Monday, May 24, 2010

Discourse: Impetus for Battle

In a previous post (Book Review: E.L. Mann’s ‘The Battle of Lewes’) I referred to Mann’s analysis of the motivation for engagement at Lewes. Mann believed that the forces were near to equal and that the battle fell in favour of de Montfort when King Henry gave up his advantage of a strong defensive position from within Lewes. Furthermore, the drive for coming out to battle is explained in terms of the knightly class pursuit of glory in a chivalric tradition.

From my discourse on the subject of the size of the armies present at Lewes in 1264 (Discourse: How Big was Lewes?) my position on the armies remains that there existed a Royal superiority in the vicinity of 3:2 or greater. If so, Mann’s estimation of numbers is at odds with mine. This in turn undermines any sympathy I can have with criticism of Henry in giving up a necessary defensive advantage. On the contrary, his superiority was more than quantitative inasmuch as his overwhelming advantage in heavy cavalry would have given the King a dominant hand on almost any battle field in southern England.

Rather than relying on chivalric compulsions to combat, I rather suspect that assembling ones forces in this political and family feud was as much to do with brinkmanship in securing a negotiation of terms for the chief protagonists as it was for direct tactical application on the field of battle. Let us not forget that Simon de Montfort with his sons Henry, Simon and Guy were family to King Henry, Richard of Cornwall and the Prince Edward. Extending beyond this, whilst open conflict had broken out over the months previous to Lewes, terms appear to have been generous for the defeated in theatres such as at Northhampton and, as in all civil wars, relatives and friends found themselves on opposing sides.

The chroniclers tell us and historians recount that letters were exchanged up to the night before battle in attempts at reconciliation. I also think that seeing being believing, a negotiation was possible and in the minds of both Henry, Simon and their chief adherents even as late as the morning of battle. One can find much in the so called Second Barons War which is seen played out two hundred years later in the earlier episodes of the Wars of the Roses – after all, the issue was not who would be King, but who shared access to the monarch at court. I suggest that this might have been the attitude of de Montfort and is reflected in his seizing but holding position at the top of the Lewes Downs.

Supporting the notion of de Montfort as a reluctant combatant is his failure to capitalise on the night march and his surprise of the royalists. If we accept that the Kings army was unprepared (and there is no suggestion it was otherwise) de Montfort threw away an opportunity to defeat an unformed army or hold them to the town precincts. Such an assualt would have negated Henry’s overwhelming advantage in cavalry. Given the numbers of horse arrayed against him, de Montfort could have avoided the risk of the subsequent rout of his London flank later that morning and the threat it posed for his whole army. In this light, de Montfort’s deployments could be deemed dangerously timid and in tactical error unless he persisted in the hope of reconciliation.

In spite of open hostility having been in play for months, there remained a vast difference in the risks associated with raiding and sieging compared with open battle: the former was the raison d’ĂȘtre of medieval militarism and the latter, the recourse of the gambler/adventurer. Both sides had much to gain from victory at Lewes but as much, if not more to lose.

So, if one does not follow with the contact theory from a common chivalric mindset, when did battle become inevitable?

Obviously the first clash occurred on the rebel left flank as Royal knights rode against Rebel Londoners and I suspect that this may also have been the catalyst for a general advance. Much has been made of an impassioned Prince Edward, supposedly incensed at the previous mistreatment of his Mother by the London mob, seeing red and unleashing the full force of an uncontrollable feudal horde. If we follow this popular criticism of a the young, head-strong Prince, we must presume that his charge was precipitous in order for us to utilise the full power of hindsight in blaming Edward for the loss of Lewes. We need to agree that he stepped-off too early and his attack was unplanned and resulted in an uncoordinated Royalist attack. The subsequent failure to rally the horse from pursuit of the broken rebel flank is viewed as another symptom of amateurish command stemming from intemperate youth. It also compels us to believe that the rest of the command group for the Royal horse were either blindly obedient, wretchedly inexperienced or just plain rash.

Monkish blame-storming aside, what if we consider that the cavalry attack was planned or even prudent? We know that de Montfort appeared on the high ground in command of the field and caught the King by surprise with his night march to Lewes. If the King assumed the failure of the previous night’s conciliators engendered a commitment to battle in his brother-in-law, Prince Edward charge might check a potential rebel advance. Such a move would enable the other two thirds of the army time to prepare for battle and form up. Bearing in mind that the subsequent departure of the horse from the field could not have been anticipated, this does not seem improbable.

Accepting a 3:2 numerical and additional qualitative advantage for the King, and given his inability to discern de Montfort’s dispositions from his positioning on the heights, it would not have been unreasonable of Henry to suppose that his commitment of the horse to crush the London flank would have routed the opposition. If Henry had supposed that Simon has arrayed his army in similar fashion to himself, he would not have appreciated the potential of de Montfort’s reserve or guessed at the rebels remaining steady in the face of their left flank breaking.

If we follow with tradition, negotiation may indeed have gone out the window following an unmeditated cavalry assault by the Prince. As alleged by the chroniclers, the launch of the cavalry may have triggered an ill prepared advance by Henry and Richard as they attempted to co-ordinate momentum across the entire front. If the centre and left Royal wards were playing catch-up, this helps to explain how the vanguards became confused and lost cohesion through their impetus in advance. As the rise narrows, the foot ascended the slopes and the King found his army vulnerable to a down-hill rush by the rebels.

Let us also speculate how the cavalry took off. If we agree that they acted impetuously, was it in the mind of the Prince or could he have lost control of his impetuous host? Consider where the Lusignans were in the order of battle. How many other 'foreign' knights and those opposed to reform had vested interests in crushing de Montfort: more of an enemy to them than to his nephew, Prince Edward.

Moving forward to rout and pursuit, I have previously discussed the nature of the Londoner’s flight and how the pursuit might have broken down. Giving ground, retreating at first and then routing; I have surmised that the collapse of the London rebels may not have been as immediate or swift as historians assume. We do not no how long Prince Edward’s breakthrough took. Similarly, we do not know how long King Henry and his brother Richard took to join battle either. We also cannot say with certainty at what point de Montfort rushed to meet them. Whilst battlefield topography might dictate the optimum space into which de Montfort most probably counter-attacked, we do not know where the fleeing Londoners and the Prince’s horse were relative to the remaining armies at that time.

So, does this speculation get us any closer to a precise understanding of the battle and why it was fought? Not really. What I hope it does do is challenge habits of unjustified criticism; in this case criticism of the King and Prince Edward. We cannot know for sure what was in the mind of the generals as they didn’t recount them personally and the habits of great men had not at that time turned to providing history with written memoirs. If we do not know their plan, or even if there was a plan, we are in no position to ridicule it. What does seem likely was de Montfort’s tactical flexibility partially gained through his adoption of a reserve. The King, in not doing so, did not provide himself with options in the case of a failed assault.

I am inclined to see de Montfort as a flexible general and politician, providing himself with as many options as circumstances would allow. His seize-and-hold tactics on the heights and his adoption of a reserve all indicate that he was prepared to negotiate rather than fight. After all, strategically, de Montfort has been outmanoeuvred and outnumbered so naturally he should have preferred to talk than fight. The King, on the other hand, wanted to settle control of his court and, whilst taken by surprise by the appearance of the rebels at Lewes, appears to me to have committed to battle. Confident in the size and composition of his army, Henry does seem to have committed to an all out assault.

The King’s lack of reserve indicates over-confidence and failure to anticipate the need for tactical flexibility in the face of the unthinkable. The disposition of the Kings’ army, though reacting to de Montfort’s stealing the high ground advantage, nevertheless supports the notion that he had committed to battle even if his brother-in-law had not. Regardless of how the assault unfolded, the battle of Lewes became inevitable once de Montfort arrayed his army above the town. I submit that chivalry in any form had no part in the causes for battle. Whilst we are right to theorise over the relative loss of advantage from an uphill assault with no reserve, the loss of Lewes by the King was as much to do with the chaotic fortunes of war as any fundamental failure in planning or martial ability in Henry or Prince Edward.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Identifying the Rebels

When it comes to identifying the Rebels, and I'm really talking about the knights, I have been presented with a number of problems. The first is that such a list does not appear to exist. This is most probably because no one until now (ie: me) required one. After all, who but a wargamer, attempting to represent a battle visually with as much accuracy as possible, would need to identify individual knights present on the fieled of Lewes?

The list which follows is a work in progress and stems from my research into secondary sources as well as an examination of chronicles, the Fine Rolls of Henry III for the years 1263 and 1264 (available now on line) and the Patent Rolls of the same years made available on line by the Iowa University Library. Perhaps obvious to the wargamer, it is not enough to identify a knight named as a Rebel. Identified Rebel knights also need to have an identifiable blazon or shield device in order for me to paint a corresponding figure and depict that person in the army. For a representative ration of 1:20, you'd think that such a task would be simple enough but not so.

In a perfect world I'd have been able to identify sufficient knights as both rebels and present at Lewes. In order for me to make my list I have had to make certain assumptions or more precicesly conjectures as to the combative nature of a knight identified as in rebellion against the King and often their presence at Lewes on the day of battle.  For example, I identified rebel knights through the fine rolls who are clearly stated as having broken the king's peace whereas in certain cases they are identified in the Patent rolls where they have been ordered by the king to surrender possessions (town or castles) to loyal knights due to those possession having fallen into their hand due to the rebellion. Once their condition or status of rebel can be comfortably maintained I then have to surmise their capacity to bear arms and their presence at Lewes.

All of my unit and ward commanders are recorded by the chroniclers as having been present ... so no dramas there then. Of the rest of my rebel knights only about 1/10th are recorded as such and such is life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review: Carey, Allfree and Cairns' "Warfare in the Medieval World"

Published by Pen & Sword Military press (2006), Brian Carey and Joshua Allfree have assembled the best military analysis of the medieval age I have ever read. Accompanied by the fantastically explanatory and evolutionary illustrations of John Cairns, this book demonstrates applied tactical doctrine through 33 battles and their accompanying campaigns, debugging the persistent historical myths and misconceptions of medieval warfare and generalship.

Specific to mid thirteenth century warfare, Chapter 5 'Late Medieval Warfare: The Return of Light Infantry" dedicates 38 pages to an analysis of the battle of Bouvines (1214) and the campaigns of Edward in Wales and Scotland to demonstrate the importance of combined arms fieldcraft, the importance of infantry in the age of chivalric warfare and the increasing presence and impact of ranged weaponry of the crossbow and selfbow armed soldiery.

Of particular interest is a discussion of horse armour in response to archery. Whilst it tends to concentrate this discourse on the later, Hundred Years war period of plate armour and barding in the face of the longbow and windlass crossbow, I would argue that the same concepts must extend back to the earliest introduction of quilted and caparison horse protection, so prevalent by the battle of Lewes.

This is a must have edition for any student of medieval military history.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Miniatures Review: Curtey's Miniatures - Infantry, 13th century Spearmen

By way of a crude figure comparison, from left to right are examples from Gripping Beast, Curteys Miniatures, Wargames Foundry and Essex Miniatures. The left two will feature in my spear units for the Rebel Right Ward. The Curtey's figures are of a smaller stature than the Gripping Beast figures but will mix well. It has long been my philosophy that figures within a wargames unit, like real life, should reflect the differences in human appearance, more so for irregular units predominant in the 13th century.

For some unknown reason half of my square on shots of this selection (taken from Curteys ME33 pack) will not upload without rotating (go figure) so you get the angled shot above. I have to say that on first impression I am extremely excited about these miniatures. 

They are superbly detailed and are realistically proportioned - not at all toy like or chunky. As Curteys range suggests, they are also designed specifically for the mid-thirteenth century period and come with a range or subtle variations, one with a hood and three with caps. The shields come in two varieties but I will be adding a third (round) from their javalinmen range (ME30 and ME31) who I will mix into the unit for further variety. The javalinmen also come with two shield types, small (bucker) and larger round shields. As you can see, the backs of the shields are also very detailed.

The pewter content of Curteys alloy seems to give the best compromise of malleability with sufficient rigidity and the spears are rigid enough even for me to use which is rare; I usually resort making steel wire substitutes. Weapon retention for these figures is the same as that used by Gripping Beast with hands cast to receive weapons. Taken together with the pewter content, only time will tell if they present similar difficulties; however, the hands have a better finish than the Gripping Beast figures, the spears resting nicely in the recesses before 'cleaning'. 

I predict that I will enjoy building and painting these figures and also predict they will make for the best figures I can produce. If I'm right, Curteys Miniatures will make for a significant proportion of the armies at my re-fight of Lewes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: E.L.Mann's 'The Battle of Lewes'

Published in 1976 by M Harman St Nicholas Bookshop, Lewes, this pocket sized 32 page account appears to be aimed at the tourist, high school student or as an introduction to the subject of the battle at Lewes. It is a general account, not academically referenced and E L Mann's self drawn map is simplistic. The author does go into some considerations and analysis not found elsewhere. It is to be remembered that by the date of publication, subsequent academic treatments such as Dr Carpenter's Battles of Lewes and Evesham remained many years in the future.

Under the 'Notes' section (page 27) the author discusses strategy. Mann's position that the size of the armies present being comparable for an engagement to have occurred forms the basis of a criticism of Henry in giving up a strong, fortified defensive position. This and the declaration of no major battle having been fought in England for fifty plus years forms the basis for commenting that military organisation or skill could not have been of a high order. The final impetus for battle is blamed on the protagonists pursuit of honour and glory, routed in chivalric concepts of the day. I will discuss these concepts in a future discourse.

There is a detailed list of major characters who led both sides into battle and some discussion of arms and armour with an expansion on the subjects of 'mail' and 'shields'. Some highly debatable comments such as ' ... the all-conquering longbow of the next century was not yet developed' and accompanying statements such as 'Bows were small and inaccurate and arrows could be dodged or caught harmlessly on shields ...' stand unsupported in the text.

This account is a quick, enjoyable read and whilst arguably dubious comments are to be found throughout the text, it does contribute to the general body of knowledge for the battle of Lewes even if eclipsed by subsequent works. As a final note, wargamers might find the cover (pictured above) of interest for two reasons. It depicts an impression of the windmill in which Richard of Cornwall is said to have held up during the royal rout. Observe the character wearing the crown and consider that Richard, as King of the Romans might have worn a crown on the day. Clearly the windmill, in whatever fashion I research, will feature on my miniature battlefield and will have sails.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rebel Right Ward Archers: Modelling

This was a relatively fast turn out for me and well it should have been - a skirmish unit of twelve archers. The exercise was interesting in itself because it is a combination of two new paint jobs and a touch-up of ten very old ones (more than 15 years at a guess). If you hadn't figured, the old ones are on top. I will point out that the bases are also partially upgraded as my older archers are based on balsa wood - something I rarely use for that purpose these days - and I have chamferred the edges. The static grass is to be touched up also as what you see is too green and not blended. I have added magnetised sheet to the base which reinforced the balsa and helps for transport in my collection of metal toolboxes.

Deficiencies in my previous paint jobs were essentially to be found in the faces which I have redone, and the lack of detail in the arrow bundles - now remedied. Some previous archers have their bows strung with my wife's hair (thank you darling) but I have strung the two new archers' bows with silk thread. Generally, I have not been as fastidious with this unit as I would have been with a new unit. By re-touching them I made a number of compromises and made some 'near-enough is good-enough' determinations as I went. For example, the way I strung the bows has the wraps at either end far too far down their length. For the archers in my next ward I will carve niches to accommodate stringing to the bow extremities and I will string all of them.
I believe all of of these figures are Wargames Foundry miniatures and I have to say I like the castings very much. The poses of these figures appear to me to either represent the archer bending into the shot at only 3/4 pull or at that point just after loosing the shot. I'd like to field some full tension archers in future but we shall see what is available. Foundry poses are typically very limited and without variation for this, one of their older ranges. They are capable of being manipulated but only really as far as the arm of the bow hand and angle or pitch of the bow is concerned. I had previously added pins for arrows (crude, but again good enough this time) and will apply finer creations next time as well as stringing the bows under full tension.

For my wargaming purposes, my list currently has my archers with no protection but as you see, half of the archers are in gambeson and I am considering whether or not to given then half saving throws. You may note that they either have arm bands of red cloth with white crosses or a white cross on their gambeson. This is in keeping with the chronicler's account of the field identification adopted by de Montfort's army who has them adopting the white cross. The red arm band is my liscence in line with de Montfort's colours of gules a lion rampant argent as well as a reversal of the traditional and perhaps loyalist tinctures of the cross of St George.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

WAB Rebel Army List (Version 3)

Rebel Army V3

Discourse: Collapse of the Londoners (Rebel Left Ward)

Perhaps the pivotal event of the entire battle was the collapse of the Londoner's under Prince Edward's massed cavalry attack. Formed up on the high ground atop Lewes Downs nearest the chalk pits were the foot soldiers of London under the command of Nicholas de Segrave. Advancing toward them was the cream of the Royalist Army, the overwhelming ranks of knights, sergeants and squires; an entire cavalry ward of some 2,600 horse (see posting Discourse: How Big was Lewes). Two things are recounted in every treatment of this battle - the Royalist cavalry attached first and the Londoner's were routed convincingly. Thus far; however, I have seen no analysis of the events surrounding this aspect of the battle or any attempt to understand what occurred occurred during this fatal engagement.

[Map pictures is section taken from that produced by The Battlefields Trust copyright 2004. It is plotted across a 1km grid and the rear dispositions in unshaded blocks represent the dispositions according to the Trust and the forward dispositions those according to Dr David Carpenter - in both cased blue indicating Royalists and red the Rebels. In either representation, the left most block in red is that of the Londoners' ward and opposite them, the right ward Royalist cavalry.] 

The Montfortian Dispositions

In the absence of any contrary evidence I have approached the division of de Montfort's army evenly into four wards. I believe that Simon de Montfort demonstrated superior tactical abilities through his night march to Lewes and in his choosing to take and hold the high ground. The Downs plateaus from the top running back to Offam for some distance allowing a sizeable army to form up and present as much of itself as de Montfort chose to - the Royalists not being able to determine the size, depth of dispositions of the Rebels. De Montfort had good lines of communication and the entire front of the army would have been readily ascertained by de Montfort from almost anywhere along the line. Furthermore, this high ground allowed the Rebel general to read every movement of the Royalists as they emerged from Lewes and he would have been able to anticipate every move, matching his own dispositions accordingly. It cannot be known for certain when de Montfort determined upon a fourth ward and effective reserve. A reserve demonstrates experience and military prudence but at Lewes and upon the ground de Montfort deployed, he would have been able to position his reserve entirely unseen by the enemy and commit them to battle when and where he chose for the greatest effect. For these reasons I incline toward the above Battlefield Trust dispositions for the battle.

London Dilemma: Infantry vs Horse

Given then that the overwhelming cavalry thrust against the Rebel left flank must have been seen well in advance, why then were the Londoners left to their own? For me, this episode poses a number of questions:
  1. Why did the Londoner's receive the charge at all?
  2. Did de Montfort have a plan for the Londoners?
  3. Who were the Londoners?
  4. Why did these events make such an impact on the battle?
The first two questions are very much linked but I suggest that one reason for the Londoner's preparedness to take the brunt of Prince Edward's charge is that they believed they may have stood a chance of holding. I have found next to no treatment of west European infantry tactics of the mid 13th century but I fail to see that previous shield wall defensive doctrine so well entrenched by the time of Hastings should have given way to anything else over the following 200 years. Packed tightly together, armed with a large shield, a stout spear and a gambeson, infantry en masse might absorb the initial impact and shock of a cavalry onslaught even in the era of the couched lance.

Such a stand requires confidence in one another and in the strength of arms which a city levy may not have had without the additional support of improvised field defenses. We are told by the chroniclers that de Montfort arrives at Lewes by first light and that his arrival caught the Royalist unprepared. Simon de Montfort did not press any attack into the town; however, indicating his 'sieze and hold' policy in relation to the heights above the Downs. On the left flank, the slope is gentler than the centre and right of the line making the ground vulnerable to mounted assault. Given that this is precisely where the Royalists formed up and attacked and given that de Montfort had all the time in the world to watch the Royalist horse assembling to do so, one questions what he had in mind for the left flank.

A Limited Field of Battle

As I have mentioned in an earlier posting (Battlefield:Royal Left Flank) the thin topsoil over chalk made for good heavy cavalry ground and impossible for defenders to dig. If de Montfort knew the lay of the land he may not have been familiar with its composition and wrongly relied on an ability to prepare pits and stakes. It seems likely that any opportunity de Montfort's march had given him, the Lewes chalk took away. I am speculating about infantry tactics when it comes to field defenses and admit the primary sources are silent on the subject. In the face of the superior cavalry of the period; however, and mindful that 1264 is not so far removed from the later wars against the Scots or French where the use of schiltrons, stakes and pits are recorded, might we not suppose that they were usually employed by infantry in the absence of an equivalent cavalry force? We should not limit our attempts at understanding tactics of the day from the limitations and scarcity of primary sources specific to the mid-thirteenth century.

Men of London

The Londoner's, likely to have been largely made up of city militia men may well have a good number of experienced soldiers and ex-mercenaries from foreign wars and Welsh conflicts; London being an international port of trade and human transit. As a centre of wealth, trade and industry, I also suspect that most men would have a higher than average access to and likelihood of wearing body armour such as a padded gambeson or even mail in comparison to rural levies. The Londoner's were spirited and motivated if their stoning of the Queen on the Thames during her attempted exit from the city is any indication. Their morale and self-confidence may have been high. One thing we do not know about the collapse of the Londoners is how long it took.

We do know that Prince Edward's horse formed up ahead of the rest of the Royal army and that he initiated the attack before the King was ready to co-ordinate the general advance. We do not know; however, how long before the general advance his attack was put in. It is a habit of the age to describe the effect of chivalric arms in exaggerated terms, given the sponsors for these chronicles and their intended readership. Whilst we accept the routing of the Londoners in the final analysis, it may have taken several attempts or at least taken some time before cohesion was lost and men began to give ground in the face of mounting casualties. The formed Londoners may also have given considerable ground before the rout took hold, men finally giving up hope, seized with panic and running pell mell for their lives.

The Flight

The rout may not have occurred quickly either. One can imagine groups of seasoned veterans and life long comrades sticking together, forming dispersed attempts at organised defense. Running with your back to blood-thirsty knights was tantamount to suicide. A knight riding down a broken foe might prefer to hack at the panic stricken and defenseless but a series of less co-ordinated grouping and re-groupings by the Royalist horsemen may have been required to ensure the irrevocable destruction of these dangerous Londoners. History has damned Prince Edward for allowing his hatred for the London mob to affect his control of the horse and we are given the image if an easy and crushing initial collapse of the London flank followed by an emotional, unthinking pursuit.

We are only provided with a simplistic account of the battle from monastic scribes but we have little real knowledge of precisely what occurred on that flank other than the Londoners were routed and the horse returned too late. Behind these two simple facts are a number of possibilities. It is possible that some of de Montofrt's reserve was committed to keeping the royalist cavalry from the rest of the army. Simon de Montfort may not have had the strength to beat Edwards cavalry: given their commitment against the Londoners, de Montfort needed only to delay them, separating them long enough for his unimpeded downhill rush on the King's confused, uphill advance.

[This map is a detail taken from deployments according to English Heritage (1995) over a modern 1:25 000 topographical  map by permission of Ordnance Survey registered trade mark Crown copyright 1999 - the Rebel army in red and Royalists in blue.]

Mind of the General

In marching upon Lewes, Simon de Montfort may not have appreciated the size of cavalry force the Royalists could put into the field. Whilst he no doubt had an effective network of agents, spies and sympathises throughout the countryside, he may still have failed to grasp the situation until seeing two and a half thousand mounted men for himself. In this situation, what might he have been thinking? Does he trust to luck and put his confidence in the men of London, hoping that they hold long enough to arrest the momentum of the charge and then commit his reserve against the cavalry once they are stationary and at their most vulnerable to the spearmen?

Alternatively, does he see the hopelessness of the situation from the time Prince Edward forms up and proceeds to thin the Londoner's ranks from the rear in an attempt to salvage what he can from his doomed flank? If a breakthrough was to occur, his line may be rolled up from the left but in maneuvering his reserve, de Montfort may have been able to shore up the line and compel the enemy cavalry to withdraw and re-group to renew the charge. In any event, Simon de Montfort was an experienced war leader and knew that any plans adopted required flexibility - hence his reserve.

A third possibility is that understanding the lack of discipline of a mounted feudal host, de Montfort gambled with the lives of the Londoners, trusting that they would rout and that the cavalry would not fail to pursue them. Could he have predicted events, calculating a left flank trade off to bring the total forces of his army and the Kings into balance with de Montfort holding the high ground and the upper hand? If such was in the mind of the Rebel leader, one might still muse whether this was his plan or understanding from before his night march or if it occurred to him as the battle began to unfold. It is also possible that if de Montfort was as good a general as I believe he was, a combination of all of these thoughts were likely to have occurred to him throughout the day, taking opportunities as they presented and making the best of every eventuality.

Perhaps a final comment on the military mind of de Montfort is that like all politicians and generals, he took risks, albeit calculated ones and at Lewes, they paid off.

So, the Londoner's under Nicholas de Segrave gave way to the mounted might of Royalist arms, routing from the field and being pursued for miles. In doing so, the chronicles tell us that the horse failed to rally in time to participate in the rest of the battle for which fortunes were reversed with the Rebels sweeping down off the heights and seizing the day. The impact of this effective removal of the Royal horse was that aside from personal bodyguards to Richard of Cornwall and the King, there were few cavalry remaining on the field for the Royalists to match what was by that point the superior numbers of Rebel horse. This disparity can be confidently surmised as it was usual practice to divide the horse equally amongst an army's wards or divisions which, in the absence of contrary evidence, was a practice we can assume de Montfort followed.

Wargaming Considerations

To represent the above considerations I have elected to rate my Londoners Militia and arm them with Thrusting Spear (Warhammer Ancient Battles) shield and light armour which is a change from my original Rebel Army List Version 1. I am not reintroducing shield wall capabilities for them though this may be an option for others. I am reckoning on their saving throw of 5+ and their numbers (70) may give them a fighting chance.

I have applied Hatred psychology for Prince Edward in keeping with the chroniclers' accounts of his attitude toward the Londoner's following their assaults against his Mother. I also introduced a new psychology of 'Glory Seeking' for the Royalist sergeants and squires being a compulsion to pursue all retreating, routing or Fall Back In Good Order (Warhammer rule) as a result of melee with them as well as a Leadership test to prevent pursuit/charge against any retreating or routing unit within 24". These features are clearly designed to bring about the likelihood of a pursuit by the right flank cavalry for the re-fight of this battle.

Book Review : David Carpenter's 'The Battles of Lewes & Evesham 1264/5'

In researching and understanding the battle of Lewes, until such time as Osprey Campaign Series release an attempt at our subject, this work remains the one essential buy if you purchase no other. Don't be dismayed by this slender, 83 page work because it is economical and value packed, succinctly drawing upon all primary sources and running invaluable comparisons across subject issues such as the numbers present at Lewes and the location of the battlefield.

Specific to the battle of Lewes is chapter 4 The Road to Lewes and chapter 5, The Battle of Lewes running to a total of 25 pages but, as I say, all particularly useful pages. Of special interest is the bibliography which Carpenter offers which points the student in the direction of all pertinent primary sources, near to contemporary sources (the thirteenth century chroniclers) and specific new research emerging at the time of writing.
Just a quick note on the author, David Carpenter whose credentials in brief at the time of publishing (1987) can be read on the back cover. An historian whose speciality remains very much in thirteenth century England; he is currently championing the translation and publication on-line of the fine rolls of John, Henry III and Edward I which has yielded and continues to yield an exponentially developed understanding of the period. He pops up from time to time in historical documentaries on subjects ranging from the church to castles to architecture generally. Thanks to his life's work I am aiming in the humblest of ways to take a small slice (the narrowest of subjects) and delve to the depths which can only be of interest to a military historian or wargamer. If I ever had the chance to meet this eminent mind I would only have one thing to say to Dr Carpenter - RESPECT.

Book Review: J.R.Maddicott's 'Simon De Montfort'

For any student of what many term the Second Barons' War, J R Maddicott's Simon De Montfort (Cambridge University Press 1994)  is one of the two cornerstone works together with David Carpenter's The Battles of Lewes and Evesham 1264/65. This is the cover of the second print (1995), the illustrations for which are taken from those drawn by the chronicler Matthew Paris for Prince  Edward and Eleanor, interpreted as depicting an apolcalyptic scene with de Montofort's banner in sinister tinctures of reversed shades. The arms depicted atop are also of de Montfort by Paris being the reverse of those more typically cited and used by me for the standard of his son, Henry de Montfort.

Whilst not specifically about the campaigns of 1264/5, Maddicott's work is irrevocably concerned with the events surrounding Lewes with much highly pertinent information to be found in chapters 6, 7 and 8 which concern themselves with the decline of the reform movement, the return of the general and the kingdom of Simon de Montfort up to his final defeat and demise at Evesham.

Meticulously researched, there is a wealth of detailed information including reference to those key Montfortian rebels requiring identification for my reconstructive purposes. It is also a fascinating read and whilst academic in nature, it rarely bogs down into argument with preceding scholarship and remains readable throughout. This is a book for the student and historian, the curious and of all things the wargamer also. I argue that anyone attempting to immerse themselves in the Second Barons' War must start with a detailed understanding of de Montofort who is the epicentre of the revolt and key to understanding Lewes - the climax of his life. In my view, this book remains the best insight into this man.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Modelling Units: Pt1

Some thoughts on modelling my cavalry units sprang to mind this morning as I surfed the Gripping Beast and Curtey's Miniatures websites, thinking about which mounted figures to buy for my next unit of ten knights.
If you have read through any of my other postings, you will know that I have spent a considerable amount of time researching knights who rebelled against the King and who were present at Lewes (albeit it speculative in some cases). I have to date established a list of about 40 knights/barons all of whom I have their heraldry recorded ... so they can be represented. It is possible; however, that I've overdone it.
My army lists represents what I think to be a reasonable assessment of the numbers present at Lewes in 1264 at a representative scale of 1/20. For my rebel army, therefore, I needs only 40 heavy horse in total - ten per ward. having finished the Right Ward knights (10) I see I have a body of fighting horsemen represented only by members of the knightly class with no representation of squires or sergeants who would have made for a significant proportion of the rebel cavalry, if not the majority - a knight usually bringing with him one or more retainers or neighbours of some class. Socially speaking, it appears that my units are now top-heavy.
Having identified people by name who can be visually displayed accurately from 750 year old records provides a serious compulsion to represent them. Thoughts of reducing the representative troop scale further to develop a proportionally structures series of cavalry units would imbalance the army unless consistently applied which increases overall numbers, costs and time to assemble what is already a major modelling effort ... in short, unthinkable. If not unthinkable for the rebel army, it would be a Herculean undertaking when applied to the royalist forces, being at least one third larger still. The alternative within the current numbers is to start making decisions about who's in and who's out ... I don't think I can do that.
The lesser men need representation so I think I will simply have them represented by the trumpeter and standard bearer. This will be proportionally inadequate and to be sure, the overall look of the unit will be wrong and imbalanced. My total rebel army for Lewes (at least as far as cavalry are concerned) will be an elite nucleus for a later up-scaled army. Through including additional squires and sergeants, I will be able to fight sections of the battle, not to mention other battles of the Second Baron's War at a smaller representative scale (say 1/10 or less) with more accurately proportioned units. I'll just have to learn to live with it.

Rebel Right Ward Knights: Modelling Pt2

A month of painting and simultaneous research and I have finished the painting of the Right Ward knights. At this stage I am electing not to complete the bases until the rest of the ward is finnished - I have commenced the archers and will then proceed to the two units of foot. The centre figure (representing William de Munchensy) I now realise should be with Gilbert de Clare's ward and not with this unit, so he is one of the two seperately based figures and will be replaced when I paint the next horse unit.

John de Neville (foreground) and Hugh de Neville (rear) pictured left. I had originally intended that Hugh would be the unit leader (required under WAB) but changed to John de Burgh. You will note that my Hugh has a painted helm (the only one) and I have to admit that if you refer to my Right Ward Knights: Research & Heradlry pdf you will see that his blazon should be paly (6) azure and or - not paly (6) or and azure as I have it here. As if that wasn't irritating enough, the reason I haven't changed it (and I did give it serious consideration) was becasue I had already mis-painted the chief argent and three escallops gules, changing it to the correct chief gules, three escallops argent you see depicted. A tip for the easily confused like myself ... if you have to draw the shield from a description as I did ... colour it in also.

I elected to have the unit standard as that of de Montfort with tinctures reversed as seen on the cover of J.R.Maddicott's Simon de Montfort 1995 (reprint) and have the herald/trumpeter in household livery. This is to differentiate it from the two other standards I will need for the foot units, commanded by the other two de Montfort brothers.

The only pennon I gave was to John de Burgh as senior baron in the group and nominated leader. Another compromise in my heradlry is with his blazon. As you can see it is quite complex and my painting skills and eyesight get me only so far. His lozengy pattern should be seven across (gules) and eight down - I have represented it by five across and five down.

Rebel Right Ward Knights: Research & Heraldry

This list is of knights I researched who are confirmed Montfortian rebels who were either at the battle of Lewes or can be safely surmised to have been. They represent the knights in the van of the right ward under Simon de Montfort (the younger) and there are only nine as this represents a 1/10 representation for my army list based upon my calculation of the army size, less one knight to allow for the standard bearer/trumpeter.

Right Ward Knights V1