Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Isle of Wight part 2: Carisbrooke Castle

 Carisbrooke Castle occupies an excellent defensive position on a hilltop close to the town of Newport on the Isle of Wight.  The first Norman castle was built within the perimeter of an earlier Saxon fortress.  By 1100 a motte and bailey castle had been built, dominating the hilltop.  Over the next 4 centuries the castle defences were strengthened to counter new threats.  A second wall, protected by artillery bastions was built in the late Tudor period as the threat from artillery increased.   In the 17th century the castle rose to prominence as the 'jail' for Charles I after his capture.

The approach to the gateway via a bridge over the moat

In the late medieval period small cannon started to be used

  The Tudor period saw a significant increase in the deployment of artillery within castles.  Of course when you have artillery you need powder and shot.                 

 Steps to the powder store

The keep dominates the curtain wall

Entrance passage at the top of the steep flight of steps up the motte

Space was very restricted within the shell keep

Model in the museum showing the late medieval layout of the castle

View from the walls of one of the bastions added in the late Tudor period

The ditch with the stone faced bastion towering above

Quite a daunting prospect, the outer curtain wall, a ditch, a steep climb and then the castle wall

Within the castle is a museum with many interesting exhibits.  Below is a mail coat brought back to the Isle of Wight from the Sudan campaign in the late 19th century.

A military exhibit from an action a decade earlier can be seen at Osborne House where there is an artillery piece brought back from the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir  by her son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who had commanded the Guards Brigade at the battle.

Thursday, 11 May 2023

A trip to the Isle of Wight : part 1

 My wife and I have just spent a very pleasant week on the Isle of Wight.  We stayed in Sandown, which in spite of its "sand, sea and sun" image, has some hidden military links as various display boards show.

The above board gives details of two forts which covered the sea front at different times and were lost or demolished.  There was a third fort, built in the mid 19th century, elements of which still exist, but are now part of the zoo.  During WWII it was the location of eight pumps which were part of  PLUTO, supplying fuel to Normandy.  A more prosaic, typically English survivor is on a local golf course link to historic england .  There were also "Palmerston Folly" forts at either end of the beach.  The northern one at Yaverland  link  is now in a holiday camp and to the one to the south link which was demolished and is now a children's park.

Visible on a headland to the north was Bembridge Fort, which is in the care of the National Trust. link  This was another of the "Palmerston Follies"and there are guided tours, but only on one day a week, which was a day that we already had something planned.

The National Trust also have The Needles Lower Battery, another of the Palmerston forts.  This is open every day and so I had a look round.  The fort is on a narrow headland and the landward approach is covered by a deep ditch.  The limitations of the site meant that when the calibre of guns needed to be increased later in the century a new battery was built further inland away from the cliffs because of fears that gunfire may cause landslides.

Model of the Fort

Battery overlooking the Solent

The fort saw service up to the end of WWII and has a tunnel to a searchlight battery down the cliff.   The first AA gun  a 1lb pompom, was installed here in 1913, There is a second battery built further back up the headland and also a missile firing range used during the Cold War.  link

Mount for AA gun added in 1913

Tunnel to the searchlight position

Not far from the Needles is Yarmouth Castle, which began to be built in 1546.  Its first garrison was a captain and 17 soldiers; with a main armament of 12 heavy guns to defend the town and also the approaches to the Solent..

A  diagram of the original castle

Two sides of the castle were protected by the Solent and the River Yar; the other two by a wet moat.  A distinguishing feature of the castle is the angle bastion which was built to cover the moat.  Further changes during Elizabeth I's reign saw half the central courtyard filled in to make a large gun platform whose gunfire was concentrated out to sea.  More details can be found here .

The next post will cover Carisbrooke Castle.

Friday, 28 April 2023

Minifig Imperial Guard Band FAO Hinton Hunt Vintage Wargames Figures


Something a little different today.   One of our small band, Bob, had tried to post these photos on a recent entry on the Hinton Hunt Vintage Wargames Figures blog.  without success.  So he asked me to post them on my blog from where they may perhaps find their way to the intended destination.


Some venerable figures, with a few potential recruits awaiting the paintbrush.

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Action at Spencer's Ridge: an AWI scenario using Patriots and Loyalists

 This weeks game saw a return to the AWI using Steve's impressive collection.  The scenario had a Crown force of three brigades (2 British, 1  Hessian) under the command of General Fitzherbert, attempting to advance along the turnpike over Spencer's Ridge and past Hamilton Chapel .  Opposing them were three brigades of Revolutionary troops under the command of General George Graham. 

Fitzherbert deployed his strongest brigade, commanded by brigadier Adams (the grenadiers, two line battalions and the light infantry) on his right; the second British brigade (Brigadier Buller) in the centre and the Hessian brigade (Von Bredow) on the left..  Graham's brigades were all of 2 continental battalions, two militia battalions and a unit of riflemen.  The brigades on the flanks ( Rodgers on the right and Lewis on the left) each had a battery of artillery.  Cooke in the centre had no artillery but he did have the chapel enclosure with it's stone wall.

View of the table from the Crown right

The battle started with sporadic fire from the two opposing skirmish lines with the skirmishers from the brigades of Adams and Buller having most success, pushing back the riflemen.  Von Bredow's jaegers did not get the same support from their line infantry who manoeuvred very slowly giving Rodgers time to move his units forward.  On the ridge, Cooke had placed Glover's Massachusetts regiment in the chapel grounds and one of the militia units moved forward to contest any crown advance past Helm's House which lay close to the ridge.

Hamilton Chapel, key to the Revolutionary position

Cooke could see that his riflemen were falling back and sent two units forward to oppose any sustained crown advance.  This could have exposed their flanks but Lewis's men to the left were holding firm at the moment.

A strong push in the centre by the Revolutionary army

Fitzherbert was frustrated at the fairly slow advance of his forces, but his British brigades were at least now in a position where they could exert some pressure on the revolutionary lines.  Von Bredow's Hessians were getting 'knocked back' one by one as they attempted to manoeuvre through some wooded terrain.  After successfully driving back a militia unit, the Fusiliers were caught by the combined fire of two units and forced back needing to rally.  The jaegers were pushed out of the woods by an advancing unit of continental infantry.  An attempt to move round the wood came under fire from the ridge and the grenadiers had to fall back, leaving the Hessian artillery to fend for itself.  

The Hessians driven back from the wood
Adams brigade brought some good news when they successfully drove back the unit holding the wood on the far left of the revolutionary line.  Though Graham did not know at the time, this was the first setback which would eventually lead to the disintegration of Lewis' brigade and the fall of the Spencer's Ridge position.  With the wood cleared, pressure could now be brought against the homestead next to it.  Fire from two units and the artillery eventually forced the defenders to fall back.

A volley from the redcoats proves too much for the militia

Cooke's advance in the centre now seemed ill-advised.  With Lewis' men wavering and the British grenadiers advancing the pressure was increasing.  A feeble volley from the militia was followed up by two withering ones from the grenadiers; who then charged.  Rather than try and hold their position the militia routed pinning the continental infantry who were behind them.

A militia unit driven off by the grenadiers

On the other side of the turnpike Buller had struggled forward.  The infantry had struggled to get round Helm's House in line and their column formation had been swept by volleys from the ridge.  One unit had sustained very heavy losses and would play no further part in the action, but a second did manage to form line by the fence.  A succession of volleys proved sufficient to drive back the militia and this gave the chance for the 42nd and 5th foot to move forward with a view to assaulting the chapel position.
The 42nd and 5th regiments advance on Hamilton Chapel

The grenadiers had meanwhile driven back the continental infantry facing them and these joined the growing number of units on the ridge needing to rally.

The combined light infantry are routed by the grenadiers

Lewis had rallied one unit of militia, but the continentals holding the homestead had routed and needed rallying as did a second unit of militia which had been ordered to the left, but whilst marching there had been hit by artillery fire and routed.  This left Lewis with one formed continental infantry unit and one reformed miltiia unit to try and hold back Adams

The Hessian fusiliers overwhelmed by the volleys of the militia

In the centre. the 42nd advanced up the ridge towards the chapel but were stopped by volleys from Glovers.  As they steadied themselves another volley hit them and then a unit of riflemen opened up a harassing fire from their flank.  This proved too much for the 42nd and they routed back past Helms House, where Buller tried to rally them.
On the revolutionary left, Lewis had sent the reformed miltia forward to contest control of the wood.  Volleys were exchanged but the British gradually gained the upper hand and sent the militia packing once again.

Militia driven from the woods on the Revolutionary left

Von Bredow meanwhile had regrouped and was determined to push forward.    Supported by the jaegers the musketeers advanced against one of Rodgers continental infantry units which was ensconced in the woods.  As the Hessians closed up ready to charge; two crushing volleys were fired by the continental infantry.  The musketeers attempted to hold their ground but another volley decided the issue and the Hessians routed from the field. 

Hessian musketeers rout
By the chapel Glovers had little time to rest on their laurels after driving back the 42nd; up the slope came a fresh opponent, the 5th foot.  Breasting the rise they paused and fired a volley.  The stone wall helped protect Glovers and they stood their ground and replied in kind.  Their fire was augmented by Rodgers' battery and once again the red-coated line was sent back down the slope of Spencer's Ridge.

Revolutionary artillery contribute to the defeat of the 5th Foot

While things were going well for Graham to the right of the turnpike, on the other flank his position was starting to unravel.  Lewis had lost one militia unit which had routed from the field.  He had rallied one continental unit and was desperately trying to rally a second militia unit.  Graham himself had galloped over to assist Cooke and had rallied the combined light infantry unit.  He stayed with the regiment encouraging them as they tried to stop the advance of the British grenadiers.  Adams' artillery had now shifted its fire to the remaining revolutionary units on the ridge.  One shot landed among the ranks of the combined light infantry, bounced and then hit the general.  Mortally wounded, he fell from his horse and was carried from the field by his aides.  This loss was keenly felt by the army and all central direction of the action was lost.

A decisive hit, the general falls
The remaining units of Adams' and Buller's brigades now advanced up the slope against the wavering revolutionary line.  Cooke and Lewis attempted to hold the line together, but too many of their units were reduced in numbers and the supporting artillery had withdrawn because it had fired all its ammunition.
The red coated line advances onto the ridge

Rodgers continued to push forward as von Bredow's command disintegrated.  The only real opposition was coming from the jaegers, but they were forced back as the revolutionary units continued their advance, threatening to envelop them.

The Hessian Jaegers are pushed back yet again

In a last desperate attempt to buy time for the infantry to withdraw, the Light dragoons charged the British grenadiers.  As they had done several times before, the grenadiers halted, levelled their muskets and fired a crushing volley.  The cavalry never reached the British line.  Stopped by the first volley, they were driven from the field by a second.  With their departure all resistance ceased and the British could claim victory.

The final Revolutionary attack is repulsed

An enthralling game which we played over four sessions.  Each side had times when they seemed to be gaining the upper hand before the final decisive shift near the end.

Saturday, 15 April 2023

A Rescue Mission; a Sudan scenario using the Black Powder rules

There had been some brigand activity 'up country' and the area commander had received orders from 'on high' that it would be politic for the Egyptian troops to be given the task of sorting things out.  With some misgivings the general had followed orders and sent an Egyptian force to subdue the rebels.  It had come as no surprise to him when a message came through that the Egyptians had been forced to form  a defensive zariba and required aid to rescue them.   Accordingly a force of 3 units of foot, three units of cavalry and 2 machine guns and a field gun  was sent under Brigadier Rowlandson, an experienced officer who had spent several years in northern India.

Overview of the terrain, The Egyptians in their zariba on the right and the Imperial troops on the left 

Rowlandson ordered Major Makepeace, the infantry commander to keep his troops under close control and advance in a 'box' formation, ready to repel attacks from any direction.  The front of this 'box' was to be covered by the cavalry under Major Dempsey; who was also to scout out the flanks to warn of any approaching Dervish troops.  The Imperial troops advanced at a steady pace until word came from the Royal Hertfordshire Lancers on the right flank that enemy camelry and cavalry were approaching
The enemy approach

Perhaps wary of being outflanked, the Lancers remained in position rather than attacking the enemy; the Dervish did not hesitate and moved forward quickly; catching the Lancers at the halt.  

The Lancers attacked

Even outnumbered 2:1 the Lancers managed to hold against the first impetus, and fought the more numerous camel mounted Dervish troops to a standstill, forcing them to fall back.  However, before the Lancers could recover they were hit by a fresh unit of Dervish horsemen.  This proved too much for the Lancers  their morale cracked and they routed, pursued by the victorious Dervish

Although costly this action had severely damaged two units of camel-mounted Dervish troops and also pulled away one unit of Dervish cavalry who pursued the Lancers.

Major Dempsey had advanced his unit of Hussars towards the Egyptian zariba but having observed the loss of the Lancers he ordered them to cover the right flank of the infantry.  With the mass of cavalry to his right, Makepeace had halted the infantry and ordered them to face outwards, stationing his artillery at the corners.  Rowlandson had taken the unit of Light Dragoond forward and established contact with the Egyptian commander and suggested he move his troops towards the Imperial infantry and then the two commands could retrace their steps to camp.  Meanwhile the Dervish cavalry had focused its attentions on the Imperial infantry and artillery.

The machine gun stops a Dervish cavalry charge

An attack on a machine gun had been repelled, but as the gun tried to gain the security of the infantry lines it was caught and overrun, the gunners dying defending their gun.  An attack by the recovered camel troops was defeated by the Hussars, aided by some accurate artillery fire from the Egyptian artillery.

Another attack repelled

The infantry were also coming under attack.  The Banffshire Highlanders poured a withering fire into an attack by Dervish cavalry, almost expending all their ammunition.  Urgent calls were made for re-supply before more attacks were launched by the Dervish.    The success of the Hussars was short-lived as they were attacked by a fresh unit of Dervish cavalry and swept away, Dempsey galloping over to try and rally them.  The successful Dervish cavalry then attacked the Borsetshires who, encouraged by the returning Rowlandson held their ground and then received reinforcements from a surprising quarter as the Royal Artillery crew left their gun and charged over to help.  Soon the cavalry had to fall back and the Imperial troops busied themselves in preparation for the next attack.

The Hussars are driven off

The Dervish cavalry had sustained heavy casualties in its attacks and as it fell back to re-organise the Egyptian forces continued their advance.

Now a new threat emerged as hordes of Dervish infantry moved towards the left flank of the Imperial troops.
The Dervish infantry appear

The Egyptian commander moved his cavalry to assist Dempsey's Light Dragoons in trying to hold the Dervish infantry back.  He also used his artillery and infantry to fire into the cavalry forming up to recommence their attacks.

The Egyptian infantry play their part

The Highlanders came under attack again as did the Royal Kelhamshire's to their right.  Both managed to hold their ground, although the Highlanders once again ran low on ammunition, truly not a great day for the Imperial commissariat.  The right flank of the Royal Kelhamshires looked vulnerable and Dempsey ordered the Light Dragoons to charge into the mass of Dervish infantry massing to attack.

More pressure on the Highlanders

Pressure on the Imperial left
The flank was stabilised, but two unit of hadendoa had slipped round the cavalry and they charged the remaining machine gun.  The gunners fought valiantly, but in the end fell beneath the spears and swords of their opponents.  Any further progress of the hadendoa was checked by the presence of the Egyptian cavalry.  
Another gun overrun

With the two commands now combined, the Dervish commander decided to call off the attack.  The Imperial troops had been weakened and lost two guns, a loss which would be keenly felt.  For his part Rowlandson could point to the successful 'rescue' of the Egyptian force, but he felt that in the minds of the officers back at base the question of who had been rescued him or the Egyptians would be debated.  Certainly, the Egyptian commander felt that his troops had performed well and made a significant contribution to the success of the mission.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

WMMS, Alumwell

 For the first time in three years Steve and I set off down the M6 this Sunday to visit the Alumwell show.  The venue remained the same and it was a good day out.  With the trade stalls and the Bring and Buy around the edge of the sports hall and the games and model displays in the centre there was plenty of room to wander around.  There was a good range of games on offer and photos of some of them follow.  Not all the games advertised who had organised them, or even what particular action was being represented which is a shame when it was clear that a lot of effort had gone in to what had been produced.

 First, the Potteries Old Boys with their game of the assault on Plancenoit using Perry and Warlord plastic 28mm figures.

The Phoenix group also had a 28mm Napoleonic game which seemed to have elements of Borodino, with a redoubt,  Polish troops attacking on the right flank and the presence of Bagration.

The Border Warriors had a game of the battle of Lauffeld from the War of Austrian Succession.  Quite a spectacle.

The Guards Wargames Club had a scenario set in the mid 15th century

Wyre Forest Gamers had a WWII game using the Chain of Command rules

Another WWII game was set in  the early days of Barbarossa


And one was set on the Western Front in the winter of 44/45


One of the advantages of visiting a show and not putting on a game is that you are free to try out a participation game.  Steve and I liked the look of the "Dragon and Peacock Wars" game by Tiger Miniatures.  Although we were unfamiliar with the war and the rules, Charles was on hand to talk us through it.  The rules are rather 'bloody' ie if you are defending and roll a '1' , your unit is destroyed.  Nevertheless we both enjoyed it.

Back in Western Europe the Shrewsbury Wargames Society had a Dark Ages/Medieval 'what if 'game based on the idea that Harold lost the Battle of Stamford Bridge and was killed in the battle.  William  landed in the south and established himself there while Tostig and Hardrada were in charge further North.  The game is set near Newark and features a Viking raid and the local resistance to it.

On more familiar territory, the ECW

and the Sudan, though slightly different in that it is the Mahdists who are on the defensive, with the Imperial troops attacking.

 Finally the 2nd Mysore War from the Leamington Spa group.

As usual at Alumwell there was an extensive display of modelling and painting skill.

It was good to see that the Alumwell show has survived the enforced break due to Covid.  Perhaps the number of traders was down slightly, but there seemed to be a good public attendance.  They were rewarded  by seeing a very good selection of games in a spacious setting.