Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Battle of Lavington 1688

The Club new year "kicked off" with a what if scenario based around the dramatic events of October to December 1688 which saw the landing of Prince William of Orange at Torbay and the departure of King James II to France and the beginning of the Jacobite struggle that finally culminated on the bloody moor of Culloden in 1746.

Our scenario assumed James taking a more resolute position and galvanising his supporters, including a contingent of French troops to help put an army in the field to contest Williams march on London. The two armies have finally met on the open terrain in Wiltshire near the small village of Lavington outside Devises and the battle lines drawn up to decide who will where the Crown of England and decide the fate of a nation.

King James II

William of Orange
Battlefield set up
The troop plan is diagramatic giving a general layout of the forces

The Royalist forces found themselves out-scouted and set their forces up first under the gaze of the rebels. The Royalist right looked fairly secure with the garrison around Lavington. The centre was anchored on the small hill-Lavington knoll, and the few artillery pieces were evenly spaced across the centre left. The bulk of King James' cavalry formed up in the more open ground on the Royalist left-left centre, with the King and his Guard cavalry and French troops just left of Lavington knoll
View of the Royalist lines looking towards Lavington in the top left corner
The Royalist garrison in Lavington with the camp behind
Lavington strongly held by Royalist troops, or was it?
King James' French contingent
The battle began with the Rebel cavalry and infantry advancing in the centre to meet Royalist cavalry. Both forces engaging in desultory artillery fire, with the Royalist getting the better of it and causing casualties on the Dutch infantry.

The French look on as the two opposing cavalry forces "lock horns"
The first cavalry clash in the centre went to William, with the Dutch elite infantry on the right background
seeing off the Royalist cavalry with devastating volley fire.
The first clash went in favour of the Rebels as crashing volley fire from the steady Dutch infantry emptied Royalist saddles.

Meanwhile on the Rebel left, the forces were happy to probe what seemed the formidable defences around Lavington and the Royalist camp.

The rebel cavalry started to probe the outskirts of Lavington
The rebel English foot looked on at Lavington. Did they know something was afoot?
With the repulse of the initial Royalist cavalry both sides prepared to raise the stakes in the centre as James threw in his heavy Guard cavalry, and William his elite Dutch Guard infantry.

Meanwhile the second round of action was building in the centre as William threw in his guard and more cavalry
Rebel cavalry to the right, William on the left oversees the Guard Infantry to his front.
King James ups the stakes in the centre by putting in the elite heavy
cavalry on the right to take on William's Guard Infantry-"game on"
A rebel Colonel looks on as the battle unfolds
King James' heavy cavalry are the victors in the centre and chase the Dutch Guard from the field,but at a terrible cost, their ranks severely depleted.
The battle in the centre was held in the balance for several turns as the two sides fought desperately for dominance. The Royalist cavalry eventually gained the victory but at a terrible cost and they were now a spent force. Both sides looked to their reserves, to "seal the deal". William brought up his last reserves of cavalry, whilst James committed the French infantry.

The centre is open and ready for exploitation, who would grab the initiative?
King James calls forward the French to push the rebel centre from the field and claim victory
The rebels play their next card and exploit dissension in the Royalist ranks.
The garrison commander in Lavington throws in his lot with
Williams forces taking half his brigade over to the rebel cause.
The centre of the field which had seen the heaviest fighting gradually moved in favour of the French infantry forcing the Rebels to consider other options. It was then that the Royalist lines were thrown into confusion as rebel sympathisers within their ranks threw in their lot with William's cause. The colonel commanding the Lavington garrison went over to the enemy taking half of his brigade with him and secured Lavington for the rebels.

However the loyal Royal forces were able to prevent any link up with the Rebel left flank and this cancelled out any advantage to William's army.

The final throw of the dice for the rebels, with their right wing attempting to get across the Lavington brook.
The final assault by the Rebels came with an attempt to force the Lavington brook on the Rebel right flank an roll the Royalist line up from their left. King James had kept a cavalry brigade back to cover any such attempt, and as the rebels came across the stream disordered, they were met by a furious cavalry charge that routed and chased the majority of them back.

Thus ended the Battle of Lavington. Prince William withdrew to Bristol unmolested, the Royalist army being too exhausted to follow up, and sailed for Holland in the January 1689. King James II secured the throne for the Stuarts and the course of British history was changed forever.

The rules used were Barry Hilton's "Under the Lilly Banners" which were new to many of us, but gave a fast moving game and were greatly enjoyed.

Thanks to Chas, Nick and Vince for supplying the figures and setting up the game . Great fun