The Danish Volunteers of the Waffen-SS

By Lars Larsen

On 29 June 1941 the Frikorps Denmark was created. It was a Danish battalion inside the Waffen-SS. The battalion took part in the hard battles at the Demjansk pocket in the summer of 1942, and the 1942/43 winter campaign in Velikie Luki/Nevel, with heavy losses and casualties. On 20 May 1943, the Frikorps Denmark was disbanded and was renamed Regiment Denmark.

This book tells the story of Frikorps Denmark through photos and text. The book is a project that the authors, Jens P. Bjerregaard and Lars Larsen, have talked about for some years. Throughout the last 15 years there have been many books published about the Danes who joined Frikorps Denmark. Most of these books are biographies from some of the members.

Frikorps Danmark members, taken in January 1943 at Velikie Luki/Nevel.

However, there has never been a book that tells the story in pictures until now with The Danish Volunteers of the Waffen-SS.

The subject is still today associated with taboo and is controversial. The authors have a lifelong interest in the story in the Danes who joined Frikorps Denmark during the Second World War and during the last 20 years they have visited many of the veterans to hear their stories. Besides that, they have travelled in Russia together with former Frikorps Denmark veterans to come as close to the history as possible.

Many of the photos have never been seen or published before, and the material in the book is from original photos that the authors have received from veterans and their relatives.

The authors are both located in Denmark, and have both earlier published books about Danes in the Waffen-SS.

Danish Volunteers of the Waffen-SS. Freikorps Danmark 1941-43 can be ordered on our website here.

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Between Olmütz and Torgau: Horace St Paul during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Campaigns of the Seven Years War

By Neil Cogswell

Horace St Paul in 1748

In his lifetime, Horace St Paul had prepared his ‘Journal of the First Two Campaigns of the Seven Years War’ for publication, but it was not until a century after his death in 1812 that, under the guidance of his descendent George Grey Butler, it finally appeared in its original French in a publication by Oxford University Press. It took another century before the first English language version ‘From Lobositz to Leuthen’ became available from Helion Books. Horace

St Paul would continue to serve with the Austrian army throughout the campaigns of 1758, 1759 and 1760 and papers from his Journal are now lodged in the Northumberland County Archives at Ashington. It was to those papers that I turned to try to reconstruct the account that St Paul might have written. By comparison with his accounts of 1756 and 1757, the Journal of St Paul is somewhat fragmented – he was then a valued volunteer member of the staff of Field Marshal Daun and busy about his duties. Nevertheless, his papers provide a good framework; this I have expanded by drawing upon accounts to which, in principle, Horace St Paul might have himself have turned.

Order of March of the Austrian Army to attack Hochkirch, 14th October 1758.

The account opens in the Spring of 1758. Following the disaster at Leuthen the Austrian army in Bohemia seeks to recover its poise and recruit its strength. Frederic of Prussia meanwhile re-establishes his control of all of Silesia and then turns his eyes South to complete his victory. Only the fortified town of Olmütz – a town that his armies had captured with ease some 17 years before – lies between him and Vienna.

Geographically, Olmütz lies at the South-Eastern extremity of the theatre over which the Austrians and Prussians fought. Some 400 km (about 250 English miles) to the North-West, the town of Torgau marks an important crossing point of the Elbe River. There, two and a half years later, as Winter gripped the land, the King of Prussia would face no less a peril; his resources at an end, he controlled only the ground on which his army stood. Between these two tidelines the fortunes of war flowed back and forth in the intervening years.

Horace St Paul is made Colonel, January 1759.

Between those two crises, the very nature of warfare also changed, but not for technological reasons. Battles no longer adhered to the rigid formality of earlier times; often the more decisive movements take place under the cloak of darkness and the objective of battle becomes no less than the encirclement and total destruction of the opposing force. In siege warfare, brutality – in the form of bombardment – takes the place of the more scientific methods beloved of the students of Vauban. Whilst great battles, such as Hochkirch, Kunersdorf, Maxen, Landeshut, Leignitz and Torgau and major sieges, notably of Dresden, Glatz and Breslau necessarily occupy many of the pages it is the connective tissue, charting the movements of the armies between such major actions that is, to me, the most interesting element of St Paul’s Journal. Often for days – sometimes weeks – the contending armies lie close to each other; here the text is ripe with ‘what if’ scenarios that are suitable for translation to the tabletop.

Journal of Horace St Paul, July 21st/22nd 1760.

Because of his duties, St Paul had less time to compile his journal than in the first two campaigns. In places it is necessary to include material from other sources and to balance his perspective with the view from the ‘other side of the hill’. In this latter role, I often call upon the Memoirs of Henri de Catt, Reader to the King of Prussia, to whom Frederic often explained what was going on. When possible, I have tried to constrain my choice of such additional material to accounts that might, in principle, have been available to St Paul during his lifetime. In particular, I value those accounts where the author writes without knowledge of what is to come after.

You can order ‘Olmütz to Torgau’ on our website here.


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Gerhard Fieseler: The Man behind the Storch

By Nigel Holden

On 23 October 1943 the owner of a medium-sized aircraft company in Kassel drove in shock and horror from his home to his main factory. The city was little more than smoking ruins following a massive RAF bombing the night before. Some 6,000 people had died as a direct result and the death toll would reach 10,000. Gerhard Fieseler resolved that his brain-child – to him it was his brain-child – would bring deserving retribution to the accursed Tommies. This was the Fieseler 102, which the world would come to know as the V-1 flying bomb. But his dream was not to be fulfilled. He rued years later that it was an idiotic decision by the Nazi leadership to neglect the war-winning potential of his Luftwaffe-backed weapon by favouring the parallel development of the vastly more expensive Wehrmacht-sponsored V-2.

Fieseler in 1927 about to set his mark as a great aerobatics pilot.

Hardly anyone these days links the name of Fieseler to the V-1. He is better known for the creation of the legendary Storch reconnaissance aircraft, one of the most acclaimed planes in its class ever built. The great British military test pilot, Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, memorably described the Storch as ‘a virtuoso of slow flight’ and even ranked it in his top 20 best aircraft of the 487 he flew during and after the Second World War. Fieseler was not the designer behind the Storch, but he was intimately involved in its creation.

During the First World War Fieseler had been a fighter pilot and then in the 1920s and 30s an aerobatics pilot. He was German national champion four times and world champion in 1934. By that time he had set up a small aircraft manufacturing company in Kassel. He built first gliders then sports aircraft. From 1936 to 1945 he was building military aircraft for the Nazis, becoming a favoured manufacturer. He was not a trained engineer, but in peace and war he treated the air as a personal aeronautical laboratory, where he learned, as he put it, ‘the alpha and omega of flying.’ He had the precious knack of getting his designers and engineers to build into his aircraft, and especially the Storch, all his intuitions and experience. Some 10 countries tried to produce their own versions of the Storch. They failed. It had what today is called uncopiability, the only guarantor of technological leadership.

In 1938 Fieseler’s company beat over 80,000 other German companies to be one of just 73 enterprises to receive the Nazi’s top award for creating ‘an exemplary National-Socialist industrial community.’ His company won the award four years running. As for the Storch, it first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War and was later involved in all the major Nazi campaigns of the Second World War. Its passenger list (as it were) includes Rommel, Speer, Mussolini, Churchill and Eisenhower. While it is possible to build up a heroic picture of the Storch, there is one unpleasant reminder of the regime which was its godfather. Female inmates of the Flossenbürg concentration camp nicknamed an especially unpleasant overseer Fieseler Storch on account of her spindly legs.

A letter from Rommel, published in the Fieseler company newspaper in 1941, praising the Storch’s ability to land on rock-strewn terrain.

I was working in Kassel from 2001 to 2003, when by chance I was shown copies of the Fieseler company newspaper which was published from 1938 to 1943. I realised as a management professor and not a military historian that these newspapers were a treasure trove about a Nazi SME. Thus began my interest in Fieseler, who exemplified all the ideals of ‘a technocrat of rearmament,’ who could not resist entering into a Faustian pact with the Nazis. Probing his long life – he died in 1987 aged 91 – I made use of his admittedly selective autobiography published in 1982. With that and other works in German I discovered more about Fieseler, who was not necessarily fascinating in himself, but whose life filled in minor, but intriguing gaps in many accounts of military aviation and Germany’s wars in the first half of the 20th century.

He gives for example a detailed account of his flying experiences in Macedonia, a rarely discussed First World War campaign. He chronicles his close friendship with Ernst Udet, describing their less than complimentary assessment of Manfred von Richthofen, otherwise the most glorified pilot of the First World War. He gives his version of the creation of the V-1. There are pen portraits of the ‘obnoxious’ Hitler and of Göring in full swagger. If these two are despised, pure hatred is reserved for the Americans for their ‘infamous treatment’ of him as their prisoner during 1945-1946.

Fieseler is careful to stress his political indifference to the Nazi regime, even if in his company newspaper he had dedicated himself and his company to ‘serving an incomparably higher purpose.’ He regarded his post-war trial for war crimes as an employer of slave labour as a travesty. It should have been Hitler on trial, not him. Exonerated, he proved to be a failed entrepreneur, but did some judging of aerobatics contexts.  All his later life Fieseler craved recognition as a pioneer of the air, words he had had inscribed on his epitaph. On the other hand, he did miss his chance. In 1953 he received an invitation from the USA to be one of three representatives from Germany to attend ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight. He turned down this singular honour, saying cryptically that it was against his principles. By this he meant he had not forgiven the Americans for their humiliating treatment of him after the war. He never saw the magnanimousness of their gesture.

You can order ‘Gerhard Fieseler’ from our website here.


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The Other Norfolk Admirals: Myngs, Narbrough and Shovell

By Simon Harris

The careers of the three Norfolk admirals were intimately related. Narbrough and Shovell came from the small North Norfolk hamlet of Cockthorpe and Myngs from nearby Salthouse. In the 1660s, Myngs was the captain, Narbrough the lieutenant and Shovell the lowly cabin boy in the same ship. It is also possible that they were all related at least by marriage. In the majority of the naval wars of the second half of the 17th and the early 18th centuries one or other of them was invariably present.

Cloudesley Shovell

In this work, I have been able to revise and add new material on the unfortunate Cloudesley Shovell. Born to a yeoman farmer, he entered the Navy whilst still a boy and, in 1676, came to national prominence by burning the four ships of the Dey of Tripoli right under his castle walls. This led to conflict with Samuel Pepys over a gold medal that the generous Charles II had awarded Shovell. Later there was another spectacular falling out with James II over the new king’s Catholicism. Following Narbrough’s premature death, Shovell married his widow: effectively the cabin boy marrying the admiral’s widow which is unique in British naval history. Brave to a fault, in the reigns of William and Mary and Anne, Shovell became the leading fighting admiral of the age. In 1707, at the very height of his considerable powers, Shovell and nearly 2,000 men drowned after his ships were wrecked on the rocks of Scilly. According to his grandson, Shovell arrived on the shore alive and was then brutally murdered for the sake of an emerald ring on his finger. Faulty navigation was at the heart of Shovell’s demise; did he keep his appointment with the celebrated scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, to discuss longitude? New theories concerning the causes of the disaster are examined and also the fate of his gold dinner service.

Explorer, navigator, consummate sailor and naval administrator: John Narbrough was all this and more. No biography of Narbrough has been produced for 85 years and much new material has come to light in this time. For example the rediscovery of the ship, the Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion from which Narbrough was trying to salvage sunken Spanish silver when he died from a mysterious illness. In addition, the British Library recently raised a large sum of money to buy Narbrough’s journals of his voyage [1669-71] into the Pacific Ocean and up to what is now modern day Chile. He illustrated his journals with paintings of the flora and fauna plus accurate depictions of the harbours that he visited. On his return journey, Narbrough became the first Englishman to sail through the Strait of Magellan from west to east.

An Action of the Barbary Wars

Both Narbrough and Shovell owed so much to Christopher Myngs and yet I do not believe that any biography of him has yet been written. In the 1650s, out in the West Indies, he played very much the part of an Elizabethan buccaneer with repeated attacks on the Spanish Main. After helping himself to treasure that more properly belonged to the state, he was shipped home to England in semi-disgrace. However, in the run-up to the Restoration of the monarchy, the authorities did not think it appropriate to discipline the most popular man in the Navy. Later, at the Four Days’ Battle of 1666, Myngs leading the English van would attempt to fight on despite having his face shattered by a musket ball. Six days later, he died at his home in London and was buried in an East London churchyard which has now become a seedy park. He deserved better.

The Other Norfolk Admirals is available now on our website here.


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Crucible of the Jacobite ’15

By Jonathan Oates

The battle of Sherriffmuir is a battle known to me since 1982, when I read an article about it in a wargaming magazine when I was at school. There was only John Baynes’ book on the topic, which I read, but that was all. I have always been interested in the campaign which surrounds it, which has always received less attention than that of 1745 by both historians and the popular media. It is probably why my undergraduate thesis explored the Fifteen in Newcastle.

Over a decade ago I was considering writing a book on the Fifteen, and even started it, spending much time with the State Papers Scotland at the National Archives, as well as primary published sources from the British Library. And then came Professor Szechi’s unrivallable tome concerning the whole of the campaign and its aftermath, and then a volume by an American scholar about the fates of the prisoners. Over three decades after John Baynes, we had these two brilliant books.

To cut a long story short, I had a book published about that even more obscure battle, though the last one on English soil, Preston, and my thoughts turned to the other battle of the campaign. Despite a recent book by Stuart Reid, I found a publisher quickly enough for a book on Sheriffmuir. My book, unlike Reid’s, would focus squarely on the Scottish campaign and in the struggle between Argyle and Mar for different visions of Scotland.

Fortunately I had my notes from Kew to use, but more work was needed. Szechi’s footnotes and a booklet about the battle, unknown apparently to both Szechi and Reid, provided additional clues for further research. No historian can be island from his fellows. Having a brother resident in Scotland meant that this southern English scholar could again free board and lodgings whilst spending time at the National Library (finding the one known joke made by the Jacobite leader, the Earl of Mar) and National Records of Scotland as well as visiting Dunblane Museum and the battlefield.  Taking a photograph of the major memorial there as soon as we arrived was lucky because after walking to the Gathering Stone and back, we found a car parked right in front of it.

In writing the book, I think I have shown Mar in a better light than he has traditionally been portrayed. This was given additional weight by my attention being brought to a hitherto unused document; however, this was after my visits to Scotland and so I was doubly lucky to be able to call on a Northumbrian Jacobite who was kind enough to pay a visit to the appropriate Edinburgh repository and look it up for me.

I have also been able to shed additional light on the rank and file of the British Army by a trawl through three decades of pension records at the National Archives. As with the document mentioned above, no one had previously used these. Amongst other conclusions, one is not that Scots made up about a quarter of the troops fighting against the Jacobites; a far greater proportion than their composition of Britain’s population. I also found that there was at least one woman warrior in both armies; the anonymous Jacobite heroine being killed.

Describing a battle is difficult for both participant and historian. Evidence naturally conflicts, raising the question of which to give greater weight to. Evidence from both letters, memoirs and newspapers have been used to provide the fullest account, which has not been the case with previous histories, providing as they have done on either a limited number of published sources or retailing a more concise version.

This is a great story worth retelling in a focused and detailed way on the core of the campaign; around Perth and Stirling in the autumn and winter of 1715-1716. It pits a small British army against a far larger force which fought in an unconventional way. This is the kind of struggle that the British army would face again and again during the next two centuries, but in 1715, the relatively primitive technology did not automatically give the smaller but better equipped force an overwhelming advantage.

Pre-order Crucible of the Jacobite ’15 here.

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What Did You Do in the Great War, Grandfather?

By Charles Barrington

The book primarily covers the First World, but also describes the years leading up to the war and the period between the wars.

My motivation was the fact that my grandfather was involved in this seismic period of history, but I knew nothing about his actual role and experiences when I knew him as a child.

I started with a single sheet of foolscap from the Army Records Office in Glasgow, from which I was able to trace his career back in time, and forward into the period after the war until he retired. I used the records in the Royal Artillery Museum Library (Firepower), now sadly closed to the public, and they led me to his unit war diaries in the National Archives, where I found his war diary for the entire period from July 1915 up to the Armistice.

I had never really understood the different phases of the First World War, and the book has taught me a huge amount about the BEF campaign in 1914, the stalemate before and after the Somme, the huge German assault in March 1918 (Operation Michael), and the pursuit to the Armistice line later that year.

The book seeks to understand why we find it so hard to comprehend the First World War, given the enormous changes in society since then. It also challenges the common view that the war was ‘futile’, and looks more deeply at the effect it had on those who survived, rather than the usual point of view, which is only to consider those who did not.

One of the key features is the use of unique family photographs from before and after the war. They bring the story to life.

Perhaps the chapter on the way society was changing before the war offers a new insight into the frame of mind of those who went to fight. It was not the glorious sun-drenched summer we all remember from the newsreels – there were real changes afoot, the implications of which did not become clear until well after the war had ended.

The newspaper article describing the wedding of my grandparents in 1913 is a brilliant illustration of the fashions of the time – a prize insight for students of design.

I now plan to research the lives of Allenby and Smith-Dorrien, both of whom deserve updated biographies. I am also writing a book of children’s stories!

I want the book to be read by non-historians (especially children) to show that ‘history’ is all about people and the role they play in the wider world.

I have never been a soldier, but both my grandfathers, my father, and my godfather all served in the two world wars. The book is partly to help me understand their world and what they lived through: unimaginable to us in the sheltered and politically correct world we now live in.

What Did You Do in the Great War, Grandfather? is now available on our website here.

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Jack and Hopit: A Cavalryman and his war horse in the Great War

By Serena Merton

Jack and Hopit tells the story of Second Lieutenant John Forrester Colvin and his charger Hopit who arrived in France in November 1914 and returned home together in April 1919. Their relationship began in 1912 when Jack was still a schoolboy and his father bought the horse at Tattersalls for the grand sum of £162.15.00 but the true rapport began when the Remount Department bought Hopit for £70 and he and Jack entrained for France and joined the 9th Lancers at the beginning of December 1914. Hopit survived the war unscathed whilst Jack was gassed three times; family history tells of his being the only trench survivor of one attack, and hospitalised once with a gunshot wound.

A snapshot of life in the trenches and beyond the front line for the cavalrymen and their mounts; their day-to-day lives of endurance, discomfort, mundanity and great bravery as well as the behind-the-lines entertainment that they put on for themselves. The regiment arranged football matches, polo, gymkhanas, marathon races, pheasant shooting, harrier and greyhound coursing. They designed and built a point-to-point course which had to be abandoned thanks to the mud but when billeted in drier spots race meetings were held. Culture was not forgotten either with a concert troupe and a regimental orchestra.

Jack on Hopit in Cologne in 1919.

I knew my grandfather well but I knew nothing about the horse Hopit until researching Jack’s award of the Military Cross in 1918 after the battle of Rosiéres, I discovered Hopit’s impressive grave which set me off on a voyage of research and discovery into the life of one World War One officer and his war horse. Jack, and his father Forrester, left a great number of photograph albums but few letters and no diaries. It took five to six years of part-time research and I did the bulk of it in the Imperial War Museum, the 9th/12th Lancers’ Museum in Derby and online as well as writing countless letters and emails to recipients in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Researching Hopit and his sire Popoff involved contact with bloodstock agents, a bloodstock journalist, a helpful Irish historian cousin, members of the local Historical Society in Sussex, Tattersalls, Weatherbys, the Irish Golden Pages, the grandsons of Tipperary farmers and horse breeders, the granddaughter of the man who sold him at auction in 1912, Sussex hunts and point-to-points. I interviewed elderly relations for their memories of Jack enquiring if he ever spoke of his experiences in the war – he did not. His daughter, my mother, is still alive at 95 but the ingrained silence of “not talking about the war” is still there after all these years.

General Plumer’s staff in Cologne in 1919. Jack on the left when serving as ADC to the Army Commander.

This was my first attempt at research and writing and I had the great good fortune to be published by Helion & Company. Having finished my education with A Levels, research and time spent in libraries was unknown to me but I found the entire process thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding.

Hopit’s grave in West Sussex.

Jack and Hopit is now available here.

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Paperboys’ American Adventure

By Peter Dennis

The ‘Battle for Britain’ series is about to come to an end with ‘The Jacobite ‘45’ and ‘Castle Assault’ in spring ’18. I wanted to make a start on an American series of Paper soldier subjects that I’ve had in mind for some time, to appeal to an existing American Paper figure market, but also to break out into a non-wargaming market through the wonderful visitor centres at US battlefield parks. So far they seem to be much more open to the Paperboys than the English Heritage, and most other UK venue shops, which have given the British subjects a rather cold shoulder.

The Rebels are coming.

‘American Civil War’- my first serious military history crush at the age of about 10 – and ‘American Revolutionary War’ are just out. Both have great rules sets by Andy Callan, and follow the format of the British books, with a full range of troop types, or as many as I could fit in, in the case of the Revolutionary war, which was extremely diverse and must have exhausted the tailors of the continent with the huge variety of uniforms and headgear worn by the American troops.

Terrain items, buildings, trees, and particularly various types of fencing, very characteristic of the battlefields of both wars, feature as you would expect. There is a basic introduction to the armies of the period and the tactics and weapons used, to make the books suitable for readers who might have little prior knowledge of the conflicts. I suppose as an ex-teacher, the urge to draw people into a study which has fascinated me for a lifetime is irresistible.

I posted all my American Civil War paperboys to the US where Andrew Frantz, an early adopter of the Paperboys, will be doing some demonstration games at wargame shows in the East. It turns out the best way to post them en masse is just to tumble them into a strong cardboard box and shake it until they find their level, then throw some more in to fill it up. They arrived safe and sound and ready to be sorted into their brigades.

Should the new American series prove to be a success, various other exciting subjects spring to mind to expand the list, from the French Indian Wars to the Alamo campaign, so let’s see what happens.

Spring ’18 will see the publication of Florian Richter’s book of profile models of the Trafalgar fleets. This is a natural spin-off of the ‘Armada’ book which stimulated lots of ideas from readers, with Napoleonic heading the list. Andy Callan will be putting a simple set of fleet rules on the site as a free download. There are dozens of rules sets for this period available, but none, we think, can cope with the large fleets which will be easy to make with Florian’s book.

The British are coming.

The Paperboys will march on into a new series called ‘Paperboys on Campaign’ which is, frankly, a catch-all title to allow me to indulge myself in my favourite periods, starting with Marlborough’s wars against the Sun King’s magnificent army, part of the War of Spanish Succession. That will be ready for publication in autumn ’18. This series will concentrate on the figures, with no educational content as such, and Andy can’t see any point in doing rules for popular subjects which have many sets in publication already, so you can expect to see over 40 pages of soldiers raring to be freed from their sheets and to get into action.

I have just designed the first 3D artillery models for this period which will be offered alongside the simpler ‘from the front’ artillery that we have seen in earlier books. I propose to do 3D artillery for all the previous books that need it and offer the sheets as a free download on this site, when I get the time to do it.

Louis XIV ‘s artillery in three dimensions.

Where the Paperboys will be campaigning after that is still to be decided. The Peninsular War will be an early subject, and the image of thousands of Zulus racing to outflank a square of sweating redcoats keeps springing into my mind. The ancient world can’t be neglected either or those glittering masses of Landsknechts… I’ll go and have a lie down, I think.

Both books are available to purchase on our website now.

Battle in America Wargame – The American Civil War is available here.
Battle in America Wargame – The American Revolutionary War is available here.

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London’s Civil War

David Flintham’s first book for Helion CIVIL WAR LONDON. A MILITARY HISTORY OF LONDON UNDER CHARLES I AND OLIVER CROMWELL  has just been published

The author talks about why he thinks the cities Civil War history is often overlooked.

Any decent London bookshop will have shelves devoted to the history of the capital.  But taking anything more than a cursory glance at the titles on display will reveal a glaring omission: the virtual absence of anything about London during the 1640s and 50s, the period of the ‘English’ Civil Wars and Interregnum.  Whilst there is plenty on Tudor London and Shakespeare’s London, and books about the Great Plague, the Great Fire and the London of Samuel Pepys appear with an almost staggering regularity, those about the London of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell are rare, so much so that it is probably possible to count the titles published on this subject over the past 30 years on the fingers of two hands.

Yet there was scarcely an event during the English Civil Wars where London did not feature. London was the hub of the Parliamentarian war effort and it was not for nothing that Thomas Hobbs wrote “But for the city the Parliament never could have made the war, nor the Rump ever have murdered the King”.  Whilst London did not witness as much actual fighting as in other parts of the Three Kingdoms, four battles (Brentford, and Turnham Green in 1642, and Bow Bridge, and Surbiton in 1648) did take place in what we now know as Greater London.  It was from London that Parliament’s army to relieve Gloucester was dispatched, and in 1649, it was to the capital that Cromwell returned from Ireland in triumph.  And Turnham Green in November 1642, a standoff between the Parliamentarian and Royalist armies could easily have become the largest battle of the entire conflict.

London’s importance has been emphasised by countless historians, with some going as far to say that by fleeing his capital in January 1642, King Charles I lost the war several months before the fighting actually started.  But most studies focus on London as the political and economic powerhouse – overlooking the fact that militarily, London was just as important.  At the outbreak of the fighting, Parliament was able to call upon the Capital’s ‘citizen soldiers’ – well trained and equipped soldiery.  These Trained Bands, formed the core of several of Parliament’s armies during the early years of the war, although their commitment was not always assured.  In addition to its militia and other volunteers, London was also able to defend herself through the construction of the largest system of urban fortification constructed anywhere in the country – and here London’s citizens played a direct role in the defence of the capital through the construction of a 18-km circuit of earthwork fortifications, the famous ‘Lines of Communication’.

London’s arms trades supplied the Parliamentarian war effort, and the Tower of London, safely in Parliament’s hands since January 1942, the country’s principal arsenal.  The capital was a place of execution (public executions took place in at least five different locations in central London), it treated the war’s wounded, and was the place of burial for many of the wars’ chief protagonists.  Armed soldiers were a common sight on London’s streets and the political direction of what has sometimes been referred to as ‘The English Revolution’ was steered by several armed coups within the capital.

Whilst London was controlled by Parliament, London was never 100% behind the Parliamentarian war-effort: amongst its population were both neutrals and Royalists (although the extent of a perceived Royalist ‘fifth-column’ is a matter for debate).  Indeed, a sufficnet number of Royalists fled London in 1642 and 1643 to form a largely ‘London’ Royalist regiment in Oxford, command by Marmaduke Rawdon, himself a former Colonel in the London Trained Bands.  Other Royalists could be found in London’s military hospitals and prisons (and, for some, ultimately at the capital’s many places of execution).

When David Underdown spoke of Revel, Riot and Rebellion in his 1987 work, he could have easily been describing the London of the 1640s and 1650s, as the capital experienced all of this and more.  And despite the ravages of time, and of the Great Fire and the Blitz, there is still much of the London known to Charles I and Oliver Cromwell to be seen today.  For instance, a three-mile stroll through Westminster takes in where Charles was executed, where the body of Cromwell was hung, the place of burial of a number of leading Parliamentarians, the birthplace of both Charles II and James II and the only remains of London’s Civil War fortifications.  Delve deeper and even more of London of the mid-17th century reveals itself.

All that is needed is a good guide…

Civil War London: A Military History of London under Charles I and Oliver Cromwell by David Flintham published by Helion and Company (September 2017)

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Gladsmuir and Prestonpans 1745: What’s in a name?

Arran Johnston’s book – On Gladsmuir Shall the Battle Be! – launches in September 2017 as Number 6 in the ‘From Reason to Revolution’ series and tells the story of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans, so why Gladsmuir in the title and not Prestonpans? The author explains all:

The battle, which took place on the morning of 21 September 1745 between the rival dynasties of Hanover and Stuart, is one of Scotland’s most famous and best documented.

It is possible, as the book demonstrates, to build a detailed picture of precisely how events unfolded, but ever since the battle was fought, it has been known by a variety of names – the Battle of Tranent, Tranent Muir, Seton, Preston, Prestonpans and Gladsmuir – so what’s in a name?

The main battlefield area occupies a space between the villages of Preston, Seton and Tranent. Seton lay just behind the Jacobite lines when they formed up for their final charge, but the settlement was fairly minor in 1745 and would later disappear entirely. Besides, the Jacobites did not hang around its vicinity for very long, so it is easy to understand why the Battle of Seton failed to catch on popularly.

Tranent was a larger settlement, on high ground overlooking the battlefield. The Jacobites occupied several positions around the village the day before the battle, and the first shots of the battle were fired from here. It was not unreasonable therefore that the local poet-farmer Adam Skirving gave the town’s name to the battle in one of his ballads. The poem has proven a less enduring hit than his other work on the engagement, Hey Johnnie Cope!

The village closest to the government lines was that of Preston – a worthy old medieval market settlement. Chief amongst the inhabitants was the brother of the exiled Earl of Mar, whose grand house and gardens at Preston formed the western edge of the main battlefield. To the south was his neighbour Colonel Gardiner, who fell in the battle and was duly lionised after his death. Gardiner’s house at Bankton was used as a hospital for the wounded and has since become an iconic location. Preston has a strong claim therefore for lending the battle its name (and this was widely recognised at the time), but Preston’s importance was waning by 1745 in contrast to the growing coastal settlement to its north, Prestonpans. In time, the latter would totally subsume old Preston; however, there were already two famous Battles of Preston (1648 and 1715), and although they were fought in Lancashire, they both loomed dark in the Scottish – especially the Jacobite – consciousness.

It is no surprise therefore that the Jacobite soldiers who had fought and won the engagement were open to using an alternative title. Fortunately for the propagandists, just to the east of Tranent was a broad heath known as Gladsmuir. A medieval prophecy by Thomas the Rhymer foretold of a great victory to be won at a place of this name. A popular version in 1615 summarised the prophecy as ‘on Gladsmuir shall the battle be’. Surely now that had been fulfilled, and the two or three miles separating the battlefield from the real Gladsmuir were a trifling detail, but the people who actually lived around the battlefield were not impressed with the Jacobites’ choice. A fiery petition was sent to the Scots Magazine, which criticised its use of the name ‘Gladsmuir’. It could only signify, its signatories exclaimed, malice or stupidity. To mistake some of the most fertile fields in Lothian for barren moorland was ‘downright transubstantiation’! The cause of the concern was that the local communities were being ‘deprived of that honour and fame which of right pertains to them’. To the petitioners, said to be from all of the villages which surrounded the battlefield, it did not matter which title was used as long as it was that of one of the settlements – thus, it came to pass that (to paraphrase Lord Elcho, who had charged across the field with the Jacobites) the Prince and his men called it the ‘Battle of Gladsmuir’, but everyone else says ‘Prestonpans’.

Arran P. Johnston

 On Gladsmuir Shall the Battle Be! will be formally launched on the anniversary of the battle – Thursday, 21 September – at Cockenzie House & Gardens, 22 Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie, East Lothian, EH32 0HY. Doors open at 7.30pm, entry is free and refreshments will be provided.

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