Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Siege Of Bramton - Early Autumn 1643 Part 1

With Pym now gravelly ill and the end of the campaigning season in sight the remaining members of the Committee of Safety were split on how best to proceed. The Royalists had been pushed back out of striking range of London and with their de facto capital still smouldering were thought unlikely to return to the offensive for the balance of the year.

Amongst the Committee members Denzil Holles and Henry Marten wanted to push on into the Midlands to take advantage of their opponents current disarray, while Merrick and Hampden (in light of the Scots continued politicking for country wide religious concessions) wanted to open a second front elsewhere.

Sir William Waller, who'd been busy raising a new force south of Oxford, was sympathetic to Holles and Merrick's viewpoint and realised that the severing of land communications with the Royalist's economic powerhouse in Bristol might prove enough of a blow to now render the King's position untenable. To have a chance of achieving it he would need to reconquer Gloucester before the winter arrived. With this in mind he marshalled his forces and in late September set out westwards.

The town of Bramton* had been fortified at great expense in the late 1300's and though the wool trade it had fostered had since gone elsewhere, leaving it to wither on the vine, its ancient walls still provided a modicum of protection to the single depleted regiment of foote and the highly disliked governor William Blake that Rupert had placed there in the wake of his heady summer advance. Though its defences were known to be weak Waller refused to leave it as threat to his supply lines so on the morning of the 2nd of October he encamped his forces on either side of the town and summoned the Governor to surrender.

Worried that he'd be hung if he surrendered the place without at least a token show of resistance Blake reluctantly declined Waller's initial offer and sent riders off to Warwick to inform Prince Rupert of his (completely untrue) intent to hold out as long as he could against overwhelming odds. For their part the good folk of Bramton began to wonder how depleted the defending garrison actually needed to be before they could safely rise up and just hand the place over. Responding to a summons from London to explain his strategy, Waller was absent from his army for over a week and as a consequence - to everyone's disappointment, very little of note occurred.

With their leader away Waller's septuagenarian second in command Sir John Gilligan continued dithering around the south west of the town with the the greater part of the army while to the north east the more dynamic Sir Edward Massie had been tasked with cutting the Warwick road and providing a diversion to the expected main assault.

On the 12th of October with still no agreement from Gilligan on when the assault would actually be made Massie ordered his bored gunners to make a few ranging shots and was surprised and delighted when a large section of the ancient outer wall collapsed with only minor effort.

If Massie was surprised and delighted Blake was even more so for with the walls breached he knew he could now seek terms and march away with his honour (and the length of his neck) safely preserved. He was in the process of assembling a delegation to arrange a parley when bad news arrived from the north tower. Reinforcements were coming down the road from Warwick!

Bramton North East - which sounds a lot like a railway station.

The portion of the Parliamentarian army we are concerned with is under the command of Sir Edward Massie who is finally exercising the independence he was promised at the start of the year. He is not looking to throw away lives on attempting to storm the breach but will do so if no delegation from the town is forthcoming. This is, in modern parlance, his time to shine. You've met him before at Sydenham Heath where he marched his men into a firestorm from prepared Royalist defences. He looks a bit like this.

Massie drew a "bold lunette" terrain card and the the following forces:

A - William Blackstone's regiment of horse
B - Sir John Merrick's regiment of foote
C - Richard Norton's regiment of foote
D - John Pynne's regiment of foote
N/A - two cannon
One over strength unit card which I've assigned to Norton's regiment (can take 4 hits rather than 3)

Meanwhile over in the blue corner we have:

The equally capable and now medal wearing (after his service at the Devils Dyke) Sir John Lord Byron.

Sir John is leading a flying column to bolster the defenders of Bramton, composed of dragoons to reinforce the garrison and three cavalry regiments to escort the long line of supply wagons demanded by its "bravely resisting Governor." Though his scouts have observed Massie's position Sir John believes it is the weaker of the two forces before the town, weak enough and far enough back that his cavalry will be able to screen the wagons as they pass through the North gate with their supplies.

The Royalists drew a "grate fortification" terrain card and the following forces:

E - Horace Bramley's regiment of horse
F - Lord Montague's regiment of horse
G - Roger Owen's regiment of horse
H - Gilbert Floods regiment of dragoons
N/A - two baggage trayne cards.

Gratuitous sexy terrain pic. I present the breached walls of Bramton for your delight and delectation.

This is an unusual (for this blog) game in that there are only a small number of units and commanders on either side and their number and deployment does not lend itself to the classic C & C card play / flank / centre / flank layout. Apart from a few scenario scenario specific rules, set out below, and game mechanic tweaks (forgive me Master Foy for I know not what I do) I have adopted a one off unit activation system for this battle that goes a bit like this:

At turn start each side rolls 1d6 to determine who holds the initiative. The highest roller wins and of course any ties are simply re rolled. The winner becomes the activating player and rolls a single average die to establish how many units he may activate that turn before the turn passes to the opposing player who follows the same process. Once both players have completed what might be termed a "bound" the exercise is repeated until the required number of victory banners are obtained and one side wins.

The previously explored amendments to the current rules allowing the potential deployment in hedgehog / pike stand of less well trained units still stands but as a result of receiving Simon Miller's excellent "For King & Parliament" rules as a Christmas prezzie I have reduced the basic size of galloper units from 4 bases to three. I have no problem accepting that Mr Miller's knowledge of unit organisation (especially on cavalry) far outweighs my own foot slogger biased research.

Anywhoo, further tinkerings with cavalry charges and melee have produced the following... which I'll trial in this battle and see how it goes.

a) Galloper cavalry charging Trotter cavalry will now gain two extra dice for the shock of their impact, but since that shock relies heavily on the close up fire of difficult to reload pistols will only be allowed once per game per unit. This advantage I believe is countered by their now three hit fragility.

On the receiving end of this, Trotter cavalry get to fire their pistols just before the gallopers reach them (ie in the adjacent hex) using one of their potential battle back post melee C & C dice. Any crossed sabre or horse icon thrown will cause an immediate one pip strength loss to the charging unit, while a flag result will remove one of their two bonus C & C dice. After the two forces meet and a melee occurs hits are taken by the defending trotters and, assuming they survive, they get to battle back but without the one die they used in pre contact fire. We'll see how that goes.

b) Trotter cavalry charging galloper cavalry may be counter charged (without the gallopers additional bonus dice) at the last minute, unless the target is raw or chooses to evade. Should a counter charge be launched then the situation outlined in a) & b) above is used.

I know, I know, it's probably just useless messing around with a fairly sound set of rules but hey I'm a war gamer man… it's what we do!

From a scenario specific angle any Parliamentarian unit in an adjacent hex to the town wall must (during the Royalist's turn) have one C & C die rolled against it to reflect fire from the defences, while any Parliamentarian unit moving into the breach / town square hex must have 3 dice rolled against it immediately - (reflecting musket fire and hurled piss pots from the surrounding houses) and once during every Royalist turn it remains there.

4 victory banners are required for the win with Parliament able to claim 2 for each baggage trayne unit destroyed and 2 temporary victory banners for any turn they occupy the breach in the wall hex. The Royalists gain 2 victory banners for each baggage trayne unit they manage to get through the towns north gate and 1 point for the dragoons, these points being in addition to the usual leader loss and unit loss victory banners normally awarded.

Hopefully you'll come back next week for the result.

*yup totally made up place again.


  1. I will be back, no doubt! Interesting situation to watch unfold.

  2. Cheers Jonathan. Not sure why I keep trying to avoid the usual stand up open field slugfest. I might have to just let go and give it a whirl for the late Autumn battle.

    1. Incidentally either you've got a lot of time on your hands or the 900 page hits I've had from the USA today are ruddy bots again. 🙄

    2. I may be a frequent visitor but not in the 900+ category. Darn bots. Beautiful walled village, by the way.

  3. Massie's the man for me - if he doesn't win I'm sure it'll be down to someone moving the goalposts (changing the rules). Interested to hear how the changes play out - do you have rules for a storming a breach were it to be required?

    1. Hi Rob, I've only changed the rules a tad because I'm concerned that the galloper cavalry (and at this point that's chiefly Royalist) seem a bit like ruddy panzers. I'm becoming more convinced that the trotter / galloper tactical choice could not have been as one sided as most games seem to imply given that the two systems co existed on the battlefield for a number of years. Msr Foys rules do not explicitly cover sieges because he quite rightly considers them to be usually quite drawn out affairs, better dealt with as a separate item altogether. For this scenario any storming of the breach (if there is even to be one - bare in mind Massie could opt to destroy the two baggage Trayne units instead) just requires a parliamentary unit to remain undefeated on the breach hex - earning two temporary victory banners as long they continue to do so. While that might not be dramatic enough for some they will be under attack from defenders in the buildings all around them. House to house fighting is not something I could do justice to with the terrain aesthetic I've gone for (no bloody room amongst the houses) and given the narrative implies the residents and governer of the town are ready to give up at the drop of a hat probably unnecessary. What I've inadvertently done is try a "sort of" siege scenario with a rule system that's not designed for it and at a scale which doesn't allow for the heroic deeds of small groups to be recorded. Never mind, let's see how it turns out. If nothing else. I gave it a go. We can always have a proper large scale toe to toe slugfest next time.

  4. Massie bare in my mind? That's not a picture I wanted in my head!
    As for 'gallopers' vs 'trotters', I believe the T's advantage is one of control and if they hold their nerve the G's will shudder to a halt in a disorganised mass (horses will no more crash headlong into each other than they will into a block of foot) even more likely if the T's are supported by shot. While this battle of nerves still favours the G's they are likely to be much more likely to hare off in pursuit than the T's thus the G's tendency towards being a 1-shot weapon balances out their slightly greater chance of winning. Cavalry battles are usually won by he who has the last reserve which as the number of units increases ill tend to be the T's - a bit like Wellington's comments on British cavalry vs French.

    1. Bare Massie is what happens when you try speed typing with fat fingers on a dodgy ipad!

  5. What a cracking model of Brampton.

    1. Cheers Norm, I made it so that several of the wall sections can be replaced with a breached bit if required. The buildings inside all come out to serve as the components for an unfortified village when needed for other scenarios.

  6. See if you can find a blog site called 'investigations of a dog' its sadly defunct but the author's PHd was in the role of horses in the ECW and he casts some interesting light on the tactics of cavalry. I have come to the conclusion that the division between galloper and trotter horse is a gross over simplification (although a reasonable way to enforce a tactical doctrine on the two sides). By 1644 it seems likely both sides were mainly using the same tactics - the hybrid German style that had become the norm in Europe as the TYW drew to a close. Pistols were a close combat weapon rather than a defensive arm and everyone tried to get in close and fight it out hand to hand via charge or counter charge. I suspect that there would have been exceptions where cavalry units had a feature of ground which made standing on the defence a valid action. As noted above it was the command and control that was the important part.