Napoleonic Wars Forum

The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Hougoumont’s first hour :

For all discussions relating to the Hundred Days and Napoleon's final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby jf42 » December 30th, 2016, 3:51 pm

Iain, learning from a recent thread I started on this topic in Napoleon Series Discussion forum, It seems that local time wsa adjusted according to church sundials, with tables being published to assist in the process. Probably more effective in peacetime, and less so during the winter months, northern Europe, at least.

http://www.napoleon-series.org/cgi-bin/ ... ;id=177529

There was a thread I posted here on NWF which I shall update while we're about it.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1247
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » December 31st, 2016, 1:32 pm

Very interesting JF… Also, I must research that Forum.

As for the time adjustment of pocket watches, that’s an interesting subject. However, I don’t think we must linger too much in relation to the accuracy of the traditional pocket watch at Waterloo. They were obviously very precise ! (I’m talking about seconds per day for the more expensive ones)

To confirm that, well over a hundred years before Waterloo, British clockmakers were globally known as the masters of the trade; (the French were also experts) …, well before anyone had ever heard of ‘Swiss Made.’
Harrison (1693 – 1776) even invented maritime precision clocks and they’d be used to set the long-case and church tower clocks…, which in turn would be used to set the pocket watches.
And I’m sure that Wellington must have had some sort of ‘Int’ room where such a clock would be active. Could be wrong !

However, as was said earlier…, the variations in some of the timings for historical events are probably more to do with the fact that the privates on the ground were without timepieces.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harrison
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Tompion
NB:
I helped repair a Tompion clock once when I was an apprentice. Lol…, I’m from that era when it was standard practice to urinate on the plates and wheels during the cleaning process.
Those were the days !
These clocks are so expensive that from the moment the clock is deposited to the repair date, the Master Clockmaker would strip the clock down and hide all the parts in 10 different places from the cellar to the attic.
I also repaired Victor Hugo’s clock in Belgium. (so I was told) Musical and extremely complicated !

PS..., Josh.
Thanks to my Facebook request, I'm now in contact with a specialist at Kneller Hall. I'll keep you updated.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » January 3rd, 2017, 5:55 pm

Received from Kneller Hall :

Dear Iain,
I’m sorry but I can’t really help with this and there is nothing at Kneller Hall on these matters.

Calls are all contained in ‘Trumpet and Bugle Sounds for the Army’, an official publication that has been revised many times, most recently in 1966. I don’t know how far back they go – perhaps try the British Library.

You could also try writing to the Archivists at the respective Regimental Headquarters at Wellington Barracks – or perhaps the Corps of Drums Society might know a useful contact.

Sorry I can’t help. Best wishes
Colin

>>>>>>>>>> Which I did and I'm now waiting for a reply from Philip at the Grenadier Guards. (lol..., with couple of other questions) ;)

PS and ADDED LATER (10-01-17) : A friend of mine sent me the book of bugle calls for 1914. Quite interesting..., and I didnt know that each battalion had their own 'identity' calls. (1st Bn. SG obviously not having the same as the 2nd Bn. SG)
What's more, the number of calls is mind-boggling !
Last edited by Iain on January 10th, 2017, 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » January 9th, 2017, 6:35 pm

Hi All… Just a small point of interest. (this will also reply to MarkW’s 2016 question relative to the north gate prisoners.

This is a perfect example of the ‘titbit’ information I’m looking for (like the cherry picking Coldstreamers) …, small but interesting titbits that can be added to the Hougoumont Battle.
In fact, the last paragraph of Gareth’s reply concerned his book; the Waterloo Archives N°6. In it he explains a few details of the prisoners taken from the 30-odd Frenchmen who broke through the north gate.
Quote:

“Have you read the Private Maclaurence incident in my Waterloo Archive 6?
He says, ‘...then it was that the few Frenchmen we had taken (had to be prisoners from 1st attack) again seized their arms, and attacked us from the rear (they were in the southern courtyard) Fortunately the post was not carried and now vengeance stern and dreadful awaited the prisoners. ....every man of them was put to death....”

This of course could add another 5 minutes to my timeline. When Clay was changing his musket, he could hear the musket fire from within.
Was he listening to the firepower against the French as they entered the farm…, or, was he actually listening to the execution ?

Although I have not yet found the exact text, I remember reading that one of the prisoners even managed to ‘escape’ into the garden…, where, I suppose, he was downed.

Of course, this type of letter certainly gives the impression of being tavern lamp swinging…, but once again (like the Drummer Boy) can anyone provide proof that such an incident didn’t take place ?
I doubt it !

Independent of Cubières, I would absolutely love some French ‘titbits’ like the above ! (?) ;)

PS In McLaurence's text (27 years after the battle) he mentions that the prisoners were shot and some of them were thrown into the fire. If this was the case then the prisoners were kept for quite some time as the first fires were about 15h00.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » January 13th, 2017, 10:34 am

Hi All…

Just received an extremely interesting and kind email from RHQ-The Rifles. (Assistant Regimental Secretary Heritage in Winchester)

It was in relation to bugle calls and one of the documents dates from 1806 and contains the sheet music for the calls. Indicating of course that the buglers in those days could read music.
He also added an extremely important YouTube URL with all the calls.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIn-fvo ... ture=share

Regards…, Iain
Attachments
Front cover.jpg
Front cover.jpg (148.08 KiB) Viewed 267 times
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » January 15th, 2017, 7:10 am

Major and Colonel A. Woodford; Coldstream Guards.
(Gibraltar, January 14th, 1838) Sibourn N°114

At the time I was sent down to Hougoumont (about twelve o’clock or a little later), the Enemy had nearly got into the farmyard. We found them very near the wall, and charged them, upon which they went off, and I took the opportunity of entering the farm by a side door in the lane.

This adds a little to the timetable and also confirms that the north gate entry was a morning affair.
With the gates finally closed and as we already know, the 1st Léger continued to advance down the lane but were driven off by Woodford. Having chased them back into the wood, the French, on witnessing the might of the northern defences and on seeing Woodford entering the western door; their only option would be to target the south gate.

Speculation: If I, were in charge of the French in the wood at that moment in time and with the ‘Killing Zone’ indicating the shear might of the south gate defences, (and with the western horse artillery only providing ricochets) I would have asked for the artillery behind me to fire over my head at the gate and the walls.
And as we know, one such volley shattered the gate and caved in the upstairs wall of the gardener’s house.
Attachments
Waterloo Letters.jpg
Waterloo Letters.jpg (229.71 KiB) Viewed 262 times
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » January 20th, 2017, 3:37 pm

Receiving some wonderful feedback relative to Light Company tactics and musical orders.
Once again from Rob…

“Iain,

With regard to the use of Bugle Calls and whistle Calls, the two are interlinked rather than one being used instead of the other. It is a tiered method of communication. Whistles are used inter platoon and inter company (the 349 Radio or PRR – depending on your soldiering generation - of its day). They are the lowest level of tactical comms.
Within the Battalion, the Bugle is used for communication from Brigade down to half-companies. Below that is the whistle.

Light Companies of Line and Guards Battalions also used whistle calls for the same purpose. There’s a cross belt of a Guard’s officer who served as adjutant of one of the Battalions at Waterloo in the Guards Museum in London with the whistle and chain fitted and an associated light infantry pattern sash – clear indication that he was a Lt Coy officer before he became adjutant.

The whistle is worn by all Officers and Sjts of Light infantry and Rifle Regiments and Light Companies, for this low level comms reason, as it still is today in The Rifles. (though admittedly most today are ornamental rather than functional blowing whistles. Most manufactured prior to 1968 are still proper working whistles though many lack the two note capability required of the originals, when they were practical field equipment).

I attach a copy of the whistle calls in use.
As with the Bugle calls, they were first published in the 1789 Manual of De Rottenburg, but here taken from the standing orders for training from the Duke of Cumberland’s Sharpshooters a rifle armed volunteer unit from London, published in 1804.

I hope this is of help. Anything else I can assist with please just ask.

Best wishes

Rob
Last edited by Iain on January 20th, 2017, 5:44 pm, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » January 20th, 2017, 3:51 pm

From the Rottenburg manual:

REGULATIONS FOR THE EXERCISE OF RIFLEMEN AND LIGHT INFANTRY, AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR THEIR CONDUCT IN THE FIELD.
LONDON:
PRINTED for the WAR-OFFICE, BY T. EGERTON, AT THE MILITARY LIBRARY, NEAR WHITEHALL. MDCCXCIX.

------------------
Relative to the attack on the southern wood :
-----------------

Of Firing in Extended Order and of Skirmishing

THE companies being sufficiently instructed in the above firing, they will proceed to the practice of them, in which one general principle must be observed : mainly that never more than one half of a body of riflemen must be sent forward to skirmish, the other half remain formed and ready to support. If a battalion or company of riflemen is to make an attack, or by means of the above disposition keep the enemy at a distance from their front, the commanding officer will first
signify whether the right or left platoons are to advance. If the latter, the left platoon of each company moves briskly fifty paces forwards, the right half of that platoon then halts with closed ranks, the left half moves sixty paces further to the front and extends its files, to as to cover completely the front of the main body from which it is detached, Whenever right platoons advance to skirmish, right half platoons must be pushed on in their front and extend themselves to the left, and vice versa.

In red... The basic reason for two sub-divisions for the SG and CG.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 21st, 2017, 5:46 pm

Good stuff, Iain. Nothing like contemporary manuals to enlighten a narrative.

Woodford is undoubtedly referring to the attack launched after the mass of French were observed outside the north gate, and whose skirmishers and already begun taking up position along the lane to the north gate. Those bugle and whistle instructions must be interesting. And you have indeed had the joy of discovering a nice little facet of Infantry tactics. I don't doubt that it was by halves that Saltoun entered the Bois de Bossu at Quatre Bras. Indeed Maitland's battalions similarly entered the wood at QB, two companies at a time, which was a prescribed method of assaulting buildings and built up areas.
Light tactics in general operated on the concept of a close order reserve, often half the company deployed, that was ready to reinforce the skirmish line or offer a rallying point to withdraw on. I think the French artillery probably could only offer indirect fire from the south and west sides of the chateau due to the woods, and the famous incendiary shells that set alight the roof were fired in that manner.

Josh.
Adventures In Historyland, Keeping History Real. http://adventuresinhistoryland.wordpress.com/
User avatar
Josh&Historyland
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1825
Joined: March 2nd, 2013, 1:14 pm

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » January 22nd, 2017, 9:43 am

Thank you Josh…

Lol…, your reply took me back to my very first research period on LinkedIn. (post NWF) I started a conversation with military historians (former and serving members) and in particular, professionals who had the Brown Bess as a hobby.
The aim of the conversation was to research the effective firepower from the sunken lane to the gate.

Your quote: “Woodford is undoubtedly referring to the attack launched after the mass of French were observed outside the north gate, and whose skirmishers had already begun taking up position along the lane to the north gate.”
(yes, I agree…, an incident after the ‘closing of the gate’ of course)

During the LinkedIn conversation, it was calculated that the firepower from the sunken lane would have been very effective and in this case, practically no return fire. (a 'relaxed' affair) What’s more, at this time of day it was probably the Germans who were lining the lane and I believe they had rifles. Much more accuracy ! (I’d like to know exactly what they did have ?)
Meaning that after the closing of the gate, the 1st Léger continued their advance down the western lane (chasing the Guards) then moved around the corner to the gate. (as you said)
On reaching the barricaded gate, they’d then be under heavy firepower from the sunken lane…, and Woodward would have been sent forward through the cherry orchard in a mopping-up operation.

With the French by the gate now seeing the effects of the sunken lane's firepower and the CG advancing towards them, they’d certainly have retreated back around the corner.
Then…, lol !
For the 1st Léger in the western garden/lane and on seeing their Comrades running like hell towards them…, no word of command or bugle call would have been necessary for the whole French force to retreat back to the wood.
Which they did..., acording to Woodward before he and his troops entered the western door.
(‘Crowd Dynamics’ and more especially the ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’)

What’s more, had the western French known that it was just one Company (Woodford and his small band of men being in a blind spot around the corner) the French just might have stood fast.
Interesting !

Note: Woodford’s Company would obviously have used the Rottenburg two-platoon tactic to traverse the orchard while using whistles.
Josh..., if you want a recording of the whistles, just let me know. The Forum here doesn’t allow MP3 uploading.

Kind Regards…, Iain.

PS
Note: When I was researching the sunken lane firepower, I had the lane as a cul-de-sac ending where it is today. But in fact, the lane originally stretched over to the Chemin du Goumont for the transfer of live-stock from Plancenoit (Rue aux Loups) to Brain-l’Alleud or the Waterloo markets.
Meaning that in those days, parts of the lane would have been even closer to the gate, with the ponds acting as a mote.
(lol…, that word ‘mote’ should ring a bell !)
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

PreviousNext

Return to War of the Seventh Coalition 1815

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest