Saturday, 12 August 2017

Wargame Myths Again

‘Treating Spanish musketeers as the functional equivalent of Persian archers, or Swiss pikemen as updated Greek hoplites, is commonplace among those who wish to use the richness of the past to create situations or scenarios to instruct or entertain modern students. But this way of handling the past violates something deep within the historian’s conscience, effacing all that is distinctive and unique about the early period of firearms use and imposing a certain bland uniformity on the material. In the final analysis, such pattern making is only as good as the historiography that informs it’
Hall, B. S., Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe (1997: John Hopkins, Baltimore, p. 6-7)

I mentioned recently that I had been reading about warfare in Britain 1485 – 1746 – Charles Carlton’s book about which I blogged recently. I noted then that I had, and had read, a number of the works Carlton mentioned. Bert Hall’s tome is one of them. I do remember reading it, but I cannot recall its contents. And so I now have a pile of books to re-read, as well as a pile to read.  Of the buying of books, of course, there is no end. I just need another few hours a day to read them in.

So, I picked up Hall’s book and, during a lunchtime at work, started to read it. Lo and behold, I ran across the quote above in the first few pages. Now, as an exercise, try re-reading the last sentence substituting the word ‘wargaming’ for ‘pattern making’. In fact, I shall do it for you below:
‘In the final analysis, such wargaming is only as good as the historiography that informs it’

I am, of course, making a heavy handed point here. We know, because we have seen them, and played them, that there are many wargame rules out there, and many wargame periods. We also know that there are many wargame rules which, by shifting period and troop types, think that they can sell a load more copies (do any wargame rules sell a ‘load’, I wonder) and not have to do much in the way of historical research or thinking about rule mechanisms.

Despite my protestations about this issue, there do seem to be increasing numbers of said rule types around. They may well, of course, have advantages. The rules, to players familiar with another period, might be easy to pick up. The core mechanisms might be rather good, or streamlined, or whatever it is that makes a good set of rules for a wargame. They may give a good, fun game, a cliff-hanger of excitement and engagement. Nevertheless, I think the modified quote from Hall skewers them quite accurately.

A set of wargame rules is only as good as the quality of understanding of the period which has gone into it. This is, of course, jeopardized if the writer of the rules approaches with a bunch of categories from another period. This is what Hall is saying: Spanish musketeers were not just souped up Persian arches facing souped up hoplites. Hoplites are hoplites and Swiss pike are Swiss pike. They are not the same thing, and should not be considered as such.

‘Who,’ you might ask, ‘rattled your cage this time?’ I admit it, I have written on this before, and yet it still annoys me. The specific issue I have is trying to find some rule set sufficient from the wars of Elizabeth Tudor. I have a few on my shelf which might be suitable: DBR and Renaissance Principles of War. I am sure you can spot the problem I have just referred to – they derive from rule sets designed for different periods.

I wold not mind quite so much, and would be prepared to use them (as I have in the past) for some fun games if I did not have a historical quibble with both of them This is that they both regard the Spanish tercio as a battlefield unit. The classic pike block with a block of musketeers at each corner is there in the rules.

‘What is the problem with that?’ you might ask. Well, it is fine if you are trying to reproduce the artwork of the time. However, there is no evidence that tercios, thus deployed, had any presence on any battlefield. A little thought from the rule writers might have convinced them of the fact. Spanish commanders were not lacking in common sense. Deploying half your firepower to a position where they could not do anything on the battlefield is not wise. There is no evidence that Spanish commanders were stupid.

‘Wargaming is only as good as the historiography that informs it.’ Granted, if you want a fun game with huge units blundering around, then deploying tercios under the rules will deliver. But it is sadly lacking in historical verisimilitude.  Spanish tercios were administrative units, not battlefield deployments. The art of the time is fun but not accurate. Deploying a tercio is not historical wargaming; it is even closer to fantasy than normal wargaming.

There used to be a rather good web page on the subject of tercios, but I cannot find it. However, the gist of it was, I believe as above. However, the myth of the tercio continues, I suspect, in wargaming circles, along with a whole load of other myths like the mid-seventeenth century musket rest, the caracole and the effectiveness of the pilum, not to mention the greatness of Alexander III of Macedon or Frederick of Prussia.

Nevertheless, I have not solved my rules problem. I would like a set of rules specifically for the ‘Elizabethan’ period – and I do know that the English were rather bit players in the wars of the time. And I would rather some rules, or at least army lists that noticed that the bow and bill armed men were recorded as ‘unarmed’ after 1585, and that the trained bands were not totally hopeless but selected and, well, trained.

Maybe I set the bar too high for a wargaming backwater period. I shall probably have to write my own.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Flanks

I have, as some of you might know by now, obtained a small wargaming table. Now, I imagine that most tables are probably six feet by four feet, or even bigger. Certainly most pictures I see of people’s set ups suggests that size, as they say, is important. Some, of course, have bigger tables; I believe that someone once said that perhaps ten feet by six was the biggest practical, at least n one table.

I have no problem with this, of course. I used to have a six by four, which did sterling service for a number of years. The problem that I do have is with the numbers of toy soldiers that are placed upon said tables. I may well have moaned about this before in passing, and I may well, of course, contradict myself, but let’s see.

The issue at stake is, of course, the wargamer’s view that a wargame is not a wargame unless the table is full of troops. There are, of course, honourable exceptions to this general rule, but a brief investigation of some wargame blogs will probably affirm my assertion. Wargamers, in general, deploy everything they have across the whole width of the table.

Naturally, this is understandable. For one thing, most battles were straight on affairs. Most generals in his they could, attempted to secure their flanks by using impassable, or at least, difficult to pass terrain. Rivers, hedgerows, towns and castles have all been used to secure an army’s flanks. For another thing, sending a whole load of soldiers on a flank march is the luxury of an army that heavily outnumbers its opponents. After all, if the numbers are fairly even and a significant chunk of one army disappears, there is a risk that one or both bits will be defeated in detail before the others appear. For both these reasons, then, wargamers have it roughly right.

However, I do think that there are two things that do demand consideration. Firstly, flanks do not magically secure themselves. The choice of battlefield is significant in these circumstances, and is an important part of generalship. A general who is forced to fight with one flank ‘up in the air’ has to deploy forces to secure that flank, and this reduces the numbers available for the front  line. Thus it seems to me that wargamers who do not engage in pre-battle manoeuvring are missing a significant chance to show off their abilities (or lack of them, of course. I know where I would fall on this spectrum, at least) at forcing their opponents to fight at a disadvantage.

The second aspect is, of course, that in real life no-one wants a fair fight. The aim of generals is to win battles, achieve campaign objectives and win wars. The aim of wargamers is to enjoy a good game. This tends to entail filling the table with pretty toys and slugging it out. The relative unpopularity of campaign games is testament to that, as is the relative paucity of naval games. One of the writers on naval games noted that a naval wargame without the campaign context is a lot more pointless that land based wargames. In the latter, a crossroads or town can be declared strategically important and fought for. There is a lack of that sort of objective in naval games. Even in my recent ancient naval effort there was a non-naval objective, that of getting the transports to the island intact. While such scenarios do exist on land (think of the Wagon Train scenario, for example) they do tend to arise more naturally at sea.

Once the table is filled, of course, the opportunities for manoeuver are limited. Most troops can only really advance straight ahead and attempt to clobber the enemy. We aim to make a breakthrough. The chances of flanking anything except the odd unit are limited. In this sense most wargames, it seems to me, land up a bit like the Western Front in World War One where the strategic flanks were, ultimately, secured on the Channel coast and Switzerland respectively. The only way was to break through to the green fields beyond, to coin a phrase.

I have mentioned that, in my new regime of wargaming, I have stopped worrying about filling the table, and this is, I think, a good thing. Firstly, I can avoid the drudgery of painting, for drudgery it is to me (although, over all, I spend most of my hobby time doing it). Secondly, I can now deploy small forces and still not have the flanks covered. I have, I think, always wargamed like this. On my tables, of whatever size, the flanks have been open to anyone who cares to wander into them. It probably says a lot about my strategic or grand tactical vision that this tends not to happen. Or it might simply reflect on my aversion to painting figures.

On the whole, though, I do think that flanks should get more attention from wargamers than they usually seem to. I have to admit, however, that I struggle to think of more than a few battles where a classical flank march, along the lines of that advocated in DBM, made a difference. I am not that well versed in military history through the ages, of course, but in my periods I can really only think of the Second Battle of Newbury, where the Parliamentary armies squandered a 2:1 outnumbering position and a few strategic cards by engaging in a risky flank march and then not really performing on the battlefield. The most recent thing I have seen about this, however, is that it might have been done deliberately, so a faction (including Cromwell) in Parliament could get rid of what they regarded as the dead wood generals, who may well achieve a compromise peace with the king if they emerged as the victors.


That is historical speculation, perhaps. But perhaps we, as wargamers, had better watch our flanks. After all, we never know what might be approaching ut of left field…..

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Renaissance Naval Rules

Version 2.0

A bit of a blast from the past here. I realised that I needed my “renaissance” naval rules, and then that they had vanished from the web (hardly a surprise). So here they are, for my reference and your delectation. On a quick look they owe far too much to DB* for comfort, but they might give a platform to make a start.

The Renaissance (here defined as ca 1500-1700) was a time of great technological change in naval ships. Initially, the galley and carrack ruled the waves, and boarding was the most common combat method. By the end of the period, effective ships of the line were in use, together with frigates, bomb ketches and most of the other types of ship recognisable from navies of 100 years later.
We attempt to model here some of those changes. Readers should be warned that the rules take a ‘broadest brush’ approach, which may offend purists. That is to say, as much as possible of the technicalities of sailing have been hidden in favour of the big picture. As with the DB* series of rules, to which these are similar, command and control of the units is essential. This is achieved using the same PIP method. It is not the admiral’s job to fire the guns, take in sail, or order borders away. That is left to the individual ship’s captain, and his own internal chain of command. It is the admiral’s job to plan the battle and ensure the execution of that plan, by ordering reserves about and so on.
Naval warfare is a much more complex area, both technically and strategically than land warfare. It is recommended that battles be fought in the context of scenarios or campaigns, rather than as equal point duels.


Warship
Specialist warships, starting with roughly the Swedish and Danish fleets of the 1560’s, including the English fleet of the 1570’s onwards, and most mid- to late- 17th century fleets.
Ws(S)
First and second rate ships of the later 17th century.
Ws(O)
Third and fourth rates, exceptional earlier ships.
Ws(I)
Fifth and sixth rate ships.
Ws(F)
Frigates.
Ws(X)
Fireships.
Galleon
Sea going vessels, armed in the main with guns. They could be quite heavily armed, but were expected to fire once and board. This did not always happen, as the Armada found against the English fleet. English race built galleons are considered warships under these rules.
Gn(S)
Large ocean going vessels
Gn(O)
Medium ocean going vessels
Gn(I)
Small ocean going vessels
Gn(F)
Exceptionally manoeuvrable ocean going vessels
Gn(X)
Fireships
Galley
Galleys were, of course, the main type used in quieter waters, such as the Mediterranean, Japanese Seas and, on occasion, the Baltic. Oar powered, they could mount batteries fore and rear, but had no firepower to the sides. The oarsmen were vulnerable to firearms. Some, particularly Venetians were well known for their long range gunfire, but carried smaller boarding crews.
Gy(S)
Flagship and lanterna galleys, Korean Turtle ships, manoas.
Gy(O)
Standard Mediterranean types.
Gy(I)
Fustas, Japanese.
Gy(F)
Galliot, Venetians, North Africans.
Galleass
An attempt to compromise between a galley and a sailing ship, by adding heavier duty sails and broadside batteries. The result was not a massive success, being too heavy to row quickly, and difficult to sail. The six deployed at Lepanto may well have helped to break up the initial Turkish attacks, but were then left some distance from the main melee and unable to follow the fight.
Gs(S)
Large
Gs(O)
Medium
Gs(I)
Small, such a big pinnaces
Merchantmen
MM(S)
Large, transcontinental ships, merchant galleons and East Indiamen
MM(O)
Moderate sized ocean going ships, with just about a broadside
MM(I)
Light coastal traders, Far Eastern junks and the like
Yachts
Lightly armed warships used for scouting.
Yt(S)
Sloops and brigs
Yt(O)
Yachts
Yt(I)
Large Pinnaces, ocean going fishing boats
Yt(F)
Pirate vessels, careened brigs and the like
Boats
Bt(S)
Partially decked and carrying guns, such as bergantines used on lakes
Bt(O)
Open rowing boats. Invasion barges.
Bt(I)
Dug out canoes and other small vessels.
Bt(F)
Outrigger canoes.

A fleet should be organised into squadrons, each under an admiral. Each admiral will get 1 PIP roll on a d6 per turn. A fleet should be organised to a given number of points, with an admiral for roughl every 100 points. Models should be based individually, on a 40x40 mm base for large ships (warships, galleons, galleys, merchantmen etc), and 20x20mm for smaller (yachts and boats).
Points Cost
Type
S
O
I
F
X
Warship
25
20
15
15
20
Galleon
20
15
10
15
15
Galley
20
15
15
10
-
Galleass
25
20
15
-
-
Merchant
15
10
5
10
-
Yacht
17
13
7
15
-
Boat
7
5
3
3
-
Admiral costs +10. He may fly his flag on any vessel, but if not on a grade (S) vessel may only count the +1 for moving, not combat.

4 directions are identified, wind ahead, wind behind, and two wind on the beam. Movement and PIP cost is based on these.
PIP costs
Movement is by groups or individual elements. Movement must be to the full extent of the available distance, given the conditions, unless the relevant PIPs are paid, or the group or element is Gy or Gs in toto. No PIP's are spent for sailing ships moving the full extent of their move in the relevant conditions. The PIP costs for sailing below are used when other distances or manoeuvres are used.
Sail with wind on beam
1 PIP
Sail against wind
2 PIPs
Sail with wind behind
2 PIPs
Gy/Gs element or group rowing
1 PIP
Gy expanding into line
1 PIP
Admiral with group
-1 PIP
Out of sight of admiral
+1PIP
Ignite fireship
1 PIP

Movement
Class
Good
Rough
Difficult
Warship
200
100
50
Galleon
200
125
75
Galley
200
75
50
Galeass
100
75
50
Merchantman
150
75
75
Yacht
250
125
50
Boat
200
100
50
For sailing ships, good going is with the wind on the beam, rough is wind astern and difficult is wind ahead. All distances above are for windy. Deduct 50% for either very windy or calm.
For rowed galleys etc, good is all directions wrt wind in calm, any except into wind which is rough, in windy, and all directions are difficult in very windy.
Galleys may turn by 180 degrees in one base length. Sailing ships may turn by 45 degrees in one base length.
Large ships graded (S) deduct 50 paces from their move, (F) or (X) graded ships add 50 paces.


Factors

Class
Range
Factor
Factor
(Distance)
(Close)
Warship
300
4
2
Galleon
300
3
2
Galley
300
2
4
Galley(F)
2
4
Galeass
300
3
4
Merchantman
300
2
1
Yacht
200
2
1
Boat
100
1
1
Warships may only fire to the side. Galleys may only fire forward. Galeass may fire to side or forwards, the latter using Gal factors. In close contact, orientation does not matter, as the ships are assumed to attempt to slew to the correct angle. X may not shoot once ignited.
Tactical And Support Factors
-1
Each Damage marker if in close combat.
+3
Raking from Stern.
+2
Raking from bow.
-1
For each additional shooter.
-2
For each additional close combatant.
+1
For second line of galleys in CC
+1
Admiral aboard
Class Factors
+1
If superior.
-1
If inferior.
-1
If fast in close combat.
+1
If fast being shot at.
+2
If X in close combat rolling odd.
-2
If X in close combat rolling even.
+2
If boat fired at
X class ships (Fireships)
Fireships may be ignited on command, for a cost of 1 PIP. Once lit, they burn for 6 moves, moving on their original course the full distance. They do not need PIP's to move at this point. They may not fire one ignited, but before hand may operate as an I class ship of their type.

If less than but more than half
Warship
Recoil
Galleon
Recoil
Galley
Recoil
Galeass
Recoil
Marchantman
On even roll, recoil. On odd roll, flee
Yacht
Flee.
Boat
Flee. On odd roll take 1 damage marker.
If less than half
Warship
Take 1 damage marker. On odd roll sink if more than 4 damage markers, otherwise captured if in close combat. On even roll recoil.
Galeass
Take 1 damage marker. On even roll recoil. On odd roll, sink if more than 4 damage markers present, otherwise captured if in close combat.
Galleon
Take 1 damage marker. On even roll recoil. On odd roll, sink if more than 3 damage markers present, otherwise captured if in close combat.
Galley
Captured if in close combat. Otherwise, take 1 damage markers, sink if total is more than 3, recoil otherwise.
Merchantman
Captured if in close combat. Otherwise flee, take 1 damage marker and sink if total is more than 3, recoil otherwise.
Yacht
On odd roll, captured if in close combat, otherwise flee, take 1 damage marker and sink if total is more than 3.
Boat
Captured if in close combat. Otherwise sink.

Description of Results
Recoil
Ship is moved one base depth away from the winning combatant. If it is unable to do this, ship is captured if in CC, flees in any availiable direction otherwise.
Flee
Ship moves full move in direction away from winning combatant.
Captured
Ship is boarded and captured by winner. Ceases fire and combat. May only be moved to capturers rear, or used by them to board the next vessel in line, using their original factor.
Damage markers show the level of disruption the vessel, crew and its command and control functions are suffering at present. For each move entirely unengaged, one damage marker may be removed, to a minimum of 1. More than 5 damage markers, and the vessel sinks immediately.

Following Up
Class X ships must, and others may follow up a recoil or flee result, to the full extent of their allowance in the particular circumstances.

Victory is decided when one side or another, at the begining of a bound, has lost half or more of its elements, excluding boats.

The purpose of this section is not to give specific lists, but to provide guidance as to what is available.
Atlantic and Baltic
Mainly Gn, Yt, Bt, MM, and later Ws
Mediterranean
Gy, Gs, Bt, Yt if North African
Indian Ocean
Bt(S) (Dhows), Gy
East Asian
Gn, MM(I) (Junks)
South East Asia
MM(I), Bt(S)


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Missing: One Armada

I mentioned before that I had made a bit of a return to the “renaissance” side of wargaming, and had started to track down and re-base some toys to yield an Elizabethan army. As yet the question of their enemy has been left unresolved. The English, in the time of Elizabeth T., fought the Scots, French, Irish and Spanish, and allied with Scots, French and Dutch. In anticipation of deciding on an enemy, I have purchased supplies of plastic card for further adventures in basing.

The toy soldiers are quite old, Irregular 6 mm. I note that Irregular do still make them, which is gratifying in case I need any reinforcements. On the other hand, I find that having a table 80 cm square means that I no longer have to worry about increasing the sizes of my armies. Twenty bases or so is the maximum I need.

The downside of this, of course, is that while looking through my stocks of “renaissance” armies, I came across some interesting forces. I discovered 16th Century Poles and Muscovites, for example. Immediately my wargamer’s mind’s eye was away thinking about sweeping cavalry moves. Fortunately the spasm passed, and I continued with the job in hand, that of searching for a navy.

This is where the story gets a little odd, or at least, where I start to show my considerable age. I had, years ago, a number of “renaissance” (a horrid and inaccurate term, hence the scare quotes) navies, from both the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (There you are, by the end of the seventeenth century the early Enlightenment was well underway; renaissance it wasn’t). I also recall having said navies in various scales, all of them fairly small.

The fact of the matter is that I cannot find most of them. I have put them away somewhere safe, evidently. I have searched in my cupboard and in the crates of deeper storage, but of Armadas and seventeenth century Anglo-Dutch wars fleets there remains no sign. I think I must be getting old.

Still, I did find some nice-ish fleets which are next on my list of things to do. So far as I can identify them, they are Hallmark 1:2400 scale galleys and galleons. And very nice they are as well, it seems to me. I do not even seem to have painted them too badly. A few have been dismasted during our last house move (which was over a decade ago – I have been away from the “renaissance” for too long), but no serious damage was noted on a cursory glance.

The Estimable Mrs P was sympathetic (or, possibly, was humouring the old fool) and immediately offered to buy some reinforcements for what I had found (now you know why she is the Estimable Mrs P), but, rather to her surprise (and, in fact, to mine) I demurred, saying I had better check what I had already. Fortunately, again, for me, they seem still to be in production. I had better try to work out what they are before splashing out and lumbering (yes, wooden ships) myself with more painting.

Anyway, I am not sure that you really wish to hear about my struggles with memory and small ships. The question which arises with the Elizabethan era, of course, is whether the Armada could have succeeded. This is a tricky question, and something that is surely worthy of a wargame or several. The problem is, where to start.

Initially, there is the Spanish strategic dilemma. Phillip II of Spain was presented with two rather good plans for invading England. One, by the Admiral, the Marquis of Santa-Cruz, envisaged a direct assault by a fleet with an army on board launched from Spain. The other, by the Duke of Parma, Phillip’s preeminent general, suggested a lightning strike by the army of the Netherlands across the Channel. This, of course, gave Phillip a dilemma. Which plan should he choose, and who would he upset by doing so?

In the event, the plan was an amalgam of the two. The Armada, with an army on board, would sail up the Channel and escort Parma’s army across it. This did have the advantage of providing protection for Parma’s troops on the crossing, and requiring a less powerful army to be dispatched from Spain, and hence a smaller Armada. However, it did require decent communication between the fleet and the army, which is something that has often been notoriously difficult to establish, even with modern communication networks. Secondly, of course, the Spanish immediately lost the element of surprise which Parma’s plan envisaged.

Of course, we know how it turned out. Parma could not board his troops and get them into the Channel in the time the Armada was on station, and he had no inshore fighting craft to escort them past the Dutch vessels anyway. Secondly, as with all invasions of Britain, the Royal Navy only really had to remain in being to thwart it. The Armada was not sent out to fight the English navy, nor was it equipped to. The defeat of the English navy was not part of the plan. If Parma could get his men ashore, then the navy would surrender along with the rest of the country.


So, even ignoring the English land based resistance options, we have some interesting scenarios here. There is, of course, the Armada as history records it. We could see if it does any better than the original. But then as wargamers we have at least two counter-factual scenarios, plus one where the two are combined but independent. This latter one is intriguing. The English were not made of ships. If the Armada had assaulted, say, Plymouth, it would have drawn a fair bit of the English navy to the south-west, possibly leaving the way open for Parma to slip across and land in Kent. I am not sure how this would have gone, but having the bulk of the English army still in its home counties would be a positive boon in these circumstances, I should think.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Danger! Books at Work

Many wargamers, I should think, realise that reading books is dangerous. Not, I suppose, dangerous per se. There are more dangerous hobbies than wargaming or reading, or even reading and wargaming together. Base jumping, I believe, has the highest fatality rate of any hobby. Similarly, sky diving, parascending, white water swimming and all of these things are fairly risky to life and limb. Wargaming risks are trivial by comparison.

Nevertheless, reading books is, I submit, dangerous to wargamers, or at least their mental health, bank balances and the size of their unpainted lead mountain. I have just encountered a case in point. For me, the trigger was Charles Carlton’s This Seat of Mars (Yale, YUP, 2011). This is a discussion of war and the British Isles 1485 – 1746.

Those of you who are avid readers of this blog (are there any of you?) will recognise that I have a split wargaming personality. Part of me is an ancients wargamer, never happier than when flinging a pike phalanx against the bunch of legionaries to see what happens. Part of me also is a ‘renaissance’ wargamer, which is a terrible term for the period in question, but which happens, roughly, to be covered by Carlton’s book.

I have read another of Carlton’s works, a long time ago, ‘Going to the Wars’, which was about the experience of war in the English Civil Wars. Historiographically, Carlton is following John Keegan’s ‘Face of Battle’ lead, and trying to understand, from the evidence, what it was like to go to war at a given time. Adrian Goldsworthy does a similar sort of thing for the Romans in ‘The Roman Army at War 100 BC – 200 AD’ (Oxford, Clarendon, 1996). In fact, it is rather hard to find in military history at the moment, a historian who is not doing something like that.

Going to the Wars, however, was not my favourite book on the ECW, and I do not have a copy. This is probably a bit unfortunate, but the problem I have with Carlton’s work is that there are occasional mistakes and errors in it, which bother me. These are not typos or grammatical errors, but mistakes of fact, and it seems to me that if errors of this kind are made in areas which I do know about, then what errors in areas I do not know about are getting past me?

I cannot recall the particular problem in Going to the Wars, but I do have an example from This Seat of Mars. On page 126 Carlton states ‘Charles dispatched Prince Rupert to capture Newark so as to secure his lines of communication with his northern army under the earl of Newcastle’. This, of course, is referring to the situation in early 1644. The problem I have with this is that it is incorrect: Newark was already held by the Royalists, and was under siege. Rupert was dispatched to raise the siege to secure the line of communication north, and even then, he did not use it to raise the siege of York but went via Lancashire.

Now, I am probably being pedantic and picky, and certainly should not write the whole book off because of one, probably fairly minor, error of fact. But the problem is that I find them fairly consistently in Carlton’s books, or at least the two I have read. It undermines my confidence in what I read, which is a pity.

That said, I do like Carlton’s book, although some of the things he tries to do are, he admits, speculative at best and pure guesswork at worst. Such activities, like trying to estimate the number of dead in the various wars in the time frame, are worthy but unlikely to be anywhere near to right ball park. The point he makes, however, is that the number of dead in the British Civil Wars was almost certainly higher as a proportion of the population, that in the First World War. Yes, you read that right: the ECW (and the other bits) was more traumatic to the population than WW1.

This was particularly true in Scotland, and even more so in Ireland. The extremely rough estimates of the dead from 1641 – 1660 in Ireland are truly alarming. Mind you, the estimates from the Williamite wars are fairly eye-watering as well. Of course, many of the casualties are from disease and starvation, but even so, the depopulation of all three countries (and one principality) is shocking.

The thing that caught my imagination, however, was not the ECW and its colleague wars, but the wars of Elizabeth I. These are not usually particularly noticed by, well, anyone, really. We know a bit about the Armada, and possibly we are aware of Elizabeth’s Irish Wars, but overall, as Oman says somewhere, the second half of the sixteenth century was boring for warfare in England. Not much happened, there was little innovation and hardly any action.

Carlton demurs, and points to a range of evidence that Oman was wrong. Actually, he tries to overturn a range of historiography (mostly from the 1950’s and 1960’s) which pointed to Elizabethan armies being corrupt, inefficient and ineffective. He argues that, in fact, the Elizabethan militias were a lot more effective than they are usually given credit for, and the armies were not corrupt and inefficient. The Elizabethan state was poor and debt ridden. Elizabeth’s policies had to take account of this. For the Armada, for example, the trained bands (an Elizabethan innovation) were raised and then dismissed as the fleet passed their counties by. This saved a lot of money, but also still provided for a coastal defence force which would have been reinforced by the trained bands from neighbouring counties if the Armada had landed.



So, now I am interested. It helped, of course, that I could find a number of the works that Carlton refers to already on my shelves. I also have a range of already painted figures for the period. They need rebasing, admittedly, but they are extant, and chopping bases up and gluing them on has already started. Like I really need another project….