Legio Wargames

The Legio Blog

By smacdowall, May 29 2017 06:30PM

On Sunday 28 May a group of us took over the wonderful Southwold Sailors’ Reading Room

overlooking Sole Bay.


The Sailors Reading Room, Southwold, Suffolk, England
The Sailors Reading Room, Southwold, Suffolk, England

Our purpose — to do a tabletop re-creation of the Battle of Sole Bay which took place on 28 May (old Julian calendar) in 1672.


Although three times larger than Trafalgar and fought in plain sight of the Suffolk coast (three miles from where I live), this battle and much of the Anglo-Dutch wars seem to have been largely forgotten in modern times.


This being as near as possible to the 345th anniversary of a battle and a bank holiday weekend as well (long weekend for readers on the other side of the Atlantic) we made it a public event running a game in parallel with explanations of the historical battle. As Southwold is a holiday destination we expect quite a few visitors and there was indeed a steady flow from 11am through to 5pm.


I did my best to explain to the many interested visitors what went on 345 years ago and what was going on with the tiny 1:2400 scale ships on the table. Meanwhile one Umpire, two English and two Dutch players got on with the game.


The Anglo-French fleet moves out from shore to meet the Dutch attack
The Anglo-French fleet moves out from shore to meet the Dutch attack

We set the historical start position with 3 Dutch squadrons coming in from the northeast with the wind to their backs. The two English squadrons and French fleet started close into the Southwold shore on the western table edge. Thereafter the players were free to make their own decisions.


The French fleet turns south
The French fleet turns south

The umpire intervened at one point with an appropriately annoying instruction for the French fleet which was to sail to the south - away from the action as happened historically. Our assumption that Admiral d'Estrées was under orders from Louis XIV not to loose any ships. That he was from landlocked Switzerland probably had nothing to do with it!


The ghostly Flying Dutchman
The ghostly Flying Dutchman

Less historical, but adding a bit of fun, was the sudden appearance of the ghostly Flying Dutchman, famously celebrated in Adnams Southwold-brewed Ghost Ship pale ale just as their Broadside beer commemorates the Battle of Sole Bay,



In 1672 the Dutch achieved a strategic victory by inflicting enough damage on the Anglo-French fleet so as to prevent it from blockading the Dutch ports which had been the allied intention. It did not go so well in our mini re-creation of 2017. Attempting to head off the front of the English ships the Dutch found themselves getting in too close where they were raked by multiple broadsides from the English ships.


A Dutch fire ship sails towards the English Blue Squadron
A Dutch fire ship sails towards the English Blue Squadron

The fireships the Dutch sent forward against the English were not as effective as they had hoped. Some were sunk by cannon fire, others missed their target and one exploded prematurely. An English fireship was successful, however.



English and Dutch flagships come to close quarters
English and Dutch flagships come to close quarters

Quite early on in the battle the Dutch Admiral de Ruyters was killed in the fighting. With a Dutch defeat certain the French fleet was allowed to return to the action.


The French flagship captures a crippled Dutch ship
The French flagship captures a crippled Dutch ship

For most of us this was a first foray into naval wargaming. It was also the first time any of us had run a game in the public eye — tying it in with an historical event and location. It was incredibly gratifying to encounter such an interested audience, most of whom had little or no knowledge of the battle and even less about wargaming.


Many stayed to watch for quite a while, others came in the morning and then re-visited to see how things had progressed. All of us were pleasantly surprised by how interested the visitors were, not only in the history of the original event but also the mechanics of the game.


We used 1:2400 scale ships from Tumbling Dice. They were a bit fiddly to put together but most of us found them very enjoyable to paint. The wonderful seascape was made by Terrain Mats in nearby Ipswich.



The peacful Sole Bay today viewed from the Southwold Sailors' Reading Room
The peacful Sole Bay today viewed from the Southwold Sailors' Reading Room



















By smacdowall, May 14 2017 10:53AM

On 28 May a group of us will be staging the Battle of Sole Bay which took place 28 May 1672 (old Julian calendar) off the coast of Southwold, Suffolk, England, near where I live. This will be my first foray into naval wargaming.


We have been busy painting up tiny ships to represent the nearly 200 Dutch, English and French ships which took part in the battle at a rough 1:4 ratio. The ships are 1:2400 scale from Tumbling Dice. It fell to me to paint up the French fleet which is being represented by one 2nd rate ship, two 3rd rate and 5 fourth rate ships.


The French Fleet Sails
The French Fleet Sails

It was incredibly fiddly to fit the sails to the masts. I think I must have superglued my fingers together more often than I succeeded in getting the sails firmly attached in the right place and at the right angle. It was a chore I do not really wish to repeat.



A Third Rate Ship of the Line
A Third Rate Ship of the Line

That said, I really enjoyed painting them. By using a series of washes and dry brush techniques they were a fairly quick and simple job and I think they look the business.



The game will take place on 28 May 2017 at the Sailor’s Reading Room in Southwold overlooking Sole Bay where the battle was fought 345 years ago between the Dutch on one side and an Anglo-French fleet on the other. The English fleet was commanded by James Duke of York, later King James II. This battle seems a fitting follow-on from his adventures at the Dunes (see previous blog posts)


It will be open to the public so if you are close by or fancy a bank holiday Sunday in beautiful Southwold then why not drop by. We will be running the action from 11am to 5pm. The Southwold museum will also be open. It has a good exhibition featuring the battle.



By smacdowall, Apr 22 2017 09:50PM

In June 1658 the last battle of the Franco-Spanish War, English Civil War and French Fronde rebellion was fought amongst the dunes near Dunkirk. This engagement captured my imagination and two years ago I started on a project to build the armies needed to re-fight it with 28mm miniatures representing the various forces involved.

On one side, under Marshal Turenne, were French Royalists aided by a sizeable English Commonwealth force, supported by the English fleet. On the other was the Spanish army of Flanders, British Royalists in exile and the Prince of Condé’s French frondeurs. As regular readers will know from my posts over the past couple of years, I concentrated on building up the French (for both sides), Spanish and British Royalists, leaving Gary Kitching’s excellent New Model Army figures to form the English Commonwealth contingent.


The historical battle came about when Don Juan of Austria (the Spanish governor general of Flanders) led 6000 foot and 8000 horse to relieve Turenne’s siege of Dunkirk. Rather than waiting for them, Turenne marched north through the dunes to attack with 12,000 foot, 7000 horse and 10 light guns. Caught by surprise the Spanish/British/French army deployed along a line of high dunes without time to bring any artillery into the line nor to recall half of their horse which were away foraging.


Despite the difficult of manoeuvring through the sandy dunes the Franco-English won the day. The English foot under Sir William Lockhart charged up a very steep dune to engage the Spanish and Anglo-Scottish-Irish Royalists frontally as some of the French horse managed to get around their right (seaward) flank by advancing along the beach. Supporting fire from the English ships helped.


The full table view with Franco-English on the right.
The full table view with Franco-English on the right.

Our game started well for the Franco-English.


On the meadows to the landward side, the French Royalist cavalry made short work of the first line of French rebel horse, seeing them off and then catching them in the rear as they fell back. One French rebel unit which had ridden through the ranks of its opponents decided to surrender and profess loyalty to the king rather than be surrounded and cut to pieces.



On the seaward side, the guns of the English fleet started to wear down the Spanish troops deployed to protect that flank as a large number of French horse advanced along the beach despite the umpire’s warning of the incoming tide.


A unit of Spanish mounted arquebusiers suffered so heavily from the naval guns that they had to withdraw to recover their order as if they stayed put they would risk suffering significant casualties.


Turenne held his French infantry centre back, engaging the Walloon, German and French foot in Spanish service with long range musketry, no doubt feeling confident that a victory on both wings was nearly in the bag. Indeed the Spanish players were overheard musing what we would do for the rest of the day as the battle seemed almost over.


Then it began to turn. On the meadows of the landward side, Turenne’s front line horse chased the enemy off the field and half of them decided to loot the Spanish camp rather than return to the action. This, along with the timely intervention of the Spanish lancers and cuirassiers of the guard stabilised that wing for a while.



In the centre the Duke of York’s Lifeguards charged and overran the French guns. They decided to keep going on to Dunkirk rather than turning back to continue to play a role in the battle.



On the seaward flank the incoming tide caused half of the French horse who had been working their way up the beach to turn back and head for solid ground. The others were driven in closer to a Spanish Tercio guarding the beach flank and took casualties from musketry while masking the supporting fire from the English fleet.



The first line of the English charged up the dune behind the cover of a forlorn hope. They did well but not well enough to take the position so they fell back. Then the second line charged, also meeting the English and Irish royalists as well as the Spanish.



They very nearly made it but an inconclusive result was not enough to break the Anglo-Spanish line.




Those of the French horse who had managed to make it around the seaward flank, attacked a Spanish Tercio from the front and rear. Unfortunately for them they were in a state of disorder, had taken significant casualties from musketry and the Spanish had a deep formation of pikemen who had a second rank able to turn around to protect their rear.



The cavalry attack made no headway against the Tercio. Then the Spanish mounted arquebusiers who had previously withdrawn to recover their order attacked them in turn, supported by a battalion of Scottish foot.


At this point, as the foot of the Spanish centre were slowly stepping back to avoid contact, we called an end to the game. The French had a significant advantage on the landward side, nothing significant had occurred in the centre and the English attack on the seaward side had been blunted.


The Spanish had fared better than they did in the historical battle but they did not win the day and most probably would have given up any further attempt to relieve Dunkirk without reinforcements.


Despite their numerical superiority and the lack of Spanish artillery, the Franco-English army had a very difficult task. Advancing over the dunes to attack an enemy on higher ground was never going to be easy. They almost made it but not quite. No doubt the scribes on both sides would be hastily recording victory although the result was actually a draw.


The battle was fought using Close Fire and European Order rules available as a free download from my website here.





















RSS Feed

Web feed