Monday, 7 September 2015

Talavera - Dawn Attack, Game Two


It was back in July that we put our "toe in the water" with this historically one sided attack that saw the veteran French infantry of Ruffin's division so contemptuously dealt with as they attempted to overawe yet another European foe with their tried and trusted infantry columns screened by hundreds of voltigeurs and preceded by a massed artillery barrage.

We of course have the benefit of two hundred plus years of hindsight and analysis that causes many a budding French commander to be a little reticent in trying to out perform their historical counterparts.

The set up for the Dawn Attack Scenario
So the challenge is how to incorporate this historical attack into our series of games that link up to recreate our table top Talavera encounter.

The learning that came out of game one was that we had to recreate the constraints our historical commanders faced and include a lot of the uncertainties to, whilst allowing enough opportunity for both sides to seek to gain a result from the game that could improve their position in a series of linked encounters. This wouldn't preclude playing the scenario as a stand alone game but would offer the student of the battle as a whole a more interesting challenge.

So we decided that we needed to recreate the fact that Villatte historically failed to follow his orders and did not support Ruffin's attack, but provide the possibility that he might have done so soon after Ruffin launched his columns forward, or that he might have moved forward once he saw signs of success with Ruffin's troops moving on to the summit of the Medellin. This was accomplished with a simple die roll to determine Villatte's stance prior to starting, but keeping the result from both the French and British commanders thus creating the historical uncertainty.

The game was set to the historical timetable, that is starting at 05.00 and ending at 09.00. This gives a full day of gaming with a potential sixteen turns of action, enough to allow Villatte to join the attack immediately but would require more time to allow a late attack to develop fully. We did not want to take the scenario into additional turns, so decided to give the French a favourable results swing if they had conditional support from Villatte and managed to penetrate the British line and get a formed, under orders, battalion or more onto the summit area as shown on the map. If Villatte decides not to join the attack then Ruffin is on his own and must strive to penetrate the defence as described to swing the final game result in his favour to off set the inevitable casualty bill he will suffer. Either way it is in the interest of the French commander to engineer a penetration of the British line whatever the casualty bill required, preferably the least possible.

Finally we considered what happened in our last game where the British commander, aware that Villatte's troops were pinned, swung his units facing them, over to the threatened flank, and threw in cavalry over very poor terrain for good measure. Now with the uncertainty of what Villatte would do, the British commander was less likely to move units anyway, but, just for good measure, we restricted any movement to Hill's division and the allied cavalry, with the knowledge that moving cavalry over the poor terrain of the Medellin would be just as fatiguing to their cavalry as for the French to move theirs along the northern valley. These simple constraints were designed to encourage the infantry battle from history rather than the wargamers desire to throw cavalry at any problem.

It's 05.00 on the 28th July 1809 and the early dawn at Talavera is shattered by the French massed guns on Cerro de Cascajal
Following some conversation with the guys on the Carnage & Glory Yahoo group, I made a few changes to the terrain and start options. So the French commander retained the option to initiate a two or three move artillery barrage, before his advance, however there would be no pass through fire on the front slope of the Medellin, in addition, the French were given the option of "doubling" across the valley.

The one variable that couldn't be predicted precisely, which is why I love C&G, is what the weather would do. In the last game an early summer morning mist and light rain reduced visibility to four hundred paces within three to four turns. In this game the visibility dropped to four hundred paces in turn two, then to two hundred paces in turn three and only cleared on turn six just as the French were being forced back into the valley!

As the visibility drops to 200 paces the French columns double march across the Portina stream
And so to our second game and the way it played under our additional changes.

General Ruffin looked closely at the gold pocket watch he routinely carried. Precisely at 0500 a single eight pounder fired its round out towards the British gun line opposite to herald all forty French cannon to begin their work. His fatigue from the previous nights battle could not be denied and the memory of the tenacious fight put up by those redcoats caused him to have some concern on the wisdom of pressing the same attack over the same ground in daylight. Still Marshal Victor had promised him the support of an echelon attack across the front of the Medellin with the support of General Villatte's division and following their successes at the Battles of Ucles and Medellin, the two divisions had demonstrated their ability to work well with each other, so perhaps the extra support should make the difference.

General Villatte was also observing the British gun line opposite, but he had even more doubts over the wisdom of pressing this attack on an enemy on even greater alert following the surprise attacks administered to them in the last twenty-four hours. Turning in the saddle to his aide, Colonel Jamin, he pointed to the crest and the centre of the summit opposite. "We are ordered to attack the British in support of Ruffin; when we see his troops over that crest we will move off at the double in support and not before, please pass my compliments and my orders to Generals Cassagne and Puthod."

The die roll our French commander (Steve) had made only gained provisional support from Villatte.

The voltigeur battalions probe ahead as the French masses climb the forward slope of the Cerro de Medellin
The leading French columns set off promptly at 0545 descending into the valley of the Portina stream between the two lines. The day had already had a change of plan forced on it as within fifteen minutes of the opening salvos, the French guns fell silent as the mist closed in and masked the British line from further shots.

As ordered the infantry waited a further fifteen minutes before commencing their attack as planned, moving off at the double and quickly arriving at the foot of the British held slope, with the voltigeurs ahead in the murk, "feeling" out the advance.

The KGL Foot artillery medium six pounders of  Rettberg's brigade greet the first intruders
Suddenly the voltigeur screen was met by hail of cannister as their men became visible to the British gunners. Whistles sounded as officers led their light companies forward to take up the battle.

The skirmish battle on the forward slopes hots up
The British light battalions, although outnumbered contested the French advance and the riflemen sought out the columns behind by using their longer ranged weapons to pick off nco's and officers, The British gunners took their toll as their canister swept through the screen of voltiguers and carried on hitting those unfortunate columns coming up behind and in range of the flying bullets.

British guns and skirmishers engage the forward French troops
The French veterans ploughed on up the slope regardless of the casualties and as the British light bobs fell back, General Hill used the time to reposition his strung out line into a double line of battalions, placing the veteran 3rd (Buffs) and 29th Foot in behind the battalion of detachments and 1/48th Foot, whilst, taking advantage of the reduced visibility, advancing the 2/66th Foot past the British gun line down the slope behind Tilson's light bobs to threaten the flank of the 96e Ligne and its three columns.

To secure the British guns the 2/48th took position behind their lines ready to assist them if threatened.

As the British light bobs reluctantly give ground their supporting lines move forward to deal with the columns
The French columns of the 9e Legere and the 24e Ligne were the first to drive in through the British skirmish line and charge forward. The two lead British battalions found themselves facing two columns each and thus splitting their fire. In both cases the initial volley stopped the first French column and though inflicting casualties on the second caused the British troops to fall back through their supports to be met by Generals Wellesley and Hill who quickly restored order.

The British cannon pour on the cannister as French columns emerge from the mist and gunsmoke
Meanwhile on the left flank of the French attack, the threat from the 2/66th and Tilson's light bobs had made itself felt forcing the voltigeur screen and a battalion of the 96e Ligne to face left in line to protect their exposed flank.

The 96e Ligne found itself assailed by rifle reinforced skirmish fire from the flank and multiple rounds of cannister from the front, totally stalling their assault.

The first columns are met by massed musket volleys, note the British reserve line with Hill and Wellesley in close attendance behind
With the battle reaching its climax and the two front British battalions driven back from the crest by the lead battalions of the 9e Legere and 24e Ligne, General Ruffin sensed a chance to break into the British position and set off a full on assault with Villatte's men.

That's a point, thought Ruffin, where were Villatte's men? No time to think about that now with the crest line ahead empty of British troops. Generals Ruffin and Meunier joined their weary columns and encouraged them on to make one more push for the top.

The 9e Legere rout back down the slope after meeting the 29th Foot
It was at the highwater mark of French success that the battle irretrievably turned as the 29th and 3rd Buffs stepped forward into the breach, suddenly filling what had been an empty space with a long line of redcoats. As Ruffin and Meunier chivvied their battered battalions to make one final charge at this new line, the order was given to present arms.

The cheering from the French columns seemed a little less certain as the muskets were levelled in their direction and the volley fire from both battalions seemed to stagger the French battalions. As the smoke and mist cleared to reveal the shattered heads of the French columns, the 29th and 3rd charged down the slope catching two of the French units in full retreat.

As the visibility lifts, the French guns are able to open fire to cover the withdrawal of their infantry
Meanwhile on the French left, the 96e Ligne were equally in trouble with their attack stalled in front of the British guns and struggling to advance after the casualties they had suffered. General Barrois who had joined the 1/96e Ligne to encourage the assault forward had his horse shot from under him.

The French division under Ruffin are well and truly repulsed
Both Generals Ruffin and Meunier managed to extricate themselves from the French retreat and attach themselves to the two supporting battalions bringing up the rear. If the situation was to be salvaged they needed to take advantage of the fact that the two British battalions had charged halfway down the slope and were beyond their supports.

The two French columns with their commanders attached charged forward only to be met again by two well delivered volleys and with the Buffs countercharging into the 3/24e Ligne. The firing was devastating and Ruffin was seen to fall mortally wounded with a shot to the chest, whilst General Meunier had his horse shot from under him and narrowly escaped capture.

The 3rd (Buffs) and the 29th Foot, flush with victory finish off those French battalions unwise enough to remain on the slope
The whole French attack was in disarray and General Hill rode up to the 29th and Buffs to curtail any rash movement across the valley into French lines, This proved a wise move as the mist chose this moment to lift allowing the French guns to play on those British units forward of the ridge line as they scurried up the slope to get clear of their fire. In addition General Beaumont brought his light cavalry forward into the valley supported by his horse battery to cover the last French columns as they fell back to their lines bringing the mornings action to a close at 0700.

The French guns respond as best they can, but the attack is well and truly over
This game gave us a really good look at the task facing a full on attack that was delivered by Ruffin in the actual battle. Steve is to be congratulated for going for it and forcing the first British line to retire in the face of his first assault and opening the possibility of taking the fight onto the summit, which would have shifted the result in his favour to a minor British victory.

Will (General Wellesley) was equally well versed in British tactics to reposition Hill's two brigades into a double line to meet the nine on coming French battalions and even developing a flank attack of his own with the 2/66th emulating a similar attack by the 7th and 5th KGL in the actual battle.

We all felt the change in visibility that lasted through most of the action had been a very deciding factor that cancelled out the power of the French guns to support the attack and may well have cost the French their minor victory - such are the fortunes of war.

We like the new balancing factors and now just need to test a full on assault by both French divisions to see the possibilities that might be offered by bringing on the full out attack that Marshal Victor had envisaged.

The butchers bill below shows the devastation meted out to Ruffin's columns suffering similar casualties as incurred in the historical attack. The British however got away with 600 fewer probably down to the negating of French artillery by the weather.

Carnage&GloryII - Napoleonic Tactical System Module - © 2001-10, Nigel P. Marsh
Talavera - Dawn Attack
As of Game Turn: 8
[D] denotes Dispersed and removed from the field
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
[Y] denotes Routing

Army Sir Arthur Wellesley
[ 501] Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley - Active A [1500 paces]
[ 550] Eliott's Brigade 0/ 151 [ 6] C Good Fresh
[R] [ 551] Rettberg's Brigade 32/ 112 [ 6] C Poor Exhausted
[ 552] Heyse's Brigade 1/ 148 [ 6] C Good Acceptable

Division William Payne - Defend
[ 503] Lieutenant General William Payne - Active C+ [725 paces]
Brigade Henry Fane - Defend
[ 504] Brigadier General Henry Fane - Active B- [400 paces]
[ 501] 3rd Dragoon Guards A 0/ 255 C+ Good Fresh
[ 502] 3rd Dragoon Guards B 0/ 273 C+ Good Fresh
[ 503] 4th Dragoons A 0/ 279 C Good Fresh
[ 504] 4th Dragoons B 0/ 271 C Good Fresh
Brigade Stapleton Cotton - Defend
[ 505] Brigadier General Stapleton Cotton - Active B+ [500 paces]
[ 505] 14th Light Dragoons A 0/ 240 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 506] 14th Light Dragoons B 0/ 229 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 507] 16th Light Dragoons A 0/ 253 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 508] 16th Light Dragoons B 0/ 271 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade George Anson - Defend
[ 506] Brigadier General George Anson - Active B- [400 paces]
[ 509] 23rd Light Dragoons A 0/ 229 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 510] 23rd Light Dragoons B 0/ 224 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 511] 1st Light Dragoons KGL A 0/ 220 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
[ 512] 1st Light Dragoons KGL B 0/ 228 C+ [sk] Good Fresh

Division John Coape Sherbrooke - Defend
[ 507] Lieutenant General John Coape Sherbrooke - Active B- [800 paces]
Brigade Ernest Baron Langwerth - Defend
[ 510] Brigadier General Ernest Baron Langwerth - Active B- [350 paces]
[ 519] 1st KGL Line Battalion 0/ 544 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 520] 2nd KGL Line Battalion 0/ 610 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 521] Langwerth's Bde. Light Bn. 0/ 234 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Sigismund Baron Low - Defend
[ 511] Brigadier General Sigismund Baron Low - Active C+ [450 paces]
[ 522] 5th KGL Line Battalion 0/ 549 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[R] [ 523] 7th KGL Line Battalion 87/ 414 C- [sk] Poor Fresh
[ 524] Low's Bde. Light Bn. 5/ 112 C [sk] Good Fresh

Division Rowland Hill - Defend
[ 512] Major General Rowland Hill - Active B- [950 paces]
Brigade Christopher Tilson - Defend
[ 513] Brigadier General Christopher Tilson - Active C+ [350 paces]
[ 525] 1/3rd Foot 9/ 662 C+ [sk] Ex'lent Tired
[ 526] 2/48th Foot 0/ 510 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 527] 2/66th Foot 0/ 473 C- [sk] Average Fresh
[ 528] Tilson's Bde. Light Bn. 11/ 226 C [sk] Average Fresh
Brigade Richard Stewart - Defend
[ 514] Brigadier General Richard Stewart - Active B [450 paces]
[W] [ 529] 29th Foot 15/ 523 C+ [sk] Good Tired
[ 530] 1/48th Foot 61/ 665 C- [sk] Good Tired
[ 531] 1st Battalion of Detachments 6/ 542 C- [sk] Average Acceptable
[ 532] Stuart's Bde. Light Bn. 14/ 188 C [sk] Poor Tiring
Brigade Rufane Donkin - Defend
[ 516] Colonel Rufane Donkin - Active B- [350 paces]
[ 537] 2/87th Foot 0/ 539 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 538] 1/88th Foot 0/ 539 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 539] 5/60th Rifles 0/ 220 B- [sk] Ex'lent Fresh
[ 540] Donkin's Bde. Light Bn. 0/ 175 C [sk] Good Fresh

Strengths:
losses/active
208/ 7725 Bayonets
0/ 2972 Sabres
33/ 411 Artillerists
0/ 18 Cannon
241/ 11108 Total of all arms
22 Standards present
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Talavera - Dawn Attack
As of Game Turn: 8
Corps Claude-Victor Perrin
[ 104] Marechal d'Empire Claude-Victor Perrin - Active B- [1300 paces]
[ 101] 6/8me Artillerie a Pied 0/ 193 [ 8] C Good Fresh
[ 102] 2/6me Artillerie a Cheval 0/ 156 [ 6] B- Ex'lent Acceptable
[ 103] 1/8me Artillerie a Pied 0/ 195 [ 8] C Good Acceptable

Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Attack
[ 105] General de Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Mortally wounded D+ [650 paces]
[ 190] 4/8me Artillerie a Pied 0/ 209 [ 8] C+ Good Acceptable
Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Disengaged
[ 106] General de Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Active B- [400 paces]
[D] [ 191] 1/9me Regiment de Legere 136/ 331 C [sk] Broken Tired
[D] [ 192] 2/9me Regiment de Legere 176/ 321 C [sk] Broken Tiring
[D] [ 193] 3/9me Regiment de Legere 222/ 269 C- [sk] Broken Tiring
[D] [ 194] 1/24me Regiment de Ligne 162/ 310 C [sk] Broken Exhausted
[D] [ 195] 2/24me Regiment de Ligne 282/ 189 C [sk] Broken Tiring
[D] [ 196] 3/24me Regiment de Ligne 12/ 485 C- [sk] Average Fresh
[D] [ 197] 9me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 11/ 297 C [sk] Good Acceptable
[D] [ 198] 24me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 50/ 258 C [sk] Poor Tiring
Brigade Pierre Barrois - Attack [No Advance]
[ 107] General de Brigade Pierre Barrois - Active B [450 paces]
[R] [ 199] 1/96me Regiment de Ligne. 92/ 421 C [sk] Broken Tiring
[ 200] 2/96me Regiment de Ligne. 71/ 436 C [sk] Average Fresh
[ 201] 3/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 476 C- [sk] Average Fresh
[ 202] 96me Regt. Voltiguer Bn. 17/ 271 C [sk] Average Tired

Division Eugene Villatte - Support
[ 111] General de Division Eugene Villatte - Active B [875 paces]
[ 120] 2/8me Artillerie a Pied 0/ 198 [ 8] C+ Good Fresh
Brigade Baron Louis-Victorin Cassagne - Support
[ 112] General de Brigade Baron Louis-Victorin Cassagne - Active C+ [400 paces]
[ 121] 1/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 424 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 122] 2/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 409 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 123] 3/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 428 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 124] 1/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 432 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 125] 2/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 411 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 126] 3/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 422 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 127] 27me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 261 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 128] 63me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 261 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Jacques Puthod - Support
[ 113] General de Brigade Jacques Puthod - Active C [350 paces]
[ 129] 1/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 414 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 130] 2/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 434 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 131] 3/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 441 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 132] 1/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 447 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 133] 2/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 447 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 134] 3/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 419 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[ 135] 94me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 251 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 136] 95me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 250 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Louis Carriere, Baron Beaumont - Attack
[ 114] General de Brigade Louis Carriere, Baron Beaumont - Active C+ [400 paces]
[ 137] 1/3me Artillerie a Cheval 0/ 144 [ 6] B- Ex'lent Fresh
[ 138] 2me Regiment de Hussards A 0/ 228 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 139] 2me Regiment de Hussards B 0/ 243 C Good Fresh
[ 140] 5me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval A 0/ 259 C Good Fresh
[ 141] 5me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval B 0/ 255 C [sk] Good Fresh

Division Antoine Christophe Merlin - Attack
[ 123] General de Brigade Antoine Christophe Merlin - Active C- [725 paces]
Brigade Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz - Attack
[ 124] Colonel Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz - Active D+ [300 paces]
[ 178] 10me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval 0/ 327 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 179] 26me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval 0/ 216 C [sk] Good Fresh

Division Francois-Leon Ormancey - Attack
[ 125] Colonel Francois-Leon Ormancey - Active C- [650 paces]
[ 180] 1st Vistula Legion Lancers A 0/ 224 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 181] 1st Vistula Legion Lancers B 0/ 206 C [sk] Good Fresh
[ 182] Westplalian Light Horse 0/ 210 C [sk] Good Fresh

Strengths:
losses/active
1231/ 10215 Bayonets
0/ 2168 Sabres
0/ 1095 Artillerists
0/ 44 Cannon
1231/ 13478 Total of all arms
7 Standards present
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Talavera - Dawn Attack
Major victory for the British Army
As of Game Turn: 8

The British Army has suffered losses of:
[ 2%] 241 men of all arms incl.
[ 0%] 61 prisoners of all arms
[ 2%] 208 bayonets
[ 0%] 0 sabres
[ 7%] 33 artillerists
Honours: [ 525] 1/3rd Foot

The French Army has suffered losses of:
[ 25%] 3691 men of all arms incl.
[ 1%] 228 prisoners of all arms
[ 32%] 3691 bayonets
[ 0%] 0 sabres
[ 0%] 0 artillerists
Honours: [ 101] 6/8me Artillerie a Pied
Losses include 1 General[s]:
[ 105] Francois Amable Ruffin - Mortally wounded

Thanks to Will and Steve for a thoroughly entertaining game and helping to give this scenario a really good structure.

13 comments:

  1. Smashing AAR. We're hoping to do Talavera soon and all your hard work is saving us a lot of time. Excellent job.

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  2. Loving these posts JJ - really inspirational stuff. Very keen as you know to replicate these on my own field this year. Following with passion!

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  3. Thanks for your comments chaps, glad you are enjoying Talavera.
    This particular scenario is quite a tricky one to model to allow it to present a challenge to both sides and to encourage the French to press their attack in a difficult situation. I think we have just about got it there but will have a better idea when we play the third game where we intend to have Villatte attack alongside Ruffin to see what the potential is when Victor gets his plan working the way he intended.
    Lots more stuff to come as I build up the forces required for the full afternoon attack, together with some more work on the German Division attack on the Pajar that we had a debut of at The Devon Wargames Group, but that I want to include as a C&G module.
    Cheers
    JJ

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  4. Brilliant and very, very impressive! Love your photos and report, really stunning!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Cheers Phil, glad you liked the game
      JJ

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  5. A lot of work went into that post and it was an enjoyable read, many thanks .
    Regards Furphy .

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    1. Thanks Furphy, we had a fun game, glad you enjoyed the post
      JJ

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  6. Excellent, descriptive report of the game Jonathan and some marvellous photos to go with it! Love those sizeable battalions making for impressive looking divisions. Super terrain too!
    What is the affect of the Portina Brook in this scenario?
    Thanks, James

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    1. Hi James, thank you. Yes the big battalion look really works en masse and I am really looking forward to the afternoon scenario with the table set up with both armies ready to go.
      The Portina brook is described as easily crossable along its length with a slight gully between the two Cerro's. In July and the height of summer it was mostly dry with a few pools and it seems from reports that both sides moved across it with little hindrance to movement, so I generally only fatigue the battalions moving over the extreme end of it between the two hills, "crossing disruptive terrain" in C&G.
      Cheers
      JJ

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  7. Just returned to re-read this. Really good report with pretty scenery and an ever growing collection of excellent toys, I am really looking forward to more of this. Keep it up! Best wishes, warpaintjj

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    1. Cheers Jeremy, lots more to come
      JJ

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