Sunday, 22 April 2018

Battle of Whalley, 20th April 1643; a scenario for Pike and Shotte

Another ECW game this week, but not in Kelhamshire for a change.  With the 375th anniversary coming round we thought that we would stage a re-fight of this encounter.  Battle is perhaps too strong a term for what occurred historically, but what do wargamers do best?, they like to try 'what if?' (or as other people might say 'tinker with the facts').

Tyldsley's Foot prepare to advance
At the beginning of April 1643 things were going quite well for Lord Derby, the Royalist commander in Lancashire; he had captured Preston and was now planning to move on the Parliamentary strongholds of Blackburn and Manchester.  His 'regular' forces, (c700 foot and 11 troops of horse) had been augmented by at least 2,000 clubmen (some accounts mention 5,000) from the Fylde area and the whole body had advanced east to Whalley.  Parliament could gather few troops to oppose them; colonels Shuttleworth and Starkie had only c400 foot and 60 cavalry at Padiham, but scouted towards Whalley to see what the Royalists were doing.

The musketeers await in ambush
Accounts of the encounter vary and the details are difficult to discern.  It is clear that some element (a reconnaissance?) of the Royalist force was ambushed as it climbed out of the valley after crossing Sabden brook at Read Bridge.  The leading unit panicked  and fled back towards Whalley carrying the rest of the advancing Royalists with it.  They were pursued by their ambushers (plus the remainder of the Parliamentary forces?) and at Whalley the routers panicked the clubmen, who decided to head back to Preston.  Those Royalists who attempted to stand were sniped at by musketeers from the hedges and bushes above Whalley and soon decided to join their comrades in retreat.  In a morning Derby's army had disintegrated and the Parliamentary position in Lancashire was secure.

Molyneux's cross the Sabden brook
To get a more balanced encounter (and possibly develop a participation game for the future), we decided that the ambush would take place adjacent to Read Hall ( a scenario for "Warr Without an Enemie" together with a map can be found here ).  The Royalist advance party consists of Tyldsley's standard sized veteran regiment with 1:1 proportion of pikes to muskets and a small unit of dismounted dragoons.  Arriving after the turn after the first musket shot are the 'main body' of Molyneux's musketeers, a large trained unit and a standard raw unit of clubmen.  All these units, except the dragoons, which start adjacent to the road, start on the road from Whalley to Padiham which passes north of Read Hall.  Cavalry (two standard sized trained units) arrive as part of the main body at the ford to the south of Read Hall (the route of the modern A road).

The Parliamentary cavalry sweep past Read Hall
The Parliamentary forces are Shuttleworth's large sized veteran musketeers; Clayton's standard sized trained musketeers and a standard sized dragoon regiment.  Two raw cavalry units, (one standard. one small) are to the rear of Read Hall.  The dragoons are in an enclosure to the south of Read Hall and the musketeers in two enclosures between the road and Read Hall

A rare victory for the Parliamentary cavalry
At the start of the game no Parliamentary troops are deployed on the table and the colonel of Tyldsley's regiment must decide whether to continue to advance along the road towards Padiham, or, to turn aside and go to Read Hall, whose occupant Mr Nowell was one of the few landed Royalist sympathisers in north east Lancashire and may have information on the whereabouts of local Parliamentary forces.

A failed cavalry charge against Tyldsley's
A roll of the dice allocated the Parliamentarians to Steve.  As Tyldsley, I decided to continue on the road, but then deployed into line facing one of the enclosures.  Meanwhile my dragoons were making slow progress through the woods alongside the road, checking for an ambush.  A slow advance keeping pace with the dragoons was brought to an end as a volley was fired from the enclosure ahead.  True to form, I had decided to advance against the strongest musketeer unit and suffered a loss of three strength points.  A second volley took me to 'shaken' and when I tried rallied the unit, a third volley felled Tyldsley (who was still attached). 

What of my reinforcements?  Well the cavalry arrived and just managed to deploy before they were hit by the leading Parliamentary cavalry unit, Shuttleworth's.  The melee did not go well and my unit routed, pinning the one behind it.  For the rest of the game my cavalry were in effect neutralised.  The dragoons meanwhile had rolled a 'blunder' and panicked, meaning they retreated most of the distance they had advanced.  On the road, Molyneux and the clubmen consistently failed order tests and refused to advance.  What of Tyldsley?  Well Clayton's musketeers now decided to join in the fun and added their fire to that of Shuttleworth's men.  As the casualties mounted on Tyldsley''s a break test was required.  Rolling a double one sealed their fate and they routed from the field.  My one consolation was that at least it was an historical result, a resounding Parliamentary victory!
An unequal contest between horse and dragoons

After no more than an hour's play it was time to have another go and Steve and I swapped sides.  As Tyldsley, he decided to head for Read Hall, leaving his dragoons to sweep through the woods to spring any ambush.  His approach brought him within range of Clayton's musketeers, who fired their carefully prepared first volley, to absolutely no effect.  Tyldsley's next move was to deploy into line and then charge.  Clayton's closing volley was ineffective and the resulting melee was a foregone conclusion, with the hapless musketeers turning round and racing for the road back to Padiham.  My cavalry had tried to advance quickly and repeat their exploits of the first game, but instead they found themselves fighting much nearer to Read Hall.  The melee lasted longer than the first game, but within a fairly short time the Parliamentarians were heading away in rout.  By now the Royalist main body had arrived and making good progress. Shuttleworth's were exchanging volleys with Molyneux and forced them back, but Tyldsley's now intervened, manoeuvring against Shuttleworth's flank.  This gave Molyneux's men long enough to rally and then advance.  Assailed from front and flank, Shuttleworth's broke and fled the field.  The result, as complete a Royalist victory as the Parliamentarian one in the first game.

The final position at the end of the third game.  The parliamentary musketeers
trapped in the enclosures , with infantry to front and flank and cavalry to the rear
Over lunch we discussed the scenario and decided to add a commander for the main body as we had both had difficulty getting them forward to take part in the battle.  A third run through in the afternoon resulted in a more balanced contest, with both sides suffering setbacks and providing a more satisfactory game.

Further examples of Battle of Whalley scenarios can be found here and in Steven Maggs'  scenario book, published by Partizan Press

Contemporary account from Stephen Bull's "A General Plague of Madness:
the civil wars in Lancashire 1640-1660".

1 comment:

  1. Three skirmish games out of a period action, thats good going. Far prefer historically based games, even if one side cannot possibly win, its still fun to see what if, or does it follow the history book. Don't think much of point based, balanced war-games. Thanks for the view.