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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Not Yet Demoralised French Are Here

So without further ado, I give you the first French battalion painted and basted lol!
Now, I have the rest of both initial armies to crack on with, then making/scratch building a load of terrain, then another couple of armies to get painted up and based then scratch building a load of terrain and gaming board, then a couple more armies to paint and base up, then... Well you get the idea. This is a solo project as my club is 28mm WAB dominated and has been for a number of years now and it all looks like the same old few puny miniatures huddling round 1 or 2 bits of terrain on an over sized gaming board that still doesnt look adequate for the 28's! Most frustrating.
However, no longer will this be the norm once I have enough stuff for my Gravelotte St. Privat table top re-enactment. This is a battle where either side could have easily won at any point by using that cunning thing otherwise known as tactics.
Gravelotte St. Privat 18th August 1870 & the end of the second French Empire
On the 18th August 1870 a massive Prussian allied force advanced on a much smaller dug in French Army with the intent of striking a decisive blow against the second empire. In this the Prussians succeeded. However, Prussian casualties were high and the French put up a stalwart and determined defence against a blundering and overly aggressive Prussian allied advance.
Only numbers really won it on the Prussian side coupled with French in action and a failure to commit the reserve artillery and even the French Guard from whom a determined counter attack could so easily have turned the tide of battle and won the French an important and morale boosting victory having already received several initial defeats in the opening of the Franco-Prussian war. A victory here would have given the French the breathing space they so desperately needed to regroup, re-organise and re-think the campaign. However, due to a lacklustre approach by French high command and no overall strategy or war objectives in place, French high command significantly failed its often determined and courageous troops who so outclassed the Prussians in terms of infantry firepower with the French Chassepot rifle. The Chassepot far outclassed the Dreyse 'needle' rifle in terms of range and reliability which the Prussians further compounded by advancing in close order ranks across French fields of fire from dug in and well prepared positions.
However, by the same token, the Prussian artillery, primarily equipped with the 4pdr breech loading Krupp artillery piece far outclassed the French artillery, the majority of which were muzzle loading 4pdr's (not actually 4pdr's- the shell itself weighed over 8lb's!). The Prussian artillery were aggressive in doctrine and deployed in close support despite devastating Chassepot fire. The Prussian artillery was also re-supplied where it stood on the field whereas the French had to limber and withdraw back to their supply depot to re-arm. The Prussian artillery also had a greater rate of fire and was also more numerous and accurate, using impact detonation fuses whereas the French suffered from unreliable distance fuses which left most French artillery shot acting as solid shot rather than explosive, accurate artillery fire. French artillery doctrine was closer to that of the age of smoothbores and more closely associated with military doctrine of the 1st Empire.
However, the French had another card up their sleeve- the Reffye Mitrailleuse. This was basically an early 13mm machine gun. Unfortunately, due to these machine guns and their development being kept a secret even from most French high command and officials, when 144 or so were rushed to the front in 1870, the French didn't really know how to use them effectively as they hadn't had a chance to consider or develop an effective role and deployment of these early machine guns. Therefore, they were deployed in 6 gun batteries (one battery per division) and unfortunately commonly deployed as artillery rather than being deployed as close infantry support weapons and so initially had little impact where their impact should have been significant. Also, no sooner was their rattle heard on the battlefield than local Prussian Krupp artillery would concentrate their fire on these machine guns until the battery was quieted.
In a nutshell, the Prussians continued all day, on the 18th August 1870, to bumble into strong French defensive positions, get shot up, retire, decide it would be a good idea to let the artillery arrive to give fire support, bumble into French positions again, repeat, then the French sit there and do nothing whilst being blasted by accurate, destructive artillery fire. The Prussians then make a forlorn hope style charge having rallied after taking 50% casualties and the French are by now too mutilated and dismembered by artillery to put up much of a fight and allow the Prussians to finally sweep the position.
This is only my brief initial overview, and is only designed to give you a very rough idea of what happened with what weapons and why its gonna be fun to re-create because both sides had a fighting chance!

1 comment:

  1. Just like your Prussians, these guys look amazing!