Welcome to a piece of fiction leading up to an English Civil War battle that never took place, between two armies that never existed, in a spot that may, or may not have seen any fighting in the 1640’s. Should this offend you then you are free to be on your way to seek more historically-based reports and forego this piece of writing and the 28mm eye-candy that follows. Your future is in your hands.
Spring 1643. Following the Royal visit of King Charles and Queen Henrietta to Chester, they have continued upon their journey south to the Royalist capital of Oxford. To enable them to move swiftly the bulk of their baggage, including the armies pay chest and their personal papers, has been left behind to follow on more slowly on the bad roads under heavy guard. Unfortunately for the King’s cause news of the sluggish convoy has reached the regional parliamentarian commander, who, determined to win political favour and slice off a chunk of the profits himself, has galvanised all available troops and set off in pursuit of the prize. Unbeknownst to him, however, a second convoy has also left Chester. Instead of the Royalist’s pay chest this convoy holds the Queen’s entire wardrobe – generously proportioned, and expensively brought together from across Europe, it is this group of wagons that the Parliamentarians set off in hot pursuit of; their spies in Chester having been confused by the multiple comings and goings.
These wagons are also heavily guarded, as the Queen holds them in higher regard than the armies pay. It is as they pass through the village of Wrenbury, Cheshire, that the rebels catch up to them. The Royalists commanders’ intention was to pass the night in the dubious safety of the grounds of local Royalist, and all round swell guy, Lord Flashearts’ manor. However, with the enemy pressing hard with superior numbers he will have to hope his men can hold them off until nightfall, and, forsaking Lord Flashearts’ hospitality, escape in the darkness. The Rebels have been joined by a second force, not more than a mile or so behind the first, and they are eager to get their hands on the baggage, and settle a score or two with Lord Flasheart if the opportunity arises!
I’ve pulled this scenario together to enable three of us to put our 28mm English Civil War collections on the tabletop. Each player has a similar size army, so something that pits two against one, with the one having an equalling advantage looked to be the answer. Here the local Parliamentarian ruffians (shoes eagerly fulfilled by Luke and Red) are seeking to catch up with the Royalists and dispossess them of the baggage train they are shepherding along. The Royalists are waiting in turn for sunset (or in this case 9:45pm) so they can slip away.
The victor will be the side with the most victory points at the end of the battle, with 1 victory point being given for each piece of baggage that a side holds at the finish. A potential fly in the ointment is the existence of Lord Flasheart and his troops. Added to the troops he can provide to the hard-pressed Royalist column, is the animosity that the local parliamentarians feel towards him. A bonus 2 victory points is available for the rebels if they succeed in putting Flasheart’s nose out of joint by capturing his manor house. Finally everyone likes putting the enemy to flight, and 1 victory point will be awarded for each brigade that is broken by the end.
The baggage – The baggage is represented by 2 carts and a few donkeys and men; 3 units in total. Each can be captured only by winning a melee against it, in which case it immediately changes sides and comes under the control of the commander of the unit that captured it. It can be recaptured if the situation requires it, but never shot at – the foolish soul who puts a hole in the Queen of England’s under crackers will soon find themselves stricken from the new years honours list! The only statistics the baggage requires then is as follows:
Movement – 6”
Hand too Hand – 1
Morale – 5+
Deployment and beginning the battle:
The Royalists began on the battlefield, with the bulk of their army (3 regiments of foote, 4 of horse, 1 saker and 2 troops of dragoons, plus the baggage) just clearing the far edge of the village of Wrenbury and heading towards Lord Flasheart’s manor. Flashearts not toothless; with a regiment of foote and a mortar guarding the grounds of his manor. The Parliamentarians went first, beginning the battle off table and having to be ordered on. Red’s troops, being a mile or so behind Lukes, are only available from turn 3 onwards, a fortunate arrangement because that was when he arrived in the building.
|The battlefield - Royalists just leaving Wrenbury on their way towards Flasheart's manor (tower and buildings to the right). The change of colour of the battlefield shows the boundaries of Flasheart's coveted 'Sheep Park'.|
|Royalists on the march.|
The Opening Scuffles
Marching confidently along the road the Royalists had barely cleared the village of Wrenbury when they heard the thundering of hooves – Luke’s lead battalia of Colonel Brian Cromwell’s horse was coming up fast! In contrast to my own efforts Luke’s command rolls were excellent in the opening stages, and the rebel horse was upon the Royalists rearguard before they could react. The dragoons scattered into the buildings; the white-pasted church and a peasants hut, either side of the road, but for the Royalist musketeers at the rear of the column there was no escape as the Ironsides scythed through them. My command rolls began to slowly come off, and the Royalist resistance stiffened as the remaining musketeers formed a defensive line supported by their pike blocks.
|Colonel Brian Cromwells Ironsides, curassiers and dragoons appear, moving fast.|
|The rebels crash into the back of the Royalist musketeers as the dragoons take cover in the buildings.|
|And again, the baggage just escaping as the men with swords go for the men with guns first rather than risk an encounter with a dangerous oxen.|
Dragoons & Infantry
As the Parliamentarian infantry began to arrive the Royalist dragoons in the village began to cause serious problems for the rebel horse, disordering them numerous times, and catching the cuirassiers in a vicious enfilading crossfire which they were unable to escape from. The cuirassiers would eventually flee from this pressure, while the remains of Colonel Brian Cromwell’s horse suffered from a galling musket fire from the rest of the Royalist foote. Sensing this day might turn for them the Royalists stood their ground, Lord Flasheart brought most of his foote regiment out of his manor to support them at the fence line, and Sir Peter Wolfe moved his horse battalia forwards to flank the village. At this point they were stunned once again to see a second wave of Rebel infantry and horse, if anything larger than the first, appear beyond the village. Red’s men had arrived, and the Royalists resigned themselves to an inevitable retreat.
|The first of the Rebel infantry - Luke's foote and artillery.|
|The Royalists start to form a line, foote in the centre and horse to the right.|
|The parlimentarian horse in the village being pinned down by the Royalist green-coated dragoons.|
|More roundheads; Red's horse battalia in the foreground.|
|Flasheart's men (bluecoats nearest) join the main Royalist body at the fence line.|
|Sir Peter Wolfe's Royalist horse battalia swing forward.|
Doomed horse charges and a fall back
The mass of Parliamentarian horse now outnumbered the Royalist mounted troops by 2 to 1, but seeing his chance for glory Sir Peter raked back in spurs and ordered the charge! Crashing up against Red’s horse battalia to the Royalist right they suffered badly from this rash decision, and subsequent poor dice rolling, and were roughly handled. Reduced from 4 proud regiments to 2 shaken ones they began a withdrawal that saw them retreat completely from the fighting, although not before they had caused a blockage in the entrance through the fence, and inconvenienced the infantry in doing so. The baggage, moving slowly despite the urgings of their battalia commander Sir Henry Buxton, cleared the fence line and began to move past Flasheart’s manor while the Royalist infantry pulled themselves into a more compact formation and steadily fell back looking to make a stand behind the fence itself.
|Royalist commanders in the foreground arguing over tactics while the baggage passes through the gap in the fence./|
|More baggage, this time donkeys.|
|Sir Peter Wolfe's ill-fated charge against Red's large horse battalia.|
|Having dispatched the Royalist horse Red's troops move onwards to try and flank their foote.|
|The Royalist horse cause a blockage.|
|Royalist foote - Hopton's regiment taking up a fence line position.|
Desperate last stands and foolish heroics
In the village of Wrenbury the dragoons had missed their last chance to saddle up and escape being encircled by the advancing rebel infantry regiments, and prepared to sell their lives dearly. First to fall was the peasants hut; besieged by Red’s infantry regiments it was also under fire from his manoeuvrable falconets, which raked it prior to the assault going in. Somewhat surprisingly it took only two efforts for the combined pike and shot regiments to be victorious, something which Luke envied as his own infantry struggled to take the church. Without the benefits of the falconets initially his rebels saw a pike block bloodily beaten back and shaken before a second, with plentiful musketeer and artillery support managed to storm the church at the third attempt.
Foolishness aplenty was now to be seen around the main Royalist infantry force. Firstly a nasty misunderstanding caused the pike block of the King’s Guard regiment to ignore instructions to fall back to the fence line, and instead they departed the main formation to advance towards the nearest rebel infantry on the edge of the village. Spotting the signs of disintegration in the Royalist ranks Colonel Brian Cromwell shouted ‘Follow Me!’ (the only time this was used all game), and lead his last regiment of ironsides in an ill-fated charge at the nearest Royalist musketeers. These white coated musketeers, of Talbot’s regiment, formed hedgehog with their pike block and the ironsides impaled themselves upon the 16 foot long pikes. In the chaos of combat they fled the field, leaving Brian Cromwell a casualty.
|Commander of Luke's infantry - chap named Fairfax.|
|Commander of Red's infantry, normally called Byron.|
|The dragoons in the church under sustained pressure.|
|They won't hold out for long against this lot.|
|Red's horse circling as the King's Lifeguard foolishly advances.|
|The baggage and Royalist horse beating a retreat.|
|Final attack of the game as Sir Brian Cromwell and his ironsides bite off more than they can chew and are scattered by Talbots foote in a hedgehog.|
With the fall of the dragoons, and the disappearance of the baggage and their horse to the rear the Royalist cause was lost. And this was without mentioning the inevitable destruction of the King’s Lifeguard who were surrounded by Red’s horse having made such a foolish move earlier. Flasheart pulled his men back to his manor, and prepared to gather a few select things before the looters arrived. The remains of the Royalist army disintegrated, its battalia broken, disappearing into the gloom and leaving the Parliamentarian horse to round up the Queens baggage. The rebels were victorious.
Post Battle Analysis:
An excellent game, with plenty of entertainment, most of which came at my expense as my Royalists failed roll after roll. A good example being with command values of 8 all round I managed to roll ‘9’ for each of my 4 commanders in turn one, and Luke’s horse were then able to surprise them and destroy at least a third of my musketeers.
My horse were thrown away in a gallant, but foolish, charge at Red’s superior numbers, but at least it was in character. Even the infantry struggled to make the small distance back to the fence when under very little pressure initially. Luke having bloodied my army, Red’s re-enforcements helped take the village, and by the end my infantry were at risk of being cut off by both his infantry to my left, and his horse to my right. I did finish with all 3 baggage carts and Flashearts manor, but my horse and infantry were broken, and only Flashearts solitary regiment was left against many, many enemies so I conceded.