Monday 21 July 2014

Wargaming Show - Devizes - 20 July 2014

My haul of new things - all the figures are plastic - something which wasn't intentional
 but surely shows the future main emphasis of the hobby

Today I went to the much looked forward to 'Attack' show at Devizes in Wiltshire.  Part of the joy of this show is the scenario on the journey down.  Ian drove so it left me able to enjoy the scenery on the road between Avebury and Devizes itself.  Certainly England at it's most splendid.  As much as I like to see acres of woodland, the ancient longbarrows lining the barren ancient hilltops along the sides of the road, does give an intense feeling for the history of the place.

The knowledge that Roundway Down is nearby also sets the imagination racing.  The site of this Civil War battlefield close to hand makes you wonder just how similar the landscape was in the 17th Century. Roundway Down is well worth a visit.  We toyed with the idea of going today, but decided that rushing after the show wasn't going to leave sufficient time.  Rather like Cropredy Bridge, a battlefield in such a magnificent landscape like that is worth spending the day exploring.  So no pics of Roundway Down today.

The 'Attack' show is in its 35th year, and I have attended most of these since around 1987.   It is one of my favourite shows.  It attracts interesting traders, not too much sci-fi but just enough to bring in a varied visitor group and has a very friendly atmosphere.  There is always time to chat to people and traders and there is no sense of rush or of having to race people to certain traders to get your goodies.  The show used to be held in the Corn Exchange in Devizes centre, which was a great location but was on the cramped side and it got uncomfortably hot upstairs on the upper level.  It has been held at a school in the town for a good few years now and this has plenty of parking, lots of space and lots of benches outside.  This is great as it means you can take a break and reflect on your madness before committing lots of cash to a new period of history to delve into.  Sitting in the sunshine with a reasonably priced cup of tea contrasted with my shopping strategy which ended up not being so economical!

A photo of my haul of new things is shown above.  As you can see, some kind of insanity gripped me.  That's five different period's of history there (plus Napoleonics which I shall get to shortly).

Since Renegade ceased trading this has left me with a nice but barely started Punic Wars Roman Army.  The Agema plastics look great and I couldn't resist getting a couple of boxes just to see how they look painted up.

The Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors should enable me to finally make my Anglo-Saxon army playable! Hurrah - I only started it in about 1994, so finally I can get a game in with them!  Twenty years...hmmm maybe I should do 6mm for everything in future!

The Theban's I purchased because they look great and I have some of the Spartans and Athenians which Warlord Games now produce.  Hopefully I can crack on with these soon as I really want to see how they look.  Ian also bought some Athenians so Hoplites could soon be ready for action - watch this space (for about 20 years if the Anglo-Saxon Army of mine is anything to go by!).

I made another purchase too...Napoleonics.  I had bought some Victrix and Perry boxed sets but hadn't got far with painting them.  I had made a decision to do Napoleonics in 6mm just to get playing.  But today all this changed.  Ian was selling up some of his Napoleonics.  I saw them and had to have them....I shall cease typing now and leave you to view the pics of my purchase of Ian's excellent work.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge - 370th Anniversary Walk

An excellent information signboard on Cropredy Bridge
 with illustrations that will be familiar to many of us

For many years I have wanted to walk the battlefield of Cropredy Bridge.  It's really a local battlefield to me as it is less than an hours drive away and in the same county, so to have neglected a visit for this long has been very remiss of me.  So having looked for a suitable weekend this summer, I was amazed to find that the best weekend for me was actually the 370th anniversary of the battle to the day, 29th June - quite a remarkable co-incidence!

 Ghosts?... or had others remembered the anniversary too?

A view over the side of the bridge of the now tranquil River Cherwell

Having walked the battlefield of Roundway Down on the way back from the 'Attack' wargaming show in 2012, my regular wargaming opponent Ian and I both felt that walking the battlefield was enormously useful in understanding the battle.  At Roundway Down in particular, the sudden drops off the sides of the battlefield were very impressive, even catching me out, who despite being on foot, managed to loose my footing and slid 12 feet down before stopping my rapid descent.  No wonder the steep slopes were the end of Haselrigge's cavalry there!

A good bunch of guys from the Tower Hamlets Regiment of the Sealed Knot
who gave up their Sunday to educate passing members of the public 
and to commemorate the battle

So armed with map,compasses, binos (primarily for spotting hidden stiles in distant hedgerows), battlefield books and lunch we set off on a circular walk starting from Cropredy bridge itself.  

I don't aim to present a history of the battle here other than to say that this is a particularly fascinating battle. The Parliamentarian Commander, Sir William Waller, watching the marching Royalists columns getting strung out (rather like the French at Salamanca) noticed a large gap appear and decided to attack and defeat the Royalists piecemeal.  The plan however, didn't survive the execution, and despite it's brilliance his army took the worst of the encounter.  There are excellent descriptions of the battle on websites and of course so many books.  This account is more a brief description of the walk and how it enhanced my understanding of the battle from the context of a wargamer.

 We aimed for Slat Mill first of all to the point where the Parliamentarian cavalry crossed and attacked the rearguard.  Finding an old disused mill and a crossing point, we took this, but alas on reflection I think that it was actually Cropredy Mill.  It was still an important part of the battle but it seems that the Parliamentarian cavalry crossed there also to attack the Royalist main body in conjunction with the forces crossing Cropredy Bridge. We should have headed further south to reach Slat Mill.

An advantage of crossing at Cropredy Mill was that by following the track and crossing a busy road, we were then able to cross join a footpath that went right across the centre of the battlefield.  This is below the ridge to the west of the village of Wardington.

Map of battle. Original source unknown (happy to acknowledge source when discovered!)

The village of Cropredy taken standing on the road between Cropredy and Williamscott. This field would have seen the Parliamentarian main force advance and then be repulsed back over Cropredy Bridge by the Royalist cavalry.

 Looking East towards Williamscott

The distant church tower very helpfully shows the location of Wardington.

Most of the action appears to have happened in the lower ground below the ridgelines, sloping down towards Cropredy. There is almost a bowl formed between all the main points of the action, and the footpath goes right across the centre, so you know that you are walking right in the middle of where it all happened.

Crossing near the centre of the battlefield and looking west towards Cropredy.
  This wouldn't have been the place to stand 370 years ago!

Crossing the battlefield we decided to walk to the most northerly part of the battle at Hays Bridge.  This is where the Royalist vanguard overturned a wagon and prevented Haselrigge's cavalry from making further attacks on them before driving the Roundheads off.

 The photo from Hays Bridge looks so peaceful but behind me its the the A361 and cars are going past my rear at 50mph plus with little room to spare

 A side view of Hays Bridge. It was a relief to get off the busy road.  There is no indication whatsoever of what happened on this bridge all those years ago. No signage - nothing. How can something so historic be so ignored?

The first view of the author on this blog!  The compass, book and maps were so useful.

A few pics of beautiful Cropredy which I took on the way back into the village.

The wonderful church which houses a small display about the battle. Also displayed is a replica of a pikeman's armour replacing an original which was stolen from the church three times (the third time being the last time it was ever seen sadly).

It was really nice to see that The Battlefields Trust and the Sealed Knot had left wreaths on the bridge to remember the fallen.

A bit more about the bridge.  Sadly the actual bridge at Cropredy standing now is not the one which stood during the battle. The Bishop of Lincoln must have been a strong fellow to have built it, but I guess it must have been a nice change from the church job (!)

I have to say that it was an excellent walk and I thoroughly recommend it. The countryside is beautiful and it's amazing that so much of the battlefield is accessible.  This must be pretty rare in this country!  It was quite easy to match the lie of the land to the key points and it was also possible to see where things could go wrong.  Topography played a major part in the battle.  The ridgeline to the west behind Cropredy gave Waller his view of the Royalist error and also formed the position where his army drew back to watch the Royalists on the opposing ridge at Wardington.  

It was quite something to see what both sides would have seen and get an understanding as to how things happened.  The command and control element must have been very difficult, especially in regards to the attack on Hays bridge.Units would have disappeared out of sight and Waller must have been blind to how things were on various parts of the battlefield.  When things started going wrong, they would have started going wrong quickly and the bridges formed natural choke points.  

I'm not so sure the whole battle is playable in 28mm without some some serious scaling down or a much larger table than the one that I have.  Slat Mill could probably be left out of a re-fight and just allow Parliamentarian cavalry to appear from the table edge from that direction, this would probably work quite well.  There are some interesting quirky unusual items required for this battle.  The Parliamentarians had 'two barricadoes of wood which were drawn upon wheels, and in each seven small brass and leather guns charged with case-shot'.  This sounds awesome - it would be great to field these on the board!