A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Friday, 6 July 2012

English Civil War - Poles Apart


This is a plea for advice, I think. Please? I’m getting my first ECW units of foot prepared for painting, and I’ve come a bit unstuck over the flags. I’m using 20mm figures, mostly Les Higgins, but since Higgins never did a standard bearer I’m looking at a choice of Hinton Hunt (don’t care for the cast flags, so would have to mod them and equip with wire poles), SHQ (a bit chunky) and Tumbling Dice (also a tad chunky). The immediate problem is not the Chunk Rating, it’s the length of the flag poles. I have a good number of reference books on this stuff now – it is clear that the flags were about 6½ feet square, and the older books show them mounted on big long poles – even some contemporary illustrations from the National Army Museum, reproduced in Philip Haythornthwaite’s lovely The English Civil War 1642-1651 – an illustrated military history, show a pole about twice the height of the flag. More recent works insist that the flags were mounted on a short pole, 7½ to 8 feet in length, they were normally carried in one hand, and that skilled exponents could perform some very flash displays with them.

Fine big pole, but the flags were square, and about 3 times that size

That flag is a bit small, too, but it is mounted on a truncheon,
in the style which is currently regarded as correct

That looks more likely - correct sized flag on a shortish pole
would be a devil to carry

The flags were made of taffeta, or a light silken material, and were painted.

Stop right there. I don’t like it. I have no practical experience of this subject, of course, though I’ve seen what they do with flags at the parades associated with the Palio in Siena, so I’m hoping that some knowledgeable veteran of the Sealed Knot, or anyone with some factual knowledge or experience of re-enactment can cast some light here.

This is my problem: the proposal is that a flag about the size of the cover from a king-size duvet, albeit made of taffeta, can be mounted on a short pole, and the appointed officer can carry this in one hand in a dignified manner appropriate to military decorum, on the march, in a stiff breeze, on the battlefield – nay – he can even do some genteel tricks with it, with or without passing cannonballs.

Well, I’m sorry - I don’t believe it. I think I would have to see this with my own eyes. I would certainly not like to attempt it – not for more than a few minutes, and I would certainly not like to upset anyone who was physically capable of such a feat. If they really did have short, one-handed poles then either they held them with two hands, with the flag partly rolled around the staff, or else the short staff somehow socketed into a longer carrying pole. However it was done, any kind of ceremonial carrying of the taffeta duvet cover would have to be done with two hands, surely?

All help would be most welcome. Haythornthwaite also includes a colour plate of an ensign carrying a flag which is described as having a 9½ foot pole, which is somewhere in the middle, and that seems to correspond to the kind of flagpole carried by the Hinton Hunt figure – I defy anyone to suggest that Marcus Hinton made an error...

14 comments:

  1. Dear Prom.,
    Civil War reenactor flags are often six feet by six feet on an eight foot pole and are the devil to control in a wind or rain. Could the flag twirling be just a "parade" manuever or a"reenactorism?"

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've got most of the books you've mentioned and after a quick "Sealed Knot" search on the web it does in fact look as though the poles were that short! But I'm no expert??
    Take a look at the pic in the link below, the flags are massive with short poles and it looks rather windy??
    http://historymad.stmaryscollegehull.co.uk/stuarts.htm

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd side with Marcus Hinton any day - meticulous research and an original member of the Sealed Knot - but then you knew I would...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks very much for this, gentlemen - much appreciated. I guess the short handles are correct, though intuitively it seems daft. I got an email from Ludovico, who points out that short handles are just perfect for hanging them up in a chapel somewhere, which is where old flags are mostly found!

    My Tumbling Dice man has a separate 4-foot flag cast on a 12-foot pole (which could be shortened), the SHQ has an 8 foot pole, and he is holding it up in both hands in a way which would suit a 6 foot (paper) flag. The Hinton Hunt standard bearers have 6-foot cast flags on a 9-foot pole. The TD pose is rather like someone holding up an Olympic torch, which doesn't look right for a short pole, though it would be fine with a long pole which was resting on the ground.

    Converting the HH boys gives the best visual match with the Higgins miniatures, but the SHQ is the best match with current wisdom.

    Interesting...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Certainly in the SK and ECWS the flags are mounted on short poles, often carried one handed, usually with the other hand planted on the hip in true macho style. I got the impression those guys took great pride in the ability to perform the required signals (which of course was the point of the 'twirling' referred to above), and the physical strength required. I would of course refer you to the gallery of my former regiment, the 'Blew Regiment of the London Trayned Bands' ..... "For London and Libertie"

    Actually Tony, this image is from the Tower Hamlets Regiment, fellow Londoners! It shows the flags carried on the short poles in SK style, which I personally believe to be accurate.

    http://www.traynedbandes.org.uk/news/uploads/pCAJ44P1T_crop.JPG

    Cheers,
    Lee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lee - thank you, that really is very useful. The picture with the flag resting on the shoulder - and partly furled? - makes sense. If they can also make signals with one hand then they are very strong men, and I am impressed - I shall be even more careful in future to avoid accidentally offending ECW re-enactors!

      In a style faintly reminiscent of the late George Jeffrey famously testing marching speeds across ploughed fields, I had a brief go at carrying an eight foot pole by one end (without a flag), and waving a duvet cover (without a pole) and it all adds to how impressed I am. Perhaps my wrists have gone (echoes of the Great Whoppo joke, which would not be appropriate here), but I couldn't have been an ensign. I probably couldn't have managed being most other things in the ECW either, come to think of it - even in my street-fighting days.

      They must have been tough boys. So you are/were a Parliamentarian...?

      Cheers - Tony

      Delete
  6. Having never researched this, I have no basis for a comment, however..... in a period where uniformity was a little vague and new fashioned and many regiments raised all over England, and Scotland, paid for by locals and influenced by veterans of various foreign wars and various books and manuals etc etc, but also no doubt by local traditions, is it not possible that some trendy regiments followed current continental fashions, while other regiments did not?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that is a very reasonable view. This period makes me nervous for a numbers of reasons - first and foremost, I am new to the whole subject, and in particular I am very weak on what were the similarities and differences between ECW armies and generic 30YW, since many of the available figures are intended to cover both.

      Secondly, I have to say that devotees of this period can appear to be rather unforgiving - a couple of books I have here spend some time ridiculing the efforts of other, earlier works, and lamenting the fact that re-enactors and wargamers have been "misled" by certain writers! I'm quite keen to get it right if I can, then I can be superior too...

      Cheers - Tony

      Delete
  7. Hi Tony,
    Reading the post again I most certainly do not claim to be any kind of 'expert' on the subject, merely one who spent a couple of short seasons with the SK. From memory almost every flagpole was short and mostly held single handed. During some signals both hands were used to rotate it through 360 degrees, like a baton twirl, but the standard bearers could fly the unfurled flag with one hand and make it look easy! As for physical strength, well all I can say is that to fight in the pike block you had to be pretty tough, indeed I ended most weekends black and blue with bruising around the shoulders and arms, and was in my short time crushed to the point where I was unable to touch the ground and left gasping for breath, as well as being trampled on and kicked! what fun. I saw fists flying and REAL blood spilled too once during an unscripted attempt to take a regiments colours, not a word of a lie. They were a tough bunch, too hard for me I have to admit. But flying colours single handed on short shafts most certainly was done.

    Great period Tony,
    Lee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! - anyone who has experience of that kind of re-enactment is pretty much an expert in my book - I've never even seen a re-enactment on the horizon, though it seems like I've seen a few thousand re-enactment extras in the Pegasus ECW DVD series of late. I've also seen someone acting the part of King Charles with a VERY dodgy set of stick-on whiskers - looked like cheap foam-back rug to me - I digress...

      My brief involvement with the Napoleonic Association about 30-something years ago made me aware that, in a friendly sort of way, the Re-enactment Section mostly regarded the Wargame Section with disdain - and probably quite rightly so. Those guys were very keen, though I suspect that one or two had actually morphed permanently into their battlefield personna. All good stuff.

      I can see that, as a means of getting a realistic idea of what the warfare was like, there must be nothing like being involved in re-enactment events. Excellent.

      Cheers - Tony

      Delete
  8. Tony,

    over here it's called "vendelen" (don't even try to pronounce it), and if you enter vendelen in you tube or Google pictures lot's can be found. It's best described as flag-throwing, I suppose.
    The flags and short poles used are much like those you mentioned.

    Pjotr

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a fantastic post and discussion in the comments - I learned a lot for my own current ECW project. Glad to have found your site....

    ~ Jonathan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jonathan - you get all sorts of stuff on here, and sometimes it is even useful, though usually that is down to the efforts of others!

      Cheers - Tony

      Delete

To avoid spam and advertising material, comments are moderated on this blog, and will appear once I have seen them.