Friday, 12 January 2018

The Second Barons War: Addendum, Lewes and Evesham 1264-65 - Richard Brooks

I have just got my hands on a copy of the new Osprey Campaign series covering the Second Barons war so I am now able to do a comparison with the John Sadler book on the same subject that I reviewed recently.

The book itself is in the familiar style to all the other Osprey Campaigns and with the content obviously covering the same events I can skip onto the comparison bit and just drop in key parts as I go.

The two battles get a much better coverage in this book with both a little more depth and sharper details however there is still only the same limited original information available so there are no new items in this book that Sadler didn’t know off or omitted from his, just that it has been put across in a way more agreeable for Ospreys typical customers.

The moving of the location of the Battle of Lewes to nearer the town and not up on the old racecourse is consistent in both books (and also in Oman, which I have subsequently re-read as well.) I am still unclear on how the general opinion for it being on the Downs was formed; even my venerable “More Battlefields of Britain” from 1952 puts both cases forward. The army movement and approach marches are generally easier to follow in the Osprey.

Overall in my opinion (and after all ,that’s what really counts) the Battle of Lewes can be called a draw between the two books.

Sadler’s version of the events that then occur in-between the two battles is much better however Osprey's coverage of what happens once the campaign kicks of again is clearly superior. This covers not only de Montfort’s movements in Wales but also his son’s actions in the south prior to being summoned by his father to join their armies together, then comes the surprise attack on Simon the Younger by Prince Edward at Kenilworth castle.

The key points regarding the battle and the army deployments, despite Sadler’s extensive outlining of all the various possibilities, are more in line with my thinking in the Osprey book.

The two main contentious points are:
1. The approach route taken by the Royalists
2. Was the bridge into Evesham subsequently blocked by one of the Royalists divisions thus trapping de Montfort.

Sadler follows Oman and some of the later experts by agreeing on the more complicated manoeuvring of the Royalists instead of the much more likely ‘straightest possible route’ theory and he also falls on the side of the ‘Mortimer blocks the Bridge‘camp.

I just don’t agree with either and the Osprey version is much more to my way of thinking. A large portion of the Royalists forces had already ridden to Kenilworth, fought a one sided action, ridden back and then had to set off again to try and intercept de Montfort, all in a few days. It’s far more likely you would take the quickest possible route and in a formation that allows you to deploy easily into three battles upon arrival. Edward knew roughly de Montfort’s movements so it was just a matter of catching up with him in time and more importantly a lot of this was all done at night. You also certainly wouldn't detach a third of your force on a circuitous march with all the potential problems that entails and I am also not convinced by the argument that Mortimer was instead already tailing De Montfort rather than being part of the main Royalist army.

Finally reading the Osprey version puts over the possible briefness of the battle, de Montfort was heavily outnumbered and his Welsh Infantry broke immediately thus leaving him with little option but to try an all out charge with his cavalry, I doubt the actual fighting lasted even an hour, if that.

Battle of Evesham: my vote goes to Osprey.

One other point of interest from both books and is linked to a discussion we had recently at the Devon Wargames Group, which was about the effectiveness of being uphill. Both Lewes and Evesham were won by the army that was uphill of the other. Could de Montfort have broken though at Evesham and escaped if it had been on level ground? Probably not as I think he already knew that the game was up otherwise if he wanted he could have crossed the bridge in his rear to safety as he had advised others to do. Also at Lewes Prince Edward charged uphill against the London troops and broke them (quality and morale answers that one) but the other two divisions both lost against smaller enemy forces.

I guess you now want to know which one to buy.

Well I would get both but only if you can find Sadler at £8 and the Osprey at £10 , I found that after reading Sadler first and then the Osprey that it all sunk in so much better and I could puzzle over the various disputed points in my head after seeing both sides. Sadler does give a good run down of all the possible options, I just don’t agree with all his findings.

If you have to pay full price for both then I would choose the Osprey, it has more maps, better pictures and more tightly focused , the course of the campaigns are much easier to follow and for once the limitation of 96 pages isn't a problem due to the paucity of available facts.

Paperback and Kindle
Readable pages 92 out of 96 (but with many pictures on each page)
RRP of £14.99 ,
Best price 11th Jan 2018 = £9.81+p&p Amazon
Amazon Lewes and Evesham 1264-65, Osprey Campaign series No.285

This has been a Mr Steve presentation.


  1. Thanks for doing this review "Mr Steve". It is interesting to see the two books compared.

    Personally I have always thought the battle of Lewes took place close to the town across the Brighton Road. My thinking being that the Royalist forces were forced back through the town during the battle and this makes much more sense if they weren't fighting up on the Downs. Further De Montfort's London force being driven back to the shelter of Offham, flows better geographically with a battle nearer the town.

    Since I can do this battle with a few additions to my current armies, I may well give this a try at the club sometime.


  2. That's a nice comparison review, Mr. Steve. It's a fascinating period and certainly a colorful one.