Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Battle of Nantwich - English Civil War Battle Report

Given that several of the participants in this week’s English Civil War campaign had been to the re-enactment at Nantwich the previous Saturday it was apt that the battle was based around the town.  It should be noted to those who may read believing that this is a historical refight that it is not, it was based roughly on the geography of Nantwich, and designed to fit in with the RGMB campaign.  On to a bit of scenario background:

 The Battle of Nantwich – or – Sir Pembleton-Smyth’s Amazing Adventure

Sir Pembleton-Smyth, the golden boy of the Royalist efforts in Cheshire, had spotted an opportunity to catch one of his arch-enemies; Oliver Cromwell, on the hop, and bypassed Nantwich by the northern-most bridge outside of the town with this aim.  Unfortunately it was here that his plan came unravelled.  Firstly Cromwell’s larger army had turned and were formed up prepared for a scrap rather than being caught on the march, then Pembleton-Smyth learnt that not only had the Nantwich Trained Band declared for Parliament, and threatened his only two routes for withdrawal across the river, but also that the well prepared Roundheads were marching swiftly to cut him off and end his military career permanently!  Sir Michael de Blondeville’s Swedish forces were within sight of Nantwich, and aiming to prevent the Royalists retreat until Stapleton-Smyth (his cousin) could also arrive and overwhelming force could be applied.

Pembleton-Smyth uttered a number of choice words, and prepared his troops for a run to the river crossing, and a hard fight once they got there!  Two things were in his favour; firstly that Stapleton-Smyth’s troops would not reach the battlefield until after nightfall, and so would not take part in the battle, and secondly his ally Lord Byron had heard of his plight and was marching with his large force to his aid, and would take part in the battle!

Events were set in motion for a race over a river; if Pembleton-Smyth could extract most of his men and himself back across the river and away down the road towards Chester then the Royalist would claim a victory.  Should Sir Michael, and the assisting Nantwich Trained Band and Cromwell (pressing Pembleton-Smyth as he retreats) prevent this, then the Royalists would suffer a grievous defeat.

Armies, commanders and aims:
For the Roundheads: Sir Michael de Blondeville (Michael) and his Swedes advancing onto the battlefield to the West of the river Weaver to assist the Nantwich Trained Band (Rick – me), who begin in the town (which sits astride the river), in blocking the Royalist escape, while Cromwell (Luke - on the East bank of the river) presses hard upon Pembleton-Smyths retreating Royalists, trying to crush them against the water (impassable but for two bridges - one in the town, one outside).
For the Royalists: Pembleton-Smyth (Chris), stuck on the East bank of the river must escape (2 or more of his units and his own personal figure) either through the town of Nantwich or the further away crossing point, while Lord Byron (Red) marches onto the table to assist this venture.

The Battle:

Now being the creator of the scenario I expected Chris Fazey (aka Pembleton-Smyth) to avoid the town with its buildings filled with musketeers, and head for open country, the other unguarded bridge and a clash with Sir Michael, followed by Lord Byron and Cromwell arriving and it all being quite grand open country fighting.  I hadn’t counted on Mr Fazey’s alternative view of the world, and he launched the entire of his army across the bridge and into my musketeers in the town, which shouldn’t have worked.  But did.

While his solitary foot regiment formed hedgehog to hold up Cromwell his horse charged headlong into a mass of musketeers, who fled – I failed every break test in the game bar one.  Cromwell made short work of the hedgehog, but then seemed unable to galvanize his troops into further movement and apart from the two regiments of ironsides they stayed outside of the town.  Sir Michael, advancing onto the battlefield had a similar problem – constantly failing his command rolls for most of the game.  Lord Byron, arriving to rescue Pembleton-Smyth, who was busy cutting his way through the pathetic newly raised Nantwich trained band, advanced more steadily, his horse reaching the edge of town just as the Ironsides entered the other end.

The garrison’s resistance crumbled under assault from horse regiments on both sides, and was reduced to a couple of units hiding in buildings while Lord Byron’s horse initially pushed the Ironsides back out of the town.  However, the garrisons last meaningful action was to use their musketry to destroy two regiments of Byron’s horse to open the way for the Ironsides return; and they swept in to push the remains of Pembleton-Smyths troops back.

Pembleton-Smyth's first charge across the bridge into Nantwich. 
He left his rearguard - a regiment of foote in white coats - to face the entire of Cromwells army.  Lord Byrons troops can be seen appearing in the top of the picture, while Sir Michaels are off by the far at the top right.

The Swedes arrive, and take root, refusing to move further.

Lord Byrons men are more accommodating on the movement front.

Pembleton-Smyths horse dismantling the Nantwich defences very swiftly!

The end of Pembleton-Smyths regiment of foote, as well as the furthest most of Cromwells army moved!

The Ironsides force their way into the town, causing great damage to Pembleton-Smyths troops before Lord Bryons horse arrive to force them back.

Byron's horse enter the edge of Nantwich, while his foot follow at a more sedate pace.
On the far side of Nantwich Lord Byron’s foote began to deploy to attack the town, but Sir Michael’s Swedes finally came to life, threatening his left flank and causing him to stop and turn his brigade as the Swedes foote and horse began to pile pressure on.  In the town Pembleton-Smyth gathered his remaining two units and prepared to withdraw gracefully as victory becokoned, however, they misunderstood their orders, and the Ironsides, lead personally by Cromwell in a last ditch attack, sent them reeling from the field, Pembleton-Smyth himself falling in the melee.  With their talisman gone, and more Swedish troops arriving on his flank Lord Byron conceded and victory went by the smallest of margins to the Roundheads.

The Swedes finally put in an appearence, falling upon Byrons flank.

The Ironsides were not to be denied their quary, although it took much luck and a 'follow me' to

The focus shifts to the fight between Lord Byron and Sir Michael in the dying moments of the game.

Some mug shots of most of the players, bar the one hiding behind the camera.

The last clash of horse in the streets of Nantwich - both the Ironsides (red coats) and Lord Byrons men breaking and fleeing after the combat was drawn.


I genuinely expected Chris to opt for the open bridge, and his decision to try and smash his way through the town was as unexpected as his success in doing so!  The Nantwich trained band was almost wiped out, along with Chris’ command, and a total of 6 horse regiments perished with them on the streets of the town in a bitter fight that seesawed as each side gained the upper hand.  Both Luke and Michael (as Cromwell and Sir Michael) had very poor luck with their command rolls, and little of each of their armies joined the fighting, while Red’s troops (Lord Byron) were at least starting closer and seemed more inclined to get stuck in!  The fighting in the town was very entertaining, although it required a lot of give and take regarding rules of movement, and victory hung in the balance right to the end where a single command roll success would have change the result.

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