A Personal Account from an ECW Re-enactor
Have Pike will travel.............everywhere!
Report on Wallingford, July 1996
Plans are usually quite straightforward. We all plan how to get to Musters, how to return etc., etc........ but now and again other factors come into play, such as Car Hire firms, roofracks and the like. This plan was very straightforward and therefore ridiculously flawed. Calum was to meet Rab at the car hire place in Stirling, travel to Crosshill, pick-up the pike, return to Glasgow, pick me up at 6.30pm and then off to Oxford. What could be simpler?
Enter the Great Mischiefo! A man rarely seen, but whose powers are legandry throughout various time zones. His greatest work of art was the Bermuda Triangle, but now works on more mundane things like..........roofracks. Yes, you've guessed it. Despite countless assurances to the contrary, Calum and Rab arrive at the car hire place to be told quite bluntly, "We don't have a roofrack". The Master had struck again! Precious hours were lost as frantic attempts were made to get a new roofrack, which of course, had to be a special one.
This meant that the pike had to be picked up after me, and thus added hours on to the journey. When we eventually got to Crosshill, South Ayrshire, for the pike, some had gone to the pub as they were fed up waiting. These were quickly rounded up, lashed, lashed and lashed again to the roofrack and we sped off through the wilds of Ayrshire very optimistic - although we had no reason to be! Ah yes, through the wilds of Ayrshire......................why is it always Ayrshire? We spent hours in Ayrshire, in fact we thought we could get to Oxford by just staying in Ayrshire, but eventually we left it all behind us and we slipped quietly, unnoticed by the Border Guards, into England and sped off into the darkness..........
Before we knew it we were in Wallingford. For me the whole journey had seemed around a mere 7-8 hours, which in fact, was as long as it had taken us (3hrs in Ayrshire), but for Calum, Rab and Lesley it had been much much longer. Exhaustion and sloth had taken toll of all four travelers, so we crashed out in the back of the car. Upon opening my eyes and gazing skyward to Wallingfords lofty spiers, my first thought was, "I think I'll go back to sleep", which I promptly did only to be promptly rewoken and told to get up. After drill - which went okay - we kept ourselves like coiled springs all tensed up. This was probably the only Major we all could've got to. The roll call was like a "Who's Who" in Loudoun's; Jackson, Fallon, Fallon, Deans, Gray, McCrone, Taylor, McCabe, Bowden, Turner, Devlin, Benson, Hedges, Lambert, Butler and all the rest. It was enough to bring a tear to the eye of any veteran - especially Paul's, as someone kicked his tankard over.
Then came one of the most stirring moments in Loudoun's History, -Our captain arrived on time for form up. Aware of this momentous occasion, he pull himself to his full height (or should that be height of a fool!) and realising he was still a good few inches too short, he called for stilts. Upon such unlikely equipment he delivered his famous speech; "Men of Loudoun's (wobble, wobble), we know why we are here (totter, totter), who will join me in this gallant yet stupid enterprise (wobble, teeter, totter)!" No-one moved, as being veterans, they knew better. Soldiers looked at their feet, whistled inane dirges, someone said "Is that the time?", while further back a fart erupted. "Well who's coming then?" roared the man, almost completely losing his balance on his wooden contraptions. It really was more than mortal man could stand, the men rushed forward in one euphoric wave, cries of "Viva el Kapitano!". "A mort des les Federales!" ripped the air asunder. Bonnets were tossed in the air and most men wept openly. Upon this wave of insincere emotion the Regiment surged along to do gallant deeds, to a field where they would be forever young and as no earthly force could stop it.....
All too soon we found ourselves formed up for battle within the Brigade and facing the enemy. The cannons had cannoned, the cavalry had cavalried and now it was our turn. The Regiment in cahoots with Waller's fielded approx. 21 pike; a real increase in numbers and a lot more than usual. As we marched forward we came to a large ditch, which I suppose was part of the original fortifications, as this ditch was around 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep, I mean people don't dig these things for nothing, unless of course you're Yorkshire Water.
The KING’S ARMY stared at us and we stared at them. Either side that entered "Dead Man's Gulch" faced certain death! To their credit the KING’S ARMY came on down first. They came on at an angle to negate our height advantage - and then we clashed. They gained an initial advantage at the first push or so, but after that we recovered and regained our composure. All the fighting was done on our side of the ditch and we managed to gain the upper hand by the end of the day. The script called for us to fall back, give up the ground we had won and they advance to the ditch and start all over again. This we duly did. I must admit my recollections of the first day are a bit hazy, but remember being flat on my back with 40 men on top of me or anything like that. It seemed to be straight forward Reform - crash ! Reform - crash! The end of the day saw us very much in the ascendant and looking forward - for once - to day Two.
Day two saw a marked change for our numbers as they actually increased to an incredible 27. how this came about no-one knows but it was very welcome. The fighting started on our side again but against Hoptons were soon pushed into the ditch and scrambled up to the other side and reformed. The mood was one of "Lets get them " The Regiment reformed in its closest order and started to advance up the slope. We all knew at some point that Hoptons try to push down on us using their slope advantage and watched them carefully as we crawled up the slope. Around 3/4 of the way up Hoptons unleashed themselves upon us. The front rank of Loundoun/Wallers took the pressure, held it , and then began to push back. Suddenly we found ourselves pushing Hoptons Downhill and going straight though them. We did this for a couple more times, then we began to really control the pushes by throwing our weight to the left or right and turning Hoptons all the time.
We then performed a ploy that caught Hoptons and indeed ourselves - out. We reformed on the KING’S ARMY side of the ditch, and in doing so greatly reducing Hoptons advantage of height. Hoptons kept putting up stiff resistance, but as we still fought on a narrow bit of the ditch, the KING’S ARMY really couldn't feed more regiments against us. Our own position was quite precarious as we really were in the heart of the KING’S ARMY position with no support whatsoever. At one point we must have realised this, and after one last push, reformed in good order and retired to our own side of the ditch. It was then we realised how alone we had been. The whole of the Roundhead A(ssoc.)rmy was miles away watching us batter away at Hoptons. It would appear that Loudouns were about the only unit to get up the KING’S ARMY side and attempt to take the ridge. It was a sight I will never forget. To turn round and see the Roundhead A(ssoc.)rmy. just standing there and letting us get on with it ! Another Loundoun's exclusive! It was, in the words of our illustrious captain, "Splendid".
Alistair Gray, no bias intended.