Bringing history to life …

Instead of a regular Thursday night’s wargaming, I took the Naseby reconstruction to Kettering Art Gallery as the supporting act to Will’s introduction to wargaming ‘Chess with 100 Pieces’ … one of the Friends of Kettering Museum and Gallery‘s series of talks.

My part of the presentation was to contribute something on using wargames and model soldiers to recreate significant battles from history.   All the better, of course, that the battle I’ve most been working on recently is only some 10 miles west of the town.

Naseby Fight in full swing

Of course, the toy soldiers will always work their magic, drawing in people of all types and ages with their imaginative appeal.   To this we can add details of the 1645 campaign that show Kettering and the surrounding towns and villages on the front line between Royalist and Parliament.

The King’s headquarters were at Market Harborough, just a few miles from the Parliamentarian garrison at re-fortified Rockingham Castle.    Hard by, troops fighting for the King were billeted in Desborough and Rushton, and are reported plundering in Weekley and Burton Latimer, and requisitioning horses.

There was skirmishing and facing-off around the strong points of Rockingham and Northampton, but the troopers roamed freely in the villages between them.

In a leisurely Q&A that followed the general talk (when, needless to say, we encouraged visitors to gather round the displays, pick up the figures etc.) I walked the game through the battle’s main manoeuvres.   There were some interesting questions on how the mechanisms broke the reconstruction down into game turns … and of the historical events, why the issue seems to have been settled by hand-to-hand combat, given the majority appeared to have been equipped with firearms and cannon?

Attention of this sort – as well as the fact that people didn’t just melt away when the formal presentations were done – can be very gratifying.   It shows people are following the story and it cues the more detailed responses on 17th century warfare and on wargames mechanisms.

It also highlights the effect landscape can have on great events … and so, inevitably, the value of visiting battlefields like Naseby, the need for preservation and the work of the Naseby Project and of the Battlefields Trust.

Friends chat over a DBA version of the battle of Zama: maybe the topic is ancient warfare ...

Inevitably, some will know more about the Civil War and Naseby than others: towards the end I was asked what I thought about the ‘will you go upon your death’ moment.

Would the King advancing the reserve at the critical moment (rather than being guided away from the place of danger) have prevented Cromwell closing in on the infantry on Closter Hill (and, so, maybe saved the day)? – or would it, indeed, have been a forlorn venture leading inevitably to his death or capture on a field already lost?

Had we time, we could have played it through.   It is clearly what Rupert thought should have been done.   And we can certainly reconstruct it in the wargame.

King Charles and the Reserve

(Naseby: “Will you go upon your death in an instant?”… the King must make his vital choice)

As a Romantic, I would rather have been killed in a heroic action at Naseby than lose my head branded a traitor by a rebel court in London!  Better still to buy sufficient time in an action against Cromwell to allow the battle to be won on the hill (and history clearly indicates that the King’s army had been victorious on the right and was making potentially decisive progress in the centre).

History turns on such moments, and it is a great privilege to be able to bring those moments alive for people.

The proceeds of the event have been donated to the Naseby Battlefield Project and we hope that some of the leaflets and contacts given out may garner more support – perhaps both for model soldier hobbies and for local military heritage.

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