Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Falklands Legacy

I dug out the ships and aircraft I bought from for my Falklands project last week and started to sort them out in readiness to base and paint them.

I did find myself experiencing a slightly bitter taste however, as we'd just endured a week of coverage of the events surrounding the death of one of the chief protagonists in that war,

My view is that the Argentine Junta that invaded the Falklands were a reprehensible lot, and whilst I think the war could have been avoided if Britain had more careful about what signals it sent to the Argentines prior to their invasion, sending a task force to was the right thing to do.

I'm unsure whether war could have been avoided before the opening shots were fired, but once they were there was little choice but to pursue the objective of ejecting the Argentines. I'm sorry the British didn't go further and wage a war to topple the regime in Argentina, who were, after all, Fascists.

I do profoundly regret one result of the British victory though: the Conservative Party election victory the following year.

And so I'll close this post with the words of one young commentator:

Thatcher will be buried as a war hero, just like Churchill was, even though the Falklands conflict was, in territorial and strategic terms, a mere blip on the radar of history. The war of which Thatcher was the hero was quite a different war, a war whose territory was hearts, minds and markets, a war waged against social democracy, labour rights and the idea of the commons. It is this war whose general is being buried today.

The full piece can be read here: I encourage you to read it


Monday, 15 April 2013

Battle of Hazelhurst 1 February 1643 AAR

It's taken me a while to write this up - a combination of being busy at work and a bit  of a dip in enthusiasm for blogging and modelling this last couple of weeks, although I've been doing a fair amount of reading and thinking about my various campaigns and periods...

Anyway, readers will recall that the Royalists had embarked on a winter offensive in Borsetshire in early 1643. They successfully manoeuvred around the  outlying Roundhead defences of Borchester and were poised to attack the town from the north, an aspect where the defences were uncompleted but first had to force a crossing of the river Perch on the Hazelhurst road.

Parliament's men had marched out to meet them and after a cold night out in the field the scene was set for a battle.

Keith played the Parliamentary commander and had at his disposal a fair amount of artillery, including medium and light pieces, a couple of regiments of infantry and some harqubusiers which, as we were playing DBR, were graded inferior. His strength was the artillery, which meant he could sit back and bombard the Royalists with impunity (they had no artillery at all) until they were forced to attack. His other advantage was the river, which ran across the battlefield and which the Royalists would have to cross the close with his army. There was just one bridge and the state of the river was unknown at the beginning of the fight.

The snow covered battlefield with the Royalists in the foreground
Armies were 300 pts each and we played on a 4' x 3' table. We diced for who would be the defender (in DBR this determines who deploys first and, under our house variation, who gets to choose which table edge they deploy in front of). I ended up with the lower score so chose the side of the table that gave me the hill, merely to deny it to the Roundheads, and lined up in conventional style with the cavalry on the flanks in readiness for an advance on a broad front. I had some dragoons and cavalry positioned on the road ready to try and seize the bridge.

The Royalists advance - their formations have already been disrupted by Roundhead cannon fire

As the King's men moved forward, the Royalist commander sent some dragoons ahead to scout the river - would his men be able to cross it without too much difficulty? Alas for him the Perch was, on a dice throw, graded as 'tricky'. This meant any troops crossing had to do so in single element columns and had to throw 3 or higher to do so successfully and were reduced to 100 paces. The combination of these restrictions, particularly the 'single element column' rule, severely hampered any attempt to manoeuvre - under DBR's command and control rules, player initiative points (PIPs) for each command are diced for at the start of the player's bound. This meant that a regiment of foot fighting on a three element frontage would burn up three PIPs moving into the river, instead of just one - and that's before dicing to see if the move is possible at all. To make matters worse, should a column fail to roll a 3 plus, then no other attempts to cross may be made within 300 paces that bound! We agreed this restriction also applied to recoil moves, so an element in the river that had to recoil under fire was not guaranteed to able to do so, and in fact many elements were destroyed as they could not recoil.

The failure to scout the river before committing to a broad front strategy was, in short, a disaster for the Royalists. They simply could not make any headway and were shot to pieces as they floundered in the water.

On the left flank Royalist cavalry come under fire from Parliamentary light guns and caracoling pistoleers as they attempt to close

On the right the Royalists redeployed into column in an attempt to maintain cohesion as they tried to cross the Perch.

The King's men met with little success. A couple of elements of cavalry managed to close with their Roundhead counterparts who had advanced to the bank and fired on them as they attacked. With deep formations, overlaps and the advantage of defending the bank the factors were 6-2 in the Roundheads' favour...no wonder the Royalists were slaughtered.

A detachment of dragoons did manage to cross the bridge but was forced back by concentrated cannon fire. The infantry, including the well trained Welsh pikemen, never made it across the water. The commander of the Royalist cavalry was mortally wounded as he tried to lead by example and take a column of his men into the water.

The Royalist army soon broke, and little wonder.

Lesson learned - don't try and attack across a river in winter!

If I was playing this scenario again I wouldn't dice for attacker/defender. I'd have Parliament the defender and therefore deploying first and, if I were the Royalists I'd deploy the bulk of my troops a little way back from the river in column with my dragoons out front. The dragoons would scout the river and if it was paltry, and therefore easy to cross, I'd redeploy into line. Should it prove harder going then the only option would be to try and force the bridge.

Thanks to Keith for being such a good opponent, as usual.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Reports of Royalist Defeat at Hazelhurst

'Newes from divers sources of the shedding of much malignant blood in a fight at Hazelhurst. The river Perch is said to be red with the blood of the King's men who were slain as they tried to wade across it. Our gallant soldiers did shoot them down and smite them with their swords.

Borchester is once more safe for our great cause and God is smiling upon us...'

bloody river trees roots picture and wallpaper

Monday, 1 April 2013

Winter Quarters 1642-43

Time to re-visit our little campaign in 17th Century Borsetshire.

New recruits were trained by both sides in Borsetshire in the winter of 1642-43

Readers will recall that the last post from this war torn English county reported the success of the Parliamentary forces in defeating the bid by the local magnate Herbert Gusset, the Earl of Grantham, to seize Borchester before it's defences were complete.

At the battle of Darrington in early October 1642, a Parliamentary army led by Sir George Fortescue stopped Grantham in his tracks, albeit at the cost of the former's life.

The fight at Darrington was dwarfed by the much larger encounter at Edgehill, some three weeks later, where the combined field armies of the King and Parliament confronted one another for the first time. It is widely known that this was a drawn battle, and that the King failed to press his strategic advantage in time to take London, resulting in the stand off at Thurnham Green in November.

What is less well known is that the leader of the Parliamentary cause in Borsetshire, Edward Dighurst, had sent a regiment of foot to fight at Edgehill, where they were decimated, and that the Borsetshire horse, flushed with their recent success at Darrington, also took many casualties.

Retiring to Borchester, Dighurst and his men took up winter quarters in the town. The Scottish engineer and mercenary, Alastair Begby, continued to fortify the town and its outlying villages and Dighurst set about raising more troops.

The Royalists, for their part, spent Christmas recovering from the campaign of 1642 and early in the New Year, a contingent of largely Welsh troops, led by Sir Gareth Williams, joined Grantham at Felpersham. Difficulties in supplying large bodies of men in the 17th century meant that, once concentrated, an army either moved or dwindled away through hunger, disease and desertion and so it was that Williams, together with the Royalist cavalry commander, Rufus Dancy, persuaded Grantham, that a winter offensive might catch the rebels unawares.

Taking the northern approach, the King's men skirted the Parliamentary outposts at the fortified manors of Perivale and Leyton Cross, and by the 30 January were at Westbury and poised to force a crossing of the River Perch. Such a move posed a threat to Parliament, because the western defences of Borchester were incomplete, and should the Royalists cross the river they would be in a position to storm the town from that direction.

Dighurst was left with little option but to take  up a defensive position in the open field, in front of the village of Hazelhurst, where he could defend the Perch crossing and use his newly acquired artillery to bombard the Royalists.

Well fed Parliamentary troops had wintered well...

For a full day the two armies faced one another as Williams and Dancy entreated Grantham to agree to an attack. After a cold night out in the open, Grantham finally gave his assent, and on the first day of February 1643, the Royalist army launched their second bid to take Borchester.

In other words I'm aiming to play a game of DBR this weekend...