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 http://willwarweb.blogspot.com/2011/12/reflections-on-recon.html. 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.
David Rowlands 5th Regiment at Wilhelmstahl
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