|The chaps from the English Civil War Society on duty outside the National Civil War Centre, Newark|
Another month of May and that means getting together with friends and making the four hour trip up and along the Fosse Way from Exeter to our sister town of Lincoln at the other end of the old Roman road to enjoy another weekend of history exploration, wargaming at its best and good times enjoying banter and beer with like minds.
This year we were a select band making the trip with my eldest Tom joining me for the drive up and back, to meet up with Steve L and Mr Steve, starting with our usual rendezvous at the best motorway services in the country, the Gloucester Services, a farm shop run business where we enjoyed a proper Gloucestershire breakfast, before making our way to Newark and more precisely the National Civil War Centre (NCWC).
Given the journey traveling up to Newark, we have traditionally made a long-weekend of our trip, staying overnight on the Saturday to attend Partizan on the Sunday, with previously, a day of gaming on the Saturday and a bit of historical exploring thrown in.
This year and last weekend, we decided to take a more laid back approach with a visit to the NCWC followed by a walk round the nearby Civil War landmark, the Queen's Sconce, that I posted about back in 2017, see link above, before setting off to enjoy the summer May weather by finding a suitable hostelry prior to booking into our Lincoln Airbnb and a Saturday night curry.
The NCWC had long been on the list to visit, situated as it is in Newark, laid siege to three times during the first civil war but with the Royalist garrison finally succumbing in May 1646, pretty well ending the first civil war, however the final battle of that protracted struggle would be in the West Country at Stow on the Wold, a battle I posted about back in 2018, when Carolyn and I walked the town and battlefield, see link above.
The original building that houses the Centre includes a Tudor Hall thought to have been built between 1529 to 1531 and has been beautifully redesigned inside restoring and highlighting the historic fabric of the original building whilst facilitating a modern display of English Civil War artefacts, although the first person to develop non-reflecting glass for display cabinets should be awarded a significant prize together with a knighthood, so apologies for some of the pictures, but what can you do!
|General Sir Thomas Fairfax 1612-1671|
A talented commander, Sir Thomas Fairfax rose to become the
Parliamentary Commander in Chief, eventually overshadowed
by his subordinate, Oliver Cromwell, but refusing to have any
involvement in the trial and execution of Charles I, resigning
and leaving Cromwell in charge of the country.
One of the first items to be seen on display is this wonderful wheel chair owned by Sir Thomas Fairfax, one of a few items in the collection associated with the great Parliamentary general, that and his sword and gauntlet seen in the next picture below.
|Black Tom's Wheelchair|
Sir Thomas was a general who was more than prepared to lead his men from the front, being wounded three times in 1644, being shot through the wrist at Selby, an experience he described;
'I received a shot through the wrist of my arm, which made the bridle fall out of my hand, which being among the nerves and veins, suddenly let out such a quantity of blood, that I was ready to fall off my horse.'
In addition to the shot through the wrist he had his face slashed with a broadsword at Marston Moor and was shot in the shoulder during the siege of Helmsley Castle, and in 1645 he wrote to his father;
'I am exceedingly troubled with rheumatism and a benumbing coldness in my head, legs and arms, especially on that side I had my hurts.'
Sir Thomas was an experienced cavalry officer who had fought in the Thirty Years War prior to his involvement in the English Civil War and his sword, together with his gauntlet readily evoke the image of him depicted above.
The sword is a swept hilt broadsword with a double edged blade, with its grip covered with leather and the blade displaying extensive nicks and pitting from its use in battle.
The gauntlet is likely to have been worn at the key battles of Marston Moor and Naseby, the former battle site visited in 2017 in time for the 375th anniversary of the battle plus a visit to the Fairfax Chapel at St James' Church, Bilbrough.
|Fairfax's sword and gauntlet|
The replica falconet cannon seen below, represents the most common type of field gun used by the respective armies during the Civil War, being lighter and cheaper to make than other types of cannon, but capable of firing a one-pound ball that could cause horrific damage to soldiers and horses, shattering bones and having a respectable range of about 550 yards.
The main display hall on the ground floor has an interesting selection of arms and armour from the period, much of it on loan from the Royal Armouries, with a display of period banners and other items associated with the armies involved together with ones closely associated with the war as experienced in and around Newark.
The classic look of the typical cavalry of the period, or as I should refer to them as 'horse', would have very likely been buff leather coat, cross belts and gauntlets with cuirass and 'Dutch pot' helmet.
It's one thing to see a beautiful illustration like that of the King's Lifeguard by Jeffrey Burn and another to see this contemporary kit seen in the cabinet below together with the horses bridle, spurs and a very ornate pair of gauntlets.
The ceramic grenadoe seen below brought back memories of seeing similar such pieces held in the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter, recalling a similar Parliamentary siege of that city at the end of the war that saw the fighting move into the outskirts of the city and fighting amid the local buildings.
|The clay grenadoe seen above was pictured in the Royal Albert Museum, Exeter back in 2015 and was originally mistaken to be a handwarmer, when first uncovered, and makes an interesting comparison to the one seen below in the Civil War display.|
JJ's Wargames - Royal Albert Museum, Exeter
Likewise as with the horse accoutrements it is really interesting to see the actual equipment used by the infantry of this era, so artfully brought to life by the reenactors, but again nothing quite like seeing the actual thing.
Up until 1746 and the Battle of Culloden, the last battle fought in Britain, the island was plagued with warfare of one sort or another and in periods of civil strife brought on by military struggle it was common for folks to try and secure their wealth when likely forced evacuation and travel would have been even more perilous trying to carry that wealth with them.
Thus hoards of coins and valuables stashed during these moments of crisis, for one reason or another, were often left hidden and unclaimed until revealed centuries later providing a mini time capsule into the period in which the individuals who made these preparations lived and leaving a tantalising set of questions as to who they might have been and under what circumstances they were forced to leave their worldly valuables.
The Crankley Point Hoard is another such collection of hastily hidden items, discovered in 1957, with a jug containing coins, a silver thimble, sealing wax case, and small casket among other items.
The 17th century seal seen below is the Warburton Seal belonging to William Warburton, a member of a prominent Cheshire family who settled at Shelton, following his marriage, and at which this item was found.
He became a lawyer and coroner for the county and was a prominent Royalist.
The NCWC display also includes items that illustrate other aspects of the way armies were managed and organised in this period and disciplined together with the consequences of desertion and recapture and wounding in battle with consequences that don't bear too much thought when one considers the lack of modern pain relief available to these men.
Item 6 is one of the possible consequences that might have bee suffered by returned deserters, with the hand brand seen above used to stamp or tattoo army deserters and criminals with in this case the Royalist mark of the crown and 'C R' monogram, with the stamp likely heated to allow the blunt spikes to burn the imprint into the flesh.
Next to it is a bronze beaker, 7, used to prepare medications, creams and ointments which might have been used to help relieve the agony of the use of the former implement together with the wounds suffered in battle.
|The Military Surgeon's Kit - 2. Ornate bow frame amputation saw with removable blade, circa 1650, 3. 16th century bullet extractor, 4. Amputation knife, 1601 - 1750, 5. 16th century steel and brass bullet extractor|
Military surgeon, Richard Wiseman, who had extensive experience of military surgery in the Dutch navy and with the Royalists, wrote a number of books to help inform other surgeons.
In his first book, 'A Treatise of Wounds', he devoted the entire second part of it to gunshot wounds.
In it he proposed that bullets should be removed 'while the Patient is warm with the heat of Battel, and the Wound fresh, and very little altered by Air or Accidents.' Contact with air was believed to have great impact on people's health.
The key items of a military surgeons kit are well illustrated in the items above and below, with the curved amputation knife used to cut through the flesh and muscle to expose the bone of the limb to be amputated, with one circular cut being the aim, with speed being the primary focus.
Once the bone was exposed and the muscle separated from it, it could be sawn through and then sealed, with the aim to perform a quick and clean amputation; this in an era when, to prevent infection, it was considered amputation was the first treatment to be considered for a major wound rather than a last resort.
The bullet extractors had a screw thread on the end, so that once the bullet was located the extractor could be screwed into the lead ball so that it could then be pulled out.
|8. Ornate bone frame amputation saw, 9. Bow frame amputation saw by Lesueur (1778 - 1846), France|
Tobacco began to be used in England from 1565 and was thought to have had medicinal purposes, being seen as a cure for major illnesses and was first taxed by King James I in 1604.
Of course the use of pipes to smoke tobacco could have disastrous consequences as described by Richard Atkyns after the Battle of Lansdown, a battlefield Mr Steve and I walked back 2020, in that a careless pipe smoker nearly caused the death of Royalist General, Lord Hopton;
'Lord Hopton, who was then viewing the prisoners taken, some of which, were carried upon a cart wherein was our ammunition; and (as I heard) had match to light their tobacco; ... I had no sooner turn'd my horse, and was gone 3 horse lengths from him, but the ammunition was blown up, and the prisoners in the cart with it; together with the Lord Hopton, Major Sheldon, and Cornet Washnage, who were near the cart on horse back, and several others: It made a very great noise, and darkened the air for a time, and the hurt men made lamentable screeches. As soon as the air was clear , I went to see what the matter was: there I found his Lordship miserably burnt, his horse sing'd like parch'd leather, and Thomas Sheldon (that was 2 horse lengths further from the blast) complaining that the fire was got within his breeches, which I tore off as soon as I could, and from as long flaxen head of hair as ever I saw, in the twinkling of an eye, his head was like a blackamoor; his horse was hurt, and runaway like mad, so that I put him upon my horse, and got two troopers to hold him up on both sides, and bring him to the head quarters, whilst I march'd after with the Regiment.'
|Clay tobacco pipe, English, circa 1625|
During the third and final siege of Newark, 1645 to 1646, the Royalist garrison was in need of money and so they set up a mint to manufacture lozenge shaped coins with denominations of half crowns, shillings, ninepences and sixpences.
Surviving coins have become very collectable and in 2012 a Newark shilling sold for US $1,900.
The flintlock pistol seen below is an interesting item, illustrating the evolution of the flintlock from the wheellock mechanism that preceded it, with a fashion that became popular in the second decade of the 17th century in the Netherlands and later adopted in England, namely to produce flintlock pistols with the 'bellied' lockplate form of the wheellock
|Flintlock pistol, English, circa 1645|
The requirement to proof armour plating was already, by the period of the English Civil War, a well established process first adopted by wealthy medieval noblemen purchasing the state-of-the-art armour of the late medieval era and keen to make sure it could withstand the effects of the first primitive hand guns that were starting to appear on the battlefield.
|A good example of a breast plate cuirass bearing the bullet imprint of a proofing test.|
|Flintlock Pistol, English, circa 1650 - The tapered octagonal barrel on this pistol is typical of English examples from the mid-17th century. Although with a lack of any standardisation at that time, examples of round barrelled types were readily found in service.|
The equipment of the typical cavalrymen is well illustrated in this cabinet display of arms and armour, most notably the heavy broadswords carried during this period.
The sword seen below is a Walloon Sword, often made in Holland or Germany and take their name from the area of Wallonia, now part of Belgium.
The traces of gilt decoration on the pommel and gilded wire grip with 'Turks head' binding top and bottom, show this to be an expensive cavalry officer's sword.
|Cavalry Officer's Walloon Sword|
The two swords seen below are examples of 'Mortuary Swords', so named from a 19th century assumption that the head on the hand guard was that of Charles I , however these types of sword were in use well before Charles' execution.
The hand guard seen on the rearmost example with the closeup above displays ornate craftwork and bears the makers mark, 'Andria Farara', on both it and the blade.
These weapons were used for slashing on both the forward and back swing, with their tapering double edged blades and medial ridge.
The set of siege armour seen below and in the illustration above it, pertains very much to the situation Newark found itself in three times during the war.
This kind of armour was much thicker and of greater weight than normal battlefield armour and was designed to afford the wearer maximum protection against small arms fire and explosives when working close to enemy in trenches, siege-works or fortifications.
Worn mainly by engineers, other more decorative examples were also made for high ranking officers.
The example of functional siege armour seen below bears the cross of St George and a 'helmeted 'A' of the London Armourer's Company under the Commonwealth, with the breastplate and tassets heavier than the backplate and are designed and proof against firearms.
The helmet belongs to a small group which can be dated to the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) and bears the makers mark 'TC' which can be attributed to Thomas Carpenter, Master of the London Armourer's Company in 1664. The brackets were designed to rest on the shoulders of the wearer, relieving the weight of the helmet.
|English siege armour, circa 1650-60. The helmet is circa 1670.|
On loan from a private collection, this example of Clarendon's History of the Civil Wars, seen below, is a first edition, with the mention in the title of 'The Rebellion', perhaps pointing to the fact that this history is by no means unbiased with Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon, a leading Royalist who fled to Jersey in 1646 as guardian to the future Charles II and serving as his Lord Chancellor from 1658 to 1667.
|Clarendon's History of the Civil Wars was published in three volumes from 1702|
The remarkable weapon seen below is described as the Koch Gas Gun, on loan from the Spalding's Gentlemen's Society and is an example of a similar weapon used in an attempt to assassinate Oliver Cromwell.
I mentioned in the preamble to this post how sensitively the fabric of the very old building used for the NCWC had been restored and the display of Puritan style hats used as light shades on the staircase leading to the upper floor is an example of the imaginative way this has been accomplished providing a very unique display in its own right.
The NCWC has also included a much under reported aspect of most wars but certainly the English Civil War, namely the experiences of women and their contributions and roles with a rather shocking example of the abuse women could expect at this time, if not accused of witchcraft then facing a punishment of enforced gagging and public humiliation with the Scold's Bridle.
This disgraceful contraption was used on Dorothy Waugh in 1655 after she was detained by the Mayor of Carlisle after she spoke out in public about '. . . deceit and ungodly practices', and with no charges laid against her and on subsequent interrogation to which she robustly stood up for herself was put in the bridle for three hours with her hands bound behind her and the heavy weight of the iron cage on her head and the bit in her mouth to stop her speaking.
The NCWC building was the site of the Magnus School and as the board below proclaims was able to claim some very notable old-boys, none more so famous as Major Gonville Bromhead VC, second in command of the heroic defence of Rorke's Drift against the Zulu's in 1879 and memorably played in the film Zulu by Micheal Caine.
Alongside the items associated with the Civil War the centre also has a display of other objects relating to the wider history of the local area.
We visited the Stoke Field battlefield back in 2018 on another Partizan weekend trip, see link above, and I covered the bitter hand to hand fighting that occurred on the ground as the Yorkist mercenaries were gradually overwhelmed by the arrival of further Lancastrian battles under Jasper Tudor.
The skull on display below was discovered on the battlefield in 1982, part of eleven partial bodies from a mass grave at East Stoke, and displays trauma injuries on it and the radius bone next to it illustrating the ferocity of the hand to hand fighting that typified this late medieval period.
These remains might be from some of the Irish troops or German mercenaries who fought on the rebel side.
Behind the bone fragments can be seen a Bronze Age looped spearhead discovered in a filled in water channel and thought to have been deliberately placed in the water as an offering to the gods, and in front of it is a late Saxon or early medieval arrowhead found at Barnaby-in-the-Willows, thought possibly to be of Anglo-Scandinavian origin, and beside it, numbered item 6 is a Medieval iron bodkin arrowhead, designed specifically for piercing armour.
|On the left is a gold posy ring from the 17th or 18th century with the inscription 'Tyll life be paste'. These rings were used as a lover's token to show regard. and in the centre is a silver penny of King Canute (1016 - 1035). Gnut the Great was the son of Svein Forkbeard, King of Denmark, who landed in Gainsborough in 1013 and became King of England after conquering the country.|
Another interesting item to be seen was this folding parachute bike issued to infantry units landing on D-Day.
Over 70,000 of these bikes were manufactured by BSA, British Small Arms Company and were designed to be folded up and thrown out of an aircraft with its own small parachute. They were disliked by the Paratroops but were used by other infantry units with the picture below showing a Commando unit marching with their bikes prior to embarkation on D-Day, and many of them were to be seen being used in France, years after the end of WWII.
The stunning item seen below was one of the highlights of our visit and is the Newark Torc dating somewhere between 200 to 50 BC and found by local metal detector Maurice Richardson in 2005.
Thought to have been made by the local Iceni tribe, with torcs normally being found in North Norfolk, this one could have been traded or given as a gift to another tribe, and it seems it may have been deliberately buried close to the River Trent.
This is one of the finest of the 200 torcs discovered in Britain and is made of gold, silver and copper consisting of eight gold wires twisted into eight ropes and with terminals cast using the 'lost wax technique'. They are in turn decorated with La Tene style motifs, an abstract curved style of decoration named after the place in Switzerland where it was first found.
|The Newark Torc dating somewhere between 200 to 50 BC in age|
So after a very enjoyable afternoon exploring the Civil War Centre and Queen's Sconce, we made our way over to Lincoln where we were booked in to stay overnight and where we were looking forward to enjoying a few afternoon beverages and dinner.
Our lodgings this year proved to be a piece of local history in its own right as we were staying in Pemberton House built as a merchants house in 1543 and overlooking the historic cobbled town square in Lincoln right next to the castle and cathedral.
|Tom and Mr Steve getting settled into an early evening game of Charioteer by GMT games which proved to be very entertaining during our stay.|
After a very pleasant evening in Lincoln sampling the delights of a the Castle View Indian Restaurant and several of the local pubs before a good nights sleep in Pemberton House followed by a full English breakfast with Lincolnshire sausages, we were off to another Partizan show, one of my most eagerly anticipated shows in the year.
As someone who goes to wargaming shows primarily to see the games on show and to chat to the gamers involved and come away with new ideas and inspiration for my own games, Partizan is one of the best shows around for scratching that particular itch and if you can marry that offering with a great venue offering plenty of space inside and out together with easy access and parking then it's no wonder that I and the chaps are keen to make the journey up from Wales and the West Country each year to see what's on offer.
|Partizan, voted Wargames Illustrated 'Best Show of 2022' in a public vote, and definitely one of my favourite shows to attend.|
We arrived about half an hour after the doors opened at 10 am and so missed the queue to get in and were immediately struck by the buzz of chat that happy wargamers emit when immersed in what they love to do; and so after a quick visit to the chaps at Warlord Games to pick up a few nautical reinforcements, Tom and I started to make our way around the various tables to spend some time enjoying seeing the games on offer this year and getting some pictures of the ones that appealed most to us to include in our pick of the show for 2023.
Therefore, as usual and in no particular order, I present the games that caught out eye this year;
American Civil War 28mm by The Bayonets - The Battle, December 1862
How about this game to start a show report? As regular readers will know, I'm more of a Napoleonic man myself, but have enjoyed the occasional foray into this particular period.
That said the spectacle of seeing a table like this with all the attention to detail is a feast for the eye and I found myself grabbing plenty of inspiration for my planned North American tables to facilitate my AWI Mohawk Valley collection.
Second Anglo-Maratha War 28mm, by the The Boondock Sayntes - Laswari 1803
The Boondock Sayntes are regular contributors to Partizan and have featured in several of my other Partizan show reports over the years and when you see the games they like to produce, it's no wonder.
The stunning quantity of cavalry required for a game set in this early incarnation of British-India is eye watering only matched by the glorious paint jobs and I really loved the attention to detail with the chain stretched along the Maratha gun line.
Successor Wars 28mm by the Westbury Wargamers - Battle of Paraetacene 317 BC
The Successor Wars were well represented this year with this marvellous game from the Westbury Wargamers and Mr Simon Miller's, 'To the Strongest' game, and who can resist the sight of massed pikes and a beautifully turned out force of Successor cavalry, infantry and elephants.
Eagles and Lions at Carentan, 15mm WWII by the Retired wargamers Reloaded
I have a very large collection of WWII 15mm Normandy forces and spent many holidays, when the boys were younger, touring places like Carentan, the nearby beaches and boccage in summer time when the countryside illustrates well the close nature of the terrain and the difficulties the forces faced back in 1944 fighting in it.
I think the chaps captured the feel of the terrain very nicely, matched with their table centre-piece of Carentan and its dominating church spire.
1941 Eastern Front 20mm WWII - Derby Wargames Society
Continuing the WWII theme, I love to see the vehicles that featured in the early part of the Barbarossa Campaign, especially those fielded by the Russians and the clutter of German vehicles pressing forward with overhead close air support really seemed to capture the oncoming Blitzkrieg that swept the Germans forward to the gates of Moscow in 1941.
Successor Wars 28mm, To the Strongest! by Simon Miller - Battle of Ipsus 301 BC
Perhaps this was one of Tom's and my favourite games this year, and no surprise that it was from Simon Miller, with this stunning rendition of Ipsus in glorious 28mm, mostly metal figures, which if you consider how much it would cost to put a collection like this together is a staggering investment.
However that investment in time and money has produced this amazing spectacle of a game and illustrates why our hobby is up there with all the other forms of what the so called 'great and the good' deem to define as 'High Art', although I would argue that a table like this is far superior to any Turner Prize Short Listed, 'Unmade Bed', by Tracey Emin and placed in the Tate Gallery.
The only thing that was missing was the shouts, screams and smell of blood and horse-poo.
Raid on Entebbe, 20mm Moderns by The Bunker
For sheer spectacle and eye-grabbing potential I had to include the Raid on Entebbe game seen below, which for a chap of my vintage brought back lots of memories of the robust style of Israeli security response the world has come to know and their enemies have come to respect over the years, and I loved the Air France Boing 707 parked up with the C-130's.
The Battle for Oosterbeek, 28mm WWII - Too Fat Lardies
It was fun to meet up with the Nick Skinner this year at Partizan and to enjoy seeing his Oosterbeek game running, which I know has been somewhat of a passion, demonstrated by the table he and the chaps had on show.
The flashing LED placed under the smoke atop a knocked out StuG left me imagining the crackling noise of the burning vehicle amid the cooking off ammunition - Nicely Done.
The MDS Crossroads, 28mm WWII - Too Fat Lardies
Another Arnhem themed game from the cluster of Lardy games at this year's show was this rendition of the battle for the crossroads of the Utrechtseweg, Stationsweg and Pietersbergseweg, with the large hotel on the junction used by the British as a First Aid Station with the crossroads soon becoming referred to as the Main Dressing Station (MDS) crossroads.
A tense battle developed, as illustrated in the game, as the Germans met fierce resistance from Airborne anti-tank guns to their attempted armoured push down the main Utrechtseweg as German infantry infiltrated into the houses along the road.
Midgard Heroic Battles, 28mm Norse Mythology by Mr James Morris et al - Against the Frost Giants.
As in previous show reports, I make no secret of my historical themed games enthusiasm, but that doesn't mean I'm not also attracted by a stunning classical fantasy/mythologically themed one as well, and my love of Tolkien and his ability to mingle the historical record with that of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon stories and sagas goes a long way to understanding the attraction.
My luck was in when I came across the Midgard Heroic Battles chaps well into the playtesting and development of their new rule set designed for these types of encounters as well as the more classically themed historic ones, and with the rules tracking to be published through the Too Fat Lardies, Anschluss Publishing arm of their rules business at some time in the not too distant future, I was all ears to the explanation of the game mechanics as well as enjoying admiring the entertaining games on show and the painting and modelling on display.
Midgard Heroic Battles, 15mm Dark Ages - The Battle of Degsastan 603 AD
As seen in the other side of the table, the Midgard Heroic Battles rules are easily designed to encompas a more traditionally themed historic encounter and in a smaller scale of 15mm in this example, with some nicely done simple terrain to showcase two nicely turned out armies.
So that's it for another year at Partizan that capped off a great weekend away with the chaps, with lots of laughs and banter, great food, great history and of course plenty of wargames fun.
Many thanks to Lawrence and Richard Tyndall and the Partizan organising team for staging another great show, and keep up the great work chaps.
Oh and did I mention a quick trip to the Warlord stand for some naval reinforcements, which with the development of another twenty small scenarios from William James's history to complete seventy of the one-hundred planned and with my work to build collections for Jack and Bob nearing completion, I took the opportunity to add some models for my own collection that will facilitate showing how these historic match-ups can look when brought to the table.
Thus I picked up some more Indiamen, some Bomb Ketches, 4th Rates and Large Galleys to bring to the blog in future posts.
Lots more to write about here on JJ's, with more Peninsular War gaming with Bill Slavin as he completes his Talavera Dawn Attack game with a final crescendo, I've got more ships in the riggers yard almost ready to join Jack and Bob's fleets and the adventure down under continues with a journey to Australia's red centre.