Painshill Despatch - August 2006

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Painshill Despatch - August 2006

Post by Forum Manager » Mon Aug 07, 2006 10:00 pm

Fantastic 2 days! Hot weather and great location.

Rifleman Martin Durose introduced his new alter ego, Ebenezer Bogof, Sutler extraordinaire, resplendent in his new outfit and tricorn hat! He busied himself and wife Lisa over the weekend in putting on a good show of life as a Napoleonic Sutler. Methinks it was just a crafty ruse to get out of drill! Didn't seem to stop Rfm Durose reappearing for the battles! Hmmmm!

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The Napoleonic Association (NA) served up a splendid BBQ on Friday night as a starter for the weekend and a chance to catch up with our fellow re-enactors, renewing friendships and exchanging our stories of the season.

What an assembly of Napoleonic re-enactors; never seen so many Highlanders - 42nd Black Watch, 79th Cameron, 92nd Gordon Highlanders (Dutch unit), loads of redcoat lights and heavies (including our own strong 44th East Essex contingent). Lots of green composed of our unit the 1st 95th Rifles (1/95), plus 2/95 and 3/95. So many troops that we were split into 2 brigades.

Day 1, Saturday 5 August 2006
Our well-respected Chosen Man John Wamner (aka Scwiffy) put us through some fine tuning of tactics prior to joining in the Brigade drill. This was to pay dividends in both major battles during the weekend.

The 1/95 joined in with the 44th East Essex in a recruitment interactive display with the children spectators. It provided some light relief for their parents!

Onto the battle, what a spectacular sight as the British brigades entered the field from the lakeside to face the French stationed at the far end of the battlefield. The 1/95 joined the heavies in some well executed volleys before all units were forced into square by the concerted efforts of the French cavalry. The squares held but progress up the field was slow. The British cavalry did a great job in driving the French away so that the light companies could disperse into skirmish order whilst the heavies slowly pushed through the centre of the field. However, the British had to be wary of the renewed attacks by the French horsemen and squares were quickly reformed in times of need. With able assistance from the artillery, the British forward momentum began to take affect.

The plan was to drive the French from the centre of the field and up the hill to their right and pen them in there before finally assailing them from the centre with the heavies and on each flank by the light companies. The 1/95 had the honour of driving back the Imperial Guard with some vigorous and aggressive tactics.

The French were resolute in the defence of their position atop the hill and resisted several waves of heroic redcoat attacks. Unfortunately, the British losses mounted steadily swinging the balance of the battle to the French.

The 1/95 made a gallant push towards the crest of the hill but was almost wiped out by a telling Imperial Guard volley. As the French turned retreat into a British rout, the remaining riflemen fought tenaciously against French voltigeurs but finally succumbed to superior numbers. The day belonged to the French!

Day 2, Sunday 6 August 2006

Same scenario, same plan to push the French up the hill, but this time the British would use the lights more effectively to disrupt and counter attempts by the French to concentrate their forces and, thereby, the firepower they could bring to bear as the waves of recoat lines came on them up the hill.

The 3/95 kept the Chasseurs busy in the wood on the British left flank. This allowed the 1/95 and the other light companies to move forward and push the French skirmishers out of the way of the redcoats. Job done the 1/95 then marched round the rear of the main army to regroup, replenish water and sort out any gun problems before moving to attack the hill from the right flank.

The thrust of the British attack was so rapid that the 71st Highland Light Infantry seized the chance and captured an Eagle from a slow-to-react French unit. Well done the 71st.

As the main body of the British lines assailed the French centre, the 1/95th Rifles used the tactics that we had practised over the weekend to rapidly deploy through the woods on the French left, wiping out an artillery section and a squad of voltigeurs to gain sight of the French centre on the crest of the hill. The Eagle at its centre shining brightly in the sun.

Our Major Handscombe then used bluff and aggressive skirmish manoeuvres to push away any resistance and confront the French commander. "You have 2 choices," yelled our Major, " Surrender or die." With 8 rifles levelled at his chest from 10m, the French commander offered his sword to our Major. Good job he didn't realise we were all unloaded!
Major Handscombe stepped forward to acknowledge the surrender and then advised the oncoming British main forces that it was all over.

As the redcoat centre and left flank rushed forward to surround the defeated French, the 1/95 retired down the hill in good order.

A plucky French fifer attempted to flee the melee by was soon caught by C/M Scwiffy and myself and brought back to the crest. The deal was they all surrendered, no compromise!

Wow, what a battle, all arms of the British force; artillery, cavalry, light and heavy troops; working in conjunction to achieve the common goal - Defeat the French!

There was so much activity on the field that it must have been hard and exhilarating, as a spectator, to take it all in. The commentator over the loudspeaker system did a sterling job in interpreting the afternoon's actions to help the gathered crowd comprehend what was unfolding before them. It must have worked because all re-enactors, British and French forces alike, received a rapturous applaud as we delivered the General Salute as the finale to the event.

I'm sure that all the units taking place will have their own stories and adventures from their perspective of the battle equally exciting and gallant as ours. When involved in a major re-enactment, 45 minutes in this case, it is only possible to cover it, in my case, from the viewpoint of the 1st 95th Rifles. I'm sure many of the other units will give their accounts, go seek them out on their websites.

The 1st Battalion, 95th Rifles, pose with the CO after a battlefield training session:
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If you would like to get involved in Napoleonic re-enactment then contact us, the 95th Rifles Living History Society, via our Contact Us section or click here to go there directly.

The 1st 95th Rifles will march again. Waltham Abbey 27/28 August 2006.
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