Tuesday 25 September 2012

Mystery of the dawn surge of book sales

I was a little surprised to get a modest surge of Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame sales around dawn (UK time) one Sunday morning. I was intrigued.

It took me a few days to solve this mystery.

The Community TV Channel (a less well-known UK channel) used a cut down version of my Fletcher Pratt lecture as a filler. They edited the 50 minute Youtube talk down to 10-12 minutes.

Apparently the Open University, a distance learning institution, hires the space on some obscure channels for their course related learning programs. Between these programs, the channel uses 'fillers' from around the digital world. Hence, my lecture was seen by some people who were learning German/ Italian.

Clearly some of these people had good taste, as they bought a book on naval wargaming (and a few other titles).

Reveille Wargaming Show Sun 25 Nov 2012

I am putting on a participation game at my local club and show.

As the great explorer and daughter have been missing for some time, the 1920's British Empire has decided to launch a search. All that is needed is an experienced gentleman to command the airship and troops. A 45 minute participation game for 1 to 4 players.

I will also have a book stand with over 50 different wargaming books for sale.


Saturday 8 September 2012

What Really Happened in Ancient and Medieval Battles?

Will Whyler commented on this in the Guardroom pages of Slingshot in March 2012. Even the best documented battles have gaping holes in our understanding. For example the classic book, the Battles of St Albans by Burley, Elliott and Watson is a marvellous detailed account of the first battle of the Wars of the Roses in 1455. Taking just the first battle of St Albans, they have a wonderfully detailed account of what happened and where. By some fine battlefield detective work they have documented where each of the three assaults were launched against the gates/ walls of the town, where the last stand was etc. However, the why is less certain.

In summary, Salisbury and York attacked at the wall at two points against Clifford and Somerset/ Northumberland and while this was happening Warwick broke through at a less well defended part of the wall. What is the subject of conjecture is was this by chance or was it the plan. Did the attackers cunningly attack at two points to draw the less numerous defenders to face them, or was it just improvisation by Warwick. He saw a gap in the defences and went for it?

Having got across the wall Warwick did not turn left or right to take the defenders in the flank (which would have been the most obvious tactical move), but made straight for the defenders reserve around the king. Seizing the king effectively ended the battle. How did Warwick know the king was in the marketplace, as the pre-battle negotiations took place at the nearby abbey?

Even using the pioneering methodology of SLA Marshall, we do not understand more recent battles. Marshall, while controversial, attempted to understand battles by interviewing combatants as soon as possible after WWII, Korean and Vietnam battles. Other pioneering work by Paddy Griffith has opened a new window on 19th century battles; his method was analysing similarities in large numbers of personal accounts of battles.

Despite the best efforts of many wargamers who have spent years as amateur historians examining battles from the distant past, to me, the why in battles of the ancient and medieval world is nearly always conjecture.