Tuesday, 9 July 2013

English Civil War: The Relief of Hawarden – The Background (Part 1 of 3)

Designed by the redoubtable Dave Blue Team, the Relief of Hawarden is a battle based on a ‘what-if’ scenario, with the alternative history timeline and background laid out below.  A total of 3 months was spent partly refining rules, and mostly making and painting models and scenery, and the credit must once again go to Dave who basic painted 5 regiments of foot and 3 of horse, as well as scratch building an excellent river Dee, the roads, and Holt castle, and coordinating the rest of us in our work.

For the other players it encouraged me to finish my Royalists; a major task of which I am proud, but wouldn’t have managed without the end target, and gave the same impetus to Luke, while Aidan and Michael were once again able to shame us with their beautifully painted forces.  Michael supplying the buildings for Farndon and Holt and every hedgerow, and Aidan scratch building a superb Hawarden Castle.

The battle was duly played at the Deeside Defenders annual wargaming show; Gauntlet, with only once face; Red, being unable to attend on the day.  Luke changed sides to join mine and Daves Royalists marching from the city of Chester, while Michael and Aidan once more donned their Parliamentarian hats, with Aidan defending Hawarden, and Michael beginning in the area of Holt and Farndon.  I have spared any foolish reader the much debated rules, but have included Dave’s very well written background in this, part 1 of 3.  The other two parts will firstly be the battle report, and secondly some of the superb pictures Luke took with his decent camera on the day!

The Relief of Hawarden

An English Civil War battle with a fantasy scenario on a grand scale.

"To the Officer commanding at Hawarden Castle, and his consorts there :
"I presume you very well know or have heard of my condition and disposition, and that I neither give nor take quarter ; I am now with my firelocks, who never yet neglected opportunity to correct rebels, ready to use you as 1 have done the Irish, but loathe I am to spill my countrymen's blood, wherefore by these I advise you to your fealty and obedience towards his majesty, and show yourselves faithful subjects, by delivering
the castle into my hands for his majesty's uses, in so doing you shall be received into mercy, but otherwise, it' you put me to the least trouble or loss of blood to force you, expect no quarter for man, woman, or child. I hear you have some of our late Irish army with your company, they very well know me, and that my firelocks used not
parley. Be not unadvised, but think of your liberty, for 1 vow all hopes of relief are taken
from you, and our intent is not to starve you, but to batter and storm you, and then hang you all, and follow the rest of that rebel crew. 1 am no bread and cheese rogue, but as ever, a loyalist, and will ever be whilst I can write a name. "
" Nov. 28, 1643." " Capt. of Firelocks.
"I expect your speedy answer this Tuesday night, at Broadlane Hall, where I now am your neighbour."
Letter from Thomas Sandford, Captain of Firelocks, Irish Wars Veteran.

Sponsored by www.wargamestore.com and in association with Deeside Defenders and RGMB Gaming clubs

Historical Background

After his defeat before Wem, Lord Capel shut himself up in Shrewsbury. His army had been seriously weakened in the attack and a popular local officer, Colonel Wynne, had been killed. The formerly Royalist county of Shropshire now had a Parliamentarian presence. Lord Capel himself had become a laughing-stock and the butt of popular satirical ballads. He feared that the people of Shrewsbury would destroy the Royalist garrison if he left it unguarded.

Under these circumstances, the Parliamentarians took the opportunity to increase their territory by invading north Wales. Sir William Brereton mustered his forces and collected detachments from his allies in Lancashire and Staffordshire to make up a field army of about 1,500 regulars with some Cheshire militiamen. On 7 November 1643, Brereton and Sir Thomas Myddelton led their troops from Nantwich.

 On 9 November, the Parliamentarians stormed the crossing of the River Dee at Holt Bridge by rushing the bridge, scaling the gatehouse and bringing down the drawbridge. Most of the Royalist defenders fled, but some withdrew into Holt Castle, where Colonel John Robinson defiantly refused to surrender. Leaving a detachment to besiege the castle, Brereton and Myddelton advanced to occupy Wrexham with their main force.

The next day, the invasion force marched north from Wrexham. Colonel Ravenscroft surrendered Hawarden Castle on 10 November, apparently without a fight. Brereton's forces occupied Mold on 11 November and Flint Castle surrendered on the 12th. By 14 November, the Parliamentarians had captured Holywell and Mostyn. Within a week of leaving Nantwich, Brereton and Myddelton controlled the western side of the Dee estuary. The supply route from north Wales to Chester was severed and the city was effectively surrounded by hostile forces. As the Welsh Royalists withdrew westwards to the line of the River Clwyd, Sir Thomas Myddelton opened negotiations with Colonel Salesbury for the surrender of Denbigh Castle.

At this point, the victorious Parliamentarian invaders suffered a sudden and dramatic reversal that drove them back across the Dee into Cheshire.

In September 1643, the Marquis of Ormond concluded terms for a one-year cease fire with the Irish Confederates on behalf of the King. The Cessation of Arms allowed government troops stationed in Ireland to be recalled to England to fight for the Royalists. Some of the returning troops were to join Lord Hopton's army in the South, but most of them were to form a new northern army that was intended to assist the Marquis of Newcastle in countering the expected invasion of England by Parliament's new Scottish allies. The King's use of troops from Ireland was controversial. Although he hoped in the long term to recruit Irish Confederates to fight against Parliament, his first reinforcements were battle-hardened English and Welsh veterans of the Confederate War. This did not prevent Parliamentarian news-books from playing upon the worst fears of English Protestants by representing the returning troops as bloodthirsty Irish papists.

The first contingent of troops for the new northern army landed at Mostyn in Flintshire on 16 November 1643. It comprised four regiments of foot and one of horse under the command of Major-General Sir Michael Erneley. The troops were directed to north Wales in order to counter Brereton's invasion. Faced with Erneley's veterans of the Irish service, Brereton and Myddelton abandoned north Wales and withdrew to consolidate their forces in Cheshire and Lancashire, leaving only a garrison at Hawarden Castle, which surrendered early in December. Erneley's troops quickly re-established Royalist control of north Wales, then advanced to occupy Chester, where they were joined by further regiments from Ireland during the following weeks.

Game Background

After requisitioning powder from the governor of Chester, Colonel Ravenscroft left the city accompanied with a handful of troops.  The treacherous Colonel delivered the powder to Hawarden Castle and then handed the castle straight into Parliament’s hands. 

Veterans of the Irish Wars have arrived in North Wales to bolster the Royalist cause.  Brereton tells Ravenscroft to hold Hawarden until it can be resupplied.  The Royalists in Chester would then be surrounded and the City forced to submit to Parliamentarian control before the year is out.

However, the gun powder reserve for the Parliamentarian garrison in Hawarden is dwindling.  Fresh supplies are expected from Nantwich any day, but the crossing of the River Dee at Chester is in Royalist hands.  Forced to go via Holt Bridge the powder carts and escorts make their way carefully along the roads. 

Meanwhile, Royalist engineers from Chester are making hasty emplacements before wheeling artillery towards the walls of Hawarden Castle.  If they are unhindered in their construction the mighty cannon will belch forth and smash down the walls before storming the breech and then running each and every member of the garrison through.

The battle for The Relief of Hawarden is on...

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