of a couple of the regiments which will hopefully be appearing shortly. 

Don Fernando himself started life as a Thirty Years War Imperial infantry officer, and I’ve cut him up and added a fresh pair of legs (or at least boots). The equerry, Alfredo Ramos, is another Foundry ECW cavalryman, with an added pistol and green-stuff cloak. Adding the conversions takes time, but it’s a nice-to-have for one of the command/ personality groups for the army.





For those with good eyesight, I’ve also added the commencement (in 2mm scale, using Irregular Miniatures) of Don Fernando’s forces, comprising a regiment of caracoling Spanish Horse, a battery of bronze barrelled Spanish artillery, two detachments of trayne guards and a 2mm version of Don Fernando himself and his personal baggage landing on a snow-bound Flemish coastline. I like the idea of trying to build a 2mm force at the same time as a 28mm force – more of those ideas to come in due course.


When the baggage trayne was attacked by Imperial Croats in our recent re-fight of Lutzen, 1632, I discovered I didn't have any purpose-made trayne guards to give each side the chance to field some of these soldiers.  One of the nice things abut 2mm is that it is a scale which allows you to correct that sort of oversight very quickly.  

The rear bases of the 2mm Spanish formations are painted in a deep, Spanish red (...think of a good Rioja, and you have the idea...).  We found we really needed this visual aid to tell the 2mm formations apart in the recent Lutzen, 1632 re-fight, and I've some ideas for 'allied contingents' to add into the 2mm rules which can make use of the colour-coded bases also.




Next time, another book review, and then more from Laarden after the weekend.

Oh, and for any of you curious about Girona, in North Eastern Spain, it's on my list of visits to make in 2017 - even without its Game of Thrones credentials, it looks to be a fine place for any history fan to spend some time.



Saturday, 31 December 2016

Roundwood Recommends - number 7: "War and Rural Life in the Early Modern Low Countries": Myron P. Gutmann (Princeton University Press), 1980


Then, when it appeared they were going to put siege to Maastricht, they camped, some at Montenaken, others at Laneken, and a large part of the army here at Emael. The Marques of Salada lodged here with three regiments, one of foot, and two of cavalry. They behaved worse than barbarously: they destroyed everything: they cut trees, completely demolished many houses, and trampled whatever grain they did not steal, not even leaving enough for the hunger of the poor farmers” (Priest at Emael, 1632)

I’ve always been envious of roleplaying supplements which describe in loving detail the background, political and economic environment, demographic features, weather and geographical context of the world in which the player characters’ undertake their adventures. Everything is to hand, and the characters exist in a world which really lives and breathes. Information which people in that world would immediately know can be looked up, or simply made up. 

Real life history isn’t like that, at least not in the more obscure periods of history which wargamers sometimes like to visit. Those kinds of details which might be obvious to historical contemporaries can be difficult to track down, scattered over dozens of books. Which are the main population centres, and did they serve as viable winter quarters for assembling armies? Why was a particular town so attractive to armies looking to establish an encampment? Which was the lowest point on the river which was bridged in 1688? Where were the rural areas in which armies were marshalled, and how did this correspond with good foraging opportunities? Answering such questions can add a lot of context to our understanding of how any military campaign developed. 

These are questions which would be obvious to a 17th Century general, but often are lost to us. Reconstructing that lost world takes time. Once you stray off the beaten English-language path, and into the dustier periods of history, you find that sooner or later you’re forced to rely on academic studies, the primary focus of which is not military history, let alone wargaming.


War and Rural Life in the Early Modern Low Countries” by Myron P. Gutmann is one of those academic studies. It is most definitely not a military history book. I am sure that you could successfully wargame any campaign in North West Europe in the late seventeenth century without ever reading it. 

But it does include a host of invaluable information about 17th century campaigning and warfare which has never its way to the more general military history books for the period. And a great deal of that information helps provide answers to those questions which a 17th Century general may well have just simply known, but which have been lost to us a long time ago.

Published in 1980, by Princeton University Press, “War and Rural Life in the Early Modern Low Countries” is not hard to find on the various second hand online book sites. I picked mine up from ABE Books for around £10. 

It focuses on the region between Liège and Maastricht along the banks of the Meuse River known as the Basse-Meuse.  The region was a magnet for armies in the 17th Century. In addition to the ‘Spanish Road’, the important military corridor through which Spanish armies marched from Italy and Southern Germany to the Low Countries, the Basse-Meuse was strategically central to the designs of Dutch Stadtholders and French Kings. The passage and visitation of armies into the region was also encouraged by a complex sovereignty and internal divisions among the leading noble families of the Basse-Meuse. The principality of Liège was the dominant sovereign of the area, being a significant ecclesiastical principality not incorporated to the Dutch Republic or the Spanish Netherlands. Formally a neutral player during international disputes, the position of the principality became increasingly complicated and vulnerable in the late 17th Century, as France and Holland both exerted influence and attempted dominance in the area. 


We may be able to tell this from casting a careful eye over any map of the region, and one of the general history books of the 17th Century. However, Professor Gutmann’s book tells us a lot more. He examines what brought armies to the Basse-Meuse in the late 17th century. Not to fight, but to use the area as a route for armies travelling through the region, either west to the Spanish Netherlands, east to Germany, or north to Holland. The River Meuse was a central route for transporting troops, not just as part of the Spanish Road used in the early 17th century, but still critical as a route by which troops could march along while their artillery was floated down the Meuse on barges. Such tactics gave the river a vital strategic capability for north/south movement.

The Basse-Meuse region was also important for east/west transport. The land was flat, relatively unwooded, with key bridges at Liege and Maastricht (the Meuse not being bridged further north than Maastricht in the 17th Century). Shallow water crossing points also existed on the Meuse at points between Liege and Maastricht, at Visé, Argenteau and Herstal. Maastricht in particular became a central strategic location for control of the River Meuse. Major sieges were mounted in 1632 (by the Dutch against Spanish defenders), 1673 (by the French against the Dutch) and 1676 (by the Dutch against the French), and the visits of armies to the region to mount these sieges led to some of the most challenging conditions in the region for local civilians. Importantly for such visiting armies, another attraction of the region was that there were no natural barriers to keeping armies out. “Flat, virtually unarmed, and riven by internal disputes, the Principality could not resist being crossed or occupied, frequently with dire consequences for its finances and citizens” (page 17).

The region was rich in farmland, grain, cattle and the industrial goods needed to supply armies. Liège in particular was well known as a centre of heavy industry, producing iron and coal, and manufacturing guns, armour and military equipment. “This armies that came and camped around Liège could find not only full granaries, but could leave with all the new weapons they needed, provided by the obliging craftsmen and gun-merchants of Liège and its neighbourhood” (26). Any army camped near the City of Liège could rely on being well supplied for the following campaign. Also, while armies in the 17th Century did not generally fight in the winter months, they did not disband. They attempted to find a place to make winter quarters. And it was wintering armies, quartered in in transitory, winter camps and lodging with the local communities in the villages and smaller hamlets of the Basse-Meuse which were the real scourge of the region. 


In such an environment, “military incursions exacerbated weaknesses in the Basse-Meuse economy” although such incursions did not inevitably result in destruction. Military presence focused local attention on attempting to profit from the relationship with military actors. “The result was a socially and economically healthy society that was capable of surviving the potential hardships associated with repeated and protracted military operations” (page 27).

Much of the rest of the book is a detailed examination of this relationship, and has a mine of information for anyone looking to stage a campaign set in the 17th century. The sections of the book focusing on the billeting of military forces in local villages are particularly striking. “Barracks hardly existed before 1600, and troops rarely carried tents with them. Rather, if an army was going to be in one place for a week or more, especially in winter, soldiers slept in the homes (and probably barns) of the citizens” (page 36). Such billeting could be hugely burdensome on local societies, with requirements for food, clothing, wagons, livestock and wagon-drivers all being significant. The book goes on to describe many examples of the burdens of military quartering, coupled with the other consequences of living in a conflict zone such as raiding, the forcing of ‘contributions’ from civilians and the negotiation of bribes to secure smooth passage of armies.


Reading these accounts brings home a rich context of an army’s relationship with the land on which campaigning took place. Some armies would be accommodating, seeking a mutually profitable relationship with the civilian leaders of the various communes of the region. Some armies would be brutal, (like the quotation at the start of this blog post) calculating that the murder of a foraging party might be an acceptable price for levying greater contributions. Of course, there was always the possibility of devastating the land as an army marched through it - although, as commanders in Germany in the Thirty Years War had ultimately found, no army could live off the land once the people had been driven away. 

Gutmann explores the changes in military organisation in the 17th century in tandem with the changing approaches that army commanders had towards the civilian population of the Basse-Meuse. Famous commanders such as Duke Charles IV of Lorraine and the Prince of Condé drift into the narrative at various points as the high-water mark of the war-by-devastation approach in the Basse-Meuse, their noble-dominated, quasi-mercenary forces soon to replaced by national armies with greater resources and enhanced discipline. The late seventeenth century developments in military discipline and in the housing and feeding of troops, lay more in the need for larger, effective fighting forces than in any desire for the well-being for civilians living in the conflict zone. However, the consequence was a far more complicated and nuanced relationship between the armies moving through the region, and the civilians living there. 


For those looking for detailed economic data to underpin any campaign, there are numerous graphs and charts in the book. There is a chapter concerning the fluctuation of grain prices as a result of varying stages of conflict, introduced by Professor Gutmann’s question: “Did prices respond to the lessening of military destruction at the end of the seventeenth century?” 

OK, OK… I know, that’s a long way from thinking about push-of-pike, and even longer from thinking about rules mechanics for cavalry charges in wargames. And I’m not suggesting that Professor Gutmann’s detailed economic arguments (extensively researched and beautifully written) will be every wargamer’s ideal New Year reading material. But, if you’re interested in the working of local rural economies in an early modern conflict, the book is a gold mine of information and a wonderful read. 

Yes, this is one of those books - maybe not a page-turner as regards rushing to the end to find who won the battle, but certainly a terrific research source to return to again and again.


There’s a very useful 17th Century chronology to the region, allowing you to chart the progress of armies through the region each year by number, commander, location and nationality. Most useful of all is a guide to the historical weather experienced in each year, together with details of epidemics and diseases in the region and the locations where these happened. Anyone keenly searching out orders of battle and curious regarding the locations of encampments and winter quarters will find a lot of good information in the chronology section of the book.

A later chapter considers the degree of depopulation associated with conflict in the 17th century in the Basse-Meuse region. The story of the region in this regard is, surprisingly, of resilience of the population in the face of war. Unlike the population of areas of Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Lorraine and the Duchy of Burgundy which suffered heavily from militarily related depopulation, the population of the Basse-Meuse was relatively stable in the later 17th century. Gutmann’s exploration of why this was the case forms a key section of the book, alongside a number of insights into the correlation between disease, bad harvests, military action and the peaking of rural deaths in the months of September, October, and November each year. Over-work, malnutrition and the infectious diseases accompanying a visiting army could frequently have a deadly effect on local populations - perhaps another event worth including or referencing in war-games campaigns of the period. One notable event I spotted was that in the late summer of 1676, the local chronicler de Sonkeux noted that a mechante dissenterie (wicked dysentery) was to be blamed on a French pillaging expedition. If that’s not an authentically historical campaign chance card waiting to be written, I don’t know what is. 

And to my mind, this is what is wonderful about this ostensibly rather dry, academic book. Reading through the book the reader is simply immersed into a lost, forgotten world which fell outside the frontiers of the rapidly growing powerful states of France and the Dutch Republic. There are numerous anecdotes which bring the region of the Basse-Meuse to life, alongside more than enough information to create a viable historical background to any wargaming campaign set in the region in the 17th Century. Just as we might research flags, uniforms, formations and tactics, there’s no reason we, as wargamers, cannot also research the background to, and impact of, campaigning in the historical world where such wars took place. 


As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ve always enjoyed RPG campaigns with a deep setting of place and region - whether urban or rural - and I've always been more than slightly envious that wargaming campaigns have not often been available which provide the same background information. In wanting to correct that imbalance, this book is a great start. 

Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Seventh Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge - 2016



As you may well have seen from the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge blog of my good friend Curt Campbell, the Seventh Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has been recently announced. From December 20th, through to March 20th, bloggers and internet painters will be feverishly wielding their brushes in a collective bout of hobby madness.

I am sure that this year, like many previous years, will have many fantastic and magical moments from all the many friends participating, as well as some times of exhaustion, sore brush fingers, back-ache, frustration (through lack of time) and general chaos.

The Challenge is a slightly mad, though definitely most wonderful, time. It showcases the best of what the internet has to offer. In that regard, the painting and the (lustrous, lovely and spell-binding) miniatures of all participants are really just the backdrop to the real prize on offer – which is the deep and lasting friendships which the Challenge brings among those who take part, comment, observe, or just read about the Challenge-craziness.

I’m trying to be a little more organised in the Challenge this year, and have been thinking of some ideas for the Themed Rounds, as well as trying to get the figures I would like to paint prepared and ready. No doubt many of the other participants are doing the same. 

Mindful of saying too much and of achieving very little (or even less), I’m reluctant to say a great deal about what I’m hoping to do. I do, however, promise to try and blog a little more about the thought processes behind the entries and the painting and perhaps explain a little of the method behind the madness.


One of the things which was fun this Summer was using Google Hangouts to stage “paint and chat” sessions. Chatting to, and seeing people, around the world at their own painting tables was a great privilege. Hopefully, there’ll be many more of those Challenge “paint and chat” sessions before the end of March.

So whether you’re a grizzled veteran of previous Challenges or a newcomer, whether you’re hoping to paint 3,000 points or just 30, I wish you good luck and that I very much hope to see you in the Google Hangouts “paint and chat” very soon.


Monday, 28 November 2016

Crisis 2016, and the field of Waterloo


Over the last few years, I’ve made various trips to wargames shows in the UK and Europe. I don’t always blog my photos from these trips, not least because I’m using Twitter a lot more for posting daily updates. However, Twitter’s not the easiest platform to find anything on – whereas with a blog, I think you can find things a lot more easily through the indexing. 

With that in mind, here’s some of the action from the TooFatLardies’ recent trip to Waterloo and Antwerp in early November. In short it was a cracking weekend. Rather than drive straight to Antwerp for the Crisis 2016 show, we stayed a night at the Hotel 1815, on the site of the Waterloo battlefield. 

So, with that introduction (and well aware that looks at anyone else's holiday snaps is sometimes as dull as watching paint dry), here's my photos from the couple of days we spent in Belgium.  Apologies, my friends, if you doze off... 

Starting with a fine guide to the battlefield (regardless of whether you agree with the arguments concerning Wellington, Blucher and Gneisenau...)


.. and on to the field of Waterloo itself, trampled only by us and thousands of Belgian school parties and battlefield enthusiasts for hundreds of years ... 



The 1815 Hotel was a strange place.  We were refused alcohol in their (empty) bar on account of already having eaten dinner. We enjoyed a quiet drink on the steps of the hotel kitchen, instead.  The hotel did have curious portholes in the bedrooms allowing us to catch fine views over Wallonia on the early Friday morning.


We took the opportunity on both the Thursday and Friday to explore the battlefield, Plancenoit village, Hougoumont and Papelotte. There’s a lot to be said for walking a battlefield, as I’m sure you know. You get a feel for the ground, the terrain, the slight (or steep) folds in the ground which you feel could cause havoc with a column of heavily equipped infantrymen, such as these roads near Papelotte.


You can walk into a village and realise, as we did at Plancenoit, why the imposing church became such a tough and difficult objective for the Prussians to capture, surrounded by steeply dropping narrow roads and pathways.





There's ample time to observe the local architecture (or point out the 18th century brickwork) ... thanks Nick.




Terrain which seems at first sight to be flat, reveals itself with undulations and folds in which cavalry squadrons could reform and or conceal themselves.



Above all, you get a sense of the land, especially when a battlefield such as Waterloo is largely untouched by the following centuries.  Horses grazing just where French and Prussian cavalry vedettes would have clashed, about a mile from Placenoit, was a lovely sight.


It’s a very interesting battlefield, all the better for providing surprises about a battle I thought I knew reasonably well.

Then, after Waterloo, on to Antwerp. As cities go, it’s high up on my list of favourites. Perhaps it’s because I’m always in the company of great friends, and having fun.



Or maybe its because the good people of Antwerp are a friendly bunch, confident in the beauty of their city, its heritage and sense of style (as well as its prosperity). 





Perhaps its also the fact that I enjoy reading of the history of the city and the Spanish Netherlands in general (as readers of this blog will already know). It was a lot of fun to come across a statute of the great Flemish painter David Teniers the Younger on one of the walks we took on the Friday afternoon before Crisis.

Just wandering through the city is a feast for the eyes, and other senses, including wonderful buildings, fine chocolatier and great beers.




On to Crisis itself. It’s a fantastic wargames show, highlighting some of the best games on the “circuit”, remarkable painting, and great imagination. Crisis is all the better for attracting great European wargamers, including many old friends and faces from the UK. Here’s just a selection of the fine games.














And after all that, the fine people at the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp presented Rich and Nick with a fine trophy, now hanging as a chandelier in Lard Island, no doubt.


A great weekend.  A huge thank you to the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp, who work hard to produce such a fine show year after year.  And thanks also to the various bloggers and readers who came and said hello during the weekend.  

Roll on Crisis 2016 next year!


And, next on the blog, some more 2mm Thirty Years War-themed posting, and news of what I'm thinking about for Curt's 7th Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge!  Catch you all soon!



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