The Curator @ War : April 1915 –An exercise in equine detection.

Keeper of the Tower Armouries, Bridget Clifford, continues her posts on Charles John Ffoulkes, who was Curator of the Armouries from 1913-1938 – during which he took part in the World War I civil defence of London, completed the first and last complete modern printed catalogue of the Tower collection, and created a museum infrastructure within The Tower. After his retirement, he was awarded an OBE in 1925 and a CBE in 1934 in recognition of his work on the Imperial War Museum.

BC1

After the traumas of March 1915, the Minute Book has a single entry for April dealing with the more humdrum concerns of everyday life in the Tower Armouries.  The continuing fight against woodworm and decay has featured in this blog before, and this month a further three wooden horses succumbed. Only one of them is readily identifiable thanks to Ffoulkes noting its association with James II.

James II reigned from 1685 – 1688 and archival records suggest that he was actively engaged with exploiting the line of kings’ display at the Tower commissioning new horses for the figures of his brother, Charles II (1685) and his father (1686). He may also have had a hand in initiating the ordering of 17 new horses and 16 new figures with faces received into Store between 1688 -1690, but he did not remain long enough to reap the reward.  In December 1688 James fled the country with his wife and 6 month old son whose birth had precipitated the crisis.  His son in law and usurper, William, was the beneficiary, using the revamp of the monarchist display to bolster his position.

James would not have satisfied the criteria (never fully defined) for inclusion in the early line, but he did leave behind a very fine harquebusier’s armour.

II.123

II.123

By 1826, the antiquarian Sir Samuel Meyrick intent on making a more historically accurate display of this line of equestrian figures had no compunction in including James together with a new horse as can be seen in the accompanying illustration of 1830.

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The 1827 guide book noted that James’s abdication was reflected by his position leaving “the company of his brother sovereigns and the enclosure assigned to them … stealing cautiously along, close to the wall… with his horse’s head towards the door”. As none of the horses are coloured, the new steed may indeed have been white, but it is distinguished by its odd posture.

Unlike the earlier 17th century beasts who give the impression of solidity in their stance even with the occasional leg lifted, James’s mount is poised on the tips of three of its hooves with only its offside foreleg extended to meet the ground more firmly. Unfortunately 2 illustrations of the figure published in 1842 seem to show a completely different horse – the Penny Magazine one having also changed its colour.

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A photograph in a private album of the 1870s shows James back in line with his fellow kings reunited with the impractical prancing white steed in the New Horse Armoury.

With the clearance and subsequent demolition of the New Horse Armoury in 1881, the equine figures moved into the White Tower colonising the top floor.  Once again James found himself displayed adrift from the parade, riding across the south wall of the gallery while his fellows processed northwards along the length of the floor.

 I.1093

I.1093

Interestingly, the magazine engraving of the display from the Graphic of 1885 has reversed James and omitted the splendid electrical globe lighting installed by the Royal Engineers in 1884.  It does however show the decoration of the roof light surrounds in great detail.

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The final image of the group so far identified is this postcard dated 1903 showing the later configuration of the displays issuing out from the walls towards the central light wells with their surrounds of Land Transport Corps swords.  The latter were gleefully disposed of by ffoulkes in February 1914.

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Perhaps James’s horse pined with the destruction of the Victorian displays and weakened, crumbled under the dual assault of worm and fungus.

Dismounted, James’s  armour was shown near to the  Stuart Prince’s armours according to the Guidebook of 1916.  As the guide notes the more highly decorated armours had “recently been placed under glass owing to the injurious effects of the river mists upon their surfaces”. It was only rehorsed – using one of the original 17th century stallions – in July 2013, complete with new 21st century body, and original wooden head of Charles II. Today the full figure can be seen in all its glory on the East side of the Entrance floor – cased of course to guard against mists and visiting fingers.

James’s armour will be on its travels again this autumn, moving down river to Royal Museums Greenwich to appear in the exhibition “Samuel Pepys and the Stuart Age” (November 2015 – April 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters at the Front

A number of small personal archives from the York and Lancaster Regiment were recently digitised by the First World War Archives Project. Joe Williams, a remote volunteer for the project, explores the importance of soldier’s mail in light of these.

Cartoon from the Friendship Book of J Smalley © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/412)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Cartoon from the Friendship Book of J Smalley © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/412)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Life on the Western Front could be deadly, but it could also be dead boring. Waiting around for orders, marching to new locations, digging trenches :- when the fighting ceased, there was little to do. Moreover, it was an isolated life: men were separated from their families and jobs for long periods. Consequently, morale could be low. Soldiers coped with this by engaging in a variety of activities but letter writing was perhaps the principal way of staying “in the pink”, as can be seen from the sheer volume of surviving letters sent and received by certain soldiers of the York and Lancaster Regiment. As Allan Simpson put it in his letter to his mother, “It’s a soldiers privilege to grumble.”

Extract from the Personal Papers of Allan Simpson © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/402)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from the Personal Papers of Allan Simpson © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/402)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Military officials were obviously aware of this. A cursory glance at the dates of letters to and from soldiers indicates, perhaps surprisingly, a rough delivery time of four to five days. Despite a significant disruption to traffic across the English Channel, the quick processing of mail was prioritised to ensure soldiers never felt cut off from their home lives.

Surrounded by battalions of other men, correspondence, in essence, was a means of keeping in touch with and reassuring loved ones they were “still alive and kicking” (Allan Simpson to his mother). Simpson derived great enjoyment making light of his seemingly dire circumstances in observations to his mother, while Charles Spurr sent home gifts to his children in letters from “Your Dada”.

Letter from the Personal Papers of Charles Edward Spurr © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/426)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Letter from the Personal Papers of Charles Edward Spurr © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/426)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Indeed, the idea of persons “waiting” was a major theme of soldiers’ correspondence, particularly in letters received. Mail sent by wives and girlfriends reminded soldiers of who exactly was “waiting” for them. One postcard sent to JE White is subtitled “To my dear Soldier Boy…”. Letters could therefore be a comforting reminder that, in spite of the boredom and destruction, men still had a stake in their families.

Postcard from the Personal Papers of JE White © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/840)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Postcard from the Personal Papers of JE White © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/840)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

As livelihoods were put on hold, letter writing also allowed soldiers to maintain a semblance of involvement in their professions. As a village mechanic, Fred Bluck’s correspondence with his sister allowed him to make important business decisions in absentia. Similarly, information pertaining to “the pit” was frequently relayed to Bluck. As normal life was so profoundly disturbed by war, these letters provided soldiers with a reassuring alternative reality. The sending and receiving of “things” was a further boost to trench morale. Fred Bluck sent washing regularly while at training camp in England and in return was the recipient of money, mended equipment and birthday presents (a signet ring on one occasion). Others received consumables in scarce supply in France and Belgium, such as cigarettes and cakes. Without these items, soldiers’ only possessions were their indistinguishable military provisions and their only income their meagre army wage. With them, however, they could not only live a little more comfortably, but also feel somewhat more individual, and thus happier.

Letter from the Personal Papers of Fred Bluck © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/40)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Letter from the Personal Papers of Fred Bluck © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/40)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Written correspondence was not merely a means of passing the time. It created a bridge with a real past and a possible future which made their military existence a fraction more tolerable.

 

The Personal Side of Transcription: Remote Volunteering for the First World War Archives Project

By volunteer Samantha Woods-Peel

The Royal Armouries ‘First World War Digitalisation Project’ has recently taken on a dedicated group of remote volunteers from all over the country to help with the transcription and indexing of the archives. Below, one of these volunteers describes how transcribing can be a very personal experience inspiring an often unfulfilled need for closure.

Diary of AS Lanfear – Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Diary of AS Lanfear – Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Transcribing someone’s diary is an intense experience. After all, it was meant to be private. Arthur Sydney Lanfear was from Doncaster and served in the 12th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment in 1916. This is the Sheffield City Battalion, so my ‘home regiment’. Call me soft, but I felt a connection to Arthur straight away. The diary covered two and a half months of his life as he left England and arrived in France to serve his country.

It was a window on his life as a soldier. Billets were uncomfortable and there were lots of parades. I was quite surprised he had plenty of training once he got to France – for some reason I thought soldiers got off a boat and went straight to the trenches. I felt comforted there was some preparation before battle, but obviously there could never be enough.

SamWoods2

Mon. 8th         Parade 9am-12am Gas Helmet Drill

Parade 2pm-4pm and Bayonet work. Musketry

Evening listening to Band.

Tue. 9th           Parade 9am-12am Bayonet, Musketry

2pm-4.30pm Field practice

Evening at Bus (1m).

Wed. 10th       Parade 7-7.30am Physical Drill

Parade 9-12am [sic.] Helmet Drill and Extended order Drill. Inspected at work by General Sir Douglas Haig and staff attended by Colour bearers and six Lancers with lances.

Leisure time was important and evenings were spent in local villages and listening to regimental bands and concert parties. Arthur was also concerned about the weather, as he commented on it every day – British to the end.

SamWoods3

April 1916

Wed. 19th       Parade 6am Roll Call.

Heavy hailstorm covering ground

Parade 9.30am Rifle inspection

2-5.30pm No. 2 Training Ground making

at top of Training ground.

Tea and evening at Tipperary Hut.

[Down side of entry] Hail rain sleet.

Reading his diary I felt a sense of impending doom, as I had already looked him up online and knew he was killed on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Arthur was transferred to the 94th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery two weeks before his death and stopped writing his diary at that time, however I couldn’t help doing a little more research as I wanted to know more – I wanted to know more about those two weeks. Sadly, not everything can be discovered online, and I could find no further mention of Arthur. I did find a quote from Private Bartram of the 94th Trench Mortar Battery who said of the 1st July that ‘from that moment, all my religion died’. The fighting was particularly fierce where Arthur’s battalion went into battle at Serre, but unlike many of his comrades also killed on that first day whose bodies were never identified, Arthur’s body was recovered and buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, close to the front line.

The internet truly is a marvellous thing and while researching Arthur’s end I came across an organisation called The War Graves Photographic Project and it felt like a fitting end to my work on Arthur’s diary that I get a copy of the photo of his grave.

Arthur’s story did not have a happy ending, but it was a story worth knowing.

Arthur’s grave in France – Courtesy of the War Graves Photographic Project (http://www.twgpp.org)

Arthur’s grave in France – Courtesy of the War Graves Photographic Project (http://www.twgpp.org)

 

#Gallipoli 100 – The Suvla Bay Landings

100 years today the Suvla Bay landings, a major milestone in the Gallipoli campaign, commenced. Material digitised from the York and Lancaster Regimental Archive by the First World War Archive Project shows a fascinating glimpse of the campaign, as explored by the project’s Placement Student Aidan Peel.

The Gallipoli campaign lives infamously in British military history as having cost many lives and resources in the attempt to re-open the straits of the Dardanelles in Turkey, which Britain’s Russian allies relied on for access to aid. The amphibious offensive at Suvla Bay in particular was a military failure, plagued with poor judgement and planning from senior officers. Despite the failures of the offensive the many courageous men involved deserve to be remembered with honour

The British 11th (Northern) Division, who were to participate in the landings under Major General F. Hammersley, consisted of three Brigades, numbering 13,700 men and 12 guns. These brigades included voluntary ‘weekend soldiers’ such as the 32nd Brigade, comprised of four Yorkshire regiments under Brigadier General H. Haggard which included the 6th York and Lancaster Regiment.

Extract from the 6th Bn York and Lancs Scrapbook  © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/8/1)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from the 6th Bn York and Lancs Scrapbook © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/8/1)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

The Suvla Bay landing was initially planned to be a support operation for the offensive on the Sari Bair straights, however the scale and situation of the enterprise forced the high command to re-adjust the aims. Suvla Bay offered a great deal of space to amass troops and the landings would provide the additional forces needed for an assault on the Sari Bair Ridge from which they could secure a position across the narrow point of the peninsula. For those involved with the landings the primary objectives were to capture the Turkish artillery and secure the hills surrounding the Suvla plain from which an offensive to take the Sari Bair ridge could be progressed. Each regiment was to focus on their own specific objectives which were to be achieved in a strict time frame in order to maintain the initiative and advance before the enemies reserve could be brought up from Bulair. The whole operation itself was kept in upmost secrecy, to the extent that even the officers themselves had little knowledge of the undertaking.

 Extract from Report on Operations at Suvla Bay  © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from Report on Operations at Suvla Bay © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

“Bde [Brigade] orders were recd [received] at mid-day on 6th. Till then not a soul below C.O’s [Commanding Officers] had the slightest idea of what was intended as maps of the ASIATIC side had been issued (as a blind to the swarm of spies placed in Egypt) it was thought that a landing was intended here.

The landings themselves took place just before 10pm on the night of the 6th August in perfect conditions, with minimal resistance from Turkish forces upon initial landing. Many of the landings went disastrously as Lighters transporting the troops ran aground far from the beaches and the soldier’s weapons becoming waterlogged as they swam to shore. Nevertheless, the 32nd Brigade landed successfully at Beach B (one of three beaches) with the objective of  capturing the settlement at Lala Baba and advancing to Hill 10 to merge with the 34th Brigade and proceed to take Chocolate Hill by first light on 7th.

Extract from the 6th Bn York and Lancs Scrapbook  © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/8/1)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from the 6th Bn York and Lancs Scrapbook © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/8/1)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

The success of the landing could not be repeated however, with the 32nd suffering heavy casualties at Lala Baba and becoming hopelessly intermingled with other Brigades milling around on the beach after the confusion of the night landing. The 32nd Brigade therefore failed to join the 34th Brigade upon Hill 10, slowing the British offensive considerably with the result that Hill 10 was eventually captured, although six hours behind schedule.

Extract from Report on Operations at Suvla Bay  © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from Report on Operations at Suvla Bay © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

The capture of Chocolate Hill at first light on 7th had been given upmost importance, but failed to materialize until much later than originally planned. Due to problems landing supplies the men had only the water they had landed with and Hammersley had confused matters by issuing 3 different orders in quick succession, each cancelling the other. These orders arrived at their recipients in varying orders adding to the confusion. The attack was temporarily suspended until 5:30pm.  By 7pm the British were able to prise Chocolate Hill away from the hands of the small Turkish force that occupied it, the main Turkish force having withdrawn some time ago. Rather than advancing the high ground gained in the attack, a number of regiments pulled back to the beach and remained there through 8th August.

Extract from Diary of J Crabtree © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/594)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from Diary of J Crabtree © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/8/2/594)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

“Aug 8th Set out about 8am in reserve for 33rd Bde and 10th Div. Things are rather sedate just now.”

Tekke Tepe, lay undefended before them and with the Turkish reinforcements earliest possible arrival estimated as the evening of the 8th it was vital to press forward. Despite this a day of rest was ordered and orders to attack Tekke Tepe were only issued late on 8th.

Extract from Report on Operations at Suvla Bay  © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from Report on Operations at Suvla Bay © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

 “Although Hammersley realized that TEKKE TEPE was the key to the situation he never mentioned it in his orders nor did he stress the vitality of pressing on as quickly as possible to the highest point of  ANAFARTA RIDGE, whatever happened his orders contained the fatal words, ‘if possible’”                                           

The orders to attack Tekke Tepe contradicted a previous order and caused a frantic scramble to locate and consolidate the various regiments of the 32nd Brigade. The assault on Tekke Tepe eventually began at 4am on 9th. By daylight on the 9th the Turkish reinforcements had arrived, beating the British to the top of the ridge by approximately two hours. Tekke Tepe, undefended since the landings, now proved to be a challenging obstacle which would cause devastating losses for the Allied Forces. The men assaulting Tekke Tepe were already tired and exhausted and stood little chance facing a fierce Turkish force which decimated the 6/ East Yorks and came within 40 yards of 32nd Brigade’s HQ. The Brigade would be unable to establish itself on Tekke Tepe.

Extract from Report on Action at Suvla Bay by Captain VTR Ford © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Extract from Report on Action at Suvla Bay by Captain VTR Ford © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/4/2)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

The situation in Suvla and the subsequent defeat at Scimitar Hill would prove to be the final blow to British morale in the Gallipoli Campaign. The weather would also deteriorate dramatically, turning to snow and ice within a few months finally forcing the Allied Army to evacuate Suvla in December 1915.

6th Battalion in the Trenches at Gallipoli  © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/8/3)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

6th Battalion in the Trenches at Gallipoli © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/1/8/3)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

 

750th Anniversary of the Battle of Evesham

The 4th of August is the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Evesham. Evesham was the second and final pitched battle of the Second Barons’ War (1263-67).

Setting:

Henry III’s mismanagement of the realm through failure in foreign wars, rebellion in Gascony, poor distribution of patronage and increasing financial and judicial grievances, had led to increasing baronial dissatisfaction. This culminated in the Provisions of Oxford (1258) and Westminster (1259) where the barons forced reforms on the King. These covered three broad areas of grievance. The first was to check his favouritism of his foreign relatives. The second involved restructuring a judicial system which had become increasingly unjust, and the third was an attempt to force the royal finances to be better managed, reducing the need for constant, excessive taxation.

However this watershed moment in English constitutional history, which forced the King to have a privy council partly elected by the nobility, was soon undermined.  Fracturing in the baronial party meant that the King was able to secure a Papal Bull in 1261, declaring the provisions as null and void.  But the royal faction was similarly disparate, and infighting caused by political manoeuvring for power surrounding the Lord Edward (later Edward I) and Queen Eleanor alienated several keys nobles from the King’s cause. When Simon de Montfort returned to England in 1263 to lead the baronial faction, the scene was set for a civil war. This began with both sides raiding the lands of their rivals, with side neither gaining a clear advantage.

Soon both sides attempted to end the troubles peacefully at the Mise of Amiens (1264) when Henry III and Earl Simon de Montfort’s parties agreed to the arbitration of the King of France, Louis IX.  Perhaps unsurprisingly Louis ruled heavily in favour of his fellow royal, which far from ensuring peace left no option to the baronial faction but full scale civil war. A series of sieges (the mainstay of medieval warfare) ensued with neither side gaining significant advantage, and it was not until the Battle of Lewes (14 May 1264) that the two opposing forces met in strength.

Sword, probably English, about 1250. IX.5614

Sword, probably English, about 1250. IX.5614

Lewes:

Despite having fewer troops, perhaps as little as half the King’s number, the baronial army under Simon de Montfort won a significant victory.  A seasoned campaigner experienced from the Crusaders and fighting a series of rebellions in Gascony, Simon de Montfort was able to outmanoeuvre the much larger royal army with a forced march in darkness, overwhelming royal sentries and deploying his force on the high ground.

By way of contrast to the Earl Simon, King Henry was no warrior but a scholarly and pious man, who contemporaries said was better suited to a hair shirt than a mail one. De Montfort not only demonstrated his strategic superiority over his King by his forced march and domination of the best ground, but he also showed tactical shrewdness in the disposition of his forces.  Drawing his army into four divisions (known contemporarily as ‘battles’) he deployed three of these to his front and, crucially, kept the fourth under his own command as a reserve.

The royal right was commanded by the Lord Edward. Wishing to avenge the insult that the Londoners had given his mother Queen Eleanor, the Lord Edward led his cavalry against the left wing of the baronial army  – where the Londoners were deployed.  Although the heavily equipped royal knights routed the London levies, the protracted pursuit took Lord Edward and the cream of the royal army from the battle.  By the time they returned de Montfort had, using his command of the ground and tactical reserve, defeated the King’s larger army.  Lord Edward returned only in time to witness defeat.  The battle was a baronial victory against the odds, which resulted in the capture of King Henry, his brother Richard Earl of Cornwall and Lord Edward. Henry III was forced to comply to the Provisions of Oxford once more, with de Montfort effectively a ‘quasi-king’.

[DI 2013-0611] Lance head, European, 12th-14th century. VII.3048.

Lance head, European, 12th-14th century. VII.3048.

Evesham:

Nevertheless, a little over a year later the reforming baronial movement was dealt a fatal blow at the Battle of Evesham. The barons’ once again fractured over patronage and self-interest, with important nobles such as Gilbert de Clare deserting de Montfort’s cause.  By 1265 the Marcher lords Roger Mortimer and Roger Leyburn were in open rebellion against de Montfort, and when Gilbert de Clare orchestrated the escape of the Lord Edward, the Marchers had a royal figurehead to lead them.  Their cause was given added legitimacy by Papal support for Edward to rule in the captive King’s stead.  Running out of powerful allies, de Montfort looked to the Welsh king Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, a move that whilst adding men to his cause, made him more unpopular with English barons and only steeled the Marchers against him.

Whilst de Montfort’s Lewes campaign demonstrated strategic and tactical shrewdness, the events leading up the fateful battle of Evesham showed no such brilliance.  A large portion of his forces, under the command of his son Simon the younger, were ambushed and seriously weakened by a dawn raid by Lord Edward at Kenilworth.  Unable to join his forces, the elder de Montfort found himself outmanoeuvred by Lord Edward’s Marcher army.  When the two opposing forces met at Evesham Simon de Montfort was trapped between the river Avon and the much larger Marcher army.  Lord Edward had totally outmanoeuvred de Montfort, whose escape over the bridge to the east was guarded by the Marcher lord Roger de Mortimer.

Realising the hopeless of his situation, being out numbered and surrounded, Simon de Montfort prayed for God to have mercy on his soul – realising the enemy would soon have his body.  Forced to attempt to fight his way out, de Montfort ordered a central attack on Lord Edward’s army, hoping to break through the encircling force.  However, Humphrey de Bohun refused to led the baronial infantry in the assault, with de Montfort instead having to lead with his cavalry, uphill towards the Marchers.  Before battle was even joined de Bohun’s infantry quit the field, only to be caught and slaughtered in the rout that followed the battle, leaving de Montfort to a similar fate.

Cresting the hill, de Montfort’s contingent fully saw the task that confronted them and the Earl had his outnumbered force form a circle.  From this point the battle descending into a bloody slaughter, with Simon de Montfort, after being unhorsed eventually falling to the lance of Mortimer, who’s contingent  probably advanced from below, through the routing infantry of de Bohun to encircle the remains to de Montfort’s army.

Although the discrepancies between the various chroniclers mean the details of the battle will likely never be known for certain, all agree on its bloodiness. Lord Edward’s Marcher army secured victory swiftly, probably in less than two hours, and showed little mercy even to fellow knights.  Robert of Gloucester termed it the ‘murder of Evesham (for battle there was none).’ Such was the ferocity that the captive King Henry, taken forward by de Montfort when he advanced, only escaped being slain by his would-be rescuers by crying out ‘I am Henry of Winchester, your King. Do not harm me!’

After the battle de Montfort was stripped of his armour, and was found to be wearing a hair shirt underneath it.  A righteous and pious man, he had been convinced of the legitimacy of his cause and was prepared to die for it. But de Montfort’s righteousness did not dampen the ferocity of his opponents, who in the rout slaughtered so many in the local abbey as they attempted to escape or gain sanctuary, that the crypts ran with streams of blood.  Nor did de Montfort’s famous piety and self-conviction stop his enemies from mutilating his body. His killer, Roger de Mortimer sent de Montfort’s head and testicles, the latter draped over the dead Earl’s nose, to his wife as a trophy, whilst his hands and feet were cut off for public display.

With their leader slain, the survivors of the baronial faction fled to late Earl Simon’s stronghold of Kenilworth castle. The siege that ensured was much more typical of medieval warfare than the swift battle of Evesham, although the siege of Kenilworth was more protracted than most – being the longest in English history. The war eventually ended in October 1266, when the Dictum of Kenilworth brought peace to the realm and allowed the remaining Montfortians to buy back their confiscated lands.

The baronial reforming movement was over, and for the remaining six years of Henry’s reign there existed an uneasy peace.His successor Edward I went on to rule with a royal strength that his father had never possessed.  However, the seeds of reform had been sown, and in the 1275 Statues of Westminster Edward himself had enshrined elements of the Provisions of Oxford.  De Montfort was brutally slain at Evesham, but his legacy perhaps lived on.

640px-Morgan_Bible_10r

Image from the ‘Morgan Bible’

Although depicting a crusading scene, this image from the near contemporary Morgan bible shows some of the types of arms and armour that would have been used during the Second Barons’ War.  It also show the potential brutality  of medieval warfare that manifest itself at Evesham.

Arms & Armour at the time of Evesham:

The main form of armour of the knightly classes was mail, which by this time completely covered the body, including hand and feet defences.  Helmets ranged from the conical nasal helm, to the wide-brimmed kettle hat, to the fully enclosed great helm.

However, this level of protection would have only been available to the social and military elite.  Infantry would typically be more lightly equipped with less armour, perhaps of fabric rather than metal.  The padded gambeson, worn under mail, could also serve as armour in its own right, but even this level of protection would have not been available to all.

During this period knights still predominately fought mounted, as heavy cavalry dominated the battlefield. The lance was their primary weapon of shock, which when couched with the weight of horse and fully armoured rider behind it could cause immense damage in a charge.  Swords, axes, maces and daggers would have been carried for close combat and the melee or pursuit that followed. Larger, two-handed weapons were also known, but the shield was still an important part of defensive equipment at this time, so most weapons were wielded in one hand.

 

[DI 2010-1561] Sword, probably English, about 1250.

Sword, probably English, about 1250.

[A8.47] Sword, European, about 1260.  IX.1107.

Sword, European, about 1260. IX.1107.

The primary arms of the infantry would have been staff weapons or missile weapons.  The most common form was the spear which if not excessively long could be used in conjunction with a shield, but heavier forms of two-handed staff weapons were also in use.

[DI 2012-1576] Spear head, European, 11th-14th century. VII.1650.

Spear head, European, 11th-14th century. VII.1650.

The infantry of the period also used bows and crossbows.  And although English and Welsh archery had no yet gained the fame it massed use was to win in the next century, they still featured in armies of the period. However at a battle such as Evesham which was decided by a single charge, their opportunity to influence the battle would have been limited.  Crossbows, although also used in the 13th century battlefield, were particularly favoured in sieges. Not yet having reached their full power potential, with prods of the period primarily being wooden rather than composite or steel, they were still potentially deadly to even armoured men.

BL MS Nero D ii –  Detail from f. 177v – The Mutilation of Simon de Montfort,

BL MS Nero D ii – Detail from f. 177v – The Mutilation of Simon de Montfort,

 

 

The Diary of Private Holden: Part Three – The Journey up the Line (1st July – 7th July 1915)

As part of the museums’ ongoing First World War Archives Project, we have been looking into the fascinating diary of Private Wilfred Holden. In our last post Holden described his time in the Rouen camp, and here he goes onto record his journey to the front line.

The train to the line carried 2 men and 8 horses to a compartment, with the men sleeping at the horses’ feet. A precarious place to be one would think, but not Private Holden.

“most people would think this very uncomfortable, but it was much better than riding in an ordinary French 3rd Class Compartment and the truck we had was a fairly large one and that journey was the best railway journey I have ever had”

Holden diary entry 3

The frequent stops made by the train allowed the men to jump out and stretch their legs from time to time. Though the hazard was that the train might move off again without you, as Private Holden found out:

 “ a few of us got some hot water from the engine behind, intending making some tea, but when on the way back to our own trucks, the engine whistled & started off, but we did not like the idea of leaving our tea (we had none since the Thurs morning), we ran along with the water in our mess tins, but the train began to move quicker, so we had to throw the water away, & run for all we were worth, just as we got on again, & settled down the train stopped.”

Album of Thomas Maugham

Soldiers making tea by a train – From the Album of Thomas Maugham © Green Howards Museum (Ref 2005.66.1)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Travelling through France and along the coast, the train journey is made to sound almost idyllic with the French people waving and cheering as the train passed along the line. Passing Bethune however, the mood changes as the sound of the shells and the vision of the damage caused by the Germans is seen for the first time.

Arriving at Aire the train was met by the 7th Dragoon Guards who had come for the horses but knew nothing about the men accompanying them.

“here was a fine how do you do, brought eighteen horses all the way from Rouen, & then no one to own us, so whilst waiting we had some breakfast, one of the chaps going after a loaf and another got some hot water and we cleaned ourselves up to try and look our best and make a good impression when we did reach the regiment”

Holden diary entry 3.5

Finally arriving at the squadrons base near Dellettes, Private Holden was issued with a horse, and put to work caring for the horses and carrying out guard duty before moving out for the trenches on 6th July.

“What part of the line we were going to we did not know, as was the case in all the moves we had, we never knew how long we should be or the name of the place until we got there”

A working party in the trenches_from the Photograph Album of the 1_5th Battalion

A working party in the trenches – from the Photograph Album of the 1/5th Battalion © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/7/7/5/5)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

Holden’s diary shows that his life at the front settled into a monotonous mixture of drills, horse care and digging parties, broken only by the odd mishap or annecdote. Coming back from a stint on the work gang one evening he was surprised to find that the regiment had moved billets in his absence and that his kit was nowhere to be found.

 “next morning we had to look round for our kits that we had to leave behind, but my friend’s and my own was missing & was never found. Among my things was my great coat, & I never had another one given me, & all the nights that I spent in the trenches, I was without great coat”

Arrangement of Kit for Inspection

Arrangement of Kit for Inspection © Rotherham Heritage Services: York and Lancaster Archive (Collection 578-K/1/1/4/4)/ Royal Armouries FWWAP

 

 

New to Fort Nelson, a stunning composite Drake gun

Fort Nelson has recently received a donation of a composite drake gun sometimes known as a minion drake. The gun is believed to be Dutch, possibly originating from Amsterdam. Dutch patents of 1627 and 1633 cover this kind of construction. According to the inscription behind the vent, it weighs 260 Amsterdam pounds and was produced in the mid 17th century.

Drake blog 1

The gun was found in inshore waters off the Kent coast by divers Paul Aaronovitch, Vince Woolsgrove and John Webb.

Drake blog 2

This gun is a light version of a minion or roughly 3 pounder, built up of copper alloy and iron, and probably soldered using lead alloy. The copper alloy has been decorated with bands of interlace from the muzzle (head) of the gun down to cascabel (rear) – where arresting ropes are tied to limit the gun’s movement due to recoil when firing. The handles located on the mid-section of the gun have been cast in the form of dolphins which was common for guns of this type

A labelled cross-section of a gun

The gun will be on public display in a desalination tank which will be used to wash the chloride ions out of the gun and to keep it underwater to prevent rapid corrosion until the conservation treatment is completed. This process will take several years in the Artillery Hall at Fort Nelson. Fort Nelson Conservator Matthew Hancock said “Fort Nelson is delighted to be able to add this fine and rare gun to the collection, although it presents some conservation challenges.  It is impossible to put a precise timescale on the project as the amount of chloride ions in the gun cannot be calculated. The process is further complicated by the reactions of the different metals in the gun.  The public will be able to view the gun during the conservation treatment as the gun will be on display in its tank in the Artillery Hall.”

Drake Blog 3

The Royal Armouries would like to thank the Receiver of Wreck for their assistance with this donation.