Wednesday, 29 June 2011

First Newbury

Our latest battle was First Newbury. We last fought this over 20 years ago, and quite a few of the figures seen in the photographs took part in that early battle too.

The basic layout can be seen below, Round Hill in the centre, with Wash Common in the far distance. The Royalists deployed on the left of the photograph, the Parliamentarians on the right. Rupert, with the bulk of the cavalry, was on the Royalist left (Wash Common) facing the Parliamentarian general, Stapleton. Both sides had most of their infantry in the centre commanded by Astley (Royalists) and Skippon (Parliamentarian). The Royalist right (Vavasour) and Parliamentary left (Middleton) had mixed commands and faced each other across Skinners Green. Both sides had their artillery in the centre.

The battle opened with a preliminary bombardment which inflicted a few casualties on each side. The Royalisyinfantry then began to move towards Round Hill, their progress hampered by the hedges and enclosures. Vavasour began to move forward also, hoping to exploit the advantage of his better quality cavalry. Rupert, uncharacteristically, was slow to move forward, spending some time re-arranging his squadrons. However, when all was to his satisfaction he took his position at the head of his Lifeguard and signalled for the advance to be sounded. On the parliamentary side, Skippon decided to reinforce Round Hill and Essex began to re-deploy his two regiments of foot to secure his flank in case Stapleton's Horse were defeated by Rupert. The artillery continued to fire and the Royalist dragoons and the Parliamentarian musketeers on Round Hill both suffered increasing losses.

On Wash Common Rupert led the Royalist charge and either by accident or design selected as his opponent the regiment of Sir Arthur Hazlerigg, Stapleton's strongest unit. With his Lifeguard he took on the 'Lobsters' in a melee which swung back and forth. Other cavalry units joined the fray and soon 75% of the cavalry force on this flank was committed. Being in the front rank of battle carries its risks and in our version of Newbury, Rupert paid the price, being cut down in the melee. Undaunted, or perhaps driven by a wish for revenge, his men fought on and began to gain the upper hand over their opponents. Then Stapleton too became a casualty and the Parliamentary horse began to give way.

The routers were pursued by one Royalist unit, but two others managed to retain their command and regroup.

On the other flank Vavasour was also making some progress, but he was hampered by hedges and enclosures near Skinners Green. He could only engage Middleton on a narrow front, but the better quality Royalist horse began to gain the upper hand over their opponents, pushing them back and allowing the Royalist foot to come forward.

In the centre Astley's regiments were finding it tough, advancing on a narrow front into musketry range due to the enclosures and then having to deploy for the advance up hill against the Parliamentary foot; suffering casualties all the time. Penderell's and Blackwall's regiments were in the first line and both needed encouragement from Astley before they launched their attack. Penderell's went in first and their impetus gained them a foothold on the top of Round Hill, but, before they could consolidate they were counter attacked and pushed back down the hill. Blackwall's also reached the summit and attempted to engage in a firefight with Skippon's musketeers, but it was an unequal struggle and they too had to retreat.

Two more Royalist foot regiments attempted to move around the Skinners Green flank of Round Hill but were engaged by one of the London Trained Bands. In the ensuing firefight Skippon became the third general to be killed. The infantry fight in the centre was a slugging match in a constricted area with little room for manoeuvre. Parliament had more infantry and the advantage of terrain and was holding its own. Even an attack by the infantry of the King's Lifeguard could not capture Round Hill. This was not the case on the flanks.

On Wash Common Essex was struggling to hold his position. He had summoned a third regiment of infantry to help, but that had been called back to shore up the opposite flank and he therefore had to commit his last cavalry reserves to hold off a Royalist push which threatened to completely encircle the Parliamentary army. His own infantry regiment had been forced to 'form a body' to face off the enemy cavalry and it was fortunate that the Royalist had no artillery with them to take advantage of this juicy target.

On the opposite flank Vavasour had advanced to his left and now threatened the rear of the Parliamentary position. His cavalry had become disorganised by the long fight with Middleton's regiments, who had belied their status and fought with determination. However, his infantry were in good shape and with no enemy cavalry left they could advance freely.
Fortunately for the Parliamentary army the wargaming night now fell and they were adjudged to be able to pull off under cover of darkness. Essex's hopes of reaching London were dashed so the strategic victory lay with the King, but the heavy casualties, and the loss of Rupert made for a sombre supper that night in the Royalist camp.

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