Psssst - want to know a secret? Lancastrian King Henry has been staying at Osric’s Chapel in the hamlet of Piggy Longton for the past two nights. Lord Darcy is deeply nervous. He has the responsibility of looking after the king until the forces of Somerset arrive to escort him on to London.
To be honest, it’s not such a big secret, which is why I don’t mind telling you. In fact, it is the world’s worst kept secret and Lord Darcy has good cause to be worried.
It all started yesterday … please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.
Henry had returned forcibly to the throne the previous year, seeing off King Edward IV, who fled to exile in France. From there, Edward corresponded with his Yorkist supporters to encourage the raising of rebellion against the Lancastrians, but the moment of opportunity was to unexpectedly come their way sooner than anyone anticipated.
King Henry had travelled to the Midlands to participate in a council of nobles. It seemed to go well and he parted their company to head to London in good spirits.
His journey was to be broken with a short two day stay with his loyal subject, Lord Darcy, while he waited for Somerset’s escort to arrive, to continue the final leg of the journey to London.
Since taking charge of King Henry’s safety, Darcy had his light cavalry out on constant patrol, scouring the countryside for any sign of enemy activity and to close down the movement of ‘outsiders’.
Yesterday afternoon, his currours intercepted two horsemen, Sir. Giles of Chevithorne and his companion, Sir. John Radcliffe. On searching them, they found orders under seal for the attention of Lord Trebian of West Rottingham. The orders came directly from the powerful Yorkist supporter, Salisbury.
On reading the orders, Lord Darcy’s discomfort grew.
‘My Dear and loyal friend Lord Trebian, your information about the King’s visit to Piggy Longton has been most gratefully received by Edward, our rightful king. Understand that I am personally leading a force to restrain Lord Darcy, while we remove King Henry into our custody. We will arrive from the south at noon on the morrow. Your instructions are to attack the hamlet directly from the north to coincide with our arrival. If we are successful, Edward has sworn that you will be granted Darcy’s lands. Do your Duty in the name of your true King. Salisbury'.
Darcy’s only glimmer of hope was that by intercepting the orders, Trebian would not know that he was to be part of the Yorkist attack plan and it would allow the Lancastrian forces to gather and meet the single, but significant threat of Salisbury’s assault.
Lord Darcy immediately charged one his most trusted, Sir Roger, to take King Henry 25 miles east to the safety of the Crispin Priory.
|Henry and Sir. Roger|
There wasn’t much time. Darcy sent heralds across the estates for his men to rendezvous at Piggy Longton at 7 AM the following morning. Somerset was already on the way to him, so Darcy sent him messages, explaining the situation and urging their earliest arrival.
|The Heralds round up the archers|
At 7 AM the next morning, Darcy’s forces gathered and Bishop of Dungborough held a service, by the end of which, all could agree that they would rather have the Bishop on their side than against them!
|The Battle of Longton Fields|
After a breakfast of sorts, the men moved out into the fields to prepare for battle, bills and swords were sharpened and bows strung. Lord Darcy took the centre, ordering a short section of stakes to be erected.
Sir. Percival Tredington was on the left and Sir. Giles Staverton to the right. Darcy had brought down some artillery pieces that were stored in a barn at Piggy Longton hamlet, but they hadn't proved particularly useful in a previous encounter and he had no great expectation this time, but a bit of huff, puff and smoke might at least make his men feel braver!
It was a bitter winters morning and Darcy’s men chilled and anxious, waited for their foe. Around 10 AM, trumpets announced the arrival of Salisbury, the tell-tale signature of an army on the march shaking out into battlefield formations.
|Viewed from the Yorkist positions|
It was an open battlefield, with few enclosures. Darcy’s right was bounded by a thickly hedged lane, which he was keen to control, to aid Somerset’s arrival onto the battlefield.
Salisbury took the Yorkist centre, Viscount Bourchier the right and the ever reliable Sir. John Lisle the left. These three battles advanced to the sound of drums and trumpets, halting at just under 300 yards from the Lancastrian line as Lord Darcy’s arrows started to darken the sky.
[Admin - The game is played on a 6’ x 3½’ table (though actual deployment sat in a 4’ x 2’ space, with 28mm figures that are set on 80mm bases, each base can be thought of as a contingent.
The rules used are Second Edition Sword & Spear by Great Escape Games and normal victory conditions are in play (i.e. the breaking of the enemy).
The only Special rule is that on turn one, on the first dice draw, 5 Lancastrian and 2 Yorkist activation dice are openly drawn from the bag, to ensure that the Lancastrians have a chance to open the battle and use their archers first. The armies deploy, facing off at Maximum longbow range.
Before play, some units were randomly selected to be militia. By coincidence, both sides each had four militia units, spread between archers and billmen.
The dynamics of the game are that Lancastrian reinforcements (Somerset’s lead elements) will arrive at some point on Darcy’s right, but it is Darcy’s centre and left that are going to come under the most pressure early in the game].
Darcy noticed that the Yorkists had both ‘long spear’ and crossbow out on their right. Clearly these were foreign troops and for Edward to already have mercenaries in the country meant that a serious insurrection was under way. He needed Somerset urgently!
Somerset had understood the political and military impact of the Yorkist sympathiser Trebian, getting Darcy’s lands, as Darcy had always been a natural counter to the Trebian power base in the region. Accordingly, Somerset had broken camp and marched before daylight, so that he could reach the battlefield and influence the battle. His lead elements were now close to the battlefield.
The Lancastrians did get their arrows off first, but they suffered the most as the return volleys took down some of their best archers. Of significance was that Salisbury in the centre didn’t wait for the conclusion of the opening archery duel, rather, he sent his dismounted Men-at-Arms forwards straight away, with supporting billmen to their right.
Darcy, aware he was outnumbered, joined his own Men-at-Arms and moved them forwards, ready for the inevitable clash of heavy armour on heavy armour.
Salisbury was surprised to see the Lancastrians so well organised and in such numbers, but he remained in the belief that Lord Trebian would obey his orders and soon come bursting onto the battlefield, to attack the Lancastrians in the rear ranks, ensuring a swift victory.
The first clash occurred on the Yorkist right, as Bourchier edged his crossbowmen forwards and brought the pike up. Sir. Percival Tredington responded by sending his light cavalry forwards to deal with the crossbowmen, before the situation could deteriorate. The charge made good progress, but the crossbowmen were not cleared from the field and as the cavalry became entangled with them, Yorkist pike advanced to support the melee and dispersed the cavalry.
Tredington, on the Lancastrian left now, looked seriously compromised as the pikemen pressed on. He began to manoeuvre into a better defensive formation.
Somerset starts to arrive.
Lead Lancastrian reinforcing elements made it to the edge of the battlefield, with the mounted Men-at-Arms arriving first, followed by billmen. Sir. John Lisle on the Yorkist left saw the threat and moved part of his wing to line the hedged lane and face the Lancastrian reinforcement.
|Men-at-Arms clash in the centre. Stanley brings up support|
In the Centre, Darcy was coming under extreme pressure, he had lost many archers and his Men-at-Arms were now engaged by both Salisbury’s Men-at-arms and William Stanley’s levy billmen. This centre could become broken before Somerset had any chance of reversing Lancastrian fortunes.
Losses to date
Yorkists 1 bow.
Lancastrians 1 Light cavalry, 3 bow.
The battle increasingly favours the Yorkist forces.
The Yorkists increasingly dominated the battle. On their left, Sir. John Lisle went over onto the offensive,just as Somerset’s mounted Men-at-Arms dismounted at the hedged lane and prepared to assault his wing. Things were very much in the balance there.
In the centre, Salisbury pushed, pushed, pushed! against Darcy’s Men-at Arms, who were on their last legs …. Just one more push!
On the right, Bourchier was likewise pressing his opponent, who had formed what surely must be a last stand against the pike. If the Yorkists could roll up the right and collapse the centre, then victory surely could not be far away ……. "but where the hell is Trebian"? was there some treachery yet to reveal it’s hand?
The Lancastrians waver.
Losses amongst Darcy’s army mounted [forcing the army to take its first Army Break Test - which saw another archer unit rout].
In the centre, his Men-at-Arms finally broke and Darcy made a lucky escape to a neighbouring contingent of bill, belonging to Sir. John Flory, whom he ordered to pull back.
|Somerset's men attack across the lane through hedges|
It was only on the Lancastrian right where any gains were being made. Somerset’s Men-at-Arms were engaged in fighting amongst the hedges of Long Lane, while Sir. Giles Staverton took the right wing onto the offensive to assist Somerset. This all rather looked too little too late.
What! - the Yorkists waver!
Incredibly, Sir. Percival Tredington on Darcy’s left dealt a huge defeat upon the pike, at a stroke restoring some balance to that wing, while on the Lancastrian right, the combined efforts of Staverton and Somerset had smashed Sir. John Lisle’s wing.
If it were not for Darcy’s centre being close to collapse, it might have seemed that the Lancastrians had turned the battle. Salisbury’s closest aide thought they should withdraw, but Salisbury would have none of it. Instead, even as his army was forced into its first Break Test, he pressed on, obsessed with taking Darcy.
[note - the situation has come to the point that the next loss in the game to either side will determine the winner].
Sir. William Stanley wins the day!
Salisbury was right to believe that the centre would be where it would finally be decided. Sir. William Stanley captured the Lancastrian guns, signalling the end of the battle as the Lancastrians finally lost the will to fight on and retreated in haste.
Fortunately, with Somerset having secured the Lancastrian right flank, Darcy was able to fall back onto that. The Yorkist force was in no fit state to pursue or to risk crashing into the rest of Somersets fresh forces.
Instead, they moved up into Piggy Longton and secured the hamlet.
Salisbury knew that a counter-attack from Somerset was a certainty, as soon as the bulk of his fresh forces reached the battlefield. He urgently needed the assistance of Lord Trebian - but what of him, could he still be trusted?
By the time darkness had fallen, Salisbury had already established a number of early warning outposts, sending his light cavalry out on reconnaissance missions. He had no idea where Henry was, it was time to visit Lord Trebian and get to the bottom of things.
At Somerset’s camp, plans were being discussed into the night. Should they immediately strike at Piggy Longton, or should they isolate and deal with Lord Trebian at West Rottingham first, before he could join Salisbury. Somerset had already made up his mind.
Well that was as tight as it gets. For most of the game, things were against Darcy and getting worse. Somerset took a long time to get into action and Lancastrian early losses were huge, especially amongst their archers, so much so, that there came an imbalance of missile capability in the game, with the Yorkist archers able to dominate the ground in front of them.
It was not too surprising that Somerset was able to smash through the Yorkist defence amongst the hedges, what was a surprise …. more like a shock really, was the destruction of the mercenary pikemen by Sir. Pervival Tredington’s own shattered wing.
It re-set the tactical situation on that wing and contributed 6 points to bringing the first Yorkist Break Test closer and when that did happen, quite a few of the Yorkist contingents failed their test, gaining themselves each an extra hit! nibbling away at the offensive capability of the Yorkist army.
If Henry had been captured, then Lord Darcy would have been stripped of his titles. The dynastic change to the loyalty of Piggy Longton would see Lord Trebian become a more powerful and influential figure in the region.
However with Somerset’s army already sitting at the doorstep and King Henry for the moment in safety, all is not likely to be so straight forward for Trebian and the Yorkist ambitions.
What bothered Somerset most was the presence of foreign mercenaries on English soil, was Edward already back in the country? It was a matter of urgency to restore confidence by quickly retaking Piggy Longton and then ensuring that Henry was safely returned to London, before Edward could get there first.
Here is a previous post that discusses the history of Piggy Longton. LINK
A collection of Piggy Longton related earlier posts. LINK
My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and give a flavour of where current ongoing projects are up to. Link.