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


Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Hooptedoodle #407 - JFK in Popular Culture?

 Unusually quick and pointless post today. Among the stuff which we inherited from my late mother-in-law's house after it was sold were some bin liners (trash can liners) made by Brabantia, a Dutch-owned company which specialises in household products of decent quality. I realise that this is a very well-worn and childish joke, but I like it, since I am a very well-worn and childish person. 


This will, inevitably, get us back to the eternal debate about whether Kennedy was correct when he said "Ich bin ein Berliner", after peeking over the Wall. My understanding is that, if he had just said "Ich bin Berliner", he would have said "I am [spiritually, empathetically] [a person] from Berlin", which is what I believe he meant.

It is argued that what he actually said, of course, is that he was a small doughnut which famously is a local speciality in Berlin. Obviously that is not what he intended, so the joke is short-lived enough, but people have to show off their imagined superiority, and have debated it ever since. I imagine that actual Germans would not think it was particularly contentious, and probably not awfully funny. It may even be that he could have said either - I don't really know, and stopped caring years ago.

It does occur to me, though, that if he had been visiting a different city, he would probably not have been advised to claim that he was a Frankfurter or a Hamburger.



Thursday, 16 September 2021

Kilsyth 1645: The Game

 Wednesday evening - the days were accomplished; I was host, umpire and General Factotum (gopher) for the Battle of Kilsyth, in the company of my two guest generals, Dave and Dave - all by courtesy of Zoom Video Communications Inc, of San Jose, California, suppliers of state-of-the-art digital enabling systems to the World, and Lothian Broadband, of Haddington, Scotland, purveyors of brave-but-faintly-agricultural rural broadband services to the socially isolated.

There are two sub-themes here which should be identified now, and then we shall speak no more of them. 

(1) The first is that the Broadband Thing did get in the way a bit. We had a number of hangs, and one complete system collapse. During Turn 2, the broadband dropped out completely. This was not one of our familiar local temporary hiccups, which restore themselves fairly quickly after the odd freeze and Dalek impression - this was a full dropping of the Zoom session, such that I had to reboot our hub, start the meeting all over again, and phone my guests to apologise. We lived to fight on - as I suggested at the time, we must be due some bonus points for effort and stamina, and I am grateful to the Daves for their splendid resilience and good humour. Apart from the occasional smell of fertilizer, one other downside of the countryside is that some aspects of the infrastructure would be rejected as unreasonable elsewhere. It is interesting that our big dropout last night was around the time that Lothian Broadband's other customers must all have been hooking up to online coverage of the Champions' League football.

(2) Unlikely dice rolls. It has to be said that, after the Zoom restart, General Baillie had the most phenomenal series of bad breaks I've ever witnessed. Not only were his own rolls very poor, but his opponent, Montrose, also produced a series of spectacularly successful melee results, and the whole thing suggests that a properly audited investigation is necessary. In fact, since I was rolling all the dice, had no particular bias and used the same dice for both sides, I think we'll get through the VAR checks. There was occasional muttering about "Catholic dice", but all in good spirit...

 
General Baillie's personal chaplain, the Rev Dr I M Jolly of Letham, attempting to identify and banish the presence of Catholic Dice - all in vain...

We used the Ramekin modifications to my Commands & Colors-based ECW rules. We also used the Chaunce (event) cards from my base game, to add a little extra colour, but these cards were to be cued by tied (i.e. drawn) Initiative/Activation rolls, and there weren't any (the game only lasted about 8 turns) - so this was a bit of a non-event (so to speak), but in any case the worst powder explosion or unmapped swamp imaginable would have been trivial compared with the broadband risks, so let's not worry about it.

Here's our game map, with the brief explanatory notes I sent to the Daves beforehand:


 FT are Foot, TR are "Trotter" cavalry, HI are Highland levies. MG (confusingly) is Medium Artillery. 

 Background Story:
 
Montrose (red) was originally set up in an approximate line of battle stretching from around D7 and then upwards, off the table, waiting for the Dumb Covenanters to march along the road from Stirling (the road is just off the left edge of the table, and parallel to it). The initial rebel line up was (probably) Highlanders on the left, Irish in the centre, regular Foot on the right, with Horse covering the rear of the flanks.

Baillie (blue) realised there was a trap, so sent his army on a march along the bottom edge of the map, from the left, using dead ground as much as possible, heading to the high ground beyond the mill at Auchinrivoch, which would place him above and behind Montrose's left flank. If Montrose withdrew, or even just sat there, Baillie was happy to sit and wait for a reinforcement  commanded by the Earl of Lanark, which was coming from the west.

However, two things went wrong for Baillie:

(1) it seems that Montrose became aware of the flanking move, and moved his army to face to their left - their positions on the table reflect how quickly the units could move, and where they were starting from.

(2) for some reason, the small Commanded Shot unit (under Maj Haldane), which was to lead the Foot units to Auchinrivoch, and Home's (veteran) regt of Foot saw highlanders on the other side of the little valley, apparently looking a bit disordered, and deduced that Montrose's chaps were retreating over the mountains (north); thus both units stopped marching up to the mill, and turned to attack directly. Baillie failed to correct this, and was obliged to throw in as much as he could to make the best of this premature attack. Game on.

One can only hope that Major Haldane got a severe talking to afterwards - assuming they could find a suitable part of him to talk to.

 The OOB is:

Government Troops (Lt.Gen William Baillie) - total approx 4300 men

Foot

Maj.Gen Sir James Holbourne
Marquis of Argyll's Regt
Earl of Crawford-Lindsay's Regt
Col Robert Home's Regt (veteran)
Earl of Lauderdale's Regt
John Kennedy's Provisional Regt (remnants of the Regts of The Earls of
Cassilis, Glencairn & Loudon)
Maj John Haldane's [combined] battalion of Commanded Shot

Fife Brigade (Maj.Gen John Leslie [Adjutant])
Col James Arnot of Fernie's Regt (raw)
Col John Henderson of Fordell's Regt (raw)
Sir Thomas Morton of Cambo's Regt (raw)

Horse

Maj.Gen Earl of Balcarres
Earl of Balcarres' Regt
Harie Barclay's Regt (Lt.Col Mungo Murray)

Artillery

1 medium gun

Royalist [Rebel] Army (James Graham, Marquis of Montrose) - total approx 4800 men

Foot

Col James Farquharson of Inverey
Strathbogie Regt
Graham of Inchbrackie's Regt

Alasdair Mac Colla McDonnell
Col Thomas Laghtnan's Regt (veteran)
Col Manus O'Cahan's Regt (veteran)
Col James McDonnell's Regt (veteran)

Western Clans 1 (MacLean of Treshnish) (raw)
Western Clans 2 (MacDonald of Glengarry) (raw)
Western Clans 3 (MacDonald of Clanranald) (raw)
Western Clans 4 (raw)

Horse

Viscount Aboyne
Viscount Aboyne's Regt
Earl of Airlie's Regt

Col Nathaniel Gordon
The Gordon Horse

(unless otherwise stated, all troops are "Trained")

Oh yes - 7 Victory Points for the win.

 
Initial view of the battlefield of Kilsyth from the Southern end; on the right is the Government (Covenanter) army under General Baillie - at this end are the levies of new units raised in Fife (yellow counter means Raw), under the army Adjutant, John Leslie; beyond them are the Foot, under Baillie and Gen Holbourne, and at the far end are the Horse, under the Earl of Balcarres, who are (boringly) doing what they were asked to do, and heading for the high ground beyond the windmill. On the left is Montrose's (pro-Royalist) Rebel force, with highland levies to the fore, at this end they have the "regular" Foot regiments of Strathbogie and Inchbrackie, in the centre are Mac Colla's extremely scary Irish brigade, and the Horse are wherever they can be squeezed in. Montrose's force is hastily shifting to face its left flank, so is not at its most organised

 
And the set-up from the North end - you can see Balcarres with the Government Horse at this end, on the left side, and in the centre of the Government line you can see the small unit of Commanded Shot, under Maj Haldane, and the ex-Irish service regulars of Robert Home, both of which saw the Highlanders across the little valley, assumed the Rebels were withdrawing, and promptly abandoned Baillie's orders to head for the high ground, and took a short cut to attack. You may be able to see some red counters here, which identify Veteran units.

 
Balcarres' brigade of Covenanter horse, which stuck to the script and advanced up to the mill at Auchinrivoch - brave chaps, but they didn't know what the dice had in store for them

 
From behind Baillie's centre, here you can see Haldane's musketeers and Home's Regt heading off in the wrong direction. Why? Interesting - the musketeers were given the task of leading the flanking manoeuvre by Baillie, and possibly felt that a direct attack was what they had been ordered to carry out. Home's boys were old hands from Ulster, and certainly would have viewed the highlanders opposite as beneath contempt, and probably a soft opponent...

After Baillie initially took the high ground at Auchinrivoch, Montrose sent forward some of his Horse to clear away the Commanded Shot from one of the hills. At the windmill, Holbourne has Lauderdale's Foot.


As Mac Colla brings up his Irish brigade behind (red counters for danger...), a vigorous cavalry battle kicks off at Auchinrivoch. Here the Gordon Horse and Airlie's Regt (on this side, under Viscount Aboyne), take on Balcarres with all of Baillie's Horse.

 
Meanwhile, over on Montrose's right, the boys from Inchbrackie head off on their own, looking for adventure, with Farquharson of Inverey having the time of his life. The Inchbrackies had their eye on Baillie's only gun, reputed to be "The Prince Robert", captured by the Covenanters at Marston Moor

Baillie put the bulk of his Foot into a nice, tidy line, facing the Highlanders. At this end are one of the (raw) Fife units (yellow counter), but beyond that the foot are all experienced boys with service in England. [Note the presence of Baillie's Tree - recurrent private joke and Leitmotif]

 
Meanwhile, Murray's Horse and the Earl of Balcarres himself had both been disposed of by the Rebel cavalry, and the VP score was suddenly 3-0
 
 
From the Rebel right flank, we see the Inchbrackies closing in on the Government artillery in the foreground; in the middle distance, we can see that the Highlanders (yellow counters) have restricted their activities to swearing at Baillie's defensive line (in Gaelic), while at the far end the Irish Foot, the Strathbogie Regt and the Horse are chipping away at the Government forces, thanks to outrageous dice rolls [and I said I wouldn't mention them]. If you look carefully you can see the personal standards of Mac Colla and Montrose in the distance. If you can't see them, no matter
 
Below you see the last illustration of evil dice at work (C&C nerds will be interested in this). The unit in the dead centre of the picture is Home's Foot, who had a choice of attacking Airlie's Horse or the Strathbogie Foot in melee. They chose to attack the Horse, at which point Dave Montrose chose to carry out a Retire & Reform manoeuvre with the Horse (the photo was taken after the horse retired, which is why my narrative is probably making no sense), which gives their Foot opponents an unopposed strike in the melee, as the cavalry withdraw 2 hexes, though the effectiveness of the strike is potentially reduced, since "crossed-sabres" and "flag" results do not count in this case. In the event, Home's boys rolled 3 sabres and 1 infantry symbol, scoring zero hits on their opponents. If they had chosen to fight the Strathbogies instead, this roll would have scored 4 hits, more than enough to wipe them out. OK, they didn't, and the dice would probably have been different anyway, but this sets the tone of what was going on! 
 

 
By this time, the Inchbrackies had captured the Goverment's cannon, and now engaged the (raw) boys of Col James Arnot of Fernie, and eliminated them
 
 
Now the Earl of Airlie's regiment of Rebel Horse finished off the Earl of Balcarres' Horse, who went to join their leader in the boneyard. This was Turn 8 (I think) - the Rebels had now eliminated the Commanded Shot, both regiments of Horse, the Earl of Balcarres, the single cannon, the unhappy Fife boys from Fernie and the Earl of Lauderdale's Foot. That's 7-0, folks. Game over.
 
 
A close-up of Robert Home's Regt of Foot, facing up to the Strathbogie Regt. They survived the defeat unscathed.
 
 
The Gordon Horse, with Nat Gordon advising them from the rear. One of the stand-out units on the Rebel side
 
Baillie, who knows that his plan was correct, is right in the foreground (Base #94), with his line of good infantry, still glaring at the distant Highlanders as the rest of his army heads back to Stirling in disorder. He will subsequently write two justificatory letters (which I have here), neither of which, for some reason, says anything about dice

My compliments and thanks to my collaborators, for their company and for braving the realities of Rural Broadband. Thank you gentlemen, very much. Simply because I feel that Chance will even itself out in the end, I am more than tempted to stage this game again.  On the other hand, how would it be if the generals swapped sides, and the luck moved over to the Government side? Hmmm.

Better think this through.

If anyone thinks there is a shortfall here on the background and the campaign leading up to this battle, please look back a few posts on this blog and there is plenty. If you've read through this far, my thanks and my compliments to you as well!

Here's something to think on: the dice had a mind of their own, however, it is worth noting that, with the sides quite evenly matched, the result and the narrative are surprisingly close to history, though in the real battle the Highlanders were more active. Once again, Hmmm...



Tuesday, 14 September 2021

C&C Accessories - Spurious Precision?

 I chanced upon an advert for some custom component racks for Command & Colors, and I realised that I'd always wanted some, so I ordered up the "Napoleonic Starter Set", which I shall describe in a moment.

 
The "Sleeve", with four counter racks in it, and the scenery-tile holder in the foreground 

It came quickly, from "Sally 4th", of Melmersby, North Yorkshire. I realised that it required rather more assembly than I had planned for; that's OK, of course, but I put it away until the weekend.

The Starter Set comprises laser-cut MDF components to make up four counter racks (2 for small counters, 2 for medium), a "sleeve" thingy which the racks slide into, and also a rack to hold scenery tiles.

Background: Though C&CN is my go-to Napoleonic game with miniatures, I've never played the actual boardgame very much - setting out and tidying away the block counters is a pain in the tonsils, to be honest, and, since I store the boxes upright, on their ends, I have had to improvise all sorts of little containers to keep the counters in, to avoid the sort of chaos on opening the lid which would be guaranteed to make me put the lid back on and put the game away unplayed. It's not been a great success - the game doesn't get used, so perhaps the introduction of some better organisation would make all the difference.

I did the component assembly while listening to the Manchester Utd game on the radio on Saturday. Straightforward enough - the tabs are accurate and everything lines up, and I used my standard "Tacky PVA" to stick everything together. All quite straightforward, though one of the parts is a Perspex lid for the "sleeve" unit, which is not glued, but is anchored by tabs which fit into the sides. First problem was that the tabs on the Perspex bit did not fit the holes - quite a lot of fiddling with needle files to improve the fit - eventually I got it together by forcing it in - crude but OK. A couple of days to let everything dry out, and this morning I set about transferring my counters to the new racks.

That was rather less satisfying than I had hoped. The storage cells on the racks hold 4 layers of 3 x 2 (for the small counters) and 4 layers of 2 x 2 (for the medium sized ones), and there really isn't any space. This is glued MDF, not exactly engineering standard, and the counters are really very tight. It's fiddly to get them in and out, and they really don't fit brilliantly. Why on earth they couldn't have allowed an extra mm each way I have no idea. Never mind, I got them stored away, and they definitely don't rattle, though the Perspex lid holds everything firmly anyway, so rattling is not a problem. If I had made these, I'd have made them just a tad bigger - there is some risk of damaging the counters getting them in and out.

I also realised that the Large counters need a Large rack unit, but I had enough space to fudge them into the racks I have. Everything goes back into the box nicely enough - I was concerned about the raw MDF wearing the surface of the playing board, so put in some kitchen roll to pack it a bit. The game boxes have gone back onto their shelves with no rattle at all.

So:

(1) is it well made? - yes - it's OK - the MDF is what you would expect; the Perspex lid is not well finished, which turned out to be less of a problem than I thought it might (brawn over brains every time). The design is clever, but making it all so tight is unnecessary and something of a nuisance.

(2) is it good value for money? - it's expensive - I think I paid £28 including P&P for the Starter Set. I was surprised, given the price, that it required so much assembly. It's nice to have racks specially proportioned to hold C&C counters, and to fit in the game boxes. The pay-off is whether it encourages me to use the board game more often.

(3) is it going to encourage me to play the board game more often, then? - probably not, I'm afraid - it's not very quick or simple to get the counters in or out. I'll see how I feel in a week or two...

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Hooptedoodle #406 - Where Were You on 9/11?

 I guess we all have a fairly limited set of major world events in our lifetime - that's almost certainly a good thing. I can remember where I was when I heard of the assassination of JFK (involved in the preparations for a youth club dance, in a church hall in Liverpool - St Barnabas' church - my girl friend suddenly started weeping), I know where I was when the Berlin Wall came down (I was in my house, in Edinburgh, watching it on TV, waiting for the shooting to start), and today I've been thinking of my whereabouts on 9/11. It doesn't really matter of course, but somehow world events seem much longer ago when you think in terms of your own timeline.

My wife and I were on holiday in Tuscany - in fact it was the last holiday we ever had on our own (our son was born a year later). On the actual day we had taken a local bus for a day trip to Siena. It was a very thundery, humid day, and Siena was absolutely packed with tourists, which I guess is not unexpected. The day was significant in that my wife received a call on her mobile phone from a headhunting agency, with an excellent job offer that she had almost given up on; she received the call just as we were going to enter the Duomo - that's the rather odd building in Siena that seems to be made out of liquorice allsorts. Overall our day out was a bit hot and a bit fatiguing, but we took the bus back to San Gimignano in a celebratory frame of mind, with plans for a suitable budget-busting meal in the evening. I have some photos from the day.

 When we got back to our hotel we turned on the TV, and saw the CNN pictures from New York. That put an end to any kind of fun evening we might have considered. Eventually we agreed to switch off the TV and catch up in the morning - really couldn't handle the flow of news that was coming in.





 
Il Duomo


Over the next few days we carried on with our holiday - a bit subdued, of course - and tried not to worry about whether there were going to be any flights home the next week. We visited Perugia, and there and in Assisi we spoke with a number of Americans who were very upset, understandably, and had absolutely no idea how or when they might be able to go home again. The heart seemed to have been kicked out of everything - and I still think of 9/11 as the day the world changed forever. At that time, I was working on some actuarial projects connected with Risk Management, and it was immediately obvious that many of the fundamental assumptions on which our thinking was based had suddenly gone out of the window. The comforting feeling that there was no-one crazy enough to destroy a civilian aeroplane while he was sitting on it was gone, and a whole pile of other bed-rock stuff had vanished. Start again. As I say - nothing would ever be the same again, in many ways.

Anyway, I don't wish to get into a lament about the awfulness of the event - that has been well considered and documented - though it is inevitable that this is the context in which our thoughts should be framed; I spent some time today thinking about my life and my surroundings on that historic day. I know for a fact that I was in Siena, and it rained, and my wife landed a new job. Personal stuff - it's far easier to think about personal stuff. 

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Hooptedoodle #405a - More Care and Attention from Curry's

 In case anyone was troubled by my recent rant on the subject of our adventures as customers of Curry's, the well-known idiots, here is a little update. 


Brief resumé: a new laptop had been ordered for my son to take to university, but Curry's sent him a PlayStation 4 gaming machine instead. A complaint was made, the unwanted PS4 was collected from our house the following day (25th August), and we know from the tracking number on the receipt we were given that it arrived in Newark (Curry's online sales centre?) within a day.

Since then? Well, not much has happened really. We had a number of meaningless phone conversations and chat exchanges which refused to confirm that the returned item had been received or been checked, and there was no commitment to a refund, which "can take 2 or 3 weeks" - this being, presumably, someone else's fault. 

Yesterday there was an email which stated that a replacement item (which I sincerely hope is a laptop) is being dispatched, and will be delivered "by 24th August". Yesterday, of course, was the 8th September. [I hope you are not laughing, at the back there.]

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. One certainty is that my son does not have any chance at all of receiving his computer before he goes away on Saturday. There are all sorts of exciting possibilities over what else might happen.


At no point has anyone said that they are sorry, or that they will do their best to rectify their stupid mistake, or anything else, really, that we might wish to hear. I can only suggest that any UK resident reading this should take great pains to avoid ever doing business with these cretins - save yourself a lot of grief, and do not give them the benefit of any profit on any such deal. It's not very likely, but if you happen to work for Curry's, or have friends who work there, then you have my sympathy, and please tell your employers that they smell very bad, and their days are numbered. Times are getting harder - businesses which cannot cope will fade away to make room for those which can. Online sellers have made a considerable fortune out of lockdown trade - sympathy is not what it might be.



Monday, 6 September 2021

ECW: Guest Spot

 I received an email from Steve Cooney, prompted by my humble efforts to get a handle on the Battle of Kilsyth. Steve kindly sent me a couple of photos of some of his own 20mm ECW figures (he does this from time to time, just to remind me that his soldiers are rather nicer than mine!). These are Hinton Hunt castings, many of them extensively converted.

Thanks Steve - great stuff! 




Friday, 3 September 2021

Kilsyth 1645: Battlefield Dry-Run

 Having spent a week or two deep in my books, sorting out the details of the Kilsyth battlefield, and a day of falling into ditches, plugging around the actual countryside, I've now assembled a tabletop version for the forthcoming game. From the sublime to the agricultural.

As mentioned previously, I've decided to turn the battlefield through 90 degrees, and start the action as the actual fighting started. It looks OK - the distances are about right - the next viewing will be in a couple of weeks, when there will be more soldiers and rather fewer dining chairs on show.

It's a very plain-looking field - rather a bleak piece of Scottish moorland. I had thoughts of adding streams to break up the ground a bit, but decided against it. The streams are all small, and they just disappear into the general idea that the ground is rough! The picture above shows the valley from the South - Montrose will be on the left side as we look at it, Baillie on the right. The hills and woods are unambiguous, the hills with rocks on top are impassable, the walled-off areas at Colzium Castle (left foreground) and Auchinvalley Farm (brown field, in centre of the table) are proper enclosures which may be defended; the other buildings are just scenery, with no cover or other function, to identify positions on the battlefield.

And now we are looking back the other way - Montrose will be on the right, in this view. Colzium Castle (far end) was the home of the Livingston family - strong Royalists, and Montrose's troops camped on their land the night before the battle. The castle was demolished in the 18th Century, and much of the estate is now under the modern reservoir.

My reference to a "dry run" is a sort of lame reference to constructing a battlefield with the reservoir removed. You can see how an idiot with too much caffeine might think this was amusing at 11pm.


***** Late Edit *****

Specially for WM and Stryker, here's a close up of Colzium Castle (aka Claypotts Castle, courtesy of Lilliput Lane)

 

*********************


Monday, 30 August 2021

Kilsyth 1645: Our Roving Reporter's Day Out

 Weather was reasonable today, so I packed some sandwiches and my camera and my walking boots, and drove off to Kilsyth. My intention was to get a better idea of the area of the battlefield to the north and east of the [modern] Banton Loch. Here's an annotated aerial view, courtesy of Google Maps and Paintshop Pro.


I've added the initial positions of the armies, as I understand them, a couple of extra place names, and the asterisks show the scope of my walk. North is at the top. A very quick resumé of the build-up to Kilsyth:

William Baillie's Covenanter army had been well beaten at Alford, and Montrose took the opportunity to head south, for the Lowlands. The Scottish government were terrified he was going to make for Edinburgh, but that city was plague-bound, and Montrose headed for Glasgow, via Stirling. Baillie followed, but was delayed by a number of issues, not least being the fact that he had to wait for someone to round up three Fife regiments which had decided to head for home. By the time the Covenant forces got onto our map, Montrose's troops had been camped on an elevated "meadow" in the Valley of the River Kelvin for a day or so, overlooking the road from Stirling to Glasgow, waiting to spring a nasty surprise on Baillie and friends.

[Please note that the village of Banton, the reservoir of Banton Loch and most of the roads apart from the Stirling road at the bottom did not exist until some time after 1645]

Baillie had the additional burden of having with him the chiefs of the Committee of Estaits (Argyll and others, whom Gardiner's history describes as having "a grasp of strategy proportional to their ignorance"). His scouts realised the Royalist army was waiting for them, so Baillie agreed with his "advisors" that his troops would  leave the road, taking up a position on Montrose's flank, concealed by some rough ground. Baillie knew that the Earl of Lanark was coming from the West with a reinforcement of 1500 men for him (described as "tenants of the Hamiltons"), and appears to have been prepared to wait in this position until Lanark arrived. What he did not know (though Montrose, it seems, did) was that Lanark was only about a day's march away.

The political whizz-kids were keen that Baillie should attack Montrose's flank straight away. Baillie was convinced that the rough, rising ground to his front made such an attack impossible, so his counter-proposal was that he should face his troops to their right, and march them in column up to high ground at Auchinrivoch, where they would be above Montrose's left rear. This was agreed, so off went his column, with (I think) Balcarres' cavalry in the front, followed by a converged unit of commanded shot commanded by a Major Haldane, then Robert Home's veteran regiment of Foot, and the rest strung out, with the unhappy boys from Fife at the rear.

It's quite a pull up the hill (I did it today); it might have been a fair plan, but they didn't make it. Well, Balcarres' Horse might have, but the commanded shot and Home's regiment spotted some Highlanders occupying an area of enclosures at Auchinvalley, and headed west to attack them.

Thus the Battle of Kilsyth becomes, in effect, an encounter-type action. Montrose's army was rushing to its left flank, to face an attack coming from that direction, and Baillie was forced by the actions of his subordinates to form into an improvised battle line on rough ground, well short of (and lower than) the position he had intended. The subsequent progress of the day is for another post, or maybe for a game, so I'll return to the story of my scouting trip now.

I parked in Banton, near the Swan pub, at the crossroads, with the intention of walking up towards Auchinrivoch and Auchinvalley, to get some photos of how the land lies. Before I started, I spoke to a couple of residents, who were interested to know what this strange chap with hill boots and a stupid hat was doing in their village on a quiet Bank Holiday. I asked to check my directions for Auchinvalley - no-one had heard of it. They knew of Auchinrivoch - there is a farm there - but otherwise all places are known by who lives there. They wanted to know was it the Hendersons' place. Obviously I had no idea - and I certainly don't know who lived there in 1645. However, they were very kind, and got me on my way, and it isn't a very obvious track! 

 
The village of Banton is modern. It was built when coal and mineral mining were introduced to the valley in the late 18th Century. Most of it, today, consists of post-war bungalows. Peaceful, though.

 
This is the Swan, the village pub and restaurant, at the main crossroads, which has been taken over by a community venture, and looks pretty good (I didn't partake).
 

The oldest building I spotted was the one on the left, which was built in 1811 and rebuilt in 1845 (create your own story here).


 
I'm now on my way out of the village, heading north towards the next village up the hill, High Banton.


 
A lot of water here - it comes down into the valley from the Kilsyth hills, so everywhere there are burns (streams) and drains to keep the fields workable. Banton Loch was built as a cistern to maintain the level of the Forth & Clyde Canal.
 

 
I'm instructed to turn left up a gravel path, just after the little Baptist Chapel - ah - here we go...
 

 
...up the hill towards Auchinrivoch...

 
...to the left I can see towards Auchinvalley, where the Highlanders were spotted in the enclosures. I suspect that Baillie's men may have been heading parallel to the modern path, but down in the dip a bit.



 

 
At the top there is a little crossroad - to the right is Easter Auchenrivoch - do they have an Air B'n'B?


 
Straight ahead is Wester Auchenrivoch...
 

 
...we're higher up now, so a general view south across the valley can be seen...


 
...and, going left at the crossroads, the gravel path drops steeply towards Auchinvalley, which does exist after all
 
From this position you can see down into the valley (where they now have Banton Loch). I reckon that Montrose's initial position was on this side of the Loch, to the right.
 

 
I'm heading north here, on my circumnavigation of Auchinvalley, and I'm probably off the fighting area, but you can see the bigger hills in the Kilsyths in the distance. If Montrose had been defeated in his original position, his highlanders would have disappeared over those hills like melting snow.

 
Righto - now we are getting somewhere. This is just North West of the steading at Auchinvalley, and I reckon the main fighting ground would be beyond that little rise, in the wooded area. I was reminded that 1645 is a long time ago, and really there is not much to see. The valley has been farmed for centuries, the field boundaries, with their drystane dykes and the lines of trees, are later than 17th Century, and I suspect there is a lot more woodland than there was then. Robert, who lives at Auchinvalley, told me that the occupant of Auchinvalley House before it was modernised was a historian. He also told me that when he was a kid he found a cannonball in a neighbouring field, which he presented to the local primary school. That's interesting in view of the general acceptance that Baillie didn't get to use his guns, and Montrose didn't have any.
 

 
I was on the lookout for traces of the old enclosures - I didn't really find anything. It's rough ground, boggy in places, and the walls are more recent - though the stones must have been around for a long while!
 
The best I could achieve was a feel for what the terrain must have been like. Heck of an untidy place to have a battle!
 
This whole area must have been crowded with Montrose's men, racing up from their original position (above where the lake is now) to meet the attack from their flank.
 



 


 
My last photo is looking up the hill from Baillie's view - you can just see the roofs of Auchinvalley peeping over the top. There must have been some dreadful fighting around here, and it's a fair old puff up to the hill!