Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Siege of Newstead Abbey, a Sealed Knot Battle

I finally got to Newstead for the Sealed Knot Muster on the Bank Holiday Monday. The weather was rather hot and the lack of shade did make me wilt a little so it was not hard to spare a thought for all those guys and girls dressed in all that wool and armour not to mention running around all over the place.

My Regiments Standards
As my old Regiment arrived on the field I shouted out very loudly Huzzah for the Guard to bemused looks from the audience and the odd look of pleasure from the Guard. I will admit I was rather proud of the ranks of burgundy that passed before me.

How long?
This is a good indication of the length of a pike, one boy asked his Dad if they were heavy, I had to grin when the pillock replied "No Son, it's just bits of wood" Well sir just to let you know, they start heavy and after thrusting with them for a couple of hours they progress to BLOODY heavy and these remember don't have iron pike heads at the ends like the real ones do. It's amazing how they managed to fight for so long in the real battles.

A packed field
I would say the battle had about 8-900+ on the field and whilst it was not fully packed in the photo above was typical of the view of good chunks of the field. I had taken part in a lot of battles over the years I was a member but had only ever watched a small battle and was surprised at the splendour of the occasion.

Look an open space, let fill it.
These battles are not just thrown together, not only are Regiments and Tercio's given set areas and opponents to fight but throughout the battle the commanders are given orders such as attack or fall back etc. so that for those watching you get to see a battle unfold rather than just a swaying mob going back and forwards.

Forget what I just wrote, this is a push!
However all that comes to nowt when Pike get to close for a push. It's kind of reversed tug of war and from the outside it may look like it's just two bodies meeting at one point and trying to push the other back but it's a little more complex. Not only is the object to try and push them back but also it can be useful to take advantage of the terrain so if your pushing up hill you push hard on say the right whilst the men on the left only push enough to keep the block tight. This gets the push to swing round possibly giving you the hill at which point you try to push on both sides gaining the hills effect and pushing the enemy down. Of course they are also going to either resist this or keep the turn going to gain a 360 change of position. 

Almost always a push ends with one block being pushed to the ground as men trip up and then take down friends with them. I have seen (and been at the bottom) of piles of men chest deep and yes it hurts a plenty.

Guard at play
The Kings Lifeguard is so big that it was split into two formations for the battle, this also being a Guard muster (organised by the Guard) it would have had a really good turn out. Membership of the Sealed Knot is down on it's heyday (when I was in) and even the Guard has not suffered for this but it still has a massive membership and not a few of the members who were in it when I was are still going strong. 

Great news is that you can try it out to see if you like it paying a temporary membership of £10 for a weekend (refunded on joining) and unlike when I was a member this not only allows you access to the camping area and social scene but now allows you to fight in the battle. Honestly it would be the best £10 you ever spend!

Another Push
Throughout the battle you have drums beating, muskets being fired on their own or in volleys and some impressive cannon fire, but it's the smell that really adds the finishing touches. Fortunately it's the whiff of the gunpowder rather than that of the pike block on day II that we were treated too.

Fog? Smog? or Volley?
It's not hard to imagine just how confused a battle could get with all the noise and lack of communication beyond a runner especially on a day with little or no wind. Also consider the fact that today's blackpowder is very much cleaner than that of the 17th Century making the smoke thinner and less prone to hold on to the ground.

Adding to the pollution
We had the Royalist guns retreat to one side of us which gave us a great view of the guns and it was fun to watch them going through their actions, and more fun watching the grass wadding being thrown a good distance away.

Half the Kings Horse
A little disappointing was the number of cavalry on the battlefield. Prince Rupert's had seven mounted whilst Waller's had six. I had hoped we would see double that but the cost of cavalry with gun trained horses is high so it's a limited number of people who can afford such mounts. Still they were very active, if not a devil to snap.

Close Quarters
Not all the fighting was at the other end of the field, as Parliament started to get the better of the day they pushed the poor Royalists back down the hill and the fighting was close to our part of the field. It's just a shame no pushes were being fought at that point.

The best bit was meeting up with my old Sargent (now an officer of his own company) and lots of other old faces. I have been invited to the off season socials and a number of them want to start up roleplaying again so all in all a great day out that was made that bit better by having my family with me and their enjoyment of the day.


  1. Great pictures Ian, sounds like you had a great day out

  2. looks like a great day out I am sure one day I will try out reenactment but prob not ECW
    Peace James

  3. Sounds like you and the family had a grand day out. It's a shame there was so little cavalry but life ain't fair all the time.

  4. Looks great. Those pushes look like something else.

  5. Great pictures that really convey a sense of being there. One day, I'd enjoy seeing that in person.

  6. This is fantastic. I have never been to one of these, but I'd love to go. Those pikes are absolutely huge and are suitably impressive. And there's no way those could be light to carry.

  7. Great photos, thanks for posting.

  8. That's impressive, the real thing must have been horrifying especially the pike skewering everything!

  9. Great pics, and pikes...loking like a great day!

  10. @ Andrew, yes it was loads of fun, more pictures to follow when I have time, especially some of my daughters.

    @ James, lots to choose from out there. The ECW has the advantage of being by far the biggest in the UK, but that does not have to be the main reason for joining but it does mean you get a lot of help getting going

    @ Tamsin, it would have been nice to see more cavalry but in no way did it make the experience worse so not really complaining

    @ Sean, they were for sure, seems bigger some how than last I was in them

    @ Jonathan, well it's possible, this muster had contingents from three different parts of Germany, the August Bank Holiday now seems to get groups from various 30 Years War re-enactment societies. I remember fighting the Germans at Newbury one year, great bunch of fellows.

    @ Anne, you at least could go to a ACW battle, they can be huge I think and no not light at all.

    @ Matt, Cath my wife took most of them so I will pass on the complement.

    @ Fran, Horrible indeed though most casualties happened as regiments broke and routed or whole armies tried to escape. On occasions where pike actually came to blows it was often cuts to the face and arms that were caused but death was far less often than you would think. Mostly the pike was in reality defensive in nature.

    @ Phil, was very good, got to decide what to do this weekend, Rufford has the 1940's weekend and also Partizan, stuck on what to do


  11. Hi

    i was in the small pike block taking on the guard, Cracking bunch of guys!

    the day before, Sunday, we did the same with a small block and your boys where great. we both won some and lost some with the Guard winning most due to numbers.

    1. The Guard as often had the numbers when it comes to the pushes but I remember one year when we had lots of new blood via the RAF. Most of the new guys in the pike were the sons of RAF personal and we had a tough couple of musters were the new members (not just the RAF) were backing off as we hit. I always fought at the front and we were getting really battered as the weight left us just before contact.


  12. i remember, i'm glad they still put out good number. they do look good. my family was in the guard ages ago. The Tomlins?

    1. The name does not ring a bell but I have always been crap with names, I probably know them though


  13. Ian - a great review of a great weekend! And as one of the pikemen who fought alongside you in Newark Garrison (now Sir Henry Radley's company), back in 1993/94, and who's now the Guard's Elder Sergeant, it's great to find your blog and hear that you're doing well!! I presume the old Sergeant you refer to may be Mr.Kent? :0) It would be great to see you again - I hope to get to Blog-con later this year, and we could catch up even more. Best wishes, and 'For God and the Cause!!'

    Andy B (as opposed to Andy T, who is also still in the KG, and a Lieutenant to boot!!) Have a look at my blog as well -

    1. Andy, great to hear from you again. I was indeed talking about our FB Mr. Kent ;-)

      I also knew Andy T had become an officer. It's great to see so many still in the Knot who were in at the same time as me.

      I really want to reconect and hope to be running some roleplay sessions in the off season and hope to re-join if I recover enough to do so. Certainly will try for a few off season socials if I can.

      Funny, I did a post on friends just a few hours ago. I really hope you get to Blog-Con, that would be a great place to chat

      Before that it's Donnington wargames show (old Derby)