Friday, 8 March 2013

The Battles of Whitemere & Helsby - English Civil War Battle Report

The last outing of Lord Flasheart and his brave, dashing and incredibly silky hair was way back on the 10th of February, where a misunderstanding between him and his ‘ally’ Lord Byron lead to a couple of punch-ups as Flasheart and his Royalist troops defended the honour of the A49.  Badly.

A scarce month onwards and the loveable rogue has been forced out of his cosy winter quarters (a tavern next to a brothel, backed onto by a church – with so much sin around you have to ensure your soul is safe).  He firstly marched southwards to the borders of Cheshire where rumour grew of the parliamentarian forces in Shropshire being about to mount a sortee.  Meeting them in the well known hamlet of Whitemere, and being assisted by additional local troops, a fight ensued.

The Battle of Whitemere:

The Parliamentarians seemed able to call upon not one, but two Oliver Cromwells, with Royalist paranoia getting out of hand with multiple sightings of the great man, but none of them true.  A combination of Andy and Dennis commanded a sizable Roundhead army in this clash at Deeside, Dennis leading the horse wing on their right, facing my own horse, while Andy commanded the two infantry brigades in the centre.  As the battle started, and with the number of troops being even I threw my horse forward hoping for an early piece of luck while the foote advanced in their favoured Terico formation in the centre.

My plan on my left worked so far as the enemy horse brigade was shattered and broken by my own horse’s attacks, but this left my own brigade also useless, and attention turned to the infantry fight.  My right flank saw the Dragoons move into the edges of the hamlet of Whitemere, and trade fire with two musket sleeves to little gain, while Talbots regiment (in the white) fired a single shot and refused to move more than a few inches the whole game – shameful!  In the centre Sir Hugh of Beeston, commanding the central foote brigade, blundered badly, and the three blocks of pike retreated back to their starting positions, leaving the musketeers to begin an uneven fight against three full enemy regiments of foote and two ordinance.

This fight went badly, especially when one of the enemy regiments moved around the end of my line and began to work its way through each my shotte sleeves one at a time with a push of pike.  In desperation to rescue a battle that was slipping away both Sir Hugh and Lord Flasheart cried “Follow Me!” and dragged the labouring pike blocks back into the fight to face the enemy musketeers.  However the damage they caused was too little, and too late as my musketeers, who had stood for so long trading fire, were too shaken and shattered to continue, and with the right flank (Talbot!) still refusing to move I called it a day and conceded the field.
My Royalists are to the right, with Dennis' horse facing my own on the far left, and the hamlet of Whitemere in the distance.
The horse clash while my foote advance - before they blunder that is.
Andy's pike begin to roll up my musketeer line.

The last Royalist charge, but it isn't enough.

The Battle of Helsby:

A scant 24 short hours later and Flasheart had force-marched his troops northwards to where Sir Stapleton-Smyth (Aidan) had crossed the river at Frodsham, and was moving his men towards the important centre of Chester.  This time Flasheart had a significant advantage in men (600pts to Aidans 500, and 16 units in a single brigade to his 12), and was determined to make this count by going on the offensive.

Advancing off the road and into the fields he sent Hopton’s (blue) and Talbots (white) foote to the right towards the village, the King’s Lifeguard (red coats) down the road in the centre, while Stradlings (blue also) and the dragoons secured the fields to the left.  Finally the three horse regiments moved to the left of Stradling in the open.  Stapleton-Smyth deployed his infantry regiments in the open ground facing Stradling, and his horse behind the village of Helsby, where his commanded shot and dragoons waited and sniped at the leading Royalists.  Flashearts advance is best described as slow and steady, with the Roundheads happy to hold position and wait.  With limited supplies of powder and shot there was little long ranged firing, and Stradling and the King’s Guard both struggled to get into position due to hedgerows and poor command checks.  No such worries for the Roundheads horse and Dragoons, who pulled a tactical fast-one by suddenly redeploying behind their foote, having moved from one flank to the other. 

The Roundhead foote now advanced upon the Royalist troops within the fields, who, with their pike blocks stuck in poor positions, were ill-supported to face this attack.  The Roundhead horse clashed with the cavaliers own, which Flasheart then sent the remains to the rear, having come off worse.  However, they had bought him enough time to get Stradlings men into position and secure the flank, and a trade of musketry brought an even distribution of casualties between the sides.  On my right Talbots regiment had been forced to turn inwards to cover the gap between the King’s Lifeguard and Hopton’s foote which pressed on towards the village under fire.  This attack on Helsby was sluggish, and it took a final effort by Hopton’s pike to make it within the village boundary, only to clash with some shaken commanded musketeers and flee the field!

Luckily the fighting on the left was going better, with the Parliamentarians suddenly unable to pass the most basic of command checks the Royalists were able to pick off their shotte sleeves, and pike units, with Talbot and Stradlings pike blocks pressing forward into their ranks.  Desperate counterattacks by the Roundhead horse nearly defeated Stradling, but the pikes prevailed over the armoured horse, and with few units not shaken or having fled Stapleton-Smyth retreated from the field.  

The full (and rather pretty) battlefield.  The Royalists are to the left, with Stradlings foote yet to leave the road.  Things to spot: 6 sheep.

The Roundhead dragoons being a pest early on.  Things to spot: 2 cows.

The Parliamentarian change in deployment, with the horse switching flanks and the Royalist horse coming off far worse. Luckily for Flasheart that Stradling has moved his foote into position.
Hopton's doomed (and embarrassing) charge into the village.

Post Battle(s) Anaylsis:

The first game was in new surroundings of the Deeside Defenders against Andy and Dennis, both new to Pike & Shotte, and using Dennis’ nicely painted army.  It started with an intro-game atmosphere, but I soon found I was having to work hard to get close to scrapping a result, with Dennis’ horse proving more than a match for mine, and Andy’s foote likewise – aided by a couple of blunders in the centre!  In the end numbers, and good tactics of outflanking my musketeer line, won them a well-deserved victory, pressing home their attacks at the right time while m pikes were out of position.

The second game was in familiar surroundings at Aidan’s abode, and thankfully it was on top of a table to prevent the rabbits getting their teeth into proceedings.  My significant superiority in numbers was always going to make it a big ask for Aidan to secure victory, but he still nearly did.  As my foote regiments fussed over hedgerows and getting their lines straight he redeployed his horse regiments, and with a bit more luck with his command rolls (they were shocking!) he could have pressed home his attack and I would have been reeling.  As it was I had the time to secure the flank, bring more pikemen in to assist, and slowly grind him backwards despite several desperate last charges by his horse into my pike blocks (which also nearly worked!).  It seemed I was never going to get near to the village however, and Hopton’s pike spectacularly (and very unexpectedly) imploded on the edge of it to end my hopes.

One defeat and one victory and the Flasheart bandwagon rolls onwards – next week it’s a trip to the RGMB looking for more glory.  Anyone interested in the campaign in general see here: 

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