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Edward Bruce's Invasion of Ireland (1316-1318 AD)

By Roy Beers

One of my interests is Scottish medieval warfare, and while the standard DBA lists are fine for "generic" games they need to be radically rethought for individual campaigns. One example is Edward Bruce's invasion of Ireland, 1316-18 (notable battles Athenry and Faughart).

This campaign takes all the usual Scots and English elements of the period and beautifully complicates things by adding Irish armies and allies, and more particularly Hebridean Galloglaich in unknown but (more than an element) significant numbers. As late as 1324, after this episode, King Robert I landed at Carrickfergus with 800 Galloglaich as a show of force - and we know Edward Bruce's invasion force was in the order of 6,000 strong. Also the Galloglaich had been hiring themselves to Irish kings from around the 1270s, and to terrific effect - being chiefly responsible for several shattering Anglo-Irish defeats and a major Gaelic resurgence.

The Armies

Again it's a case of "crossing" various armies on the lists; for the Scots take your pick from Scots Isles and Highlands, Scots Common and Medieval Irish; for the Anglo-Irish take Anglo-Irish, obviously; and adjust to accommodate Medieval Irish (in the form of Felim, King of Connacht - who just to complicate things further eventually deserts to the Scots.

The main thing with the English is to remember they're not an army in the mainland mould: around a core of mounted knights are that Irish invention, the hobilar, who I suggest we treat as Cv rather than LH - I think LH unarmoured men on ponies would do the real "campaign" skirmishing stuff, and perhaps ought not to be in the battle order. longbowmen won't be there in huge numbers, and may even be hired direct from Wales for specific campaigns. Spearmen in kettle helmets with shields will be present, but many of these will be garrison troops occupying castles and important towns. The bulk of the army will be Gaelic Irish, a solid core of Bonnacht axemen (Bd) supported by Ax types (kerns with shields and javelins), and of course Psiloi.

One account I"ve read suggests a smaller number of Galloglaich may have been present on the Anglo-Irish side (it was not unusual for West Highland clans to pursue clan rivalries by siding with their enemies' enemies!: at various times Isles and Irish chieftains, many of them closely related, held commissions as English admirals - the fleets of all Hebridean factions, in effect private navies, were the "nyvaig" longship-type galleys of the Western Isles (smaller than classic Viking longships, to be more maneouvrable, but reportedly equipped with fighting tops for slingers and archers: nyvaig is Gaelo-Norse for "little ship" Dunyvaig on Islay is "castle of the little ships" - ie guarding the bay where they were moored, a sort of medieval marina. In the Wars of Independence the Bruce faction under Clan Donald, later to be the Lords of the Isles, comprehensively defeated the English-allied MacDougalls of Lorne...there's a medieval naval warfare dimension here waiting to be discovered!

The lists are conjectural, more so than usual, but I'd suggest:

Scots Army, Ireland, 1316-18

1 x 3Kn or 3Cv (Command); 4 x 4Pk; 2 x 3Bd (Galloglaich); 1 x 3Cv (Irish cavalry) or 4Bd (Bonnacht) ; 2 x 3Wb (Highlanders) or 3Ax (Irish kerns) ; 2 x 2Ps (bows and other skirmishers) or 3Ax

Anglo-Irish Army, Ireland 1316-18

1 x 3Kn or 4Bd (Command); 2 x 3Cv (Irish cavalry or English-type "sergeants"); 2 x 4Lb, 2 x 4Sp, 3 x 3Ax (Irish kerns); 1 x 4Cb or 4Bd (Bonnacht or Galloglaich) or 2Ps; 1 x 3Kn or 2LH or 3Ax or 2Ps.

Crossbows are mentioned in very small numbers (50+) in a force of 3,000 men brought to assist the English invasion of Scotland in 1296, and it could be they were a sort of "regular Anglo-Irish" missile type: presumably rather more might be available for an all-out "home" defence. The bulk of the force is "foot" with a few hundred hobilars and about an element's worth of knights, squires and other people you would expect to find in armour and on horseback. I've given the added option of more English knights in the list since the total of bannerets, knights and squires comes to a few hundred out of the 3,000 - actual proportions of armoured or part-armoured horsemen would depend very much on which feudal contingents were available for which battle.

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Last Updated: June 5, 1999

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to my attention at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.