Captain Thomas Sandford's Company of Firelocks

Captain Thomas Sandford (sometimes Sanford) most probably raised his independent Company of Firelocks in Shropshire, for service in Ireland. 

Thomas was described as a 'colourful character': which seems fairly accurate, as evidenced by his correspondence. One of his letters, addressed to the garrison at Hawarden, began:

"Behold the messenger of death, Sanford and his firelocks, who neither use to give, nor take quarter"

He had previously been a quartermaster serving with the Earl of Northumberland's Regiment of Foot during the First Bishops' War. 

When originally raised the company had a strength of about 60 men. They arrived in Dublin in 1642 and served under Ormonde, where they helped lead the assault on the Confederate forces at Kilrush. Of the men who went to Ireland 50 men returned to Chester in 1643. Once back in England they fought for the King at Hawarden* and Beeston Castles. 

At Beeston legend has it that Sandford and eight of his men famously scaled the cliffs at night to take the Castle; but there doesn't appear to be any evidence for this taking place. Thomas did persuade the Castle's Governor to surrender of that we can be sure, the events that led up to this appear slightly different to the oft repeated tale. There are a number of accounts which refer to Sandford and his men gaining entry to the Castle via a 'byway' and capturing the garrison's arsenal. If the night time cliff scaling had taken place one would expect Mercurius Aulicus to feature such a dramatic tale in it's reporting of the Castle falling to the King's men - alas it does not. 

Sandford would appear to become the Royalist governor of the Castle once it was securely in Royalist hands.

Their main engagement took place at the Nantwich campaign where Thomas was killed in the assault upon the town: the Parliamentarians claimed that Sandford had been shot by a 15 year old boy. With hindsight I should have posted this entry yesterday, as Lord Byron began besieging Nantwich on the 9th of January.

Upon Sandford's death it is thought that Captain Syon Finch took command briefly before he too was killed and the entire survivors of the company were captured at the Battle of Nantwich

It is not definitively known what happened to the company once captured; it is believed that the men defected to Parliament, possibly joining Sir William Brereton's Firelocks or his Regiment of Dragoons. We know that about 40% of the Royalists taken prisoner at Nantwich changed sides to fight for Parliament.

You will often see the wargamer fact™ that the Regiments raised to fight in Ireland all wore green or yellow coats. This is slightly problematical as very few coat colours were recorded (there's a handful of red coated regiments, one in either red or grey, one green, and a couple of yellow coated regiments), what was recorded about the clothing issued were mostly complaints about the poor quality of the clothing, for example:

"the cloth is very bad, the suits ill and slightly made up, the cassocks not lined, the linings of the breeches not very good cloth, the caps so little as they cannot be useful..."
in J. Hogan Letters and Papers Relating to the Irish Rebellion 1642-1646

Upon their return from Ireland soldiers were given clothing: Orlando Bridgeman, the Governor of Chester sent requests to neighbouring towns and counties for clothing and shoes for the returning troops. So desperate was the condition of these soldiers that this is mostly believed to be civilian clothing, not standard coloured coats for individual regiments. 

The Osprey Elite, "Soldiers of the English Civil War (1), Infantry" illustrates one of their number wearing a green coat, the plate description gives "...wearing the new coat issued on his arrival in England". I have seen this illustration used as definitive evidence that Sandford's wore green coats. Sorry - coat colour is pure supposition, we don't even know for certain if they were even issued with coats.

So having free rein I have been inspired by the Osprey illustration and gave them green coats for a bit of variety - purely because my Royalist foot are mostly red, blue, white and grey. I had originally planned on painting them red, but Coat d'Arms Russian brown (which is actually a greeny colour) seems more fitting. The drummer caused me woe - he got painted and stripped a number of times before the version you see here. Just wasn't happy with him, didn't look right.

Those of you tempted to check the Company out over on the BCW Regimental Wiki will find that their entry is strikingly similar to this entry. Plagiarism I hear you cry. Sorry to disappoint - during the course of researching Sandford's I updated their entry. So yes, much has been copied from here to there. Contributing to the BCW Wiki is really easy, even a techno-incompetent such as myself can do it; so if you have ever used the Wiki to help with your project, consider giving something back to it when/if you discover something that isn't on there (just make sure any contributions are sourced from attributable sources, not just any old nonsense you read on a wargaming forum). Consider it karmic payback.

* in case you're wondering, it's pronounced 'harden'

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  1. Excellent as ever. I'm curious, given the indication of the unit wearing civilian clothing, whether anyone has done any research on what colours were most prevalent in civilian life? I don't recall that I've seen any myself.

    1. Thanks Dex.

      Closest I've found is

      Apologies for blowing own trumpet.

    2. No apologies needed; exactly what I was looking for (and for some reason I had forgotten it, despite having read it previously)!

      My other current quest is trying to better understand the 17th century rural landscape, ostensibly to achieve a better games table!

    3. Might have something in the pipeline about that...

      There's a couple of mentions somewhere on here already, when I went down a rabbit hole wondering what C17th gates looked like. (I know, rock 'n' roll !)

  2. Nice work - inexplicably I have always dread painting up drummers / drums and as such very few of my units have them!

    1. Thanks. Normally quite like them, don't have a problem. But this one - I think I need to thin the Russian brown coat paint down a bit. That is probably the cause of my woes.


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