I was able to have 2 days assisting the Battlefields Trust at History Live again this year, and although mostly manning and explaining my Battle of Northampton display*, added a few more pictures to my collection …
Give or take the violent electrical storms (which, mercifully, mostly struck overnight) it was a warm, at times, sweltering weekend and the public turned out in numbers, especially on the Sunday …
The event brings history to life, especially military history, and has plenty to get youngsters involved, from impromptu theatre …
… to the very busy wargames tent (historical wargames to join in presented by the Phoenix club of Rushden) …
… History for all the family and a lively and compelling event from English Heritage …
*for a more general report on the event, see Ancients on the Move/History Live!
Fresh from genning up a couple of weeks back with the Battlefields Trust, I was back at Cropredy with WD, supplying the interpretation while JB directed the tour.
The walking tour had missed Hay’s Bridge due to the traffic (and low effort reward ratio, as much of the view is overgrown and the viewpoints negligible) … but WDers are made of stern stuff and grittily performed all necessary manoeuvres to park, stop ‘U’-turn etc. at this key point.
It gives me the chance to add a few pictures of Hay’s Bridge today.
Waller’s plan included taking the bridge in order to cut the King’s army in two – then destroy the tail left on the Wardington side of the bridge in detail.
Hazzlerigg’s troopers made it to the bridge but encountered stiff resistance and were sent reeling back towards Cropredy and were counter-attacked by a detachment of Lifeguards from beyond the river (precisely what was meant to be prevented by taking the bridge!)
The soldiers amongst us were fascinated by this bungled attempt to cut off and encircle a marching force and are already thinking of innovative ways to devise the wargame … I think we were all disappointed by the dearth of archaeological work done at this battlefield and it will certainly be useful to look at some reconstructed field patterns.
We had met up at the Brasenose Arms for lunch, and to reduce our convoy to the minimum number of cars necessary.
After viewing the main area of the battlefield by car from both bridges, the Wardington Ash, and from walking towards the middle, we returned to the pub to debrief and make our way to Knuston. A briefer visit than the walking tours, but valuable and worthwhile nonetheless.
(a general report on CoW2014)
Cropredy Bridge – the Battlefields Trust visit … June 29th
This was a well attended and extensive day out on the anniversary of the battle. A walk on the Southern part of the field in the morning, a wreath laying with the Tower Hamlets Trained Bands reenactors after lunch, and a walk on the Northern and central areas in the afternoon.
This gave those who stayed for the whole day a chance to explore the main areas of action and walk the field.
The battle was essentially a failed Parliamentary opportunistic attack (Waller) on a marching Royalist column (the King) …
The two armies were shadowing each other either side of the Cherwell, with the King marching on Daventry. With the Royalist column strung out along the ridge opposite him, Waller saw the opportunity to wait until all bar the rear guard had crossed the river (at Hays Bridge) before launching attacks via Cropredy Bridge, Cropredy Mill and Slat Mill to chop the tail off the column and defeat it in the fields of Wardington and Williamscote.
In the morning we walked from the meet at Cropredy Bridge along the tow path to Cropredy Mill (the central of the three red advances on the map) and examined the movements of forces before continuing South to the Slat Mill crossing.
Across the Cherwell at Slat Mill, the walk followed the strenuous ascent of Waller’s uphill attack on the Royalist rear. The medieval ridge and furrow is still very evident here and reminds us of how the landscape would have been in the largely unenclosed 17th Century.
Waller’s attacks here gained little traction. Following his line of advance returned us to the main part of the battlefield.
While Waller attacked the rear of the King’s column, Middleton made a determined cavalry attack across Wardington fields driving off the Dragoons that were guarding Cropredy Bridge and attempting to seize Hay’s Bridge to the North (thereby cutting off the tail of the column)
In fact, Middleton’s cavalry were thrown back from Hay’s Bridge and attacked (more or less in the flank) by Cleveland’s brigade from the ridge.
A confused fight ensues in the fields, Cleveland’s cavalry supported by men from Bernard Astley’s foot, Middleton by the Tower Hamlets regiment at the bridge.
A detachment of Life Guards add punch, counter attacking across Hay’s Bridge, and the Parliamentarians are driven back across the Cherwell.
A bad day is saved from getting any worse by the stubborn defence of the bridge by the Tower Hamlets regiment, holding up the Royalists into the night.
Refreshments were laid on at the Church, who also showed us some of their antiquities, some of which may date to the Civil War – even the friendly staff in the pub came up with some plausible-looking shot found in an adjacent back garden …
As usual, a very informative visit.
Bringing projects up to date … We have previously looked at my standard wargame, Advanced Armati, together with Graham’s VWS (good), Neil Thomas (needs fixing), as well as less convincing solutions such as Pike and Shotte and 1644.
I’m relatively happy with FoG-R … it shares the confusion of separating regimental soldiers out by weapon (generally where Warhammer style rules fall apart when faced with the undifferentiated combat of the Civil War) … but does its best to make the troops fight in plausible formation blocks.
FoG-R covers a relatively long period of warfare … pretty much from bombards to bayonets … so a complex mechanic tuned by army lists and period specific formations is the order of the day.
Giving FoG-R some table time, I set up a generic game for people to try out using Trebian’s 25mm collection from yesteryear.
Not ECW, then, but I’m sure you will enjoy some shots of the game.
Henry IV‘s French lined up to attack some Spanish opposition so we presume this is the 1590s …
FoG doesn’t exactly rattle along at the pace we are used to (it is a complex alternate move game with lots of nuances to understand) … and I confess I wasn’t able to push it along as knowledgeably as I would had it been Armati, or even the ancients version of FoG.
Nevertheless we got around 80% of a conclusion in a three hours or so from an approximately 850 point game.
There are a number of problems with the assumptions the game makes and it is very dice happy – but it doesn’t malfunction regularly and maintains a more or loss good look with some plausible narratives.
This followed an initial look at Langport a few weeks back using Treb’s layout and figures combined with a version of Advanced Armati similar to what we have used previously for Naseby and Newbury.
Here are some shots from the game …
While his train begins its withdrawal, Goring slows Fairfax by covering the road with artillery and forlorn hopes …
Musketeers are driving Royalist shot out of the fields and marsh around Langport ford …
(figures are Peter Pig 15mm on 30×30 bases from Treb’s collection)
Audaciously, Fairfax throws the best of his cavalry in columns up the lane …
And manages to force a way out onto the slopes of the ridge, driving Goring back …
Parliament pushes on to victory …
Provided Goring doesn’t try anything too proactive, this battle runs reasonably well to the historical script. Determination is more important than disorder.
West Yorkshire, June 1643 … The Earl of Newcastle (of the celebrated white coats) moves to attack Fairfax’s Parliamentarian headquarters at Bradford. The town being insecure, Fairfax opts to intercept on the line of march at Adwalton.
Trebian set this one up, using his own rules, and based on the narrative and dispositions given in Richard Brooks’s Battlefields of Britain and Ireland. Treb has posted a report on the game on Wargaming for Grownups, which I commend to you, so here I will post some more pictures and some comments on the rules and resolutions …
Here is RB’s map tilted slightly to match the table orientation ….
And here is Trebian’s battlefield based on the above (units arriving by road, not all deployed yet)
I must confess this is not a battle I know well enough to debate any of the above.
As Treb started the game with the armies on the march, we were able to deploy these forces more or less as suited our plan.
I played Newcastle, and my plan was simple enough … I was going to push on up the road to Bradford unless Fairfax could stop me. Tactically, I’m used to the idea, from other battles, of horse having to fight for enclosures and over hedges etc – so was confident in using their higher mobility to seize ground.
That said, I sort of thought I might need to use a reasonable force to dominate the Moor … but it turned out mostly to be full of coal pits … and anyway, Parliament wasn’t coming to us, so we had to press, press, press.
Royalist attacks blitzed Parliament’s blocking forces from either side of the route while more foot pushed up the road and the cavalry who were not obliged to fight for the Moor clattered into the lane, discharged their pistols then charged through the hedge – and into the unsteady green coats beyond.
This was all speculative, of course, and mostly intended to keep the tempo of battle running as I had visualised it. If I got repulsed, I would simply have to make do … probably by throwing more troops into the fray. In fact, most of these attacks were sustainable, and weight of action pretty much bullied the Parliamentarians off the position.
Final positions …
Victory Without Squares worked better for this game than previous battles – probably because the nature of the battlefield brought out the advantages of the card driven movement possibilities, and because the ‘quick resolution’ firing and combat gave us a result in comfortable time.
Had both sides opted to manoeuvre as would be normal for a more open battle it might have taken longer.
The bigger army won on the evening as on the day, but the battle brought out, once again, the importance of cavalry. Near enough half Newcastle’s forces (Brooks reckons) you can’t just hold them back for a cavalry battle – you need to use their speed and numbers to dominate the battlefield. Exactly how that works is interesting … VWS’s combination of a longer move with more failures when turning a card for crossing obstacles etc. is an engaging solution (they will always get there quicker but you can never be sure what use they will be) ….
I was pleased to take the Newbury game to SELWG with the Pike & Shot Society. I really only conceived of the game as one to play at Colours, where you have a view of the battlefield – but it has enjoyed a few more productive appearances.
Since I accepted the invitation to take it to Crystal Palace, I have been contacted by the Battlefields Trust who would like to see if I would be interested in taking on the Battle of Langport (1645) … so just at the point where Newbury is probably coming to the end of its main spell in the limelight, along comes the prompt for the next project.
It is probably also worth mentioning that in the full play through on Sunday afternoon, we also recorded – for the first time – a clear Parliamentarian victory (as opposed the various mutual cessations and comings of nightfall that have usually ended the game and which happened on 27th October 1644). It sort of validates the game somehow: that although in our reconstruction the King’s position usually holds, Parliament’s plan can work .
The game was an spirited romp through the possibilities in which the Parliamentarian commander insisted all his officers took the most aggressive option possible at all ‘player choice’ points: this resulted in all contingents advancing and attacking pell mell, but did mean the King was quickly engaged in all sectors and that his army’s morale was getting worn down all round, simultaneously.
Cromwell’s small cavalry wing was unable to last out the action, and was broken when their commander fell in the hurly-burly of melee, but elsewhere the relentless gamble paid off … Balfour broke into the position south of Speen, Waller chewed his way through the village, and at the other end of the battlefield, Manchester led his troops into the fray in person.
As well as Cromwell, Manchester, Balfour, Maurice, Ludlow and Goring were all cut down or were overwhelmed with their men (the highest commander toll in any ECW reconstruction I have moderated) … though after the battle, only Ludlow and Maurice were found to be dead (the others were either still missing or were being patched up in a local Church – Cromwell certainly amongst the latter).
The high toll is not entirely unfeasible in this period (see my earlier post on risk) … and results from the very aggressive attitude adopted by the commanders. But it did get the job done (with the help of a spate of poor saving dice by the Royalists).
The plan for the ECWBattles project now is to look at Langport with a view to doing a game to support the Trust’s interest; tidy up the ECW adaptations page; publish the full details for the Newbury scenario; and contribute an analytical piece on minor tactics (the employment of pike and shot as separate bodies encouraged by the Games Workshop family of wargames refuses to go away, so I propose to go back over the historical material to see if any further definition is possible either way).
So … Newbury data next, then some history …
The Society of Ancients at SELWG: link