Ashington Field

On Friday last Sir John Palgrave moved slowly in his seat. He had been happily contemplating a fine meal recently consumed only to be disturbed gentleman of his staff advising that his old enemy, the redoubtable Royalist Lord Sutton, was almost upon him. Sutton it seemed, had stolen a march on him and would soon be on the field of battle. Sir John ordered his horse and motioned to the door of the tavern. Turning to Sir Robert Dales, his trusted subordinate, he gave encouraging words. “Take solace sir as we shall before this day is out have given a good accounte of ourselves, and will, with gods blessing, slight the Papists that are converging from divers places upon us. With our pikes we will stand strong and our will musketts speak with righteous form”.

Soon after departing the Wild Swan, a fine ale house if ever there was one, Sir John sat comfortably upon his horse viewing his army deployed in all its splendour on the fields west of the small village of Ashingdon. Towards the centre of his line a gentle hill provided an excellent observation point and one on which he was now positioned. Further forward and to the left another hill separated his line from the enemy right. Sir John had at his disposal some four regiments of foote each of 600 men. They were from left to right those of Gabriel Holmes, Edward Meredith, Vincent Boyce and finally Francis Barns. These were supported ten troops of horse mostly harquebusiers save two troops of gentlemen in full armour and a company of dragoons. The horse were deployed to the rear in near equal parts betwixt the left and right flanks except a reserve of lobsters around his own body in the centre. The army was further supported by several gunnes. Of these the larger gunnes, being mostly sakers, were on the centre and the lighter pieces further to the left.

In the distance the Royalists had by now deployed. The Royalist left contained mostly foote deployed in two regiments with the pike drawn up in deep formations supported by sleeves of shotte. Each regiment comprised 800 men, but with one muskett to each pikemen, the whole supported by a number of light gunnes. Extending to the right the Royalist line comprised several sakers and a body of commanded shotte who numbered 700 men. Finally, the Royalist horse were drawn up on the extreme right some seven troops, constrained somewhat at least initially, by several small woods.

Above, a portion of the Royalist line. Below, a view of the Parliament line with Francis Barns’ Regiment on the left, Vincent Boyce’s Regiment and on the left Edward Meredith’s green coats.

Below, a general view illustrating the deployments of both armies with the Roundheads on the left and Royalists on the right.

It was near 3pm when the engagement got underway. As the wind cut across the field the standards of both armies flapped in the breeze and with the beat of drum the Royalist foote began their advance. Likewise on the Royalist right the horse moved forward freeing themselves from the confining terrain and expanding to overlap Roundhead left flank.

The Royalist advance against the Roundhead right was met with a deafening retort from the Roundhead sakers that now sent a series of well aimed cannon shot into the Royalist ranks causing much discomfort.

Yet, the Royalist foote did continue to advance until coming within muskett range when the foote did exchange fire. The Parliamentarian right flank, under the command of Sir Robert Dales, outflanked the Royalist line. As the regiments of Vincent Boyce and Francis Barns engaged the oncoming enemy a company of dragoons was dispatched to the extreme left and poured further fire on to the extreme Royalist left. Such was the discomfort clearly caused upon the enemy that Sir Robert soon ordered four troops of his harquebusiers also to the flank, hoping to turn the situation to his advantage at the earliest.

However, on Parliamentarian left flank the situation looked bleak. A party of Royalist dragoons under Captain Constantine Lister, formerly of the Skipton Castle garrison, had secured the gentle rise in front of the Parliamentarian lines and as a result Gabriel Holmes regiment of foot looked set to be outflanked by Royalist horse and engaged by the Royalist commanded shot. A dire situation indeed.

Sir John Palgrave therefore ordered four troops of horse to advance against the dragoons and then having scattered the dragoons engage the advancing enemy foot. The latter were to suffer a bloody nose at the hands of the Parliamentarian horse as they broke into the Royalist foote who were unable to withstand a determined charge. Yet, as Major Thomas Wild’s horse fell upon the Royalist dragoons the first of the Royalist horse charged Holmes’ regiment.

Holmes later wrote that “Neither musketters nor pikemen alone can be singly sufficent to withstand the able and resolute horsemen. Yet when musketts and pikes being conjoined in one body and being well ordered they are not only able to defend themselves against the fury, but also to put them to the worst”. The first line of Royalist horse was dispatched with bloody vengeance.

No sooner had the first Royalist horse been driven off that the second line, under the direct control if the somewhat excitable, Sir Edward Wadroy fell upon Holme’s regiment which was now extended by the Lobsters under Sir John Palgrave. Yet despite Royalist gallantry Wadroy’s horse was driven back and with it all hope on the Royalist right.

Now, with dusk fast approaching Sir John hoped that news from his right flank would be equally positive. Indeed the Royalist foot here were being badly handled by the Roundhead veterans, such that after a final discharge of muskets Francis Barns’ shotte fell upon the Royalist foot with clubbed musket and thus rolled up the enemy’s flank. However, while a portion broke and fled the second regiment stood firm resolute in their service.

Sir John it seemed had failed to destroy Lord Sutton’s army, though without doubt it had been badly mauled and would henceforth fall back to strengthen its ranks, the King’s plans in the north had been frustrated yet again.

So ended another enjoyable evening of DBR and illustrating for me at least the very best in a short evening of gaming.

Wrotham Common

“Sir, We hear by letters that the Lord Morton will be in West Melfordshire this day or soon after. Whether he will go northward or southward we know not, but we earnestly desire you to take order for the best intelligence which way he marches, and that your forces may be at such places as may most conveniently succour in the north if there be occasion, or if Lord Morton shall march southward that he may not get between your army and these parts. We doubt not but you will forthwith send such succour into Melfordshire as may suppress the enemy in their recruitment and secure your association.”

Sir Francis Pickwick placed the letter from London on the table and pondered its implications once more. In an attempt to halt a string of Royalist victories, in which Lord Morton had defeated a large Roundhead force just two weeks prior and taken two fortifications with his significant siege train in the days after he, Sir Francis, had been dispatched by Parliament to restore Parliamentarian fortunes in the county of Melfordshire. Finally the elusive Morton, and his Royalist army that had done such damage, had been bought to battle…

Despite much of his horse being detached, and discarding much of the baggage, Sir Francis marched his army briskly towards Morton, determined to bring him to battle. Then, on the 27th day of  March, Sir Francis deployed his army on the fields near the village of Wrotham. To his front lay several enclosures and in the distance a low hill just northeast of Wrotham. The Roundheads comprised 3,600 foot arrayed in six regiments and were supported by 600 harqubusiers, 200 dragoons and a small number of sakers and other light pieces. Below, several troops of Colonel Thomas Harrison’s Regiment of Horse on the Roundhead left.

Lord Morton has a tendency to field a significant number of gunnes, no doubt ideal for the reduction of several fortified positions in Melfordshire. The most recent engagement was to be no different. Opposite the ranks of the Roundheads a significant number of Royalist sakers, supported by a number demi-culverins, were deployed. To their left and right were a number of Royalist foot. Saftely to the rear a number of Royalist horse took up a position near Morton and other Papist gentlemen.

The battle opened with a barrage of cannon fire. Sir Francis engaging Royalist foot on the hill on the Royalist left. In contrast the gunnes of the Royalists, massed on the centre right, engaged a range of targets. The demi-culverins fired diagonally across the Royalist lines to engage the Roundhead right while the sakers engaged, more conventionally, the Roundhead centre.

Sir Francis was the first to move and ordered forward a number of musketeers from Goode’s Regiment to occupy the village of Wrotham. The commanded shot gained the gained the village and caused much consternation to the Royalists. Unfortunately, the Royalists reformed, and with a greater numbers drove out the Goode’s commanded shot, the valiant forlorn suffering heavy casualties. Once ensconced in Wrotham however the Royalists achieved little.

Above, commanded shot of Goode’s Regiment are driven back in Wrotham.

In the centre things were more confusing. Initially Parliamentary dragoons advanced to disrupt the Royalist positions and, on the extreme left, drove back the Royalist dragoons. The advance in the centre resulted in the piecemeal advance of Royalist foot, which in turn prevented the Royalist gunnes from firing. Soon the Roundhead foot, more formed than their opposite number, advanced allowing the musketeers to ply their deadly trade.

Sensing they were gaining an advantage a number of Roundhead surged forward with clubbed musket and sword. Unfortunately they were pushed back and soon both forces reformed engaging instead in increasingly ineffective musket fire.

Below, the centre with Royalists on the right somewhat broken up while the Roundheads advance. Two troops of Parliamentarian horse, under Elias Batchelor, advance in support ready to engage the Royalists with carbine or pistol.

On the Roundhead left things were equally confusing. A number of dragoons under Captain Daniel Abbott – known for his zeal to the Parliamentarian cause, had earlier been successful against their opposites were now forced back when Royalist horse moved forward to counter them. Caught by enemy shot and horse before they could retire, the dragoons were ridden down. Abbott himself was fortunate to escape. Despite this, their action covered the advance of two Roundhead regiments who now pressed forward to engage the pursuing cavaliers as the sun set on the field.

Above, two troops of Royalist horse fall back from after having pursued too far and encountered the ordered pike of Vincent Boyce’s Bluecoats. To Boyce’s left can be seen a portion of William Wade’s Redcoats, veterans also.

As the light faded neither army was demoralised. Yet, Lord Morton had had enough. As the hour was late and with victory robbed from him, the Royalists quit the field. After a string of Parliamentary defeats in Melfordshire honour had been finally restored.

Sumatran Expeditions 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any game photos, so I thought a few photos of this evening’s DBR game would be in order. Now, my weekly Tuesday evening opponent recently purchased a Turkish army and after several games, where I have fielded a traditional pike and shot army, I decided a change was in order. After pondering a few options I decided on fielding my Sumatran army. Our regular weeknight gaming slot is reasonably short so our armies comprise just 300 points. Hard choices must be made in troop selection and army composition. We both opted for two commands, so PIPs were always going to be at a premium.

The Ottoman main command comprised both foot and mounted while the other command was primarily mounted supported by a number of bombards. In contrast the Sumatran army was more symmetric in composition with warriors, archers and elephants divided reasonably equally between the two commands.

With the weather determined the Sumatran commander ordered a rapid advance. Opposite the Turkish commander attempted to work each flank, hold with his centre while riding down the Sumatran foot with his massed sipahis opposite the Turkish left.

Combat was soon joined, first as Sumatran archers began to breaking up some of the Ottoman mounted and then, more critically as the Sumatran sword and spearmen became locked in combat with the aggressive Ottoman sipahis. Fortunately, the Sumatran foot were victorious in some combats while holding in others.

Above, some Sumatran warriors have broken through the enemy and pursued forward.

While Turkish bombards broke up some of the troops to their front other Sumatran foot pressed forward against Janissaries opposite. Now both commanders struggled to exploit the situation.

Below, a general view of the battlefield just prior to the Turkish left flank collapsing. 

Below, Sumatran foot prepare to charge the Turkish bombards in the centre. Two of the three bombards were actually overrun in the ensuing combats.

On the Sumatran left the Turks attempted to turn the now very exposed Sumatran left. Sumatran archers, fragile at best, along with elephants were thrown forward in a desperate attempt to protect the Sumatran foot engaged in a determined clash with the resolute Janissaries. 

However, the prophet would tonight, it seems, be with the Muslims of Sumatra. With casualties mounting the Ottoman host had suffered enough, and broke. 

A fascinating and enjoyable game, all resolved in 2 1/4 hours. Rumour has it that next week my opponent will be fielding his Royalists, their ranks expanded by new recruits. Another great game will be on the cards I’m sure…

Fortified Churches of Stari Grad

In a recent edition of “Arquebusier” (Vol. 35/1), the Journal of the Pike and Shot Society, Conrad Cairns provided an interesting article on “The Fortified Churches of Croatia and Transylvania”. The article covers a range of fortified churches over an extended geographical area and is supported by a small selection of photos. However, I thought readers of the article may find several additional photos of interest. The following were taken during my four days in the picturesque town of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar.

First up is the Church of St Jerome, centre foreground below. The church is literally on the seafront on the northern part of the inlet. I’ve included two photos of the church which, when I visited was empty. I understand the building is occasionally used for art exhibits. Mr Conrad’s article suggests the tower was added.

Another view, this time from the side.

Also mentioned in the article was the Church of St Peter the Martyr, part of the Dominican Monastery. Today this imposing complex is difficult to photograph from the town side due to its size and proximity to many other buildings. More useful photos can be taken from outside the old town as the monastery sits on the outskirts of the old town.

Below, another view this time from the town side. The bell tower is a later addition, though interestingly it’s base uses stones from the Ancient Greek city walls.

Below, another photo this time from inside the monastery in the courtyard.

The monastery suffered two attacks by the Turks including the devastating attack of 1571, when the monastery, and the town, was sacked by the Turks. Information outside the monastery indicates the two round towns were added in 1586.

On a side note the small museum inside the monastery includes some interesting artefacts from the Greek foundation of the town, originally called Pharos, and should be viewed in addition to those displayed in the small town museum.