Monday, 6 May 2013

Vimeiro Hill - Carnage & Glory II at Legionary, Exeter

As part of the  Devon Wargames Group contribution to support for our local show Legionary I put on a demonstration game of Vimeiro Hill, one of the scenarios featured in the Vimeiro "Light" scenario available in the download section. The rules used were Carnage & Glory II, a rule set I am enjoying playing more each time we use them.

I have been looking forward to playing this game for over a year whilst putting together the collection of units, both French and Anglo-Portuguese to play it. For several units, the French Grenadiers, Dragoons, Portuguese Dragoons, it was to be their first battle initiation, and that often doesn't bode well in my experience.

The Battle of Vimeiro 1808
If you have been following my blog you will know I have outlined the historical situation about this battle in previous posts and I have captured those details in the scenario briefings so don't intend to cover that detail here. The scenario is based on the fighting at one end of the Eastern Ridge, as the British called it, centred on a small hill close to the village of Vimiero.

British order of battle from C&GII

French order of battle from C&GII

The map below sets up the initial positions of the opposing forces and the following pictures will illustrate how our commanders on the day interpreted that.

Vimiero Hill Scenario Map
The French commander decided to position all his on table forces in close support, centred around the main road into Vimiero. The objective is to gain control of Vimiero and/or Vimiero Hill, whilst endeavouring to do as much damage to the opposing force whilst suffering as little harm in return.

The brigades of Thomieres, Charlot and St Clair form up on the road into Vimiero
Nathan who took the role of General Junot decided rather than attack in separate waves as in the actual battle he would attack on mass looking to overwhelm the defenders in an all out attack.

The other end of the French line with the Kellerman's brigade, behind the foot and horse guns of Junot's reserve
Steve who took the role of Wellesley kept his forces distributed along Vimiero Hill on defend orders waiting to see where exactly the French would hit his line.

Sir Arthur Wellesley oversees the British line on Vimiero Hill with Fane's brigade (95th, 60th Rifles and the 50th Foot "West Kents" nearest to camera.
Both commanders had their cavalry assets in reserve, with the British also able to call on an additional brigade of infantry under General Acland positioned behind Vimiero. These forces would only be available from turn two. The action started at 9.30am and was set to play for twelve turns or three hours of combat before assessing the victor.

Anstruther's Brigade Light Battalion screen the approach to Vimiero and Vimiero Hill
The opening moves of Vimiero Hill saw the French columns move out along the Vimiero road supported by their artillery on their left flank. The British brigade light battalions, being quite forward of the hill slopes and Vimiero itself, started to skirmish with these battalions almost immediately.

The French advance to the relentless beat of the "pas de charge".
However under the pressure of the formed columns and a sudden charge by the 26me Chasseurs they were forced back upon their supports in quick time. The British 9lbr guns, meanwhile, concentrated their fire on the combined grenadier battalions managing to get several bounce through shots as the columns sort to find their way between the wheat fields and olive groves.

The opposing skirmish screens clash as the French mass approaches
The first significant clash came as the 2/86me Ligne received  massed musketry from Vimiero, served up by the 20th "East Devon" Foot. The 20th were understrength in this battle having lost four companies during the beach landings, and as events were to prove, were probably not the best unit to garrison the town.

French infantry wave their shakos in the air to encourage their comrades

Kellerman leads his confident combined Grenadiers up the ridge

Wellesley gives encouragement to the 97th and 52nd "Oxfordshire" Foot of Anstruther's brigade
The 2/86me Ligne didn't hesitate, but immediately charged into the town, causing the 20th Foot to leave in great haste less 120 of their number either dead or captured. Vimiero had fallen within the first hour of the battle, and the Combined Grenadiers were about to add their assault to the British commanders woes.

Acland's Brigade Light battalion clash with voltigeurs of the 32me and 82me Ligne in the outskirts of Vimiero

The 20th "East Devon's" Foot formed the garrison of Vimiero protecting Wellesley's baggage and artillery park
The 1me and 2me Grenadier Reunis marched remorselessly up the slope of Vimiero Hill and charged straight into the British gun line. The artillerymen held their nerve and fired canister at point blank range killing or wounding about 40 of these elite infantry. The fire seemed to have little effect and the gunners were soon running back managing to limber up 4 of their 6 guns.

The Grenadiers of Kellerman's brigade assault the British gun line getting 9lbr canister for their trouble.
By turn four 10.30am in battle time the momentum was with General Junot, his troops having been completely successful on all fronts. However, aware that there were other British units available to plug gaps, the cavalry under Margaron were ordered out to the French left flank in order to pin the Allied units on the Allied right flank.

BG Margaron leads the 26me Chass. a Cheval and 5me Provisional Dragoons supporting the French left. 
To counter the French moves, Wellesley moved the Portuguese Dragoons and 95th Rifles forward on the heights in preparation to hold back the French cavalry as other units were moved to support efforts to repel the French troops around Vimiero.

The Portuguese Light Dragoons drawn up on Vimiero Hill prepare to challenge the French cavalry
The fight with the Grenadiers and British attempts to retake Vimiero reached a crescendo by turn six, 11am in game time. The lead Grenadier battalions under Kellerman were tiring after their fight with the gunners, and the French line infantry in and around Vimiero were also starting to show the effects of continual sniping from the British light troops.

It was now that Wellesley brought forward the battalions of Anstruthers brigade moving over the front of the ridge to deliver their first volleys into the Grenadiers. The effect was staggering as the 9th, 97th and 52nd Foot all fired into the massed ranks. Both lead battalions suffered over 100 casualties and recoiled back down the slope in disorder taking Kellerman with them.

The battle reaches a climax as the French assault Vimiero and the hill
The battle was on a "knife edge" with the British force morale at 78%, 4% above break point, but with the success of the British counterattack on the hill the French had dropped to 83% only marginally better, and the French line troops refused to advance beyond Vimiero to clear the British skirmish lines around the town. Would this be the "high water mark" of the French assault?

With the skirmishing over the 52nd Light Infantry prepare to advance on the French
Both sides prepared their final attacks to try and push the other to break point first.

The fighting gets up close and personal.

The French Combined Grenadiers break under the close volleys of the 52nd Foot and rout down the hill.

The 2/86me Ligne clear Vimiero of redcoats

The second brigade of combined grenadiers under St Clair maintain the pressure, supported by Junot's guns.

The Portuguese meet the French Dragoons on the hill with the 95th Rifles in support.
Sir Arthur now ordered the 2/43rd Light Infantry to clear the French from Vimiero, whilst advancing on the second brigade of Grenadiers under St Clair pressing on the slopes of Vimiero Hill. To support these attacks he brought forward the 20th Light Dragoons in preparation for their follow up charge to clear the French from the hill.

St Clair's Grenadiers push the British line back.
General Junot ordered St Clair to attack the British lines on Vimiero Hill, and the 82me and 32me Ligne to charge the light troops of Acland's Light Battalion still skirmishing around Vimiero. In addition he sent the 5me Provisional Dragoons up the slopes of Vimiero Hill to tackle their Portuguese opposite numbers.

The Portuguese come of worse but  with Wellesley's encouragement, hold their line
The charges were declared and the combats commenced. The 43rd foot charged half-heartedly into Vimiero, only penetrating the outskirts and after a quick combat were pushed back out by the valiant 2/86me Ligne, the stars of the French forces this day. The British fire on the second brigade of Grenadiers was desultory in comparison to their first volleys and the Grenadiers managed to stand under the fire.

However the French 82me and 32me refused to charge and retreated in the face of Acland's "Light Bobs". The 1me Grenadiers turned their retreat into a rout, and the 2me Grenadiers continued to follow them in retreat.

The French push on into the British lines with both forces close to break point

The final combat then resolved on the French and Portuguese Dragoons. The French charged, the Portuguese refused to charge so took the French on at the halt. The combat went to the French with eight Portuguese killed and the regiment forced back.

It was the end of Turn 8, 11.30 am and it was all over. The combats were enough to tip the Allies over the break point and give victory to the French.

The Butchers Bill
Many thanks to Steve and Nathan for a very entertaining days battle. We hope the many people who came over to watch the battle unfold, enjoyed the game. We certainly had lots of questions about the rules. The notes about the system, available from the Carnage & Glory Yahoo Group, were very useful in explaining how the game works. Next up, the second part of this scenario, the battle at Ventosa Farm.


  1. Enjoyable AAR as always.

  2. Jonathan,
    Excellent battle report and very enjoyable to read! Well painted troops and nicely laid out terrain.

    I was surprised at the ending body count showing the defending British suffering twice the casualties as the attacking French.

    To me, it is interesting to compare your microcosm of the battle focused on the attack on Vimeiro Hill against my full battle replay. In my replay, the French took the hill but later lost the battle. I wonder if you would have reached a similar outcome had the battle expanded to include the whole engagement?

    Nicely done!
    the other Jonathan

    1. Hi Jonathan, thanks for your comments.

      The C&G record for British casualties also includes, three units routing off table and dispersing during the battle. The French managed to rally their Grenadier battalion at game end. As with most battles the casualties were pretty even during the fight, but the loser ends up taking greater hits during the retreat.

      I am planning to do the full thing on my new table in June with a crowd of the guys from the club running the individual brigades, as outlined in my Vimiero full fat scenario. I think when the commanders are challenged with the hidden set ups and movement that the historical commanders had to deal with on the day, the results might be quite different.

      Note that because this was a demo game, all the toys were visible on the table.

      Thanks again mate

      The other Jonathan

  3. This looks excellent - this is one of those fun battles that features things arriving all over the place and not too much cavalry - we're thinking of doing it in August - cheers for the inspiration.
    Be good,

    1. Hi JJ, thank you. I agree entirely. I am planning to do the second part of this battle next week by doing the other end of the Eastern Ridge at Ventosa. Then, next month, to bring the whole thing together with the full battle.

      It will be interesting to compare our games.