Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Vales of Lyndhurst - Combat at Aldbury

The Field of Aldbury, looking north up Broad Street Road

From the diary of Sir Edward Anders, Master of Lyndhurst and Prime Minister of England.

23rd July 1725.  ...Welcome news from the south.  Yesterday, Uncle Leopold stopped Bedford and the mercenaries of the King of France on the road up from Hastings at Clydesdale, or some such place.  Ten thousand or more Commonwealth and French came on furiously; Uncle allows that before the day was ended he despaired the outcome. Then, late in the afternoon, with the Round Forest lost and the right flank at its last gasp, the French attacks faded away.

King Louis is some 1100 troops the poorer; and, having sacrificed perhaps 750 of his own, Bedford will begin to baulk at the price of ambition.  Yet our people did not come away unscathed.  Over twelve hundred dead, wounded or missing from an army scarce 7500 strong is a sore sacrifice.  So Uncle Leo's Army will not be marching north at once.  They will be in need of rest and reorganization.  At least Bedford will be in no fitter case.
Looking south down Broad Street Road.  A rather constricted
entry for the Commonwealth Army.
What of Major-General Preston's Northern army?  Son James has joined him with a couple of regiments of horse, and the collected militias and Trained Bands from Lyndhurst, Fordingbridge and Cornwall - 4000 strong - I have sent on after him. They aren't the Regulars we promised, but they will have to do. They should be up in a few days.  God send that they arrive before My Lord Ashley stirs...
Looking west along the lines.  Aldbury Village is in the left
foreground.  The mere in the right foreground is impassible.

As Sir Edward Anders was writing his journal by the light of a couple of candles, Lord Ashley himself paced fretting in his lamp-lit pavilion addressing his commanders, and waving a parchment. The brigade commanders eyed the bedraggled and damp figure standing by the tent-flap.  A message had arrived from the south - from Bedford - then.  

'Ill news, comrades!' fulminated Lord Ashley, 'Bedford has suffered a setback at... let's see... yes... Clydesdale - some village or other maybe fifteen or twenty miles south of London.  Didn't manage to force a passage past the Pretender's army.  However, the way Bedford tells it, the soi-disant Royalists' - he made it sound like an epithet - 'have been badly knocked about.  They won't  be marching north to face us, at any rate.'

'The question we must now address:  should we march south ourselves and take London, or await Bedford's advance?  The army before us is not so strong, but what awaits behind?  Were Bedford and the Seigneur de Chevalier still marching north, I should not hesitate' - none of his Major-Generals so much as cracked an ironic smile, Ashley having hardly moved this last week - 'but we can not hold if the enemy bring his whole power against us. Did we march south now, the enemy would be upon us the sooner.'

The Gloucester Brigade, in and around Aldbury.
'I believe,' drawled a voice near the back of the group, 'it behoves us at once to advance, sweep aside the enemy before us, seize London, lay hands on the pretend King ...'  Lord Ashley recognised the voice of about his most aggressive commander, and thought, not for the first time, that bellicosity sat well upon one surnamed Bullock-Bunce.  'I don't reckon on there being much to concern us behind that young sprig Preston's little band to stop us once we sweep it aside.'  He made it sound so reasonable.  So... easy.

A growl echoed Bullock-Bunce's remarks, the whole group seemed to be in agreement.  This Council of War, thought Ashley, has got out of hand inside the first minute. The Generals, the Colonels, and Captains were all supposed to suggest waiting, prevaricating, procrastinating - wasn't that how it was supposed to go?  Especially after the go-ahead-no-wait-a-bit messages he had been receiving; Lord Ashley had been beginning to wonder about that.  A dissenting vote of one - his own - was not calculated to keep him long in command, especially with Warwick itching for the post.  He noticed Fraser of Warwick eyeing him with an arched eyebrow.  Very well: attack it would be.  And may Warwick and Bullock-Bunce and the rest of 'em rejoice in it.

'Lords and sirs,' he drew himself up, 'We march at dawn!'
Mugglesworth's Brigade, led by 2nd Dragoons, marching towards
Aldbury.  Yet to arrive on the field, Warwick's Brigade,
half the artillery and 2nd Carabineers.
* * *

For the forthcoming battle, I carried out a little bit of a Google Maps search for a likely stretch of country north of London, and found something promising not far south of the London Stansted Airfield.  This I sketched out roughly and transferred to my hex-table.  I would very much liked to have found the source of Barry Taylor's monochrome maps - in my view ideal for this kind of campaigning.

Mappe of the Field of Aldbury.  The rectangles represent
The Armies for the forthcoming Battle of Aldbury comprise:


Commander:  Lord Ashley, Duke of Norfolk *  SP=6
2nd Brigade: Sir Horace Malvoisin, vice Lord Ashley
     - 12th, 13th, 94th, 111th Foot, @ 4SP:  SP=16
     - 12th Light Infantry SP=3
3rd Brigade: Duke of Warwick
     - 14th, 15th, 16th, 95th Foot @4SP:  SP=16
6th Brigade: Major-General Hon. Herbert Mugglesworth
     - 35th, 39th, 40th, 113th Foot @4SP: SP=16
     - 14th Light Infantry SP=3
Cavalry Brigade: Major-General Sir Buttridge Bullock-Bunce
     - 1st Commonwealth Carabineers SP=5
     - 2nd Commonwealth Carabineers SP=5
     - 2nd Dragoon Regiment SP=4
     - Duke of Norfolk's Own Light Dragoons. SP=3
     - 1 Battery 12pr cannon SP=3
     - 3 Batteries, 9pr cannon. @2SP:  SP = 6

Total Units, including Army Commander: 23
Median: 12
Total Strength Points: 86
Exhaustion Point: -29 SP.


Commander: Major-General Preston SP=6
5th (Gloucester) Brigade: Baron Macclesfield
     - 10th, 11th, 33rd, 93rd Foot @4SP: SP=16
 6th (Midlands) Brigade: Sir Anthony Tillier|
     - 32nd, 35th, 36th Foot @4SP: SP=12
Cavalry: Sir Marmaduke Jenks
     - 1st Regiment of Horse SP=5
     - 2nd Dragoons, 3rd Dragoons @4SP:  SP=8
     - 18th Light Horse SP=3
     - 12pr Battery SP=3
     - 9pr Battery SP=2

Total Units, including Army Commander: 14
Median: 7
Strength Points: 55SP
Exhaustion Point: -19SP

Royalist Reinforcements:  Sir James Anders
     - 5 Militia/ Volunteer/ Trained Band battalions @3SP: SP=15
Reinforcement diced for arrival, at beginning of own initiative turn, before unit activation is determined: Roll of 6 required.

Total Units (reinforcements added): 19
Median: 10
Strength Points: 70SP
Exhaustion Point: -24SP.

* * * 

Celebrations celebrated, toasts drunk and finally grinning at each other over a second - or was it a third? - stoup of ale, the Royalist Army commander and his newly arrived friend, Sir James Anders, leaned back on their camp chairs.
'What have you brought us?'  finally asked General Preston.
'Not quite what was promised you,' the grin withdrew from Sir James's face. 'We were supposed to send you over 5000 regulars, mostly drawn from Great Uncle Leopold's army, truth be told.  That isn't going to happen.  Not after the mauling they took at Clydesdale.'
'I was given to understand that Leopold stopped Bedford and the Frenchman cold,' the General kept his tone neutral.  He would show no disappointment, whatever he felt.
'They did,' agreed Sir James,' they did, but Leopold took a battering compassing it.'  He added quickly, 'But I haven't come here altogether empty-handed. There's these two regiments of Horse that escorted me here, of course. Following me on the road there is a body of Trained Bands - militia - about 4000 strong. All musket-armed. Should be with us in a couple of days - tomorrow, I am hoping.'
'I'd rather have the Regulars, by a damned sight,' mused Preston, chin resting on fist, 'But I'd sooner not have nothing...  You will command the Trained bands, of course?'
'Of course' said Sir James.

To be continued -

* Note: Barry Taylor's system of titles seems to have been a convention of his own, and probably quite plausible during the course of an eighty-year interregnum.  Tempting though I find it to change it, I shall be staying with Barry's system.  Although Master of Lyndhurst, Sir Edward Anders seems to be titled as a knight, or possibly baronet, rather than, say, a baron or earl.  Methinks the young King James III might consider elevating Sir Edward to the peerage fairly soon in appreciation of his services.


  1. While my Imagi-Nations are based on GDW's "Soldier King" board game, I toyed with the idea for a few years of basing them around an independent Scotland v England in the mid C18th with the Scots in blue faced red v blue faced redcoats.
    I eschewed the idea of Highlanders, instead aiming for a Scots Royalist army (uniforms based on Royal Ecossais) with a Jacobite monarch (probably a James XIII).
    I seem to remember a children's serial or book set in an alternative England with a Charles III in a non-specified C18-19th time frame which also fed into this idea.
    I also had the idea of blue and grey v red from British v US of 1812.
    Never came to anything and I realised that if you intend to abandon history for fantasy, it's better to make a complete break to invented nations, as this allows you to indulge whatever idea grabs your fancy. Sadly anything based on real nations or history contains the risk of getting sucked into ideas of what's credible which can niggle in the back of your mind.....

    1. You are right, and I am trying to reconcile what I know of history with what Barry had in mind. The justification, I think lies in that we are 80-years since the bifurcation of the Trousers of Time, and a descent into a kind of aristocrat anarchy.

      I'm not going to look into the North American adventure. I think Barry ran into another problem of historical fantasy: the more you know, the more you feel inclined to include. My preference is to keep things fairly limited.

      I don't know how readers feel, but playing this thing out, I'm finding it quite easy to 'suspend disbelief' - surprisingly so, withal. Consistency is the key. Cromwell's New Model sank into neglect without the coalescing agency of an effective central government, which is just as well: I have no red-coated 18th Century Infantry. So if I go with blue-coated royalists, with White coated Guards; green coated 'Commonwealth' or 'Confederation' troops and grey-coated French - that I can do.

      I have a copy of George MacDonald Fraser's 'Steel Bonnets', which describes the 'Wild West' anarchy of the border marches with Scotland, that was getting worse during the Tudor reign, until James VI/I, as ruler of both realms, was able to put together a clean-up plan.

      Absent a unifying ruler, one can easily imagine a slide back into the King Stephenesque/ Border March near-chaos, and a desperate attempt to reunify and restore the realm.

      Quite why they didn't apply to the Elector of, say, Hanover might have to remain a mystery...

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