Friday, 28 January 2011

Battle of Towton

Due to other distractions in life its been a few weeks since I last made a blog post. Primarily I've been focusing on getting my Normans painted so haven't done much of note but I have been invited to take part in an interesting Wars of the Roses project.

This year is the 550th anniversary of the battle of Towton so JP contacted the Battlefield Society so see if we could put on a demo game at their upcoming festival. They agreed and we went up to talk to them about the battle last week. Thankfully JP is taking on the organisation, constructing the board and painting the Yorkist. All I have to do is paint the Lancastrians from scratch by the 17th April. There goes February and March!

Coincidentally I had picked up Andrew Boardman's book on the battle at New Year so have quickly raced through it to get me up to speed on the battle. I'll do a more detailed post once I get through some other books but thought a brief intro would help me think about preparing the army.

The battle took place on Palm Sunday, 29 March 1461. While estimates vary on the numbers involved, there is no doubt that the battle was the largest fought in the Wars of the Roses, Boardman estimates that each side must have had around 25,000 participants. More than twice the usual number for a battle in the period. The battle was the climax of several years of fighting and would see Edward IV confirm his usurpation of the throne.

The battle took place on high ground between the village of Towton in the north and Saxton in the south. The battlefield was a plateau with a dale running east-west between the two armies. The Lancastrians came from York in north led by the Duke of Somerset and Earl of Northumberland, the Yorkist had marched from London and were led by Edward IV, Earl of Warwick and Lord Fouconberg.

In summary the armies faced of north-south with the Lancastrians having a slight numerical advantage at this point. The weather was against them, the wind blowing the falling snow in their faces and nullifying their archers. The Yorkists easily won the archery duel forcing the Lancastrians to advance.

The Lancastrians gained the advantage on the west of the line perhaps supported by an ambush from the Castle Hill Wood. The Yorkist line held long enough for the Duke of Norfolk to arrive with 5,000 reinforcements on the east side of the line and shortly after the Lancastrian army was in rout. The swinging of the battle line meant that their line of retreat had been compromised and the troops were forced to retreat through the River Warfe and Cock River. The Lancastrian army was wiped out - though the nobility escaped. Contemporary sources say that 28,000 died on the field making Towton one of histories bloodiest battles.

Reading up on the battle and visiting the battlefield has got me really excited about the project which I hope will be the spring board for other Wars of the Roses projects. I have a pile of Peter Pig's figures ready for the painting table.

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