Fairfax Battalia background
The English Civil War Society (ECWS) consists of:
- the parliamentarian Roundhead Association (RA)
- the royalist Kings Army (KA).
Each army consists of: - regiments of infantry
- a regiment of horse
- a trayne of artillery.
The RA also has a civilian baggage trayne.
The regiments are all named after actual civil war units, which generally took the names of their commanders. These are all infantry (musketeers and pikemen) regiments and include:
- Colonel Nicholas Devereux’s Regiment of Foot
- Colonel John Fox’s Regiment of Foot
- Colonel Valentine Walton’s Regiment of Foot
In reality the original regiments never operated together and Sir Thomas Fairfax commanded his own full-time regiment rather than a battalia.
FAIRFAX BATTALIA HISTORY
The Fairfax Battalia takes its name from the first commander of the army that parliament had ‘Newly Modelled’ in 1645, Sir Thomas Fairfax. Technically a group of regiments acting in close unison is a ‘Brigade’. However, as we work together on many occasions, we call ourselves a Battalia’.
During the Civil War period, a ‘battalia’ would have been a detachment of soldiers put together for a particular task, often by dividing a regiment into two or more smaller units.
The Fairfax Battalia was created in 1987 when a group of RA regiments with similar aims came together to put on joint displays and also to take the field as one combined unit. You will have joined one of these constituent regiments as well as the RA itself.
There are two other RA battalia, Poyntz’s and Crawford’s, each consisting of a number of regiments.
Originally the different regiments in the Fairfax Battalia merely formed up alongside each other on the battlefield: they each had their own officers, their own colours (flags) and wore their own regimental coats.
In the early 90s it was agreed that they would all form up together and later adopted a common coat, red lined in blue, which were the colours of Sir Thomas Fairfax’s original regiment.
The number of officers and flags used at events was reduced to make the unit look more authentic, and a copy of one of Fairfax’s colours was adopted for use by the battalia.
Later, regimental officers took it in turns to command bodies of soldiers. On special occasions the individual regiments’ colours were used.
For a while the RA and KA didn’t formally recognise battalia, but now the whole society generally takes the field in these formations.
FAIRFAX BATTALIA ORGANISATION
Each of the regiments within the battalia has its own Commanding Officer (CO), supported by varying forms of committee who assist with administration, membership, finances and so on. Although the majority of events over many years were run under the name of the Fairfax Battalia, each regiment holds its own bank account, owns its own equipment, publishes its own newsletters, runs its own meetings and social events and has its own website. They also have their own different ways of deciding who their military officers and CO are.
The Fairfax Battalia also has a Commanding Officer, generally a current or former regimental CO, who is in turn supported by a committee which is drawn from elected members of all four regiments. There is usually also a second-in-command who stands in for the CO at meetings and on the field. This committee meets at the beginning and end of each season to discuss which events we will go to, how we will spend money etc. Usually each regimental CO will be asked to seek the opinion of their regiment’s members.
The battalia committee relies on other volunteers to assist with things, both at and outside of events. Anyone can come forward with an idea which they think would help improve our events, find a potential event, generate publicity and recruits, make equipment or get members together at a social event. Volunteers are also always needed to man the publicity tent at events. Invariably new committee members ‘emerge’ through a combination of drive, enthusiasm and popular acclaim (which generally means ‘Great, someone wants to put some effort in to organising my hobby – carry on’).
The current Fairfax Battalia committee posts and members are;
Chair: Alison Clayton
Battalia CO: Currently vacant
Treasurer: Sue Dowdeswell
Editor of True Relation: Stephen ‘Muttley’ Rutherford
Publicity: Currently vacant
Website: Currently vacant
Civilian living history co-ordinator: Ken Clayton
Transport: Craig Southcoat
Battalia 2ic: Simon Frame
Devereux's CO: Charles Singleton
Fox's CO: Jerome Wallington
Walton's CO: Craig Southcoat
Other roles which support events are;
- Powder Officer: storing and issuing out the black powder (gunpowder) used by the musketeers
- Sutler: running the kitchen which feeds everyone at lunchtime
- Event Organiser: acting as the point of contact between the unit and the organisation paying for the event.
These roles can be carried out by a different person at each event (the Event Organiser is usually someone who lives close to the site), but rely on a rota of those willing to share the burden. Help and advice is always there for those wanting to have a go, and the roles can be carried out with the help of a mentor at your first go.
Some of the equipment used at events belongs to the battalia; mainly the pikes, polearms, equipment used at the kitchen and some of the posh dining kit and tents. Other equipment belongs to the regiments, but for convenience it is stored in one place and brought to events on the Battalia van.
It’s important to remember that every time the battalia appears at an event, the organiser of the event pays a fee to cover battalia expenses such as powder, food, transport and so on. This means that the battalia has a contractual obligation to put on the best show that we can manage.
There are two types of event:
Regimental Invitation Event (RIE): organised by a regiment or the battalia. Invitations are sent to specific other regiments to join us in order to increase the numbers and provide an opposition for the battle. We have a particularly good relationship with The Marquess of Winchester’s Regiment, a royalist unit, which is why they appear at so many events alongside the battalia.
Major: is organised by the ECWS and is open to all parliamentarian and royalist units. There are usually only a few of these each year.
WIDER SOCIETY ORGANISATION
All RA regimental and battalia COs represent their units on the Army Council. This is the group of people which address RA military or ‘battlefield’ issues. The Army Council also elects the Lord General (LG) of the army.
Each regiment appoints someone to represent them at the ‘Committee of Safety’ (CoS) which is the body which runs the RA as a whole. The CoS is named after a C17th parliamentary committee which was set up to oversee the parliamentary war effort.
The ECWS has a Board of Directors (BoD) which consists of RA and KA representatives. This deals with the issues which affect the whole society, mainly publicity, insurance and finding and running major events – those are the events to which the whole society is invited. The members of the BoD can also hold other military or organisational posts in the society. The RA and the KA also agree how to set up the rules for fighting battles, how to allocate the fees from major events and how the civilian side of major events is organised – the co-called ‘Living History’ element. Ken Clayton often deals with the RA and KA Living History coordinators, acting as our focal point to ensure that the society’s displays are coordinated.
If you want to borrow clothing or equipment, you should first seek the advice of your regimental CO. Each unit holds its own spare clothing, soldier's and civilian, or you can borrow it from individuals. If your regiment cannot help, they will contact the other units to see if anyone else can help. Additional soldiers coats will be available as the regiments all put money into buying the material so that there is a standard pattern. Some of the equipment used belongs to the Battalia, mainly the pikes, polearms, equipment used at the kitchen and some of the posh dining kit and tents.
That is how the Fairfax Battalia works. It relies on members who are prepared to take some of the load. If you’re willing to help, please tell your CO.