All posts by Jon Phipps

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge…a BAD Refight

Being an account of the BAD War-games Club’s refight of Cropredy Bridge at Partizan in Newark, in May 2017.

The “smart battaile” at Cropredy Bridge, which was fought on Saturday, June 29th, 1644, was one of the Royalist highlights in the Civil War campaigns of that year. Fought only three days before the shattering Northern defeat of the hitherto invincible Prince Rupert at Marston Moor (July 2nd), by which it has been overshadowed, but the favorable consequences of this victory for the Cavaliers’ fortunes in the South were of even greater far-reaching importance.

Background to the Battle

On June 6th, 1644, in a meeting between the Earl of Essex and Sir William Waller, it was decided by Essex that in addition to crushing the King’s Army when it had slipped out of the Royalist capital at Oxford as the two armies of Essex and Waller closed in, the task of relieving the town of Lyme Regis, which was besieged by King Charles’ younger nephew, Prince Maurice, and his Army of the West, was of equally pressing importance. The Earl of Essex then decided that he would proceed with his army to relieve Lyme, while ordering Sir William Waller to continue pursuing the King’s Oxford Army, and attempt to bring it to battle and crush it once and for all (it is important to note that at this time the King’s Oxford Army was not as strong or large as it would later become prior to the battle of Cropredy Bridge).

In mid-June 1644 the King marched his army to Witney where he met the Oxford garrison, absorbed it into his field army and moved on across Oxfordshire.

On 28th June 1644 Sir William Waller was near Banbury with his Parliamentary army while the King was at Brackley in Northamptonshire. Hearing of Waller’s approach, the King marched back to Banbury to seek battle with Waller. Each side took up a strong position on either side of Banbury and skirmishing began in an attempt to bring the other to action on favourable ground.

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge

After a day in position, at around 8am on 29th June 1644 King Charles I set his army marching away from Banbury on the road towards Daventry to the north, his purpose being to draw Waller away from the favourable position he was occupying. The Royalist advance guard was commanded by the Earl of Brentford (newly elevated from the title of Lord Forth).  The King led the main army.  The cavalry brigades of Lord Cleveland and Lord Northampton with 1,000 Foot  formed the rearguard.

Soon afterwards Sir William Waller’s army set off following the Royalists by marching north along the road to the west of the Cherwell river which led to Southam.  The two armies were marching north on parallel roads. Both armies comprised about 9000 men,

Waller reached Bourton Hill, on which are Little and Great Bourton villages, three miles to the north of Banbury.  From this vantage point Waller could see the Royalist army on the far side of the River Cherwell approaching a point level with Cropredy.

The Cherwell could be crossed in the area at three points; a ford at Slat Mill immediately to the east of Great Bourton village; Cropredy Bridge to the east of Cropredy; and Hay’s Bridge to the north east of Cropredy on the Daventry road.

 

In order to secure his flank King Charles I detached a party of Royalist Dragoons to hold the Cropredy Bridge and Ford until his army had passed. At about the same time the Royalist advance guard was ordered to press on and cross Hay’s Bridge to intercept a force of Parliamentary Horse that was reported to be approaching from the north with the intention of joining Waller’s army.

The effect of the King’s order was to speed up the rate of march of the advance guard and the main body.  The rearguard was unaware of the change and continued at the previous pace so that a gap opened between it and the main body. From his vantage point on Bourton Hill Sir William Waller observed the gap opening between the rear and main bodies of the King’s army and resolved to cut off the Royalist rearguard.

At around 11am Waller moved with 1,000 musketeers to Slat Mill ford and dispatched Lieutenant General John Middleton with a mixed horse and foot command to Cropredy.

Middleton’s Horse dispersed the Royalist Dragoons holding the Bridge and attacked the rear of the Royalist main body pursuing it as far as Hay’s Bridge where they were finally checked by musketeers positioned in the road behind an upturned cart.

At the rear of the Royalist army Waller was across Slat Mill Ford when he was fiercely attacked by Lord Northampton’s four regiments of Horse and the Parliamentary musketeers driven back across the Cherwell River. The other brigade of the Royalist rearguard, Lord Cleveland’s, did not wait for orders but charged the Parliamentary Foot that had crossed at Cropredy as part of Middleton’s force and threw them into disorder.

Meanwhile the advance guard and the main body of the Royalist army had halted on the north side of the Hay’s Bridge crossing point. Lord Bernard Stuart with the King’s Life Guard re-crossed the river and attacked Middleton’s regiments of Horse, which had returned to counter-attack Lord Cleveland in flank, driving them back to Cropredy Bridge.

The remnants of General Middleton’s Horse and Foot was driven back across the Cherwell into Cropredy, while a force of Parliamentary artillery comprising fourteen guns and the commander Colonel Wemyss was overrun and captured on the east side of the river by the triumphant Royalist Horse.

The main Royalist army had re-crossed the Cherwell at Hay’s Bridge and now assembled in the village of Williamscot on the Cropredy road. Waller withdrew his troops to Bourton Hill leaving the crossings manned by Dragoons and Foot where they were subjected to a full attack by the Royalist army.

The Tower Hamlets Regiment of the London Trained Bands and the Kentish Regiment supported by two small drake canon held Cropredy and repelled the attack.

Towards the end of the day’s fighting King Charles I sent a message to Sir William Waller inviting him and his army to submit and return to their allegiance to the Crown.  Waller replied that he had no authority to negotiate on behalf of Parliament.

The Royalist army remained in position during the next day, but on the following day receiving a report that Major General Browne had arrived in Buckingham with 4,500 Parliamentary troops and was marching to join Sir William Waller, the Royalist army left the severely mauled Parliamentary army on the battlefield and marched westwards towards Evesham.

The Refight

The battle was a refought by the BAD Club at the excellent Partizan show in Newark in May 2017.

It was refought in a 25mm scale, using largely Warlord plastics, but with a lot of older metal figures as well. Rules used were Field of Glory Renaissance.

The BAD Wargamers pose for a shot halfway through the game

Many of the Club helped out with the game, big shout out to Ray Boyles for putting together some excellent interpretation panels.

The key players were:

  • King Charles I – Peter Gregory
  • Earl of Cleveland – Steve Holt
  • Earl of Northampton – Paul Freeman
  • Sir William Waller – Ian Wilson
  • General Sir John Middleton – Any Dumelow

Early parts of the refight went largely as anticipated:
(1) Middleton drove North, almost reaching Hay’s Bridge but being stopped by some determined Royalist infantry

 

(2) Initial attempts by Waller to move north from Slat Mill were frustrated by Northampton

Cropredy to the left of the photo, Waller’s army marching towards Slat Mill on the right

(3) The London Brigade took up a strong position both sides of Cropredy Bridge.

But then the pace of the battle changed. Cleveland and Northampton’s cavalry shot their bolt and retired north. Similarly Middleton, once repulsed, fell back behind the London Brigade. The latter went on the offensive, routing isolated units of Royalist foot. And during this time both Waller and the Kind were bringing the bulk of their armies to bear for the conclusion.

Alas, there was no conclusion! As the main armies lined up to face each other, night fell, leaving the outcome inconclusive (although in truth Parliament had performed better than their historic counterparts).

A fun re-enactmen, and one I’d be pleased to refight again!

WORLD WAR ONE NAVAL PART THREE: THE BATTLE OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS

Background
Following the British disaster at the Battle of Coronel (see Part One), the Admiralty decided it had to send its big guns to the Southern oceans, as much for prestige and revenge as for military logic.
First Lord Fisher sent two of his prized battlecruisers, Invincible and Inflexible, under Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee to deal with the matter. The mission was clear: to hunt down and destroy von Spee’s German East Asia squadron.

Picking up a squadron of cruisers off Brazil, Sturdee steamed south. Meanwhile, at the most important British base in the South Atlantic, Port Stanley in the Falklands, the tiny garrison readied themselves by beaching the pre-Dreadnought Canopus where it could cover the entrance to the harbour. After being victorious in the South Pacific there was every likelihood that the German squadron could raid British interests in the Atlantic. Sturdee’s squadron arrived on the 7th December, and started the arduous process of coaling up.

This process was barely complete when the Canopus sited a German shouting force (the cruisers Gneisenau and Nurnberg) off Stanley Head. The Canopus shot a couple of rounds with its 12” guns, and got a lucky shot lightly damaging the Gneisenau’s funnel. Historians have since debated von Spee’s next move; many have argues that had he attacked the British ships at anchor he could have wreaked havoc on the battlecruisers. However, he turned away and Sturdy gave chase…

The Game: Set-up
We re-fought the Battle of the Falkland Islands in the same manner as Coronel a few weeks earlier, using 1/3000th miniatures and Grand Fleet rules.
The order of battle was:

German Main Force (Von Spee: Simon Clarke)
Scharnhorst (AC), Dresden (LC), Leipzig (LC)

German Scouting Force (Captain Maerker: your humble author)
Gneisenau (AC), Nurnberg (LC)

British Battlecruisers (Sturdee: Dene Green)
Invincible (BC), Inflexible (BC)

British Armoured Cruisers (Stoddard: Andy Dumelow/Dene Green)
Kent (AC), Cornwall (AC), Carnarvon (AC)

Stoddart's armoured cruisers, followed by the Macedonia
Stoddart’s armoured cruisers, followed by the Macedonia

British Scouting Force (Luce: Andy Dumelow)
Glasgow (LC), Bristol (LC)

Unattached British Ships
Canopus (BB), Macedonia (armed merchantman)

We added in a few extra rules to reflect the nuances of the battle historically:
The Invincible and Inflexible were subject to my own “British Battlecruiser” rule, i.e. when each group of hit boxes was ticked off, they could spontaneously explode on a roll of 1 on a d6;
The Canopus, of course, could not move;
Carnarvon was suffering boiler problems, and so was reduced in speed.

The Game: How It Played
We deployed the Gneisenau as it was historically, i.e. in extreme gun range of the Canopus. Merker’s squadron turned away to get out of range…this is when the battlecruisers appeared, coming full steam out of Port Stanley harbour, their flank protected by Luce’s light cruisers.

Von Spee crossing the British T
Von Spee crossing the British T

Instead of fleeing, the Germans instead turned to cross the T of their much bigger opponents. This gave Sturdee the opportunity to put a few salvoes into the hapless Nurnberg while he was pursuing the armoured cruisers, crippling it early on. Meanwhile, Sir John Luce’s light cruisers engaged in their own battle with the German equivalents, HMS Glasgow in particular gaining revenge for the British humiliation at Coronel…it outmanoeuvred and eventually sank the Dresden.

Von Spee’s manoeuvre paid off brilliantly and Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were able to put salvo after salvo into the Inflexible (although not until the latter had also done serious damage to the Gneisenau). Eventually the Inflexible was sunk, followed by Maerker’s flagship.

The Inflexible, just before she was sank
The Inflexible, just before she was sank

This coincided with the late arrival of Stoddart’s armoured cruisers, who added some muscle to the British attack. Discretion became the better part of valour and the remaining Germans fled. As with the historic outcome a British triumph, although the loss of the Inflexible made it a Pyrrhic victory.

Casualties
German: 1 AC sunk (Gneisenau), 1 LC sunk (Dresden), 1 LC crippled (Nurnberg)
British: 1 BC sunk (Inflexible), 1 BC crippled (Invincible), 1 LC badly damaged (Glasgow).

 

World War One Naval Part Two: Resources for the Battle of Coronel

In order to re-fight Coronel, it was crucial that the ship’s stats for the various ships was, relatively speaking, as accurate as possible.

The word documents below cover both squadrons, von Spee’s and Cradock’s. Cradock’s squadron includes the “What if…?” variant, specifically the addition of the Canopus and Defence.  Note that the Canopus has a special rule concerning its movement; this stimulates the rather dodgy boilers which plagues the ship at this period, and led to her being beached in Port Stanley as a fortified bunker.

The other thing that needs considering is the quality of both admirals. Although the Royal Navy already has a number of disadvantages, their relative qualities means that von Spee is rates +2 on the initiative dice, and poor old Cradock -1.

For the “What if…?” variant, you can argue that Cradock was not a bad admiral, he simply had poor ships. In which case you can rate von Spee at +1 and Cradock at 0.

Ship Stats Brit Coronel

Ship Stats Ger Coronel

World War One Naval Part one: Trouble in the Southern Ocean

As part of the ongoing commemoration of the Great War, my contribution was to go down a different route from the excellent Squarebashing games; my chosen interest was the naval aspect of the war.

There are many rules and figures out there. The rules I ended up going with are the “Grand Fleets” rules, published by Majestic 12 Games. They have the advantage of a tow-tier approach…an entry-level set of rules to get players warmed up and used to them; and a complete set, which are far more detailed and enable the subtleties of the period to be captured. In addition, the entry-level rules can be downloaded for free.

In terms of scales, well, the two most common are 1/1200 and 1/3000. In the end I plumped for the latter. The ships may be a bit small for the initial cruiser battles I had planned, but I did have half an eye on something much larger…Jutland, with its 100th anniversary in May 2016.

But I needed something more modest to get the BAD Wargamers interested and familiar with the rules. The Battle of Heligoland Bight was the first significant naval action of the war, but it’s quite a complex affair, so I plumped for something manageable, namely the Battle of Coronel.

 

Background

The German East Asia Squadron was one of the Imperial Navy’s elite units: the most modern cruisers, the best crews, and commanded by one of the German navy’s most promising officers, Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee. It was based in the German enclave of Tsingtao in China.

In anticipation of the start of the war, von Spee moved the squadron to the German Caroline islands. On the outbreak of war, he dispatched the light cruiser Emden to the Indian Ocean to create mischief (another story) and proceeded to raid allied bases and attack merchantmen in the Pacific with the rest of the squadron. Even without the Emden, he still had a powerful raiding force: the armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau; and the light cruisers Leipzig, Dresden and Nurnberg.

SMS Scharnhorst, von Spee's flagship
SMS Scharnhorst, von Spee’s flagship

When Tsingtao was invested by the Japanese, von Spee decided to make a dash for home via Cape Horn, causing as much mayhem as possible on his way back to Wilhelmshaven.

When the Royal Navy realised he was off the Pacific coast of South America, they dispatched the only force they had in the area: a small cruiser force at the Falkland Islands commanded by Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock. Cradock’s force could not have been more different from von Spee’s; he had two obsolete armoured cruisers, the Monmouth and his flagship the Good Hope; the pre-dreadnought Canopus; an armed liner Otranto; and his only modern ship the light cruiser Glasgow. He was due to be reinforced by the modern armoured cruiser Defence, but halfway down the Atlantic the latter was redeployed to chase the German battlecruiser Goeben in the Mediterranean.

HMS Glasgow
HMS Glasgow

On receiving his orders, Cradock left the Canopus behind (due to ongoing boiler problems) and went up the coast of Chile to find von Spee. He did so on the 1st November 1914, off Coronel. Von Spee skilfully avoided battle until the sun had sunk behind Cradock’s force, silhouetting them against the horizon. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau put salvo after salvo into the British armoured cruisers until they went down (without even landing a hit on their German counterparts). The Glasgow, which had the honour of being the only Royal Navy ship to land a hit on the Germans, made use of its speed and escaped. The Otranto, wisely, fled south as soon as von Spee’s squadron was observed.

The Battle of Coronel
The Battle of Coronel

It was a bitter blow for the British, the first defeat for the Royal Navy since the days of sail, and the anger and dismay were felt throughout the Empire…

 

The Refights #1 and #2

As part of the first go at the Grand Fleet rules, we did a straight refight of the Battle of Coronel. Simon Clarke took the role of von Spee and Andy Dumelow as Cradock.

As expected, the battle went according to history, with a resounding German success. This time the Otranto and Glasgow also got seriously stuck in and went gallantly to a watery grave. A few more hits landed on von Spee’s squadron than was the historic outcome, but nothing to trouble the German navy too much.

As we were using the entry-level rules, and the game was quite a small one, it was over in an hour. That gave us the opportunity to try out a “what if” variation. This time we gave the Brits both the Canopus and the Defence. The outcome of the game was a closer one, with the Nurnberg getting sunk and several other German ships getting damaged but once again the victory was von Spee’s.

Next time we shall re-fight the Battle of the Falkland Islands…British Revenge?

World War One Naval

As part of the ongoing commemoration on the centenary of the First World War, over the next few weeks/months I’d like to put on a number of naval battles. These will basically be the pre-Jutland battles: the flight of the Goeben; the raid on Heligoland Bight; Coronel; the battle of the Falklands; and the battle of Dogger Bank.

 

I’m building up the collection of ships and developing rules of my own devising. I’d like to try out the first battle (probably Coronel) on the 13th August). All welcome to join in…please let me know if you’re interested.