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The London lobsters, Haselrig's Lobsters or just "Lobsters" were the name given to the cavalry unit of Sir Arthur Haselrig, a Parliamentarian who fought in the English Civil War.

Contents

Background

Sir Arthur Haselrig in his cuirassier armour.

Haselrig was a prominent leader of Parliament's opposition to King Charles, and when the quarrel broke into open warfare he formed the unit, outfitting it with his own money. The unit received its name because, unusually for the time, they were cuirassiers, wearing extensive armour that covered most of their body (except for the lower legs) making them appear somewhat like lobsters. Only two cuirassier regiments were raised during the English Civil War, the other being the Lifeguard of the Earl of Essex, however, individual cavalrymen within other regiments also served in complete armour.[1] Full armour had largely been abandoned at this time, with cuirasses and helmets only worn by some cavalry (harquebusiers), commanders and pike units. The armour of a cuirassier was very expensive; in England, in 1629, a cuirassier's equipment cost four pounds and 10 shillings, whilst a harquebusier's (a lighter type of cavalry) was a mere one pound and six shillings.[2]

War service

Armour of a 17th century cuirassier, such as was worn by the Lobsters. The all-enclosing close helm (in this case in the "Savoyard" style) could have been replaced by a more open form, such as the lobster tailed pot.

Haselrig's regiment formed the heavy cavalry in the army of Sir William Waller. The "lobsters" were at the Battle of Roundway Down, and fought in very close order. They were probably the last unit to fight on English soil wearing full armour, and one of the last in Europe. They were credited with being "the first that made any impression upon the King's horse [the Royalist cavalry], who being unarmed [unarmoured], were not able to bear the shock with them; besides they were secure from hurts of the sword..."[Clarendon, "History of the Rebellion," 1647, VII p. 105][3]

The armour they wore apparently served them well, Haselrig was shot three times at Roundway Down, with the bullets apparently bouncing off his armour. Richard Atkyns described how he attacked him with sword, but it did little effect, and Haselrig was under attack from a number of people and only succumbed when Atkyns attacked Haselrig's unarmoured horse.(1) After the death of his horse Haselrig tried to surrender; but as he fumbled with his sword, which was tied to his wrist, he was rescued. He suffered only minor wounds from his ordeal.[4]

The "lobsters" distinguished themselves at Lansdown on July 5, 1643. At Roundway Down on July 13 they met a Royalist cavalry charge at the halt and after a brief clash, retreated in disorder, Parliament losing the battle.

At Cheriton on March 29, 1644 the unit was attacked by a royalist regiment under Sir Henry Bard. This time, Bard's regiment was overwhelmed, and the lobsters went on to attack the Royalist foot, with Parliament winning the battle.

Legacy

It is from this unit that the term Lobsters, in reference to British soldiers, came into use, and also later referring to the red coat of the British Infantry.

"Sir William Waller having received from London [in June 1643] a fresh regiment of five hundred horse, under the command of sir Arthur Haslerigge, which were so prodigiously armed that they were called by the other side the regiment of lobsters, because of their bright iron shells with which they were covered, being perfect curasseers." [Clarendon, "History of the Rebellion," 1647]

External links

Notes

  1. ^ Haythornthwaite, p. 46.
  2. ^ Haythornthwaite, pp. 45 and 49.
  3. ^ Haythornthwaite, p. 28.
  4. ^ Haythornthwaite, p. 49.

References

  • Only in Heaven: The Life and Campaigns of Sir Arthur Hesilrige, 1601-1661 by Barry Denton
  • Haythornthwaite, P. (1983) The English Civil War, An Illustrated History Blandford Press. ISBN 1-85409-323-1.
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