Friday 25 November 2022

Lisbon military museum

I have been travelling a bit lately. Downside: not much wargaming. Upside: I was in Lisbon and was able to visit the Lisbon military museum. According to the Lisbon Portugal Tourism Guide page about it, "maybe not too many people are interested in its theme, but no one leaves disappointed"! I'm interested ... and I wasn't disappointed.

The museum isn't organised chronologically but that doesn't mean this brief and far from exhaustive report can't be.

Pre-Napoleonic: quite a lot of morions and halberds and other stuff that goes ding-clang; not my period. I liked the very early artillery though.

Napoleonic: actually I expected even more, but there is still a very decent and substantial section on this.

C19 colonial: some interesting bits and pieces about this little-known (to a lot of us) historical chapter.

WWI: lots on this, about both the Portuguese expeditionary force on the western front and the colonial fronts. Very good.

C20 colonial: a poignant room devoted to this sombre period of colonial guerrilla wars.

Artillery: I believe the museum was once an artillery school and it has lots of cannon.

The museum's official website is part of the Portuguese Army website here.

For much fuller reports than my cursory effort above, and with lots of photos, see Bob Cordery's two reports from 2014 here and here.

Just four photos to give you a taste:

Not actually in the museum but on the way. One example of the many fine pieces of statuary with which Lisbon is endowed. This is the Marquis of Sa da Bandeira, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars who fought in the Portuguese internal conflicts in the 1830s and subsequently served as prime minister.

A poor photo that doesn't do justice to the fine Peninsular War exhibit. Lots more weapons, equipment, paintings, and a relief map of the lines of Torres Vedras.

I'm sure we all know someone who could use a pistol like King Miguel's, with its corkscrew attachment. It has been suggested the twin bayonets mean it could be doubly useful at a barbecue, skewering sausages as well as opening bottles.

And finally: a French howitzer taken at Vitoria.








Saturday 19 November 2022

Vae Victis likes the BBB Hungary '48 scenario book

When we ran our Pákozd 1848 game at the Colours show, one of the many good people I met there was Nicolas Stratigos, editor of the excellent French wargames magazine, Vae Victis. I pressed a copy of the new Bloody Big HUNGARY '48 Battles! scenario book into his hand. BBHB has now been reviewed in VV. I'm happy to report VV's verdict: "This supplement is really well done. [...] the historical content is remarkable and enables this forgotten conflict to emerge from the limbo of history." Merci beaucoup, Nicolas!

Sunday 13 November 2022

Crimean War: the Gospels of the Chernaya (AAR)

I thought I'd let you hear the sound of a few different voices other than my own for a change. This is an After-Action Report by four players from four different points of view. The players were supposed to include Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, hence the 'Gospels' reference in the title. As it happened, John couldn't make it, so the fourth voice here is that lesser-known apostle, Phil. The game was a Crimean War scenario from the Bloody Big European Battles! scenario book: The Battle of the Chernaya (1855), the Russians' last major attack on the Allies besieging Sevastopol. Crispin created another of his custom terrain mats for it, painted the armies and ran the game.

I'll shut up now and let the four apostles and the photos from Crispin and Dave tell the story. 


Quick summary of events in four photos by Crispin:

1. (Looking west along the line of the Chernaya. Russians attacking from the right. White objective markers on the four Fedoukine Heights top centre, Kamara village lower left, Mt Hasfort and the Sardinian outpost lower right.) Russians attack and push Sardinians out of their forward Outpost.... but Sardinians recapture after an initial repulse... Russians withdraw to lick their wounds.

2. Main Russian thrust in the centre manages to push French off two of the Fedoukine Heights (west and middle) with considerable losses on both sides ...

3. Allies commit their cavalry and then infantry reserves to ensure further Heights are not lost. All four reserve contingents committed but with no loss of VP for the Allies!!! (Scenario rule requires a die roll for each contingent committed, the more the riskier.)

 4. Russian cavalry manages to sneak around the Italians' right flank and attempts to 1) get into Kamara (but gets blown away...) and 2) assault Italians in their Outpost - managed to push one unit back but not enough to reclaim the Outpost as a VP .... all on the last turn!

So it ended up as a draw .... but .... it could easily have been a Russian win ... Great fun.


The Gospel According to Matt (Allied Reserve)

As the commander of the Allied Reserve I could only express my astonishment as messenger after messenger emerged through the strangely stubborn mist bringing tales of a dangerous attack. But far from showing ‘significant alarm’ we kept our sang froid, rolling a truly astounding four ones in succession when testing for committing each of the reserve forces. If only I’d known ones would be rolled I would have committed them sooner! As the mist slowly cleared giving us a little more visibility, the reserve cavalry saw an ideal opportunity to assist our Italian friends by forming from column of fours into supported line and charging très magnifiquement full pelt onto the Fedoukine Heights. Unfortunately the fog still obscured several Russian batteries and in an all too familiar outcome half the horse were blown away in minutes. Not to be disheartened the plus courageux other half, from subsequent reports led by a certain Flashman (mostly his own as one of the few survivors), charged again up the steeply held slopes into the flank of yet more Russians (who seemed to be everywhere!) before following their brethren into oblivion. This discouraged the enemy long enough to buy time for the rest of our reserve to deploy, no doubt prompting more thrilling verse from Lord Tennyson to entertain generations for years to come! As my colleague General Pellissier stubbornly gave ground the reserve manoeuvred carefully to steady our collapsing line on the Fedoukine heights just in time to hold the last gasp of the Russian attack here. No doubt L'Empereur will be gratified to learn the Imperial Guard barely got their uniforms dirty and yet will claim all the glory, as usual! 



 Deadly Russian artillery dice blow away British cavalry (top right)


 Second and final British cavalry charge - a noble sacrifice.



The Gospel According to Luke (French C-in-C)

Report from French 2nd Corps

Under cover of heavy fog we were attacked to our right front on the Middle Fedoukine Height by a mass of Russian infantry, perhaps six divisions with a further four in a second wave. They came on in the old way in depth at the point of the bayonet, and once our infantry had rapidly and calmly repositioned itself to form a defensive line somewhat to the east of our initial dispositions, we commenced a storm of defensive small arms fire. Our infantry initially acquitted itself well, particularly the 3rd division and the Zouaves with their new muzzle loading rifles, though the full range of these effective weapons was not usable due to the low visibility. Those units with the older muskets formed up close to the stream line of the aqueduct and commenced volley fire. We appeared to cut down droves of the Russian infantry but still they came on in wave after wave. I regret to say the artillery attached to the Corps was unable to contribute much as it was cut to pieces by a Russian grand battery operating on the right of their line. Sadly, our brave fellows were swept away by a lucky Russian charge breaking through first one unit and then taking others in the flank, as there was an unfortunate angle in our firing line where it followed the curve of the Middle Fedoukine. The surviving elements of two units retreated in order to resupply themselves with ammunition, having expended every round in the troops’ pouches, such was the fury of our volleys. These units were glad to be supported by the reserve, including the Guard. The Russians seemed inordinately excited at the idea of engaging our reserve formations but were unable to push home the advantage beyond the Middle Fedoukine.

Whilst this was all occurring, our gallant Sardinian ally, the young General La Marmora, first lost and then retook the redoubt below Mount Hasfort, held it despite infantry and later cavalry pressure, destroyed a harassing Cossack flank movement with artillery fire, and was even able to throw a division, supported by the Turks, into a sadly unsuccessful flank attack on the East Fedoukine.

We must also pay credit to the gallant but characteristically rash attempt by the British cavalry to charge and disrupt the Russian attack. To lose the entire Light Brigade twice in one war illustrates a noble but impetuous streak. As a colleague said after a similar tragedy last year, “C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas la guerre”.  
 French firepower takes deadly toll of first Russian wave.



The Gospel According to Mark (General Read, Russian right wing)

From the Fedoukine Heights 3.00pm 16 August 1855.

To His Imperial Majesty Alexander, Tsar of all the Russias, Grand Duke of Finland etc etc

In pursuit of your Majesty’s instructions conveyed by General Vrevski, I arrayed my troops alongside part of General Liprandi’s command in the approaches to the valley of the Chernaya. In the absence of clear orders from Prince Gortchakov, we opened the battle at 7.00 am. Seeing the French had fallen back to the heights we advanced first across the Chernaya and then the Aqueduct stream while our artillery deployed to bombard the heights.  On our left flank, General Bellegarde seized the outpost impudently established by the troops of the prince of Sardinia on Telegraph Mountain, forcing the enemy to commit almost all of the Sardinian troops to turn him out again. He then skirmished skilfully with the enemy preventing them from reinforcing the French with more than a fraction of their force. The Cossacks, following Bellegarde’s orders, raided almost as far as Kamara, according to their last report. In the afternoon, having carefully assembled the reserve cavalry on their start lines he launched a bold charge which almost drove the Sardinians from their outpost a second time. I commend this officer to your Majesty for promotion. 

About 10.00 am our troops, seconded by the reserve forces, surged forward in a mighty wave and soon destroyed or pushed back the French occupying the middle and east Fedoukine heights. These we held for the remainder of the day, brushing aside feeble attempts by British cavalry and Turkish infantry to retake them from the east. Such was the elan of our troops and their devotion to the person of your Majesty that they threatened to take control of both the south and west Fedoukine heights also and the French were forced to commit their entire reserve force - even the Imperial Guard themselves - in their efforts to hold their positions.

Though alarmed, the enemy did not panic and since many devoted sons of Mother Russia fell on the field of valour, I judge it best to withdraw at the end of the day under cover of darkness to rest and refresh my troops. I have nevertheless, the honour to report to you the finest feat of Russian arms against the French since the day of Borodino.

Your devoted servant

 The Tsar's children surge across the Fedoukine Heights.

 Every French reserve has been committed, proving barely sufficient to repel the Russians' last mass assault.


The Gospel According to Phil (Russian left wing)

The Ataman of the Ural Cossacks would contribute a dispatch, but General Read’s superlative account is a full, honest and humble depiction of all that happened and beside, a combination of the after-effects of post-battle celebrations of the heroism of His Majesties' Majesty's forces and the subsequent execution of an urgent mission to provide close personal protection to the more deserving of Sebastopol’s civilian populace, ensuring their safety from the clutches of the lascivious French, frankly unspeakable Sicilians and the Turkish terrors, means that he is currently indisposed and unable to add any further commentary that would assist your Majesties' Majesty’s appreciation of events.

PP Denisovich (AdC)      


Grammatically enhanced. Denisovich got a whiff of the Ataman’s vodka fumes.

Denisovich now undergoing remedial training with the Third Section.

Karamazov (dep. AdC)


Cossacks try to sneak into Kamara behind the allies' right flank but are deterred by Turkish artillery rolling 9.

Matt's match-winning dice to resolve whether the scale of the Russian attack caused consternation in Whitehall: "We may have had to commit every man capable of bearing a musket, but the issue was never in doubt."


Update: Deacon Michael Welker has helpfully pointed out that my Biblical references were flawed: "
clarification for history… Matthew and John were Apostles. Mark was St. Peter’s secretary who went to Alexandria as bishop and founded the catechetical school around 50 AD. Luke was a gentile convert, physician and historian… missionary by Paul’s side for a time. Phil though was an Apostle though also there was Philip the Deacon (he evangelized Ethiopia)."