Saturday, 16 February 2019

Battle of Bauge - a potential narrative

I’ve been trying to get as much clarity as I can regarding the Battle of Bauge on 21 March 1421; in relation to its narrative, the leaders and forces involved and transferring it to a demo game for Salute show.

The battle took place the day before Easter Day in 1421, an important date in the medieval religious calendar. Although the battle has been described as “little more than a disorderly scuffle”, it’s significant for three main reasons; i) the death of Henry V’s brother Thomas, duke of Clarence and ii) the first English defeat on the battlefield since Agincourt in 1415, and iii) the involvement of Scottish troops fighting in a combined force alongside the French.

For a medieval engagement there are a good number of written sources for the battle – including English, French, Scottish and Burgundian. The challenge is that they are (inevitably) contradictory and confusing. Regrettably fifteenth century chroniclers did not write their accounts with due consideration for the critical information that wargames 600 years really need to know! One of the fullest modern accounts comes from ‘The Reign of Henry the Fifth’ (Volume 3) by Wylie and Waugh (available online) and although written 90 years ago it's both comprehensive and scholarly in relation the campaign and battle and feels more compelling than many recent writers, such as Jonathan Sumption’s account in ‘Cursed Kings’ the relevant volume in his HYW series. 

My current view of the battle narrative (but subject to adjustments) is as follows:

1. The battle resulted from the English seeking to defend territories conceded to them at the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. The duke of Clarence led an English force (of about 4,000 men) along the Loire and was encamped before Easter 1421 near Beaufort. A Franco-Scots force had been raised by the Dauphin to seek battle and had moved to Bauge from Angers. 

2. The English had discovered the location of the Franco-Scots through the interrogation of captured prisoners. Despite it being the day before Easter, Clarence immediately led a contingent of all his knights and their men at arms towards Bauge. The archers were left to be organised by the earl of Salisbury and to follow on. Clarence’s decision to engage with just the men at arms appears rash with the benefit of hindsight and when considering the role of English archery and combined arms in the battlefield victories of the HYW. 

3. The English army was outnumbered. As with most battles it's difficult to be precise on numbers; but the generally agreed figures are about 1,500 English men at arms against 4-5,000 Scots and French, with the former providing the majority, presumably with a force of mixed arms. (I’ll post a future piece on the leaders and their heraldry etc).
The Couasnon river seen from present day Pont des Fees 
4. The English approached Bauge town from the south or south east, coming up from Beaufort (possibly following the current D60 road). This led them to the Couasnon River, which runs to the east of Bauge, near where it converges with the Altree River (both rivers being cited by different chroniclers). The crossing is referred to as Pont des Fees (the D722 on modern maps).  The first engagement took place at the bridge crossing the river, where a small contingent of French were surprised by the English mounted knights. Close fighting took place and it’s possible that the English had to dismount to force their way across – after which they then remounted.
The modern Couasnon river is relatively narrow (see Google image) and appears fordable – however contemporaries do reference wet, marshy ground running alongside and so the bridge seems to have been an important tactical feature and possibly the only option for mounted men in full harness to cross at.

The area in red depicts the likely battlefield area north-east of Viliers Bauge
5. Once across another fracas ensued after some of the French fell back to a church, from where they hurled rocks at the English, until they were by-passed. This maybe the Chapel of Fauborg St Michael, on the edge of the medieval town and not far from the Pont des Fees bridge. The mounted English knights then moved towards the town,to engage the Scots troops, who were by now alerted and prepared. Where this took place we seem to have a fairly reliable location. It’s likely to be on land uphill from the river crossing, between Bauge town and the village of Viliers Bauge (to the south west), along the crest of a slope. This ridge may have masked the size of the Scots contingent from Clarence as he rode up from the river towards the shallow plateau to attack. Today there is a monument to the battle in this area and the local vicinity is called ‘La  Bataille’. There are also references to fighting near a church and a graveyard – presumably of Viliers-Bauge.

The monument on the battlefield site

6. In the ensuing melees, in which the English appear to have fought from horseback, the duke of Clarence was killed, along with a number of other English noblemen, with others being captured. It was most likely weight of numbers, along with Clarence’s death, which tipped the day for the Franco-Scots. The earl of Salisbury’s troops – the army’s archers – appear to have got close to the battlefield but not close enough to take part on the day. Instead on the following day they collected Clarence’s body and buried the English dead, then fell back to Le Mans. Clarence's remains were buried in Canterbury Cathedral, under a magnificent alabaster effigy made in 1439.

Thomas Lancaster duke of Clarence. Canterbury Cathedral

If anyone has any additional views or information, they'd be most welcome.
In the next posting, I'll consider how I can include most of these key elements and apply them to a tabletop demo game.
Toodle pip.


Sunday, 3 February 2019

Chamfrons, Shaffrons and Crinnets

I’m starting to build some Perry Miniatures mounted knights for my HYW collection. The first are for a Battle of Bauge 1421 demo game at Salute – on which they’ll be more in later posts. So they’ll have an English look, but still be sufficiently generic to be used in other battles (as French).

British Library Harley 4331 (c 1410)
My starting point is to assemble the horses. The horse armour for these obviously reflects the 1400-1430 period. Aside from the horse barding, contemporary pictures show chamfrons, protection for the horse’s head (sometimes referred to as shaffrons, particularly by the New York Metropolitan Museum I’ve noticed) and short crinnets, a series of small overlapping plates at the top of the horse's neck presumably to protect it from opponent’s wayward sword blows and sometimes worn with mail.

Manuscript from BNP (date unknown)
The box comes with two chamfron-protected horse heads. One is modelled on images in The British Library’s ‘Book of the Queen’ by Christine des Pisan (Harley 4331), a French manuscript of circa 1410 (see images) and the other I’ve found in an image on Pinterest which annoyingly has no source reference. Other contemporary images show ones in a very similar style to the ‘Warwick Chamfron’ in The Royal Armouries. This is a single piece of steel, with additional large perforated eye, ear nose protections.
Warwick Chamfron, The Royal Armouries (c 1400)
Metropolitan Museum (c 1390)
British Library Harley 4331
To create a little variation, I've done some simple conversions. I’ve added eye and ear protections to the heads provided and also cut down the raised central keel on one of them.

The Perry’s plastic WotR Mounted Men at Arms also have protected horse heads which can be used as they fit the same plastic horse bodies. There is one with a plain chamfron and one which also has crinnet covering the entire neck (this is a little anachronistic, but I'll use it anyway). The others with plumes attached are less useful, as they are of fluted ‘German’ design or have plated neck armour, both only seen in the later part of the century. Again the same easy conversions have been done, using Green Stuff and ProCreate to add protection, pierced by a needle for the viewing/breathing holes. I’ve also extended the flared nose area to try and create a Warwick Chamfron style.

All straightforward stuff which will add a little visual variation as I plan to use this protection on about half of the mounts.

More anon…

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Perry Miniatures Agincourt Mounted Knights - review

So we're back! Sorry for the overlong hiatus.  I've really been focussing my spare time on the Steel Fist Miniatures business. However I'm not going to include anything about the hobby business on this blog, unless there's an overlap with the historical theme of HYW.

I recently received some test sprues from Alan Perry for their new Agincourt Mounted Knights 1415-1429, to paint a few up for his collection and so am using those for a brief review.

The first thing I was struck by is that it is a packed sprue, in total I’ve counted 77 separate parts to construct a wide variety of knights, men at arms or mounted archers for the circa1400-1430 period. The other design note is that Alan has created separate torsos and legs – which both increases build options and enables riders to be posed twisting in their saddles. In total there are 18 pairs of legs and 36 torsos in the box, so by buying 2 more plastic medieval horse frames (at £3 each), you can squeeze 18 horsemen from the 3 sprues in the box - extremely good value.

More pieces means more variety for your figures, but this is achieved by having to glue more parts together (which I appreciate isn’t everyones cup of tea). A typical assembly is torso, legs, left and right arm (although 2 bodies have left arm attached) and scabbard – plus the horse which comprises of 3 parts. Then optional extras can include a weapon to an arm, visor, shield, plume or an arrowbag for the archers. Horses also have optional barding – this period is when evidence of protection for mounts starts and each sprue contains a set of full mail (based on the Harley 4331 illuminated manuscript) in four sections to glue to the horse and a chest protection in 2 halves (the contemporary source for which I’m not aware of and which I've painted as both leather and as steel). Two horse heads with steel chamfons and short crinnets are also provided.

The pack covers typical full steel knightly armour of the circa 1400-1430 period, and much can be seen in Toby Capwell’s book ‘Armour of The English Knight 1400-1450’, although the surcoats and flowing sleeves worn by knights of France and Northern Europe are also included. Two torsos wearing padded gambeson are included, along with arms holding bows, lances and swords, so that other mounted types can be made – including a bow in its cloth cover with a half-circualr strap to add to the figure (which reminds me of the parts you used to get with Brittains toys of my childhood and really shows how far plastic mouldmaking for wargaming figures has come in recent years).

The most fiddly part of assembly for me was adding the mail barding – notably the two halves covering the horse’s chest. I used plastic glue, which effectively melts to join one part to another. The best approach seems to be to attach both sides at the same time to the horses flanks and then glue and hold together the join of the two halves at the front with small pliers, until you get a good bond. The other ends of the mail pieces remain slightly proud and have to be glued down afterwards, again applying some pressure until the glue sets off and creates a solid join.

There is potential to mix these with selected parts from the other Agincourt period boxes – weapons, arms, torsos and heads (with some prudent surgery!) – to create even more variety.
Painting of plate armour and mail is actually pretty straightfoward – a good covering of steel tone and any brass detailings, followed by a wash of black and/or very dark brown, and then picking out some highlights with steel or bright silver.

In summary, this is a box which offers great value for money (as each new Perry plastic set seems to do), combining historical accuracy and much thought in design of components and sprue. So we get many options  to build early 15th century knights (or for use by fantasy gamers too of course). I’ll be using a few boxes myself to create the duke of Clarence’s mounted charge at the battle of Bauge 1421, for a demo at this year’s Salute show in London.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Steel Fist Miniatures

As some of you will know by now,  I'm the new owner of the Steel Fist Miniatures business.

I've known Oliver, the business founder and sculptor, for a few years as he's made and converted a few figures for me for my Burgundian & Swiss collection. I have admired his sculpting style since seeing his first figures and like many others in their craft, the quality of his work is continually improving in my opinion. Oliver also shares an interest in both the history and the armour, equipment & clothing of the periods he sculpts, so his figures look just right.

The good news is that Oliver will continue as main sculptor. We will expand all the existing ranges and have lots of ideas for new figures, as well as other areas that we can cover in due course. This is an exciting opportunity for me to get more closely involved in the hobby business and work closely with Oliver.  I will be getting to grips with the sales process as soon as I can, including getting a new website, hopefully next month.

Here's the announcement from Oliver, which sums up where we are at the moment.

I'm very pleased to announce that Simon Chick is the new owner of Steel Fist Miniatures.

Simon and I have worked together before. He has a great interest and sensitivity toward the historically accurate details that I like to put into the miniatures. Simon's medieval collections can be seen on his blog 

Customers will also be pleased to know that there are plans to expand all the current ranges that Steel Fist produces, with me continuing to act as sculptor. This means that the 28mm Samurai, Renaissance and Later Medieval ranges will all see new figures being added.

For the time being the business will run as usual, but we have exciting plans for the future which we will advise on in the next few weeks.I would also like to take opportunity to thank all the customers who have supported the business and my vision of producing highly detailed miniatures from the very beginning until now.

I'm sure that Simon will continue this vision with the new miniatures.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Crecy at The Other Partizan.

So the game was played last Sunday. It was awarded Best Game, which was really pleasing for all of us who'd contributed to the game; Dave Andrews' English army and terrain (using his fantastic towelling method), Matt Bickley's unique conversions and detailed painting of the German nobility (including the blind King of Bohemia), and Dave Imrie's French nobility and crossbowmen (using many of his superb Claymore Castings).

We managed to get about 260 mounted knights on the table for the French - just slightly shy of the target - as sadly time ran out for other figures and vignettes that were either planned or prepared but not finished. As we'd not had a dry-run, it was a squeeze to get all the French on the table. Rather than reflect the staggered arrival of the French, we popped all them on the table from the start and played it from there. We will run the game again sometime, with a larger tabletop.

The crossbowmen' pavises stuck in the baggage wagons

We used Hail Caesar rules, with amends prepared for us by Jack Glanville - who heroically umpired and kept the momentum going, so we could play and chat.

Dave Andrews' brilliant Edward III command base

English right battle

English left battle
The brief narrative is that the mercenary crossbowmen followed their predecessors and retired after making some casualties on the English holding the Crecy-Wadicourt ridge. The German knights (led by Matt Bickley) on the left then attacked, but lost momentum on the pot-hole defences dug before the English line.

Initial set-up, ready to play.

The German knights advance

The crossbowmen retire and leave it to their social superiors!
On the French right the Prince of Navarre (David Imrie) led more charges by mounted knights, but again failed to make inroads and the French were attracting to loose contingents of knights, as they retired from heavy casualties. Finally the Germans broke through and forced the English 'battle' on it's right to fall back. Renewed French attacks on the centre with King Phillip (moi) and the right also won melees and pressure built on the English line. The English right and centre was eventually forced back and King Edward (Dave Andrews) was forced to concede and retire back to the Channel coast.

The German attack and breakthrough
Award and fellow Bodkins
An immensely enjoyable day - and rewarding for the other Bodkins who'd been building their collections with immense diligence and patience over several years - nice looking toys and great company from everyone round the table. Also great to catch up with those who came along for a chat.

I'll keep folk advised if and when we run it again - in the meantime look out for some proposed coverage in print and online in 'Wargames Illustrated' mag.

Just some pics from here on in.