Tuesday, 12 October 2021

They Shall Not Pass... a Grim Encounter at Elwick Bridge.

 The Bishop of Durham's Nephew Arrives in Hartlepool.

Part of the Bishop of Durham's plan to increase his influence in the region while King Henry was occupied putting down the "Great Revolt", was to seek assistance from his nephew, another Hugh de Puiset, the Comte du Bar sur Seine. Nephew Hugh duly arrived at the port of Hartlepool, accompanied by a small retinue of Men-at-Arms, Crossbowmen and Spearmen and was met by Hugh de Morville, who was to escort the Comte to the Bishop's residence in Durham.

Hugo Flambard received word of the arrival of the French and planned to intercept them on their journey westward as they crossed the bridge over the Char Beck near the small village of Elwick. As the French approached the bridge, the Royalists had only a group of archers and some local levy in place, with Flambard and the rest of his force still en route to the scene. Hugh de Puiset sent de Morville ahead, with a unit of Bishop Hugh's spearmen, to seize the bridge. These were the only units on the table at the start of the battle.

In this game of Knyght, Pyke & Sworde, I used a card deck activation system. Both sides had two cards in the deck at the start of the game. At the end of each turn, two dice were rolled and any odd numbers added a Royalist card to the deck, while even numbers added a de Puiset card.
In the distance, de Morville and a group of the Bishop of Durham's spearmen approach the Elwick Bridge. The local levy are formed up to defend the bridge and a group of archers rush to support them.
The tension mounts and the levy (classed as Rabble in the game!) shuffle forward to block the approaching enemy. The card activation system definitely favoured the Royalists as all their available groups deployed quickly onto the tabletop, while the French had to wait until late in the game before their main force arrived.
Hugh de Morville sends his Spearmen into the attack. The late arrival of the French leaves the Spearmen isolated and a desperate struggle ensues, with the levy fighting well beyond what could be expected. (They had unbelievably lucky dice rolls!) The fierce resistance put up by the levy enables the Royalist Spearmen to form up in a defensive line, making it virtually impossible for de Puiset to force the bridge.
Casualties begin to mount amongst the Bishop's Spearmen. In the distance, Royalist archers set up firing line along the river bank.
Time and time again, the spearmen push forward, but the levy, now encouraged by Jerrard Sibton, refuse to yield. The Royalist archers fire a volley into the spearmen but their arrows clatter ineffectually off the stonework.
Belatedly, the main French force arrives and de Puiset sends his Men-at-Arms into the carnage on the bridge.
In the confined and confused melee on the bridge, the Men-at-Arms are unable to influence the outcome of the battle. 
Just as the levy begin to tire and give ground, the veteran sergeant, Jerrard Sibton hurls himself into the fray on the bridge and forces the spearmen back onto the swords of the advancing Men-at-Arms. The French attack grinds to a confused halt. 
Sibton continues to drive his way across the bridge, slashing and hacking like a man possessed.
Meanwhile, the French crossbowmen arrive on the far bank of the river and launch a volley of deadly bolts, one of which strikes the Royalist captain, Hugo Flambard, causing a terrible wound.
When the last of the brave levy withdraw from the fight, the wounded Flambard launches one of his units of spearmen onto the bridge and the Royalists begin to gain the upper hand. On the far side of the bridge, de Puiset realises that the day is lost and calls his Men-at-Arms back to fight another day.

With their Captain wounded, the Royalists form up and launch a tirade of abuse at the retreating Frenchmen. All of the Bishop's spearmen were either killed or wounded in the action, but the French themselves suffered very little. They will need to find an alternative route to Durham from here and they have learned that their enemy are a force to be reckoned with. Hugo Flambard will have his wounds tended and will return to continue to lead the fight against the tyranny of the Bishop and his French allies.