Saturday 30 June 2018

Battle of Stoke Field, 16th June 1487

The last stand of Martin Schwartz and his German and Swiss Mercenaries at Stoke Field, 16th June 1487

As part of our weekend in May travelling up to Partizan in Newark which was on the Sunday we also spent Saturday as guests of Wargames Foundry where we took the day to play a rather large game of Dux Bellorum, both events reported about here on JJ's

Partizan 2018
Wargames Foundry - Devon Wargames Group Day

Following our game some of our little group decided to make up for last year's visit and complete the day by walking the nearby battlefield of Stoke Field.

Wargames Foundry - Devon Wargames Group Day 2017

The weather compared with our visit in 2017 could not have been more different and with the rain confining our visit to Stoke Church and the commemorative stone to the fallen together with a very brief look at Red Gutter the scene of bloody slaughter in the rout that followed the battle, we saw nothing of the actual field of battle.

The satellite picture below is the map of the battlefield I created using the grid references created by the good folks at the Battlefield Trust who are the guardians of British Battlefields and do great work at protecting them from the vandals of British history.

You can see Foundry Miniatures building in the centre right of the picture  on the lane leading into East Stoke.

The Fosse Way or Road can be seen in the lower right and the battlefield is bordered on the left of picture by the River Trent.

The grid points I used for our visit are circled in white and the white arrows indicate the route of our walk starting from Foundry and turning right onto the old medieval road, Humber Lane, that runs parallel to the Fosse Way and is thought to be the approach route used by the opposing armies.

The satellite picture with the Battlefield Trust references to plot our progress across the battlefield. The positions of the armies is taken from the Battlefields Trust data with the favoured positions shaded.

To further aid understanding what the pictures I took show, I have transposed the likely positions of the two armies at Stoke Field based on the data provided by the Battlefields Trust, with a link below for further reading and I have orientated my views to be either looking towards East Stoke, the River Trent, the Fosse Way or the favoured Lancastrian position

An out line of the battle and events leading up to it can be found in the link below.

In summary, the battle of Stoke Field was fought on 16th June 1487 and was the culmination of a campaign started by the Yorkist John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln who fled the court of the Tudor King Henry VII and with the help of Margaret Duchess of Burgundy who supplied some 2,000 German and Swiss mercenaries, raised an army in Flanders with later additions when the force sailed to Ireland on the 4th May 1487.

It was in Dublin that Lincoln decided to validate an impostor or pretender who had been introduced to him at the start of the campaign, a young man called Lambert Simnel although that may not have been his actual name. In Dublin Simnel was crowned by the Irish nobility and clergy, Edward VI, and with their puppet pretender proclaimed the rightful King, Lincoln sailed for Lancashire, where after landing on the 4th June and a few days of manoeuvring his forces against those of Henry VII the two armies met on Stoke Field, with the Tudor/Lancastrian force now outnumbering those of Lincoln's with 12,000 Lancastrians versus 8,000 Yorkists.

Lambert Simnel proclaimed by Irish supporters of the Yorkist rebellion in 1487

The battle would be the culmination of the long and bitter Wars of the Roses and would finally confirm the establishment of the new Tudor dynasty on the throne of England with the Yorkist army destroyed and with most of its leaders dead on the field of battle or never heard from after it.

Point 1

We started our tour by walking back towards East Stoke from the Wargames Foundry buildings and turning right up the old medieval road, Humber Lane, the approach route likely taken by Lincoln and his army.

Today the lane turns into a muddy rutted farm track that makes its way across the open fields of the battle site.

Looking along the hedgerow on the right of Humber Lane towards the River Trent. 

Looking back towards East Stoke with Humber Lane to right of picture

Looking along Humber Lane and the slight incline towards the ridge held by the Yorkists and the Lancastrians position further on
Point 2
The weather was gloriously hot and sunny on the day we visited and the sight lines made it easy to imagine the two armies drawn up facing each other in battle array.

Looking along Humber Lane towards the position held by the Yorkists 

Point 3/4
The top of the slight ridge, known as Rampire Hill is obvious when reached offering good views out over the neighbouring countryside and a good position for any army of the period to hold.

It seems likely that the more experienced and better led Lancastrian army under the Earl of Oxford must have really hurt the Yorkist forces atop this pinnacle with accurate and punishing arrow fire to cause them to surrender the advantage it offered and charge down on to the lower ground held by Oxford's vanguard.

The centre of the Yorkist position on Rampire Hill (shaded block on the map above) looking down towards the Fosse Way running alongside the white buildings on the right

The same point above but looking along the ridge in the direction of the River Trent

Looking towards the trees and the position of 'Red Gutter' on the Yorkist right that led the routers towards the River Trent position 474224, 349768 on the map above

A Lancastrian hare occupies point 5 on the map at the T Junction at the end of Humber Lane

The hare on the move, all legs and ears
Point 5
The ground occupied by Oxford's vanguard and the area between the two armies positions was bitterly fought over as the Yorkist mercenaries fought hand to hand to break Oxford's smaller contingent but were never able to overcome them as the other Lancastrian battles under Jasper Tudor kept feeding reinforcements into the battle.

As the hand to hand fighting went on the poorly protected Irish troops were shot to pieces by accurate arrow fire from the Lancastrian archers with many of their dead at the end of the battle being described as looking like hedgehogs, their bodies being pierced by so many arrows.

The view at the junction looking at the ground held by the Lancastrians at the start of the battle

The left flank of the Lancastrian line

The view from the Lancastrian line looking uphill towards the Yorkist right along the hedge line out towards the Trent

The view to the Lancastrian right facing towards the Yorkist left with track leading to the Fosse Way in the background 

I was fortunate to visit Bosworth in September 2012 on the day the body of Richard III was discovered in a car-park in Leicester. That visit preceded the start of this blog by three months so I guess I might have to put a post together with my pictures from that day, some time.

My only collection of WOR figures produced for a Devon Wargames Group game a few years ago, but a collection I intend to return to later.

The interesting thing is that Bosworth has captured the imagination, with the death of the last English king on a battlefield and the last Plantagenet, Richard III the dastardly villain portrayed by Shakespeare, has all helped to place the battle in pole position as the final full stop on the Wars of the Roses. Stoke Field was a larger and more bloody affair than Bosworth and its effects were more crushing and final and perhaps it is time that 1487 and Stoke Field is declared the full stop of the Wars of the Roses.

Next up, Mr Steve has been on his travels and so I have I. Plus a big game of Augustus to Aurelian in the Dark Ages, and Steve M and I attended this year's Chalke Valley History Festival.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Battle for Walmington-on-Sea - Chain of Command

Another year, another summer game with friends from the Devon Wargames Group up at Chez Chaz in deepest darkest North Devon, in the most glorious summer countryside in God's own county.

Trust me when I say that there is a reason why Heaven rhymes with Devon!

So last year we were deep in central Italy in 210 BC at the battle of Numistro with Hannibal dancing rings around the Romans.

This year we fast forward to the dark summer of 1940 when Britain stood alone, at bay and facing the threat of invasion from the Nazi menace. Fortunately the country could draw on deep reserves of fortitude, courage and skill at arms so exemplified by Captain Mainwaring and the platoon of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard ready to defend home and hearth.

The map of Walmington which provided the inspiration for our table and should help to locate where various actions happened throughout the battle

The briefing for the players paints the scene:

"Well its all gone wrong for the British, Dunkirk was a disaster, the Scottish Division was captured in France, Spain attacks Gibraltar, British Regulars sent to take the Canaries. Basically the defence of the UK is in the hands of newly raised TA units and volunteers.

Therefore great efforts have been made to bolster the country defence by inventing new weapons. The Great Panjamdrum being an example. Churchill as ever wants to promote these inventions and boost moral and has gone to the South Coast.

Not everyone is happy with the war effort and some want Churchill gone, so a group of BUF's have contacted the Germans with Churchill's intentions.

The Germans as usual are fighting amongst themselves as to who gets Hitler's favours, so when Hitler gives the order to capture Churchill alive and bring him back to Germany all the services come up with their own plan.

The stage is set, what happens next the historians will argue about for years afterwards......."

German naval forces gather off shore

It's early morning in June in Walmington and a summer sea mist hangs over the sleepy English seaside town, Sergeant Wilson and Private Pike gaze out from the sea front bunker towards the wire after a long night on duty eagerly anticipating  being relieved by Privates Walker and Frazer and getting home for a well earned breakfast.

The town has been in a state of high alert and excitement ever since news spread that Mr Churchill had arrived in Walmington late last night ready to inspect the town defences later today.

The first German Naval assault troops prepare to head for the beach

As Pike continues to look through the binoculars commandeered from one of the sea front amusements a slight gap in the mist allows a more extended view of the beach front and the sea beyond. Slipping another penny in the slot and adjusting the lens to the new limits of visibility his eyes are drawn to a long sleek grey boat, side on to the shore, with a bright red flag swinging limply from a mast at the stern. Smaller craft packed tightly with the grey soldiers are moving away from the larger vessel and heading in towards the beach.

Sergeant Wilson has gone to the back of the bunker and the small desk and chair, ready to complete the log book with a note of the night's events including the time earlier that morning as German aircraft were heard passing quite low over the town.

His attention is interrupted by an urgent call from the vision slit as Pike maintains his position behind the viewfinder "Uncle Arthur, Uncle Arthur, I think the Germans might be here!!"

Gliders of Sturmabteilung Witzig litter the meadows at the back of Walmington

As events unfold on the beach front, the sleek gliders of the elite glider Kompanie of the 7th Falschirmjager Division fresh from their success at Fort Eban Emael in Belgium the previous month circle and line up for a landing in the meadows close to Private Godfrey's cottage near the railway viaduct.

The assault detachment, Sturmabteilung Witzig, is led by Hauptman Rudolf Witzig, Knights Cross holder and newly promoted following his gallant leadership during the attack on the Belgian fort. He is ably supported by Lieutenant Muller and they have been tasked personally by Reichsmarschall Goering to make sure that Mr Churchill is taken by them to the U-boat waiting for them off shore on the beach at Walmington.

Forces are mustered and plans discussed

To aid the German glider troops in their mission they have been given details of the BUF teams operating within the town who are under instructions to provide assistance and intelligence, although how much they can be trusted, both Witzig and Muller remain unconvinced.

Final adjustments made to the various commands

Speed for the German force will be key in taking full advantage of the reduced visibility until the sun burns off the morning mist and enables the defences to ascertain the threat before them. If the British are able to summon nearby regular and naval defence forces the mission to capture the British Prime minister and effect an escape by sea will become less likely by the hour.

The players receive a final briefing before the first troops are placed on their jump off points

As the German glider troops disembarked and quickly made their way to the road bordering the landing zone and fronting the outskirts of the town. local defence forces could be heard barking orders and assembling within the town. Perhaps events on the beach has caused alarm and the glidermen could only hope that their attention would be in that direction.

Witzig's glider men advance towards the houses making use of cover and the mist

As two groups move forward the LMG team and sniper cover the advance

The alarm had also alerted the British 5th Columnists and the Bradenburg Commando team sent to support them.

Led by the arrogantly superior Lord Percy, his teams of agents and saboteurs made for their assembly points ready to misdirect teams from the Local Defence Volunteers and cause as much disruption to the defences as possible, only resorting to armed action at the last possible moment in support of German ground forces.

Local Defence Forces are on high alert with the Prime minister in town

The first German Naval Troops hit the beach
The first shots emanated from the seafront as the first of the German naval landing teams came under fire from the beach front defences centred around the command bunker cunningly disguised as a ticket kiosk among the buildings of Stones Amusement Arcade.

Corporal Jones pulls on his battle-bowler and runs out of the shop to join other LDF troops on the alert for German Paratroops
LDV commanders sent runners to the church to ring the bell and alert the wider defences of a potential German invasion as other couriers were sent to warn the Prime ministers body guard team of the threat.

The PM's body-guard now had a larger problem on their hands as the PM quickly dressed prompted by the sound of gunfire outside his suite of rooms at the town hall.

Grabbing his Homburg hat and Thompson sub-machinegun whilst gulping down his early morning malt, the old man suddenly became enthused for the battle and ready to lead the locals in their defence of the town; all this whilst scowling at a certain Herman Hesse who had been delivered to the town hall that previous evening claiming to have come from the Fuhrer with some cock and bull peace offer to end the war.

British Naval troops join the defenders patrolling the streets

With the defenders well and truly alerted the fighting quickly multiplied throughout the town with the German glider troops quickly overpowering LDV road blocks whilst fending off arriving regulars and TA soldiers sent to investigate reports of glider landings.

A section of Muller's glider men prepare to defend the landing zone from arriving British TA and Regular troops

Muller oversees the rest of his platoon as they start to infiltrate the defences
Lord Percy's men set up a cordon on the church preventing the bells from being rung whilst attempting to set up an ambush on the PM's convoy.

This did not end well for the Percy's saboteurs and many were killed in the fighting with the PM's team and LDV men with elements of the local Morris-men troop grenading the last defenders in the church.

Shooting breaks out close to the Prime minister's car as the British Fifth Column make their presence felt

Too late to be of assistance Muller's glider men broke into the church after dispatching the LDV troops to their front only to be met by another grenade attack from the Morris-men.

Enraged at this dastardly unsoldierlike behaviour the English folk dance group were gunned down to a man as the German troops sprayed the area with machine-gun fire.

The E-boat lands a naval assault team on Walmington's Jolly Roger Pier and Pavillion

Meanwhile the German beach assault was going nowhere fast as naval landing parties came under intense British machine-gun and small arms fire each time they attempted to move past the wire and gain access to the town.

As German troops land on the beach they start to come under uncomfortably accurate small arms fire 

The beach and wire is booby-trapped with improvised explosive devices which are unpredictable and extremely dangerous

The British naval troops are supported by their own improvised weapons systems
The German troops on both sides of the town had a qualitative superiority that was being neutralised over time as better and more British troops arrived to bolster the defence.

The Great Panjamdrum awaits arming by the 'boffins' based in the town and busy preparing the weapon outside the Tiffany's Cinema

JJ's participation in this epic battle amply recorded with a picture of the family business in years past

The viscious fanatical Morris-men dance troupe who were unmercifully hunted down by Lt Muller's glider troops after war-crimes committed in Walmington church. None lived to tell their tale.

As the German situation became more desperate so did the measures they felt forced to take but the rivalry between their forces only helped to exacerbate their inability to cooperate.

So as Muller's German glider troops prepared to exit from the front of the church to close with the British PM's convoy of vehicles the PM's car was suddenly hit by fire from the off-shore German E-boat that only caused the column to evade down a street away from the glider-men and thus remove the possibility of snatching the great man and enabling a negotiated withdrawal.

Under cover of smoke Muller's men dash across the square to occupy Walmington's St Aldholm's Church

The British regulars start to close in combat with Witzig's men. no quarter asked, none given
The battle was reaching a crescendo as both sides realised that the German assault had stalled and now the attackers were fast becoming the defenders.

The British forces were now pressing their attacks and finishing the fight with close up hand to hand, bayonet and grenade attacks.

The streets become deadly as desperate German glider troops fight battles with ever-growing numbers of British reinforcements

In no time Muller was dead and his platoon reduced to just one section holding the church and with Witzig's platoon desperately holding off British naval troops supported by mobile support guns.

The British regulars rushed the church after laying down heavy suppressive fire which despite the ensuing shock still left the glidermen the victors of the hand to hand fight when it came, with three casualties to two, but which only left one gliderman standing holding the machinegun.

Seeing the situation was hopeless and with his platoon leader dead and the rest of his comrades likewise or captured, he surrendered and the church was recaptured.

The British secret weapons are deployed including the sheets on the washing line drawn across the beach front to obscure German gunnery

Sensing the end of the battle the German E-boat and U-boat put down suppressive fire on the town with their heavy cannons as their naval troops gathered the wounded in preparation for a withdrawal.

With this the British Home Guard deployed their remaining secret weapon as bed sheets on washing lines were quickly hoisted behind the wire to obscure land targets from the German boats.

The British vehicles enable them to reposition troops and weapons around the town once the attackers positions are known

Thus our Battle for Walmington came to an end with German plans foiled and the country saved from invasion.

The rules used were another Lardy favourite in the club, 'Chain of Command' which were perfect for this kind of large scale game and played very well indeed.

As you might imagine it takes quite a bit of work pulling these kind of games together and Chaz and Clive did tremedous work on the terrain, buildings and vehicles that help capture Walmington on Sea and the battle.

Our game was, as always, very much a joint effort for all the players involved with all of us tasked with contributing units to the game and as with last year we like to run a friendly painting competition where all players get to vote on each others work for the award of the prestigious Summer Game Painting Trophy.

Last year's winner was Vince who brought along his offering for this year together with the trophy ready to defend his title.

I present the various units that were put in the competition with the final offering being this year's winner of a U-boat conning tower and crew modelled by Clive.

JJ's FJ Platoon, I came a distant second

Clive's winning entry

Last year's winner Vince presents the trophy to the winner in 2018, Clive

Our game was played all day Saturday with an evening meal to follow and much fun and laughter throughout the day.

Thanks to Chaz for herding the cats and creating yet another game to stand along all the others, many of which have been reported on here on JJ's.

The team for Summer 2018, left to right - JJ, Nathan, Steve M, Chaz, Andy, Vince, John, Clive, Mike and Jason

A good time was had by all and I look forward to bringing you a report of the next game in 2019.