Friday 11 June 2021

"have at the wicket!" Surrey's raid on Morlaix, July 1522

I visited Stuart recently to continue our series of Renaissance Rampant games. This time, keen to make use of Stuart's superb buildings, we decided to play two scenarios focused on the raid of the Breton town of Morlaix in the summer of 1522.

Surrey's raid on Morlaix, July 1522

In a renewal of Henry VIII's conflict with France July 1522 saw Sir Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Admiral of England, led an assault on the Breton town of Morlaix. Using the knowledge of local mariners he was guided into the bay and, according to Hall, landed 7,000 men and 14 light guns or "Faucons" which would be dragged to the town by the men. Hall describes how the local gentry skirmished with them before fleeing in the face of gunfire whilst the towns walls and suburbs were defended by crossbowmen, arquebusiers and guns in the places of greatest jeopardy. The English used their artillery to blow open a smaller gate or "wicket" which they stormed through under cover created by the smoke of their guns. They then opened one of the main town gates and forced the Breton defenders back, taking the town. Surrey also sent a detachment of men to raid the chateau of the governor of Morlaix, and supporter of Breton pirates, Mériadeck de Guicaznou, at place called Lezireur a few miles from the town.

Hall's description of the action (and a very comprenhensive list of the fleet's participants!) is as follows: 

"Now let us returne to the lorde Admyrall of Englande whiche departed fro Hampton as you have heard and so with his Navy sayled and skoured the seas, and at last came on the costes of Britaigne, and commaunded the wysest Masters and Marriners to boy the haven of Morles, which was done, and so the next nighte all the flete came to the haven of Morles in safetie and moored thier shippes together. Then all men were commaunded to harnes and to avaunce their standardes, & all souldiers to geve their attendance on their capitaines, and then the lorde Admyral appointed and caused xiiii pieces of ordinaunce called Faucons to be brought to land and drawen furth with stregth of men. Then when all menne that shoulde go forwarde were landed, the lorde Amyrall with banner displayed tooke lande on the Estside of the haven the fyrst day of Iuiye, and with him a fayre band of souldiers, as the lorde Fitz Water, the Baron Curson, sir Richarde Wyngfield, sir Richard Iernyngham, sir Wyllyam Barantine, sir Adrian Foskew, sir Edwarde Donne, sir Hery Sherborne, and the vice Admyrall, sir Willyam Fitzwillyam, sir Edmond Bray, sir Gyles Capel, sir Willyam Pyrton, sir Ihon Cornewalles, sir Ihon Wallop, sir Edward Echyngham, sir William Sidnay, Anthony Broune, Gyles Huse, Thomas More, Ihon Russell, Edward Bray, Henry Owen, George Cobham, Thomas Owdayle, Thomas Lovell, Robert Iernyngham, Anthony Knevit, sir Ihon Tremaile and the Master of the kynges ordinaunce, sir Willyam Skevyngton, and Ihon Fabian serieant at armes, by whom this enterprise was chiefly moved as was reported, with many other gentlemen and souldiers, to the number of vii M. The lorde Admyral and sir Richard Wyngfeld brought these men in good order of battail with banners displaid. The alarme rose in the countrey and came to the toune of Morles wherby the gentlemen of the countrey shewed theimselfes prickyng, but when they heard the Gunnes they fledde as though they never used warre. They of Morles armed theimselfes & went to the walles and shut the gates and laide ordinaunce where was most ieopardie. The Englishemen had gone five long myle and were now come to the subberbes of the toune: then the Englishemen archers shot, and the Brytons them defended: then the Admyrall commaunded the toune to be assauted, then the lord Fitz Water and the Baron Curson quartered the toune on all sides: The Englishemen shot with long bowes, and the Brytons with crosse bowes, whiche defended themselfes manfully. Before the port Morvet where is a Meason de dieu, At this gate gave the assaut sir Richard Wyngfelde, Nycholas Carew, Frauces Bryan, sir Ihon Wallop and all their bendes havyng with them thre pieces of ordinaunce called Faucons, whiche the master Gunner oft tymes shot, but the Britons has set the gate full of hacbushes, then the Gunner sayd, have at the wicket, and in the smoke of the gunnes let us entre the gate,  the gentlemen assented, then the sayd sir Christopher Gunner strake the locke of the wicket so that it flew open, then in the smoke ranne to the gate the said Christopher and the other forenamed gentlemen, and when Christopher came to the gate he found the wicket opened & entred and the gentlemen folowed, the Brytons defended them selfes, but thei were put backe or slaine, then was the great gate opened and then entered the souldiers that were on the other side of the toune. When the Brytons on the walles saw the towne gotten, some fled at the posterne and some by another way, the best way they could. Therle of Surray with baner displayed toke the market place. Then the souldiers fell to pillage and rifled the chestes and ware houses of marchauntes, for the toune of Morles was very riche and specially of lynnen clothe, the gentlemen suffered the souldiers to do what they would. When the souldiers had taken their pleasure of the toune as much for a trueth or more then they could beare away.

The lorde Admiral comaunded the trumpettes to blow, & comaunded all men to set fyer in al places of the toune (the holy places only except) the fayre market place was set on fyre & the subburbes brent ardatly. Wherfore all men were commaunded to their standardes, and aboute vi of the clocke the army retreted, and as they passed they brent the villages and places."

More details of the attack are provided in David Childs "The Warship of the Mary Rose, the life and times of King Henry VIII's flagship". He notes how an officer in the garrison of Morlaix, a man named Latricle, was accused of lowering the drawbridge to let the English in and how a chaplain in the town, Jehan Pinou defended the gates bravely using an arquebus before himself being shot. Childs also details the grisly story of Suzanne Le Borgne, a chambermaid in the town who, once it was taken lured over 80 of the English into a cellar where they were locked and drowned when a sluice gate was opended to flood it! She was chased upstairs in the house she worked in and thrown from a window by the English. Six or Seven hundred of the looting English were caught and slain by some of the Count of Laval's men as they drank at fountains outside the town, leading one of them to still be called the Red Fountain.

Captain Latricle's garrison sally out of Morlaix to defend the suburbs.

The gatehouse of Morlaix.

"have at the wicket"- The assault on the gates of Morlaix

For this scenario two English retinues deployed outside the town with the table representing the suburbs of Morlaix leading up to the gates. A religious building was just outside the gate to represent the "Meason de dieu" described in Hall.  

The town garrison under Captain Latricle were deployed just outside and along the walls in preparation to the defend the suburbs. Once the first English gun had fired the mounted relief force, under the Count of Laval, would arrive on the following French turn on a 2D6 roll of 9 or more. The next turn they would arrive on an 8 or more and so on. They would arrive in the suburbs with the exact arrival point being diced for. The units from the mounted relief force would enter the table via normal move activations.

The English objective was to shoot open the town gates and enter the town

The French/Breton objective was to save the town by attempting to stop the assault on the gates.

The guns and the gates

The English had 3  light guns which they had to get within 12" of the gates to attempt to shoot them open. They fired using our normal gun activation rules and then on a 5+ on a D6 this would smash the gates open. We increased the speed of moving the light gunes to 5" a turn.

Jehan Pinou 

A priest miniature was placed on the town walls. Every French turn, before anything else had taken place he could take a shot with a range of 18" and hitting on a 4+. Once he had scored a hit the target unit could attempt a saving throw by rolling equal to or under its armour on a D6. So a unit with armour 2 had to roll 2 or under on a D6 and a unit of armour 4 had to roll 4 or under. If they saved nothing would happen but if they failed they automatically lost a casualty and had to take a morale check as normal. To be removed from play an English unit could target Jehan Pinou in a missile attack. They then had to roll at least 3 6s in their roll or 12 or 6 dice (depending on casualties) in order to remove him from play.

As you will see, he never got a chance to do this!

Captain Latricle

To represent his possible disloyalty if his Foot Knight unit rolled a blunder in an attempt to activate, before the gates were opened, then the gates would automatically open to the English! This may also mean that the English then had no need to use their light guns and alert the Breton relief force.

The English Raiders

Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, the Admiral

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey)
1 Unit of Foot Knights
1 Light gun
2 Units of Garrison Archers
1 Unit of Garrison Bill  
1 Unit of Shire Bill 

Sir Richard Wingfield

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Sir Richard Wingfield) 
1 Unit of Foot Knights   
2 Light Guns
2 Units of Shire Archers
1 Unit of Shire Bill

The Defenders of Morlaix

Captain Latricle

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Captain Latricle)
1 Unit of Foot Knights 
2 Light Guns 
2 Units of French Halberdiers 
2 Units of Aventuriers 
1 Unit of French Arquebusiers

The Count of Laval

1 Unit of Gendarmes (The Count of Laval) 
2 Units of Men at Arms 
1 Unit of Ordonnance Archers with bows
2 Units of Ordonnance Archers with demi lances 

Stuart took control of the English and I took the role of the town's defenders. A brief description of the action follows but as always the photos are the best way to follow the games.

A small field gun is wheeled through the gates to defend against the imminent assault.

Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Admiral of the fleet, and his retinue.

Sir Richard Wingfield with his guns and men at arms in readiness to attempt to break open the gates.

English raiders from Surrey's fleet, intent of looting and buring the Breton town of Morlaix.

As the English begin the assault on the town the garrison's crossbowmen take up a defensive position.

As Surrey and Wingfield's men raced to the town gates the garrison's crossbowmen took up position on the outskirts of the town in an attempt to slow the assault. The crossbowmen exchanged shots with the English archers, the cover of the hedgerows prevented them from being driven back by the English arrows. It did not take long for the Tudor fleet's billmen and armoured gentry to reach the hedgerow and they soon pushed the crossbowmen back. One of the town guns that had been wheeled out in an effort to protect the gate opened fire at longer range on the English but it was not enough to stop the attack.

In support of the crossbowmen the garrison's arquebusiers and halberdiers also sallied out, led by the more wealthy townsmen who were fully armoured. The merchants who had invested in fashionable armour, as much for prestige as for war, now found they had a very definite need for their expensive purchases! They clashed with Sir Richard Wingfield and his troops and a vicious melee took place in the suburbs. The arquebusiers managed to get very close to the attacking English in the confines of the suburbs and a series of volleys of shot helped to slow their advance.

A view of the English assault from the town walls.

Another unit of Breton troops defend the suburbs of the town.

The English have nearly reached the suburbs.

The fighting in the outskirts of Morlaix begins with English foot knights leading the assault.

Billmen and men at arms charge the crossbowmen outside the"Meason de dieu".

One of the garrison's light guns opens fire on the attackers.

Some of the English gentlemen in full harness are hit by the French gun.

Arquebusiers and Crossbowmen of the garrison are pushed back by the English knights and gentlemen.

The road leading to the gate is filled with Breton infantry.

Halberdiers from the garrison face down Sir Richard Wingfield and his men at arms.

The town's defenders have put up a fierce fight in its defence.

Sir Richard Wingfield is brought down in the fighting in the town's outskirts.

The English were halted by the wall of halberdiers and arquebusiers that met them in the suburbs. Despite the suspicions surrounding his loyalty Captain Latricle did not open the gates to Surrey's men, instead leading the town's defenders in a courageous sally from Morlaix. Sir Richard Wingfield was brought down in the fighting and the fleet's billmen were forced back. In the excitement of the attack one of the English gunners fired his gun at the defenders (the unit rolled a blunder when moving and then got a fire at the nearest enemy result!). This alerted the Count of Laval's men to the danger and they hurried to the town gates.

As the Earl of Surrey and his household men reached the fighting Captain Latricle was slain. It looked as though the English may have a clear route to roll their guns up to the gates and break into Morlaix. But it was not to be, the local Breton nobility under the Count of Laval had overcome their fear of the English and rode to the town's rescue. The archers and gun crew were ridden down and as the Admiral had his trumpeter sound the retreat to the waiting English fleet the townspeople could breathe a sigh of relief. Morlaix was saved and the clergyman Jehan Pinou had not fired a shot!

Surrey's billmen are forced back by fully armoured men from the garrison of Morlaix.

Captain Latricle leads his men in the counter attack in the suburbs.

More English hurry to join the attack...

...but they are too late as help has arrived for the garrison.

The Count of Laval has arrived and his men ride down the English attackers.

Howard and his bodyguards succeed in killing Captain Latricle but they are too late...

...the arrival of the Breton reinforcements has stopped the English assault.

The Burning of Lezireur

For this scenario the walled chateau stood in the centre of the table. The stream did not count as difficult terrain for movement but gave cover for those in it and was difficult terrain for combat. There were four locations that the English had to try and burn. Two were the two gates in the walls of the chateau, one was a mill on the stream and the other was a rural building outside the chateau. The English objective was to try and burn these with the French attempting to stop them.

The French player could position one unit defending the Manor house in the centre and the rest deployed along a table edge. The English deployed along the other table edge.

To burn one of the four buildings the English had to have at least one base from a unit in contact with it at the start of their activation phase. As an ordered activation, they could use that unit to try to set fire to the objective (instead of Moving, Attacking, or Shooting). If there were 7 or more models in the unit the fire started on a roll of 8+ on 2D6; if there were 6 or fewer models in the unit the fire was started on a roll of 9+ on 2D6.

The English Raiders

2 Units of Foot Knights  (One is the retinue leader)
1 Unit of Garrison Archers
1 Unit of Shire Archers
1 Unit of Retinue Bill        
1 Unit of Shire Bill               

Mériadeck de Guicaznou and the chateau's defenders

1 Unit of Gendarmes (Mériadeck de Guicaznou) 
2 Units of Men at Arms 
2 Units of Aventuriers 
1 Unit of French Halberdiers
1 Unit of French Pike

Troops rush to defend the chateau.

An English raiding party appears on the horizon.

The defenders of the chateau look worried.

English raiders from Surrey's fleet race towards the chateau.

The chateau of Lezireur.

Unlike the main assault on Morlaix this raid went very much in favour of the English. Initially the mounted Breton defenders, units of men at arms from the local countryside, rode straight at the English raiding party and for a moment it looked as though they would be driven off without even reaching the chateau. The English momentarily fell back into the stream and the impetuous men at arms charged into the shallow waters after them. The Bretons had fallen for the trap and once their momentum was lost the billmen and archers easily defeated them.

Whilst this was going on the chateau's owner, Mériadeck de Guicaznou, charged the some of the fleet's men at arms with his gendarmes only to be defeated in the melee. He immediately turned his horse and fled. Seeing both their captain and all the armoured cavalry fleeing led to a general rout amongst the infantry! The pikemen and halberdiers put up brief resistance against the English but they were quickly defeated. Smoke rose from the chateau as the English men at arms broke in and the archers spread out accross the local area to burn the surrounding buildings. One unit of Breton crossbowmen looked as though they would defend the mill but they fled as it became clear the chateau was lost.

The English cross the bridge to reach Lezireur's gates.

In no time at all the raiders are at the chateau walls.

Crossbowmen defending Lezireur are forced back by English billmen.

The chateau's owner, Mériadeck de Guicaznou, charges the English men at arms only to flee after a brief melee!

On the other side of the chateau the English are driven back by Breton mounted men at arms. The inexperienced local nobility are quickly defeated once they have ridden into the stream to get at the English.

Reinforcements in the form of halberdiers and mounted archers advance to proctect the chateau.

Having defeated a unit of billmen a unit of Breton men at arms are lured into the stream by the galling shots of the English archers and defeated.

Lezireur's walls have been breached and the chateau is set ablaze!

Outside the walls the Breton defenders are driven back by the English.

The chateau has been taken!

With the flight of Mériadeck de Guicaznou, the pikemen who were supporting him are attacked and driven to flight by the English men at arms.

Having taken the chateau the English burn the surrounding buildings. It has been a successful raid.

 Another great couple of games with the buildings and figures really helping to bring 16th century Brittany to life. The raid on Morlaix was a game we'd intended to do for a while and I felt that Stuart's excellent terrain meant we could really do it justice. The first scenario also gave us a chance to use lots of light field guns, something we had been struggling to get the right balance for in the rules. We may have finally sorted them but no doubt minds will change over the next sets of games and another rewrite will happen! I guess the process of sorting out these things is all part of the enjoyment.

I was surprised that the English never got to attempt to fire at the gates in the first scenario, the premature firing of one of the English guns as a result of a blunder was a real disaster. It was a terrible time in the English attack for the mounted defenders to arrive as the scenario rules linked their arrival to the English use of their guns. The total rout of the Breton forces in the second scenario was also very amusing. They put up a terrible defence and gave Stuart's recently converted English looting and burning infantry ample opportunity to burn and pillage the chateau!


  1. Splendid looking terrain and figures, it all looks great,the Bretons would only barely be French by this period wouldn't they? Sounds like a great fun game too!
    Best Iain

    1. Cheers Iain, yes the duchy of Brittany had only recently been taken into the Kingdom of France when this raid took place.

  2. I spent a week in Morlaix and it’s a wonderful old town. Love the troops, the table and the AAR. The blunder artillery shot seems 100% in period and in character.

    1. Thank you Peter - the blunder shot was hilarious, it pretty much gave the game away for the English!

  3. What a truly beautiful looking game - the figures, terrain and buildings are all of the finest quality and the narrative of both actions well written and engaging! It is very easy to see why you say you wanted to do scenarios that made use of Stuarts wonderful collection of buildings - they are stunning.

    1. Cheers rross, yes Stuart has developed a real talent for scratchbuilding the houses, they really are spectacular!

  4. lovely photos of painted miniatures/units the terrain/buildings are awesome too and I enjoyed reading your after action report card
    wonderful post by you Sir!

    1. Thank you Phil, these games really looked the part and were a joy to play.

  5. It looks absolutely stunning. I love your battle reports.

    1. Thank you Carole, glad you enjoyed the photos and write up, there are more on the way.

  6. Those are two splendid looking games which sound great fun to have played in. The buildings are just exquisite.

    1. Cheers David, Stuarts set up is just getting better and better with the new buildings and terrain pieces.

  7. Excellent games Oli, thanks very much for the magnificent photographs too - do you do weddings?

    1. Hahaha! They were great games mate I really enjoyed them. Take a couple of hundred photos and a couple of dozen will look good - thats how it works!

  8. That is a magnificent town. No wonder there was a spirited fight to control it!
    Regards, James

    1. Thank you James, I agree Stuarts terrain is a joy to behold. The walls and buildings really brought this game to life!