Sunday, 18 December 2011

Wakefield 1460

This was the display game put on by the Lance and Longbow Society at the Recon show at the beginning of December. Brief details can be found on Will's Wargames Blog Using the Poleaxe rules, available from the Society, gave us an unpredictable game which allowed the Yorkists a chance, even though they were outnumbered and vulnerable to treachery. In the event the Lancastrians did prevail, but, Richard of York managed to escape to fight another day.
Just before Christmas, we decided to rerun the game, the set up is shown below

In both cases the figures used (and featuring in the photos) were from the collection of Bob Metcalfe. The Yorkist right under Lord Neville were of uncertain allegiance and Richard stationed himself with Bouchier just behind them.

Richard's only chance was to attack and he ordered his troops forward. It soon became clear that some were more keen to fight than others. David Trollope's contingent in particular was noticeably hesitant, even when Richard in person delivered the order. The Yorkist centre was losing cohesion with Neville and Rutland striding forward and Montague seemingly marching through treacle.

However, the Somerset, the Lancastrian commander was also experiencing problems. Although having superior numbers, his commanders, with one notable exception, were quite hesitant in their advance. Admittedly they were maintaining their ranks, but the two flank battles were falling behind the centre, Here Clifford was driving his men forward,not even pausing to give his archers chance to fire. Of more concern were the actions of Lord Roos, with the cavalry reserve. He had orders to stand his ground and await opportunities to exploit gaps in the enemy line. However, to Somerset's alarm, the reserve were actually falling back towards the camp. He immediately dispatched a herald with an order for Roos to advance to support the infantry. Roos did halt his rearward movement, but seemed to have difficulty interpreting the order as no advance was seen. Before he could send more orders Somerset became embroiled in the developing melee in the centre as Clifford's men clashed with the Yorkist centre.

Thomas Neville and Codnor clashed whilst Harrington's cavalry charged Clifford. They were covering the gap caused by clashed whilst Harrington's cavalry charged Clifford. They were covering the gap caused by the slow advance of Montague and Rutland. Harrington's men were driven back with heavy loss, but Thomas Neville was making good progress against Codnor.

On the Lancastrian left Northumberland's archers were firing at David Trollope's men and also the stationary cavalry of Bouchier. The latter were goaded into action by the stinging flights of arrows and, ignoring their commander charged forward against their tormentors. After loosing a last volley, the archers fell back behind the men at arms and the disordered knights were met by a solid wall of defiant foot. Totally disorganised the now weakened cavalry fell back.

On the opposite flank the Lancastrian battle was becoming disorganised. They had been engaged in an exchange of arrows with Pickering and Mortimer, but, as they neared the enemy they moved their melee troops to the front. However, no order to charge was forthcoming. Exeter was waiting for confirmation from Somerset; who was otherwise occupied fighting in the centre. Seeing the confusion in the ranks opposite, the Yorkists continued to fire, severely weakening their opponents.

In the centre Somerset was struggling to restrain the headstrong Clifford; as he sent a herald off to Exeter urging an attack, he turned to find that the bulk of the battle was moving to attack Rutland. Cursing, he swung his charger around to join Clifford. In his haste he had neglected to send a herald to Lord Roos ordering him to advance, therefore the Lancastrian reserve sat and waited events. To Somerset's left the contingent of Codnor was struggling to hold against Thomas Neville's troops. They had not held the initial charge and began to fall back as the pressure increased. Suddenly, they broke turning and running for their lives. Neville, looking to his right, saw the flank of Gascoigne's contingent. He rallied his men and then directed them to attack Gascoigne. Caught unawares, Gascoigne's men offered little resistance, but delayed Neville just enough for Percy to redeploy his men to face the new threat.

A prolonged melee between Neville and Percy now began. Harrington's cavalry reserve tried to join in, but were met by Fitzhugh's contingent and driven back. Eventually, Percy's men prevailed and Neville's troops streamed from the field. Amongst the chaos Harrington's cavalry reappeared and caught Fitzhugh's men unprepared. The combat was brief, Fitzhugh himself being wounded and captured. His men were driven from the field with the Yorkist cavalry pursuing them.

On the right the Exeter had received Somerset's order to attack and passed it on to his subordinates. Unfortunately, Heron and Lord Grey had been so disorganised by the Yorkist archery that they could not comply. Only Dacre attacked and his men,perhaps dismayed by the lack of support, failed to make an impression. The counter attack by Mortimer routed the Lancastrians. The rout spread to the other contingents and soon the right wing battle of the Lancastrian army was running from the field.

In the centre Clifford and Devon were driving all before them. Rutland was dead, his men driven from the field; Montague was wounded and captured. A one-sided melee was taking place below the walls of Sandal castle with the Lancastrians driving all before them. Richard had at last persuaded David Trollope, who had until then been a mere spectator, to take action; "encouraged" by the point of a sword. Trollope's men moved slowly to the attack and fell on the rear of Clifford's contingent. Normally an attack of this sort would have been decisive. However, it was pressed with so little vigour, that Clifford's archers were able to turn and drive off their attackers.

It was at this point that Richard saw that the Lancastrian reserve, so long dormant, was now moving across the field. What remained of his army would not be able to hold against this force and so, gathering what troops he could, even the suspect Trollope, he retreated from the field. On the Lancastrian side Somerset's men were too exhausted to pursue; they contented themselves looting the fallen and looking for wealthy prisoners.

It had been a close fought battle, helped by the inactivity of the Lancastrian reserve. The rules allowed for a realistic lack of control by the commanders.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Last month I reported on a Marlburian scenario and this is the 'return match'. The Comte de Salle Forde had been given the task of securing a bridgehead over the upper reaches of the River Dyle in preparation for a forthcoming siege. Crossing by the ford at Vache Bas he had begun work constructing defences, but this was only partly completed when a force under Graf Von Grommitt appeared.

Seeing that he was outnumbered almost 2 to 1 in infantry and his opponent had more guns and a brigade of cavalry; the Comte quickly dispatched a messenger requesting reinforcements. The young officer crossed the ford and rode off to the west.

The Comte made his dispositions; Bavaria, Zurlaben and Dragoons de Wettigny manning the works and Languedoc in reserve. His artillery was on the left with Bavaria. Von Grommitt arranged his infantry in three columns; on his right two battalions of grenadiers,(Hesse and Palatinate), in the centre three battalions of Hessians (Lownestein, Wartenslaben and Erbprinz) and on his let the battalions Palatinate and Von Blitzenkron. Further to the left were the allied cavalry (Jung Hannover, Erbach and Veningen Gendarmes). The artillery supported the infantry attack.

As the Allied infantry advanced they began to suffer casualties. Hardest hit were the Palatinate grenadiers who were the target for the French artillery. In the centre the Hessians came in musketry range and Lowenstein was forced to halt to dress its ranks before continuing the advance. However the French did not have everything their own way. Bavaria suffered casualties from the Allied artillery and its musketry was badly affected, being insufficient to stop the oncoming grenadiers.

A musketry duel began and the dragoons and Zurlaben stood to their task, it was the Bavarians, who had the benefit of the completed works who were struggling and the Comte decided to move his reserve to the right to support them.

Both commanders were surprised to receive messages that cavalry with infantry support was advancing towards them on the eastern bank of the Dyle. The Comte was delighted when he saw that they were French reinforcements, Von Grommitt's thoughts have not been recorded! With time short, the allied attack was pressed home and a melee developed for the works.

Meanwhile, the allied cavalry sought to defeat their French opponents and stop any infantry support reaching Salle Forde. As the cavalry combat developed fortunes ebbed and flowed. The Veningen Gendarmes initially pushed back the Spanish Horse, but the latters greater numbers eventually told and the Gendarmes routed. The combat between Jung Hannover and Vaillac went the way of the Austrian cuirassiers, but as the French cavalry broke the Austrians surged after them, leaving the field. Erbach and Aubusson fought fiercely, but the Germans cracked and this left the flank of the allied infantry in peril.

At the works the Palatinate grenadiers had quickly defeated Bavaria and were now faced by Languedoc. In the centre Zurlaben had driven off Lowenstein, but Erbprinz fired a devastating volley and charged forward. Outnumbered, the French were driven back and the Hessians entered the works. The French pride was saved by the dragoons who fought off Von Blitzenkron. The dragoons were helped by Von Gromitt who had moved the supporting Palatinate battalion to cover the flank of the allied infantry. As the allied cavalry streamed from the field a second battalion, Wartenslaben was also moved to the flank.

Von Grommitt thought that two battalions wold be enough, but Aubusson moved quickly towards the works. Palatinate were caught before they could fire a volley. In a trice all order was lost and groups left the ranks seeking sanctuary from the cavalry. As the battalion dissolved they were driven back on Wartenslaben. This unit was disorganised by the fleeing infantry and was unable to halt the French advance. Victory had been snatched from Von Gromitt's grasp. He had secured majority of the works and controlled the ford, if the cavalry had done their job the day would have been his. Instead his infantry were penned in the works, joined by his gunners who had abandoned their pieces to enemy cavalry. The enemy now outnumbered him in all arms and all he could do was sue for terms.

For the Comte, who had taken upon himself the task of rallying Bavaria (on the far bank of the Dyle), it was essential to accept the allied surrender before Saint Evremond (who commanded the French relief force), snatched all the glory; after all wasn't it his infantry who had done all the fighting?

For this scenario we tried using the revised '1644' rules which give army lists for the Marlburian period. It was an interesting experiment, giving quite a different feel to that experienced with the Wargames Holiday Centre rules. The cavalry melee is dealt with much better in 1644, but you lose the requirement that your infantry need to keep in formation to preserve their morale.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Poles v Swedes

Our scenario this week was set in the early years of the 17th C, and concerned the ongoing rivalry between Poland and Sweden for dominance along the Baltic coastal area. At this time the Swedish army was not the feared fighting force it would become under Gustavus Adolphus, but the battles against the Poles provided it with valuable experience which led to the development of the tactics which would prove so useful in future campaigns.

A small Swedish force has advanced into Polish territory and the local Polish commander has gathered what forces he can to oppose this incursion. The Swedes have a balanced force of infantry and cavalry with two light guns; the Poles are fielding a force which is 80% cavalry,containing Cossack light cavalry, Pancerni and Hussars.

The Polish commander quickly glanced at the Swedish dispositions and decided to attack (no surprise there!). The Swedes had drawn up their forces with the infantry and light guns in the centre and cavalry equally divided between the wings, apart from a small reserve under the control of the Swedish commander. The Polish commander decided his best option was to attach the flanks whilst pinning the infantry centre. Ignoring his two units of Haiduk infantry he ordered his light cavalry forward to cover the advance of his Hussars and Pancerni.

The attack on the Polish right was first into action. The Cossacks used their bows to try and sting the Swedes into attacking them. In this they succeeded and one reiter unit charged forward.

The initial contact was indecisive, but the Cossacks were joined by a unit of Pancerni and the Swedes began to be pushed back. A unit of cuirassier moved forward to help the reiter, but they were met by more Pancerni and then a unit of Hussars. To further discomfort the Swedish left some of the Cossacks had worked their way around the flank and were harassing the Swedish reserve cavalry.

Meanwhile, in the centre, the Swedish infantry were standing to their duty. Supported by the light artillery, they were slowly driving off the skirmishing light cavalry with volley fire.

The Polish commander was required to move forward his reserve Hussar squadrons to pin the infantry in place, relying on the Hussars' armour to reduce casualties. It was with some mixed feelings that he saw that his subordinate had anticipated events and ordered the Polish infantry to advance towards the Swedish lines. Surely his cavalry didn't need the help of those peasants?

On the Polish left there had been some delay in getting the cavalry deployed, the Hussars 'requesting' they be in the van. Eventually they moved forward and a fierce melee took place between the two cavalry forces. The Swedes absorbed the initial shock of impact, but as more Polish units joined the fray the Swedes began to give ground.

Galled by the light artillery and musketry the units of Hussars in the polish centre attacked. The gunners abandoned their guns and sought refuge behind the infantry. The infantry stood their ground and fired a volley at point blank range. The few Hussars who managed to reach the Swedish line were driven off by the pikes. Falling back, the Hussars rallied and were joined by fresh units and charged again. Again the Swedes held their fire until the last moment, but this time the Poles would not be stopped and a fierce melee developed on the Swedish right.

As he looked about him the Swedish commander saw that the day was lost. His left wing cavalry had been all but destroyed. His final reserve, his personal lifeguard had been sent to try and stem the flood, but they were in danger of being overwhelmed. On his right, it was only a matter of time before his remaining cavalry were swept from the field . In fact the rout of his reiter had dragged off three units of Polish cavalry in pursuit and helped to reduce the threat of his centre being surrounded. One unit of infantry would have to be sacrificed, but the rest could escape.

The Polish commander had no fresh cavalry to harass the Swedish retreat. His reserve had dashed itself against the infantry. His only fresh troops were his infantry and they were too slow to intervene. All he could do was accept the surrender of the surviving Swedish troops and see to his wounded.