Thursday 12 July 2018

891 AD, the Battle of Leuven.

During the latter half of the 9th century the empire of Charlemagne would evolve into two political entities known as the Western and Eastern Frankish kingdoms. Both were beset by Viking incursions, but the eastern half experienced further invasions by the Magyars, Slavs, and the Lombards. To counter these external threats, ‘marches’ or frontier provinces were established to maintain order within its borders, raise levies for its defence and ease the collection of tribute. The marcher lords held a degree of autonomy within their respective territory, but campaigns requiring a larger force were often led in person by the king. In November of 891, King Arnulf assembled an army of eastern Franks to meet the Heathen Army encamped on the River Dyle near Leuven in modern day Belgium.

“A.D. 891. This year went the army eastward; and King Arnulf fought with the land-force, ere the ships arrived, in conjunction with the eastern Franks, and Saxons, and Bavarians, and put them to flight”.
From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

The Battlefield.
Lovan (Leuven) is located east of modern day Brussels and rests on the Dyle River. For the most part this is now a canal, but it formed a tributary of Scheldt River coursing its way from Leuven to Mechelen to empty into the Scheldt River just south of Antwerp.  It is disputed if the battle took place in September or November, but in either case Reuter mentions the Great Army was prepared to ‘winter’ at Lovan (Leuven) making November a logical choice .

Our battlefield is constructed from a 13th century medieval map showing the village of Leuven, the Dyle River and the surrounding countryside. Just east of the town are rolling hills that could easily mask the approach of a Frankish force.  

The terrain items should have two ploughs (compulsory), a BUA (hamlet), river and one gentle hill. For this scenario, the BUA (minimum 3BW x 4BW) should be placed in centre of the board with its western side resting on the Dyle River (Class II). The placement of two plough (2 or 3BW x 4BW) and a gentle hill should follow the same procedure as per rule book.

The Armies.
Use Book III/40b list for the Great Army; this gives the Viking player eleven blade and a choice of either berserkers (3Wb) or skirmishers (Ps).

The East Franks are taken from Book III/53 giving the Frankish player a sizable number of knights supported by spear and few archers. The Bavarians are mentioned as present with Arnulf’s command therefore two elements of Bavarian knights may dismount as blade.

Viking setup.
Three elements serve as sentries and are placed adjacent to the hamlet on its perimeter. The remaining nine elements (including the general) are encamped in the town and are placed as three columns of three elements each. The Vikings are the defender so move first.  

East Frankish setup.
As the attacker, the East Franks have two deployment areas; one east of Leuven and the other north of the town. Troops deployed in either area positioned 6BW from the Viking sentries. The choice of a second deployment area is based on recent archaeological findings and studies done by Belgian historians.

Annals of Fulda, vol. II, Manchester University Press.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Project Gutenberg (e-book).

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