William the Conqueror was Dead. He left behind him two ambitious sons: Jolly 'The Talker' Mottengad, and Anand 'Swearer' Mohan. Having inherited his fathers throne, King Jolly had taken the surname Mottengad, thereby ensuring the support of the fierce Mottengad clan. Duke Anand, ruler of Normandy fumed over the way the throne was bequeathed to his brother by their father, and vowed to reclaim it by any means. King Jolly however had other plans. Jolly intended to unify all his father's Duchies under one rule - his. The conflicts of the two brothers were about to be resolved in Tinchebrai, 'The town of Sorrows'.
...you can tell the lot that the Firstborn of William does not need any lessons in warfare from the likes of them! The battle will be fought on the morrow, and in a way that *I* decide
In the Court of the King
The Talker King was excited. After a long time fighting political wars with his brother without significant results, the time had finally come for a final clash. Something in his veins told King Mottengad that Tinchebrai would decide the fate of the Kingdom. Smiling to himself, the King eased himself onto his couch and poured himself some water. Unlike his peers, the Talker was not a copious drinker. Ever since the infamous incident in half of London witnessed the then Prince Jolly being carried off dead drunk in a litter from the lodgings of one of the less famous courtesans, the Talker had promised himself that he would drink only water.
Reflecting on his past, the King thought of how he had become 'the Talker' quite early in his life. One of his early lessons in life was that a man's stature is not necessarily decided by his size. Taunted for his small frame, he had taught himself to use his tongue in a decisive fashion, sometimes dealing out more harm to his opponents with his words than he could ever have with his sword. While it earned him many an enemy, there were benefits too. The women of the Royal Court privately admired the style of the young prince to the chagrin of the Gentlemen of the court. As Lady Woolworth used to say with a sly smile, "The Talker knew how to use his tongue to the best effect on *all* occasions".
The King was brought out of his reprieve by one of his aides. "Mi Lord", said the man, "Lord Farnham seeks an audience with your majesty". The Talker gave the man a suspicious look, as if he were Farnham. Sighing, he gestured for the visitor to be shown in. He had been putting off talking with Farnham for long, it could not be delayed any longer.
Lord Farnham entered, bowed stiffly and started off without any preamble. "Mi Lord, we are in Tinchebrai, and the Duke's army is in the vicinity". The King seemed uninterested, but Farnham persisted with his talk. "The commanders are worried, sire. There is murmur among the ranks that the army is going to battle without any plans. I would suggest that your majesty ..."
"Lord Farnham!" shouted the Talker, cutting off the Peer of the Realm in mid speech, "We'll ask for your advice when we need it." "As for the commanders, you can tell the lot that the Firstborn of William does not need any lessons in warfare from the likes of them!" "The battle will be fought on the morrow, and in a way that *I* decide" "Your job, Mi Lord", said the King with a finger pointed at Lord Farnham, "is to ensure that we are ready to give battle first thing in the morning. Dismissed!".
Lord Farnham left the tent seething with anger. How dare this mere boy chastise him, the most illustrious of the Realm's Peers? Having to sever under William was bad enough, but this was worse. For a fleeting moment he hoped that they would lose the battle and that the King would die. But the feeling was gone in an instant. Lord Farnham was as Loyal to the Realm as could be, and the last thing he wanted to see was another Norman triumph in London.
I swear by the Holy Cross, by the cherished memory of my Father, and by all that I deem sacred that were I to lose the battle against my brother, I will give up fighting forever
The Duke of All Normandy
"I swear by the Holy Cross, by the cherished memory of my Father, and by all that I deem sacred that were I to lose the battle against my brother, I will give up fighting forever" The words came to Duke Anand as a distant echo, from the time when the rivalry between him and his brother in England had started. It felt eerily like the distant past when William had set off on his invasion of England. The only difference this time around was that it was not a tired Saxon army that he was facing, and the foe were no strangers to Knights any longer. Despite the cold, the thought of battle brought perspiration to his brows. Almost unconsciously, he struck the bell to summon his servant. "Inform Lord Dinus that I seek an audience with him". Lord Dinus was a visitor from the north, a well wisher of the family and a man with a military mind.
The difference between the brothers could not have been more evident. While one was short and used his tongue like a whip, the other was taller and was polite to a fault. In fact Lord Anand would take pains to ensure that he maintained the proper social relations with those associated with him and the Duchy. But the Duke was by no means less ambitious and sought his fathers crown as hard as his brother.
"Mi Lord" said Lord Dinus, entering. Anand beckoned him to a couch. "Ominous weather, isn't it?" asked the Duke. "Indeed Mi Lord", said Dinus, "One hopes that it bodes ill for the enemies of the land". "Indeed", said the Duke, preparing to ask that which his visitor had been summoned for. "Lord Dinus, I seek your opinion on my plans for the morrow. You are a man of learning, and a long standing friend of our family. I am sure that your thoughts will help my effort." In his mind, Dinus sighed. He knew that Duke Anand was not used to taking advice from his peers. If anything, this meeting was to serve a social purpose, to show that the proper formalities were being maintained. He was sure that other commanders would also be consulted and their opinions sought, only to be forgotten. The plan would be made as Anand saw fit. But as ever, he would ask the proper questions, see his doubts overridden and leave after wishing the Duke the best.
Duke Anand gestured at the deerskin map of the area, and Dinus leaned forward to see clearly. "As you can see Mi Lord, we lack cover of any sort near the camp. To compound matters, the enemy has a clear superiority in numbers, both in horse and foot. True, our men are hardy fighters unlike the trash that forms the bulk of their foot. It is the Mottengad Knights whom I seek to contain, and restrict to doing what I want them to." So far so good, thought Dinus. But he knew that the worst would always come in the end. "I have decided to deny them the advantage of a secure flank. We will first advance in the left and secure the hill. Once the woods on our left flank have also been secured, we will seek to move past the hill in a wide left sweep" Duke Anand gestured with his hands, he never could resist a bit of drama in his briefings.
Dinus made the appropriate sounds as the briefing continued. He expected to hear the punch line soon. "We will tempt his cavalry to secure his right flank, and tempt them to charge out left flank. Once this happens, we can strike decisively in the centre" . Dinus was surprised. The plan was good so far. Where was the catch? "Does Mi Lord have enough skirmishers and Horse to tease the enemy's right?" asked Dinus. "Aaah, there comes the best part of the plan. I am dismounting two thirds of my Knights and having them to seize the hill, and subsequently agitate the enemy!" Dinus jaws dropped, but he managed to feint a cough and nodded his head. As a last resort, he asked one final question of the Duke: "Mi Lord, are we not disadvantaged in Cavalry?" "Of course we are. That is why I am retaining a third of my knights in the centre". Dinus gave up. He remained silent for the rest of the audience, and left the room determined to leave Tinchebrai at first light. This was one battle he'd gladly miss.
Men! We are going to wait. If my brother wants to give battle, he will have to bring it to me. Ha!
As the mist lifted from the plains of Tinchebrai, the Normans deployed as planned by Duke Anand. To his left, facing the small woods and hill were the dismounted Knights, still bewildered to find themselves deprived of their mounts. They voiced their opinions angrily, and were mollified only by the promise of plunder by the Duke himself. In the centre stood his only mounted troops, flanked by heavy and light foot.
On his far right stood the skirmishers. Unlike the Knights, the Skirmishers had previous experience in being deployed in the oddest of places and remained silent, hoping that the enemy cavalry would not come near.
As an astounded Lord Farnham watched, King Mottengad gave orders to deploy the bulk of his army in his left flank adjoining the big forest and in the centre, practically ignoring the right flank. Swallowing his pride, he approached the King and begged him to reconsider his decision. The Talker laughed at the old Knight's expression and waved him away. "Fear not, dear Farnham. We will win today". The King chose to put all his Knights and his Breton cavalry in the front, and deployed his unarmed spearmen in the rear. The Skirmish Archers found themselves ignored, and chose to wait behind the Cavalry.
While they deployed, Farnham was looking at the army as if seeing them for the first time. The ranks swelled, but he knew better than anyone else that these were untested and ill equipped troops, with little more than their shirt to their back. Thankfully they were in good spirits, a small mercy in these tough times. The Knights were more promising, representing the best that England could offer. Farnham did not trust the Bretons though, but recognized the necessity of their presence. He could never understand why the King trusted them explicitly. But then, only the Talker understood the Talker. Despite all his talk, Jolly revealed very little of his thoughts, and there were only a handful of men who could really claim to know him. The sight of the Norman deployment sought to worry him more. Apparently his commander in chief did not share his concerns and joked around with his entourage. Farnham cast a dejected look at the heavens, then at the Reverend Beasley who was standing near him. "May the Lord save us" he said under his breath.
Mounting his steed, Jolly rode to the front rank to speak to his men. He was very brief "Men! We are going to wait. If my brother wants to give battle, he will have to bring it to me. Ha!" Before the bewildered commanders could say anything, he was gone, galloping towards the rear of the line to stay and wait it out.
On the other side of the battlefield, Duke Anand was at the very moment mounting a raised platform to make a speech. "Listen to me, all ye men of Normandy! The time has come upon us to claim what is rightfully ours. The Duchy of William and his conquests belong to the valiant, brave men of Normandy, and not to the madmen from across the sea! With your help I will prove for once and all that William's Lands and valour were bequeathed to this younger son!" The host responded with wild yells, and a relieved Duke gave his first orders.
Move a leg, you lazy knights!
Curse you mad talker! Talk now, for the army awaits, and the enemy approaches!
As the Anglo Normans watched, the Norman knights on foot grunted, hefted their weapons and began an uneasy walk. Accustomed to galloping at their own will, they were at loathe to walk, and that too up a hill! Cursing, the knights huffed and puffed their way to the crest of the hill, while some of the their compatriots walked past the woods on the base of the hill and halted. Duke Morhill who rode behind them sympathised with their plight but was helpless. He had to give repeated orders to get the men to behave like he wanted, and his patience was at its limit by the time they reached the hill. "Trust Anand to think up something like this! Here are the best men that we can field, and they are being treated like peasants!" Reaching the apex of the hill, Morhill ordered his flag to be waved. That would let the Duke know that they had reached the hill. He prepared to give the Knights the orders to stand the ground.
If the Anglo Normans saw the Normans advance they gave no sign of it. It was as if they were not the least bit concerned about the battles, as if the events were taking place in another world. Time after time, messengers rode up to Jolly, seeking orders for the commanders who had sent them. They were politely refused audience with the King, and told to inform the commanders that his Majesty would inform them his plans in due time. Duke Farnham was standing near the Bretons, intent on keeping an eye on them. He could see the Norman foot approaching the forest and advancing past it, but no orders were forthcoming from the Talker. He wanted to yell. "Curse you mad talker! Talk now, for the army awaits, and the enemy approaches!" . Curiously, the Bretons seemed to be enjoying the wait, as did the Knights. Farnham had the feeling that they were privy to something which he was apparently not. Cursing, he resumed his wait.
Lord Morhill was about to order the Knights when a rider arrived at full gallop, and reported that "The Duke of Normandy sends his compliments, would the Lord please move his troops further down the hill and try to instigate the foe to attack?" Morhill thought that he had misheard. But the messenger repeated it for his sake, and there could be no mistake. Furious, he ordered the Knights to walk downhill, and wheel to face the Anglo Normans. Drums were sounded, and the Knights waiting near the forest were also told to advance. The Knights complied without much talk, having realized that talk saps vital energy which was better spent on walking and fighting.
Dying for a fight, are we now Mi Lord? Well, your chance has come. Send those Knights of yours to dispatch the Normans to meet their destiny
The Giant Stirs
Farnham had almost given up hope. Half an hour had gone by, and the Normans were fast approaching from the right flank and from near the forest. So far, all the talker had done was to realign the Knights and Bretons to face the enemy. He considered consulting the King again, but his pride would not let him. But Farnham was a soldier first, and a Peer of the Realm second. He swallowed his pride for the second time that day and approached the King. Apparently the Talker had seen him, for he came forward to greet Farnham. "Dying for a fight, are we now Mi Lord?" asked Jolly. "Well, your chance has come. Send those Knights of yours to dispatch the Normans to meet their destiny". He then turned back, and was gone. The order had come so quickly that it took Farnham a moment to realize that they were actually going to see action. But once it dawned on him, Farnham did not stop to think about the order. He spurred into a gallop yelled the orders at the Knights. They followed suit and were on their way towards the dismounted Norman Knights who had come to a halt near the forest.
Morhill's drummers were the first to catch sight of the charge. They knew not what to do, and did the only thing they were trained to. They beat their drums. Madly, with mortal fear, too confused to run, the peasants of Normandy hired to beat the drums were doing what they did best. The sound resounded, echoed off the hill, and drowned out all other noise. The whole army was now looking at the source of the noise. The cacophony drowned out Morhill's cries to form up, and his horse went wild. His temper roused, he started to ride towards the peasants, but was distracted by the sight of the charging knights. He pulled his horse to a halt, and turned direction to ride towards the other unit of dismounted knights. He needed to reach them and fast.
The Norman Knights were surprised into action, and braced themselves for the impact. Spear tips went down, shields were raised, and the men pressed against those in their front as they were trained to. And the charge closed by the yard...
...the Knights were yelling too, their lust for battle accentuated by all the noise. "In the name of the King! Death to the Duke!" The distance closed and the chargers could see the eyes of the waiting foe, the feelings behind those eyes unknown. Then it was all lost in a daze as the lances met their target with one loud crunching noise which was audible above the din of the drums. Horse and man tumbled in the dust, metal pierced man and horse alike. From a distance, Morhill caught sight of the Knights ripping and tearing through the ranks of the dismounted knights, with nary a loss to the riders. The push swept the dismounted men backward, and against the forest. Caught between the momentum of the horses and the unyielding forest, the line shattered like crystal, and the Normans broke and fled. The rallying cries of their captains went unanswered, a drop of sanity in an ocean of chaos. Some dropped their armour and took refuge in the forest, while others scattered, ran onto the plains and were mostly cut down. In a swirling cloud of dust reminiscent of a sand storm, close to a third of Duke Anand's best were slain. Out of the dust emerged the victors, jubilant and praising their King. "Long Live the King!" "Long Live the Talker!"
Too Little, Too Late
The Norman ranks were enveloped in a death like silence after the result of the charge became evident. The drummers had finally found enough presence of mind to stop drumming and had gathered around Lord Morhill's party. Duke Anand had seen what had gone on, and was too deep in shock to realize the significance of what had just happened. He had his flag bearer wave the standard, and ordered Morhill to move the walking knights below the hill in the direction of the Anglo Normans...
Morhill was mortified when the order came through. The jubilant Anglo Norman Knights were spoiling for another kill, and the last thing he wanted his men to do was pose as an easy target in the open ground. But the Duke had sent his own master of horse with instructions to oversee the execution of the orders. Lord Morhill steeled his mind and gave the orders. The men on the bottom of the hill began to march towards the Kings troops...
The significance of the order was not lost on Lord Farnham. He ordered the Victorious Knights to turn around, wheel around the forest and stop the advance of the enemy from the flank. Victory brings with it great zeal to the victor, and thus endowed the Anglo Norman Knights whirled their mounts around, faced the approaching enemy, and charged...
...and Lord Morhill was stooped dead in his tracks yet again. The drummers remained silent, the carnage of the previous charge still alive in their minds. Only one noise could be heard - that of the mad chorus of yells mingled with the sound of hooves as the charge drove home.
The results were a grim parody of the first charge. The only grace for the Normans was that there was no forest to break their backs, and the men recoiled in terror. The fight raged on and on, with the mounted Knights pushing back the dismounted knights with each passing minute. Broken, bloodied, pursued and harried, Lord Morhill's men went down en masse. The charge would make it to the text books for centuries, to be written in English rather than French.
Duke Anand's mind was in turmoil and he strived in vain to mask his emotions. In his centre, the Breton cavalry and more Anglo Norman Knights were advancing menacingly. His own infantry and Knights were awaiting orders, and any delay could induce doubts in the minds of his troops. Several orders were issued in rapid succession. Almost the entire Norman frontline moved forward for the last push...
One final Push
The Talker watched on with amusement as the Norman line surged forward. The Norman Knights were approaching his Bretons, and the Norman spearmen were aiming for his Knights. The King gestured at the Bretons and said with disdain "Kill those Knights". Lord Farnham was in attendance, and galloped to comply. And then, the Gods cast their dice, and the events took a sudden and dramatic turn.
The old Saxons never could bring themselves to trust the Bretons. To them they represented something lowlier than even the Normans, who were bad enough. They were regarded as poor fighters, and were generally commanded by Bretons in battle. But Jolly the Talker had opted to place them under Lord Farnham knowing that even though the old warrior suspected the Bretons he would never let them down in battle. His instincts were proved right when Farnham proceeded to reach the Bretons, went to the front line, raced into a gallop and shouted the charge orders! If anything could spur a Breton to mad fury, it was the sight of an old Knight, proud despite his age, leading a charge with age old rivalries forgotten. The charge took life, the chargers drove like mad, not caring that the enemy were the best of Norman Knights.
Blood and Death. All I could smell was Blood and Death. No one who lived to tell the tale could ever forget the smell of Blood and Death on that day
Perhaps it was the sight of old Farnham, perhaps he realized the deadly potential of the Bretonian charge. In any case Duke Peristold who was nearest to the Norman Knights dashed to join them and frantically tried to steady his Knights to meet the Bretons. The charge hit home like a wave, washing and eroding everything in its path. What they lacked in weapons was more than compensated by the Bretons' fury; Old Farnham himself claimed three Norman Knights. The lines merged, separated, and became entangled again as the Bretons pushed the Normans to the rear in a breathtaking display of brute force.
Things would have gone on, had it not been for the Ducal Tactics of The Honourable Anand 'Swearer' Mohan. Panic swept away the last vestiges of normal thought from his mind, and he became blind to everything except the charge of the Bretons. He strode forward, and cried out orders for the nearest heavy spearmen to rush to the aid of the stricken Knights. "My men! Oh, the best of my Men!" Surprised by the intensity of the Duke's words, the infantry broke into a run and wheeled to face the flank of the Bretons, impervious to the fact that their own right flank was now open - A fact which was lost on Duke Anand, but not on The Talker.
Laughing madly at his entourage, the King fought to control his mirth when he saw the Spearmen presenting their flanks to his Knights. He could barely bring himself to wave at the Knights to do the necessary. As it turned out, he need not have worried. As the Captain of the Knights later admitted, they would have charged even if the King had not issued the orders. No Knight worth his salt would let such an opportunity go by.
"Even the Gods assembled must have been shocked", spoke Duke Peristold of the event. He had survived the assault of the Bretons and had managed to catch glimpses of the events which followed as he fled for cover. A thousand galloping horsemen drove their deadly lances into the vulnerable side of the spearmen. The mass of humans on foot separated as if by magic, a huge hole punched through their lines. But there was no magic, only agony and terror as the spearmen realised what had befallen them. There was hardly any fighting, no warriors who stood their ground, no tales of heroism. Denied a chance to use their weapon to any effect, the hardy Normans fared little better than ordinary unarmed peasants. "Blood and Death. All I could smell was Blood and Death. No one who lived to tell the tale could ever forget the smell of Blood and Death on that day".
The Normans are Dead, Long live the Normans!
The fall of the Spearmen was the last vestige for Duke Anand. He went raving mad, and his retainers had a difficult time saving his Lordship from himself. It fell upon Peristold to sound the retreat and rally what survivors there were. Most of the infantry had broken and fled, their fear compounded by the sight of the tantrums of the Duke. William's Crown was forever lost to the Normans.
One of the first things The Talker did after the battle was to publicly offer his felicitations to Duke Farnham. The Duke was quite surprised by the move. Caught off balance, he managed to murmur a few words of thanks before retiring to his quarters. "Feast! A feast it is, for we have slaughtered the swine!" yelled the Talker King, laughing at his own pun.
This was our first Medieval Warfare battle in a long time. The battle was played using a Scenario from the upcoming Medieval Warfare Scenarios booklet by Terry Gore (Thank you, Terry!) based on the battle of Tinchebrai of 1106. Jolly Mottengad the Anglo Norman player is a newcomer to our ranks.
The battle had some very interesting effects on both players and audience alike. Anand had earlier sworn that he would stop wargaming if he lost this battle. After the game, he conveniently modified it to "I will stop Wargaming ... until the next game" :) After the game was over, one member of the audience became frenzied and challenged Anand for a game! The scenario was re-fought, using slightly re-adjusted forces. Read about how the Duke of Normandy met with his enemies yet again in Tinchebrai: The return of the Duke.
Their battle was followed by yet another game between the very same players which ended in a stalemate. All said and done we played the same scenario 3 times that day, a record for the India Wargamers.