Thursday, 31 October 2019

Battle of Hereford 1055

Some time ago in issue 365 of Wargames Illustrated there was an excellent article about the battle of Hereford 1055. I won’t go into the full history which is covered well in the article by Pete Brown. The particular interest in the battle is the opportunity to use a wide range of dark age figures in one battle. The other benefit for us is there is fairly little real detail known about the battle so we were free to fill in any details we fancied. The key protagonists were Aelfgar son of Leofric a Mercian Earl exiled by King Edward who fled to Ireland returning with a sizeable force of mercenary Dublin Vikings, this augmenting his small Housecarl retinue. He then joined forces with Gruffyd ap Llywelyn, who would one day become the first King of Gwynedd. This unlikely alliance marched on Hereford in October 1055. King Edward’s Norman nephew Ralph de Sudeley had been made Earl of Hereford and had spent the previous years attempting to develop the Local Saxons into a more Norman style army. Specifically mentioned is the fact that some of the Saxon troops were forced to fight on horseback which they weren’t very comfortable about. The only other named character we included was Bishop AEthelstan of Hereford who for our battle has taken to the battlefield to encourage the defending Saxon forces.

So from this point we made everything else up as we felt .........this was a large and bloody battle so I apologise for so many photos πŸ™‚
The overview of the battlefield
The bulk of the Saxon Forces around Hereford
A view up towards Hereford the poorly trained Saxon cavalry in the foreground
A close up of Hereford where one of the residents is putting on a show for the locals.
A better view looking down the battlefield 
Ralph de Sudeley in the foreground with his ‘Norman’ forces facing off against the hordes of Welsh
The Dublin/Irish Vikings
Aelfgar and his small retinue of Saxon Housecarls
The battle now begins with a general advance 
Both sides seeking to get some terrain advantage, the meadow/poorly drained area will slow movement but only slightly, we agreed three objectives the bridge, the cross and the church at Holme Lacy. There was an unspoken extra objective for the welsh/Vikings to get into Hereford itself
According to the limited history of the battle the Saxon cavalry were reluctant infantry so we ensured they had a lower than average morale, despite this they charged straight towards the enemy in front of them
Close to the cross the Real Norman knights have also decided to charge headlong at the welsh
Closer to Holme Lacy the Normans look on as Welsh Berserkers charge down the hil
The knights smash into a horde of welsh
Looking from behind Holme Lacy the welsh light cavalry is causing havoc in the Norman battleline
The reluctant Saxon Cavalry charge into the Irish 
A sense of the wider battlefield developing
The Saxons commanded by AEthelstan slowly move forward happy to use the meadowlands as cover
Everything is starting to break up to the right with individual units slugging it out in combat
After a couple of turns of combat the knights have broken through the welsh....this could be decisive in the same turna second horde of welsh flees the field
Strong Saxon Forces in front of Hereford
....but the Vikings are getting closer as the skirmishers out front are brushed aside

The Norman cavalry having made a break through is then ripped to shreds by a pack of Wardogs, who knew that wardogs are most effective against cavalry !
Ralph de Sudeley has galloped up to capture the cross but is surrounded by welsh light archers
Despite their initial reluctance the Saxon cavalry is making some headway agains the Vikings 
A unit of welsh light cavalry attempts to hold the far end of the bridge but they are chased away by skirmishers with javelins and short bows
Oh dear it was bound to happen the Saxons gallop off
A view down the battlefield, much of the Saxon army not yet tested
Gruffyd and a single welsh warrior (female) charge in against Ralph
The Vikings and Aelfgar’s small Saxon retinue have now reached the meadow, will the Saxons have the strength to hold them back ?
Closer to the cross another welsh horde is crashing into the Saxon flank
Vikings on the bridge !
True to his later nickname Ralph the Timid flesh the field !
But the Saxon Housecarls holding in front of Hereford haven’t noticed and they remain in place
The defence line is finally starting to break and the only force remaining in front of the city gates is a regiment of levy townsfolk
At Holme Lacy the Normans have control with crossbows keeping any further welsh advance at bay
The bridge is being hotly contested but Athelstan is on the scene to hold the defence together
The Vikings do break through but only have enough time for a single round of combat and the townsfolk hold
A final view of the battlefield you get a sense of the blood which must have been spilt and the carnage as these are the only troops remaining as darkness falls it will no doubt take many years for the blood to wash away from the meadows.

A tremendous battle, fierce and bloody fighting as befitting a Dark Age battle. Technically it was a draw with the bridge contested and one objective each. Historically Ralph’s force didn’t do so well and abandoned the field leaving Hereford at the mercy of the welsh. πŸ˜€


  1. cracking day, need more dogs

  2. Lovely presentation. I have gone over the photo's a couple of times at full screen, a real treat. The buildings and cross are lovely pieces.

  3. Very good! Bases very cool!

  4. Brilliant! A great looking game and such a blast to see so many factions on the table.

  5. A wonderful looking game which sounds great fun too. Shame the Welsh weren't thumped though...

    1. Thanks David......I do have some welsh blood so I had to let a few get away πŸ˜€

  6. A fabulous display of dark age delight.

  7. Great looking battle Matt. Needs more orcs though ;)

    1. Thanks Paul.........not sure about the orcs though

  8. As always, Matt, your games are a visual treat and your latest terrain additions fit in nicely! Beware of WarDogs!

    1. Thanks Jonathan....nobody told me wardogs were so vicious! I think I might get a few

  9. Lovely looking game, and what a scrap!

    1. Thanks AJ it was brutal with much blood.......πŸ‘

  10. Wonderful stuff Matt.

  11. A splendid looking and sounding game Matt...
    You certainly don’t need to apologise for taking lots of lovely photos.

    All the best. Aly

  12. Pretty darn cool. Great job and makes me want to get my dark ages troops out for a battle, but wouldn’t be as grand as this one. πŸ˜€
    What rules did you use?

    1. Thanks Stew the object was to get the bulk of our dark age figures out at one time. We did have some extra cavalry which didn’t find space and we had a couple of extra units of Normans but that would have unbalanced the sides too much. As for rules we played Kings of war historical, very slightly modified around skirmish rules. Simple enough for a game this size where there isn’t a lot of tactical finesse anyway.

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  15. Lovely looking game,lots of splendid photos,memo to self, get some war dogs!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain I will definately be getting some wardogs !

  16. I prostrate myself at the feet of such a table and worship! Lovely stuff, really great, really inspirational.

    Now, do I need yet another era.........

    1. Too much prostration I think, but many thanks for your kind words. And of course you need another period πŸ˜€

  17. Hi,

    I wonder if I would ask a favour of you?

    What was the OOB's for the battle and what were the commander's names?

    I can be reached at:

    darrell DOT hindley AT googlemail DOT com

    Kind Regards