Steve the Wargamer

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I have been to.. Roundway Down (Part 2 - the visit bit)

September 3, 2017 - 12:09
What a day for a visit, glorious sunshine and a light breeze to take the edge of the heat while walking. but I would recommend not trusting you satnav though.. 

Spectacular day, but I was sorely lacking in battle orientation before I got to the site so I'm hoping the following will help any follow on visitors.. as I said in the previous post, there really is very little battlefield layout information available on line

So I took as my source the first of the battlefield information boards - which is about as far from the front line action as it could possibly be (click on it to embiggen):

B1 on the map belowNote that the Parliamentarian front line is deployed along the edge of the rise and roughly facing the Royalist horse on Morgan's Hill ...  note also if you draw a straight line between Bloody Ditch and Bishops Cannings the Royalist deployment is just in front of it..

So on Google Maps I then pulled up Roundway Down and then turned on contours which gives me this..

P = ParkingFlipping between map view and satellite view then allows you to place the front line of the Waller's troops fairly concisely...  caveat..  if the battlefield noticeboards are to be believed! 

First time I visited, I parked near the White Horse and in hindsight that is by far the better place to park for viewing where the fighting would have taken place..  this time I parked in the car park to the left but it's not a huge battlefield and everything is walk-able..  there is also an "official" car park over by Oliver's Castle (which isn't....  either "Oliver's" or "a Castle".. )


So on to the walk -

That's Morgan's Hill in the distance (following), taken from B1, it's handily marked by the two aerials and the copse of woods on top...  the Royalist cavalry under Wilmot, Byron and Crawford attacked from there..


..and again.. the Parliamentarian front line was to the right of the picture


...and as if by magic..  note the copse of trees on the skyline left of centre - the Royalist troops would have been deployed just in front/left of them..   my initial research had lead me to believe (based on the web map I found) that the position was much further back than that (I thought about where the tractor is in the distance)


First though, having orientated myself, and because I was close - a view of Bloody Ditch

B2 on the map...which is bloody frightening - I was having trouble on foot and with a walking stick - 200m drop in the space of 50 yards?


Devizes..


Steep...



I then walked across the battlefield - basically from B1 back to the car park where I'd left the car taking the following view of the ridge where Waller deployed on the way..


...then walked up the hill - through the modern plantation (Leipzig), and you can walk down a farm track that takes you through his deployment - this is from just behind his deployment looking at Morgan's Hill...


...too your right is Bishops Canning's (following) where a number of the Parliamentary Infantry escaped too..


..I finished off by walking back to the car as I'd noticed that it was on the line of retreat taken by Hasalrig's Lobsters.. they would have been bundled down this hill which would have been much more open then..


Superb day out and rounded off by a trip to the Hop Back pub in Salisbury..!

Extra reading

  • English Heritage Battlefields Register report for “Roundway Down”

                 List Entry: https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000030                 Report: https://content.historicengland.org.uk/content/docs/battlefields/roundway.pdf
  • Battlefields Trust:

                   http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/resource-centre/civil-war/battleview.asp?BattleFieldId=36
  • Historic England:


                  http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=215947&sort=4&search=all&criteria=roundway%20down&rational=q&recordsperpage=10
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I have been to.. Roundway Down (Part 1 - History/Background bit)

August 31, 2017 - 11:32
Been a while but I feel the need to walk a battlefield, so I've got Friday off and I'm going to Devizes, or more specifically, Roundway Down... so by way of a two parter, first the history, the next post will detail the visit, and hopefully, some useful pictures of the battlefield....

So Lansdown [clicky for my last visit post] was fought on the 5th July 1643, and the Royalists had managed what was at best described as a "tactical win" - the Parliamentary army had been driven back from the ridge (by the indomitable Cornish infantry), but the Royalists had lost Sir Beville Grenville in the process, and the army were spent - they were low on ammunition, they were short of cavalry (desertions during the battle) and when they had withdrawn to recover, the next day there was an explosion in an ammunition wagon which resulted in even further shortages in vital gunpowder, but even worse injured Hopton badly (he was close to the wagon when it exploded and was temporarily partially blinded, and had to be carried in a chair), ...

A decision was taken by the Royalists to withdraw towards Oxford the Kings capital during the war. It would make it much easier for them to get reinforcements and also some much needed re-supply. The Parliamentarians under Waller were theoretically in a better condition despite "losing" the battle at Lansdown.. he got reinforcements from their garrison at Bristol (even closer to Bath, than Roundway/Devizes was) and followed the Royalist army closely...

Seven hours according to Google Maps - with an army, two days'ish?Waller caught up with the Royalist army at Devizes, and occupied the high ground that overlooked the town, known as Roundway Down, on the evening of the 8th July..

In the face of this the Royalists occupied the town and the Cornish infantry proceeded to prepare for an assault, but the 300'odd remaining Royalist cavalry under Maurice (Prince Rupert's younger brother) were immediately sent on their way to Oxford to make the King aware of the situation..

Map courtesy http://www.britishbattles.com/english-civil-war/the-battle-of-roundway-down/
Waller surrounded, and then started a bombardment of, the town; he captured an inbound Royalist ammunition train on the 12th and not surprisingly he was confidant* and demanded the Royalists surrender - what he didn't know was that the Royalist cavalry had already escaped.

*he told Parliament in one of his communiques that the next one would let them know how many standards he had taken, and would list the officers taken!

Maurice got to Oxford on the 10th, and the Royalist reinforcements were sent out at once under Wilmot, the Kings Lieutenant General of Horse - there were about 1500 horse and a few galloper guns..  they were also joined by Maurice's 300.. (that made me wonder...  so that's the better part of 2000 cavalry standard horses readily available, not the draft or dragoon lesser standard, but proper cavalry horses... impressive!)

Wilmot and Maurice made it back to Devizes, or rather just north east of it (a place called  Roughridge Hill) early on the 13th, and fired off a couple of guns to let the Royalists know they were there.

Waller, who already knew of their arrival, had abandoned Devizes and marched the Parliamentary army up on to Roundway Down - gamble time - could he defeat Wilmot and Maurice before the Royalist infantry sallied out from Devizes in his rear....?

Waller deployed as standard for the time - infantry and artillery in the centre, cavalry on the slightly higher ground on the wings (as per the map)  the Royalists deployed into two brigades (Wilmot and Lord Byron) and a smaller reserve (under Lord Crawford)....

Wilmot started off the battle by attacking the Parliamentarian right at about 3 in the afternoon - this was the wing that had Hasalrig's famous cuirassier regiment - the Lobster's. In a typical galloper vs trotters engagement, the Lobsters stopped to give fire, and were ridden over, forcing them into the second line, who all gave way and retreated in confusion and disorder...  strike one

On the other flank Byron then attacked the other flank - this time under fire from the Parliamentary foot and artillery - but with no difference in result - the Parliamentary cavalry again stodd to give fire, and  were bundled back in considerable disorder - and some were forced over a 300m precipice... strike two

Now the difference though... unlike what seemed to happen in most other battles, the Royalist cavalry under Wilmot and Byron reform ("Were Wilmot and Byron better commanders of cavalry than Rupert? Discuss...") and then turn on the Parliamentary centre/infantry - with the arrival of the Royalist foot from Devizes it's all over and the Parliamentary start running...  strike three and there out..

In the confusion, Waller and his mounted officers galloped away towards Bristol.

Quite possibly therefore greatest Royalist victory of the war - not sure they set a foot wrong??

Casualties? Inconclusive and difficult to say, I've seen
  • "600 Parliamentarian troops were killed and some 1,000 were captured", and I've also seen
  • "withdrawal became a rout as the Parliamentarian infantry ran for the wooded eastern slopes. Hundreds were cut down or taken prisoner, many dying in an area still known as Bloody Ditch at the foot of the hillside." 
The same Bloody Ditch that earlier Byron had driven the Parliamentary cavalry over a precipice into I am assuming...

Size of the armies?

Wilmot’s three brigades of Royalist horse comprised 1,800 men with the previously mentioned (two) galloper guns. Sir Ralph Hopton’s garrison in Devizes numbered around 3,000 Cornish foot with a number of guns.

Waller’s army comprised 6 regiments of horse (approx. 2,000 men), 4 regiments of foot (approx. 2,500 men) and 8 field guns. (Source, the very good http://www.britishbattles.com/english-civil-war/the-battle-of-roundway-down/ [clicky] but the battle description doesn't tally with his map above - think the got their 'left and rights' wrong.. and Heaven knows I suffer from that as well )

Looking forward to walking it again - must be 10+ years since I last went...
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