Sunday, 23 June 2013

First Newbury, 1643

The second game of the AGM weekend was a large 25mm version of First Newbury from the ECW.  Two reviews of this battle have already been posted, by  Will who took the part of Rupert and Phil who took the part of Skippon.  As often happens with these large games, I had little real idea what was happening on the opposite flank (I took the part of Vavasour and was pre-occupied with trying to make progress through the enclosures around Darke Lane).   Therefore, I will concentrate on events in my area of the field.

 The view towards the Royalist left

Having a force consisting of infantry (apart from one unit of dragoons), I decided my best option was to move some infantry into the enclosures and from the relative safety of the hedges take pot shots at the opposing cavalry and supplement their fire with that of my light artillery. 
There were gaps in the hedges, which my opponent Dave, made full use of, moving his dragoons forward so that they could fire on my infantry as it advanced.  Confident in my superior numbers I continued to advance, but the dragoons were supported by some cavalry and these charged halting my progress.  The close terrain meant that the number of figures involved in the melee was fairly small and for a while neither side managed a decisive result.

 Melee in the fields

I had moved my two strongest units into the fields near Round Hill, but Skippon countered this by moving a unit forward himself.  As one of my units began a fire fight which seemed to promise MAD (mutually assured destruction as casualties were inflicted on each side at the same rate), the second drove off one of Dave's cavalry units which was trying to hack its way through the hedge.  This infantry was meant to have the support of a light gun, but it failed to fire for three consecutive moves (ie I rolled a 1 on a d6).

 Advance towards Round Hill

On the far right I had tried to advance along a narrow area of clear terrain, but a cavalry charge forced the infantry to 'form a body' and progress ceased.  An infantry unit moved into the adjacent field intending to move to the cavalry's flank and then drive them away with musketry.  This worked a treat, as Dave withdrew the cavalry as the threat became apparent.  However, just as I was celebrating this minor victory, a second unit of cavalry swept into the field on the flank of my infantry.  They had just enough time to turn to face their aggressors before they were charged.  Resolute defence forced the cavalry to fall back, but, pistol fire from their flank caused some casualties and reduced their level of command.  A second cavalry charge caused them to rout, but fortunately the neighbouring units ignored their flight.
Some revenge was gained by the light artillery as they were in hail shot range of the victorious Roundhead cavalry  and their fire drove the enemy back.

 Surprised by cavalry

This was how affairs ended.  I had made some progress, but not as much as I had anticipated.  Dave made good use of the terrain, which was not ideal for his cavalry.  Careful observation of the gaps in the enclosures aided his attacks and the hedges slowed my advance considerably.  The light guns were  useful, but as the Allies found in the bocage, the close terrain  does favour the defence. 

Monday, 17 June 2013


As usual a very busy weekend for the Gentlemen Pensioners' AGM, the Phalanx show at St Helens on the Saturday and then an ECW game, First Newbury, on the Sunday.  The  Lance and Longbow Society was putting on a demonstration game on the rather obscure Banastre Rebellion, which took place in Lancashire in 1315.  Some of the leading rebels came from southern Lancashire, so it had some local relevance.  The only battle of the campaign took place near Preston, the actual location is not known, but we decided on setting it at Deepdale, near Fulwood barracks and the football ground.  Contemporary accounts suggest that the rebels numbered between 6-800, with the Sheriff's men having 5-600.  There is no detail on the numbers of mounted and foot within those totals, nor on the quality of the troops involved.  We decided to give the Sheriff more knights and mounted sergeants and class approximately one third of the rebel infantry  as raw peasant foot.

The battle begins with the vanguard of the Sheriff's force force, led by Walter de Vavasour, advancing against some archers on the rebels left.  What Vavasour did not know was that a large body of infantry lay behind the crest of the position and although they easily overran the archers, (who failed to flee quickly enough), they were then faced with solid blocks of spearmen.  The supposedly elite rebel infantry had fled on seeing the destruction of the archers, however, Lee's spearmen and those of William Bradshaw, Lord of Haigh, stood their ground.  Lee, together with his bodyguard had counter-charged Vavasour's mounted sergeants, but vastly outnumbered had been driven back.

However, help was at hand, as Banastre, together with his mounted knights, moved around the flank of Vavasour's force.  They were poised to strike when Vavasour's men, seeing they were making no headway, decided to fall back, (ie they lost the melee).

It was at this point that Edmund de Nevill, the Sheriff, arrived with a further unit of knights plus archers, crossbowmen and spearmen.  Banastre, gathered his mounted men together and, although outnumbered, charged Nevill's men, seeking a decisive result.  The melee was short, but viscious, and in the end, it was the sheriff's men who gave way, fleeing from the field.  Banastre had no time to celebrate as his men now came under heavy fire from the crossbowmen and archers.  Sensing that this might be his day, Banastre now charged the enemy missile troops.  To his surprise, the sheriff's men stood their ground and fought.  Not only that, they pushed back the rebels.

Strickland had now arrived with the remainder of the Sheriff's men and moved forward with his mounted sergeants to threaten Banastre's flank.  Vavasour had by now recovered and his men threatened Banstre's other flank.

Charnock's peasant archers fired at Strickland's men as they attacked Banastre and did empty quite a few saddles, but the attack still went in.  Banastre and his standard were the focus for the most severe fighting.  Bradshaw was cut down at Banastre's side and then Banastre himself was killed.  Strickland lost his life, but the rebels were beginning to lose heart.  With very few archers and no mounted troops their spearmen were vulnerable and seeing the sheriff's men advancing the backward shuffle became a retreat and then a rout with little delay.

The day belonged to the sheriff, but the rebels had given a good account of themselves.

An earlier post on this battle  had commented on some of the drawbacks to the WAB rules for this type of action.  For this re-run we had reduced the saving throw for the knights by making the shield a 50/50 save rather than automatic.  Therefore knights would save on a 3 with 2s being re-rolled with 4 or more saving.  Creating sub-units within the three main 'battles' also reduced the chances of an entire wing of the army disappearing over the horizon. 
Many thanks to Steve, Ian, Roy and Will for making the game a success on Saturday.  Indeed, a report and more photos of the game and the Phalanx show can be found on Will's blog.

Here are coats of arms for the major characters

Adam de Banastre

 William Bradshaw

Henry de Lee

Robert de Charnock

Edmund de Nevill

Walter de Vavasour

Walter de Strickland

The Phalanx show had the usual good mix of games and traders, with the bring and buy seeming to do a brisk trade.  One game that caught my attention was put on by Liverpool Wargames Society showing the 1859 campaign in Italy in 6mm


Saturday, 8 June 2013

Rescue Mission?

Another tale from the Sudan for this week's battle.  Imperial HQ had received news that an isolated Egyptian garrison was running short of supplies and encircled by Dervish and Arab troops.  The Brigadier had decided that this was an excellent opportunity for Lt C V Firth-Newsome, newly arrived from England, to get some experience of local conditions.  Four veteran companies of redcoats were available, plus a detachment of RN Bluejackets and some guns from the RA.   However, at the last minute two of the redcoat companies were replaced by two recently arrived companies, which sported the khaki uniform.  The Brigadier's orders were simple enough; take a couple of steamers up river, secure the landing stage and then clear the way for the Egyptians to retire to the river.  It all sounded fairly straightforward to Firth-Newsome, just like the exercises at Sandhurst, would he need the help of the veteran regimental sergeant major (RSM) Flynn, who the Brigadier insisted should accompany him?

The following morning the small expedition set sail and two days later arrived at Abu Dhal, the nearest landing point to the Egyptian garrison.  A couple of rockets were fired to signal their arrival to the Egyptians (and the also the Dervish) and Firth-Newsome, having spent the previous evening organising the orders for the disembarkation, supervised the troops as they left the steamer and lined up on the bank.

A small detachment of RN ratings remained on the steamer to man the Gatling gun and then the steamer cast off and made way for the second steamer to moor up at the landing stage, ready to receive the Egyptian garrison.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian commander had organised his forces, ready for the retreat to the Nile.  Over the last couple of days there had been constant sniping from the broken ground all round the village and he was careful to maintain a watch for sudden enemy attacks.  His cavalry and camelry moved cautiously out to scout the route of march.  The cavalry were on the left and as they neared some rocks a large force of Hadendoa rose from the ground and charged. 
To the Egyptians' left their second squadron found themselves attacked by enemy camel troops.  Fierce melees developed and although the Egyptians fought bravely they were heavily outnumbered and in the end they broke and routed, racing off into the desert.  The Egyptian camelry could not come to their assistance because they too had been charged by Hadendoa, this time from the rear.  As they galloped off, trying to evade the infantry, they were hit in flank by Dervish cavalry.  Caught at a disadvantage, they stood no chance and in no time at all the unit was destroyed.  One crumb of comfort was that the attack by the Dervish cavalry brought them within the range of the guns landed by Firth-Newsome.  A couple of well-directed rounds soon drove off the cavalry.

His initial foray having been defeated, the Egyptian commander decided to rely on the fire of his infantry and they forced the Hadendoa to retreat back into the broken ground. Among the dead which littered the sand lay the Hadedoa commander, which ensured a break in hostilities whilst order was restored.  This gave the Egyptians time to organise their defence, which was just as well.  With fearsome cries, the Hadendoa left the dead ground and charged the village.  With commendable courage the Egyptians stood their ground firing steadily until the Hadendoa attack slowed, stopped and then fell back.

The second Hadendoa commander was  also picked off by fire from the garrison and the second Dervish unit also sought cover.  With the fighting dying down, the Egyptian infantry began to leave the security of the village and move slowly towards the river.  The Sudanese troops were left till last as they were watching the desert for further attacks.

Back at the river Firth-Newsome had deployed his men.  The new men were placed on the left, holding some village buildings facing a wadi.  Some bluejackets held buildings by the guns and to their right the redcoats formed up ready to oppose any attack.  Finally on the right flank was another small detachment of bluejackets, who held the small enclosures close to the river bank.  Their flank was covered by the machine gun on the steamer.  As he stood in the centre of the village, Firth-Newsome saw one of the privates from the left flank running towards him.  Ordered to attention by the RSM the infantryman reported that a force of Arab riflemen were approaching the village and were there any new orders?.  "Hold your position and rely on rifle fire", replied Firth-Newsome.  A suggestion from the RSM to redeploy the guns was declined and then machine gun fire was heard from the right flank.  A runner reported yet more Arab riflemen advancing towards the village.  Again, the order was to hold the position.  The RSM suggested that a company of redcoats should  help the bluejackets.  The manner in which the 'suggestion' was made and also the expression of the RSM overrode the hesitancy of the young Lieutenant. "Yes, see to it Flynn" he said, whilst moving towards the left flank, where the sound of firing was growing louder.  When he arrived he saw a veritable sea of enemy riflemen flowing towards the thin British line.  These less-experienced men did not have the steadiness of fire which was necessary to stop an enemy attack and soon it was hand to hand fighting. 
Their formation broken by the houses, small groups of British infantry fought with desperation, but one by one the houses were captured by the Arabs and the pitifully few survivors tried to rally in the centre of the village.  The way to the steamer landing was open, if that fell, the British would be trapped.  As he tried to think what his instructors would have suggested, Firth-Newsome heard the RSM cough and say "the guns have arrived sir".  "Excellent Flynn, just in time!  See if they like a taste of canister" .  As the first group of Arabs came out of the alleyway they were shredded by artillery fire.  A second group suffered the same fate and the remaining Arabs resorted to sniping at the gunners from the cover of the houses.

On the opposite flank the bluejacket line had been overwhelmed.  Defending too long a line, even with the fire from the steamer, they could not stop the enemy attack.
The bluejackets died where they stood, but, just in time the redcoats, sent by RSM Flynn, arrived on the flank of the Arabs.  One volley attracted the attention of one unit of the enemy and then a bayonet charge ensured a melee.  This meant only one unit of Arabs could advance into the village, making their way along the riverbank.  Seeing their advance, the captain of the steamer cut the mooring lines and took the steamer out into the river.  As the arabs entered the square they were met by a volley from a ragged body of men organised by RSM Flynn.  Firth-Newsome then arrived with the RA field gun to add further fire.  Again, the Arabs were forced back into the houses.

The Egyptian commander had recommenced his advance towards the river.  The Egyptian infantry, keeping close order, advanced slowly, but steadily.  Behind them, the Sudanese fell back, constantly scanning the desert for more Dervish attacks, but the fight seemed to have gone out of the Hadendoa.  A final attack by the Dervish cavalry was repulsed by steady volleys.  As the Egyptians neared the village, they added their fire to that of the remaining British infantry.  With this additional threat the Arabs realised they could not hold the village and therefore began to melt away into the desert.

Firth-Newsome greeted the Egyptian commander by the river and invited him to lead is men onto the steamer to begin the voyage back down the Nile.  As the steamer sailed off, the British began to gather up their wounded and bury the dead before they also returned to camp.

Who rescued who?  We again used the hidden units cards, and once again they fell quite well for me (as the Dervish commander).  The Hadendoa and cavalry were  in just the right place to oppose the Egyptian mounted troops and also the Arab infantry were nicely placed to attack the village.  At least Firth-Newsome survived and hopefully will use the experience well.