Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The Battle of Stoke Field - 1514?



This weekend I was visited by one of my fellow reenactors Jason Flint, who portrays a 15th Century Galloglass. His efforts can be seen on his instagram account which is well worth a look: https://www.instagram.com/jason.flint87 . We are of course both well aware that the actual Battle of Stoke Field was fought in 1487 but we wanted to do a game that featured lots of Irish troops and as the actual 1487 Battle of Stoke Field was quite unusual for the Wars of the Roses, featuring the FitzGerald Irish and Martin Schwartz's mercenaries, we thought it would be fun to do a 16th Century version of the battle. Yet again the indomitable Richard de la Pole, already seen a few times on this blog, http://camisado1500s.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-last-white-rose.html, was on hand to provide the perfect veneer of historicity. We played out a scenario that saw the son and younger brother of the two lead protaganists of 1487 face each other in scarily similar circumstances in 1514!

As always I used the adaptation of Lion Rampant that Stuart Mulligan and myself have slowly been writing and rewriting for our games. The figures are more representative than anything and we used casualty markers to note the deterioration of units. The photos were taken during the game by myself and Jason and a good way to get a sense of the ebb and flow of the battle is to read the captions below them. I have to admit that when the game got especially dramatic in the centre fight I stopped taking photos for a while but I think a good flavour is given nonetheless. Jason took control of Richard de la Pole and his rebel army while I commanded the Royalists under Henry VIII.


The two armies deployed for battle. In the foreground are De la Pole's Landsknechts with some Enlglish rebels. Further up the hill and in the trees are the FitzGerald's and their Irish troops. Opposite De la Pole is Charles Brandon with his retinue infantry and some hastily raised levies, while most of Henry's troops are deployed in the field on the hill.

The Second Battle of Stoke Field - 1514

Following Henry VIII's invasion of France in 1513 and the death of France's ally, James IV, at Flodden, Louis XII has struck back at England by despatching Richard de la Pole and a force of Landsknechts in an invasion attempt. In a rerun of events 26 years before where De la Pole's elder brother John was killed, the last Yorkist heir has sailed from St Malo in Brittany to Dublin where he has allied with the 9th Earl of Kildare, who's uncle died in the original invasion attempt. With a mixed force of German Mercenaries and Irish Auxiliaries they have landed in Lancashire and been joined by addtional troops rallying to the Yorkist cause.

A clever propaganda campaign launched by the De la Pole and the French has led to confusion for the Tudor regime. Henry's forces have been distributed throughout England fearing multiple landings and even a possible attack from Scotland, a nation which has proven particularly resilient following Flodden. Knowing Henry and his army to be in the centre of the country, at Nottingham, De la Pole has headed straight for him, and as fate would have it they have met close to the River Trent at Stoke.

De La Pole knows how his brother faired all those years before but feels this time God is on his side and things will go differently. In a few days he could be Richard IV, King of England...

A closer look at Richard de la Pole's Landsknechts and English rebels.

The 9th Earl of Kildare's Irish prepare to attack in the cover of the woods.

The Scenario for the game is a variant of Blood Feud, L from Lion Rampant, page 56. Henry must try to kill De la Pole and De la Pole must survive. Each army composes of two retinues for Lion Rampant. The two retinues in each army act indepently:

Richard de la Pole's army

Richard de la Pole - The White Rose

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Richard de la Pole and retinue)
2 Units of Landsknecht Pike                             
1 Unit of Landsknecht Shot                                   
1 Unit of Shire Archers                           
1 Unit of Shire Billmen                                         
1 Culverin                                                         
1 Unit of Border Horse 
                           
The Geraldines

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare)
2 Units of Galloglass                                                       
4 Units of Kern                                                           
2 Units of Horseboys                                                   
1 Unit of Shire Archers                                 

Sir Rhys ap Thomas's cavalry hold Henry's flank while the retinues of the Marquis of Dorset, Lord Herbert, Baron Audley and the veteran Sir Edward Poynings take the field in support of the King.

Henry VIII and his Gentlemen Pensioners. Cardinal Wolsey can be seen organising the army's logistics in the next field, perhaps he is a little premature in wearing the red of a cardinal - he wasn't made one until 1515!

The Royal Army of Henry VIII

Henry VIII's Retinue

1 Unit of Kings Spears (Henry VIII)                     
1 Unit of Demilancers                                         
2 Units of Garrison Archers
2 Units of Garrison Bill                                  
1 Culverin                                                           
                                   
Sir Charles Brandon, newly appointed Duke of Suffolk

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Sir Charles Brandon)
1 Unit of Garrison Archers                     
1 Unit of Shire Archers                           
1 Unit of Garrison Bill                             
1 Unit of Border Horse                           
1 Culverin                       
                       
The Kern begin proceedings with a spectacular charge....

.....which falters just as they are about to unleash a rain of arrows and javelins on the Royal forces.

Initially things look daunting for the thin line of cavalry on the Royal left flank.

The clash started with a surge from the FitzGerald Irish with the whole of the Earl of Kildare's army charging forward. De la Pole was more cautious, waiting to see how events turned out on his right before committing his forces fully. Unfortunately for the rebels just as the Kern looked as if they would be able to unleash a hail of arrows, javelins and arquebus shot into the ranks of Henry's army, they faltered. The brief pause was all the time the Royalist forces needed to compose themselves and send a storm of arrows in the direction of the oncoming Kern and Galloglass.

While the arrow storm caused destruction similar to that of 1487 it also brought down an unexpected high ranking casualty. Despite the Earl of Kildare being in the full harness of an Anglo-Irish Lord he was caught by a chance bow shot and felled. The rebel right flank was shaken and began to fall back without even reaching the Tudor lines. Most of the Irish retreated but some of the Galloglass refused to flee only to be trapped at the hedgerow by the Royalist arrows. De la Pole had to do something if he wanted to achieve success where his elder brother had failed.

As the Geraldine Irish falter it gives the Government forces a chance to slaughter them with a hail of arrows...

...and through sheer bad luck their heavily armoured leader - Gerald FitzGerald, the 9th Earl of Kildare, is struck by an arrow!

As most of the FitzGeralds fall back a group of Galloglass take refuge from the arrow storm behind a hedgerow.

At the other end of the field De la Pole sent forward some of the English troops that had rallied to his banner, still not committing his professional Pike blocks. While light horsemen attempted to out flank Henry's right flank, a group of rebel archers waded into the river and began to shoot at the Duke of Suffolk's troops. To start with this looked to have no real effect so the Landsknechts were finally sent into the fray. As the Landsknecht artillery began to the fire the Pikemen and Arquebusiers marched towards the Tudor army.

At the other end of the field some of the English troops who have rallied to De la Pole's cause attempt to outflank Brandon's men. As light horse ride into the village to attack...

...Longbowmen wade into the river with De la Pole's state of the art light artillery starting to fire on the Tudor Army. 

So far the action has been on both flanks, finally De la Pole's centre advances.

What is left of Kildare's army rallies in support of Richard de la Pole.

As most of Henry's army races to reposition from the hill as the Landsknechts advance on the thin Royalist centre, held by Sir Charles Brandon and his men.

The Royalist Gunners panic under the pressure of the assault - repeatedly failing to fire the gun after a couple of longer range shots.

De la Pole's men lead a disciplined attack on the Royalist centre.

As Henry's troops descend the hill the fighting can be seen in the distance.

The scene just before the biggest clashes of the battle. 

Initially Richard de la Pole's attack on the centre met with success. Sir Charles Brandon's troops that held the right flank of the Tudor army finally broke under sustained pressure from the rebel archers and artillery. While the shire archers Henry had hastily levied kept up a withering rain of arrows from the cover of the cornfields the Royal artillery got off a few shots at the advancing Landsknechts but as the pressure of the enemy advance built the gunners panicked and repeatedly fumbled any attempts to blast the pikemen at close range.

As the White Rose's men advanced Henry's main force realised it was not in a position to aid Brandon's forces. They started to redeploy and move to the centre of the field to support Brandon. The remaining FitzGeralds saw this and, having rallied, led a second charge at Henry's army. The veteran of both Bosworth and the 1487 clash at Stoke, Sir Rhys ap Thomas, led the Royalist Demilancers into the Irish to hold them back but he was quickly defeated by Kildare's retinue and sent fleeing back into the fields! Some of the Galloglass got to into the Royalist positions and crashed into the Royalist lines. They had brief success but the numbers against them told and they were brought down by more archery.


Sir Rhys ap Thomas leads his Demilancers in an attempt to finally rout the FitzGeralds - they still have some fight left in them and, despite the loss of their leader, the Earl of Kildare's retinue sends them fleeing back towards their own lines!

Emboldened the remaining Galloglass attack the Royalists across the hedge. They send the archers reeling but once they have composed themselves the archers strike back and once again the Irish fall prey to the warbow.

In the chaos at the centre of the field Sir Charles Brandon engages in a one on one with De la Pole - echoing his fathers clash with Richard III nearly 30 years earlier. Unlike that fight this was not to be a mortal struggle as the two are separated in the melee and De la Pole lives. In the distance one of De La Pole's Pike Blocks assaults Henry's troops across the hedgerow. It is a savage fight but the combination of armoured billmen with archers in support defeats the German Pike.

The battle reached its climax in the centre with half of De la Pole's Pikemen leading an assault on Henry's forces as they moved to support Sir Charles Brandon and the other half crashing into Brandon's centre. In the chaos Sir Charles Brandon and Richard de la Pole briefly exchanged blows fighting amidst the carnage in the cornfields. They were soon separated and Brandon rued his failure to bring down his King's enemy. The Landsknechts attacking Henry's men through the hedgerows became disorganised and though they pressed on for a second attack they were pushed back and defeated. De la Pole's men in the cornfields had more luck overunning Henry's cannon as well as Sir Charles Brandon whose retinue was smashed in this engagment.

The White Rose was no fool. Although his men briefly held the centre of the field with Henry's guards closing on him and the Irish a spent force he knew it was time to flee. As his professional infantry made an orderly withdrawal his horse was brought foward and he set off to find a ship back to France. Henry VIII had spent the entire encounter at the rear of his army surrounded by his elite Men-at-Arms and had hardly covered himself in glory. While Sir Charle's Brandon had been brought down having traded blows with the infamous White Rose, Henry had never even had to move.

Sir Charles Brandon has not only let De la Pole escape, he is now struck down by the disciplined German Infantry of De la Pole.

The Landsknechts then go on to capture the Royalist artillery but it is too late. De la Pole, in the top left corner, knows the day is lost and retreats with the troops he has left in order to make good his escape.

This was a really fun game to do and it all could have gone so differently. I think I may try it again, with possibly only a few minor tweaks. Jason was a great opponent, he is a keen wargamer as well as a reenactor and was unlucky that the Irish attack let him down really badly. The failure to activate the Irish Retinue's first unit two turns in a row really left the Irish open which was then coupled with the complete fluke of the Earl of Kildare being brought down by an arrow! I think there may be some more Tudor Rebellions or Anglo-Irish clashes to be fought between us in the future!

The "Generals" - A FitzGerald Galloglass and Tudor Captain!

14 comments:

  1. As always your splendid armies illuminates this battlefield, superb...love the Royalist artillery!

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    1. Thank you Phil - yes that Tudor gun was a fun conversion to do.

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  2. That was rather impressive... as is your chum's kit. Re-enactment garb just gets better and better.

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    1. Thank you - the re-enactment bug is just as addictive as the wargaming one, we are always trying to improve where we can.

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  3. An excellent report as ever Oli, you really do write them up very well. A shame for De la Pole but there's a lot of luck to do with it - i'd be more than happy to help you with a re-fight.
    And those boards ! your well thought commission is making for so much variation which really shows off your collection.

    All the best

    Stuart

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    1. Cheers Stuart - I agree, we should do another De La Pole rebellion, they are such great "what ifs".

      As for the terrain - we still have to test how it works for a more urban setting next month.

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  4. Great BATREP- love those figures and the report. Looks fantastic. Well done!

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  5. Lovely AAR! Great looking forces, love the charging gallowglass! The terrain is excellent too,I really like the river sections.
    Best Iain

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    1. Cheers Iain, the terrain gives loads of great options for different set ups.

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  6. Very impressive gaming! The figures and terrain are excellent - nice period headgear too.

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    1. Cheers Dean - well if we have the head gear for the era - why not show it off!

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  7. Wonderful looking game, and a stirring narrative.
    Love the headgear, too!

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    1. Thank you Peter, it was a fun game to play and write up.

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