If the Earl wished to burn his hands, the King would not deny him the chance. On the other hand, were the Earl to win, the King could still collect his share of the taxes.
Sarath Sasix, Honourable Earl of Kent, key player in the unceasing political games of the Royal Court, grand tactician, student of ancient wisdom and more was at that moment seated in the house of his ancestors. A thick piece of inked cloth was spread out in front of him, and the Earl was smiling as his eyes roamed over what was in fact a dirty map of the Duchy of Normandy. Normandy is a good way off from Kent; yet the Earl was no less familiar with the region than he was with the plains and hills of his home. This was territory that his family had coveted for many years, even before William the Conqueror landed on the shores of Pevensey. Under William's reign it was impossible for the family to even hope that Normandy would ever be theirs. But William was long dead and his firstborn, the new King of England, had conquered Normandy after defeating his brother in Tinchebrai. All of a sudden there was hope for the Earl. He had won the Talker King's trust by donating troops and money, and he expected to be handed the reigns of Normandy in return.
The Talker was glad to oblige, for he knew only too well that his brother the Duke Anand was still at large and would strive to ferment all sorts of trouble in Normandy. If the Earl wished to burn his hands, the King would not deny him the chance. On the other hand, were the Earl to win, the King could still collect his share of the taxes.
Earl Sarath took one final look at the map. The journey to Normandy had been planned out in great detail, and he would go straight for Tinchebrai with his troops. The town had been pacified since the battle between the brothers, and he expected little trouble in establishing a base for himself. "At last! All of Normandy will now serve a new master. The coffers of Kent will overflow with the riches of the new Duchy!" With pleasant thoughts, the Earl retired for the day. He would set sail as soon as the weather permitted.
While the Earl of Kent filled his mind with dreams of prosperity, hundreds of miles away in an old castle in Normandy Anand Mohan, the erstwhile Duke of Normandy, was filling his own mind with angry thoughts and his cup with strong wine. The defeat at Tinchebrai had had a terrible effect on the duke. He was no longer the Man of Society that he once was. His social peers sought to avoid him like the plague, and his vassals had declared for King Jolly even before their battle was over. The once social and cordial man was now a heavy drinker who became violent when drunk and would hardly talk to anyone when sober. His only hope now lay in what remained of his army and the help from some Norman nobles whose staunch support he still managed to retain.
Duke Anand knew that if he wanted to regain control of Normandy, he would have to begin with Tinchebrai. The Anglo Normans had deigned the town good enough to be their seat of power in Normandy. The new ruler of the place was slotted to be the Earl of Kent who was a committed follower of the King in London. Anand's informers had reported that the Earl would arrive in a few weeks time in Tinchebrai to reinforce the town and garrison the outlying towns.
The train of thoughts lead painfully to the battle with the king, and Anand lost his composure. "I will avenge my dead! The cursed Earl will NOT have Tinchebrai. The land is mine, and by the Gods I'll retake it!" His groom fled, having had previous experience with his master's tantrums. "I am the Duke. i still am the only Duke of Normandy. I am the heir of William. I..." the speech broke off the speaker having lost his balance and fallen onto the floor. When the groom found him again the Honourable Anand 'Swearer' Mohan was lying prostrate and asleep on the floor, the expression on his face mirroring the painful nightmares which haunted him.
Welcome to Normandy
Sarath Sasix was in a very good mood. He was presiding over a gathering in the courtyard of the Tinchebrai Keep where 'all those who mattered among local populace' had assembled 'to pay their tributes to the new Earl'. The formalities done, the Earl signaled that he wished to speak to the crowd. He ascended a special podium which had been erected for this very purpose. Despite Sarath's exuberance, the ceremony was very sombre. The populace were wary of the new master, and most of them were there because the soldiers had rounded them up for the ceremony. The overall mood was one of fear, as if the crowd expected something ominous to happen any moment.
But the Earl did not seem to notice. He raised his hands, and cleared his throat to begin a well rehearsed speech. "People of..." Twaang!!! An arrow flew out of nowhere missed him by scant inches and lodged itself in the oak panels. The terrified Earl was dragged off by his guards to more secure quarters. The crowd was shouting, and guards were administering blows to quieten them. Finding the assassin in the mass was impossible. By the time the noise subsided most of the courtyard was empty. Even as he was being led to his chambers, the Earl shouted out his orders "Kill them! Kill the Lot! I want the head of this wretched Duke!"
In the two weeks which followed the attempt on the Duke's life, normal life in Normandy came to a standstill. Anglo Norman raiders ravaged the countryside in search of the elusive Duke Anand even as hit and run attacks on outposts staged by the erstwhile Duke continued unabated along the perimeter of the Duchy. News spread that a host of Normans were marching to Tinchebrai to give battle. Earl Sarath spent his time bracing for the impending attack and deployed his army in the plains near the town. Amid all the chaos of whole villages burning, people fleeing their homes and marauding looters Duke Anand marched on for Tinchebrai. "We march on!" yelled the drunk Duke to his captains, "WE MARCH ON!".
On the 10th of May, in the year of the Lord 1107, the two hosts met in the plains of Tinchebrai. The meeting ground was the same, only the protagonists were different. Camping near the place, veterans on both sides recounted the tales from their last visit to the place. As soon as they reached the battlefield, a transformation came over Duke Anand. Seeing the familiar places had a strange effect on him. He no longer had any nightmares. It was as if the ghosts that haunted him had been exorcised once and for all. The haunting that had begun in Tinchebrai seemed to have ended there.
The foe knows you; if they see your command in the centre, they will hesitate and may even not give battle. Your role is therefore to stay out of sight, and fall upon them when they have wandered into the temptingly open centre.
As soon as his scouts informed him of the arrival of the Norman host, a determined Earl Sarath assembled his high counsel to discuss the plans. Among those attending were Duke Farnham - the old man could just not stay home tending to his duties as a country squire and Peer of the Realm when there was a fight afoot. "Too much of country life has made me rusty" lamented the general while offering himself for service with the Earl. The soldiers cheered when they saw him. The hardy fighter had become a legend after his charge in the first battle for the town. Though his services were welcome, Sarath had misgivings about bringing the old man along. After all Farnham was a Duke and could very well claim the victory as his own. He thought hard and came up with a plan to ensure the services of the old Duke without having to share the credit with him.
"Gentlemen", said Earl Sarath, "my study of our foes tactics to date has proven that the outcast Duke is an easily excitable man. I intend to derive the full benefit of this when giving battle. Captain Vandermost, you shall command the right flank. Scouts inform me that the woods to our right is big enough to hide our archers. Deploy them early in the morning", the captain nodded, "and support them with our foot. And mind you, keep those peasants close together - the last thing I want is to have them run" "Once I give the order, head for the hills with your men. Secure the hill, and half the battle will be won. Is that understood?" The captain nodded yet again. "Yes Sir. Your honour has made it perfectly clear".
"I will command the left" said Sarath, pointing at the forest on their left. "I'll have some foot stationed in the edge of the woods with the Knights to steady the flank. We'll leave the centre open, as an invitation to attack."
"As for you, Lord Farnham", he had postponed this for the last, "your affinity to the Bretons is well known as is your valour and skill in leading them personally. There is no one better fit to command them when your Lordship is with us". Farnham beamed and Sarath knew that he was on track. Ever since the last battle, Farnham had changed his opinion about the Bretons. "The Breton cavalry and whatever reserve foot we have will be placed under your command, and you will deploy away from the rest of the army" Farnham wrinkled his brows, and Sarath hastened with his words. "The foe knows you; if they see your command in the centre, they will hesitate and may even not give battle. Your role is therefore to stay out of sight, and fall upon them when they have wandered into the temptingly open centre." Farnham liked the plan, much to the relief of the Earl. It was agreed upon that the Earl's standard bearers would wave their flag and have the drummers sound the drums to summon Farnham's command. The meeting ended in good spirits, and the assemblage went to sleep with calm minds.
Duke Anand was alone when he made his plans. No one was summoned, no opinions were sought. There seemed to be no more interest on the Duke's part in talking about his plans to his friends. A wine flagon in one hand and a dagger in another, he drew rough pictures on the sand in front of his tent and decided on what to tell his commanders. Eyes closed, he saw himself in the hall of the Keep, his commanders awaiting him. "Lord Morhill" he began, swinging his dagger though in his mind he was regally waving his hand at those present. "The hill is the key to our plans. If I know the Earl, he will surely try to seize it. Deploy our archers on our left flank facing the hill and the woods. Send them to delay and harry his advance. They can hold the place while the spearmen march down and secure the edge of the forest. Put our Knights in the centre, under your own command." Anand imagined Morhill nodding and thought with sadness of how his Knights had walked to their death against the lances of the King's riders. Shaking off his memories, he directed his talk at Duke Peristold "put our spearmen in the front and the right flank, dear sir. Once the hill is secure, we will wheel the infantry to make way for the Knights and hit them in the centre." The commanders nodded the dream slowly faded. Anand returned to where he was - in front of a worn tent, a tired sad man alone in the gathering dusk. He wrote down what was relevant on parchment and had it sent to Morhill and Peristold. He could not yet bring himself to face them.
The Second Battle of Tinchebrai
The armies deployed early in the morning as had been planned earlier. As if invigorated by the growing warmth of the sunlight, both sides advanced with speed. The Norman archers sought to climb the hill, while on the opposite side the Earl's infantry launched themselves at the double to take the hill first. Most of the Norman army was out, moving forward, wheeling when necessary to avoid obstacles. Shouts, curses and the occasional drum beats and trumpet calls could be heard as the masses of men and horses strove to obey their orders.
In a short time from when they deployed the lead elements of the two armies were facing each other warily across a short span of muddy grass. On the Norman right flank, Duke Peristold was fighting his instinct to panic. "Form Line! No! Double line! Advance! Spearmen, move forward! At my signal! By the Lord, can't these men follow a simple order?!"
The race for the hill was decided early on in the battle. Advantaged by their loose formation and better speed, the Norman skirmish archers reached the hill earlier than the Anglo Normans. Captain Vandermost delayed making a decision for a while, fearing that the arrival of enemy skirmishers on the hill was a clever trap. When he was finally reassured that the archers were indeed alone, he ordered the spearmen forward.
From atop his position on the hill, Captain Melbertson of the archers saw the approach of the spearmen quite early on. He took it cool, his men knew just how to handle such a situation. His order was curt: "Men, hold your fire!" The archers waited until the Spearmen approached the base of the hill. And then they let fly their arrows.
Scant yards from the base of the hill, the Spearmen were halted dead in their tracks by the arrows. Bereft of the protection of any armour, the men tried to take cover as best as they could under their shields. But the shields were not enough. When the first volley was done, many a spearman lay dead. By nature a cautious man, Captain Vandermost needed no better reason to halt the advance of his men. The Normans now owned the hill.
Troubled by the sight of the Anglican Knights advancing seemingly towards his troops, he had hastily ordered all his foot forward in an ill thought out attempt to gain space. His frantic orders caused the mood to spread through the men, who became irritated. Soon there was a milling mass of closely placed men facing the Earl's Knights and his infantry who had emerged from the woods.
The captains and leaders south to bring order back to the ranks with shouted orders and curses. With effort, the first unit of Spearmen managed to get away from those behind them. But they were still close. Far too close...
Duke Morhill was in command of the Norman Knights in the centre. He was concerned with the way Peristold was behaving from the beginning. And Duke Anand was not the least bit bothered, which was very discouraging. All of a sudden, he saw a movement in the Anglo Norman ranks. The Earls Knights had lowered their lances. It looked as if... as if they were going to charge!! The Knights trotted, cantered, and broke into a gallop. Lances glinting in the sun, the mail clad wave rolled forth towards Peristold's troops with astonishing speed. The Charge was on.
Both Morhill and Peristold were caught off balance; even Duke Anand seemed surprised. Morhill was the first to recover, he sounded his horn, and roared out orders at his Command to cut the charge. "Stop those men at any cost! Wheel to you right! Lower the lances! Chaaaaarge!!!" The Norman Knights caught the urgency of the situation and swept forward immediately, wheeling toface the flanks of the Anglo Normans Knights who were impervious to the countercharge blossoming on their exposed flank. Two waves of steel were foaming forth, the second seeking to cut off the first...
Peristold was slow to react. He was about to order the leading Spearmen to advance when the charge began. Changing his mind, he quickly issued new commands "Stand your ground! Dip your Shields!! Form Line!" But his crie
s could hardly be heard above the din, and the Spearmen panicked. They turned and took flight to their rear. Some ofthe men fell, losing their footing when the crowd swept past them. They ran past Peristold's entourage, barely missing him; past the astonished drummers, and onto the second group of Spearmen who were even then attempting to move back to make space for those ahead of them. The lines collided, and the running men punched through those retreating, and began a stampede all over again. Faced with the deadly prospect of meeting the cavalry assault on the rear the men punched, kicked, pulled and pushed at others to clear their way.
By the time order of any sort was established the men had ran way past their initial positions. It took Lord Peristold the better part on a half hour to restore lines and reestablish positions. He needn't have hurried, for the battle had taken a drastic turn when the Norman Knights met their opponents in the flank...
The Earl thought that he was seeing a mirage. But unfortunately for His Honour, the zephyrs carried real steel lances!!
Lesson: Open flanks Kill
Morhill's cries had a far more inspiring effect on his Knights than he had hoped. They went raving mad with anger and the lust to kill. Duke Anand was standing close by, and waved them on, a wide cruel grin on his face. "Avenge the Fallen!" said the Captain, and his men yelled back "Up with the Duke, "William lives!" and "Death to the usurpers!" Thus excited, they ran"like the norsewind" to the flank of the Anglo Norman Knights. The fight was short, sharp and brutal. In a moment, the fallen Normans were avenged, man for man, the Earls Knights paid the ultimate price under the cruel and unforgiving lances of the Normans.
Earl Sarath was taken aback by the new development unraveling right in front of his position. As the fight turned into a rout for the Anglo Normans, he lost hope for his Knights and tried to save his remaining foot before the Norman wave reached them. Unfortunately for them, Earl Sarath's order to wheel came too late by far. "Turn!! Drummer, sound your drums! Turn my men, turn!". His cries became more frantic and rugged, and tears threatened to overcome him. Blurred by the welling tears the scene appeared to the Earl of Kent as if he were watching a mirage. But as Duke Anand later put it, "The Earl thought that he was seeing a mirage. But unfortunately for His Honour, the dervish carried real steel lances!!"
No one, neither Duke Anand or his generals could have stopped the onslaught of their victorious Knights. Their opponents having routed, the cavaliers directed their rage towards the unarmed Spearmen from Kent who stood directly in their path with their entire right side open for taking. And the Knights took it. They merely trampled the first few, lanced whom they could, and cut down those who came last, each Knight claiming no less than three kills. The spearmen fled. And the Knights pursued. The deadly push would have lasted more, but for the Knights running out of opponents. Not one, not even a single on of the Spearmen survived to tell the tale. The blood of the fallen had been well and truly avenged. "William Lives! Up with the Duke! Death to the usurper King!"
Sasix Sarath, Knights redde! Sasix Sarath, give me back my Knights!
And all the while, in a shaded spot at a distance from the field, an old Knight waited for the summons that never came. He waited patiently, keeping hopes high until a bruised and bloody soldier limped in and begged for a drink of water. The water slaked his thirst, but his life was not to be saved. His last words were a mournful cry - he told a shell shocked Lord Farnham that the Earl's army had lost; that all its men had died or scattered; that the Knights had fallen to the last man; that the Norman standard now flew over the Keep in Tinchebrai.
The Bretons accompanying the Duke remained silent, more concerned with the immediate safety of their men and the Duke. But the news was too much for Farnham. He wept openly, tore out tufts of hair from his head, beat his chest and lamented. "My men! Oh my brave, brave men!"
The Earl of Kent vanished, never to be seen again in England. Years later, stories told by drunken soldiers in distant inns spoke of how a disgraced warrior with no name turned up in Scotland and was granted asylum. What happened to him in Scotland was not known, or was not talked about.
Duke Anand regained his Duchy, and recaptured all of Normandy with little effort. Duke Morhill was made the Master of the Horse, and Duke Peristold became the master of the mint. Never again after the battle did the Duke Anand drink; Never ever would he speak of the battles of Tinchebrai.
And Duke Farnham? After his tears abated, the old man parted ways with the Bretons. He rode off into the darkness refusing an armed escort offered by the Bretons. No one saw him again. Legend has it that on lonely winter nights when wolves howl and the cruel northern winds rake the plains of Tinchebrai one can still hear an old man cry out in woe. "My men! My brave, brave men!"
This was our second Medieval Warfare battle in a long time. The battle was played using a Scenario from the upcoming Medieval Warfare Scenarios booklet by Terry Gore based on the battle of Tinchebrai of 1106.
This was the second of the three battles we played using that the scenario on that day. The first battle was so inspiring that we decided to fight a second, and then an incredible third! (which ended in a stalemate)
Thanks to all the players, the audience and Terry Gore for all the fun we had.