Friday, 28 February 2014

Death of Colonel Christian von Ompteda

Last week the next deadline on Curt's painting challenge occured: Casualties.
There are many excellent entries and I cannot encourage you enough to have a look at the dedicated website. My entry was...
The Death of Colonel Christian von Ompteda at Waterloo
Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Ompteda was a Hanoverian officer who served as brigade commander during the battle of Waterloo. He was born in Ahlden an der Alster in Lower Saxonia. After becoming a lieutenant of the Hanoverian foot guards he was badly wounded during the French Revolutionary Wars. When Hannover's army was dissolved after the Convention of Artlenburg he emigrated to England and was one of the first to join the King's German Legion. During the following years Von Ompteda served in several campaigns in Denmark, Spain and France. In 1815 he was colonel and commander of the 2nd Brigade KGL in Charles von Alten's 3rd Infantry Division at Waterloo. He found his heroic death during a daring but desperate attack in line formation with the 5th KGL Line Battalion by the order of the questionable Prince of Orange.
Allessandro Barbero describes Ompteda's final moments as follows in his excellent re-narration of the battle of Waterloo:
"Suddenly, the order came to deploy in line and advance at a walk; when his men were some sixty yards away from the enemy, Ompteda had the bugler sound the charge and urged his horse into the midst of the thick line of French skirmishers. The tirailleurs scattered. [...] Colonel von Ompteda was encircled by enemy infantry, and the French officers, amazed by his courage, shouted to their men to take him alive; but Ompteda, who was by then [...] beside himself, started aiming sabre-strokes at the heads of the men surrounding him, and someone lost patience. When lieutenant Weatherly regained consciousness, the colonel lay dead two steps away from him, with his mouth open and a hole in his throat."
(Allessandro Barbero "The Battle", pp. 312 - 313)

I was deeply impressed when I read those lines for the first time and they inspired me for this vignette. It shall represent the fallen colonel dragged away from his fallen horse by a comrade from the 5th Line Battalion KGL. Maybe the scene differs slightly from Barbero’s portrayal but I wanted to have it a bit vivid and the Perrys offer such an amazing British officer casualty. Actually all the figures are from Perry miniatures. Three from the British Napoleonic casualties set and a slightly converted horse which I found on a rummage table at Crisis last year. 
As usual I painted the figures with Vallejo Model Colours and employed different types of foliage, static grass and modelling flowers to add some fauna to the scene. As a little trick I didn’t glue on the single British casualty yet because I’m thinking of replacing him by one or two Frenchmen which Ompteda killed with his final blows.


  1. Not to detract from the resigned heroism of Ompteda, but it even Barbero notes that the original order for the attack came from Alten. Ompteda protested to Willem, who then told him to follow Alten's order. Willem was by no means a brilliant tactician, but there´s no need to continue the (British) myth that he was an incompetent nincompoop. He had several years experience at Wellington's side in Spain and showed physical courage at several times there and during the Waterloo campaign.

    1. Really I don't want to judge William of Orange based on this single event only. During his earlier military career he gave proof of bravery at the battles of Jena-Auerstedt and Wagran for example. But at Waterloo his performance was questionable in my view.

      You're right that the initial order came from von Alten. But at least William supported and constrained it. A mistake which turned out to be disastrous. But even without knowledge of the outcome it seems at least careless to me to send a battalion in line formation to an area which had been covered by French cavalry for the whole day knowingly. After all the Light Field Battalion Lüneburg met the same fate earlier...

      Anyway the discussion about the military quality of the order doesn't reduce Ompteda's bravery at executing it.


  2. Fantastic vignette!! Excellent post.

  3. Clearly Ompteda was a brave and honourable officer. Whatever mistakes or oversights were made in the heat of battle (and the Anglo-Dutch/Prussian side must have made fewer than the French or the the fight would have gone the other way) Ompteda chose gallantly to share the fate of his men. Your magnificent vignette is an apt reminder that all decisions have consequences.

  4. A great entry, looks excellent!

  5. Superb painting and basing with a nice historical touch.