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By smacdowall, Apr 17 2017 05:15PM

My troops are nearly assembled for the Battle of the Dunes which will be re-fought later this week. I have been too busy painting and doing other things to post many pics of the newly recruited units and will try to correct this now.

This is King’s Own English Regiment — the forerunners of the Grenadier Guards. Formed from Englishmen who had followed King Charles into exile and supplemented by English soldiers from the French army who answered the King’s call to join him in Flanders when France entered into an alliance with Cromwell.

There are a few fleeting references to King Charles II receiving a supply of white (or grey) cloth from his Spanish allies to clothe his men. I have assumed that this regiment has received some of these coats — the blue turn back cuffs being conjectural.

As the regiment was made up from a steady trickle of individuals who had been serving in several different French regiments I imagine that there would have been a variety of dress. Therefore not all of the men are wearing the Spanish-supplied coats. By the time of the restoration the regiment was probably in red. So I have added in a number of red coats along with the usual French browns and greys.

The miniatures are a mix of Dixon Grand Alliance, Northstar 1672, Front Rank Monmouth rebels and a few Perry English Civil War. The pikemen, ready to receive cavalry, are Dixon French which come with a variety of heads. One of them sports a classically influenced helmet which is said to have been

popular in some French units of the time.

The men are wearing variations of the long justacorps which was becoming fashionable but had not yet supplanted the shorter jacket of the English Civil War. My intent was to give the sense of a hastily raised regiment at a time of transition before uniforms became the norm.

Next up is another Spanish Tercio. I have chosen to give my Spanish a more archaic look than their French enemies and British allies as I will re-use them for earlier battles of the Franco-Spanish War and Thirty Years War. Some contemporary paintings indicate that the Spanish may have hung onto older clothing styles as the French took to new fashions. Musket rests seem to have more or less fallen out of use by the 1650s but as I had a number of good looking miniatures with them I decided to not worry about this.

My previous Spanish Tercios were painted in the same style using a similar mix of miniatures. This unit has been mostly recruited from Warlord Games (both plastics and metals) with one or two Redoubt and The Assault Group thrown in for variety.

I wanted to give the unit the look and feel of veterans. The heyday of the Spanish infantryman had probably passed but these men will have fought in many campaigns and have a reputation to live up to.

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.

By smacdowall, Aug 15 2016 04:49PM

Back in July I went to Toledo in search of the Goths and to finish off my draft of my next book for Pen and Sword.

Although Toledo was the Visigothic Capital they did not leave much of an architectural legacy. A few interesting items are gathered together in the Museum of Visigothic culture and there are a few traces of them in some of the older churches.

Just a short train journey from Madrid, Toledo is a wonderfully atmospheric medieval city and well worth a visit.

The alcazar, or citadel has been transformed into a military museum telling Spain’s military history from the Celtiberians and Romans through to modern Afghanistan.

Part of the museum is dedicated to telling the story of ‘toy soldiers’ from the original German flats through to modern miniatures. There are some wonderful dioramas and collections and I quite happily spent a few hours admiring them and thinking about my next projects.

A new Spanish Tercio is almost certain to be one of these.

By smacdowall, Oct 19 2015 01:25PM

The start of the fourth turn saw the French and English foot advancing against the Spanish centre. The lead English regiment was taking casualties from the guns in the centre of the Spanish line so they halted to re-dress their ranks while the other regiments pushed on through.

The cavalry action on the French right continued to flow back and forth with each side feeding in more troops. At one point Don Juan had to send in the Lancers off the Guard to chase off the French horse who had broken through the line. In the furious combat with followed The Marquis de Castalnau was killed, shot dead by a pistol ball from one of the Spanish cuirassiers. On learning of his heroic death Marshal Turenne vowed to ensure that a suitable mausoleum would be constructed in Notre Dame to be the gallant Marquis' final resting place.

Suddenly the balance on the French right was broken by the arrival of James Duke of York with 6 Regiments of British Royalist foot. The Duke of York immediately charged forward at the head of his Troop of Lifeguards to clear the French enfants perdus from the rought ground they had been occupying. After a desultury volley the French musketeers fled the woods and the Lifeguards continued charging forward into the flank of Castalnau's second line horse who were recouping their strenght after combat with the Spanish arquebusiers.

Cutting through them like a knife through butter the gallant Duke of York continued his headlong charge until into Schomberg's horse who were just moving up into position on the French right.

After riding through the first line of Schomberg's Horse, the English Lifeguards -- their horses now blown -- were finally halted by Schomberg's second line.

Cut off and surrounded the Duke of York's lifeguards were cut to pieces and James was taken prisoner. Leaderless, the British Royalist foot halted where they were and took no further part in the battle.

While all this had been going on the English Commonwealth foot had closed with the Spanish tercios. Aided by supporting fire from Castalnau's guns, one Walloon tercio was driven back and the Spanish guns overrun.

With the tide now turning clearly in his favour, Marshal Turenne personally led the Gendarmes Écossais into the flank of the Spanish cavalry.

Meanwhile the English and French foot pushed on relentlessly against the Tercio Viejo which was making a last stand on the hill to the rear of the original Spanish position. Cut off from his leaderless British allies by the French cavalry; and with the enemy foot surging forward, Don Juan had no choice but to withdraw with whatever troops he could salvage, leaving the way to Ardes open.

It was a decisive victory for the French/English allies. Marshal Turenne fulfilled his victory conditions by letting the English take the brunt of the fighting, leaving most of the French army still in tact. Reynolds also fullfilled his by being the first to break through the Spanish lines and take Ardes for the Commonwealth. Castalnau's gallant cavalry charges and timely artillery fire were probably largely responsible for the French victory. If he died in the process, at least he will be remembered forever once his grand mausoleum is completed in Notre Dame.

James Duke of York will apparantly live out a luxuriuous exile in France a few years before his historical counterpart -- possibly never becoming James II of England. As for Don Juan... he is off to service his mistresses and write his memoires.

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