Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

WSS - Things I Need to Find Out - (1) Grenadiers

The sudden arrival here of a collection of miniature soldiers for the WSS at the end of last year was partly because I had always had a (vague) interest in that time-frame for wargames, partly because such a collection had become available and, importantly, because it seemed a relatively easy way into a new period - not exactly buying a new war off the peg, but certainly getting off to a flying start.

Since then I have been busily reading and refurbing and painting - all good fun, but no games yet.

My original plan was to attempt to develop the Bavarian and Austrian armies at equal pace, so that I could start playing with them as early as possible, and develop my rules as I went along. That's what I did, with some success, for the ECW a few years ago. So for the WSS I started off like this, but it soon became obvious that I could make quickest progress if I concentrated on the Bavarians first.

Various reasons, in no particular order:

(1) The miniature Bavarian army, for some reason, was in better shape - less breakages, less paint deterioration, less men AWOL.

(2) The Bavarian army seemed a lot less complicated - less daunting - organisationally and as a painting challenge. Also, the Bavarian troops I had bought in represented just about the whole of the historical army, so there were no tricky decisions about an OOB. The Imperialist set-up is a lot more tricky, I would have to make some decisions about the OOB, to give some kind of historical context (though in fact my planned OOB has more to do with the facing colours of the existing collection!).

(3) There are some aspects of the Austrian organisation which I haven't yet got a grip on - though I am acquiring some impressive-looking books. I just have to read the beggars now.

(4) The whole subject of WSS flags is a lot more complicated for the Imperial side. This may seem trivial, but for me it isn't.

I've now reached a suitable moment for a bit of a sanity check. I have two big batches remaining of troops to refurb for the Austrians, then my Phase One plan is pretty much complete, if I can get the numbers of staff figures up to scratch. I'm due to start painting again on Thursday, and I'm not sure that painting and thinking at the same time is as easy as it used to be. There is, though, a need for me to do something about grenadiers.

So today's subject is grenadiers. How did the Austrians arrange their grenadiers? How shall I paint and base the grenadier element in my Austrian army? I'll start this by interrupting myself, and returning briefly to describe what I'm doing for the Bavarians.

Bavarian Leibregiment grenadier - plate by Anton Hoffman
Thus far, for the Bavarians, I have arranged a few grenadiers in the right-hand base of each battalion, to indicate that there was a grenadier company present, but they serve no real purpose beyond the important one of looking nice. My games are unlikely to operate at a tactical scale where the grenadier company is detached to do something specific. I still do have the job of painting up two proper grenadier battalions for the Bavarians, though. My understanding is that the Leibregiment had two battalions of fusiliers (which I have painted already), and one of grenadiers (which I haven't) - this grenadier battalion was a designated unit in its own right, wore a slightly different uniform from the fusiliers and had its own flags etc.

OK - good so far. In 1703 or thereabouts, a regiment of (supposedly) French emigrés was to be set up, organised the same as the Leibregiment. According to the autobiography of Jean-Martin de la Colonie (who had expected to be the colonel of this new unit, but eventually was appointed lieutenant colonel), the fusilier battalions were never formed, though the grenadiers certainly were, and can be found on the OOB for Schellenberg - the Boismorel Grenadiers. The inhaber, Monsieur Boismorel himself, was a Frenchman (his name, I think, is a kind of forest mushroom, which is not important at this point, but is the kind of nonsense that interests me), and his personal ambition, according to Colonie, was to stay as far from any warfare as he could. The Boismorel boys have the appeal of offering some variety in the uniforms - dark red, in this case. Some of them wore grenadier caps, some wore tricorns - a welcome bit of colour on the wargames table and - again - they were a distinct, permanent grenadier formation with their own flag.

Righto - so that's what I'm doing for the Bavarians, now, for goodness sake, let's get back to the Austrians.

Austrian Grenadier on the left - image used without permission
There was a grenadier presence in the Austrian bit of the collection I bought in, but I am intending to change it. Based on what I have established so far (which is not very much), the Austrians would group together the grenadiers from the regiments within a brigade, thus the provisional battalions formed would be separate from the fusiliers, but would not have flags, and the facings and so on would be a mixture of the contributing regiments. This is kind of familiar to me, since this is what I have tried to reproduce for my Napoleonic Spanish army of 1809.

So my first question for this new Age of Reason is, did the Austrians organise their grenadiers by brigade, in this way? Am I right in assuming that the battalions thus formed would have no flags of their own, since they were informal groupings? Which leads me on to the practical issue of how I should base such units. My Foot battalions for the WSS are organised as 3 bases of 6 figures - each base is two rows of three men, the centre base holds the command presence - colours, mounted officer, drums - while each flank base includes one officer on foot. The bases can be used to denote the formation, but they do not operate independently, and are not removed for losses.

This is now getting into thinking out loud (or in print), but if I were to combine the grenadiers from two regiments for a brigade, for example, I could have one base of grenadiers painted for each regiment (I could even include a drummer in each such base) - not sure if I need a command base, nor how such a base would be made up, but now we are getting into fiddly detail. I could make a grenadier battalion from just two such bases - I'll have a look at the numbers in the books and see if that would make sense.

At that point I think I've conveyed the nub of the problem. Beyond that I'm going to embarrass myself with my own lack of knowledge! If you have experience of the WSS on the tabletop, I'm keen to learn how you think the Austrians organised their grenadiers, and how you set this up in miniature. All ideas welcome!

If this goes well, my next questions will be about the nippy issue of Austrian flags in 1703!...


  1. The Hoffman plate of the Bavarian grenadier is striking.

    As for Austrian grenadier tactical organization in the WSS, I cannot answer that directly but will provide a possibly related answer anyway.

    If the Austrians during the WSS followed the same method as during the SYW then your idea of combining grenadiers from two regiments to form one combined grenadier battalion is exactly right. I do the same for my SYW Austrians. That is, one Austrian infantry regiment (two battalions) contributes one stand of grenadiers to a combined grenadier battalion. My combined grenadier battalions are two stands strong with each stand drawn from a different regiment. The resulting combined grenadier battalions are two-thirds the strength of an infantry battalion.

    1. Jon - that's a brilliant help - I am liking this response already! Thanks very much indeed.

  2. According to Pat Condray (who I think had it from Nafziger) from 1701, German regiments, that is most of the Imperial infantry, had ON PAPER four battalions each of 4 companies of 150 plus a grenadier company of 100. It does stress that actual numbers were often much less but unhelpfully doesn't say whether the grenadiers were brigaded together at all, sorry.
    One-seventh of an 18 figure battalion? Say three figures for cash? All changed again in 1704, so better paint them up quick.

    1. Thanks Chris - that's useful - appreciated.


      Not my period but a few minutes googling produced the links above. I doubt you will find a definitive answer and more likely, conflicting information.
      That's why I prefer Imagi-Nations for the C18th!
      Assuming you publish this- my post / comment on Tyldesly's rest never was!

    3. Neil - thanks for this. Tyldesley's regt - you mean the comment about uniform colours? No problem - I can't find it now - it was published, I'm sure. Worth noting that it was Stuart Reid who told me they wore red and had green flags - I took his word for it.

    4. Yes, that's the one. I used to know Stuart (enough to speak to at least) through the re-enactment scene. He does like to challenge orthodoxy, hence his views on Montrose's army. His comment on wargaming: tried it many years ago, preferred "the real thing". "Dour" probably sums him up!

    5. Looking at the first link that Neil provided, the standard establishment was one company of 100 grenadiers per regiment not per battalion. A four battalion regiment had a total of 16 line companies of 150 plus 1 company 100 grenadiers. So 1 in 25 men were grenadiers IF the regiment had 4 battalions. Not all regiments had 4 battalions so you could have a better ratio of grenadiers to line.

      By that reckoning there would be grenadiers from more than two regiments in a combined grenadier battalion. That would free you up from the question of dividing a 3 base unit into two lots of grenadiers.

      Also worth bearing in mind is that brigades were ad hoc formations that did not necessarily contain the same regiments throughout, and could have differing numbers of battalions. If WAS/SYW practice of brigading the elite companies as a separate reserve corps/shock formation was followed, then you have even less of a direct link to specific line battalions.

      In short Tony, you could pretty much suit yourself. I’d stick to the same overall number of bases and figures for grenadier battalions as you do for line, and maybe have each base ‘representing’ a different parent regiment. I bet the battalion chef would be mounted too, except when storming works.

      Clear as mud?

  3. I have had a quick read through Robert Halls Imperial Austrian Army...
    He uses that mildly unhelpful phrase... When Grenadier companies were combined... I am assuming that they were combined for particular tasks... storming fortifications etc...

    You proposed organisation of two stands to represent a brigaded Grenadier unit sounds good to me...although I imagine they may have had bigger brigades for bigger jobs...
    Even if it was not a permanent thing it will give you some interesting looking units...

    All the best. Aly

  4. Neil, Aly, nundanket, and also Rob, who kindly sent an email - thanks for all this - really useful.

    Situation I inherited with Eric Knowles' toy soldiers was that the Austrian troops include one or two grenadier battalions - as an example, the IR Hasslinger has a fusilier battalion and one of grenadiers. This is probably not historically correct, for 1703 anyway, but Eric's army tended to veer towards the Austrian Succession as well, so the history is sometimes a bit of a compromise. The idea of combining the grenadier presence from the regiments in a brigade is handy, familiar (from my Napoleonic Spaniards), and seems to be what they were doing by the SYW, as described by Jon. That would suit me fine - I could make up some grenadier bases - each from a different regiment, and combine them in twos (or threes) to make a converged battalion, as discussed. Yesterday I'd already picked out the figures to have a go at this.

    Now we get to dates and numbers. In addition to Robert Hall's book, I also have the booklet he did with August Kühn in 1989, and these repeat the business about how many companies of fusiliers at different dates, and how many grenadier, and these perpetuate this ambiguity about whether the grenadier companies were 1 per battalion or one per regiment. The Kühn booklet, for example, suggests breakdowns of the numbers which don't even add up to the stated totals, which I guess was a typo in 1989, but doesn't help either!

    I'm new to all this stuff, so if I state what everybody knows anyway (or knows to be wrong!) then please bear with me for a minute or so. Chris G's estimate of 3 grenadier figures for each constituent 18-figure line battalion would be really convenient to bear out my original calcs, but he, like me, is defeated by the vagueness in the sources. If the grenadiers were 1 company per regiment then there are not enough in a brigade of infantry to put together a decent battalion.

    Grenadiers seem to have first appeared in the 1660s or so, and there weren't very many of them (8 per company was quoted), and they seem to have replaced "shieldmen" in someone or other's army.

    Presumably throwing actual grenades was a big part of the early job description.

    For the Austrians (well, the German regiments), it seems that in 1701 a regiment consisted of 4 bns - totalling 16 fusilier coys (150 each) and 1 grenadier (100 men).

    In 1703-4, a proposal was made to change to 3 bns, totalling 15 coys of fusiliers (140 each, maybe 130), with 2 of grenadiers (100 each) - a couple of the notes I've read (including the big Robt Hall book, I think) suggest that this wasn't put into practice until 1711.

    Looks like my best approach for early-war Austrians, then, is to forget about grenadier battalions for the moment - I can paint up some 6-figure bases for a few regiments if I wish to find a special job for them, but there really weren't enough grenadiers around to form special battalions at brigade level. Even after 1711, it would be hard to do this. My tabletop Imperial brigades are likely to have about 4 battalions each, provided by 2 or 3 regiments. What I'll do is stick a few token grenadiers in one of the fusilier bases, for cosmetic purposes, and not worry about the mass grenadier formations for the moment.

    OK. Das stimmt.

    Vielen Dank.

    1. I just had another shufti at that Condray booklet. Seems prior to 1701 they had 8 grenadiers per COMPANY, so 32 to a battalion. If so, then rationalising to a company of 100 per regiment after 1701 isn't a big leap. I'd sort of assumed it meant a small company per battalion but maybe not. Annoying that it's so sloppily written that it could mean either.
      And no, none of the totals add up, but I (again) assumed that company numbers were just rank and file and totals included officers, drummers, sergeants and what-not.

    2. Chris - I note that Pat Condray wrote the preface for my Kühn/Hall booklet - is it one and the same booklet? If it is, I note that it is Part 21 of some hefty series - I wonder where they all disappeared to?

      Ambiguous sentences - disappointingly sloppy, this instance. We should insist on all wargamers' guides being written with proper Backus notation, so we can see the implied sets. There should be a British Standard. Harrumph.

      I also have an ancient booklet written by one CA Sapherson (of Leeds?), published by Raider Books, which states that the Austrians combined their grenadier companies into provisional battalions in the "days of Marlborough" - hmmm - don't think so - I think we've demonstrated that it would be a few years before there were enough grenadiers around to do this on any worthwhile scale.

      No wonder these legends get passed on - and this was before the internet - spreading misunderstanding is much easier now.

    3. Editions Brokaw c. 1997 (Third edition) The foreword acknowledges the help of Kuhn, Foure and Sapherson's work for correcting errors in the first two editions, though he says Sapherson is 'necessarily incomplete'(?). Hmm, all sounding a bit incestuous now. Are they all copying each other?

    4. Chris - seems a bit like it. Odd. One thing that stands out is how little wargamers in the 1980s had to go on - at least Kühn and Hall could read German, which is better than the usual large hole in British/American research.

  5. I opted not to create any separate Imperial/Austrian Grenadier units for the moment... my thinking being that if I wanted to play a scenario that included such a thing I would work something out as and when...
    Though a handy two stand unit of Grenadiers would be a nice little painting project.
    I will however definitely be painting up some Bavarian Red Grenadiers... whether I near them or not....��

    All the best. Aly

    1. I look forward to seeing them, Aly, I'm sure they'll be lovely! The Boismorels were a genuine, official battalion of proper grenadiers, though we may argue about whether they were French or Bavarian.

  6. As you doubtless know, even in the Napoleonic Wars the Austrians did similar things with their Grenadiers - 2 companies per regiment, with companies from 2-3 regiments brought together to form 4 or usually 6 company battalions, albeit still smaller than the Line battalions. By that time, though, these combined Grenadier battalions were brigaded together into Reserve formations.

    Anyway, eventually you will HAVE to have a few units of Grenadiers, old bean. Just wouldn't be proper without them, you know.

    1. I guess that's true - that can be next month's challenge - I'm aiming to complete my Phase 1 line up for the WSS in about 4 weeks from now!