ECW reading list

  • 'By the Sword Divided', John Adair, (Century Publishing)
  • 'Decisive Battles of the English Civil War', Malcolm Wanklyn, (Pen & Sword)
  • 'Sir Ralph Hopton's Narrative', ed C.E.H. Chadwyck Healey, (Somerset Record Society)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

“The King has the better cause, but the Parliament has the better men” (Richard Baxter)

And so to horse! In Mr Harrison's 'Victory Without Quarter' rules, cavalry should be based in squadrons of two bases, with each base containing three figures, thus, "Horse units may be fielded in regiments of two to four squadrons". Whilst I might have difficulties with his choice of the 'squadron' designation, preferring the term 'troop', the idea of several units being gathered into a single regiment is one that I heartily agree with.

It is my opinion that a regiment of Horse, whilst recorded as that of, say, Sir Ralph Hopton, would have in reality been composed of many different units, or 'troops', raised by local magnates, both great and small, in a given area, grouped together, or adopted, by a person whose name and title added prestige to the following. And following his successes in Cornwall, Hopton was a name that held much prestige and royal favour. (The subject of uniforms and identities is one that I find of great interest and one that I will, no doubt return to)

If this was in fact how things worked, the issue of uniforms (coat colours), obscure enough in relation to foot regiments, would become almost impossible when related to the cavalry, where troops raised would be financed by the 'raisee' for whom, I would think, arms and mounts would be more of a priority than uniform requirements. Attempting to pin down coat colours for foot regiments is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, but I have never seen any reference to any uniform worn by Horse.

As a result of my, possibly addled, thinking, I shall be adopting a totally un-uniformed style for my Horse figures. Coats, where visible beneath 'buff coat' or armour, will be of various colours possibly augmented by ribbons or sashes of a regimental colour, no doubt favouring the regimental standard.

For Hopton's I shall be using a red, probably from the field of his coat of arms. However, I shall use this colour sparingly for the above reasons, and since I have no idea of the numbers that made up this regiment, commanded by Lord Digby (not Rupert's number one fan), I shall be starting with two 'squadrons', troops, to be increased as necessary. With this in mind, I await the arrival of my first batch of recruits from Bicorne Miniatures.

In the meantime here is the finished Hopton command base;

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ralph Hopton - Baron Hopton of Stratton.

Ralph Hopton (1596-1691), the son of Robert Hopton of Witham, Somerset, he appears to have been educated at Lincoln College, Oxford, and to have served in the army of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, in the early campaigns of the 'Thirty Years' War. In 1642 he was lieutenant-colonel of a regiment raised in England to serve in Mansfield's army. King Charles I, at his coronation, made Hopton a knight of the Bath (Order of the Bath). In the political troubles which preceded the outbreak of the Civil War, Hopton, as member of parliament successively for Bath, Somerset and Wells, at first opposed the royal policy, but after Strafford's attainder (for which he voted) he gradually became an ardent supporter of Charles, and at the beginning of the conflict he was made lieutenant-general under the Marquess of Hertford in the west.

His first achievement was to rally Cornwall to the royal cause by indicting the enemy before the grand jury of the county as disturbers of the peace, and had the posse comitatus called out to expel them; his next, to carry the war from there into Devon. In May 1643 he defeated the Parliamentarian forces in the West Country at Stratton, enabling him to overrun Devon and link up with reinforcements under Prince Maurice. On the 5th July their combined forces clashed indecisively with Sir William Waller at Lansdowne. Hopton was severely wounded there by the explosion of a powder-wagon and soon afterwards he was besieged in Devizes by Waller; he defended himself until relieved by the royalist victory at Roundway Down on 13 July. He was soon afterwards created Baron Hopton of Stratton. These successes in the west enabled the Royalist's to expand their control across southern England as far as the western fringes in late 1643, but a counter-attack led by Waller forced Hopton to fall back on Winchester. Hopton was reinforced by a force under the Earl of Forth, but on the 29 March 1644 he was defeated by Waller at Cheriton and again forced to retreat. After this he served in the western campaign under Charles' own command, and towards the end of the war, after Goring had left England, he succeeded to the command of the royal army. Hopton was defeated at Torrington on 16 February 1646 and surrendered to Thomas Fairfax. (Wikipedia)

To accompany the above, here are a couple of WIP photos of the said gentleman. The figures are Warlord metals, with a their Essex figure used to represent Hopton, so not only has he had a change of identity, but also one of allegiance.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

‘As faultless a person as I ever knew man’ (Clarendon)

Hmmn, what is it they say about the best laid plans? Somewhere at the end of May, my great plan went to blazes. A burst of family illness meant that I spent the majority of the next few monthe either travelling, or preparing to travel, as a result my plan fell to pieces.
However, finally Strodes Regiment of Foote is completed, and photographs have been taken. Bad photographs admittedly, but for the moment they will have to suffice.

So, with two foot regiments completed, one royalist and one parliamentarian, I think I shall now turn to the 'Horse' (cavalry) and have a stab at Hopton's own Regiment of Horse, commanded by Lord Digby (one of King Charles' favourites). But next the man, Sir Ralph Hopton, himself.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Found a new set of rules, courtesy of the Louis Quatorze blog, 'For Parliament King or Glory' by David Marks. Look good, and free to download after joining the group.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

‘The Earle having so closely beset the inn, the Marquesse dares not look outside the doores;' (A Perfect Relation, King’s pamphlet E240, No 39)

One thing spending some time away did do, is allow me to catch up on some reading. Namely a book that I bought some time ago and hadn’t got round to reading, ‘Decisive Battles of the English Civil War’ by Malcolm Wanklyn (Pen and Sword Books Limited). Excellent study of the major battles, which include Edgehill, Cheriton, Newbury and Naseby, with each preceded by discussion of context, landscape and sources, showing how they can effect the narrative through inclusion, omission or position of importance.

Hopefully his critical methods of study will, some day, be applied to the smaller campaigns, campaigns which to those involved in, or affected by, them would have proved just as important as, say, Edgehill 1642. One of the points he makes is in reference to ‘eyewitness’ reports or memoirs, suggesting care is needed when using these as they usually reflect the position of the writer, either as a celebration of, or a denial of responsibility, for their exploits. However, there is a lot of thought provoking elements within this book, making it one worth reading.

However, with respect to the above, I thought I might quote a passage from ‘Sir Ralph Hopton’s Narrative’ ed. C. E. H. Chadwyck Healey (Somerset Record Society). I which he details his confrontation with William Strode in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, whilst attempting to publish the King’s Commission of Array in 1642 just prior to the outbreak of war. He, Hopton, along with others, was met on the outskirts of the Town and advised to enter without military support thereby preventing any riot.
“soe in obedience to the present necessity he left his troopes at the Townes end, and himself with the rest of the Gentlemen, and their ordinary retinue, went into the Towne, where they alighted at the high Crosse in the Markett place, and there sate calling the Towne to them, to examine the busines of the Peticion; Where verie shortlie after Mr. William Strode, a great stickler for the other party, and a neighbour to the Towne, with a partie of some eight or ten horse, verie well mounted and arm’d for offensive armes ridd up to the place where they sate, and pressing through the crowde of the people, commanded them in Parliaments name to retire themselves, and forbad the Assemblie; whereupon Sir Ralph Hopton rose from the place where he sate, and tooke Mr. Strode of his horse, tooke away his pistolls , and committed him to a Constable…”
At least that is the way it is remembered in Hopton’s memoirs, differently for others perhaps. The journal is hard to read, written in an age when the rules of grammar and spelling were far different to ours, but it’s, in my opinion, worth the effort. Especially for those interested in the early days of the Civil War.

Monday, 3 May 2010

‘They stood as upon the eaves of an house for steepness, but as unmovable as a rock’ (Richard Atkyns, Grenville’s at Lansdown, 5th July 1643 )

A week away (grrr), well nine days to be exact Nine wasted days, well not exactly. However days that I have been unable to work on this project, so it's just as well that I managed to finish the regiment the evening before we left.

Pictures of the completed Sir Bevil Grenville’s regiment of Foote, ready to ‘bring rebellious western subjects to heel’.

I’ve added the extra stand of pikes simply to please the eye (my eye), it has no bearing on combat, the rules being based on a three, 60x60mm, stand system. I’m also considering changes to musketeer stands in order to make them more adaptable, two 30x60 stands replacing the single 60x60 suggested in the rules. The rules has ‘commanded shot’ as a separate formation, personally I would rather have them as being ‘drawn off’ from the regiments on the field and replacing two 60x60 stands with four 30x60 would, I hope, allow for this.

I also completed my first command base, Sir Bevil Grenville and a drummer.

The next foot regiment I am constructing is a Parliamentary one – Col William Strode’s Regiment of Foote. They probably never existed, but what the heck! Waller’s force in the west country is said to have contained several unknown regiments, so I have taken the liberty of creating a regiment for Somerset dignitary and well known supporter of the Parliamentary cause. A William Strode (MP?), not to be confused with the poet, lived in what was then the small Somerset village of ‘Streete’, he and Hopton had crossed paths before during the attempted reading of the ‘Commission of Array’ at Shepton Mallet in August 1642 (a full description of the ‘altercation’ can be found in Hopton’s own journal, published by the Somerset Historical Society). He is described, therein, as a ‘great stickler for the other party’, so it is quite likely that he would have been involved in the raising of local troops for Waller’s Western Association, and politician or simple local big-wig his behaviour that day in Shepton Mallet would have probably ensured his position with regard to local regimental command.

I have chosen to clothe this regiment in green, why? Simple, I like green.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

‘I cannot contain myself when the King of England’s standard waves in the field upon so just an occasion.’ (Sir Bevil Grenville)

I was hoping that I would be able to add the pictures of a completed regiment, but figure turn around has caused a slight delay. I know it’s just one of those things but waiting for purchases to arrive is flipping annoying. I fail to understand how some companies turn the order around within two days, while others take over a week. Still all the bits are ready to be finished and based.

Anyway, gripe over, here’s a short bit about Sir Bevil Grenville;

Sir Bevil Grenville (1596 -1643). MP, first for Cornwall, then for Launceston, member of the committee set up to investigate ‘Ship Money’ in 1640, during the so called ‘long parliament’. Friend to Sir William Waller, he like Ralph Hopton, whom he served during his 1643 western campaign, seemed to have more in common with the Parliamentary cause, but, like many others, chose loyalty to the King as his primary duty. Was killed, some say needlessly, at the head of his regiment at Lansdown, after which it is said that his regiment refused to take further part in the war, and returned to Cornwall bearing his body to bury it in Kilkhampton Church.
He, along with three other Cornish royalists, was celebrated in a seventeenth century poem, “Gone the four wheels of Charles’ wain, Grenville, Godolphin, Slanning, Trevannion slain”.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

‘When cannons are roaring and bullets are flying’ (Re-enactment song)

Here are the latest shots of Grenville’s, yet to be based since they are awaiting a flag, I hope that the addition of the extra stand of pikes conveys a better feeling of a pike block than a single line of three figures.

I will use any manufacturers figures as long as they look right together, in the above unit there are Bicorne, Old Glory and Warlord, which all seem to sit happily alongside each other.
I like the Renegade range, they are splendidly detailed and paint superbly and they are compatible with Bicorne, but, they will not match with Warlord, standing a good head taller and thus not ‘looking’ right. And as the Warlord range is still growing and the plastics produce an amazing amount of accessories (battlefield debris?), as well as being easy to convert, I am going to go for the Bicorne/Warlord combination. With other manufacturers’ figures used occasionally or in ‘specials’. This ‘uniformity’ of size is silly I know, as in real life people vary in height and girth, often considerably, yet wargamers strive to produce a unit in which all figures are of a uniform size, and who am I to argue with an ‘illusion’ that has existed for years.

Next up will be the musketeers, two stands of six figures. However these, like the flags, are also eagerly awaited.

I have in the words of a TV favourite “A cunning plan”, one that like all great plans will potentially end in disaster. Yet, doomed or not, it seems reasonable to formulate a plan, however rough, to enable someone, like me, who has the attention span of a goldfish to stay on track.
As circumstances have deemed that I create both sides, possibly a foolish undertaking, it seems logical to follow a tit-for-tat system, a Royalist regiment followed by a Parliamentarian, then a Royalist and so on.
It is my ambition to complete a foot regiment in a month (24 figs), so one stand per week (stand = 6 figs). Simple and this plan of action extends to the horse thus, a regiment of horse consists of between 2 and 4 squadrons, a squadron of horse requires 2 stands of 3 figs (+ mounts), so it should be possible to complete a minimum of 2 squadrons per month (4 stands). Markers, supernumeraries and artillery will have to fit in somewhere, sounds simple, although just writing this has produced a cold sweat.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

‘When a hundred and ten slew five thousand men, with the help of lightning and thunder? (Sir John Denham)

Here are two pictures of my first command stand, Sir Bevil Grenville’s Cornishmen. Arguments over coat colours rage, whether they had uniforms is open to conjecture with many choosing to believe that soldiers, of either side, in the early stages of the war wore what they had, civilian clothing, with coloured ribbons denoting the allegiance. Be that as it may, I have chosen to depict the doughty Cornishmen in blue, this being the colour of the coats of the ECWS regiment that I began my re-enactment career with back in the early 1980s.

Still a ‘work in progress’, they have given me the chance to try different shading/highlighting techniques. I have tried the ‘dip’ method, or washing with the ‘Army Painter’ shader, the finish seems good, but I can’t get used to the solvent based system. The Cote d’Arms ‘Super Shader’ seems better, being acrylic, but is harder to apply and fussier. The best, so far, is Games Workshop’s wash, ‘Devlan Mud’ to be precise. However whichever chosen, the best method, it seems, is to ‘wash’ the figure then final-highlight before varnishing, the effect is, IMHO, stunning. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at David Imrie’s site (Saxon dog) amongst others.

I am going to base for Clarence Harrison’s ‘Victory Without Quarter’ (available from his website - Quindia), with slight variation. I find it difficult to come to terms with a stand of three or four pikemen representing a regiment, so, taking a leaf from Barry Hilton’s ‘Beneath the Lily Banners’ ruleset, I am going to include an extra stand of pike which have no bearing on the game other than to make a regiment look more ‘beefy’. This ‘extra’ stand will simply butt up to the central command stand, allowing a formation of nine pike to the rules three. More work? Yes, but worth it.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

'Before the flame of war broke out in the top of the chimneys, the smoke ascended in every country'. (Lucy Hutchinson)

The English Civil War, probably my favourite period of history, and one that I've had a long relationship with through re-enactment, wargaming, and study. Yet in over thirty years of figure painting, I've never completed an ECW project, started many, but no completion. Well I'm hoping that inspiration from various sources will sustain me in this endeavour.
My intention is to concentrate on smaller armies, probably those of Hopton and Waller and the west country in particular. No, big battles, no Edgehills, no Marston Moors etc, just small do-able events - hopefully.