Parlington Hall :: Newspaper Articles, with references to
Leeds Mercury Clippings
THE SHAM FIGHT AT PARLINGTON PARK
.The Leeds Mercury, Tuesday, April 7, 1863
THE SECOND WEST YORK (LEEDS) ENGINEER VOLUNTEERS
The regiment, nearly 600 strong, had yesterday a series of interesting manoeuvres, including a sham fight, in the well wooded and pieturesque demesne of their gallant Honorary Colonel (Col.Gascoigne), Parlington Park, near Garforth and Aberford, about seven: miles from Leeds.
There was a large assmblage of persons to see the corps leave Leeds, and also at different points on their route. The afternoon was fine on the whole though one or two slight showers of rain fell, and the entire proceedings passed off well. In accordance with the programme, the corps, under the command of Lieutenant- Colonel Child, assembled at the Marsh-lane Station at 12.45 p.m., and proceeded by special train at one o'clock to Carforth, where the battalion was formed in open column of companies, and each man supplied with sixty rounds of blank cartridge. Nos. 3 and 4 Companies were then marched off and took up a position on an island in the lake and represented the enemy.
Nos. 1, 2, 5, and 6 Companies shortly followed, and took up a position near a thick wood, about 3,000 yards from the lake and represented the attacking column. Here a strong line of skirmishers were thrown forward, and carefully felt their way through the wood until they arrived near the lake, where a very brisk fire was opened from the island and returned by the skirmishers, who concealed themselves as much as possible in the bush. The attacking column marched up, launched their-boats, and crossed to the island under a heavy fire from the enemy.
The enemy now retreated across the island and made their escape in boats, carrying their magazine with them; but being closely pursued by the attacking army, on leaving their boats they blew up their magazine, which caused some delay to the attacking party. The enemy now retreated through the wood, and took up a position behind a strong quick thorn hedge. The attacking army again threw forward a strong line of skirmishers, which felt their way through the wood, until they arrived near to the hedge, where the enemy were posted in strength.
The attacking skirmishers* again halted and opened fire, and kept the enemy in check until the attacking column made a flank movement, which compelled the enemy to retire, when they fell back on a strong stone-built farmhouse, where they again took up a position threw out a line of skirmishers, and put the house in a state of defence. The attacking army again advanced, covered by skirmishers, to the attack on the farmhouse, where several attacks were made and repulsed. The attacking columns, finding they could not dislodge the army, set fire to the house.
skirmishers has a technical meaning in a military sense, according to an old book I have on the Navy and Army from around the late nineteenth century. This is the definition: The technical meaning of the word is that an adequate number of men, according to the judgement of the officer in command, are sent to the front in a single line, with intervals of two or three yards between individuals, and commence the attack by alternately firing and making short rushes forward. They are supposed to avail themselves of every possible cover, however small, by lying down, and thus only exposing the head and part of the arms and shoulders while firing -- a small enough object to hit. Navy & Army Illustrated Vol. VI No 75, July 1898]
Finally, the enemy made their escape, and retired to Parlington hall, their citadel, closely pursued by the attacking columns. An attempt was made to take the citadel by escalade, which proved a failure from the heavy flank fire that was brought to bear upon the escalading party, who wore compelled to retire. There the cadet company distinguished itself by throwing out grappling irons and hauling up one of the ladders with two men on it, who were at once made prisoners and marched to the guard-room in charge of an escort of cadets. The enemy now made a sortie, and forced the attacking army to retreat, leaving their camp and magazine behind, which seas captured by the enemy, and a guard placed on the magazine. The attacking column fell hack on a block house, which was well loopholed, and kept the enemy at bay until reinforcements arrived, when they again threw out a line of skirmishers, and pursued the enemy back to their citadel.
The enemy during this retreat destroyed the attacking army's camp and blew up their magazines. A flag of truce was now sent to the garrison requesting the enemy to surrender on certain conditions, which conditions were not acceded to. An attack was then made at several points, and an entrance effected by means of the escalade spar bridges, etc., when the enemy surrendered unconditionally.
The good order and military bearing of the men were the subject of general admiration. The picturesque appearance of the cadet company, under the lead of their juvenile Commander, Capt. Gascoigne, also elicited high praise, especially from the ladies, whose favour the young soldiers appeared to have secured at a very early period of their military life. The corps returned to Leeds at a late hour, not more fatigued than gratified with the arduous labours of the day and doubtless thankful that the blessings of peace enjoyed by this country for so long a period, rendered the Imitations of war the only kind of hostilities which Englishmen could behold on their own soil.
We ought not to forget to mention that the officers and men were treated to a good dinner after their arduous duties in the field. The band of the corps was in attendance, and imparted animation to the attacking party on their various movements.
Confirmation of the Manoeuvres
Following the discovery of the newspaper articles, the programme for the proposed mock battle, which was drafted by Colonel F. C. Trench-Gascoigne, has been found amongst papers in the West Yorkshire Archives, [Thanks to Pauline Robson, who unearthed them recently. (Summer, 2012)]
Programme by Col Gascoigne.
The hand written programme is repeated almost verbatim in the newspaper article, from the point about the assembly at Marsh Lane Station in the second paragraph, through to the end of the seventh paragraph. Marsh Lane Station is no longer in existence, it was east of the present mainline station. A good plan of the railway in 1913 is here on Wikipedia, The station was operational from 1834 to 1958. The photograph at the head of the page is of military manoeuvres of the period, it is not at Parlington, I just added it for context, to support the article.
The events at the Parlington Estate came thick and fast it seems, at the behest of the Colonel, following the event for 1863 came a second sham fight in May 1864, photographs of the programme below.
Transcript of the Second Programme
Parlington - Programme 17th May 1864 On arrival at Garforth the troops will be drawn up in battle array and 20 rounds of extra ammunition will be served out to them - when measures will immediately be taken for attacking the out post upon Broad River - Some few skirmishers will open fire from the cover and wood bordering the river when they will speedily be driven to take refuge upon Big Island in the river. They will however be soon compelled retire from the island and retreat to a strong fortress not far from the Citadel, where after some skirmishing they will be driven into the fortress and as they decline to surrender, great slaughter ensues, no quarter being given or asked for, so that but few succeed in making their escape to the Citadel closely pursued by the attacking columns - The siege is hard pressed and the Besiegers construct a large Rifle Pit which annoy(s) the Garrison sadly so that an unexpected sally [Oxford Dictionary: military rush] is made by the Garrison in Force sufficient to clear the Rifle Pit and the Trench, and succeed in carrying off a Mortar Battery and making Prisoners of the Gunners - and setting on fire and blowing up the main magazine - which disaster causes much loss and confusion so that the Garrison succeed in retiring safely within their works - Heavy firing recommences during which two small detachments succeed in finding an entrance and remain hid till a signal is given to show themselves during a harassing attack on several points, at which time an entrance will also be effected by Escalade and a Spar Bridge, so the Garrison lay down their arms - but are permitted to march out with all the honours of war.
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