Monday, February 24, 2020

Sir William Balfour’s Regiment of Horse

"Look so that I might be looked at"..
..cornet of Major William Balfour
..son of Sir William a troop commander

in the regiment...
More than the other regiments I've researched so far, there was some confusion and detective work required for this regiment, as sources are slightly conflicting, and the OOB for the Parliamentarian army at Edgehill is sadly lacking a de Gomme to document their dispositions..

So what do we know?

Sir William was of Scottish descent and the son of Colonel Henry Balfour and his wife, Christian.  He entered Dutch service in the Dutch States Army during the Thirty Years' War fighting with the Scottish brigade until 1627 and rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and gaining the favour of the Duke of Buckingham.

 In October 1631 he was employed by the King on a confidential mission to the Netherlands, he also received the grant in 1633 of the right of making gold and silver money in the Tower (which was worth a lot of money) and on the death of Sir Allen Apsley in 1630, Sir William, who is described as one of the gentlemen of the king's privy chamber, had been appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London.

Clearly a man high in royal favour at this stage of his career...

Sir William however, as you might expect from his Scottish upbringing, was a devout Presbyterian, and after the Bishops' Wars and during the Long Parliament, as sides began to form, he gravitated to that side that opposed the King - primarily for religious, rather than political reasons, as his concerns were about the pro-Catholic stance of the King.

When Strafford was sent to the Tower and entrusted to his keeping, Balfour rejected a bribe to look the other way (£2.5M in todays money!), and also turned away a column of soldiers attempting to remove the Earl by subterfuge. As a result the King persuaded, or more likely, "obliged" him to resign his post, which he did in December 1641.

In the next spring of 1642, Balfour was commissioned colonel of a cavalry regiment intended for service in Ulster, but before he embarked for Ireland civil war broke out in England. Parliament appointed Balfour a lieutenant-general to the Earl of Bedford, who was the nominal commander of cavalry in the Earl of Essex's army.

...and now the mystery...  while events on Essex's left flank are clearer, on the right flank, the position of his horse (of which Balfour's formed a part along with Fielding's and Stapleton's) are not .. most sources seem to agree Fielding's were at the extreme right of the line, but as for the other two...
  • Young puts up a (creditable) argument that they were positioned to the left of Fielding's but behind behind the infantry on the right flank (these were Meldrum's Brigade comprising Constables, Fairfax's and Meldrum's Foot) with gaps between the infantry for them to charge if needed..

  • Reid (All the Kings Men) comes up with another cunning explanation - that all three regiments were deployed in a refused line, Balfour on the right It's possible there may have been an overlap with the infantry, but he argues that the horse that the Royalists saw behind the foot was a separate composite unit formed of the detached cuirassier squadrons of Balfour's and Stapleton's.. 

  • Scott, Turton and von Arni ("Edgehill the Battle Reinterpreted") use a primary source (the account by Fiennes, himself a troop commander in Balfour's so he should know what he's on about!) that describes the three regiments as two up with Fielding's behind. They examine the roles of the various commanders in the army and (again creditably) argue Balfour was senior so must have been with his regiment. They agree the cuirassier troop was removed to bolster Essex's cavalry reserve

...take your pick..    I think on balance, for the excellence of the argument, I would probably go with the third...  and because a picture is worth a thousand words/theories... here you go

B is our boy, C is Stapleton's, D Fielding's - the cuirassier reserve is X and Y - pic courtesy and copyright the Scott/Turton/von Arni book...
So in order to support this cavalry wing that Essex already knew was on the weak side. he deployed two full regiments of dragoons amongst the broken ground in front (A in the map), he also deployed a number of his guns there.. with the cavalry standing on a steep incline there was every expectation that the wing was secure..

The man his'self..
Not so...  when the battle opened the Parliamentary dragoons were cleared by their Royalist opposite numbers (not without difficulty - this would be a cracking little skirmish within a battle scenario!) and the Royalist cavalry and infantry under Wilmot started their advance.

Balfour, realising his position was now more compromised withdrew his and Stapleton's behind the infantry (beginning to sound like Young's theory!)...  when the Royalist cavalry charged, for mainly terrain reasons (constricted frontage/charging uphill/boggy ground) they drifted right and missed Balfour's and Stapleton's completely, while sweeping Fielding's (and the already retreating dragoons) away and charging on.. one of the Parliamentary regiments, Fairfax's Foot, had fired in an effort to help Fielding's but being caught unloaded, were also swept away... 

....all in all it was turning out to be as much a disaster for Essex on this flank as the other, but like the other flank, the Royalist cavalry reserves, against all good practice, also charged and removed themselves from the equation...

In regimental terms things get even more confusing with Balfour's from this point - clearly the situation would have been confused to say the least, but with the regiment largely intact, it looks like Sir William moved to take command of his detached cuirassier squadron in the centre, he might well have taken a troop or two with him to bolster numbers, the rest of the regiment covered the flank where the Royalist dragoons continued to pose a threat. With his annexe to the regiment he first charged and utterly destroyed Fielding's regiment of Foot which formed part of the central brigade, and soon the rest of the brigade followed them leaving a massive hole in the Royalist front line of infantry.

Unlike the Royalist cavalry the Parliamentary cavalry remained in control and large numbers of standards and senior officers were taken prisoner - Balfour however, continued on, probably intentionally, and (successfully) charged the Royalist artillery (and incidentally, almost captured the Royal princes). To cap it all, they returned to the Parliamentary main lines just in time to assist with the destruction of the Royalist Brigade under Byron - quite a day!!

The regiment ended the day largely as they began - protecting the open flank...

Not a bad first effort...

After Edgehill the regiment went on to serve at the Relief of Gloucester and 1st Newbury (although Balfour himself was absent for health reasons). In 1644 they briefly joined Waller's Army of the Southern Association and fought at Cheriton, before returning to Essex's command later in the year and fighting at Lostwithiel, and innumerable other skirmishes. They were at 2nd Newbury, and in 1645 having refused to serve with Waller the regiment was disbanded/reduced into the New Model.

Balfour retired from military service when the New Model Army was organised,and was buried at Church of St Margaret, Westminster Abbey on 28 July 1660 - by any account a good life!

The books by Young, Wanklyn, Scott/Turton/von Arni and Reid - and the Osprey Edgehill were invaluable in trying to unravel the stupidly complicated sequance of events in a battle 380+ years ago...

Thursday, February 20, 2020

...and yet even more terrain...

 The last of the serendipitous purchases from 4 Ground in their new year sale..

This one is 15S-EAW-114 "The Shop 2" and is possibly the most complex of the buildings I've constructed so far..  the dormer windows on these kits are always a bugger to fit, and this one also has the bay window for the shop - which looks lovely, but is really fragile in 15mm MDF - if you look closely you can see one side of the window is damaged where a piece just fell away, and rather than fix it I went with the distressed look that I had already introduced with the fixes/bodges for the aforesaid dormer windows...

I toyed with the idea of filling the gaps with the usual blue-tac/greenstuff/filler (and the gaps are  inevitable I have found, as I had the same issues with the last one that had these windows), but for this one I decided I wanted 'run down' vibe..  the roof is leaking, but rather than a proper repair they have put tarpaulins over the dormers, and where the chimney is leaking.. I think it works...

The 'tarpaulins' by the way were pieces of paper towel soaked in PVA glue and then pressed down and worked into place with a brush, before painting a suitable tarpaulin colour and washing with Windsor and Newton peat ink..

A really nice addition with his kit is a sheet of advertising posters which I took advantage of..  all in all happy with that...  I decided to glue the roof level down for this one so it is a 2 story - ground and first floor only... I colour coordinated the roof tabs as well as I could (they're a bit darker in the pictures than they are in real life)..

..and here we go - all of them together... with a troop of French Somua tanks heading down the high street...

..maybe one more to make the street lengths equal - but I'm super pleased with these and have already thrown out the old terrace as being surplus to requirements now... post - more English Civil War loveliness...

Sunday, February 16, 2020

"Down and Out on Paris and London".. a review..

... I was very much looking forward to re-reading this but in the end found it to be a very sobering experience..

The premise is simple, at roughly the end of the twenties stroke early thirties, Orwell had two periods of living hand to mouth, one period in Paris, and one period in London (and suburbs) and the idea was that he would document the experience in detail and given his readers and idea of what it was like to live literally on the bread line..

It's an Ivan Denisovich type of book..  so completely alien to most of its readers that it must (at the time) have been compulsive reading for those with an interest, giving in detail the daily issues with living one franc or half a shilling a day..  the constant search for work, begging, scrounging, work houses and doss houses, lack of sleep, an appalling diet, and the sheer dirt and grime of life in the very lowest levels of society at the time...

Interspersed through all of it are the characters Orwell meets, befriends, and sometimes works with, the stories he hears from either them, or in the bars, rooming houses, boarding houses and doss houses.. every now and again he breaks for a chapter to discourse on what he see's as the fundamental issues with certain facets of the life that he has an issue with - so we get a fair few snippets on why tramps exist, how to improve the doss houses, the differences in vagrancy laws in France and England, all fascinating stuff and quite readable...

Orwell is not backwards in advertising his socialist leanings, this book, Road to Wigan Pier,  and Homage to Catalonia are clear enough, but what surprised (and I have to say shocked) me, was that despite those socialist leanings, there is more than one anti-semitic comment...  I guess I'm more of a snow flake than I was when I first read the book, but I found the passages quite upsetting...   yeah, yeah, I know, "it is of it's time" and "don't judge the past by the mores/standards of today" etc etc but what shocked most is that the people concerned were doing no worse or better than anyone else, and that the epithet "Jew" was unnecessary...   makes you wonder given the current issues in the Labour Party whether there is something more fundamentally wrong, especially as Orwell wouldn't have had Zionism as a counter argument..

Recommend the book, be prepared to be shocked..  7/10

Saturday, February 08, 2020

George III's Military Map Collection... Edgehill

Royalist dispositions at Edgehill - attributed to BERNARD DE GOMME (1630-85) Picture courtesy Royal Collection Trust
Spotted this reference/link on the excellent Murdock's [clicky] blog the other day ... click to embigen 

George III had a huge collection of  military maps featuring battles and campaigns between 1532 and Waterloo (5 years before his death)

It's been digitised by the Royal Collection Trust, and is visible here [clicky]..   very much recommended, and thanks for highlighting it Murdock!