Saturday, 14 October 2006

Jena Bicentenary


Nick and I made it to Jena. Our hotel was in Apolda, but we spent Friday night in Jena having an excellent meal while Napoleonic soldiers marched round the town square.

We spent the Saturday morning looking round Hassenhausen, with the bivouacs of several Prussian and French re-enactors still in place. The museum there was small but good. En route from Apolda we'd taken in a castle and an amazing water filtration system at Bad Hosen. It was about 400m long, 20m high, made of wood and stuffed full of fir branches.

Trying to park at the battle site was impossible, every route in was blocked by police. In the end we abandoned the car up a side road, and just like the French on the morning of the battle legged it up the steep road to Closewitz.

I don't know what I expected but the scale of the whole thing was big. The battlefield was a natural bowl about 1km on each side. It sat exactly where the first part of the battle was fought between Closewtz and Lutzeroda. There were around 2000 re-enactors and some 50,000 spectators. We eventually found a near front-row spot close to the main stand and got some great photos of the troops. At one stage the artilllery was just in front of us - an amazing sight.

One of the reasons for being here was to get a feel for the wargaming issues,particularly visibility. What was immediately obvious was that altoughyou could see to the far side of the battle anything beyond 500m was just a blob, or a blob on a horse. Second was smoke. Even with 2000 men there was a lot of it. Cannon smoke tended to be concentrated and dispersed by the time of the next round (about 45 seconds, wind light to moderate). It was when the muskets started firing en-masse that the smoke became a significant cause of obstruction.

The other thing was the troop density. This re-enactment had about 2000 men in 1 sq km. Just under 3 battalions. At Waterloo there were 140,000 men in 6 sq km, that's about 20,000 per sq km, ten times as dense. It would have meant (a) not much room for manouvre and (b) a lot of smoke.

***Imported from old blog***

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