Sunday, 8 November 2020

The 5th Century in Britannia: Part 3. Ambrosius, Uthyr and the Death of Hengist.

 Once again the following article is my personal interpretation of events as a wargamer. Information of the battle site of Maisbeli I found online and in a book written by Ilka Sylvanne.

The original position of the actual town on rising ground to the east of  Mexborough is my own supposition.

In the early months of 462AD, Hengist, leader of the Germanic tribes in Lloegyr , knew of Vortigerns demise. He was also very aware of the capable Warlord leading the Walisch, and the soldiers that he led, well trained and well armed.

With that information in mind Hengist had sent out a message for all his Warriors to march North of the river Don and the Humber Estuary. The warriors were to gather at Petuaria ( modern day Brough ).

In May of 462AD, Ambrosius, leaving Uthyr to command the Reserve in Dumnonia, assembles the field army at Deva ( modern Chester ) and starts the five day march to the Don river. He is accompanied by Eldol, the Dux of Gloucester and Gorlois, the Dux of Dumnonia, each with their personal Retinue.

Camping at Manucium ( Manchester ) and Navio ( Brough-on-Noe), Ambrosius leads his army toward the Don. He knows that a major part of Hengists army will be somewhere in the area.

Meanwhile, Hengist has been told by Scouts that the Roman Army is marching East. He also knows the road Ambrosius will be following through the Pennines so decides to try an ambush. This is a place called Maisbelli ( said to be modern day Mexborough).

After a three day march Hengist reaches the area first and deploys his troops. Ambrosius gets wind of the attempted ambush but still marches on. Both sides camp near the intended battlefield. On the eve of battle both opposing Warlords know what is at stake. 

Neither side can back down, the loss of prestige would be to great. It was victory or death!.

The Roman Field Army; 5,400 (54 points).

Ambrosius @ 2 points.

Eldol, Dux of  Glevum (Gloucester )@ 1 point.

1 stand of Glevum Militia archers @ 1point.

Gorlois, Dux of Dumnonia @ 1 point.

I stand of Dumnonian Light Archers @ 1point.

4 stands of Light Roman Cavalry ( spears and javalins ) @ 2 points = 8 points.

12 stands of Auxilliary Infantry @ 2 points = 24 points.

4 stands of Light Infantry Archers @ 1 point = 4 points.

4 stands of Regular Infantry @ 3 points = 12 points.

Note; I use the word Roman to describe the Amorican army as their tactics and equipment were Romanic in origin.

Hengist,s Army; 4,000 ( 40 points ).

Hengist and his Jutes; 1,500 ( 15 points).

Hengist @ 1 point.

6 stands of Warrior Infantry @ 2 points = 12  points.

2 stands of Light Archer Infantry @ 1 point = 2 points.

Octa,s Saxons; 1,300 ( 13 points).

Octa @ 1 point. 

5 stands of Warrior Infantry @ 2 points = 10 point.

2 stands of Light Archer Infantry @ 1 point = 2 points.

Ebissa,s Angles; 1,200 ( 12 points).

5 stands of Warrior Infantry @ 2 points = 10 points.

1 stand of Light Archer Infantry @ 1 point.

Here are the armies laid out for battle;

I've portrayed Eldol and Gorlois as dismounted and representing them and their respective bodyguards but these leaders may well have been on horses.

Here is a map of the battlefield ( conjectural);

Notes for Solo play;

● The Romans retain the Initiative Point for the entire battle.The Romans win any tied results.

● Throw die for each side to see which side is moved first. The entire army can be moved.

● Throw dice for each side to see who fires first. The entire army can fire if able to do so.

● combat is simultaneous.

● The town of Conisborough ( Cunungeburg ? ) cannot be entered.

● Any stands in the Warband army forced off the table will be counted as casualties.

● The game is played for eight Game-Turns.

For a 2 player game;

● The game can be played is normal. However the Romans still retain the initative point for the game.

● The game is played for eight Game-Turns.

● The winner will be the player who looses the least number of stands.

Conjectural notes.

While looking up the details of the area and playing out the battle, something didn't seem quite right. It has been said that the battle was hard fought. As the Roman troops gained the upper hand Hengist retreated to Conisborough near where the castle stands to make his final rally.

The field of battle ( Maisbeli) has recently been identified as Mexborough. Looking on Googlemaps the information says that its a 50 minute walk from Mexborough across the river Don to Conisborough.

After fighting for some time would the men have enough stamina for say, a 25 minute run across a river of unknown depth and turn to face the enemy?, especially if they were chased by Cavalry. Also any troops fleeing a battle would take the route they had previously marched over, in this case the North-east.

I fought the first battle on flat ground. It was a walkover for the Romans. However having looked at the area there is a hill to the East of Mexborough where the River Dearne runs into the Don.

 I do not know if this hill is natural or a waste heap from a former mine in the area. It's shape certainly looks like it could have had a stockaded town on the top. I restated the battle with the hill, giving the Warband army the higher ground.

I reset the battle with the hill to the East and positioned Hengists army in front on the slope. This time, even with the Romans having the Iniative Point throughout the battle it was a much harder contest. Hengist did not enter the town. The gates may well have been locked so he made his last stand there allowing the rest of the remaining warriors including Octa and Ebissa to get away. 

This is just my theory, but you never know ? - - -.

The battle was played out on a 3 foot by 2 foot board. ( 90cm x 60cm )

The figures are from Hat Industries with a few from Miliart and Newline designs. The flat hills are by Brian at Essex Miniatures. The tall hill and stockade sections are scratchbuilt. The trees are by various manufacturers.

The river and track sections are made from thin cardboard. The figure bases are from picture framing cardboard. The round 40mm mdf  bases are from Minibits. The tree bases marking out the wooded area are from S and A Scenics. The two houses are either Peter Pig or Hovels.


At the end of the battle Gorlois entered into close combat with Hengist and captured him. After the battle it was decided in council that Hengist was sentenced to death. He was beheaded and Ambrosius gave Hengist full pagan rights in his burial.