Thursday, August 31

I have been to.. Roundway Down (Part 1 - History/Background bit)

Been a while but I feel the need to walk a battlefield, so I've got Friday off and I'm going to Devizes, or more specifically, Roundway Down... so by way of a two parter, first the history, the next post will detail the visit, and hopefully, some useful pictures of the battlefield....

So Lansdown [clicky for my last visit post] was fought on the 5th July 1643, and the Royalists had managed what was at best described as a "tactical win" - the Parliamentary army had been driven back from the ridge (by the indomitable Cornish infantry), but the Royalists had lost Sir Beville Grenville in the process, and the army were spent - they were low on ammunition, they were short of cavalry (desertions during the battle) and when they had withdrawn to recover, the next day there was an explosion in an ammunition wagon which resulted in even further shortages in vital gunpowder, but even worse injured Hopton badly (he was close to the wagon when it exploded and was temporarily partially blinded, and had to be carried in a chair), ...

A decision was taken by the Royalists to withdraw towards Oxford the Kings capital during the war. It would make it much easier for them to get reinforcements and also some much needed re-supply. The Parliamentarians under Waller were theoretically in a better condition despite "losing" the battle at Lansdown.. he got reinforcements from their garrison at Bristol (even closer to Bath, than Roundway/Devizes was) and followed the Royalist army closely...

Seven hours according to Google Maps - with an army, two days'ish?
Waller caught up with the Royalist army at Devizes, and occupied the high ground that overlooked the town, known as Roundway Down, on the evening of the 8th July..

In the face of this the Royalists occupied the town and the Cornish infantry proceeded to prepare for an assault, but the 300'odd remaining Royalist cavalry under Maurice (Prince Rupert's younger brother) were immediately sent on their way to Oxford to make the King aware of the situation..

Map courtesy

Waller surrounded, and then started a bombardment of, the town; he captured an inbound Royalist ammunition train on the 12th and not surprisingly he was confidant* and demanded the Royalists surrender - what he didn't know was that the Royalist cavalry had already escaped.

*he told Parliament in one of his communiques that the next one would let them know how many standards he had taken, and would list the officers taken!

Maurice got to Oxford on the 10th, and the Royalist reinforcements were sent out at once under Wilmot, the Kings Lieutenant General of Horse - there were about 1500 horse and a few galloper guns..  they were also joined by Maurice's 300.. (that made me wonder...  so that's the better part of 2000 cavalry standard horses readily available, not the draft or dragoon lesser standard, but proper cavalry horses... impressive!)

Wilmot and Maurice made it back to Devizes, or rather just north east of it (a place called  Roughridge Hill) early on the 13th, and fired off a couple of guns to let the Royalists know they were there.

Waller, who already knew of their arrival, had abandoned Devizes and marched the Parliamentary army up on to Roundway Down - gamble time - could he defeat Wilmot and Maurice before the Royalist infantry sallied out from Devizes in his rear....?

Waller deployed as standard for the time - infantry and artillery in the centre, cavalry on the slightly higher ground on the wings (as per the map)  the Royalists deployed into two brigades (Wilmot and Lord Byron) and a smaller reserve (under Lord Crawford)....

Wilmot started off the battle by attacking the Parliamentarian right at about 3 in the afternoon - this was the wing that had Hasalrig's famous cuirassier regiment - the Lobster's. In a typical galloper vs trotters engagement, the Lobsters stopped to give fire, and were ridden over, forcing them into the second line, who all gave way and retreated in confusion and disorder...  strike one

On the other flank Byron then attacked the other flank - this time under fire from the Parliamentary foot and artillery - but with no difference in result - the Parliamentary cavalry again stodd to give fire, and  were bundled back in considerable disorder - and some were forced over a 300m precipice... strike two

Now the difference though... unlike what seemed to happen in most other battles, the Royalist cavalry under Wilmot and Byron reform ("Were Wilmot and Byron better commanders of cavalry than Rupert? Discuss...") and then turn on the Parliamentary centre/infantry - with the arrival of the Royalist foot from Devizes it's all over and the Parliamentary start running...  strike three and they're out..

In the confusion, Waller and his mounted officers galloped away towards Bristol.

Quite possibly therefore greatest Royalist victory of the war - not sure they set a foot wrong??

Casualties? Inconclusive and difficult to say, I've seen
  • "600 Parliamentarian troops were killed and some 1,000 were captured", and I've also seen
  • "withdrawal became a rout as the Parliamentarian infantry ran for the wooded eastern slopes. Hundreds were cut down or taken prisoner, many dying in an area still known as Bloody Ditch at the foot of the hillside." 
The same Bloody Ditch that earlier Byron had driven the Parliamentary cavalry over a precipice into I am assuming...

Size of the armies?

Wilmot’s three brigades of Royalist horse comprised 1,800 men with the previously mentioned (two) galloper guns. Sir Ralph Hopton’s garrison in Devizes numbered around 3,000 Cornish foot with a number of guns.

Waller’s army comprised 6 regiments of horse (approx. 2,000 men), 4 regiments of foot (approx. 2,500 men) and 8 field guns. (Source, the very good [clicky] but the battle description doesn't tally with his map above - think the got their 'left and rights' wrong.. and Heaven knows I suffer from that as well )

Looking forward to walking it again - must be 10+ years since I last went...

Tuesday, August 29

ACW Naval set to...

I am long overdue for publishing this - mea culpa - too damn busy elsewhere... πŸ˜€

So, a couple of weeks ago my partner in crime DG contacted me to let me know that he was coming down to do some much-needed Grandad'ly babysitting duties (school summer holidays have a lot to answer..  but this was a good outcome!) and did I want a game..  silly question..

So it was the usual emails were exchanged "what do you fancy"... "I don't mind" etc etc and so I asked him if he fancied having a go with the ACW rules that Bill Gilchrist sent me.. "yes" quoth he, and so it was that the Monitor and the Virginia set sail once again..

We played twice, the aim of the game was for the Monitor to exit the table at the map end of the following..  the idea was that this was the archipelago at the end of a river hence the number of small mud banks/islands...

We played twice, and two more different games it is difficult to envisage...

First game - following - and DG can be seen wielding his brand new 12" ruler from Portchester Castle  πŸ˜€  

Apropos of almost everything you can also see his "devil dice"...  DG took the Monitor in both games..

Seven or eight move later -following - and the Virginia is done for..  streaming smoke, engine damaged, rudder damaged, and more holes than a pepper pot

...and for the record - following - the record sheet for must have been one of the most comprehensive defeats she'd ever experienced.. morale shot (yellow dice - break off ordered), heavy damage, just two points left...

So what went wrong? Ultimately it was her lack of manoeuvrability, and being unable to get my main guns to bear, while Monitor with two guns in a rotating turret was hitting every time practically..  most realistic I would say..  I spent the game trying to turn to face while not hitting an island!

So with a fairly early finish we decided to play again and the re-run was about as different as it is humanly possible to be..  no pictures unfortunately, but in this game I changed tactics and shifted to slow engine speeds, having out-waited Monitor as she came from behind one of the islands, I then pounded her with my forward main gun, caught her up, rammed her (inflicting maximum damage with only one or two to me), fired again, and when she managed to break free, fired and rammed her again..  game over!

The rules continue to give a good game - no issues I can remember but measuring the turn from the stern gave us pause, but we got there in the end, and I think what I need to do is draw up some templates on foil plastic to make it easier..

I'm quite excited about picking up some more ships from Peter Pig - not loads - three or four should do it..

Sunday, August 27 edumacational day...

....had a day with the grandson, so I told him we were going to see the pirate ships... πŸ˜€

It is a little known fact that the historic dockyard in Portsmouth is free to go into providing you don't want to go on any of the marvellous ships, or in the many museums, therein...   when you have a four year old in tow a perfect solution...

I had the very good fortune to go on this one at the Southamton bat show a few years ago..  some excellent pictures of the history and interior here [clicky] and the web site for thrust is here [clicky]

..this apparently was originally built as a Seaplane Tender, but also saw service in the war as Air Sea Rescue..  more here [clicky]

...Warrior needs no introduction - she's looking good!

...and for the inner geek..

..."where are the pirates grandad?".. "I expect they've gone shopping.." quoth I   Ice lolly fixed the deal though...  going to guess this was an 18pd'er he was scrambling on..

..and then the "old pirate ship"..  she's mid way through a mahoosive refit and the top masts are down for their first attention since she was launched..  note also (as I did) the paler 'stripes' on the side.. apparently when they removed about a million coats of paint they found they had been painting them too dark for years, so reverted to original..

...21st October and 1805, and that is bearing down on you out of the gun smoke... all cannons firing and marines behind the netting firing at you...  awe inspiring... this has completed restoration - they just need to put the figurehead back on...

...beautiful..  no other word for it..

Across the way, still afloat, and still gigant'ous..

...and the ship in the foreground is M33 - one of the last remaining monitors from the Gallipoli campaign..

I am, as ever, amazed by the conditions these sailors lived and fought in..  this is not a big ship..

...across the water on the ferry to Gosport to meet up with my sis and bro in law..  this is the Archer class patrol boat "HMS Blazer" [clicky]..  looks likes she was in for refit/maintenance..

...and then I got to see this wonder..  if you Google "Suhaili" [clicky] you'll know from my other past time why this was an amazement and a treat for me...  and grandson.. trip we agreed we'd go to Tangmere...  Lord knows what will happen there! 

Friday, August 25

Tickets bought..


See you on the 11th, Robert!

Wednesday, August 16


No afraid to admit it sent a shiver down my spine...  πŸ˜€

Queen Elizabeth arrived in Portsmouth this morning..  just...  wow..

Wanted to get down there to see it in person but at half past seven arrival it was a little too early..  the following courtesy of the HMS Warrior web cam [clicky] There is something very apt about watching the arrival of the latest example of naval technology, from a web cam on a previous era's example of the same...

I don't doubt there will be much better pictures in the press and elsewhere... and I know all the news about lack of planes, and lack of sailors, and lack of engineers, and lack of everything else, and I don't care..  she is the leading edge of British Naval history and that should make us proud...  and she is mucking huge..  πŸ˜€

...and home...  bet the skipper sighed a huge sigh of relief..