Another year and another Crusade, this being my fourth show but the twenty-fourth since the Penarth club set things up back in 1995.
I travelled up from Exeter in the company of Bob, and Steve M, later picking up Mr Steve in Cardiff on our way over to St Cyres School in Penarth, the venue for the show since 2017.
The day looked almost perfect for a wargames show, overcast and cold, making you look forward to being indoors and playing or looking at toy soldiers and the local Napoleonic reenactment team from the 41st Foot were going through their warm up drills as we queued to get in.
They managed to get outside in between the rain on the day to to do some live firing drills which rather livened up things for those of us in the classrooms behind listening to the guest speakers, to find ourselves occasionally and loudly disturbed by the sound of exploding pyrotechnics and black powder discharges whilst enjoying the pleasures of listening to some very good presentations on Napoleonic Medical Services, WWI and the Welsh at Mametz Wood and Medieval Infantry Tactics.
What appears to be a squad from the Grenadier Platoon were well turned out as how many of the units would have appeared in 1808 in the Peninsula clad in the early war black gaiters that with the removal of the need to wear queued hair gave way to the loose trousers over an ankle gaiter.
The origins of the 41st were in 1719 when they were first raised as an Invalids Battalion from Chelsea out-pensioners, that is previously wounded, older or slightly disabled soldiers, still able to serve. It retained the 'Invalids' title in 1782 when other regiments were taking on County titles and in 1788 a certain Sir Arthur Wellesley joined the regiment as a young lieutenant.
From 1800 the regiment was posted to North America and served throughout the War of 1812 seeing action at the Siege of Detroit, August 1812 under General Isaac Brock, The Battle of Queenston Heights, October 1812, Battle of Frenchtown, January 1813, The Siege of Fort Meigs, April 1813, Battle of the Thames, October 1813 and the capture of Fort Niagara in December 1813. Nearly all these actions were recorded in the battle memoirs of Private Shadrack Byfield who served with the regiment and lost an arm at Conjocta Creek in 1814
In 1881 the 41st Foot was combined with the 69th South Lincolnshire Regiment to form the new Welch Regiment later amalgamated with the 24th Foot or South Wales Borderers of Zulu Wars fame to form the modern day Royal Regiment of Wales.
|I often see questions asked about the colour of officers and NCO's jackets to that of the ordinary ranks and this picture really captures the difference in the scarlet, better quality coats, worn by them.|
As mentioned above, I spent the best part of the morning sat in one of the classrooms listening to the guest speakers organised for the show.
I really must congratulate the organising team at Penarth for running this part of the show as I and, I think, many others who I have seen regularly attend these classroom presentations really get a lot out from the sessions the guest speakers put together; and, for historical wargamers, really help inform that aspect of our hobby.
Crusade 2019 - Guest Speakers
As before, I recorded the presentations so that I could sit down at my leisure and re-listen and hopefully capture some of the key points from them to post here.
Gareth Glover - Campaigning the Napoleonic Wars
First up was Gareth Glover (GG), well established author of several Napoleonic themed titles, a couple of which I have covered from previous Crusade shows and can be found in the links above.
Gareth has a new title due to be published in April, 'Waterloo - After the Glory' which takes a detailed look at the treatment of the wounded after the Battle of Waterloo and the medical facilities created by all the respective forces taking part in the 100 Days Campaign.
Gareth Glove Collection - Waterloo After the Glory
GG ranged far and wide over the state of provision of medical services provided to the troops of the four principle combatants in the Waterloo Campaign, British, French, Dutch-Belgian and Prussians.
He began by looking at the establishment of these services led by the French in 1793, creating four training hospitals in Metz, Lille, Strasbourg and Toulon tasked with turning out 4,000 trained medical officers per year for the army and navy.
|The French Service de Sante led the way in medical service provision for troops during the Napoleonic period|
The French aspiration was to eventually train up enough surgeons to provide one for every twenty-five soldiers but the high rates of attrition among medical officers held this aspiration back seeing 4,000 trained in 1792-93 but 1,600 lost in that year to disease and other issues. Thus from 1805 to 1812 the French medical services grew from 2,000 surgeons to 5,000 by 1812.
Other nations soon saw the value of medical service provision for their own soldiers and the French system was soon followed by other major combatants with Austria and Prussia in 1795, Russia in 1798 and the British in 1800.
GG then looked at how the French in particular organised their system with a typical French regiment of four battalions expected to have on list one senior regimental surgeon and two per battalion supported by a number of trainees attached out through the battalions.
Above this was an 'ambulance' system the name given to the whole provision of medical services from surgeons, ambulance drivers and stretcher bearers with this being organised at divisional level and consisting of a corps of about 340 personnel.
The allies in the 100 Days Campaign benefited from French systems in that by then many of them had modelled their systems along French lines with the Dutch-Belgians inheriting a network of hospitals established across Belgium and Holland by the Service de Sante and with 82 of the 90 French trained surgeons joining the new Dutch-Belgian army.
The Dutch Belgian medical authorities had also reorganised those hospitals into a system designed to treat badly wounded soldiers in forward areas nearer to France leaving the more lightly wounded to recover in hospitals further back from the front and thus more likely to be able to rejoin the army later should that be required.
The campaign of Waterloo would see about 300,000 combatants involved of which about 89,000 would be wounded of which about 23,000 were killed, thus leaving the medical services to deal with about 65,000 wounded after the battles of Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre and Waterloo.
|Baron Dominique Jean Larrey - Chief Surgeon of the French army under Napoleon was very complimentary|
to the standards of care provided by the Dutch-Belgian medical teams
With, it seems the majority of French medical personnel deserting their wounded after Waterloo and Baron Larry captured in the retreat but contributing to the treating of the wounded, the aftermath of Waterloo left the allies with just 300 surgeons to treat the wounded from the campaign as a whole with 600 of their colleagues accompanying the allied armies as they advanced into France. This required a call out to civilian and other medical services for volunteer medics to come to Belgium and support the medical work, which was answered, with two of King George III's private surgeons joining the efforts.
Despite their reduced coverage a system of over a hundred wagons including 48 British sprung wagons ordered up by Wellington himself and the rest made up from carts and carriages ordered to Waterloo by the Belgian governor of Brussels set out on four to five trips a day, policed by the British army to recover the wounded from the battlefield and bring them to the hospitals.
Some interesting mortality statistics were quoted suggesting that the death rate among soldiers reaching an allied hospital was just 9% comparing very favourably with rates for WWI and II of around 6-7% but my reservations about those numbers would be around what type of wounded soldier made it to a hospital in 1815 given the lack of battlefield triage at that time.
That said the Dutch-Belgians are reported in one hospital to have performed 300 amputations with just 25 fatalities and in another treating 100 compound fractures from Prussian casualties at Ligny only having ten fatalities and putting great claims on a honey and mustard dressing used to cover amputation stumps.
After considering the efforts made to recover the wounded and the provisions they could expect once taken to hospital or to homes of civilians near the battlefield where surgeons were tasked with making house visits to oversee their patients recovery, GG then looked at some of the wounds depicted by the surgical teams together with a description of their treatments and outcomes.
I learnt something I had not known in that musket rounds hitting the body leave a small entry wound and if they exit cleanly an equally small exit wound, with one KGL soldier having two small holes at the front and back of his shoulder from such a hit but making a good recovery from it.
Other less lucky victims received some horrible wounds, with sword back slashes to the back of the head a very common wound indicating a swipe with the sword as the bearer passed the intended target.
|Tom Plunkett's famous shot that killed General Colbert in the Corunna campaign and might have inspired the Waterloo injury depicted during Gareth Glover's fascinating presentation.|
One unfortunate 95th Rifleman took a musket ball behind his scrotum which passed out via one of his buttocks prompting thoughts that this man must have been aiming his rifle rather in the fashion of Tom Plunkett when he himself was hit.
Jonathan Hicks - Voices from Mametz Wood
After Gareth Glover and a quick break we regathered to listen to Dr Jonathan Hicks (JH) who as well as being headmaster at St Cyres School writes extensively about the First and Second World Wars and who I heard present last year about Welsh WWI Air Aces; and with this year's presentation focused on the Battle of Mametz Wood between the 7th and 12th July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme which saw the initiation to battle of the 38th Welsh Division
JH wrote his book about the battle, The Welsh at Mametz Wood back in 2016 during the centenary of the Battle of the Somme and his presentation looked at the material he gathered for that book and his own personal reasons for writing it.
He described a very moving family visit to the area of the battle and to Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium where just short of 12,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lie buried and where about 8,000 of them are unknown.
In addition the wall around the cemetery carries the names of the 35,000 men still missing and who could not be included, through lack of space, on the Menin Gate.
He then talked about his own family members who had experienced the horrors of WWI and the Battle of Passchendaele and his grandfather being gassed in 1918 and likely dying early from it in the 1930's.
I couldn't help thinking about my own family who served in the Great War with both my maternal grand father and great-grand father serving with the Royal Artillery on the Western Front.
The presentation then looked at the raising of the 38th Welsh Division, one of two such divisions, the other being the 53rd Division.
The 38th were raised in 1914 following a plea by the Welsh MP and future Prime Minister Lloyd-George for the raising of a Welsh army, conveniently forgetting that many Welshmen were already serving in a British army throughout its various regiments and corps.
That said thousands of men answered the call by volunteering to join the 38th Division in autumn 1914 and spent the following year training at home before being sent to France in November-December 1915 and would see their first action at the Battle of the Somme and Mametz Wood in particular in July 1916.
Mametz Wood was the largest wood on the Somme front and presented a particular problem in that it separated the two front lines at that time with the concern that unless it was taken and occupied it could provide excellent cover to German troops interdicting the approach of the British on the German front line just behind it.
Fighting in woods is a particularly difficult form of infantry fighting because of the cover offered to defenders, overhead attacks from shells exploding in the tree canopy and in this case, ground covered in large pieces of flint that only added to the carnage caused by it being hit by exploding shells that sent deadly splinters to mix in with that of the steel shell.
Which rather begs the question who came up with the idea of giving this particularly difficult attack to an untried division in its first battle! Just as frustrating was the recorded fact that the wood was discovered to have been undefended by the Germans following a patrol into it, taking a few German prisoners three days before the eventual attack; this despite a request for the division to move into it immediately following this discovery. This lack of initiative was punished when the Germans, having discovered the loss of men to this patrol, immediately moved troops into it and fortified the wood and other nearby positions overlooking approaches to it.
In summary the battle breaks down into two distinct phases with the first attack directed to take place early on the 7th of July 1916 towards the 'Hammerhead', a particularly hammer shaped part of the wood shown on the map above, with an attack that was delayed because the artillery barrage which included the laying of smoke to protect the flank and front of it failed to materialise and the attack was disastrously ordered to go ahead anyway later that morning, with the cutting to pieces of the brigade involved from frontal and enfilade machine-gun fire from the hammerhead and the German held copses nearby.
Following better sense and cooler heads prevailing plus a divisional commander getting sacked, the attack was re-planned to commence three days later, at night, over less open ground, behind a massive artillery barrage that blasted the division on to the position.
The attack worked only to place the division into the nightmare scenario depicted below of close in personal combat amid the trees as the dawn came up on the 11th of July and heralding a battle of carnage and attrition within the wood that leaves it today as a cemetery for the many body pieces buried there afterwards, not to mention the pieces of unexploded ordnance that make the wood a death trap to this day.
JH then went on to describe some of the personalities involved in the fighting for the wood and the descriptions they have left which include the famous and less famous members of the division who obviously were traumatised by the carnage they witnessed and experienced.
|Robert Graves, author of 'I Claudius', a young second lieutenant with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Mametz wood|
described his revulsion at seeing the German corpses during the battle
WWI is not a period of history I find particularly instructive or revealing in terms of military thinking and leadership displayed by the majority of senior commanders from all sides; as they struggled to grapple with the realities of waging war with modern industrial weapons that could slaughter men in the open in their thousands, that had been unheard of in the centuries before.
It is only when you descend below the level of senior command and experience the war from the level of the Poor Bloody Infantryman that you start to discover the moving courage and compassion that existed in spite of the carnage and destruction and Jonathan Hick's presentation was particularly moving and thought provoking in terms of how we should remember the efforts of the ordinary soldiers in WWI and the reasons why it was important that they fought and died and eventually won.
Rob Jones - Medieval Infantry Tactics
The final presentation that I sat in on was by a regular presenter at Crusade, Robert Jones (RJ), a part-time lecturer from Cardiff University in Medieval History and an author of several books and papers in academic journals on medieval military history with his look at Medieval Infantry Tactics and looking at how we might incorporate what is known into our wargaming.
|A 15th c. illuminated manuscript depicting foot soldiers at Crecy with the bear minimum of kit in the form of a helmet, the odd mail coif and either a shooting or pointy weapon - probably typical for this period.|
RJ started his talk by stating the difficulty of putting together information looking at the so called medieval period, anything between 600 to 400 years depending on when you choose to start and finish and with a range of different cultures from the Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Flemish, German and French that could impact on how the various armies might be organised.
So his talk in such a short time with such a large subject was designed to pull out some commonalities and with a strong focus on the English systems for which there is a wealth of records covering the raising and maintaining of armies primarily to prevent the central government from being defrauded by paying for troops that didn't exist.
In addition he was really looking to continue where he left off with his talk last year looking at chivalry by considering how what we know can be best reflected on the wargames table and specifically how our armies should look and how they would likely have been commanded and structured.
RJ started by looking at what has come down to us mainly from 19th and early 20th century historians who were mainly ex-military men looking at medieval organisation and battlefield tactics through a modern eye relying heavily on what military tactics from their time would have impacted on these armies and trying to retrofit what actually happened into that paradigm.
These he said was a wrong way to approach the medieval mind set and that the social and psychological drivers were a more revealing way to look at how these armies conducted themselves.
For example the term infantry or light cavalry as a form of specialist does not figure in the medieval lexicon in that everyone was simply a soldier who might appear on the battlefield mounted or on foot.
This disconnect in the way soldiers are described is only compounded by the lack of sources or sources that don't tell us what we would dearly love to know. Things such as the type and number of specific troops. RJ then recommended that whenever reading the number of troops quoted for a particular battle in a chronicle source to generally 'knock of a zero'.
|When is a hobilar not a hobilar? When he's a fully plated Man at Arms but paid at hobilar rates|
The difficulty in identifying the presence of different troop types was exemplified by a case where a commander of the garrison of Berwick recorded a minor noble turning up in the town accompanied by a retinue, described as hobilars, supposedly light cavalry, only these so called hobilars were wearing full plate as mounted men at arms and the garrison commander explained to their commander that his town was only indentured to pay for hobilars and so his retinue would only be paid at that rate. Thus the record states these troops to be hobilars when in fact, because of this recorded conversation, we know them to be fully kitted out men at arms with this noble's retinue.
Similarly by 1360 in England there are only two types of soldier recorded either as a man at arms in full plate or an archer, or likely everyone else whether he was carrying a bow or spear. Everyone was also mounted be they men at arms or archers.
The question of training was considered across the various types of raised soldiers, retinues, professional mercenaries and commissions of array raised levies with RJ doubting that knights and their retinues trained that much and that skill at arms would have been very likely variable.
It is retinues or household troops that form the corps of medieval armies with better equipment and more likely skill at arms compared with other types. It is these troops that would be on call by their Lord or King that form the backbone of a larger army and indeed in campaigns during for example the Wars of the Roses, there was so little time to muster other troop types such as the array that the battles were almost solely fought between the nobles and their retinues of men at arms and archers. Only at Towton, which being a longer campaign, do we see enough time to allow the county arrays to join the two forces and then see the greater numbers of soldiers that that system could produce.
With the ending of the old Fyrd system in England and the establishment of the Assize of Arms first issued in 1181 a system was established where the number of men and how they should be equipped in a time of need was laid down at a county level with equipment maintained in county town armouries or in homes.
RJ stated that there were no 'straw chewing, hay-rake carrying' peasant armies, certainly not in England, and that the so called 'Peasants Revolt' and Watt Tyler's Rebellion consisted of likely veteran soldiers from periods between the campaigns of the Hundred Years War, well equipped and led by men with military experience hailing from Kent and the South East of England where many of these veterans settled between the wars.
The only really professional full time soldiers of this period appear to be the mercenary bands available for hire and even here the record of how these men trained or were organised is sketchy.
The other specific raised group of soldiers considered were the urban militias, less common in England and more typical in places such as Flanders and Italy where towns and cities very often had a strong sense of political independence. In England we see something similar in London and certain other towns such as York producing troops with a town livery.
RJ then looked at the organisation of medieval units and even here with the lists of soldiers on the payroll on any particular group or garrison it is difficult to determine any precise organised system for battle.
Interestingly a lot of the precise muster rolls are found in forces in Wales which in the later medieval period are starting to be mustered along English methods.
|Bulk standard infantry or foot soldiers of the period, little armour, the odd helmet or coif, pointy sticks, moving around in a close knit group.|
Although we think we understand Vintenars and Centenars, men appointed in charge of around twenty and one hundred men, and paid more than the ordinary soldier, indicative of their position, except medieval armies don't seem to conform to those neat numbers when looking at the muster rolls and even hint at the structure you would expect to see.
So from this haze of uncertainty and inconsistency coupled with references that don't tell us what we want to know and our necessary mind shift to try and think like a medieval commander rather than a twenty-first century one what conclusions can we draw?
Medieval armies are a mess to quote RJ. Men turn up knowing the men that mustered with them and their specific leader. The likely organisation was no more defined that the arrangements of wards or battles, terms consistently used in the sources. The leader or King likely met before the likely engagement and discussed who would lead the specific wards and agree any ideas of ambush and then set off for the meeting in battle.
The soldiers were unlikely to have been separated off from the comrades that they knew and had joined up with and thus archers and men at arms likely served together in close proximity with their associated vintenars and centenars, with the only separation occurring when the two types changed position within their ward, i.e. archers to the front replaced by men at arms as the lines closed for close combat.
Medieval armies were unwieldy and so flank marches were rare because of the difficulty of moving these large bodies about the countryside and really the main examples of groups turning up on flanks are usually late arrivals to the battle very often causing the other army to rout due to the impossibility of presenting a new front to these new troops.
With these notes taken I am starting to think about how my Wars of the Roses armies will look on the table with the rules I intend to use, namely 'A Coat of Steel' which ticked the box with Rob in terms of rule sets that capture the peculiarities of commanding an army from this period of history.
Many thanks to Gareth Glover, Jonathan Hicks and Rob Jones for giving up their Saturday morning to so generously entertain us with their knowledge and I hope this summary captures the gist of their presentations.
After listening to the presentations I set of to the traders hall to pick up some pre-orders I had booked before coming up and to have a general look around all the traders stands to see if there was anything else I might need.
As you can see, the main traders hall is really spacious and well lit providing a very pleasant airy space to wonder around and check out the wares on show.
With a new wooden log bridge for my 28mm Ancients picked up from Ironclad Miniatures and some more terrain and figure bases from Products for Wargamers, I headed off to check out the games that grabbed my eye this year.
|My new bridge acquired from Ironclad Miniatures|
So in no particular order:
Wessex Wargame Society, Southampton - Battle of Omdurman in 15mm
The chaps from the Wessex Wargame Society based down in Southampton had a very nice 15mm game depicting the Battle of Omdurman.
The battle fought on the 2nd September 1898 saw a British army commanded by Sir Herbert Kitchener defeat the Mahdist army of Abdullah al-Taashi with a display of modern rifles, machine-guns and artillery wielded by a highly disciplined army against a much larger force armed with older weapons gaining revenge for the death of General Gordon at Khartoum in 1885 and sealed the success of British efforts to reconquer the Sudan.
The battle is also famous for the participation of a certain young officer in the 21st Lancers who participated in a charge by the regiment, by the name of Winston Churchill and memorably portrayed in the film 'Young Winston'.
Young Winston - Charge of the 21st Lancers
As mentioned in the film clip this charge was also destined to be the last made by a British cavalry regiment in battle.
I mention the details about this battle, not only because of the visual appeal of this particular game but also to my amused surprise that a certain Podcast published just before this show and talking about it had the Battle of Omdurman come up in discussion; which was seemingly an action that had passed all the contributors by and the only famous person that could be linked to the battle was a certain 'Corporal Jones' a fictitious character from a British TV comedy show 'Dad's Army' who had fought the Fuzzy Wuzzies and who probably knew 'they didn't like it up em!'
Come on chaps, you need to cut back on the Fantasy and Sci-Fi and gen up a bit more on the historical, especially when two of your presenters hail from this part of the country, where the streets are festooned with the names of generals and battles from this particular campaign.
Well done to the Wessex chaps and nice to see this period captured in 15mm for a change from 28mm.
Skirmish Wargames Group 54mm WWII - Bolt Action
I saw the Skirmish Wargames Group large tank game last year and there is something rather awe inspiring seeing these big models out on the table despite the compromises made to weapon ranges.
The game captured some great cameo shots particularly with the barrel of a knocked out Pak anti-tank gun protruding from a heavily camouflaged bunker and with burning British tanks dotted around the table.
Too Fat Lardies - What a Tanker Participation Game
Nick and Richard were busy when I stopped by at the Lardies table with a hurriedly replaced game for the show due to a person or persons unknown at some home improvement work at Lard Island having stepped on the bridge model destined for the planned game 'Smoke on the Water - Holland 1940' for Chain of Command.
Un-phased by this minor disaster the chaps pulled together a 'What a Tanker' set to, which was cracking along when I took these pictures in the afternoon.
I particularly liked the slogan daubed on the Sherman 76 creeping along the hedgerows below - 'Lard Buster'.
Major Brothers Demonstration Game - Destruction of Mobile Group 100, June 1954, French Indo-China War
Another game that featured in my review last year was from the chaps behind 'Major Brothers' Demonstration Game who had another massive French-Indo China scenario set up which is a monument to the passion for a particular period and something I love to see.
Bill Cainan who organised this amazing model collection and terrain took some pictures before the show opened and with time to spend got pictures much better than I could have hoped to with other people keen to browse at the same time.
Bill also sent me a summary of the events and the scenario seen on the table which I have shamelessly included for your pleasure in enjoying the pictures.
The game was played on a 25ft by 6ft table and represented the initial stages of the destruction of the French Mobile Group 100. The Group has driven into an ambush. The leading French company of the 1st Korea Battalion has just dismounted from its trucks and is trying to clear a route through to the Bailey Bridge.
The French advance guard, a troop of the 5th Cuirassiers, is trying to get back and link up with the infantry at the bridge. The French tanks take a pounding from the VietMinh recoilless rifles and can only get two vehicles through to the bridge. The VietMinh prematurely launch a company size attack across the rice fields which meets heavy French fire.
The French call on the support of a Hellcat ground attack fighter and managed to re-open the road.
The Mobile Group (some 3,000 men and 400 vehicles) moves on – only to be ambushed again a few kilometres down the road.
For me, this table captures perfectly the difficulty organised forces had operating in this type of terrain captured by the sheer quantity of terrain pieces and buildings which help display that against some very nice models of the forces for the period - thanks Bill.
Finally I thought, this year, I would take more time at shows I visit to check out the Competition Game circuit as I was very surprised at the Warfare show last year at the high standard of table produced by some of the competitions happening at that show with some very nice tables from the Flames of War and their modern spin off groups, all be it with wall to wall tanks, but also the Fantasy games run by the Lord of the Rings groups with some amazing painting and modelling on show, not to mention some extraordinary terrain to be seen.
As regular followers of the blog will know, I have and am never likely to have any interest in competitive wargaming but am quite happy to 'live and let live', for those that do, taking the view that I don't mind how people enjoy the hobby just so long as more of them do so and get involved, because that makes the hobby better for all of us.
I do believe that wargaming has had to do a lot of catching up in recent years with the model railway modellers and particularly the fantasy gamers who have more in common with historical gaming and tabletop wargaming in general in that we both have to model with the intention that our stuff will be handled regularly and thus be tough but still look good.
Better looking tables and figures are becoming more and more attainable with better ranges of paints and terrain making items, together with modelling and painting tutorials just about everywhere in print format and on the net.
Obviously this is not an area that captures everyone's imagination or passion to put the time into doing, but I can't help thinking that the small extra effort in producing a great looking table and figures to match, as seen in the games above, can't but add to the fun of playing, competitively or otherwise, and the effort I saw put in at Warfare last year shows that it is possible to do both.
Thank you to the chaps, Steve M, Mr Steve and Bob for adding to the fun of the day and to Bob for driving.
Finally thank you the the organising team of the Penarth and District Wargames Club for pulling together another Crusade show and keep up the good work and keep on striving to find ways of making the show even better.
Next up, I take a look at historic Taunton and the history of the County and Regiments of Somerset.