Friday, 31 May 2013


Plancenoit is a large village in Belgium 1.3 miles NW of Waterloo and it was a key strategic point during the battle of Waterloo, as it was the main focal point of the Prussians’ flank attack on Napoleon’s army on the 18th June.
The village of 1815 had around 500 inhabitants and they had all fled their homes the day before the battle. In the middle of the northern part of the village lying on a gentle slope, stood an 13th century church called St Catherine made of white stone it had a church yard surrounded by a low stone wall.
St Catherine’s was severely damaged during the battle and it was demolished but rebuilt in 1857 and was designed by an architect called Coulon. The southern side was mainly flat with most of its buildings made of wooden like huts with straw roofs. Plancenoit had a main cobblestone street which ran from east to west and was divided by a stream.

The first Prussians to arrive on the Waterloo battlefield was General Von Bülow’s IV Corps at about 3.00 pm after a long march from Wavre. His orders from Blücher were to secure the village so that Blücher could launch an attack into the French right flank.
When Napoleon learned of the Prussian arrival on the field, Napoleon sent Lieutenant General Lobau’s French VI Army corps to oppose them.

First the Prussian 15th Brigade of Von Losthin some 6,000 men, attacked the French deployed in Frichermount with a bayonet charge they managed to push them out. They then pushed on to attack the French Cavalry and artillery on the heights.
Von Hiller’s Prussian 16th Brigade then moved forward to take possession of Plancenoit at 16.30pm pushing Lobau’s Corps out of the village. With General Von Bülow’s men in Plancenoit, the 15th Brigade linked up with the Nassau Brigade which was on Wellington’s left. 

Lieutenant General Lobau counterattacked Plancenoit in an effort to win back the village. Napoleon on hearing the Plancenoit had been taken sent his 8 Battalions of the Young Guard to reinforce the French VI Army Corps and to push the Prussians back. After some bitter fighting the Young Guard managed to retake Plancenoit only to be counterattacked and driven back out. To stabilise the situation Napoleon sent 2 Battalions of his Old Guard. They attacked with their bayonets and after another fierce fight they recaptured the village without firing a single shot.
The Prussians were still not giving up the village so likely, and with a combined grouping of around 30,000 men under General Von Bulow and General Prich 1 attacked Plancenoit again against 20,000 Frenchmen who were in and around the village. The Old Guard and the other supporting troops were able to hold on for over an hour before a massive Prussian counterattack evicted them after some ferocious and bloody street hand to hand fighting. Plancenoit was fought over around five times that day and each time the wounded and dying on both sides were bayonetted to death. The last to leave was the Old Guard who defended the burning church and cemetery. The French casualties were horrific; for example it is said that the 1st Tirailleurs of the young Guard suffered 92% losses while two-thirds of Lobau’s Corps ceased to exist.  

In June every year, the village plays host to an annual re-enactment of the battle. A monument in the village commemorates the Prussian troops who died in the battle.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

How it all started for me - Part Six

The 90’s really had a big impact on our hobby and my wallet as we saw the plastic figure companies take off with the Napoleonic Wars sets. Although we lost the Italian company ESCI in the late 80’s, Revell and later on Italeri started to bring out news sets for the hobby.

Revell produced the French Grenadiers of the guard in greatcoats Set 02570 in 1992, the first plastic set of figures in greatcoats and the British Infantry Set 02571. 
In the following year in 1993, they brought out another two new sets. The French Mounted Guard Chasseurs cavalry, Set 02576 which had 17 mounted figures including an Officer and Bugler with horses and one standing figure in dark grey plastic. The other set was the British Foot artillery Set 02577. This set had three cannons with crew plus one limber. There was also included a small section of accessories. The one I liked most in this set was the stack of muskets. All of the set was made in a light grey plastic.
In 1994, Revell gave us another new set, which was the British Life Guards Set 02578. This set had 17 mounted figures which included an Officer and Bugler again made in a light grey plastic. Then in 1995 Italeri produced the Scots Greys Set 6001. This was a new set which again included an Officer and bugler but had a total of 18 mounted figures, much better than the now old ESCI Set 217. They also gave us French Line Infantry. Although most of the poses were from the ESCI Infantry set, there were some new ones poses in the mix.

In 1996 both companies brought out some more new regiments. Revell gave us the Prussian Infantry Set 02580. This was the first time that we have seen Prussian line infantry and the British Rifles Set 02581 which gave us the 95th rifles. Both sets in light grey plastic. The British Rifles was the last ever set from Revell although they re-issued some Italeri sets, French Hussars, French Dragoons and the French Horse Guard Artillery. Italeri made the French Carabiniers heavy cavalry Set 6003. These were made in cream plastic and with 17 mounted figures it again had an Officer and Bugler. They also brought out some Highlander Infantry Set 6004. This was the second complete Highlander set since Airfix back in 1996. Then we had a set of Austrian Grenadiers and line Infantry, Russian Grenadiers, Prussian Cuirassiers and French Hussars Set 6008. These were made in a light blue plastic again with an Officer and Bugler.

We then had to wait till 1998 before was saw any new sets of figures from Italeri who were by now the only company still making Napoleonic figures.  Set 6015 gave us the French Dragoons. Made in cream plastic we not only had the Officer and Bugler but now a standard bearer. 17 mounted with horses but slightly bigger is size, but once painted up they look just as good as the past sets. In 1999 another first for the plastic company was a French Staff Set 6016. Our armies did by then need commanders other than NOC’s so this set was a welcome back then. A nice model of Napoleon on horseback with some mounted and on foot Marshals to accompany him on the battle field. By the end of the 90’s there were  few more plastic figure companies that had stated to produce sets but one of them was an American company called HaT Industries. They were to make a big impact on the war game hobby world.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Baker Rifle

The Baker Rifle was used by the British Army from 1801-1837 and was officially known as the Infantry Rifle.
The muzzle-loading flintlock rifle was used by the Rifle regiments in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Baker Rifle was first made in 1800 by Ezekiel Baker, a master gunsmith from Whitechapel in London and it was the first standard-issue, British made rifle accepted by the British armed forces. The British Army was still issuing the rifle into the late 1830s.
Before the formation of an Experimental Rifle Corps in 1800, a trail was held in Woolwich, London by the British Board of Ordnance on 22 February 1800 in order to select a standard rifle pattern, the rifle designed by Ezekiel Baker was chosen.

The first model resembled the British Infantry Musket, but was rejected as too heavy. Baker was provided with a German Jäger rifle as an example of what was needed. The second model Baker made, it had a .75 calibre bore, the same calibre as the Infantry Musket. It had a 32-inch barrel, with eight rectangular rifling grooves; this model was accepted by the Board of Ordnance as the Infantry Rifle, but more changes were made until it was finally placed into production.
The third and final model had the barrel shortened from 32 to 30-inch, and the calibre was reduced to .653, which allowed the rifle to fire a .625 calibre carbine bullet, with a greased patch to grip the now-seven rectangular grooves in the barrel.
The rifle had a simple folding back-sight with the standard large lock mechanism with a swan-neck cock as fitted to the ’Brown Bess’. Just like the German Jäger rifles, it had a scrolled brass trigger guard to help ensure a firm grip and a raised cheek-piece on the left-hand side of the butt.

Like many rifles, it had a ‘butt-trap’ or patch box where greased linen patches and tools could be stored. The lid of the patch box was made of brass and hinged at the rear, so it could be flipped up. The stock was made of English walnut and held the barrel with three flat captive wedges. The rifle also had a metal locking bar to accommodate a 24-inch sword bayonet, similar to the Jäger rifle. The Baker was 45 inches long from muzzle to butt, 12 inches shorter than the Brown Bess Infantry musket, and was almost 9lb in weight. As gunpowder started to build up in the barrel the weapon became much slower to load and less accurate, so a cleaning kit was stored in the patch box of the Baker.

When the Baker rifle came into service, more modifications were made and several different variations of designs were produced. A lighter and shorter carbine version was made for the cavalry including the Life Guards in 1801 and the 10th Hussars.
Following the German design the Baker was designed to accept a sword-bayonet of some 24 inches in length. The first bayonet for the Baker was a single-edged flat sword of 23 inches long. It was brass with handled with a knuckle bow and clipped onto a muzzle bar. It weighed 2lbs and as later reports confirmed, it created difficulties in firing when it was attached to the rifle muzzle. The sword-bayonets were contracted out to the Birmingham sword cutler Henry Osbourne.

The second pattern of Baker Rifle was fitted with a ‘Newland’ lock that had a flat-faced ring neck cock. In 1806, a third pattern was made that included a ‘pistol grip’ style trigger guard and a smaller patch box with a plain rounded front. The lock plate was smaller, flat, and had a steeped-down tail, a raised semi-waterproof pan, a flat ring neck cock, and a sliding safety bolt. With the introduction of the Brown Bess in 1810, with its flat lock and ring necked cock, the Baker lock followed suit for that then became the fourth pattern model. It also featured a ‘slit stock’- the stock had a slot cut in it’s under part just over a quarter-inch wide. This was introduced after Ezekiel Baker had seen reports of the ramrod jamming in the stock after a build-up of residue in the ramrod channel, and when the wood warped after getting wet.
During the Napoleonic Wars the Baker was reported to be effective at long range due to its accuracy and dependability under battlefield conditions. But with its advantages, the rifle did not replace the British musket, the Brown Bess, but was issued officially only to rifle regiments. The rifle was also used by what were considered elite units, such as the 5th battalion and rifle companies of the 6th and 7th Battalions of the 60th Regiment of Foot and the three battalions of the 95th Regiment of Foot that served under the Duke of Wellington between 1808 and 1814 in the Peninsular War and again at Waterloo in 1815. The two light infantry Battalions of the King’s German Legion as well as sharpshooter platoons within the Light Companies of the KGL line Battalions also used Baker rifles.
The rifle could not usually be reloaded as fast as a musket, as the slight undersized lead balls had to be wrapped in patches of greased linen so that they could more closely fit the lands of the rifling. A rifleman was expected to be able to fire two aimed shots a minute, compared to the four shots a minute of the Brown Bess musket in the hands of a trained infantryman. In the course of the Napoleonic Wars, rifleman used paper patches and even bare rifle balls when shooting in a hurry in battle, with faster loading time at the cost of accuracy.
Accuracy was of more importance than rate of fire when skirmishing. The rifleman’s main battlefield role was to utilise cover and skirmish against the enemy’s lines or to defeat the French skirmishers, whereas his musket armed counterparts in the line infantry fired in volley of mass fire. The skirmishers would face their opponents in pairs, so that one would fire while the other one reloaded.
The Baker as originally manufactured was expected to be capable of firing at a range of up to 200 yards with a high hit rate. Riflemen would regularly hit targets at ranges considered to be beyond the rifle’s effective range speaks for both their marksmanship and the capabilities of the Baker rifle.