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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Sunday 9 April 2023

Bloody Meadow

Andy Johnson's latest book is based on the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Towton, fought on 29 March 1461 during the Wars of the Roses. My latest bedtime reading, although given the violence of this battle, it is a miracle I don't suffer from nightmares!

I'm a big fan of Andy's WW2 series, particularly Seelowe Nord, his fictional depiction of a German landing in Yorkshire. Based on this scenario, I have played several games, and it always goes down well. However, the Wars of the Roses is a departure from his usual period, partly driven, because he lives near the battlefield. 

Confusingly, the Lancastrians held York, and the Yorkists were advancing north. Supporters of each faction were not geographically based. There were many Lancastrian nobles in Yorkshire. Towton is just south of Tadcaster, and the Yorkists were advancing on the Old London Road, roughly parallel to the modern A1 road.

According to modern research, the battle was fought for around three hours between at least 50,000 soldiers in a snowstorm, and the Yorkist army achieved a decisive victory over their Lancastrian opponents. The weather, something that isn't often gamed on a wargame table, was crucial to the battlefield tactics of the Yorkists. By advancing in the snowstorm, firing and withdrawing, they drew the Lancastrians from their strong defensive position, forcing them to attack uphill. This must have been a tricky manoeuvre as while both armies had a core of professional soldiers, the numbers were made up of levies.

The Lancastrians tried a flanking attack from some woods on the Yorkist's left. It was probably spotted as the wood wasn't that dense in winter. The Yorkist leader Edward took his own retinue to hold the line. The decisive blow was delivered by the arriving Yorkist reinforcements on the Yorkist right wing, led by the Norfolk. Casualties are difficult to assess. 28,000 was the figure given after the battle, but again modern research suggests it was much lower - less than 4,000. Most of those would have been killed in the rout. Other nobles were executed by Edward after the battle. 

The author captures the ferocity of the battle well. After the initial archery, it was a slogging match with units charging, retiring, resting, and charging again. Even the nobles fought on foot, with horses used to escape or pursue after the battle line broke.

I strengthened my 15mm armies of the period in 2021 after reading Trevor Royles' broad history of the wars.

A unit and command stands from my 15mm army.

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