Monday, 13 January 2020

"Shattered" French bases: Sint Vaalben, 1688


From the letters and diaries of the Marquis de Montchevreuil, Grand Écuyer to His Highness The King of France, French Flanders, 1688

"When an entire Victory is obtain’d, he who hath lost the day should not lose his Courage too, but ought to gather up his Shipwreck, rally his dispers’d and broken troops, get new recruits, dissemble his losses, encourage his party and draw to a head again; these are things practis’d by all intelligent Generals."  

Sir James Turner, Pallas Armata, Chapter XXII

I never had much time for English or Scottish writers on military matters.  Most of their experiences of battle were in the British Wars, before I became a soldier.  The King of England had sent companies and regiments to His Majesty's armies in French Flanders in '72, but it was a strange business.  The forces were tiny compared with the French regiments under our command, even if their commanders were of a most striking appearance.  But, more of Lord Monmouth another day.  

It is enough here to mention that writers such as Sir James Turner, however well-schooled in the warfare of the classical ancients, can never have seen a true "Shipwreck" on the Field of battle.  It is, of course, hard to "rally ... dispers’d and broken troops", and still harder to recover those formations once fully shattered in the Field, the Officers dead, the standards lost and the troops utterly spent.   

Being able to "...dissemble ones losses..." is, naturally, something I attempt to do on every occasion - whether at the gambling salon or on the Field of Mars.  But one's enemies are bound to conflate a gruesome butcher's bill in retaliation.  And as for the sentiment that "...he who hath lost the day should not lose his Courage too...", my thoughts are that such sentiments do rather depend on the extend to which the enemy has shot musket balls into your body or pierced your flesh with a rapier blade.



Fourteen years gone, and I can still see the place where the Flemish cavaliers had nearly killed me.  Not every single moment, perhaps, as much fades over time - as I'm sure you know.  But I remember more than enough to bring back the sharp pain in my shoulder and side whenever I think of that nasty, drab little Flemish village, nestling like a toad in the Autumn mud.  It had been raining, of course throughout the whole of that day before the village of Sint Vaalben.  It had still been raining when the Flemish horse had broken into the flank of the cavalry du Roi, scattering my squadrons in their moment of supposed triumph, our mounts forced down under the press of horses as we were pushed back into our infantry.

Hard to "....gather up his Shipwreck...." after floundering on such muddy shoals, Sir James.  

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So, a brief snippet from the black bile-laden pen of our French companion, the Marquis de Montchevreuil to accompany some shattered bases of French foot and horse for the use on the tabletop.  Much as I love Sir James Turner's "Pallas Armata", I do wonder if some of his encouragement seems to be in the vein of an armchair general.  More from Sir James later this year, I hope...

In the meantime, for anyone wondering if these form part of Challenge X..... No, dear friends, they do not!!  I painted these figures last Autumn, but never got around to posting them on the blog, or anywhere.  




Part of my 2020 plans for the Blog is posting quite a lot of painting I've done but never got around to putting up here on the Blog.  What holds me up more often than not isn't so much the painting as creating the fiction and snippets of angry letters and diary entries which our Spanish and French fictional companions write to accompany the photos!  I know, it's strange - but sometimes life's like that, dear Friends!

So we have three "flight" or "shattered" bases for use with the French troops in the Field.  The standard being waved around is the Regiment de Flandres, which was a regiment of good-standing and (I think) one of the petit-Vieux regiments in the French army, denoting a very respectable but not ancient regimental lineage.  Whatever their provenance, they are having a very bad day.




The troops are from a variety of manufacturers, being 1st Corps, Wargames Foundry, Dixon Miniatures and Perry Miniatures.  The drum is by Redoubt, with some extra green-stuff denoting a ripped drum-skin.  I added some extra green-stuff feathers on a couple of figures, but apart from that the troops are shown as you can purchase them.  The Bases are from Warbases and the finial is from Bicorne.  The lovely tufts are from WSS Scenics.  The standard is hand-painted.



I love doing these bases, which can then take the place of routed formations on the tabletop battlefield.  While I hope they're still respectful, they do point to seventeenth century battles being unpleasant and bloody affairs, as well as raising issues for how formations of routed troops would move off the Field, or remain on it, during the battle.

And next time, I'll be adding some things from Challenge X.  Hope you can join me here for that, later this week.


26 comments:

  1. Wonderful job as usual, gorgeous units/casualities!

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  2. Wonderful stuff Sydney, I look forward to seeing more from your backlog. Excellent conversions, posing, basing and painting.

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    1. Thanks Peter. I'll keep the backlog coming! Almost done with the next submission to the Challenge ;)

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  3. Excellent work.
    Very much looking forward to your games with a Maurice variant or similar. Love that set.

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    1. Thank you, Your Grace. Absolutely! I've based the figures so that they should be usable for large skirmishes or "Maurice"-scaled encounters. Sam's "Maurice" rules are indeed a very fine set of rules.

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  4. Fabulous if thought provoking pieces Sid! I love the way you tell a story with each single base and of yourse I rather enjoy your written stories as well. So take your time but keep it coming! Ah, I forgot, when was the book on the history of Laarden due out again? ;-)

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    1. Thank you, Nick! Trying to make a small scene on each base was the idea (...of course, that's nothing new). In fact all the ideas I have for the Laarden 1688 Project have been inspired by (or pinched from!) other people. Very pleased you're enjoying the fictional extras! The book will, of course, be out in time for "Easter"!

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  5. Bravo! Encore! Lovely stuff as always. 👍🏻 I especially like the village sitting like a toad in the Flanders mud!

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    1. Haha.... yeah, that village will be fun to try and build later this year! Thanks, Andy!

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  6. These are great, Sindey! If you get the chance (or already might have it) look up Wargames Illustrated 147, December 1999.. Barry Hilton did a similar project that I've always wanted to emulate..

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    1. Hi Clarence - thank you so much for dropping by and for leaving the kind comment! And thank you so much for the reference to Barry's wonderful article. I think I mentioned in another post (a couple of years back when I started creating these "shattered bases" for various armies) that Barry's article was totally the inspiration for making them. It's entirely Barry's idea! I should have mentioned that in the Blog post above - apologies (and sorry, Barry!).

      Twenty One years on since December 1999 - that shows that a great idea in a wargames magazine has a reach vastly exceeding the month in which it appeared!

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  7. Great idea with those bases. Excellent painting.

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  8. These look rather good, well done old chap.

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  9. I love a table that tells a story and a trail of casualties and broken units is all part of the narrative. For too long I simply left an empty space on the table but these days I feel the urge to tell more of a story. I agree it can be a challenge to do this appropriately (I was going to say tastefully, but I don’t think you can apply that to representations of violent death!).

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  10. As usual, very beautiful work, Sid. I love the storytelling that vignettes like these allow. Fabulous stuff, sir!

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