|Alexander Leslie, Lord Leven - commander of the Covenanter army in 1644|
- getting on a bit in years, but he was the real deal - he had been a Field
Marshal in the Swedish Army in the 30 Years War
Still a desperate shortage of hobby time, but I’ve been spending some of my train and bus journeys thinking, reading and scribbling notes about a possible ECW tabletop battle to introduce my chiropractor (whom, for the sake of argument, I shall call David the Cruncher) to both the history of that war and the idea of playing games with toy soldiers.
Since David is from that part of the country, I thought it might be rather fun to set the action in the 1644 campaign around Sunderland, when the Covenanters were busy ignoring the City of Newcastle (a subject which they took up again with fresh interest after they had helped win the Battle of Marston Moor). I have been doing a fair amount of swotting-up, since my detailed knowledge of this campaign is not great, and since it falls into that off-mainstream category of ECW history that is usually classified as “of interest only to local historical societies” (which is exactly the sort of thing I am interested in).
I read about the storming of the Lawe Top fort in South Shields, which the Scots had to capture in order to protect their supply ships (which were sailing from Leith to Sunderland, and were being intercepted and forced into the Tyne). That seemed to score highly for relevance, but it was a small action, and would be a fiddly, awkward game for a newbie.
Now I am growing increasingly focused on the battle which took place (or, more accurately, didn’t quite take place) on the Boldon Hills, just West of Sunderland, in March 1644. Reasonably sized armies faced each other, but the weather was poor, and the ground may have been a bit rough, or maybe the armies were too closely matched for either side to risk an attack – whatever the reason, there was an exchange of artillery and a bit of a skirmish, but in the evening the Scots withdrew to Sunderland and the Royalists headed towards Durham. During this withdrawal, the Marquis of Newcastle received news of the Royalist defeat at Selby, and set off to York – a move which led him eventually to disaster at Marston Moor.
|In my thirst for understanding of the local area, I visited|
the website of West Boldon Community Council. Since I was
thinking vaguely of a possible visit, I checked Forthcoming
Events - it says there are no forthcoming events, so that's official then
The (non-)Battle of Boldon is also known as Hylton, or Hilton – my source is primarily Stuart Reid’s wonderful All the King’s Armies, but I have also picked up some scraps in my various Montrose books, and I have just started on Rosie Serdiville’s and John Sadler’s The Great Siege of Newcastle 1644, which also looks quite good. [And then of course there are also Stuart Reid’s invaluable books on the Scottish Regiments of the ECW and on the Royalist officers and regiments – once again, I have to offer humble thanks for Stuart’s research and his writings – this particular wargamer would be greatly disadvantaged without all that hard work!]
|St Nicholas' Church, West Boldon, which in parts dates back to 1212|
|Not so rural nowadays - a view of Sunderland, including the football|
stadium, from the top of the Boldon Hills - mostly, I included this photo
to upset Clive
I have a pretty convincing looking OOB shaping up, and I even have a map. For a wild moment I thought of driving down to Boldon to look at the place, but my track record for that sort of thing is not good – I usually find the battlefield is underneath a modern sewage farm or similar, and even if it is not I am unusually bad at interpreting the ground. I believe that the village of West Boldon contains a church, St Nicholas, which was around at the time, so I have no doubt that will appear somewhere on the table.
Hmmm – seems promising. I am sure you will hear more of this.