Friday 18 August 2023

"This daie was called the drye wednesday", Henry VIII's march to Thérouanne, 1513

During the summer break both Stuart and I have been able to fit in some midweek games. Fittingly, as we don't normally game on a Wednesday, we decided to return to Henry VIII's 1513 campaign in France and cover an event called "Dry Wednesday". As Stuart's English and French armies are specifically for this campaign this gave us an excuse to get loads of Stuart's collection onto the table, including Henry VIII himself. If you are interested in some other aspects of this campaign that we have covered please have a look at: and the second scenario here:

An English scout spots the French horse through the morning mist.

The English middle ward takes up a defensive position as soon as the alarm is raised.

"This daie was called the drye wednesday"

Henry VIII's 1513 siege of Thérouanne began in the English King's absence with the vanguard under George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, and rearward under Charles Somerset, Lord Herbert, beginning the siege on 25 June 1513. Henry would not even arrive in Calais until 30 June with the King finally ordering the "middle ward" to begin the March to Thérouanne on 21 July. Whilst the middle ward was itself a division of the entire English army it was further subdivided into three divisions for the march into hostile territory. In front of the entire middle ward rode the Calais garrison, probably because they were familiar with the local topography and included many veterans. This Calais force comprised of 40 men at arms, 300 demi lancers and 200 mounted archers. Behind this advanced guard Henry was positioned in the centre division whilst two wings each of 3,000 men which were further split into groups of 1,500 men which either went ahead and behind Henry's centre or abreast of him dependent on the terrain. The left of the two wings contained a contingent of landsknecht that had been provided by Maximilian I. The King's centre was also subdivided into two groups with Lord Lisle, Charles Brandon, later to be Duke of Suffolk, leading an "avant-garde" of 3,200 men and Henry being in command of 3,500 men which included his household troops. The front and rear of the middle ward was protected by artillery whilst the baggage wagons flanked the column of troops and had guns mixed amongst them incase a defensive formation had to be made. At the rear another body of light cavalry followed.

At Tournehem close to a castle the English middle ward crossed the river Hem which Henry waded across. On 27 July 1513 the English were still in this area when information was received that the French had used the local woods and morning mist to get close to the marching column and were approaching. As Henry ordered the formation of a defensive position the French cavalry advanced with their infantry remaining further off. When the whole of the French force could be seen the English artillery opened fire and it seems a melee developed between the French and English cavalry. This went on for some hours until the arrival of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas with a force of light horse forced the French to withdraw. Hall explains how Henry initially thought Sir Rhys Ap Thomas and his men were French reinforcements. His account of the event is given in full below:

"Wednesday the xxvii daye of luly the releffe of the speres brought in askry, wherfore the kyng commaunded to blow to the standarde, and avaunced his banner & toke a faire feld or banke abidyng the comming of the Frenchmen. The capitaines generall of the army of  the French kyng were the lord dela Palice and the lord of Piens, accompaignyed with the duke of Longuyle, therle of sainct Polle, the lord of Floringes, the lord Cleremounde, & Richard dela Pole traytour of England sonne to the duke Jhon of Suffolke: with these capitaines were comyng xi, M. footmen and. liij. M. horsmen, all prest in battayle & came win ii miles of the kyng of Englande, and there the footmen staled and came no farther: certaine horsmen to the nomber of iii.M and above marched forward and at the ende of a wodde shewed them selfes open in the sight of the English army. The kyng perceiuyng there demeanure commanded al his footmen not to remove, but to stand still. The Frenchmen removed and came sumwhat nerer to a place of execucion : then the master Goner losed a pece of artilery or two. As the kynge lay thus still abydynge his enemies, and that the horsemen s'ode still in sight, the great armye of Fraunce approched, whiche the Englishmen could not descrye by cause of an hyll that was betwexte them. The Northerne men ran to the French which manly encontered with them and strake some of them downe and maugre all their powre brought certaine prisoners to the kyng of England. Therle of Essex capitaine of the kynges speres with ii.C. speres lay in a stale, if the Frenchmen had come nerer. The sodainly apered in sight a great company of horsmen and the kynge knewe not what thei were: but at the last it was perceyved that it was the valiant knyght sir Rice app Thomas with his retinue whiche came to the kyng aboute none: which gentilly receyved hym and sent hym to therle of Essex, which incontinentely departed and compassed the hill and ranne to therle and when they were ioyned, they drewe them about the hyll accompaignyed with sir Thomas Gylforde capitayne of ii.C.archers on horsbacke to thentent to have set on the Frenchmen, which percyving the, & dowghtyng more nomber to come after, sodainly drewe back & ioyned then with there great battaile. Then therle of Essex and thenglish horsmen folowed them tyll they came nere the great army of Fraunce and then staled, and sent light horsemen to know the conduite of the French army. When the Frenchmen of armes were retorned to ther battaile, both the footmen & horsmen reculed in order of battell and went back a pace, the Englishe styrrers perceivyng this folowed. iii. leages and returned to therle makyng reporte of that they had sene, and then he brake up his stale and came the kyng declaryng to him how the Frenchmen were reculed. This daie was called the drye wednesday for the day was wonderfull hoat and the kyng and his army were in order of battaile from v of the clock in the mornyng tyll iii of the clock at after noone, and some died for lack of moysture & allmost in generall every man was burned about the mouth with hete of the stomack, for drynke lacked and water was not nere."

Whilst Hall's account has the English seeing off the French with a disciplined stand around the guns and wagons followed by the arrival of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas the "Histoire du bon Chevalier" detailing the life of Bayard described this encounter very differently! Translated into English it reads:

"The English army was commanded by the Duke of Suffolk (Charles Brandon) and the Captain Talbot. Whilst they cannonaded the place, the king of England disembarked, and he was nearly taken prisoner on the road from Calais to Terouana (Thérouanne). He had with him nearly 12,000 foot-soldiers, amongst whom were 4,000 lansquenets, but not a single horse-soldier. He was met by Bayard, who commanded a detachment of 1,200 men-at-arms, and not a single foot-soldier. The English prince, alarmed at this, dismounted, and made his lansquenets surround him. Bayard absolutely wished to attack them with his 1,200 men-at-arms, and said to the Lord of Fiennes (Louis de Hallwin, Sieur de Piennes), "Let us charge them. If we break them, we shall have their king; if they drive us back, our horses will carry us off without much loss."
Fiennes answered him, "Do so if you wish, but not with my consent. I have orders from the king to guard my country alone and to risk nothing." So no attack was made, and Bayard and his men had the vexation of seeing the king of England and his escort pass."

Whilst it was obviously not the case that Henry's middle ward had no cavalry and the statement about Charles Brandon already being at the siege is incorrect the comments on Henry's panicked dismount to hide amidst the professional landsknecht are interesting. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between these two accounts. There was some kind of encounter or skirmish on "drye wednesday". After passing St Omer and spending three days at Arques Henry and the middle ward would finally arrive at the siege of Thérouanne on 1 August, over a month after the siege had begun.

"The kyng perceiuyng there demeanure commanded al his footmen not to remove, but to stand still" -The English middle ward in defensive array. Henry VIII is to the left of the picture whilst Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex, and Sir Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle, form the two heavy cavalry units to the centre right.

Henry is surrounded by his elite troops along with plenty of artillery.


For this game we had Henry VIII and the middle ward being attacked by a large contingent of French cavalry. Each army was divided into 2 retinues. The game started with Henry VIII and his retinue being deployed along one long table edge within 18" of that table edge. Sir Rhys Ap Thomas's retinue was not deployed on the table nor were those of  the French, under La Palice and Sieur de Piennes. The French would arrive from the table edge opposite the English middle ward.

The French started first with each retinue taking a turn. All retinues not on the table had to deploy via move activations. They could only enter the table via a move activation and could not shoot, attack or skirmish when first arriving.

The English could start to role for the arrival of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas's retinue from the start of turn 5. On the first roll (at the start of turn 5) a 10+ on 2D6 would herald the arrival of the Sir Rhys Ap Thomas's retinue. The following turn a 9+ would mean they could arrive and the following turn a 8+ and so on.  For the arrival of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas's retinue when the first unit was brought on the English player rolled a D6. On a 1-3 his retinue would arrive from the shorter table edge to the right hand side of the English deployment and on a 4-6 his retinue would arrive from the shorter table edge to the left hand side of the English deployment.


Victory was based on victory points. 

The English would get:

3 Points if La Palice was killed or routed
3 Points if Louis de Hallwin, Sieur de Piennes, was killed or routed
3 Points if Louis I d'Orléans, duc de Longueville's unit was destroyed or routed
3 Points if Bayard's unit was destroyed or routed

The French would get:

6 Points if Henry VIII was killed or routed
3 Points if Sir Rhys Ap Thomas was killed or routed
3 points if Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex's unit was killed or routed
3 points if Sir Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle's unit was killed or routed

As always the games were played using our heavily modified Renaissance Rampant adaption of Lion Rampant. Stuart played the French whilst I took command of the English middle ward.

Yeoman of the Guard stiffen the ranks of the middle ward.

The Armies

The English

Henry VIII, King of England and the English middle ward

1 Unit of Foot Knights - (King Henry VIII, retinue leader)
1 Unit of Kings Spears (Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex)
1 Unit of Kings Spears  (Sir Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle)
1 Unit of Yeoman of the Guard (armed with Arquebus)
1 Unit of English Pike
1 Unit of Mounted Archers
2 Units of Garrison Longbowmen
1 Unit of Shire Bill
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike
2 Culverins
3 Organ guns to assign to 3 units

Sir Rhys Ap Thomas and the "light cavalry"

1 Unit of Demilancers - (Sir Rhys Ap Thomas, retinue leader)
1 Unit of Demilancers
2 Units of Border Horse
1 Unit of Mounted Archers

The French

Louis de Hallwin, Sieur de Piennes and Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard and their cavalry

1 Unit of Gendarmes (Louis de Hallwin, Sieur de Piennes, retinue leader)
1 Unit of Gendarmes (Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard)
1 Unit of Gendarmes
2 Units of Men at Arms
1 Unit of French Ordonnance Archers with bows
2 Units of French Ordonnance Archers with lances
2 Units of Mounted Crossbowmen

Jacques de La Palice and Louis I d'Orléans, duc de Longueville, and their cavalry

1 Unit of Gendarmes (Jacques de la Palice, Lord of Chabannes, retinue leader) 
1 Unit of Gendarmes (Louis I d'Orléans, duc de Longueville)
1 Unit of Gendarmes
2 Units of Men at Arms
2 Units of French Ordonnance Archers with lances
2 Unit of Stradiots

The captions under the photos are the best way to follow the action but a brief write up follows.

From the cover of the woods and mist the French cavalry ride into view. The top left of the photo shows Louis de Hallwin, Sieur de Piennes retinue of which Bayard is a part whilst the bottom left shows the troops of Jacques de la Palice, Lord of Chabannes.

The light troops under La Palice, Stradiots and lancers, race out of the woods to attack the English left flank.

The English middle ward forms up with archers and organ guns ready.

The Sieur de Piennes, in the foreground, leads his horsemen towards the English.

Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard, leads gendarmes, men at arms and lancers towards the English right flank.

The veterans in the Yeoman of the Guard defend the left flank of the middle ward.

A view of the table from above. The English can be seen on the left with the French cavalry emerging on the right. The photo does not show that there are also French cavalry riding towards the English flanks.

A view of the Sieur de Piennes retinue, Bayard can be seen in the distance.

A view down the French lines from La Palice's viewpoint.

As the English scouts sounded the alarm the English King, Henry VIII, "commaunded to blow to the standarde" and the English middle ward formed a defensive position around the monarch. Whilst Henry was surrounded by his artillery, with the heavy cavalry held back, the middle wards flanks were covered by Yeomen of the Guard and mounted archers. Out of the mist and from behind the hills and woods a host of French cavalry emerged. Whilst lancers and gendarmes headed straight for the centre of the English position the English left flank was threatened by stradiots whilst the English right saw gendarmes under Bayard heading towards it accompanied by mounted crossbowmen, lancers and men at arms.

The first fighting to take place was in the centre of the field where "Therle of Essex capitaine of the kynges speres" led his heavy cavalry out to meet the advancing French horse. He successfully drove the French men at arms back whilst the lancers accompanying them were decimated when they were caught at close range by an organ gun. On the English left flank the initial attack was also driven back as the Yeoman of the Guard held firm but on the English right things looked more worrying as Bayard, leading a large outflanking force, easily pushed through the mounted archers that faced him.

A view of the table as the French advance. Some of the English units have pushed forward ready to meet the oncoming enemy.

Jacques de la Palice commands his retinue whilst keeping a safe distance from the English guns and archers.

French men at arms and lancers crash into the English lines. Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex, engages with the men at arms and pushes them back.

On the English right flank Bayard, "le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche", rides down the English mounted archers.

In the centre of the middle ward Henry looks on as one of his organ guns decimates an attacking unit of French lancers.

Some of the demilancers under the command of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas arrive on the field, but are they too late?

Henry Bourchier, leads "the kynges speres" into the fray.

Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex, and a unit of the Kings Spears.

A view of the field from above, the French cavalry are encircling the English middle ward. Bayard and a powerful contingent of cavalry can be seen a the bottom of the photo, threatening the English right flank.

Mercenary Stradiots and French lancers attack the English left flank but the Yeoman of the Guard hold firm.

In the centre of the field La Palice has sent more of his retinue to join the action.

La Palice commands the attack on the English left flank whilst...

...on the other side of the field Bayard is leading an assault on the English right flank.

The newly arrived demilancers from Sir Rhy Ap Thomas's retinue clash with some French mounted archers.

Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex, is brought down in a clash with some of La Palice's gendarmes.

There is panic in the English ranks as mounted crossbowmen ride into the defensive lines. They are blasted by an organ gun but...

...this has little effect and Henry's household guards ready themselves for the charge...

...Henry's own unit is attacked but the mounted crossbowmen are quickly driven off.

As the morning sun rose the mist cleared and the summer heat began to warm the English infantry who could find little water to drink. To their right they could see spears in the distance and they "perceyved that it was the valiant knyght sir Rice app Thomas with his retinue". Ap Thomas's demilancers attacked some of the troops that Bayard had been leading around the English right flank and were successful in defeating the French mounted archers. In the centre Essex continued to lead an English counter attack on the French but the Earl was unhorsed in a melee with French gendarmes.

Despite the arrival of some of Ap Thomas's cavalry it was on the English right where the danger was greatest. A force of mounted crossbowmen managed to get into the English defensive lines. They evaded the close range blast of an organ gun and rode straight into King Henry and his household troops. They were no match for Henry's elite bodyguard and were soon sent reeling back but this was a bad sign for the English defences. In contrast the English left flank continued to hold firm with the Yeoman of the Guard sending back repeated mounted charges. They were joined by reinforcements from the baggage train which helped to shore up their ranks.

On the English left the Yeoman of the Guard fend of a charge by French ordonnance archers armed with lances...

...whilst the arrival of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas has had little effect and his border horse are driven back by Bayard's men at arms.

Things are looking bad for the English. The landsknecht provided by Maximilian are ridden down by the French cavalry.

Another of the French captains, Louis I d'Orléans, duc de Longueville, has decided to observe events from behind the front line and waits in reserve with his gendarmes.

A vicious melee is taking place on the English left flank as billmen push back lancers and stradiots.

The relentless attacks on the English middle ward have thinned the ranks of the defenders and Henry VIII, to the left of the photo, is looking vulnerable.

Sir Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle, defends his king and friend (later to be brother-in-law) fighting back the French cavalry.

The English middle ward is falling apart.

Sir Rhys Ap Thomas realises he has arrived too late.

Bayard and the Sieur de Piennes prepare to seize the ultimate prize and capture King Henry VIII!

Bayard charges first and is fought back by Henry's bodyguards...

...but Louis de Hallwin, Sieur de Piennes, leads his gendarmes in a further attack on the English king. A confused melee develops and Henry VIII falls into the hands of the French. With Henry taken and both the Earl of Essex and Sir Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle, unhorsed the English have suffered a severe defeat on "drye wednesday".

The arrival of Sir Rhys Ap Thomas had come too late for the middle ward. Some of his border horse tried to stop the French attack but they were easily dispersed by Bayard's men at arms. The landsknecht that were positioned close to Henry were ridden down as more French cavalry poured into the English right flank. On the English left things were more promising as La Palice and Louis I d'Orléans, duc de Longueville, had not commited themselves as heavily to the attack and the Yeoman of the Guard and English bill were able to fight off repeated charges.

As the French attack continued the commander of Henry's "avant-garde", Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle, entered the fray, countercharging the French horse. Spotting the chaos in the middle ward Bayard spurred his horse forward and led an attack on Henry and his household guards. Bayard was fought back, but not defeated, and as he prepared for another charge Louis de Hallwin, Sieur de Piennes led his gendarmes into a melee with the English King. The repeated attacks by the French heavy cavalry proved too much for the Tudor monarch and he was unhorsed and captured. Sir Rhys Ap Thomas withdrew with the surviving English troops but the day had been a disaster for the English, the middle ward had been ridden down and the King captured!

"dyvers tymes, the northren light horsmen under the conduite of sir John Nevel skirmished with these stradiottes"

The French forces would continue to harrass the English whilst they besieged Thérouanne with a relief attempt leading to the famous Battle of the Spurs on 16 August 1513. Hall's chronicle tells how during the siege the English border horse constantly skirmished with the stradiots in French employ:

"The Frenche army hoved ever a farre to take the Englishmen at avauntage as thei went a forragyng, & many a skirmish was done, and many good feates of armes acheved on bothe sydes, and divers prisoners taken. Among the Frenchmen were certaine light horsmen called Stradiotes with shorte styroppes, bever hatts, small speres, & swerdes like Semiteries of Turkay : dyvers tymes, the northren light horsmen under the conduite of sir John Nevel skirmished with these stradiottes and toke diverse of them prisoners, and brought them to the kyng."


We decided to do a much simpler skirmish to follow the big "Dry Wednesday" game focusing on one of the clashes between the border horse and stradiots as described in Hall's chronicle above. Due to the nature of this clash we decided to revisit the dreaded "dice bag" which we have used for a couple of our Irish Wars games, see and the second game here:

As with the first game this was played using our Renaissance Rampant rules but with the added twist that every turn a dice was pulled out of a bag. The bag contained a dice for each unit in the game. The army the dice represented, by colour, could then take a turn with one unit. If that unit failed its activation this didn't end the turn but meant that unit alone could not act that turn and another dice was then chosen. As units were destroyed or routed the dice that represented them were removed from the bag. We also added a "joker" dice, of a different colour from the dice for the two armies, and the turn was immediately over if this was pulled from the bag. Challenges and rolls for battered units were made by both players at the beginning of each turn.

The aim of the game was simple, the units would skirmish with each other to see who could achieve a victory, the border horse or the stradiots! To make the leaders of the two retinues a little different we also added a special rule that the retinue leaders units for each force would have have armour 3 rather than armour 2. Stuart took command of the stradiots whilst I commanded the border horse.

The battlefield and initial deployment. Whilst foraging near a French mill a force of English border horse have run into a band of Balkan stradiots in French employ.

The Armies

The English Border Horse under Sir John Neville

1 Unit of Border Horse (Sir John Neville, retinue leader, armour 3)
6 Units of Border Horse

The Stradiots in French service

1 Unit of Stradiots (retinue leader, armour 3)
6 Units of Stradiots

As you can imagine this was a very fast and chaotic game but I have tried to explain what went on in a paragraph below!

The two bodies of light horse spot one another and battle is joined.

The border horse close ranks and try to keep together so as not to be led into any ambush by the stradiots.

The two forces skirmish with one another as the fast paced fight develops around the mill.

Sir John Neville leads his northern horsemen to attack the stradiots on their right...

...this gives the border horse a small localised advantage as the stradiots further away race back to join the action. Reinforcements have also arrived for Sir John Neville so the stradiots are outnumbered.

As Sir John Neville and his troop of horsemen neared the mill they could see the stradiots strung out in a line in front of them. Immediately both forces spurred their horses into the clash and the skirmish began. The border horsemen were aware that they were in enemy territory and that an ambush could have been set so they attempted to keep close to each other and form a body around the mill stream. A fierce fight developed around the mill with Neville leading his men in a charge into the stradiots left flank. This caught some of the stradiots off guard as they were further up the hill and slower to get into the fighting. With the arrival of another unit of border horse, who had been trailing the main body, the Balkan mercenaries retreated vowing to return the following day to avenge themselves on the northern horsemen.

Cursing Sir John Neville from a distance the stradiot captain calls a retreat whilst vowing to bring his band of horsemen out again and attempt to revenge themselves on Neville and his "northren light horsmen".

 Both of these games were a lot of fun. Despite my epic defeat in the first game it was great to see Henry VIII under relentless attack with Bayard leading troops into the heart of the English middle ward. Using lots of Stuart's superb collection and having named characters from the campaign in the game really added to the feel of the period and made the scenario very entertaining. I thought it was a bit like "Little Big Horn" with Custer being surrounded by the warriors of the American plains whilst Stuart was describing it as a "Renaissance Hastings" with the French knights charging in to cut down Henry VIII!

The second game was very different. I had forgotten how much the "dice bag" changes the game. It changes the dynamic completely as you never know when it will be your turn or when a new one will start. Eliminating whole units, and thus removing their dice from the bag, also becomes a key factor in swaying the balance of the game. To be honest I think I only won by rolling a double 6 on an activation and then rolling to bring on reinforcements which tipped the balance. We will definitely return to the 1513 campaign again, we still have the Battle of the Spurs to do at some point and I am sure there are lots more references in Hall's chronicle from 1513 that will make interesting scenarios.


  1. Two more stunning looking games with Stuarts beautiful collection of figures and terrain, Oli!

    1. Cheers rross, it is great to be able to combine our collections and put on these games.

  2. Yours really is among my favourite online places. I have savoured every part of the report and perused the photographs.
    It's all quite superb. I look forward to many happy returns. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm. Perhaps you could do an article for the "Arquebusier" journal about your journey into Tudor warfare and the books you'd recommend.

    1. Cheers Stephen, I am glad you enjoy the write ups, I do enjoy putting the scenarios and historical intros together. I am tempted to do something for one of the wargames magazines and have done some collaborative articles with Stuart but to be honest I prefer sharing stuff on the blog.

  3. I always have mixed emotions when I read your blog Oli. Sheer enjoyment for some of the best content on the blogosphere by far...and despair that I can never match it. Please keep it up. And if you ever rigth a book ( A wargamers guide to The Tudor Period ...or some such)..I would buy several copies!!

    1. I think I meant..." write" see why my content isn't as good!

    2. Thank you John, it's great to hear that you really enjoy the write ups. The posts weren't always so detailed though, have a look at the first ever one for example:
      and I still struggle to get decent photos!

      Regarding a Tudor wargaming book it is something Stuart and I have discussed but I worry it would just be a rehash of the stuff on the blog. It would be good to get all the Tudor skirmishes and battles in one source though.