Napoleonic Auctions

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Book Review: 24 Hours at Agincourt by Michael Jones

On the face of it this book should be wargamers heaven.  There is nothing better than detail, hour by hour, minute by minute, blow by blow detail of a battle.

Detail: 

This book break down the 24 hours up to and including 25th October 2015 into 11 chapters.

  1. The Ridge - the rival armies come into view  14:00 to 16:00 24th October 1415
  2. No Way Out:  The Rival Commanders 16:00 to 20:00  
  3. The Mud Bath:  The Armies 20.00 to 24.00
  4. Well met by Moonlight:  Battle Tactics,  24.00 to 06.00
  5. Breakfast at Agincourt:  Motivation and Morale,  06.00 to 08.00
  6. A Touch of Harry in the Morning:  Battle Ritual  08.00 to 09.00
  7. The Field of Battle:  Terrain  09.00 to 11.00
  8. Banners Advance: The Armies Close In  11.00 to 11.30
  9. Impact:  the Melee, 11.30 to 12.00
  10. Bowmen of England:  The Rout  12.00 to 13.30 
  11. A band of Brothers:  The Victory  13.30 to 14.00

I'd already read Juliet Barker's Agincourt - which I loved and gives a strong analysis if the leadership qualities of Henry V plus the  battle.  With this I was looking for much more detail.  I was nearly disappointed

Really? 

a book on the battle of agincourt ideal for wargamersAs I settled into the book I became a little disgruntled. Michael Jones develops this habit of adding a great deal of background information.  Mention of a character will almost inevitably lead to several paragraphs providing their history.   It can be useful, but gets irritating when it happens to much, which it does.  This is made worse by repetition, repeatedly.

So I found myself ploughing through the book, but to finish it as much as enjoy it.

Turning Point

That was until we got to the battle itself.  Michael Jones has thought long and hard about how it was fought.  Exactly how.  On the face of it Agincourt looks like a boring wargame, a guaranteed massacre of the French with little maneuver or jeopardy.  This book throws that out of the window.

Jone's sets out a very thoughtful comparison of the hunting habits in medieval England and how Henry V and Edward, Duke of York organised, mobilised and motivated their exhausted army.   He argues that they tapped into ways of behaving which were second nature to the men,  using the hunt to help their forces understand their role and just how to behave.

He also introduces some solid thinking on how stakes were used by the archers, how Henry spread his forces in ways I'd not come across before and how he worked harder than simply waiting for the French to blunder into the arrow storm.  The hand to hand fighting is also described in useful detail.

I won't say more, I don't want to spoil it for you.

Triumph.

This book is fab.  It's changed how I think about the battle, indeed it helps you think differently about pretty much any battle.  It makes you want to game it.  Buy it, borrow it, read it.