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Mardyke 1657

By smacdowall, Jan 25 2017 11:04PM

Having just painted up King Charles II’s English Regiment (forerunners of the Grenadier Guards) I felt it time to stage another small encounter set in the 1656-1658 campaign in Flanders. The excellent little book Better Begging than Fighting gave me the idea for the game scenario.

Set in October 1657 the English Commonwealth forces hold the fortification of Mardyke just 6.5 kms south of the Spanish base of Dunkirk while Marshal Turenne has taken the main allied French army south to besiege Gravelines. With two English battalions supported by some French and the off-shore English Fleet Sir John Reynolds is busy repairing the outworks to make the place more defensible.

Turenne has put some Squadrons of Cardinal Mazarin’s Gendarmes and companies of the Swiss Guards on standby to reinforce the English in case of attack.

Meanwhile, Don Juan of Austria, the Spanish Governor General of Flanders, decides to make a demonstration on Mardyke due in no small part to the arrival of King Charles II at Dunkirk. 5000 men, mostly British Royalists and French Frondeurs supported by a body of Spanish horse advance on Mardyke without any siege artillery. Don Juan probably has no intention of doing more than making a demonstration but Charles and his brother James, The Duke of York hope to destroy the enemy outworks and in doing so convince Don Juan to launch a full scale assault.

As the enemy are sighted advancing on Mardyke, the French Battalions working on the fortifications form up while a forlorn hope of English and a body of Croat light cavalry try to delay the British/French/Spanish advance.

Under the command of Colonel Thomas Blague, Middleton’s Scots and the King’s English Regiment push back the skirmishers, allowing Ormond’s Irish to break up into working parties to begin the destruction of Mardyke’s outer defences.

The Scots are halted by a withering fire from the French manning the inner entrenchments, supported by heavy guns from the Mardyke ramparts. Taking advantage of the temporary stalemate the Croats launch a charge to drive the Irish working parties from the outer ramparts. This brings them into close range of King Charles II’s lifeguards who loose a pistol volley at them with little effect.

Anxious for a taste of real battle and to win bragging rights over his younger brother James, the King in exile overrules his advisors to lead his lifeguards in a charge to drive off the Croats. This succeeds but leaves him dangerously exposed to fire from the inner fortifications. Fortunately (or not depending on your political point of view) King Charles is unscathed and his lifeguards are able to pull back in good order behind the outer entrenchments.

The large body of Spanish horse to the right of the British Royalists halt as they have been forbidden by Don Juan to advance any further than the outermost entrenchments. Under constant cannon fire from the walls and from an English sloop which has come up the canal on their right flank they begin to take casualties. Their commander, the Marquis of Caracena, sends a messenger to the Duke of York urging him to use his brother’s influence to persuade Don Juan to allow him to attack. The request is in vain. Don Juan has no intention of becoming embroiled in a decisive engagement and as the messengers go back and forth Caracena is wounded by shot from Mardyke’s walls.

Eventually Sir John Reynolds is able to rouse his English foot from the brothels and taverns to form a formidable defensive line supported by a troop of French Horse. This brings the advance of the French Frondeurs on the allied left to a halt. The rebel French take cover behind the inner entrenchments. Meanwhile a cloud of dust to the south (right of Reynolds’ line) signals the imminent arrival of loyal French reinforcements.

The French Frondeurs pull back to form a defensive line as Cardinal Mazarin’s Gendarmes drive off a troop of Condé’s Horse. It is clear at this point that the British/Spanish/French Frondeur force cannot advance any further. They managed to destroy some of the enemy’s outworks but with the Spanish under orders not to advance on the right and new enemy coming up on their left they have no choice other than to conduct an orderly withdrawal before they loose too many casualties.

Don Juan is not overly perturbed by the outcome. In fine fettle he raises a glass to his latest Mistress to wash down a particularly fine lunch. He has succeeded in letting the English King whet his appetite for battle with very few Spanish casualties. He dictates a letter of condolence to the Marquis of Caracena in respect of the wound he suffered hoping that the good Marquis would soon recover.

This was a historical scenario. King Charles actually took part in the engagement and in his eagerness he took fire and had to be held back by his lifeguards. The Royalist/Spanish/French rebel army did take the outworks and managed to destroy part of them before withdrawing. The English fleet did send ships up the canal to support the defence of Mardyke with cannon fire. Don Juan had no intention of assaulting Mardyke and was content to withdraw when the enemy consolidated their defence.

It made for a great small scale game which took us 3 hours to come to a satisfactory conclusion. It did not require masses of troops and it was enough out of the ordinary to provide a great deal of interest. You don’t necessarily need a ship model to run the game as you could have cannon fire coming from off table. For the walls of Madyke I used sections of a 15mm scale star fort (the miniatures were 28mil) with 15mm cannons mounted on the walls.

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