Tag Archives: Historians

The Battlefields Trust AGM and Conference Fri 4th – Sun 6th April 2014

conference flyer




Bramham Moor 19 February 1408250px-The_Battle_of_Bramham_Moor,_1408_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1800577

This battle on 19 February 1408 was the final battle in the Percy Rebellion of 1402 –1408, against the usurper King of England, King Henry IV.  This was Percy’s third revolt. He gathered together an army of lowland Scots and loyal Northumbrians and marching south once more toward York. At Bramham Moor, south of Wetherby, his army was met by a force of local Yorkshire levies and noble retinues which had been hastily assembled to meet the force, led by the High Sheriff of Yorkshire Sir Thomas Rokeby. Percy’s army was defeated and he was killed.  The battlefield is not on the battlefield register and is under threat from encroachment.

Towton 29 March 1461Towton_image1

The Battle of Towton is claimed to be the largest and longest battle fought on British soil.  Towton was of huge significant in both military and social terms. The battlefield is also a key location for the study of battlefield conservation.  It is a highly significant archaeological site, revealing evidence of both the arrow storm and the bodies of some of those killed. The extent of the artefacts around this registered battlefield places it at risk from a range of threats.  The visit will be an excellent opportunity to see how the local battlefield society has developed and presented the interpretation of the battle.

Adwalton Moor 30 June 1643

300px-Battle_Plaque_at_Adwalton_Moor_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1069183This English Civil War battle is a registered battlefield lying within the boundary of the city of Leeds.  It is under threat from encroachment by development.   The Earl of Newcastle, the Royalist Commander, was marching on Bradford (which was Parliamentarian in sympathy) with 10,000 men. Fairfax, the Parliamentary commander, had 3,000-4,000 men in Bradford. However, despite his inferior numbers, Fairfax came to intercept the Royalist army as Bradford was ill-prepared to resist a siege. The strong Royalists defeated the Parliamentarians. The battle was significant as it consolidated Royalist control of Yorkshire.

Marston Moor 2 July 1644300px-Battle_of_Marston_Moor,_1644

The combined forces of the English Parliamentarians under Lord Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester and the Scottish Covenanters under the Earl of Leven defeated the Royalists commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Marquess of Newcastle.   This battle is one of the  decisive actions of the war, resulting in the Royalists abandoning the North.   The battlefield is on the English Heritage register, and has been under threat from metal detecting.    One of the land owners is the Trust’s local representative on the battlefield.



2.00-5.00pm  To the battlefields of  Adwalton Moor (1643) and Bramham Moor (1408) guided by Frank Baldwin the Chairman of the Battlefields Trust.   Car RV outside the  the Holiday Inn Hotel at 1.30 p.m. – Option to Pick up individuals at Leeds Railway Station at 14.00.

5.00pm   Check in opens at the Holday Inn

5-8.00 pm   evening meal Holiday Inn

8.30-10.30 pm  Battlefield Quiz at the Holiday Inn Armouries Hotel


Entry to the Royal Armouries itself is from 10 am and is free.

10.00am:  arrival, registration and coffee.

10.15am ・ 10.45am: Introduction and Welcome from Dr Edward Impey, Director of the Royal Armouries and Scene Setting by Frank Baldwin, Chairman of the Battlefields Trust.

10.45am ・ 11.30am: Speaker from the Bosworth Visitors Centre/Leicestershire County Council – Bosworth as a Case Study for the Tourism and economic Aspect of Battlefields.

11.30am ・ 12.15pm: Dr Karen Watts, Senior Curator of Armour and Art at the Royal Armouries, The Battle of Agincourt: new perspectives for the Agincourt 600 Exhibition・.

12.15pm ・ 1.30pm: Lunch and opportunity to tour the Armouries.

1.30pm ・ 2.15pm: Dr Glenn Foard FSA, Reader in Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Huddersfield, [topic to be confirmed].

2.15pm ・ 3.00pm:  Dr Tony Pollard,  Senior Lecturer in History/Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow ・ The Archaeology of the Western Front・.

3.00pm ・ 3.45pm: The Development Officer Project ・ final report (Julian Humphrys).

3.45pm:  Closing remarks followed by tea.

4.00pm: BT Annual General Meeting.  Non-members are welcome to attend, but may not vote, speak or propose motions.  There is a separate agenda for this meeting for Trust members.  Anyone joining the Trust on the day will be able to participate as a full member.

7.30 pm   Battlefields Trust Dinner at the Royal Armouries Leeds


9.00 am Depart hotel for Battlefield tour.

10.00am  Battlefield Tour Towton 1471 (RV for non residential delegates Towton Battlefield Centre)

12.30-13.30pm Lunch

2-4pm Battlefield tour of Marston Moor

4.30     ETA Leeds railway station for delegates departing by Rail


Holiday Inn Express,  Leeds City Centre Armouries, Armouries Drive, Clarence Dock, Leeds, LS10 1LE

Tel number : 0113 380 4400


The dress code for the conference is casual, except for the Battlefields Trust Dinner when we hope that gentlemen would wear a jacket and a battlefields trust tie.  Delegates attending the battlefields tours should bring suitable footwear and waterproof clothing.


There is a public car park next to the Holiday Inn.  The Trust is willing to pay mileage rate for delegates willing to offer spaces in their car to others for the battlefield tours.



The Battlefields Trust at History Live: Kelmarsh 2013

The Observation Post dropped into Kelmarsh on Saturday 20th July.  The Battlefields Trust were there in force.   Their stand in the main exhibition tent was well staffed and very busy throughout the day.  Well done to all the team who were busy signing up new members of the Trust.

2013-07-20 11.05_LR
Development Officer Julian Humphries and the Trust’ Shop: Books and toys for boys and girls of all ages!
Mike Ingram's Interpretation of the Battle of Bosworth.
Mike Ingram’s Interpretation of the Battle of Bosworth, based on the findings from the Battlefield Trust’s Archaeological project 2006-2010.


Alan and Nichola Turton (Wessex Region)  with some of their collection of civil war and other archaeological finds.
Alan and Nicola Turton (Wessex Region) with some of their collection of civil war and other archaeological finds.
































More about the Battlefields Trust here link



Where has Napoleon’s Observatory at Waterloo Gone?

Print on sale in various US Fine Art Suppliers attributed to Kelly 1815
Print on sale in various US Fine Art Suppliers attributed to Kelly 1815


Extract from sketch map made on the field of Waterloo 1815 (National Army Museum)
Extract from sketch map made on the field of Waterloo 1815 (National Army Museum)

I spent yesterday in the National Army Museum looking for material which would be of interest to the City Lit Summer school I am tutoring on the Battle of Waterloo. The collection is fascinating. It is one thing to read the accounts in books. Its another to hold in your hands the letters and diaries of the soldiers of the time; or to see the some of the paintings in their reserve collection, and the preliminary sketches of the battlefield by the artists.

One intriguing object is a water colour sketch map, with the inscription “used on the battlefield”. The archive staff had no information about the provenance of the item, which had once been framed. The sketch map shows some of the key terrain features visible from the Anglo-Dutch position, including the village of Mont St Jean, the farm of the same name, the villages where the Anglo Dutch Army deployed, Hougoumont, Mon Plaisir and La Haye Sainte and the ridge lines in the French positions. Intriguingly, the map did not have some of the terrain features that appear on battle maps to explain the course of the battle. So the village of Placenoit is not marked. Nor is the track running across the front of the Anglo Dutch position, the famous sunken road. So maybe this map was one produced by Wellington’s staff on the day for orientation purposes. ( “The farm in the dip a couple of hundred paces in front of us is called La Haye Saint and the chateau on our right about a mile away on the right hand side of the walled garden is Hougoumont”)   One distinctive feature shown is an observation tower south of Hougoumont and East of the Mont Plaisir Farm.  Its an obvious feature, and one that also appears in some of the pen and ink sketches made by the painter Richard Dighton of the battlefield after the battle.

Location of Observatory on Craan's map of Waterloo 1816
Location of Observatory on Craan’s map of Waterloo 1816

 This tower also appears on the map drawn up by the Dutch Surveyor Willem Benjamin Craan in 1816 as the “Observatory” (1) and in Wagner’s maps (2) it’s function is labelled as “telegraph”, which may explain its function as part of an optical telegraph system. The tower is also described as 35 feet tall.

This tower ought to be tactically  

Extract from Wagner's Map

Extract from Wagner’s Map

significant. One of the ingredients of Wellington’s success was his use of a reverse slope to hide his deployment from the French. But a man standing on the observation tower above the 135m contour would be at an elevation of around 150m, 15m higher than the crest of the Mont St Jean Ridge. This should have enabled Napoleon and Ney to have seen some way down the reverse slope. Obviously once the battle started the visibility would have been obscured by smoke, but before the battle started Napoleon could have had a much better idea of Wellington’s deployment at the start of the battle than many historians would have us believe.01AGMP83

Besides the sketch map in the National Army Museum, there are several documented mentions of the observatory in a manuscript held by the British Library and in the documents published by Booth as a semi official record.(3) The testimony of Jean Baptise De Coster, a local guide for Napoleon mentioned how he did not see Napoleon make any use of the observatory. A foot note to this account mentions that Napoleon had spent an hour up the tower and that it had been constructed by Dutch engineers six weeks before the battle. A British Visitor to the Battlefield of Waterloo on the 16th July 1815 describes, how after dining at the farm of La Belle Alliance, he “Went to the Observatory, it is thirty -six feet high; I nailed on the pinnacle the Royal Arms of Great Britain” (Booth: Additional Particulars: P 121) I recall seeing this tower depicted in a print distributed in the old Battle of Waterloo Jackdaw. It seemed a very fanciful depiction of the battle with an Observation Tower and the trail of rockets like V2s streaking overhead. The tower doesn’t seem to appear in many of the more modern depictions of the battle. It isn’t mentioned in Andrew Uffendall’s “On the fields of Glory” (4) Nor In Atkins’ otherwise excellent Waterloo Companion,(5) although his panorama from the Lion mound does appear to show a mobile phone mast in roughly the same direction, there is no tower on that site now.  

Napoleon's observation post at Ligny
Napoleon on the observation post erected by sappers at the Bussey Mill

There are several un-answered questions about the tower.  

Who built it?  Was it built by Napoleon’s Sappers?  Napoleon did order sappers to build an observation platform for him at Ligny, but pictures show the observation post at Ligny as scaffolding  around a windmill.  Or was it by the Dutch, as in the footnote to the memoirs published by Booth in 1817?     

Is there any evidence that Napoleon made use of the tower, except for the foot note in Booth contradicting De Coster?

What could a French Observer have seen of the Anglo Dutch positions from the Tower?

Why hasn’t this Tower been mentioned in any recent military histories of Waterloo?   It made enough of an impact on the British for the Tower to feature in the accounts.

(The origins of this post are in the Waterloo Campaign City Lit Summer School.  The class visit to the National Army Museum revealed the sketch map drawn on the battlefield possibly for use during the battle.) 


  1. Craan, W. B. Plan of the battle of Waterloo or Mount St. John [cartographic material] : reduced from the large plan of the same battle, made up and published in 1816
  2. August Wagner’s Plane der Schlachten und Treffen welche von der preussischen Armee in den Feldzügen der Jahre 1813, 14 und 15 geliefert worden, 4 volumes (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1825.)
  3. John Booth, The Battle of Waterloo also of Ligny, and Quatre-Bras, described by the series of accounts Published by Authority, with Circumstantial details. By a near Observer. Printed for John Booth 1817 together with  “Additional Particulars of the Battle of Waterloo etc”   available to download here
  4. Andrew Uffindell and Michael Corum. On the Fields of Glory: The Battlefields of the 1815 Campaign   Greenhill Books, 1991
  5. Mark Adkin, The Waterloo Companion;  Stakpole 2001

Join the Christopher Duffy Fan Club – a chance to meet a Historian’s Historian

Dr Duffy in the footsteps of the soldiers of Louis XV assulting the Duke of Cumberland's defences near Hastenbeck
Dr Duffy in the footsteps of the soldiers of Louis XV assulting the Duke of Cumberland’s defences near Hastenbeck

“The historian’s historian” is how the late Professor Richard Holmes once described Dr Christopher Duffy, a fellow member of the academic staff of The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, in a department headed by David Chandler and also including John Keegan and Dr Paddy Griffith.

Christopher Duffy’s main academic and published work has been the wars of the 18th Century, which means that his name may not be familiar to an audience whose interests do not stray beyond the twentieth century. However, all of his work seems to have something new to say.

I first heard of Christopher Duffy when I was a teenager at school  in the 1970s. His books on the battles of Austerlitz and Borodino were amazing, and a rare chance to read an analysis of any battle other than Waterloo or the rather dubiously sourced works of Jac Weller.  He had been the military adviser to the BBC TV mini series War and Peace and I suspect these books were  a digression into the populist world of the Napoleonic Wars away from his passion – the wars of the mid 18th Century.

Christopher Duffy’s books on the armies of Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa are essential reading for anyone interested in the Seven Years War. His book of the Irish Wild Geese tells the story of the expatriates who served in the armies of Europe. His military biography of Frederick the Great was regarded by many Germans as the best appraisal of this Prussian Great Commander.  It is hard to imagine a German historian writing the best biography of, say the Duke of Wellington or Marlborough.

For the last few years he has been an active member of the Jacobite Society and campaigned for the preservation of the heritage of Scotland’s military heritage. While Scotland does at least have a strategy to make use of its battlefields for heritage tourism some of its heritage is neglected and unprotected, such as the crumbling remains of the fortified barracks in the highlands. He has written the definitive military history of the 1745 rebellion.

Although the 18th Century has been a focus of Christopher Duffy’s interest, everything else he has done seems to have added something significant to our understanding of what happened.  He managed to say something completely new about the Western Front, analysing the British army in the Battle of the Somme through the German sources. The picture that emerges of the British army challenges many assumptions.  His book, “Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945” was probably the first English language work on this aspect of the campaign, and pre-dates the works emerging from the Soviet archives. Heinz Guderian’s “Achtung Panzer!” was a highly influential work by the “father of the panzer divisions”. originally published in German in 1937.  It describes the thinking behind the panzer arm and explains what the author would do if in command of panzer troops. The first English language edition not published until 1992 until Christopher Duffy had translated the work.  His scholarly annotations provide an informed and commentary on Guderian’s sources and thinking that are a mini essay of its own.

One of the advantages of organising the Battlefields Trust’s programme of events hosted by the Fusiliers Museum is the chance to choose the speakers.  You can meet  Dr Christopher Duffy and hear him talk about Red Coats and Highlanders at lunchtime on 17th April 2013 at the Royal Fusiliers Officers Mess, in the HM Tower of London.   The Booking details are here.