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"Dutch Belgian Troops at Waterloo Rated for Perfomance" Topic


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Personal logo wrgmr1 Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2012 10:10 a.m. PST

A recent scenario I received has the Dutch Belgian line rated as second rate troops same as the militia. Also The Dutch heavy cavalry, hussars and light dragoons are rated as second rate, same as militia cavalry.

Also the Brunswick line are rated as second rate, militia. Their Hussars and Lancers are also rated as militia.

Does anyone have information regarding their performance, should they be rated lower in the Waterloo scenario than regular British or French Line?

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Mar 2012 10:14 a.m. PST

Well, much is often made of the fact that Wellington left 15,000 Dutch-Belgians sitting out of the battle only a few miles away. Whether that was just carelessness or the Duke's evaluation of their probable usefulness is anyone's guess.

Le General Inactive Member19 Mar 2012 10:53 a.m. PST

Unfortunately we only have the one campaign to go on for these troops.

They had only just "swapped sides"

So their training might have been good, but what about their morale ?

What were they fighting for ?

South Side Steve Inactive Member19 Mar 2012 12:04 p.m. PST

Brunswickers I would see as experienced or regular troops.
BUT..yeah the Dutch-Belgians I would place them as 2nd rate or conscripts.

Personal logo Duc de Limbourg Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2012 12:24 p.m. PST

why would they be 2nd rate?

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2012 12:30 p.m. PST

My evaluation is that they were largely well trained soldiers with veterans in the ranks (except the militia) who had little enthusiasm for the conflict and mixed loyalties within the ranks in some cases. However, as professional and honorable men they by and large did their duty. In a game with multiple morale levels they may be conscript or whatever is cut below the French and British levels, simply from an enthusiasm standpoint. Their cavalry however had a less distinguished day. Still the light dragoons and carabiniers executed their duty.

Brunswickers I'd be inclined to give a higher evaluation. They were more motivated IMHO.

bruntonboy19 Mar 2012 12:48 p.m. PST

The usual excuse or rating the Dutch and Belgians as being inferior to the British troops is Wellington's opinion of them- which maybe a fair enough reason, although he did'nt have a very opinion of many of his British troops before the campaign either.The real justification would appear to be the retreat of Byland's brigade at Waterloo. However as they were the only brigade positioned on the forward slope and thus exposed to direct artillery fire- comparing them with the other troops performance is rather disingenuous in my opinion.

Its also rather interesting to see how D/B troops played a role in the final defeat of the Imperial Guard but in the usual British accounts get somewhat overlooked.

Grades? About the same as most allied troops, the militia marginally worse.

Widowson19 Mar 2012 1:12 p.m. PST

It should be noted that DB militia at Quatre Bras distinguished themselves. Hard to compare to the line, since they were not present until the end. At Waterloo, once they had withdrawn from the forward slope, they behaved as well as any troops on the field.

Brunswickers were very young and almost completely inexperienced. That's why Mercer disobeyed orders to abandon his guns during the cavalry charges – he was between two Brunswick units that looked very unsteady to him.

12345678 Inactive Member19 Mar 2012 1:19 p.m. PST

I would tend to regard DB infantry as being no better or worse than the bulk of the French line infantry. Overall, they seem to have performed well during the campaign and played an important role in the defeat ofnthe Middle Guard.

Sparker19 Mar 2012 2:48 p.m. PST

Yes I'd be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Reading some of the 'Netherlands Correspondence' put together by the Waterloo 2015 mob certainly suggest they did perfectly well throughout the campaign, particularly in the opening stages…

Perhaps have a random element by unit to see how they react on the day – 456d6 1st Rate Line troops, 123D6 2nd Rate for example.

DJCoaltrain19 Mar 2012 7:55 p.m. PST

ScottWashburn 19 Mar 2012 11:14 a.m. PST

Well, much is often made of the fact that Wellington left 15,000 Dutch-Belgians sitting out of the battle only a few miles away. Whether that was just carelessness or the Duke's evaluation of their probable usefulness is anyone's guess.

*NJH: Questionable loyalty? Just forgot about them? Needed some kind of reserve? Didn't want the "Germans" getting more credit (nod to Peter H.)? They were certainly more reliable than the Spanish? Meh, who knows?

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2012 8:28 p.m. PST

I think most of the old prejudices against them have been disproven by solid research.

For example, it was long stated as hard fact that the 5th Light Dragoons refused to charge at Quatre Bras, when in fact a single squadron shirked;the remainder of the regiment did charge. Similar statements have been made about the Carabinier Brigade at Waterloo, despite their making several successful charges. Indeed the whole of the Netherlands cavalry were very active.

Bylandt's Brigade at Waterloo were ordered to withdraw from their exposed position, after an hour under heavy bombardment. Given their rough handling at Quatre Bras only days earlier, it's rather remarkable they didn't break. Consider that the 5th Militia, defenders of Gemioncourt, had started that battle with 482 men and suffered 303 casualties. Yet they were present at Waterloo, and fought their ground.

Perhaps have a random element by unit to see how they react on the day

I use Piquet, which does this with all troops. I would rate the Netherlands troops as having a high probability of being standard line, with a modest chance of being poor and a smaller chance of being crack troops.

Bobby W20 Mar 2012 1:08 a.m. PST

2nd Netherlands Division suffered 24% casualties at Waterloo, 1st Brigade (Dutch) suffering twice more (43%) than 2nd Brigade (Nassau).

3rd Netherlands Division suffered 10% casualties and was posted on the extreme west of the line and left in reserve for most of the day due to high number (50%) of its units being militia. 1st Brigade performed well at the end of the day charging the Middle Guard.

The Netherlands Cavalry Division suffered 37% casualties and was heavily engaged throughout. 1st Brigade took 49% losses.

The 1st Netherlands Division and indian Brigade were left at Hal with two Brigades of the 4th British for flank protection not because they were useless.

Suggest rating Dutch militia as militia and the line as regular trained line units they appear to have performed as such during the battle. For Belgian treat as reluctant trained or something to show their apparent displeasure at fighting former close allies.

For Brunswickers, their relative inexperience and losses at QB should count against them with all but the Avantgarde having low morale and limited training.

JeffsaysHi20 Mar 2012 6:07 a.m. PST

Brunswick troops had just about the worst ratios of officers and NCOS to other ranks at the battle. Combining that with inexperience would have left their infantry very questionable.
Hanoverian troops had fortunately been boosted with an influx of KGL or they too may have been down towards that level.

Netherlands troops, on the other hand, had a ratio level nearer the French and their KIA certainly suggest they performed at least to potential on the day.

Their bad reputation stems partly from taking a roll call too soon after the battle for prisoners and stragglers to roll back in to reduce the MIA percentage, whereas the British waited several weeks – coupled with an outpouring of anti-Belgian sentiment when they refused to join in the Crimean fiasco leading to some considerable bias in writings which is sadly still repeated.

True Grit Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 8:11 a.m. PST

I believe D/B and Bruswick Infantry and Hannovarian Militia should be classed one level lower than the British and French Line infantry. Same applies to their cavalry. However it does seem that the D/B Militia performed credably 'on the day' despite their lack of training and experience, however this situation happens all the time in wargaming (and war), a Militia unit throwing a '6' will beat a Guards unit throwing a '1' and so it should in my opinion. However it does not change the fact that going into the engagement the D/B Militia are and in my opinion should be at a disadvantage when compared to French Infantry. (sorry for all the 'howevers')

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 8:17 a.m. PST

True Grit,
On what basis did you reach that decision for the DB infantry? Based on their performance, I find it hard to agree with, although I agree with the militia being rated a bit lower than the French.

Ralpher20 Mar 2012 8:40 a.m. PST

Many of the men in the army were young, including those in the British units as well as the Brunswick line units and Hanoverian battalions.

As to the "Dutch-Belgain" army. Wellington made a distinction between "Dutch" and "Belgian" units.

See page 717 of volume 10 of the "Supplementary Despatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington, K. G.: Waterloo, the campaign in France, and the capitulation of Paris by a military convention with the allied British and Prussian armies, 1815" published in 1863.

link

"British regiments are in good order and well clothed, but composed of very young soldiers.

The Hanoverians are generally young men, and have very bad officers.

Belgians not to be trusted."

See many of the other notes and reports in this volume. – R

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 8:46 a.m. PST

Of course, Wellington wrote that before the action started. Once the going got hot, it is hard to see any evidence supporting his comment, certainly as far as the Belgian infantry are concerned.

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 9:01 a.m. PST

Why would a Belgian militiaman or a Dutch infantryman be worse than a French soldier or British soldier in June 1815? I mean what objective reasons?

Regards

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 9:14 a.m. PST

Whirlwind,in the case of the militia, it would probably be because of inexperience in many units, poor quality officers, lack of trained NCOs, bad officer/NCO to soldier ratios.

Nothing much wrong with the men themselves.

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 9:22 a.m. PST

Given the history of the Napoleonic Wars, is it reasonable to assume that either the French or the British had better officers, more experience, or more trained NCOs than any of the other participating nations?

It is puzzling as to why Dutch and Belgian troops are simultaneously accused of lack of experience and of divided loyalties because of previously fighting for the French?

Regards

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 9:24 a.m. PST

Whirlwind,

I accuse them of neither as I am only referring to the militia.

The French probably did have more trained NCOs than the militia and were generally more experienced overall as most were veterans of at least 1813-14.

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 9:29 a.m. PST

sorry 'accused' was deliberately passive – I meant they have been in the past.

Apologies

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 9:32 a.m. PST

Whirlwind,

I agree with you; I suspect that the main reasons are good old fashioned British jingoism and xenophobia. After all, nobody else can ever match the British fighting man.

Sadly, most people, if they have even heard of Waterloo as a battle, think that the British army beat Napoleon. They are completely unaware that a very large part of the Allied army on the ridge was not British; such is the national myth.

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 9:32 a.m. PST

It would be really interesting to compare man-for-man the relative average service times for the different contingents. Would Prussian Landwehr soldiers be equal in service time to many French soldiers in Line regiments, for example?

Regards

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 9:34 a.m. PST

Whirlwind,

Proper Prussian Landwehr (ie not from the "new" territories) would probably be as experienced as many of the French and performed accordingly.

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 9:38 a.m. PST

But would the Landwehr from the new territories be as equally full of soldiers having served in one of the German contingents fighting previously for Napoleon?

Regards

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 9:45 a.m. PST

Whirlwind,

That is a good question, isn't it? They may well have been but I have no evidence to support that which is why I excluded them.

Supercilius Maximus20 Mar 2012 10:48 a.m. PST

<<Brunswickers I would see as experienced or regular troops.>>

The Leib Battalion, some of the Avante-Garde, and part of the Hussar regiment were Peninsula veterans. The other units were all relatively new (1814/early 1815) and I think Mercer refers to them being young soldiers who did not inspire confidence in him.

flipper20 Mar 2012 11:28 a.m. PST

Hi

Uniforms Of Waterloo by Philip Haythornthwaite has many interesting comments on the state of losses for Waterloo/QB many of the DB/allies had substantial MIA figures.

The fact that they returned after the battle is not of much use in determining a positive morale rating during the battle it appears that there was a steady stream (read HEAVY)of desertion.

I don't doubt that many allied units did stand their ground, although I could not imagine they were capable of offensive operations at least not the infantry.

When comparing the allied units to French you have to bear in mind that the French troops generally attacked under murderous fire, I really don't think beyond the British/KGL troops that the DB/allies would have been able to do the same.

The Brunswickers (next to Mercer) were apparently 'dead on the spot' and were being 'beaten' by their offices to fill the gaps produced by artillery fire hardly seems like a unit 'geared up' to advance.

Also, lets not forget that in most cases the allies were either behind a reverse slope or in fortifications.

12345678 Inactive Member20 Mar 2012 12:22 p.m. PST

flipper,

Yes, the DB had high MIA numbers, but that may well be because of when they took the roll, which was significantly before the British units did.

There are also multiple reports of high numbers of British troops "helping wounded colleagues to the rear" etc.

As for Allied units not being capable of offensive operations, that obviously excludes the DB infantry who attacked part of the Middle Guard.

Edwulf20 Mar 2012 1:19 p.m. PST

The Lieb garde had a vote of vets, but was still mostly freshly recruited.

spontoon Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 1:41 p.m. PST

Remember the Dutch and Belgians were fighting on their home turf. I'm sure that gave an extra fillip to their morale. No-one wants to see the Vielle Garde ravishing their sheep!

1815Guy Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 4:12 p.m. PST

"Well, much is often made of the fact that Wellington left 15,000 Dutch-Belgians sitting out of the battle only a few miles away. Whether that was just carelessness or the Duke's evaluation of their probable usefulness is anyone's guess."

Yes, there had to be a political continuance if Waterloo had been lost. Orange's brother was there too, so there would be a further prince if Orange was killed.

The Dutch did quite well in 1815. It was Dutch troops who saved Wellingtons bacon at Quatre Bras on 15th, and it was Chasse's Dutch who threw the final attack in which probably broke the middle guard column that had pushed Halkett back. Id rate the regular troops as normal line and the militia as standard militia class much the common currency of continental nap armies.

Cant say I have the same to say for the Belgians though. Quite a few Belgies were still fighitng for Nap, and there are to many tales of them leaving the field at the earliest opportunity. Infantry and Cavalry. I'd mark them down a grade compared to the Dutch, generally.

Brunswickers were very young, not experienced, and lacking leadership after the Duke was killed at QB. Id have the Light, advance guard and Leib as normal line quality, the rest as militia quality.

Hanover – mainly militia.

So for Pictons div Id have 1/3 vet, 1/3 line, 1/3 conscript

1815Guy Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 4:16 p.m. PST

"The Lieb garde had a vote of vets"

Ah, those Love batallions are surfacing again.

Peace and Lurv to all…….

Edwulf20 Mar 2012 7:38 p.m. PST

Vote = core.

My view of the Dutch Belgians is that the regulars were standard line infantry, and about equal with French or British line, the lights maybe the same. Not as good as the British and KGL Units built around a core of veterans but equal to the less experienced British and Hanovarian troops, such as the 69th.

I can't believe the militia was anything but militia and varied. I'd favour randomly determing their quality, 1-2 poor, 3-4 below average, 5 average and 6 good, something like that.

The heavy cavalry should be rated the same as all other heavy cavalry. Maybe the light cavalry should be equal to the French line, but less than British, KGL or Brunswicker.

artillery was well manned I beleive, so same as everyone else. Nassau units should be high quality. Except that landwher unit which I'm unsure about.

That's how I'd do it.

Supercilius Maximus21 Mar 2012 4:50 a.m. PST

<<"The Lieb garde had a vote of vets"

Ah, those Love batallions are surfacing again.>>

Now trying to rid my mind of Waterloo fought to a Barry White backing track……

Edwulf21 Mar 2012 5:51 a.m. PST

A Barry white unit would be terrifying to behold

Greystreak21 Mar 2012 5:57 a.m. PST

Guess you'd have to call them the "Soul Garde". grin

flipper21 Mar 2012 11:08 a.m. PST

Hi

'Yes, the DB had high MIA numbers, but that may well be because of when they took the roll, which was significantly before the British units did.'


IMO it does not matter when the roll was taken – they were not around during the battle – what use is a soldier who returns after the battle!

'As for Allied units not being capable of offensive operations, that obviously excludes the DB infantry who attacked part of the Middle Guard.'

I INCLUDED the db's as not being capable of offensive operations (in general – nothing is beyond being possible) – the attack on the old guard was not exactly offensive in the sense of them moving a substantial distance through artillery fire to engage the enemy – the guard practically walked into them!

The db's were deployed in a defensive stance, the guard had been decimated by artillery fire …

12345678 Inactive Member21 Mar 2012 12:20 p.m. PST

flipper,

You miss the relevance of the timing of the roll call; the British roll was taken so long after the battle that the "missing" had time to return to the ranks. The DBs took it very soon after the battle when the "missing" were still missing. Read the accounts of the numbers of British troops "skulking" behind the lines; the DB were not the only ones who had MIA problems; the British were just smarter about dealing with them.

If an attack on the middle guard was not offensive, then I am not sure what you describe as offensive.

Le General Inactive Member21 Mar 2012 5:53 p.m. PST

Years ago our local club used the WRG (Wargames Research group) H&M rules for our Napoleonics.

I soon became disenchanted with them due to their short-comings in many areas.

So I wrote my own set called "Le General".
They were based on the WRG rules, I did finish them and was getting ready to publish them, when I gave up on the hobby for personal reasons.

WRG had 4 moral classes

Elite
Veteran
Trained
Raw

I felt these lower classes did not cover many units

So I added 2 more below trained and above Raw
These were

Diassafected which we trained toops who did not really want to be fighting in the Army they were in.

Patriotic. These were poorly trained troops but who had a high morale.

So we often counted many of the Dutch-Belgian troops as Dissafected, they were were well trained (ex French Army) but were maybe not that keen on fighting for the Allies. and under a young un-proven general.

Supercilius Maximus22 Mar 2012 3:43 a.m. PST

Le General,

Surely only "disaffected" and "patriotic" are descriptive of morale status, whereas elite/veteran/trained/raw are degrees of military efficiency, experience or preparedness (including kit). OK, I suppose elite can be a "state of mind" thing as well, but the rest aren't – as you rightly point out, you can have vets with poor morale and militia with high morale.

12345678 Inactive Member22 Mar 2012 4:50 a.m. PST

I do like the idea of disaffected and patriotic morale states; I may have to plagiarise that idea:).

flipper22 Mar 2012 9:17 a.m. PST

Hi

'You miss the relevance of the timing of the roll call …'

Not really if you want to say the British/KGL units had equal levels of MIA, then fine.

'If an attack on the middle guard was not offensive, then I am not sure what you describe as offensive.'

I described what I consider offensive operations: manouver under fire over some distance to engage (not a local movement of a few yards) IMO the db's did not achieve this.

We can go around in circles all day on this one … we obviously disagree on this so there you have it.

I give most of the db's/Brunswicks (and many of the Prussian units) no combat bonus with French and British/KGL a +1 on a combat die throw it works for me!

12345678 Inactive Member22 Mar 2012 11:50 a.m. PST

Hi Flipper

I am not stating that the British/KGL units had equal levels, merely that we do not know what their MIA were immediately after the battle. The DBs have been condemned by many at least in part because their MIA count is so much higher than that of the British/KGL, which seems a trifle unfair as the comparison is not valid.

I agree that the DBs' actions do not meet your definition of an offensive; however, I have quite a bit of respect for any unit that had the cojones to attack the guard, especially when a red-coated brigade had already been "pushed back" by them.

Fred Cartwright23 Mar 2012 7:00 a.m. PST

So we often counted many of the Dutch-Belgian troops as Dissafected, they were were well trained (ex French Army) but were maybe not that keen on fighting for the Allies. and under a young un-proven general.

Given their performance I don't think that is a valid conclusion. When called on to change sides by former comrades in the French army DB cavalry replied with cold steel. A pretty emphatic reply I think. In general they were pretty fed up with the French and particularly annoyed with the way the French had treated them as a conquered enemy in 1813/14 rather that as a valued ally. That's why they took to arms to throw the French out in 1814. The impression I get is that there was no way they wanted the French back and would fight to see that didn't happened.
As for the failings of the DB units wide;ly quoted I see no real difference between them and French or British units. AFAIK no DB unit left the field without being engaged – as the Hannoverian Cumberland Hussars did. DB units did retire – so did British and French. The DB heavies did refuse to charge on one occassion – so did a British Hussar regiment.

1815Guy Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2012 7:35 a.m. PST

"When called on to change sides by former comrades in the French army DB cavalry replied with cold steel."

I take it you mean Merlen at QB? Indeed, this unit gave it a real go.

But on no occasion did it hold up the French Chassueurs for an instant. At QB they broke so quickly that Wellington had ot flee for his his own safety.

They were willing enough, but not able enough. Merlen died at Waterloo.

Now compare that with the Belgian Heavies on 18th, who charged once into a disordered enemy then refused to charge thereafter into steady troops.

To this day, if you visit the site of the battle, the local population are very pro French. The local re-enactment groups favour french units, and at the displays the locals clearly chant Vive l'Empreur, even though their own side was officially with the Allies! On the crest line at Waterloo next to the commemorative plate for Mercer's final position is a large stone memorial to a Belgian who fought as a French Cuirassier on the day.

How this is represented on the wargames table is anyone's guess. Whether it's morale, training, leadership or whatever can all work.

And putting in a further two levels of morale in a set of rules that use 6 sided dice is very likely to make it rather random and grainy imho.

Fred Cartwright23 Mar 2012 2:53 p.m. PST

But on no occasion did it hold up the French Chassueurs for an instant. At QB they broke so quickly that Wellington had ot flee for his his own safety.

IIRC they were heavily outnumbered at QB and one of the units started a charge in the wrong formation as there wasn't time to deploy. No wonder they got beaten.
link quotes 65% casualties for the Belgian 8th Hussars and that they "fought with insane gallantry" at Waterloo. Dellevoet's book on the DB cavalry comes to a similiar conclusion.

Now compare that with the Belgian Heavies on 18th, who charged once into a disordered enemy then refused to charge thereafter into steady troops.

All 3 DB heavy regiments were in Tripp's brigade. IIRC they gave quite a good account of themselves – cerainly charging more than once. I'll recheck Dellevoet when I get the chance.

boabster Inactive Member23 Mar 2012 3:00 p.m. PST

wrgmr1
hope this helps i was on a web site called waterloo cowards only last week it opened my eyes tri this web address,

link

it should be of help.
all the best bob.

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