A warm and most pleasant day in August 1808, somewhere in Portugal. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of a military camp stood a large white tent. Within Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley tapped a pencil irritably on a map laid out on the table before him. A motion at the tent flap caused him to raise his head sharply;
'Ahh, Blunt glad you could join us' said Wellesley
'Apologies Sir, but this new uniform does chaff some' mumbled Lieutenant Dickie Blunt of the 95th, newly promoted after saving the General's tin bath from a French raiding party. Blunt pulled discreetly as possible at the crotch of his trousers and cursed under his breath.
'Get a better tailor man' Wellesley responded gruffly ' I've not called you here to talk clothing but about our mission in Portugal'
'Yes Sir' Blunt replied meekly.
'Heard of Father Jose de Castro?' Blunt shook his head 'Guessed not' continued the General 'Well he's a very important man who could help our cause. But he's got himself in a spot of bother, and he's stuck in a church in the village of Santo Figaro. You are going to get him out'
'You Sir! You'll not be alone, your lads will be under the command of Colonel Odysseus Hackswill, of the 29th Regiment of Foot, The Worcestershires, also known as the 'The Carrots'. Father Castro has a lot of influence with the Portuguese resistance and will be very useful. You up for it man?'
'Yes Sir' Blunt responded saluting smartly, and wincing in pain as the seat of his trousers dug into his John Thomas.
'Good Man. Now get on with it' snapped Wellesley.
The village of Santo Figaro came into sight. Locals had warned the British that French forces were fast approaching the village from the East.
Hackswill approaching from the South along the road, now had to put his plan into action. The church lay at the far end of the village, surrounded by a high wall. In the far distance dust could be seen rising as the French approached.
Hackswill divided his forces thus. Sgt Patrick 'Paddy' O'Rourke of the 95th, good friend of Dickie Blunt, would lead his riflemen across the wheat fields to the church to link up with Father Castro. The redoubtable Irishman, always there with a humorous ditty and draught of the good stuff, could be relied upon to do his duty. Lt. James Smythe, would unlimber his 6pdr gun to cover the Rifles and prevent the French from exploiting the open ground.
Hackswill would accompany the 29th along the road, the forces split between Lt Reginald Cavendish, and Sgt. William 'Big Bill' Hook. On the left flank Lt Blunt would lead the second group of rifleman around the orchard to bring fire on any Frenchie who attempts to outflank them.
Already the dastardly French, who want to force the world to eat frogs legs and sing 'Je le Taxi' are marching towards the church. The game is a foot!
Hackswill, now found himself issuing orders left, right and centre. Sgt. Hook using the butt of his halberd pushes and prods his men into a line and continues his advance. Lt. Cavendish with a soft lisping voice struggles to encourage his men to face down Frenchie. In the far distance Lt. Smythe has unlimbered the gun and is happily ramming home the powder and shot to fling at the enemy. Meanwhile Sgt O' Rourke with a battle cry of 'Paddy Power' charges into a wheatfield to take on the foe. But where is Dickie Blunt?
Our hero is floundering behind the orchard. Before leaving on the mission he received a 'Dear Dickie' letter from his sweetheart Miss Mary Beth Lewisham of Camden Town. She informed him that the engagement was off. Much to Dickie's distress she had been wooed by his Nemesis, that perfidious fop Lord Archibald Purcell, a toad faced weasel of a man always jealous of Dickie's success and quick to spread slanderous comments.. With a broken heart our hero was struggling to keep his mind on the work at hand. Meanwhile.....
A French column has worked it's way around the church, but in doing so brought it within range of Castro's guerrillas defending the building. They prove that with no training what so ever, only a war cry of 'God Will's It', it is possible to hit more than a barn door and bring down one of the soldiers. Lt Smythe spying the same tempting target, lets his balls fly from the mighty 6pdr. Unfortunately the men of this unit are all recruited from the Paris School of Ballet and nimbly avoid the Smythe's bouncing balls. The situation is looking grim on the British right flank!
In the centre Sgt. Hook presses on. Lt Cavendish has finally got his men into line and moving forward to support the right flank. Colonel Hackswill,converses with Father Castro and his gaggle of priests. Encouraging them to leave the safety of the compound and freedom.
Hook is now facing a unit of grenadiers. Both sides trade fire, but with little effect. Fortunately for the English a small number of the grenadiers, (a certain Sgt Gaultier and companions) have been distracted by a treasure trove of abandoned luggage over flowing with the latest ladies fashions from Gay Paree. Sgt. Gaultier is more concerned with finding a red satin number in a size 14 to wear to the Marshall's Ball than fighting the British.
With a cry of 'For King George', Hook's men fired a ragged volley into the Grenadiers and then charged full pelt. What followed is too gruesome to show in pictures. For the next few minutes the cries of 'Take that you fiend', 'Watch out behind you' and 'Ow, me toe!' filled the air. Hookie and his men were outclassed. The big grenadiers (ooh, la la!), were tough men who all ate raw onion for breakfast to prove their manhood and the Worcester's were thrown back . No Johnnie Bull was getting down this road!
Whilst this was happening the valiant Sgt O'Rourke fell. He and his men had been trading fire with the voltigeur's skulking in the wheatfield opposite when a cannonade from the hill shattered his hip flask and penetrated his heart. No more would the brave Irishman entertain the troops with his bodhran playing. (Even worse was his insistence on singing!).
The French Line Infantry did just that and facing the wall began to trade fire with the guerrilla's. But on their left flank Lt Cavendish got his men into order and they sent a volley into their opponent. The French crumbled and fell back. Father Castro could now begin plotting his escape and with cassocks raised, the priests began to leap the wall. But what of Lt Blunt?
The French revealed their ace. A unit of Dragoons on a collision course with Blunt's 95th!!!
Blunt wiped away the tears from his eyes with a soiled handkerchief and then dropped the said garment to the floor (where it belonged). Cantering towards him were the enemy. Pulling himself together, Blunt steadied his men and they began to send round after round into the horses and riders. The accuracy of the Baker rifle was devastating. Try as they might the Dragoons could not close with the light infantry.
The French cavalry were decimated. The day was won. Lt. Dickie Blunt had saved the day by holding the left flank. The priests were saved, carried back to the British lines in the muscular arms of their brave allies.
So ended a little game of Sharp Practice. It is perhaps apparent I played the British. All the figures, terrain and copious amounts of coffee were supplied by my opponent. A grand game, with hopefully more to follow in the further adventures of Lt. Dickie Blunt.