The Battle of Coleford by Keith James and Ian Blyth
ENGLISH BICKNOR LOCAL HISTORY GROUP
The Battle of Coleford with Two Civil War soldiers
(Keith James and Ian Blyth from The Sealed Knot)
Meeting of 8th December 2011
We were welcomed by the Parliamentarian and the Royalist - who swept off his hat and bowed (making sure we couldn’t see inside the hat which in 1643 would be full of lice!).
An introduction on The Sealed Knot followed: established in 1968 it does anything from talks in schools to re-enacting battles with up to 2,000 people. These battles have rules, and history must not be changed, but it was let slip that usually there is a 20 minute ‘free-for-all’.
There was no uniform, just what could be afforded. Leaves, wool or other badges were used to identify in battle, which must have made it easy to change sides! Our Parliamentarian was smartly dressed in black (expensive as the dye rotted the fabric). Our Royalist was wearing wool stockings tied at the thigh, with boots that had no left or right. A linen shirt (or several if it was cold) and breeches (attached to the coat as there was no belt). Only the cavalry wore underpants. Keeping clean meant changing your shirt (washing was thought unhealthy).
We were shown a sergeant’s halberd: a blade for thrusting and pulling (useful for hamstringing enemies) on a pole with a fringe which stopped the blood running down and making it slippery. A ‘lobster pot’ helmet and very heavy sword were passed around – common troopers were given swords, but were untrained and often just used them to cut wood. Firing a matchlock was demonstrated (the match being the smouldering sash cord-like string used to light the fuse), it can be fired 2-3 times a minute.
Training was quick. Half a day to use the 21 foot long pike. Musket training took a week. Average pay was around 8p a day (about the same as a farm labourer) plus food. However, money and food weren’t always provided so sometimes whole regiments would just go home.
The Battle of Coleford, 20 February 1643: a two hour fight began when 1,500 foot and 500 dragoons supporting the King came through on their way to Gloucester. A Parliamentary report said the streets were ‘running with blood’. To commemorate the Battle, on
18 February 2012 (2:30pm) the Sealed Knot will gather at the Coleford plaque for a service.
We finished with the Christmas quiz, our brains oiled with mulled wine and stollen. CS