Monday, 16 August 2010

An oppurtunity too good to miss

Well this isn’t a scheduled entry, but one of those wonderful moments which you just can’t pass up. I HAD to go up to West Yorkshire this weekend to collect my first gun; an Elizabethan Caliver. (more about the gun another time) I arranged to stay at Cunning Will’s place in Pickering, on the other side of York and having picked up the gun I was in no particular rush so took the scenic route, which just happened to take in the battlefield of Towton.

Towton was fought on Palm Sunday in 1461. One of the most important battles during the War of the Roses and the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. It is believed to have been fought by anything up to 90,000 (And there were as many as 25000 casualties) which, compared to some battles elsewhere doesn’t sound that much, but when you think that the population of England at the time was probably about 1.5 million then this number represent 6% of the population, that’s like a battle taking place nowadays with 3 million troops. So pretty huge really.

The battlefield lies between the villages of Towton and Saxton. I went to Saxton church first to find the grave of Lord Dacre, the commander of the Lancastrian right Flank. He was buried with his horse in the graveyard of the church. He was lucky he only had to share his grave with his horse most of the Lancastrian dead were buried in a nearby mass grave. Next to Dacre’s grave is a memorial for some unknown soldiers from the battle who were recently found.

From Saxton I drove towards Towton, right across the battlefield, which is wide open farm land now. As I was driving I glanced a white board attached to fence by the road, and as I drove past I realised there was a large cross visible in my rearview mirror, which had been obscured from the road by a large bush. So I reversed up the road and parked in the layby. This turned out to be Dacre’s Cross and marks the spot where he fell. It is also the main memorial for the battle and there were the remains of many red and white roses place upon it. I regret I had neither to leave, next time maybe.

I put on my livery coat and strolled across the fields from the road to the River Cock and ‘Bloody Meadow’ the site of a great slaughter of Lancastrians. The river and meadows look like the have changed little since the battle.

I was really pleased that I was able to stop here. Having recently fought at Tewkesbury, which felt like a battle, I was able to reflect on how it might have felt to stand on this field of battle. In truth it wasn’t possible, apart from anything else it was a lovely summer’s day, the sun glinted on the water of the River Cock and apart from the odd car going down the road there was nothing to hear except skylarks. The battle was fought in a blizzard and the sound I should think was intolerable. Nevertheless I enjoyed the solitude of the moment and paid my respects to the long fallen.

Post Script

Coming from down south where nothing closes, I couldn’t believe that the Rockingham Arms, the only pub in Towton was closed on a Sunday afternoon. So my toast to the King had to wait until I arrived in Pickering. I did notice the pub is also up for sale…now there’s an opportunity. I could have a lounge bar for Yorkists and the Lancastrians would have to be served in the yard:0)

A York A York!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Wargaming in August? Blimey!

Well it might be August and the Re-enactment season is well under way, but I still manage to squeeze the odd game in. Today's game was brought to you by a case of Ned's gyppy tummy which meant we couldn't take him to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford (Tomorrow maybe) so I was forced to stay home and find something else to do. Fortunately we were going with Kieran, one of my Living History and gaming buddies and he stayed and played.

We then had the usual dilemma, what to play? This has to be solved quickly , because if it doesn't we all too often end up talking about but never actually playing any wargames. So we plumped for 1588And All That, our 16th century England Invaded game.
We followed up a chat about Special characters in other games by breaking out the 'Three Cannoneers' table top representations of us and a further friend, Ant, and created a scenario for them.

The basic premise was that the Cannoneers were in a roadside inn, The Black Prince, with a few local militia men. The commander of nearby Spanish forces knew their whereabouts and wanted them captured, so he dispatched a small force to do so.

The Cannoneers have to avoid capture, the Spanish have to beat the three heroes in melee before the take 50% casualties. We played the game through twice. The second game being a little closer having made a few tweaks from play through one. Both games were great fun, the gun fire reverberated around, arrows whistled overhead and sword rang on sword. The results: Cannoneers lost one, won one.

Interestingly the game threw up some good talking points and as we are still tweaking we will be changing a few minor things on the website and wll definitely be adding this to the scenaraios section.

Now all I need to do now is get on with End Of Empire touch ups and scenery finishing, as I have a photoshoot for Wargames Illustrated later this month, and I need to settle on something to take to SELWG, as I have been invited again but have no idea what to take. All great problems to solve.

Monday, 2 August 2010

TEWKESBURY, The battle of

Well it's been a few weeks and they have been a tad busy, work gets in the way you know. Now however as the weeks of the Summer holidays roll on I have some time to catch up. The Re-enactment world is pretty busy at this time of year. It is almost impossible to visit a site of historical interest in the UK these days without there being some costumed wierdo bringing the whole thing to life, and I thoroughly enjoy being one of those wierdos:0)

One of the highlights of the year is the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival, in Gloucestershire. It is a free event for the public and the whole town (and surrounding locality I should think) gets involved. The climax of the festival is the re-enactment of the battle fought in 1471, where Edward iv secured his throne and brought England into a short period of peace.

The battle was fought over quite a large area, the reenactment is fought on part of the battlefield named 'Bloody Meadow'. A handful of the Suffolk Free Company were invited to join some friends who form the Household of Sir James Tyrrel a Yorkist knight who was knighted on the field during the battle. We leapt at the opportunity to fight for the King in his Vanguard.

We go for the battle only, unlike other re-enactments where we do the whole Living History thing, Tewkesbury is a great opportunity to go 'light' when I say light we still take a shed load of kit just no trailer and got three adults in the car (Kids stayed with Nanny). The Festival has a great market and a great beer tent.

Friday night was spent in the beer/cider tent and the Suffolks all returned to their encampment a little worse for wear, some more than others, so it was with no right whatsoever that I was able to get up as sparkily as I did on Saturday. First stop Full English, second stop Kasto the Czech armourer. I bought new pauldrons, with attached Spoulders and Heidi a set of legs. Now fully tinned up we were able to enjoy the rest of the day. Which culminated in the battle...

The battle is fought twice (with the result being the same both times, 2 nil to the House of York) Saturday was one of the hottest days of the year. and due to excessive numbers of visitors there was an hour delay marching on. This meant that we stood around in 50lbs of armour for an hour and half before we even started to move towards the battlefield. Blimey it was hot!

Finally, walking onto the battlefield, two things struck me (neither of them were arrows) First the crowd was immense , over 16000 on Saturday, a huge body of people had turned ou on this the hottest day of the year to watch us beat Lancastrians to a pulp. Secondly Tewkesbury is getting towards proper battle numbers, best part of 1000 combatants on each side. For the likes of me the closest (hopefully) I would ever get to a real battle.

The noise is incredible, drums, handguns, cannon. Shouts and screams and the constant clash of steel on steel. FANTASTIC. The banners bobbing above the blocks of billmen, indicating rallying points or where our forces had got to. Our block fought with the King with the Burgundian mercenaries on our right. And although we had not fought together as a unit before we fought like a well oiled machine. The Lancastrians in front of us, were on the whole pretty good but disorganised and they could not stand up to our ability to replace ranks by expanding our frontage to allow one line to have abreather and the next rank take up the fight.

It is amazing how little you know of what is going on on the field, you are concerned with what is immedietaly in front of you and to your left and right. You are made aware of cannon lanes (where you shouldn't stray due to big guns going bang) and the rest you really hope someone else is not wading in but watching and directing. Even in a pretend battle the adrenyline really pumps and it is not really until the battle is over and you have to march off back up the hill to where you are camped do you realised how knackered you are. It took me over an hour to recover from the heat and had it not been for Francis and Lorna getting me out of my armour and up ending several litres of water over me I should think I would have passed out.

The hottest yet, coolest thing I have done in along time.

Tewksbury was an excellent opportunity for Living History. Granted I didn't lose any limbs and none of my friends went down horribly maimed or killed, there was little in the way of screaming and Bloody Meadow only saw a few drops of blood, nevertheless I experienced some of the intensity of a medieval battle, the disorientation, the excitment and exhaustion. The other bits my imagination will have to fill in. I think I have it covered.

Thanks to all who played, the Tyrrels, and 1415 who we fought with see you at Bosworth:0)

There are more pics to come soon.