Wednesday, 19 July 2017

1066 and All That - The Battlefields of Fulford & Stamford Bridge

Battlefields Trust - Fulford

Visiting battlefields is a great way to experience history from the viewpoint of the soldiers involved even accepting all the changes that have occurred to the landscape that may well have occurred in the intervening decades, centuries or millennia.

That said the further back in history the modern day traveller goes, the more interesting the interpretation of landscape often becomes, to the point that one can never really be certain if where one is stood is where the event occurred in the first place. Just ask all the people who visited Bosworth until recent times.

The map, inspired by the Battlefields Trust interpretation, showing the two armies lined up on the Germany Beck

Given those constraints one also has to contend with modern day events such as land developments and other stuff that is all about life going on around a place of historical interest.

The two battlefields of Stamford Bridge and Fulford, both close to York and hence incorporated into our week's holiday visit, encapsulate all those issues, but I hope in this post illustrate why even then the casual visitor can still get  a great sense of the feel for the landscape even then.

The sign at least confirms where we are but forewarns of the hazards of modern day battlefield touring

The year 1066 is a date most British people, when asked would recognise even if they might not be certain as to why they recognise it (blame that on modern history teaching - don't get me started).

Some people might even be able to blurt our something about the Normans and Hastings and Harold getting an arrow in the eye, and even fewer might be able  to talk about the other key players in that eventful year and even the latest discovery of the newest battle in the series, namely Appledore, down here in Devon, fought between the forces of King William I and Harold's two sons seeking to overturn the new order three years later in 1069.

Most of the latter are likely to be historians or wargamers.

Not much chance of exploring the banks of the Germany Beck that way!

Of the three battles that occurred in 1066, the Battle of Hastings, fought in October of that year, is the one that grabs the limelight away from the two equally interesting ones at Fulford and Stamford Bridge, fought the month before.

Battle of Fulford
Battle of Stamford Bridge
Battle of Hastings

No you cant have a look around here either!

The two battles of Fulford and Stamford Bridge close to York are separated by only a few miles and a week in their dates. They pretty well mark the end of the Viking age, certainly in Britain, as with the defeat of Norwegian King Harald Hardrada and King Harold's brother, Earl Tostig Godwinson, the threat from Scandinavia was crushed once and for all before Harold turned his army south and his date with destiny at Hastings a month later.

Oh and just in case you thought you might try and have a look over here !

Fulford, just south of York is where it looked for a moment as if Hardrada and Tostig had stolen a march on all the players by grabbing a victory over the Northumbrian and Mercian English under the Earls Morcar and Edwin.

The two earls, unsure of when or if they could expect support from Harold's main army located in the south, awaiting a Norman invasion, opted to march out of the walls of York  with their estimated 5,000 man force and offer battle to the 9,000 strong Viking army on a little stream called the Germany Beck that leads into the River Ouse on one flank and into a marshy morass on the other.

The location is the theory intertwined with possible sites close to the named place, Fulford. Now you see what I mean about all this uncertainty!

Ah well, at least I got to see the modern day Germany Beck

So arming myself with all the latest, greatest stuff from the Battlefield Trust, 'God bless em', (see the link at the top of the post) I headed off to check out this supposed location.

The battle was a fairly straightforward clash of lines that typified the era, supposedly fought over the beck with the Vikings turning the English left flank in the marsh land and rolling up their line.

I had rather hoped to walk along the beck to get a better feel for things but as you can see, on the day I visited, the Battlefield of Fulford was one giant road work, and so I contented myself with a picture of the Germany Beck and the lower reed beds at the River Ouse end of the line, which if anything captures what the terrain in this battle was all about.

These reeds and plants mark the lower end of the beck and show what the terrain might have looked like close to it in 1066

Putting the disappointment of coping with modern day life and particularly much needed road improvements we headed off for a bit of lunch and the Battlefield of Stamford Bridge, about four miles away lying south east of York on the River Derwent.

As someone brought up in London for many years Stamford Bridge was another place entirely, being the home ground of Chelsea Football Club. As a wargamer, this Stamford Bridge is a far more interesting and prettier place to visit and a town that seems to take its place in history seriously, if all the little hints around the place to the great events that occurred there are anything to go by.

Battlefields Trust - Stamford Bridge

Following the defeat of his local representatives at Fulford, King Harold moved with his main army north in a very quick march; so much so that he literally caught his brother and Hardrada off their guard when he arrived a week later.

Map of Stamford Bridge taken from the Battlefield Trust interpretation of the battle
Stamford Bridge is a town keen to remember its place in English history

We knew we were in the right place!

The Viking army was making the most of some late September summer sun and the men were relaxing without their mail when they had the shock of seeing the approach of Harold's army suddenly coming into view with all their metal work glinting in the sun.

As the English army drew up on the River Derwent a final attempt was made at a peaceful resolution between Harold and his renegade brother Tostig, as a delegation of three riders rode forward to parley.

One rider presented himself to Tostig explaining that if he was yet still now prepared to not take arms against the King he would in spite of his actions be granted a fifth of the Kingdom, to which Tostig asked and "what will he offer Harald, King of Norway?"

The answer came that;

"Since he was not content with his own kingdom, I'll give him six feet of English ground - a little more, perhaps, since he's a tall man. But nothing more than that, since I don't care about him".

Loyal to his Viking allies, Tostig refused the offer but also did not betray to them that it had come directly from his brother King Harold, who was the rider who had come forward from the group to make it, and now returned to the English line.

The bridge at Stamford is a bit sturdier than in 1066 and a lot busier

Many a commander would have considered falling back to the boats, reinforcements and getting some time to prepare for the fight, but Hardrada was not that kind of a warrior and he opted to make his stand on the open ground behind Stamford Bridge.

The problem was that he needed time to allow his mainly unarmoured, unprepared men to form their shield-wall and, so the story has it, that one of his best warriors armed with a Dane Axe held the wooden bridge over the river for several minutes single-handedly fighting off attempts to cross it and in the process killing forty English warriors until felled by an English spear thrust directed up from under the bridge by another warrior floating along on a barrel.

It must be true because there is a pub commemorating the whole thing!

The peaceful slow flowing River Derwent - Note; rivers in Britain are rarely blue even on a hot sunny afternoon!

The New Inn adds to the town's commemoration of its place in history

Once the bridge was clear the English mass flooded across, eager to maintain the momentum of their attack and to stop any attempt to break contact.

Geese with their goslings in Stamford Bridge near the pub

The main road through Stamford Bridge is busy, but the town is a pretty place and was made even more so by the glorious sunny weather on the day we visited, encouraging a walk along the Derwent with an ice cream and taking in the wildlife.

Evocative of the great events that happened here, in a year when England changed for ever

Lilly pads and flowers about to bloom on the Derwent

The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly is a common British species in the summer, adding colour here to the banks of the River Derwent

As I said, the town takes its place in history seriously and it was nice to see the monument recording this keynote battle in English history.

The small memorial to the battle in the town

After checking out the river crossing and the fight for the bridge area, it was off to find the location of the main battle site.

At this point the precise placing of events becomes a little more open to educated guesswork, but the current thinking is that the two armies met on what is called locally "Battle Flats", still an area of open farmland behind the town.

The Minster Way that leads out of Stamford Bridge (houses in background) out on to the Battle Flats and through the centre of the Viking line

The small culvert railing that identified the stream or beck that runs across the flats

On leaving the houses and streets of Stamford, the open land makes for a compelling location and the site of the Viking line forming up on a small beck that leads down to the Derwent appeals to the wargamer in me as an obvious defensible line that an army outnumbered  and 'caught on the hop' army would choose as the best possible place to make a stand.

Still a little water flowing on a hot sunny afternoon

One other aspect of walking around battlefields, particularly ancient sites that are relatively unmarked or signed is the fun of interpreting the map and working out where everything is.

There are no signs on Battle Flats and the road simply winds its way across open ground with a disused railway embankment running parallel to it, and so it was back to the map to look for that little beck indicating the supposed position, which would need a channel to go under the road. That was when I saw the little railing above the tiny bridge over the culvert, practically hidden among the summer verge.

The beck follows the line of bushes, centre, out to the tree line, marking the route of the disused railway and identifies the end of the Viking line to its left

The curve of nettles marks the bank of the beck leading out across the flats that marks the suspected Viking line 

The line of the beck meandering across the fields certainly makes sense as a possible location for the actual main battle, with Hardrada's and Tostig's army badly outnumbered to begin with, having just 6,000 men to face off against the 15,000 English, barrelling across the fields before them.

Although later reinforced by a further 3,000 men coming up from the boats at Riccall, the counter-attack put in by these men was not enough to reverse the result.

If the Viking line position is correct, the English army charged into it across these fields from the left

Looking out across the open fields of Battle Flats it was not difficult imagining the clash of the Viking and English armies, that eventually saw the Viking line collapse into a rout to the boats at Riccall and potential sanctuary.

The story has it that so many men died on these fields that the ground lay covered in bleached white bones for up to fifty years after the battle.

The losses suffered by the Vikings meant that only twenty-four boats out of the three hundred they arrived in were required to carry the survivors back to Orkney and then on to Norway.

The pretty town of Stamford and a sunny walk, ice cream in hand, around the River Derwent and Battle Flats more than made up for the disappointment of limited access at Fulford, but both sites left a lasting impression of why the battles were fought where they were, if they were, and all the caveats that sentence implies.

Next up, more from York with the Yorkshire Museum, Jorvik, York, the Minster and the walls. Sadly, due to a minor operation on the left leg requiring a few stitches, I wasn't able to attend Devizes this year, so no report this time, but the painting desk is back in service with a brand new daylight lamp which is absolutely fantastic, together with a nice new paint rack to go with it, pictures to follow.

Not only that but Mr Steve has been off on further travels to interesting sites, and I have a report on that little adventure to post.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival - July 8/9th 2017

Mr Steve reports on the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival

Their website does all the initial explaining for me:

“Tewkesbury Medieval Festival has been the high spot of Tewkesbury’s summer since 1984. It is now widely regarded as the largest free medieval gathering of its kind in Europe, and attracts re-enactors, traders and entertainers, and visitors from all over the world.

Its central attraction is a re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury, on part of the site of the original 1471 battlefield. Many of the participants including wives and children live as a medieval army in authentic medieval encampments for the whole weekend.

The event features a wide range of period entertainment, including music, dance and drama as well as a collection of fascinating characters from the past. These may include barber surgeons, preachers and even the odd dragon keeper and an exhibition tent with displays from organisations specialising in different aspects of history.

The town centre is bustling with associated events and the streets are decorated with dozens of authentic medieval banners for the festival period.

Best of all, despite its size and popularity, entry to Tewkesbury Medieval Festival is free, and its hard working volunteer directors are determined to keep it that way.”

Every January for the last few years I have written this event onto my calendar (yes I still do this, none of that electronic nonsense for me) but have never gone, either its too far to go, it’s too cold, or it conflicts with club, but this year I actually went.

And I am glad I did.

First thing is, get there early, I arrived around an hour after it opened and I just managed to squeeze into the 2nd overflow car park which meant I now had a bit of a walk to get to the event (actually quite a bit), you do pay for parking (£5) but it does go towards the cost of the festival. Having never been before I had no idea what to expect or where it was being held so when I finally arrived I saw a large field stretching out in front of me filled with rows of tents. Once past the handful of hippies selling Dream interpretations and Shakra re- alignment you get to the multi-rows of tents selling everything a respectable medieval peasant who had more dung than he knew what to do with could
possibly want. Replica Weapons of all sorts, clothing for the military and the civilian, arts and crafts (I did see a very nice pottery tankard for £10), yet more weapons, more clothing etc etc.


Add in the areas for weapon displays, assorted dancing (mainly with sticks), period music, numerous children’s entertainment, historical information tents and of course food and drink concessions. It was a very big field.

When I was a boy you could play football in the street without armour
Various other sub-fields were festooned with medieval tents where the re-enactors put on
the usual Medieval living experience as well as being used for their camping.

My day was therefore split 50/50 between queueing for food and watching the main battle, Ok, there was also some shopping but apart from buying a bumper sticker (my other car’s a hay-cart) and deciding that I probably didn't need any more battle axes it was mainly queueing.

 360 view from the ice cream queue
Whoops! Almost forgot, I did go on an abbreviated battlefield guided tour which was excellent, I am sorry but I did not take a note of the guides name but he does regular walks of the battle throughout the year. (See below)

Our guide in front of the deer park

Myself and fifty-nine others gathered just outside the festival entrance where he outlined the events leading up to the battle, then we walked up a lane to roughly opposite the Deer Park and the Gastons fields where we stopped for a brief synopses of the battle itself, returning back to the small field by the Festival main entrance to what may have been the Bloody Meadow.

Overall very good and I intend to make a special journey later this year for the full walk and tour.

So onto the Battle:

Queueing for ice creams meant I was late to the battle

In a field adjoining the main festival and supposedly set on part of the actual battlefield itself (oddly surprisingly missing from the previous tour) we had a recreation of the Battle of Tewksbury. We did have a distinguished compare for the day, Professor Ronald Hutton who gave a stirring description of the history and characters involved and which was suitably altered to suit the very large crowd of non-history types that had gathered, before he handed over to one of the re-enactors who covered the actual battle description.

Ronald Hutton

There were apparently 2000 re-enactors taking part and which included contingents from France, Belgium and Germany who have been coming over especially for this event for many years. (coming over here taking our re-enactors jobs!).

Some French tourists

The battle itself I found both interesting and disappointing. Firstly the shear number of people involved was super impressive, most of whom were in very shiny armour on a hot day, this was re-enactment done on a big scale and visually it looked fantastic. Worth going just to see it.

Lancastrian army

Unfortunately the battle followed the usual course I have seen at every re-enactment. First one group moves forward and fights, it falls back, another group advances and does the same. Both sides then move forward and they all fight. Both sides fall back, Then it starts all over again. Normally it is interspersed with cannons and Pony Club but we only had cannons this time and a lot of archers.

Yorkist archers

Despite their best efforts in the commentary I didn't believe that I was seeing a recreation of the battle of Tewkesbury however I do realise why they do it this way. Still it was well done and it was impressive.

I left before the end and so missed the Italian flag wavers who were up next. (obvious joke to be inserted here).

Overall Impression: Excellent day out and the town itself was magnificently lined throughout with appropriate flags flying from every building.

One suggestion: bring a picnic.

I can recommend the mead tent, please tell me you can see him to?

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival is usually held on the 2nd Weekend of July

This has been a day out with Mr Steve

York Army Museum - Home of the Royal Dragoon Guards & The Yorkshire Regiment

I really love the British Army Regimental system that has cultivated a sense of family among those who have served with the various regiments over their long history and the way that long service and history is maintained through the system we have in this country of keeping the link with the local area the regiments hail from. That link is best characterised by the many regimental museums found throughout the country often situated in former Victorian barrack blocks and guard towers holding a treasure trove of items.

The regimental system has always been in a state of transformation with constant reforms ever since the first New Model Army and this has seen the British regiments move from being named after their founding colonels, to a numbering system, to an official linkage to a specific county or area with additions to the number of battalions in a regiment, particularly during the wars of mass conscription in the twentieth century, to a gradual consolidation of those regiments into a smaller professional army, but keen to carry forward the traditions and history of service and valour from their predecessors.

The York Army Museum picture from the top of the Norman Keep, Clifford Tower, part of York Castle

As the British Army has changed, there has been a gradual appreciation of the many regimental museums dotted around the country and money has been provided to allow them to modernise and better display the treasures they are responsible for.

The York Army Museum falls into this latter category and now boasts a very fine display gallery opened in 2015 by His Royal Highness the Duke of York with some amazing exhibits in a modern well lit arrangement with lots of information panels especially useful for people like me needing to remember what I have photographed and for those who don't know the significance of what they are looking at.

Being a "soft southerner" I am very familiar with the regiments based in the south west and London, but less so with those from this part of Yorkshire and so it was a real pleasure to see the items relating to the regiments that contribute their history to the modern day Royal Dragoon Guards and the The Yorkshire Regiment representing the cavalry and armoured units and infantry in the British army.

York Army Museum

On entering the gallery you will find things laid out in a series of six zones, entitled;
Zone 1. Role call - Explaining the difference between the various arms of service and their role in battle over the centuries.
Zone 2. Lines of Fire - The histories of the regiments over three hundred years with treasures from the collection to illustrate.
Zone 3. The Sharp End - Illustrating the changing kit of the British soldier since the seventeenth century plus to interactive games for big and little kids to learn more.
Zone 4. Regimental Ties - An invitation into the Officers' Mess illustrating the Spirit, Community and Memory that unites soldiers and their families.
Zone 5. Soldiering On - The stories of battle from the words of the soldiers that served illustrating their most extreme and testing battle experiences
Zone 6. The Yorkshire Soldier - The three hundred years of evolution that has gone in to the development of the modern British soldier epitomised by The Royal Dragoon Guards and The Yorkshire Regiment today.

The pictures I have put together are a selection from the various zones that particularly appealed to me.

As an avid fan of the Napoleonic era, no better example of the attributes that characterise the gritty nature of the British infantrymen could have been chosen to represent the infantry arm in Zone 1 than that of a private of the 3rd Battalion 14th (West Yorkshire) Foot standing as he would have done on the field of Waterloo about to present his Brown Bess musket after a wet soaking night in an open field and now standing under a hot baking June sunny day with all hell going on around him.

3/14th Foot at Waterloo

The fresh quality of the colour of this display would suggest a replica uniform, but there was no sign to confirm my impression. Nevertheless I enjoyed checking out the detail on this display and have included the close up pictures which really capture the look of the 14th Foot on the 18th June 1815.

The Sherman tank has a special place in my heart as I can never forget my Dad extolling the virtues of this armoured fighting vehicle in spite of the many vices covered in historical tracts since.

Unlike the interior layout illustrated in this full size representation of a 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards Sherman, Dad's was an OP tank of the 55th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, which meant that it didn't have a main gun, but a map scroll arrangement instead, to allow the command crew to radio back artillery coordinates in support of the infantry and Sherman tanks of the Guards Armoured Division.

That said I pictured Dad smiling and saying "see I told you so" as I read the description of the Sherman as fast and manoeuvrable and he would have added "reliable to" as they just didn't break down. He remarked that they made up for their lack of protection with their speed in close country enabling them to get close up and on to the flanks of their slower German opponents.

That said the Sherman was a "needs must" tank option and, not for the first time, British soldiers had to make do with second best kit during a time of extreme requirements; and General Montgomery was forced to defend the use of the tank after questions were raised in Parliament about its unsatisfactory armour protection and its ability to brew up on request. The crews of these tanks demand the utmost respect for carrying on and taking the fight to the enemy in spite of what they would have known.

I was somewhat surprised at the choice of a First World War cavalry trooper as the display item for this arm of service.

The action style manikin and eye-catching metallic horse present a dramatic impression of how these chaps would have looked at the tilt, but I would have thought this was not the era of the cavalryman; and their ability to deliver charges as that suggested by the display were short lived and thankfully rare once the power of WWI weapons had been shown to have made the horse obsolete on the modern battlefield.

The sad thing for me about this display is it captures the idiocy and lack of imagination of British generalship in World War One epitomised by the likes of Douglas Haig and others that persisted in the idea of the cavalry breakthrough once the poor bloody infantry had created a gap in the enemy line.

Of course the power of modern artillery meant that these cavalry had to be kept so far back from the lines that they were never going to be able to exploit anything.

Perhaps the metallic horse is suggestive of the cavalry giving up their mounts after World War One and taking up the tank and armoured car as their modern day steeds

For me it would have been a cavalry trooper from the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava that would have better represented the pinnacle of the development of this arm and of the regiments that contribute their history to the Royal Dragoon Guards.

The next part of the gallery or Zone 2 covers the treasures that mark significant moments in the histories of the Yorkshire regiments.

The first item that grabs immediate attention is the large portrait of Sir Robert Elchin, the first Colonel of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, 1695 - 1715, when it was first raised in the Irish town of Enniskillen in 1689.

Sir Robert Elchin, Colonel of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, 1695 - 1715

Despite being a Scottish protestant and having served King William, he became suspected of sympathy for the exiled King James and was removed from command in 1715.

Perhaps those suspicions were confirmed when he next takes up arms on behalf of the Jacobites and on the failure of the rising found himself exiled to France for the remainder of his days.

Apparently one of the issues that might have driven Sir Robert to move from sympathy to outright rebellion is emphasised by the cavalry sabre below (c 1708-16) carried by his troopers when the regiment moved from Ireland to Scotland.

The blade bears the name 'Elchin' and would have been paid for by the colonel on the promise of repayment by the state. The reluctance of the government to honour the arrangement would certainly have been a contributing factor to his change of allegiance.

The hilt is a basket type, of Scottish manufacture, and  provided excellent protection to what was a very popular cavalry blade.

The Dettingen Standard

Battle of Dettingen 1743

Cornet Henry Richardson defending the Colonel's standard at Dettingen, 1743

Thought to be the oldest surviving British cavalry standard in existence, the Dettingen Standard is one of three that would have been carried on the 27th June, 1743 at the Battle of Dettingen by Ligonier's Horse or the 4th Horse, later to be retitled the 7th Dragoon Guards in 1788.

It bears the arms, crest and motto of General Sir John Ligonier, Colonel of the regiment and these arms were carried on both sides, here shown separated for the display.

During the battle it soon became the target of a French attack and Cornet Henry Richardson is reported to have received up to '37 cuts and shots upon his body and through his clothes, besides many on the shaft of the standard'

The standard was retired after the battle and given to Richardson.

The imposing portrait seen below is that of Colonel Francis Skelly Tidy (1775-1825), of the 14th Foot.

The 3/14 at Waterloo - A Very Pretty Little Battalion

Colonel Tidy joined the regiment in 1807 and served with it until 1823 and can be seen in the portrait below wearing his Waterloo medal and a badge of a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

Colonel Tidy was described as 'the perfect regimental officer who never passed a house numbered '14' without taking off his hat' and was greatly respected and liked by all ranks.

Two items displayed below belonged to Colonel Tidy, one, a French grenade badge and inscribed with his name, is believed to have been picked up at Waterloo and the other is his Waterloo medal seen in the portrait.

Colonel F.S. Tidy's Waterloo medal
The museum boasts some really interesting artifacts from the Napoleonic era as shown by the following items:

The jacket below is an interesting item as it displays the bullion epaulets typical of the pre 1796 Heavy Cavalry long coat, but appears to be the later short tailed coat, designed to better clear the saddle when mounting.

The 7th (Princess Royal's) Regiment of Dragoon Guards are listed in Franklin as having black facings with gold lace and buttons for the officers, with loops in pairs as seen below.

Officers jacket, 7th Dragoon Guards, based in Britain throughout the Napoleonic Wars

The 1812 pattern dragoon helmet seen below was a vast improvement on the bicornes often worn with a steel skull cap for better protection.

However the similarity to the French model caused the infantry a few problems in identifying friend from foe at any great distance, having to look for the classic docked tail on British cavalry mounts, although even that could not be relied upon as some of the heavy regiments didn't dock.

Officers helmet (1812 pattern) 6th Inniskilling Dragoons c1816, carrying the plate 'Waterloo'
commemorating their role in the battle as part of the Union Brigade

This illustration of a 5th Dragoon Guards trooper really illustrates the similar appearance to the French look
caused by the adoption of the 1812 pattern dress.

Major General Sir William Ponsonby led the 5th Dragoon Guards at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812 and took part in General Le Marchant's famous charge, so this sword carried by General Ponsonby was a real thrill for a Peninsular War fan like me to see.

Sword believed to have belonged to Major General Sir William Ponsonby, commanding the 5th Dragoon Guards at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812 and who would later be killed leading the charge of the Union Cavalry Brigade at Waterloo

The 2/14th Foot were at Corunna in January 1809, part of 2nd Brigade under Major General Rowland Hill, part of General Hope's 2nd Division.

The shot picked up from the battlefield on the ridge on which the battalion stood is indicative of the artillery barrage they would have had to endure during the French attack.

Musket and canister balls recovered from the ridge above Elvira at the Battle of Corunna in 1809 where the 14th Foot took part.  
I had a smile seeing the next item, a piece of yellow silk cut from the curtains on Napoleon's camp-bed following the allied advance after the Battle of Waterloo.

A small token to take when considering the booty that the British army uncovered following Napoleon's brother's defeat at Vitoria in 1813 and I don't think much of it ended up in any military museum.

A fragment of silk cut from Napoleon's camp-bed abandoned after Waterloo and taken by Lt. John Manly Wood of the 14th Foot
Maps are always fascinating to study when relating to a particular military campaign and especially when they are ones used by the military of the time.

In a world before modern map drawing and production techniques allowed for proper scaling and reliability about there accuracy, these documents are intriguing to see what the soldiers of the time had to work with and the utter lack of detailed information they could use.

A certain Sir Arthur Wellesley served as an infantry colonel in the Flanders campaign, and as well as learning how not to run a campaign he also learnt the lesson of supplementing his maps with deep reconnaissance by observing officers who would go into the countryside to discover information about the enemy but also the features of the landscape such as fording points on rivers or good forage areas for horses that could help support the army as it moved through it.

Map of Holland used by Capt. Meard of the 14th Foot, during the Flanders Campaign 1793-95

A few years ago I had the pleasure of commanding the Heavy Brigade in a table-top refight of Balaclava that friends from the DWG staged in one of our summer gatherings in north Devon.

I love the look of the Crimean period and just about falls into the pre-modern horse and musket period for me with some splendid uniforms on display.

Needless to say I took a bit of time admiring the very special heavy cavalry helmets on display.

The 5th Dragoon Guards helmet worn by General Scarlett at Balaclava
showing the marks of Russian sabre cuts across the top of the badge

The charge of the Heavy Brigade was barely a charge at all, as the British cavalry were led forward uphill from a standing start, with such a short distance between them and the Russians that the regiments barely reached a trot before contact was made.

Map of the battle illustrating the charge of the Heavy Brigade against Ryzhov's Russian cavalry

The Heavy Brigade numbered ten squadrons of about 140 men in each and with two each from the Scots Greys, 6th Dragoons, 4th Dragoon Guards, 5th Dragoon Guards and the 1st Royal Dragoons. The latter regiment was detached from the brigade at the time of the charge just west of No. 6 Redoubt.

General Sir James Yorke Scarlett GCB commander of the Heavy Brigade in the Crimea

With the Russian cavalry having the advantage of numbers, nearly three to one, an uphill position and on the left flank of the British brigade, Scarlet gave the order for his two leading regiments to wheel left into line with the other two wheeling in behind them to form a second line.

When the two lines met, Scarlet and his staff were the first to contact closely followed by two squadrons of the Greys and a squadron of the 6th Inniskillings. They were soon followed into the mass by the other regiments with the 4th Dragoons giving the cry of "Faugh a Ballagh" (Clear the Way) as they charged home against the right rear of the Russian horse. Even the 1st Royal Dragoons ignored their orders to remain behind and charged home on their own initiative.

Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava 25th October 1854 - National Army Museum , Godfrey Douglas Giles
Heaving and hacking at their opponents from all sides the Russians broke and were pursued by the British cavalrymen for three hundred yards, eventually rallying to their officers, as the horse gunners peppered the enemy in their retreat and convinced them against having another go.

The action barely lasted ten minutes but Ryzhov's cavalry had suffered 40-50 killed with over 200 wounded for the loss to the Heavy Brigade of 10 killed and 98 wounded. 

6th Inniskilling Dragoons Helmet worn during the charge of the Heavy Brigade
at Balaclava by Lt. Col. H. Dalrymple White, also showing the results of enemy sword cuts

The First World War figures large in most regimental museums as indeed it does across the country with war memorials recording the huge loss of life incurred and now being commemorated at the moment with the centenaries of the battles that occurred during that war.

The First World War was dominated by the machine gun and this German model was captured by the 11th (2nd Hull Tradesmen) Battalion, one of the 'Pals' Battalions so named because friends and colleagues from the same town or possibly club, joined up together and often fought and died together, causing mass grief in the towns affected and leading to the practice being dropped in future call ups.

The gun was taken in the spring of 1917 during the Second Battle of the Aisne, where the British were fighting in and around Arras.

Second Battle of the Aisne

I always take the time to look closely whenever I see a Victoria Cross on display, as you know there will always be an incredible story of valour attached to the award of this medal, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that the British state can award to a serviceman or woman.

The Yorkshire museum has several on display and I am always pleased to see them cared for and rightly treasured in these public museums rather than held in a private collections.

Private George William Chafer VC, of the 1st Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment won his during an attack on British trenches near Albert on the 3rd/4th June 1916, when a vital messenger was wounded by an enemy shell.

His Citation read;
"Private Chafer, at once grasping the situation, on his own initiative, took the message from the man's pocket and, although severely wounded, choking and blinded by gas, ran along the ruined parapet under heavy shell and machine-gun fire. He just succeeded in delivering the message before he collapsed from the effects of his wounds."

Private George William Chafer VC, 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment
The cavalry arm figure large in the Yorkshire Army Museum and I was interested in seeing the final design of British cavalry sabre that seemed to have learnt nothing from the experiences of General Le Marchant, or indeed Sergeant Ewart of the Scots Greys.

The 1908/1912 pattern sabre was all about the point, in that age old debate about the point versus the edge.

The problem with 'point' school of cavalry sabre design is that yes the point will usually kill whereas the edge is more often likely to wound, but a cavalryman striking the enemy with the point is very likely to see his blade penetrate too far causing problems withdrawing it or even striking bone, potentially braking the wrist of the holder.

Corporal Logan, 13th Light Dragoons, kills Colonel Chamourin of the 26th Dragoons, Campo Mayor 1811
Le Marchant designed the 1798 Light Cavalry Sabre which with the weight pushed to the tip of the curved blade meant that the force of the tip in a cut was much greater and the wounds inflicted, more debilitating to the target; so much so that after the death of Colonel Chamourin of the 26th Dragoons, killed in action by Corporal Logan of the 13th Light Dragoons at Campo Mayor in 1811, where Logan's blade cut down through the brass helmet worn by Chamourin into the man's skull exposing the brain, the French troops were horrified and complained to the British about using such a weapon.

The British 1796 heavy cavalry sabre in the Napoleonic period was not a Le Marchant design and was based on an earlier Austrian model with a 35-inch long straight hatchet pointed style blade which was neither an efficient cutting weapon or a pointed one, so much so that many heavy cavalrymen such as Sergeant Ewart at Waterloo had the farrier sharpen the blade into a two edged point to at least perform one of the functions.

The WWI issue model seems not to have learnt much from previous designs apart from having an easy to produce functional guard, the blade carries all the faults of the Napoleonic model without the functionality of a heavy cutting blade.

Captain C. B. Hornby DSO, 4th Dragoon Guards

The 4th Dragoon Guards, using sabres like the one seen above, were the first unit to go into action against the German army on the 22nd August 1914 at the Belgian village of Casteau when a reconnaissance patrol encountered and attacked a German cavalry patrol.

Captain Hornby and C Squadron, 4th Dragoon Guards in action at Casteau, 22nd August 1914

Captain Hornby led two troops of C Squadron and pursued the enemy for a few miles until they joined up with their supports and turned to give fire at which the British cavalry dismounted to return the fire.

Several of the enemy were killed and five prisoners taken.

Casteau 1914
4th Dragoon Guards in the Great War

Before the age of mass photography the main source of primary uniform references comes from the brush of artists, and I try and collect images of miniatures of officers often produced for family and sweethearts while they were away.

These miniatures really capture the look and style of the regimental dress of officers, and it was officers only that could afford such an item, and help clarify the colours of facings, lace and scarlet tunics from the period, and underpin our more modern references that we wargamers rely on.

Miniature portrait of an officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards c1811

In August 1811 the 5th Dragoon Guards left Portsmouth for Portugal and service in the Peninsular War and this young man may well have seen action at the Battle of Salamanca, where the British cavalry under General Le Marchant contributed to the destruction of Marshal Marmont's army with a very effective charge acknowledged and seen by the Duke of Wellington.

One of the classic tank encounters in Normandy, and one that many wargame scenarios have been created around, was perhaps the battle for Lingevres on the 14th June 1944.

The battle was one of those bitter little actions fought between the British 50th Division and Panzer Lehr desperately trying to contain the British bridgehead before more German divisions could arrive to launch the German counter-attack following D-Day.

Pennant from one of the five German Panther tanks destroyed in Lingevres
14th June 1944

The 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry supported by the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards and their Sherman tanks attacked into the French village at about 10.00 and after bitter fighting with the Lehr Panzergrenadiers had secured the village by about 14.00.

Then Panzer Lehr counter-attacked at about 16.00 with tanks and infantry that saw the village still in British control but with the Durhams having lost all but one of their 6lbr anti-tank guns and 22 officers and 226 other ranks killed or wounded and the 4/7th DG having lost four of their tanks.

II/902nd Panzergrenadier Regiment lost 257 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner together with ten Panther tanks, five of them to Sergeant W. Harris' together with his gunner Trooper McKillop in their Sherman Firefly.

One of the knocked out Lehr Panthers in Lingevre after the battle.

Battle of Lingevres 1944
Fire and Fury- Scenarios/Lingevres.pdf

The treasures held in the York Army Museum were a real thrill for me, finding so much stuff that I had either only seen in reference books or not seen before at all .

These Napoleonic era cavalry helmets mark the transition for the British cavalry from a very 18th century look with long tails and bicornes to the 19th century and the appearance of horse tail and wool crested leather helmets that were much more practical in terms of hard wearing and the protection to the head from sword cuts.

1812 pattern Dragoon Helmet - 4th Queen's Own Dragoons
The helmet seen above, issued in 1812 to the 4th Queen's Own Dragoons illustrates the point well when you see the appearance of the regiment in 1809 with my interpretation of their look for my Talavera project.

My 4th Queen's Own Dragoons for Talavera

As illustrated in the Historex plate below, the 'Grecian' style helmet (Plate 1c)  was short lived and the regiment adopted the French style helmet (Plate 1d) the following year.

The Grecian model would however soldier on with the Household cavalry regiments as seen worn by the Lifeguards and Blues & Royals at Waterloo in 1815.

The 4th Dragoons Grecian style helmet less its black and red stripe woollen comb

For completion, I commented above about the unusual officers jacket for the 7th Dragoon Guards displayed with other Napoleonic items above, suggesting the lack of tails didn't match the regulations for that earlier style uniform; then I came across the portrait below by Robert Dighton Jnr. illustrating the earlier pattern.

An officer of the 7th Dragoon Guards 1801 painted by Robert Dighton Jnr.

Robert Dighton Junior was one of the Dighton dynasty of Regency period artists and he and his brother Denis produced some of the most memorable pictures of British Napoleonic period soldiers.

The Dighton Family
Denis Dighton

Denis Dighton is particularly notable for his depictions of not only British, but Spanish and Portuguese soldiers in the Peninsular War.

The 3rd 'Fighting' Division was established under the Duke of Wellington as part of his famous Peninsular Army and it was their famous divisional badge on the shoulders of this officer's WWII battledress with the triangle motif capturing the three in the divisions title that caught my attention.

The 3rd Division was commanded by Major General Bernard Montgomery in 1940 and were later designated by him as an assault division for D Day, landing on Sword Beach.

The 3rd Division maintained the reputation of its hard fighting title throughout and still appears on the modern British order of battle.

3rd Division (United_Kingdom)
East Yorkshire Regiment

Men of the 2nd battalion East Yorkshire Regiment under shell fire in Normandy - 19th July 1944
Note the white rose motif above the corporal's tapes as seen on the battledress below

The 8th Brigade (1st Suffolk, 2nd East Yorkshire and 1st South Lancashire Regiments) of 3rd Division was the first to land on Sword Beach and the East Yorkshire shoulder flashes with the white rose badge can be seen on this officer's battledress as well as on the corporal seen above, with his men under shell fire in Normandy.

Another Napoleonic treasure trove hove into view starting with this Officer's silver belt plate (1801-16), 15th (East Yorkshire) Foot.

The 15th Foot were nicknamed "The Snappers" during the Napoleonic Wars in commemoration of their action at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 when the regiment ran short of ball and was forced to distribute the remaining cartridges to the best shots whilst the rest of the man "snapped" away with powder charges only.

The fine portrait below is of an officer of the 3/14th Foot and was painted after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 whilst the battalion was on Occupation Duties.

Major J Keightley was second in command of the 3/14th Foot at Waterloo and his gorget is pictured below and would have been worn at the throat as seen in the portrait above.

The gilt metal gorget is thought to commemorate the armour worn at the throats by knights and was worn by the officer when on duty.

Gorget worn by Major J.  Keightley 3/14th Foot - 1815

The classic headdress of the British infantryman post 1812 and evocative of the Waterloo campaign has to be the 'Belgic' Shako seen below.

Officers Belgic Shako 14th Foot

These shakos were not known for being particularly hard wearing and to see one in such good condition was a treat.

This is an officers pattern for the 14th Foot and carries the faded silver chords of the regiment.

The treasures kept on coming with this French general officers sword, seen below, taken at Waterloo by Lieutenant Edward Trevor, Royal Artillery and passed to his son who served as an officer in the 14th Foot.

The sword dates to before 1804 and is a design reserved for presentation to distinguished senior officers. It was made in the workshops of Nicholas Noel Boutet, personal gun-maker to Napoleon.

French General Officers sword taken at Waterloo

Whilst enjoying the Napoleonic display items I noticed this rather interesting Sabretache taken from a Russian hussar by Lieutenant Colonel E. C. Hodge, Commanding Officer of the 4th Dragoon Guards at the Battle of Balaclava.

The sabretache seemed vaguely familiar and then I spotted why, when thumbing through the old Osprey reference library and found this illustration by Richard Scollins.

The picture shows a Lance Corporal of the 12th Ingermanland Laandski Hussars who were at Balaclava and part of General Ryzhov's brigade that came to grips with the Heavy Brigade and what I originally took to be a '1' was in fact an 'I' for Ingermanland.

Interesting to note that the 'H' is slightly different than that portrayed and that's the beauty of visiting museums like this.

After a slight diversion to the Crimea it was back to the Napoleonic era with this interesting French eagle badge taken by a soldier of the 3/14th Foot at Waterloo, and looks like an example of the kind of badge that would be seen on a soldiers cartridge pouch, particularly in the French Guard.

French eagle badge similar to the one seen below on the cartridge pouch, picked up at Waterloo - Possibly French Guard?

Fusilier of the Garde 
The first campaign service medal to be issued by the British government to its armed forces was the Waterloo Medal.

Issued to all ranks, the first example pictured was awarded to Lieutenant B. Christie of the 5th Dragoon Guards who served as an Aide-de-Camp to Major General Ponsonby, commander of the 'Union' Heavy Cavalry Brigade and killed at Waterloo.

Waterloo Medal issued to Lt. Christe, ADC to Maj.Gen.Ponsonby 

The second example was issued to Quartermaster Sergeant T Goddard of the 3/14th Foot who had previously served with the 4th Dragoon Guards.

Waterloo Medal issued to Quartermaster Sgt. Goddard 3/14th Foot

In 1847 it was decided to recognise the service of the campaigns prior to Waterloo with the issuing of the Military General Service Medal to veterans of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1814.

Each recipient received the medal with specific clasps recording the battles in which they had fought.

Here and below are the Military General Service Medals issued to Trumpeter H. McVeagh of the 5th Dragoon Guards who served in the Peninsular War from 1811 to 1814 seeing action at Toulouse, Vittoria and Salamanca and to Private A. Surton who was with the 15th Foot at the capture of Guadeloupe in the West Indies in 1810

Below is another fascinating item held by the museum which is the jacket worn by Captain W.F. Browne of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons at the Battle of Waterloo.

Captain Browne commanded the centre squadron of the regiment when it charged with the Union Brigade, which saw a very successful attack against D'Erlon's Infantry Corps followed by an equally effective French counter-attack by French lancers, causing heavy losses to the British cavalrymen including its commander Maj. Gen. Ponsonby.

Map illustrating the charge of the Union and Household Brigades at Waterloo 18th June 1815

Browne was wounded several times in the action and his jacket was cut open at the sleeve by the surgeon who treated him.

If the story behind the jacket was not fascinating alone, I was immediately drawn to the style of the lacing on the front which seems to be that of the old 1807 pattern heavy cavalry short jacket, worn in the first half of the Peninsular War, not the 1812 pattern I had expected to see as in the illustration below
Historex Illustration of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons as they would have looked at Waterloo, or would they?

The letter below is from a relative of Captain Browne describing his injuries received in the battle:

"My Brother in Law's Regiment, the Inniskillings were in the very thick of it. Man was fighting against man. He had got a wound, with a ball which was in his foot and three wounds from Lancers in other parts when his horse going at a quick pace was shot. This of course brought Browne to the ground where he staggered on on foot and defended himself the best way he could. In this state he received three wounds anew....."

Letter describing the wounds to Capt, Browne, 6th Inniskilling Dragoons at Waterloo

Finally I thought I would end this long post with a look at another three Victoria Cross awards, one from the Second World War in 1943 and the other two from the First World War, one in 1916 and the other in 1918, but all having in common extraordinary courage shown in the face of the enemy and a determination to overcome no matter what the personal risk entailed.

Private Eric Anderson VC, 5th East Yorkshire Regiment

On the 6th April 1943, A Company, 5th East Yorks put in an attack at Wadi Akarit, Tunisia during which they came under heavy fire whilst moving down a forward slope. Several men were wounded and had to be left as the company retired behind the ridge line. Private Anderson, age 27, and the company stretcher bearer immediately ran forward under heavy fire and carried back a wounded soldier. He did this three times and was administering first aid to a fourth when he was mortally wounded.

Sergeant Albert Mountain of the 15th/17th Leeds Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment was, with his unit, caught up in the heavy fighting that characterised the final German offensive in March 1918.

On the 26th March the Leeds battalion was being forced back. His citation reads:

"On 21 March 1918 at Hamelincourt, France, when the situation was critical, Sergeant Mountain with a party of 10 men attacked an advance enemy patrol of about 200 strong with a Lewis gun, killing half of them. The sergeant then rallied his men in the face of overwhelming numbers of the main body of the enemy, to cover the retirement of the rest of the company – this party of one NCO and four men held at bay 600 of the enemy for half an hour. Sergeant Mountain later took command of the flank post of the battalion, holding on for 27 hours until finally surrounded by the enemy. Sergeant Mountain was one of the few to fight their way back. His supreme fearlessness and initiative undoubtedly saved the whole situation."

Sergeant Albert Mountain VC, 15th/17th Leeds Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment

Private John Cunningham was just 19 years old and serving with the 12th (Hull's Sportsman's) Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment, another 'Pals' battalion described in this post.

The 13th November 1916 saw the last offensive as part of the Battle of the Somme, started in the summer of that year, with the Batttle of the Ancre.

Battle of the Ancre 1916

The 31st British Division, of which the East Yorks were a part, was tasked with seizing German trenches close to Hebuterne in order to secure the flank north of Serre.

Private John Cunningham VC, 12th (Hull's Sportsman's) Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment

The citation reads;

"After the enemy's front line had been captured, Private Cunningham went with a bombing section up a communication trench where much opposition was met and all the rest of the section were either killed or wounded. Collecting all the bombs from the casualties Private Cunningham went on alone and when he had used up all the bombs he had he returned for a fresh supply and again went up the communication trench where he met a party of 10 Germans. He killed all 10 and cleared the trench up to the new line."

Tools of the trade in trench warfare, wire cutters, trench cosh and British No.1 Type grenade, here cut
away for training purposes
So ends my selection of some of the amazing items in the collection of the Yorkshire Army Museum. When I visited, I had the place to myself for practically the whole time I was there, which was great for me, but I hope this encourages others to visit great museums like this and help support their work in preserving the history and heritage of the British Army.

References used in this post;
The Russian Army of the Crimean War 1854-56, Osprey Men at Arms
British Napoleonic Uniforms - C E Franklin

Next up more stuff from York with two more battlefields to look at plus some Roman stuff and more about Towton and the Wars of the Roses and hopefully another Wargames show to write about.