As a prelude to hostilities Steve pressed ‘play’ on a Dictaphone previously secreted on his person. Moments later the stirring bars of ‘La Marsailles’ blared forth to the delight of all in La Grande Armee! His Generals stood as one man, and with hands on hearts joined in a rousing ‘hum along’. From this display of Fraternitie it was clear from the outset that France would not take a backwards step. Sadly the occasion was somewhat befouled by the lower elements of the Allied ranks. Shouts of, ‘How’s the haemorrhoids today Frenchie?’ did little to improve the humour of the little Corsican…
With a hand of cards heavily weighted towards the left flank, France opened hostilities with a major assault on Hougoument. Reeking of garlic – the proud infantry of General Declan ‘I’m right behind you men’ Breen marched fearlessly towards the farmhouse. Tragically, in their enthusiasm, they overreached themselves. Cowering behind thick stone, the Allied guns slaughtered the sons of France between the farm and the woods.
Within two turns it became painfully obvious that the attempt on Hougoument would have to be abandoned. As French block after French block was removed from the field, we knew that many a proud matron would never again set eyes on her beloved Pierre or Jean –Paul. Shame on you General Dave ‘volley’ Bruce, shame on you indeed. Hougoument was not again to be threatened for the remainder of the battle. Indeed the Allies advanced to the point where French forces were pushed to the very baseline. Disaster was prevented only by some desperate skirmishing and use of a ‘Rally’ card.
Special note must be made of the heroic solo charge of a unit of Declan’s cavalry. These bold horsemen devastated a full strength unit of British Guards; they then gained the ridge behind Hougoument. Inevitably they fell back under a hail of musketry, but what élan!
Bravo Mes Enfants!
Meanwhile the French centre made a tentative advance under the direction of Marshal Peter’ call me Ney’ Brimstone. La Haye Sainte could not be taken, and the killing ground in front of the Allied lines was not an inviting prospect. Cannon roared and muskets fired as the French built a fresh attack. Momentarily the French cavalry breached the Allied line and fought on the ridge. Banners were exchanged, but hopes of a decisive breakthrough came to nought. General Ross ‘Stonewall’ Verner remained stoic and immovable. Wellington had kept his powder dry.
On the French right, General Arthur ‘Butcher’ Bray was increasingly anxious for battle. After a slow start more and more troops became embroiled in the struggle for Papelotte and the ridge beyond. General Bray captured the exposed farm, but impatiently seeking further glory, allowed it to be retaken. A personal visit from an irate Emperor reminded the ‘Butcher’ of the necessity of holding Papelotte. The general remonstrated that he felt lonely on the flank, and if trusted with more cards he could take the ridge. Having already listened to remarks such as, ‘Oh God, we made a mess of that – it’s all over, over!’ - the Emperor was sceptical. When handed a drawing of a guillotine the good General stiffened his resolve and bravely retook the big ‘P’. In fierce exchanges his cavalry reached the ridge, but yet again the Allies forced a withdrawal.
At this latter stage of the battle both sides resembled boxers in the final round of a gruelling bout. Both too damaged and exhausted to land a knockout blow. The flanks had largely fought themselves to a standstill. France had many powerful units remaining in the centre, but it would take time to reach the timid regiments of ‘Stonewall’ Verner. Hiding in ditches and playing in sandpits is not the French way! Unfortunately, time was the one thing France no longer had.With the lateness of the hour, Glenn decreed that if the French did not gain victory they would lose by default. The tramp of Prussian boots could be heard in the near distance. France had a banner lead and required only two more for victory – would it be a ridge too far! The Allied forces of Mike ‘give them a good spanking boys’ Wellington could almost touch immortal fame.
There is, of course, no word in French for surrender. Steve ‘is there more beer?’ Napoleon had spotted a potentially fatal flaw in the Allied centre. The King’s German Legion still held La Haye Sainte – but, they were unsupported. Final orders were given. Peter ‘call me Ney’ Brimstone was instructed to launch a single line infantry unit at the infamous farmhouse. He protested, ‘But one unit Sir – it’s madness!’ When told not to think, but to trust in the greatest living Frenchman, he squared his shoulders and advanced on destiny. The future of an Emperor and his adoring people rested on one throw of the dice…
The French line infantry had 4 dice plus one for melee bonus then minus 2 for attacking the farmhouse. Three dice to decide everything, and one flag was needed.
The dice rolled and there on one of them fluttered a flag of retreat. The KGL retired from La Haye Sainte and the French moved in. France claimed three banners and victoire!
Nothing remained now for France’s finest but a late supper in Brussels and hopefully a bit of ‘Oh La, La!’
‘Place a la banniere’
Reille: Declan (Left Flank)
Ney: Peter (Centre)
D’Erlon: Arthur (Right Flank)
Perponcher: Alan (Left Flank)
Picton: Ross (Centre Flank)
Hill: Dave (Right Flank)
Referee : Glenn ‘your decision anytime today would be nice’
Battle Report : Steve