Monday, 26 November 2018

Bosworth Battlefield Tour 2018

At the suggestion of fellow club member Chris, we decided to sign up to the Battlefields Trust Tour of Bosworth last Sunday. This was partly influenced by the revelation that local councillors had recently (and controversially) agreed planning permission for a multi million pound vehicle test track on part of the Battlefield. As Richard Mackinder (our guide for the day) pointed out, this may be our final chance to see that part of the field in its current condition. Also, this would be the first time either myself or Chris had walked the area since either the discovery of Richard III's remains, and the proposal of the 'new and actual' battlefield site.

We started the day near Sutton Cheney where Richard led us to the area of the old Roman Road which came from Leicester, and is most likely to be the route that the Yorkist army took that day. It was pointed out that an army of such significant size would have needed to travel on the most reliable road, and seeing as all the others in the area would have been small dirt tracks (and that many of the fields nearby would have been covered in wheat, which made slow passage) this was now accepted.

(The small clump of bushes at the centre of this photo marks the edge of the Roman Road as it cuts from left to right across the fields).

More significantly, this theory puts paid to the idea that Ambion Hill was the Yorkist camp site. Both Sutton Cheney and another nearby village lay claim to being the place that Richard III heard mass the night before. As our guide suggested, a closer interpretation of medieval documents has revealed that it's more likely that the army itself camped spread out across these points, with many of the men choosing to visit the churches nearby. It's known that Richard III travelled with his own clergy, so was likely to hear mass in his own private quarters. The fact that the area of Sutton Cheney had a supply of fresh water and is on a raised area of ground, as the guide said "makes you wonder why the army would bother going all the way to Ambion Hill, only for them to travel back again the next day".

(Photo taken from near Sutton Chaney, looking out towards Shenton)

As it's likely Richard III had a plan (and was already aware of the Lancastrian movements and his own forces outnumbering Henry's), it's thought he decided to form up and then throw out Norfolk's force onto his right flank. He could use the folds in the land to hide Norfolk until he could advance onto Henry's left. Tactically this seems pretty sound, as Henry would then need to draw forces from his centre to deal with Norfolk and present Richard with an opportunity to launch an attack into his main body.

(Richard Mackinder, our guide)

We next did a brief visit to Norfolk's position near Shenton, which is now marked by the line of the canal. Unfortunately part of the road was closed due to works, but it was still worthwhile as Richard showed us the area where Norfolk was brought back to and eventually died from his wounds, after the initial clash.

Travelling onward, we now came round behind the Lancastrian lines passing the area which the new test track will be built upon. Richard Mackinder pointed out that it's likely that this is in the area where the Lancastrian camp was. Himself and other researchers had recently been given access to "200 yards inside the fence" of the proposed site and expressed his frustration at having discovered medieval round shot and other items fairly quickly. The only positive aspect is that the company landowners have given permission for a deep dig investigation on the site before any building takes place - although this will be restricted to a two week window.

As an example of the round shot being found (and marking the site of the 'new' battlefield), Richard handed out a replica 33mm shot which I managed to photograph below. He said that they had found some examples of 94mm shot suggesting the use of Saker sized artillery in the battle.

(A replica round shot)

We finally arrived at what is considered to be the centre of Henry's line. This is an impressive area situated on the edge of a farmyard, which gives a perfect view of all the positions for both armies. I did mention that it was incredible to see how small the battlefield was, but as Richard pointed out, both archery and medieval gunnery required that you could visually identify your targets. Bringing everything much closer together compared to later conflicts. This was the area of the most significant archeological finds, such as the silver boar badge.

He pointed straight across to Shenton and noted again where Norfolk had attempted to attack Henry's left flank, and also the rising ground on the right where the Stanley's had placed their force "betwixt the two armies" and was later proclaimed as Crown Hill.

We then walked to the very edge of the field as Richard explained how the Yorkist mounted charge had come directly toward us (taking nine and a half minutes from trot to canter then charge), smashing into Henry and killing Brandon the standard bearer as well as many others I expect. The archeology had given the impression that the force of the charge had probably pushed Henry backwards initially but Stanley looking on from the rising ground to the right had then decided to throw in his cavalry, which according to one theory had come round behind Henry's beleaguered force and then gave impetus to a counter charge. This in turn pushed back the Yorkists and where Richard III finally fell. The silver boar badge was incidentally found at the very end of the tractor tyre marks in the field photographed below, and right next to what was identified as the only medieval marsh in the area dating from that period. As a footnote, Richard told the amusing story of searching for the oft mentioned marsh. Apparently he had received disappointing news one day that an earlier marsh they had looked at had in fact dried up 200 years prior to the battle, and decided to retire to the pub. A farmer friend asked him what was up and Richard aired his woes only for the farmer to say "well, you're looking in the wrong bloody place aren't you" and asked to look at the map. The farmer friend circled the area which later turned out to be bang on the money!!

(The tyre tracks ending where the silver boar badge was found)

Lastly we ventured up onto Crown Hill, which had been Stanley's position and where Henry had been crowned King of England. It was another impressive view, and you could just imagine Stanley himself sat up here with his men balancing his options in joining the fray. Richard the guide interestingly mentioned Dadlington church nearby, where locals had insisted on a rumour that people from the village had climbed onto the church roof to watch the battle. This had often been dismissed as nonsense when touring the original battlesite at Ambion Hill, simply because it would have been impossible to see. As it turned out, the 'new' battlefield was easily viewable from the church roof. Hence the likelihood that rumour could be true.
(Our transport for the day!)

In conclusion it was an absolutely fantastic day. A couple of things are worth mentioning however. The actual visitors centre and exhibition are now some distance from the Battlefield, so it's well worth hiring a proper guide with transport! The visitors centre is still very nice and the restaurant there is the perfect place to recover and relax after the tour. If you were visiting from afar and wanted to do a complete Bosworth weekend you should definitely combine it with a visit to the Richard III museum and tomb in Leicester. Finally I'll add what's obvious to most, and that is walking a Battlefield is a whole different experience to just perusing maps or photographs. It's essential to accurately visualizing a battle, and understanding the experiences of those involved.

(On the gentle rising ground looking from Stanley's position to Henry's position on the left. The Yorkist charge would have come in from right to left as you look at the photo)

Monday, 2 July 2018

Arnhem Battlefield Tour, and a family coincidence.

Arnhem Battlefield tour. The Oosterbeek Perimeter 1944

Bit of a coincidence. Walked into the Airborne museum at Hotel Hartenstein and came upon an exhibit of a piece of wallpaper with some graffiti on it taken from a house at 34 Pietersburgseweg which had been defended by two British members of the 21st Independent Parachute Brigade. One of which was named in the exhibit as my great Uncle Fred Hocking and his mate Tony Crane. The graffiti reads (excuse the language) "Never Surrender. F**k the Gerrys. 1st Airborne Division. Germans Killed or wounded" and then a tally of over five days as they defended the house from attack. On the 25th they made it down to the river and crossed under fire. The picture above is myself with a photograph of him next to the graffiti, the video interview with Tony Crane, and then myself outside the house which they defended during that time in September 1944.

Friday, 8 June 2018

15mm Sudan. Mahdists vs British and Egyptians

Bit of a change for the gaming table today. Last weekend I found a box of Sudan British that I'd painted but hadn't got round to basing. Feeling a bit inspired I decided to get everything out and see what it was like in full battle array so to speak.

They're all 15mm, so give a nice sense of mass. I'm quite pleased with myself in having painted so many over the years to give myself two completed opposing armies. Too often I've pushed myself too hard on a project and jacked it in part way through. The fact that I've done well with these I think is because I've limited myself to finishing just a handful at a time. 

The models are mainly Old Glory and Peter Pig. Usually two ranges that don't mix very well size-wise, but are fine kept in separate units.

The buildings are Timecast I think, and the desert battle may is by Deep Cut Studios.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Versailles TV Series

When I'm painting in the back room I've usually got something jabbering away on the BBC iPlayer. A typical choice would be a documentary, but a work colleague suggested the Versailles drama series. It was a risk, as I normally consider these historical dramas more my partner's domain than mine (she absolutely loves The Tudors). Anyway, I thought I'd give it a shot.

It's lavishly filmed with both outstanding costumes and sets, so that caught my attention initially. However I was also gradually drawn in by an excellent storyline that involves a carousel of court intrigue and plotting (they're definitely handy with the old poison, with quite a few characters gruesomely taken down while coughing blood and clutching at their throats). It seems that the weakness of the French aristocracy was that none of them knew how to prepare their own meals, which gives endless opportunity for some ne'er do well to slip arsenic into the spiced partridge.

The acting is very solid. The background of a few of the main cast is quite surprising once I'd had a search for them on the internet. George Blagden for instance, who plays Louis XIV also starred in the recent Wrath of the Titans film, absolutely shines here. As does my favourite, Tygh Runyan, who plays the King's Chief of Police. He appears as the plotters nemesis, and is quite often equally as bloody minded when it comes to protecting the Crown. 

The DVD set of series one and two are available at a reasonable amount. I picked it up for £15, knowing well that it'll probably be taken off the iPlayer after a few weeks. Definitely worth a viewing!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

King Richard III Retinue 28mm Wars of the Roses

Today myself, Chris and Dave went to the Partizan Wargames show near Newark. It's a very good show, and the venue is the same as the Hammerhead one which was a few weeks ago - so naturally I was pleased with what is now a familiar place with plenty of light, cafeteria facilities etc.

Being only thirty minutes away, it resulted in us getting home before 3pm and I decided to set up my painting station in the garden and make a start on the figures I bought (painting figures on the same day I'd purchased them would have been unheard of a few months ago!). Clearly a sign I'm getting back on top of things.

Anyway, while the undercoats were drying I dug out my Wars of the Roses Richard III retinue and took some photos. As with the Warwick one they're all Perry's plastics and still a part of the eBay haul. I did have to chop and readjust some of the arms and legs, as the previous owner had been a bit overzealous with the glue! Something I was guilty of with my first set of Victrix Napoleonic many moons ago.

I'm really pleased with these, and how the Wars of the Roses project is coming along in general. Next time, some Burgundian Pikemen perhaps?

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Wars of the Roses, Earl of Warwick Retinue 28mm.

I had a painting commission for some 28mm Perry Miniatures Wars of the Roses, and found myself with some leftover figures. This prompted an eBay search and the purchase of  three hundred assembled but unpainted plastics for the meagre sum of seventy quid. I decided this would be my 2018 project, plus I could fit it in with the customer's requirement of different WotR retinues. Followers of this blog may recall that I had some lovely Perry's Plastics a few years back which attracted the eye of Wargames Illustrated. It also attracted a buyer who gave me what I considered a silly amount of money for them. That said, there's part of me that wished I'd never sold the collection.

Anyway, it turned out to take a lot longer to begin this project due to my health issue and being parked on the sofa with a hot water bottle stuck to my stomach whilst staring at the ceiling. Luckily the worst is now passed and I'm back into a regular routine of painting and being upright again.

I decided to base them for the Hail Caesar! ruleset and the middle ages supplement. They're going to be an average retinue size of forty figures, archers on the wings with three per 4cm x 4cm base (to give a loose formation) and then the centre consisting of men at arms (four figures per 4cm x 4cm base) and one base of foot knights/command.

The command base with standard will be interchangeable, which is why I didn't apply any heraldic badges on the figures. For instance it means I can swap the standard of Edward IV for Richard Duke of York as both retinues had the same livery colours.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Hammerhead Show 2018

Today's haul from the Bring and Buy at the Hammerhead show near Newark saw a huge increase in my 15mm Napoleonic collection. This pile of 424 figures cost me just £45. Primarily Old Glory with a few minifigs early Austrian artillery thrown in. The Portuguese will serve nicely for the Peninsula war scenarios Chris will be putting on.

I'm slightly pained that I forgot to take my digital camera, but running on just two hours sleep meant that I was likely to leave something behind. I only just remembered to print out the tickets, which I did while contemplating yet another torrential downpour out the back window. The flooding around here can be ridiculous, as when I witnessed the canal boat stranded in the middle of a farmer's field some weeks back.

Nevertheless the turnout at the Show itself was very good, despite it being rescheduled from earlier this year (again due to weather conditions - snow that time). I must say I've wondered if Newark hasn't experienced an overkill of Wargames shows with three situated there over the year: Hammerhead, Partizan and Other Partizan. The difference with Hammerhead is that it gives a good balance of trade stands and participation games. The latter being a successful feature of American shows apparently. It's nice that it gives the customer an all round experience of gaming and socializing, rather than just trying to empty your wallet.

Speaking of which, I've noticed that as I get older I'm more inclined towards a degree of comfort (even at a Wargames show). Some of the first things on my mind when stepping through the doors these days are "can I get a cup of tea?" and "I hope the toilets are decent!!" I can imagine Napoleon himself uttering these same sentiments on the way to St Helena. Thankfully Hammerhead comes through with the goods. Excellent facilities including two Cafe areas with plenty of seating, and bathrooms suited even for an Imperial posterior!