Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Herefordshire Campaign in Maps

When I design scenarios for our Big Games, I use a number of maps to help me identify important places in the county. I also use maps to work out how much territory each faction roughly has control over.

My first port of call is the parish map. I find using parishes a convenient way of splitting up the county. If a faction has a greater military presence in a parish, then it is assumed that they control it. However this is not to say that other factions do not have a presence. Control over parishes is largely driven by how I interpret the result of each game we play, plus the occasional arbitrary decision!

I also have maps for rivers, main roads and railways - e.g. the arteries of the county. These help me decide how each faction can get about.

The most important of these is the railway map (from 1922), as it is assumed that railways were still very much the main way of shifting stuff from A to B in the 1930s. It is no coincidence that the current Welsh border campaign is all abut the control of railway lines.

I found this map in a very interesting thesis. Roads were of course becoming increasingly important, with lorries taking on a greater share of the transport burden. However in Herefordshire, I have deemed roads to be of lesser importance than railways, as even today the road network isn't particularly brilliant. What isn't shown on this map is the network of minor roads, lanes and tracks - it is always possible for factions to travel along these without necessarily other factions noticing.

Rivers, when navigable, offer another alternative, but with the Rivers Wye, Lugg, Arrow, Frome etc. not being particularly suited to large-scale river traffic, these are tenuous links. However for the local Anglican League, largely cut off from other rebel groups, river transport up to Ross-on-Wye must be an important lifeline.

At the start of the civil war, the most parishes looked to their own devices, with the Bishop of Hereford declaring the city for the Anglican League and sending out parties to cover the routes of a possible Royalist advance from Worcester, garrisoning Bromyard and Bishop's Frome.

The next map shows the situation after the inevitable Royalist response, with the King's forces capturing the Anglican positions and marching into Hereford and Leominster. Meanwhile the Anglicans retreated to Ross, whilst the Welsh Nationalists took advantage of the chaos to seize Kington.

Next the Royalists secured the railway lines that link Bromyard, Leominster and Hereford, with the BUF garrisoning the former two. The Anglicans sought to regain the initiative and advanced, via Much Marcle, to Ledbury - the first step in a plan to encircle the county, cut off Hereford and isolate the Royalists into submission.

Alas this plan failed after the battle of Little Hereford and a series of Government counter-attacks which saw the BUF gain control over Ledbury, Much Marcle and nearby Colwall, as well as the Instructional Centre at Shobdon. Royalist forces continued to extend their control over the railway lines, while a new player entered the fray in the form of the Landowners' Protection Association, which united much of the gentry along the front line and the lawless Welsh border. A small Socialist presence also appeared, formed by red forces retreating from the battles of Shobdon and Little Hereford. By this stage neighbouring power blocs outside the county, such as the Shropshire Free State, the Worcestershire Loyalists and the Malvern Hills Conservators, had established themselves .

A shift in the Anligcan's fortunes occurred during the 1st Battle of Foy - BUF bigwig Baron Foy's ill-judged attempt to form an armed stronghold in the bend of the River Wye. The resulting battle saw the BUF cut off by the Anglicans, whose prestige following the victory bought many nearby parishes into the fold. Also of note is the arrival of Sir Gilbert Hill, who persuaded many Golden Valley parishes to join his banner after his part in the rebel victory at Foy. The Welsh Nationalists also began to stir, occupying some outlying border parishes.

The 2nd Battle of Foy saw the Anglican League secure the short-lived BUF stronghold, and the booty it contained, further enhancing their reputation and swinging many neutral parishes in south Herefordshire into their sphere of influence. Sir Gilbert's star also continued to rise as he extended his control in the Golden Valley, hoping to dominate the Golden Valley railway line. In response to their defeat, the Royalists consolidated around Hereford.

With the front between Hereford and Ross largely stabilised, the rebels turned to the Welsh border region. With the booty gained at Foy only lasting so long, the need for a decent supply route from Nationalist north Wales became imperative. A plan was thus hatched to advance across the border from Wales and capture a number of strategic railway junctions between Prestiegne, Kington and Hay, thus linking these towns with the Golden Valley railway. The plan only partially succeeded, and had the side-effect of forcing the local LPA landowners into the Royalist camp. For their part in the fighting, the rebels grudgingly allowed the Socialists to set up worker's councils in a scattering of small, out-of-the-way parishes.

We now come to the latest map (now with the rail network and River Wye added) - the situation after the second part of the Border Campaign. The Welsh have been ejected from Titley and that junction is safe in Royalist hands. However the important river crossing at Bredwardine is still being contested, leaving the newly declared Royalists along the border in grave risk of being cut off by the Anglicans and Sir Gilbert. Aside from this very little has changed as both sides plan their next move.

Will the Anglican League, Welsh Nationalists, Socialists and Gilbertines remain in peaceful coexistence now that their plans have been set back? Will they find alternative supply routes or press ahead with their current plan? Can the Royalists and BUF keep their new allies along the border safe and supplied? What will the next move be for the King's Men?


  1. Very instructive. I'll certainly study this style in more detail. Although my campaign is far less ambitious. Thanks for the post.

    1. You're welcome - glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Ah, there's nothing like a map to fascinate a wargamer. It's interesting to see how matters developed in Herefordshire over time. Which reminds me, I have a map of the GWR railway system circa 1930 somewhere... Thanks for sharing.

    1. Cheers AJ - I've always had a thing for maps :D


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