Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cheriton 1644 by John Adair

Longer term readers of the blog will know that the English Civil War battlefield of Cheriton is one of my "local" battlefields - I've visited the site many times, and in fact posted a blog on it [click here] in 2008.

As background reading for the battle (and I continue to have a slightly alarming fascination for the period that needs to remain in check before I start yet another period!) I have long wanted a copy of John Adair's "Cheriton 1644" - it's been on various "wish lists" for almost 15 years as far as I know - so you can imagine how chuffed I was to get a copy on eBay earlier this year for a very reasonable £7 ... every copy of it I ever saw was in the £40 - £50 bracket as it's long out of print.

I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to read it and this holiday proved to be it (though it was slightly surreal to be laying on a sun bed whilst doing it! Free Happy Smileys)

What we have is a chunky book (about 230 pages in my edition which is believe is the most common (only?) one) - the first section of which (90 odd pages) deals with the campaign that Cheriton formed a part of, so we have some general detail on the actions at Alton, Basing House and Arundel in the lead up to the battle. I enjoyed this section (partly because there were a number of mentions of locations very close to where I live) but undoubtedly other books cover it in more detail.

The second section (about 70 pages) covers the battle, but the bigger part of this section details the make up of the armies, with only 25 pages for the actual battle, though there is a very spiffy aerial photograph with a plastic overlay showing the positions of the armies.

The third section (about 60 pages) is a selection of primary sources, casualty returns, letters, articles from the newspapers of the day etc. The best chapter is a a detailed view of the regiments in the Parliamentarian army.

Adair came to this book after a detail biography of Waller (the Parliamentarian commander) and he admits himself that with all that background detail the book is biased towards the Parliamentarian view, he simply didn't have as much detail on Hopton - which shows... I'd have loved a similar chapter on Hopton's regiments for example.

As I mentioned in my first blog on Cheriton, there are a number of views as to where the battlefield actually was - when I did my first post I did a lot of research, and the Battlefields trust website, and the information boards at the battlefield itself tended towards the "northern position", Adair argues (very well I have to say) for the "southern position" - I'd love to visit the battlefield again to review the ground but from memory a number of the actions in the battle make more sense if you adopt his view on the initial deployments...

So was it worth it?? Broadly, yes.... well written, very easy to read, good detail, and about a particular favourite battlefield that I've walked several times - Steve the Wargamer gives this one a solid 8 out of 10.


  1. So why don't you plan a Cheriton Project, Steve? You write that it is your favorite battleground . . . why not at least do the "plan", then you can evaluate whether or not you want to attempt it.

    I'll admit that the ECW is one of my long range projects. I've purchased a number of books and rules . . . but not a single figure . . . and I don't know if I'll ever get to it . . . but it is fun to plan.

    -- Jeff

  2. Every wargamer should have a pike and shot army. The problem with this campaign is the abundance of horse against foot which makes it expensive. Of course there is now all these lovely plastic figures so...
    Good review. Always nice to see a book with good arguements.

  3. Didn't the Don include the battle of Alton church in one of his books?

  4. CK - in "Wargaming Pike and Shot" as I remember....

  5. Hi! Just stumbled across your blog looking for a copy of Adair's book! I actually spoke to Mr Adair on the phone when I was researching my dissertation and we argued happily with each other for about an hour on the location of the battle! I did an archaeological landscape survey of the battlefield and when I made my maps noticed that Adair placed his battlefield in the middle of a now dried up river valley! A great man, and a great book too. I just wish it was less expensive!

  6. Sam - keep looking - I found mine on eBay for a very reasonable price... envious of your dissertation - ever though of publishing it on your blog??