DBA Resource Page

Battle Scenarios | Wargaming the Irish

Battle of the Pass of Achadh-Ur, 1169AD

By Rob Brennan

This is the first of a series of battles describing the beginnings of Norman involvement in Ireland. It took place before the arrival of the main leader of the Norman forces, Earl Richard fitz Gilbert, "Strongbow". The Normans came to Ireland not in an invasion, but more like the freebooters in Sicily. In fact they were even more legitimate, in that they came in the service of an exiled Irish king, Diarmait McMurchada from Ui Chennselaig in south-east Ireland (just down the coast from Dublin).

Background

As king of Ui Chennselaig, and sometimes Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada had long been hostile to his neighbouring ruler, Mac Gilla Patraic of Osraige. Osraige was a strategic kingdom on the border of both Leinster and Munster and influenced the politics of both provinces. When Diarmait was expelled from Ireland in 1166, Mac Gilla Patraic had taken half his kingdom and Diarmit's eldest son as a hostage. When Diarmit returned to Ireland in 1168, his son was blinded by Mac Gilla Patraic. In early 1169 the high-king, Ruaidri Ua Conchobair lead a hosting to Leinster and took Diarmait's remaining legitimate son as a hostage. Diarmait's position seemed desperate and he sent urgent news to Wales that if any were to rally to his cause, time was running out.

In May 1169 the first small contingents of Normans began to arrive (led by fitz Stephen and Maurice de Prendergast) in Co. Wexford. Diarmait lead a force that met with the Normans and immediately began an assault on Wexford town. After taking Wexford with his new Cambro-Norman allies, Diarmait Mac Murchada had to secure his position in Leinster. The most dangerous kingdom, and an old enemy, was Mac Gilla Patraic of Osraige. A combined force of Irish, Norman and Wexford Norse troops marched on the Osraige border. The men of Osraige conducted a spirited defense, taking all possible advantage from the difficult terrain. However, a feigned flight eventually lured them out into the open and they were defeated by the charge of the knights supported by axemen.

After this reverse, Mac Gilla Patraic still gave no sign of submission. In order to secure his flank before making the inevitable push to Dublin, Diarmait was forced into bold action. He led his mixed force north, harrying the lands of the Ui Faelain and Ui Muiredaig (both potential allies of Mac Gilla Patraic) and then turned south on Osraige again. The armies of Osraige and Diarmait met in the strategic pass of Achadh-Ur (Freshford, Co. Kilkenny) and three days of fighting ensued. In the balance was the survival of Osraige and Diarmait's ambitions to be high-king.

The Armies

Leinster-Norman-Ostmen Force (Norse-Irish with Ostmen option and Norman allies): 1x Knight, 2x Bow, 1x Spear, 2x Blades, 3x Auxilia (one of these must be the general), 3x Psiloi

Osraige Force (Norse-Irish): 6x Auxilia (one of these must be the general), 6x Psiloi

Deployment

The Leinster-Norman-Ostmen Force are the attackers.

The Osraige men may keep up to 3 elements off-table at setup. These may then be placed during the game as ambushers in any difficult going that the attackers have not yet entered or adjacent to the Osraige men's camp. You must spend a PIP to place/move these units, although they don't have to be moved in the turn placed.

Game Map

Note that there is no real way to reconstruct the precise location of the battle and the following map is purely conjectural.

        ========Leinster-Norman-Ostmen Baseline==========  
        ##########. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
        . ######### . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
        . . ######. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . .ffffffff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . .ffffffffffff . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . ffffffffffffff. . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . .fffffffffffff. . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . fffffffffffffff . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . .ffffffffff . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . ffffffff. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . ##########. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        . . . ##############. . . . . . .ffffff . . . . .  
        . . . . .############## . . . . fffffffff . . . .  
        . . . . . . ######### . . . . . . ffffffffff. . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ffffffff . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ffff . . . .  
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
        ============Osraige Baseline=====================   

SCALE: The space between each dot/letter is one inch.  

TERRAIN KEY:  
 .  = Good Going
 # = Rough/Broken Ground (Bad Going)  
 f  = Light Wood (Bad Going)

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.

The Aftermath

Although the men of Osraige were defeated, they were able to withdraw to the woods in their own territory while Diarmait and his allies returned to Ferns (his capital) laden with plunder. The victory was soured when de Prendergast declared that he intended to return to Wales. Diramait made moves to block his withdrawal and he immediately offered his services to Mac Gilla Patraic, who accepted. A stalemate seemed assured, but Diarmait still had more friends in Wales.

Background Resources

The Norman Invasion of Ireland, Richard Roche, 1995, Anvil -- Although this book is very suspect from an academic point of view, it is a useful guide for wargamers as it includes a good general description of the campaigns of the Normans in Ireland and many actual figures for numbers involved in battles etc. along with maps and illustrations. Take the analysis and background with a pinch of salt though (for example, when Derbforgaill was abuducted by Diarmait in 1152, both were in their forties, hardly the material for a passionate love-affair!). Please also note that it is a reprint of a much older book (1970?).

A New History of Ireland Volume II, Art Cosgrove (Ed), 1993, Oxford University Press -- A great book that includes a narrative history of Ireland 1169-1534 and supporting material. Each chapter is prepared by an expert in the area covered. The style isn't overly academic and it contains an excellent analysis of the period. Unfortunately it is very expensive and probably best got through inter-library loans or access to a university library.

Expugnatio Hibernicia (The Conquest of Ireland) by Geraldus Cambrensis, AB Scott & FX Martin (Eds), 1978, Royal Irish Academy -- This is the main primary source for our period. A penguin edition is also available, but this edition has both latin and english text and copious footnotes. The footnotes contain additional historical background and references to current (at the time of printing) analysis and criticism of the text and other sources for the same period. FX Martin is the acknowledged expert for this period of Irish history and any works by him are worth buying, if you see them.

Tim Donovan also lists many other useful resources for this period of Irish history in his Irish DBA scenarios on this site.


| Top of Page | Battle Scenarios | Wargaming the Irish | Home |


Last Update: March 17, 2001

My thanks to Rob Brennan for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.