Wednesday, 30 November 2011

English Civil War - The Battle of Radway

With the cold creeping in, and the increasing damp making misfires commonplace, King Charles has drawn his forces together for one last effort at winning a moral victory. The Parliamentarian commanders, with 1643 looking like ending in success are hoping to add the icing to the cake. The Earl of Essex and Oliver Cromwell, with Scotland secure and Earl Michael de Blondeville and Sir Brian Cromwells men once again in the field, are also marshalling their men on the village of Ratley, barely 10 miles away from the Royalist encampment.

A chance meeting of pickets and some low level discussions later and a date and place has been agreed. Charles winter campaign of 1643 will end on the 28th of November on the outskirts of a little known place called Radway in Warwickshire, curiously close to another battleground…..

Or so they thought!  Two changes of plan later and it was King Charles (Red), Prince Rupert (Chris Fazey) and Lord Flasheart (Rick/me) facing the forces of Earl Michael de Blondeville (Michael) and Sir Brian Cromwell (Luke), following a calamitous event - messieurs Essex and O. Cromwell (both Aidan) suddenly realising they had a (joint) prior engagement with a hairdresser in Loninium!  With the Royalists now with the upper hand in terms of numbers Earl Michael assumed command, and, satisfied that his side have won the 1643 campaigning season, he turns the troops towards home.  Charles, Rupert and Flasheart, saw their last chance of honour, and a possibility to trap and destroy the Parliamentarian army and set off in pursuit. They met the enemy rearguard on the edges of Radway where a river blocked the Parliamentarian path. There was a bridge, but by good Royalist fortune a regiment of dragoons had made it there first and started to stall like champions. As most of the Parliamentarian army looked to charge the bridge some turned to try and delay their pursuers one last time.

Technicals - the Royalist forces now significantly outnumbered their opponents, so a couple of standard foot regiments and a Forlorn Hope changed sides to even it up.  The scenario was one picked from the Blackpowder book, page 118 to be exact, and we tried to get the deployments and rules as close as possible.  They Royalists deployed on the battlefield by mistake(!), and to rectify this the Parliamentarians had first turn.  They had to get 6 or more regiments across the bridge and off the far table edge by the end of the battle (9:45pm of course), any less and the Royalists won the battle, and claimed a share of the campaign spoils in a draw.  Anyone who claims to see Roman legionaries or Father Christmas in any of the following pictures should see a psychiatrist for some expensive and electric-shock related treatment.  Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera, so the Iphone deputised, and the lack of flash and detail at least hides some of the lack of paint on show.

The Battle:

The Royalist army was split into four parts; Lord Flasheart (Rick) commanding the infantry right of centre, Lord Byron and the Duke of York (both Red) those left of centre, and Rupert and Maurice (both being played by Chris) the large cavalry wings, and the dragoons at the bridge.  Red also took the role of King Charles.  For the Parliamentarians Michael controlled two of the infantry brigades (the two on their left side), and was the army general, while Luke had the other infantry brigade (Sir Brian’s men) and the horse brigade (Fairfax).

The Parlimentarians, having conferred frantically and declared their mission impossible, dispatched their horse towards the bridge with all haste, to be followed by one of Earl Michaels foot brigades.  The remaining two foot brigades, perhaps unaware that they had been marked for death and destruction, formed a line of pikes to hold back the veritable horde of Royalists standing around in the village of Radway.

And their off! Flasheart decides standing around is for pansies who have forgotten to stick their wig on properly, and leads his four foot regiments in a wild charge towards Earl Michael’s foot and cannon.  Unfortunately he had forgotten that to move so far meant no shooting, something that would hurt later. 

Not quite as rash as Rupert’s first suggestion however, and only a couple of poor command rolls prevented his horse being thrown into the front of the enemies pike on the right flank!  On the left Prince Maurice was more sedate, leading his brigade of horse forward slowly, while Bryon, York and Charles struggled to get their foot motivated, and lost one regiment instantly to a single cannon ball.  This failure to pass break tests would soon become a feature of the battle.

 Surviving the first volley of musketry, Lord Flashearts men closed to push of pike and started to slug it out blow for blow, with Rupert, now blocked from charging, champing at the bit for a breakthrough.

At the other end of the battlefield a desperate fight had developed, as Earl Michael’s Swedish foot regiment, resplendent in their yellow, and using the feared ‘Follow Me’ command, charged into the dragoons guarding the bridge, watched by Fairfax’s horse regiments.  Unbelievably the Swedes bounced off and dissipated; the Parliamentarians most powerful regiments vanishing in a flash!  It would be down to the horse to see the job done now.

A nicely painted Sir Edward Verney putting in a colourful appearance in support of the foot regiments fighting in the centre, dispelling rumours that he had actually died a year earlier.

Fear (and sponsorship by Red Bull) lends wings to the Parliamentary horse of Fairfax as they race across the bridge and fling themselves upon the dragoons, only to see the defenders resist every effort to dislodge them, the initial charge coming within a whisker of breaking them however.

And might well they worry, for behind them a disaster has occurred, with Maurice spotting an exposed flank and sending his gallopers to take advantage to the cheers of the kings foot regiments!  Two of Sir Brian’s foot regiments vanish in minutes, leaving the final one alone, and Earl Michael’s foot unsupported and under immense pressure.  They did succeed in shaking the Royalist gallopers and trotters however, and they would struggle to continue the pursuit of the remains of the Parliamentarians later.

Earl Michael’s men managed to drive the King’s Lifeguard (redcoats) back to their starting positions, but the pressure of numbers and some appalling break tests began to tell, with one Roundhead regiment after another fleeing.

Suddenly its down to a nasty push of pike fight, with three large regiments picking on two artillery and a standard Parliamentarian one.  The cannon crew swiftly flee, however Earl Michael’s foot give Hopton’s a very bloody nose and stick it out.

With their defensive line collapsing, and expecting Ruperts horse to be unleashed any moment the Parliamentarians continue to scrap for the bridge, with the remains of various foot brigades clustering, hoping Fairfax can find them an escape route.

Unbelievably they are granted a reprieve as Earl Michael’s foot, assailed in combat ion three sides refuse to give in and hold up the Royalist advance!

The bigger picture, showing how far behind the Royalists are from the Parliamentarian survivors by the bridge.  Rupert in particular is struggled to make his men understand the word ‘Charge’, probably something to do with his pronunciation of the ‘r’.  The roundheads need six regiments to escape to claim victory, and four horse, plus 3 foot, are gathered around the bridge.

Ruperts men sudden work out what their glorious leader was screaming at them (blue in the face by now) and launch a 40”+ charge on the rear of Fairfax’s horse.  Sadly for them they are seen off in short order, and retreat to wait for the rest of their brigade to arrive.

The magnificent last stand of Sir Michael’s foot; finally wiped out to a man by one of Byron’s regiments.

And not a moment too soon for the Royalists, as the dragoons suddenly, with no warning, melt away into the evening, and Fairfax’s horse pour across the bridge and away towards London.

However it is too late for the remainder of the Parliamentarian foot, as Rupert and his horse return and send them reeling away on the wrong side of the river.  With 9:45pm upon us, Royalist foot regiments closing in to assist Rupert, and the enemy foot looking extremely unlikely to recover the Roundheads concede and victory goes to the Royalists, along with a share of honour in the campaign.


I picked the scenario on the basis that being in the Blackpowder book would mean it was general well balanced rather than risk the campaign result on an oddity, and it didn’t disappoint!  Although extreme pessimism seemed to reign on the Roundheads side through the early parts they got organised, and their plan was general quite sound, with the horse and a foot brigade marked for escape, and the rest as a delaying force.  

Their undoing was the heroic, and at times mathematically unlikely, survival of the dragoons by the bridge  Even then the last ditch defence by Michael’s foot regiment, and Chris/Rupert’s failure to launch an early charge following the breakthrough, gave the Royalists a taste of fear and possible defeat, and it was only right at the last moment that the Royalist horse caught up and prevented the Parliamentarian foot from escape and victory.

So a nice balanced game overall, and keeping the result of the battle, and of the campaign hidden right down to the last moments of the last battle, nice place to sign off I think.

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