Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday 30 December 2014

ECW Campaign – Skirmish at Hobden’s Mill - 19th March 1644

Lord Alwyn's brigade of Parliamentarian horse plods through woodland in
what passes for column of march in these rules...
As soon as he learned that Parliamentarian troops were at Ringrose House, Lord Porteous, the Royalist commandeer in North Lancashire, sent a fast galloper to Colonel Sir Roderick Broadhurst, stationed at Dransfield House with a cavalry outpost, with orders to bring his force back to Midlawton with all haste, to join the main Royalist army.

Broadhurst was a seasoned campaigner, a veteran of the wars in Germany, and was used to exercising his judgement to interpret the orders of his (very inexperienced) commanding officer in whatever way he thought was in the best interests of His Majesty. On this occasion, he considered that – since the estimates he had received of the Roundhead strength gave real cause for alarm – he should simply cut and run; take his entire garrison from Dransfield and head back east, as ordered.

He set off on the morning of 17th March, with his own regiment of horse and that of Lord Clevedon, plus Major Dingle’s regiment of dragoons and a very small, almost a token, element of light artillery – a frame gun which added little to his firepower but slowed his march down a great deal (though, of course, it might have proved invaluable if he had been required to defend Dransfield House – a situation which seemed unlikely now). A total of some 1200 men.

Some miles to the south, a brigade of Parliamentary horse under Lord Alwyn were plodding towards him through the mud, under orders to hold a position in the area known as Boot Mills – near the site of the long-vanished medieval village of Boot – abandoned and burnt down following the plagues of two centuries earlier. This position would screen the left flank of the Parliamentarian advance and would cover the key fords over the River Arith at Patondale. Lord Alwyn had at his disposal three regiments of horse – those of Thomas Chetwynd, Richard Sudley and Lord Eastham – he had no dragoons, and no artillery presence – speed of movement was considered paramount by the Parliament command. By a complete coincidence, Alwyn also had about 1200 men.

Lord Alwyn knew that a very troublesome force of Royalist horse was present somewhere near Dransfield, but he had no information about its strength or location.

The Parliament forces marched up the road from the bottom; the
mill is the building about two-thirds up the map, beside the road
On the morning of the 19th the two cavalry forces blundered into each other near a mill belonging to the Hobden family, close to the site of Boot village. Broadhurst’s scouts alerted him first, and he attempted to set a trap for the enemy column in the area of enclosures and hedgerows near the mill. Alwyn soon caught sight of the Royalist troopers in the fields next to the mill, and he halted his column and deployed his leading regiment into line.

There followed a quick and decisive melee between Alwyn’s right-hand unit and Broadhurst’s leftmost one, which resulted in the Parliamentarian horsemen being routed. In the period of confusion which followed, Alwyn’s leading support unit refused to advance, and Broadhurst quit the field leading his force away to the east, toward Patondale fords and the Royalist centre at Midlawton. The Royalists had almost no casualties at all – the Parliamentarian Lord Eastham’s Regiment of Horse suffered approximately 80 killed and missing, 115 wounded.

All units of horse are classed as raw “trotters”, Broadhurst is rated as “Competent” (rating 2) and Alwyn as “Poor” (1). I used my Arquebus rules, which are an adaptation of Clarence Harrison’s Victory without Quarter, quite simply because the action was too small and too tactical to suit the Commands & Colors variant I normally use.

[I would describe the experience of using these rules as “Death by Morale Tests” – there is a definite Old School feel to them, but this extends to a relentless series of traditional-style morale checks which proved, ultimately, to be laborious and dispiriting, considering the modest scale of the skirmish and the short duration. I am not filled with any great enthusiasm to use them again in this form…]

The photos should give a little more idea of the fighting. [Note to self: must encourage my son Nick to return to photography duties for these battles – his pictures are always more interesting than mine.]

Normal, full army returns for the end of Week 3 will follow in a few days.

Broadhurst marches his Royalist force on to the field

Having spotted the enemy approaching, Broadhurst sets an ambush at the
mill, and personally leads Lord Clevedon's Horse in a flanking manoeuvre

Broadhurst's remaining troops hurry into position for the ambush

No ambush - Lord Alwyn sees troopers moving in the fields, halts his
march and forms up, detaching Lord Eastham's regiment in a flanking move to the right...

Lord Alwyn, with his Welsh grandad's sword

Alwyn's boys, all formed up and with Lord Eastham's RoH steaming
ahead on the right flank...

...while the Royalists are also in position, with their flanking column moving up on the left...

Dragoons behind the hedge - I bet no-one expected that...

...while Broadhurst's own regiment take position behind the wall of a field, with
pistols at the ready

The frame gun - not a lot of help today. Maybe another time...

General view, from behind the Royalist position, as the first clash approaches

Lord Eastham's Roundheads, on this side, face up to Lord Clevedon's horse

First impact, Eastham's men are pushed back down the hill, suffering heavy
casualties and becoming shaken

And yet they rally, but do not have time to offer any kind of countercharge before Broadhurst
and Lord Clevedon's men are on them again

This time it's decisive - the Parliament regiment streams to the rear, broken, and Broadhurst
fails dismally in his attempt to halt the pursuit by the victors. Then it all becomes
very confused - the routing cavalry pass their colleagues in Thomas Chetwynd's regiment,
who are now the front line, and give them such a shock that they are shaken and refuse
to take orders from Lord Alwyn. Around the same moment, the pursuing Royalist
horse suddenly come upon Chetwynd's halted men, get a disastrous morale check
result and turn tail and rout. In the resultant confusion, Broadhurst gets his
army on the march, on their original route. There is no immediate prospect of Alwyn
organising any kind of pursuit for a while...


  1. There may have been a lot of morale tests, but the end outcome reads like so many of the actual ECW actions...

    1. Hi Steve - yes - that's kind of worrying - I'm scared that it kind of justifies itself!