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Battle of Hastings – 14th October 1066

The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October

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The Battle of Hastings by Tom Lovell

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The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, beginning the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.

 

The background to the battle was the death of the childless King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, which set up a succession struggle between several claimants to his throne. Harold was crowned king shortly after Edward’s death, but faced invasions by William, his own brother Tostig and the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada (Harold III of Norway). Hardrada and Tostig defeated a hastily gathered army of Englishmen at the Battle of Fulford on 20 September 1066, and were in turn defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge five days later.

The deaths of Tostig and Hardrada at Stamford Bridge left William as Harold’s only serious opponent. While Harold and his forces were recovering, William landed his invasion forces in the south of England at Pevensey on 28 September 1066 and established a beachhead for his conquest of the kingdom. Harold was forced to march south swiftly, gathering forces as he went.

The exact numbers present at the battle are unknown; modern estimates are around 10,000 for William and about 7,000 for Harold. The composition of the forces is clearer; the English army was composed almost entirely of infantry and had few archers, whereas only about half of the invading force was infantry, the rest split equally between cavalry and archers. Harold appears to have tried to surprise William, but scouts found his army and reported its arrival to William, who marched from Hastings to the battlefield to confront Harold.

The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk. Early efforts of the invaders to break the English battle lines had little effect; therefore, the Normans adopted the tactic of pretending to flee in panic and then turning on their pursuers. Harold’s death, probably near the end of the battle, led to the retreat and defeat of most of his army. After further marching and some skirmishes, William was crowned as king on Christmas Day 1066.

There continued to be rebellions and resistance to William’s rule, but Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William’s conquest of England. Casualty figures are hard to come by, but some historians estimate that 2,000 invaders died along with about twice that number of Englishmen. William founded a monastery at the site of the battle, the high altar of the abbey church supposedly placed at the spot where Harold died.

Background

In 911, French Carolingian ruler Charles the Simple allowed a group of Vikings to settle in Normandy under their leader Rollo. Their settlement proved successful, and they quickly adapted to the indigenous culture, renouncing paganism, converting to Christianity,  and intermarrying with the local population.

Over time, the frontiers of the duchy expanded to the west. In 1002, King Æthelred II of England married Emma, the sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy.  Their son Edward the Confessor spent many years in exile in Normandy, and succeeded to the English throne in 1042. This led to the establishment of a powerful Norman interest in English politics, as Edward drew heavily on his former hosts for support, bringing in Norman courtiers, soldiers, and clerics and appointing them to positions of power, particularly in the Church.

Edward was childless and embroiled in conflict with the formidable Godwin, Earl of Wessex and his sons, and he may also have encouraged Duke William of Normandy’s ambitions for the English throne.

Succession crisis in England

Following King Edward’s death on 5 January 1066, the lack of a clear heir led to a disputed succession in which several contenders laid claim to the throne of England.  Edward’s immediate successor was the Earl of Wessex, Harold Godwinson, the richest and most powerful of the English aristocrats and son of Godwin, Edward’s earlier opponent. Harold was elected king by the Witenagemot of England and crowned by Archbishop of York Ealdred, although Norman propaganda claimed that the ceremony was performed by Stigand, the uncanonically elected Archbishop of Canterbury.

Harold was at once challenged by two powerful neighbouring rulers. Duke William claimed that he had been promised the throne by King Edward and that Harold had sworn agreement to this.  Harald III of Norway, commonly known as Harald Hardrada, also contested the succession. His claim to the throne was based on an agreement between his predecessor Magnus I of Norway and the earlier King of England Harthacanute, whereby, if either died without heir, the other would inherit both England and Norway.  William and Harald Hardrada immediately set about assembling troops and ships for separate invasions.

Tostig and Hardrada’s invasions

In early 1066, Harold’s exiled brother Tostig Godwinson raided south-eastern England with a fleet he had recruited in Flanders, later joined by other ships from Orkney. Threatened by Harold’s fleet, Tostig moved north and raided in East Anglia and Lincolnshire. He was driven back to his ships by the brothers Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria. Deserted by most of his followers, he withdrew to Scotland, where he spent the middle of the year recruiting fresh forces.

Hardrada invaded northern England in early September, leading a fleet of more than 300 ships carrying perhaps 15,000 men. Hardrada’s army was further augmented by the forces of Tostig, who supported the Norwegian king’s bid for the throne. Advancing on York, the Norwegians occupied the city after defeating a northern English army under Edwin and Morcar on 20 September at the Battle of Fulford.

English army and Harold’s preparations

The location of the Battle of Stamford Bridge

The English army was organised along regional lines, with the fyrd, or local levy, serving under a local magnate – whether an earl, bishop, or sheriff. The fyrd was composed of men who owned their own land, and were equipped by their community to fulfil the king’s demands for military forces. For every five hides,  or units of land nominally capable of supporting one household,  one man was supposed to serve.  It appears that the hundred was the main organising unit for the fyrd. As a whole, England could furnish about 14,000 men for the fyrd, when it was called out. The fyrd usually served for two months, except in emergencies.

It was rare for the whole national fyrd to be called out; between 1046 and 1065 it was only done three times, in 1051, 1052, and 1065. The king also had a group of personal armsmen, known as housecarls, who formed the backbone of the royal forces. Some earls also had their own forces of housecarls. Thegns, the local landowning elites, either fought with the royal housecarls or attached themselves to the forces of an earl or other magnate.[23] The fyrd and the housecarls both fought on foot, with the major difference between them being the housecarl’s superior armour. The English army does not appear to have had a significant number of archers.

Harold had spent mid-1066 on the south coast with a large army and fleet waiting for William to invade. The bulk of his forces were militia who needed to harvest their crops, so on 8 September Harold dismissed the militia and the fleet.  Learning of the Norwegian invasion he rushed north, gathering forces as he went, and took the Norwegians by surprise, defeating them at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on 25 September. Harald Hardrada and Tostig were killed, and the Norwegians suffered such great losses that only 24 of the original 300 ships were required to carry away the survivors. The English victory came at great cost, as Harold’s army was left in a battered and weakened state.

William’s preparations and landing

Interior ruins at Pevensey Castle, some of which date to shortly after the Battle of Hastings

William assembled a large invasion fleet and an army gathered from Normandy and the rest of France, including large contingents from Brittany and Flanders. He spent almost nine months on his preparations, as he had to construct a fleet from nothing.[d] According to some Norman chronicles, he also secured diplomatic support, although the accuracy of the reports has been a matter of historical debate. The most famous claim is that Pope Alexander II gave a papal banner as a token of support, which only appears in William of Poitiers’s account, and not in more contemporary narratives.

In April 1066 Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky, and was widely reported throughout Europe. Contemporary accounts connected the comet’s appearance with the succession crisis in England.

William mustered his forces at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, and was ready to cross the English Channel by about 12 August. But the crossing was delayed, either because of unfavourable weather or to avoid being intercepted by the powerful English fleet. The Normans crossed to England a few days after Harold’s victory over the Norwegians, following the dispersal of Harold’s naval force, and landed at Pevensey in Sussex on 28 September.

A few ships were blown off course and landed at Romney, where the Normans fought the local fyrd. After landing, William’s forces built a wooden castle at Hastings, from which they raided the surrounding area. More fortifications were erected at Pevensey.

Norman forces at Hastings

The exact numbers and composition of William’s force are unknown.  A contemporary document claims that William had 776 ships, but this may be an inflated figure. Figures given by contemporary writers are highly exaggerated, varying from 14,000 to 150,000. Modern historians have offered a range of estimates for the size of William’s forces: 7,000–8,000 men, 1,000–2,000 of them cavalry; 10,000–12,000 men; 10,000 men, 3,000 of them cavalry;  or 7500 men. The army consisted of cavalry, infantry, and archers or crossbowmen, with about equal numbers of cavalry and archers and the foot soldiers equal in number to the other two types combined.

Later lists of companions of William the Conqueror are extant, but most are padded with extra names; only about 35 named individuals can be reliably identified as having been with William at Hastings.

The main armour used was chainmail hauberks, usually knee-length, with slits to allow riding, some with sleeves to the elbows. Some hauberks may have been made of scales attached to a tunic, with the scales made of metal, horn or hardened leather. Headgear was usually a conical metal helmet with a band of metal extending down to protect the nose.[59] Horsemen and infantry carried shields. The infantryman’s shield was usually round and made of wood, with reinforcement of metal. Horsemen had changed to a kite-shaped shield and were usually armed with a lance.

The couched lance, carried tucked against the body under the right arm, was a relatively new refinement and was probably not used at Hastings; the terrain was unfavourable for long cavalry charges. Both the infantry and cavalry usually fought with a straight sword, long and double-edged. The infantry could also use javelins and long spears. Some of the cavalry may have used a mace instead of a sword. Archers would have used a self bow or a crossbow, and most would not have had armour.

Harold moves south

After defeating his brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada in the north, Harold left much of his forces in the north, including Morcar and Edwin, and marched the rest of his army south to deal with the threatened Norman invasion.  It is unclear when Harold learned of William’s landing, but it was probably while he was travelling south. Harold stopped in London, and was there for about a week before Hastings, so it is likely that he spent about a week on his march south, averaging about 27 miles (43 kilometres) per day, for the approximately 200 miles (320 kilometres).

Harold camped at Caldbec Hill on the night of 13 October, near what was described as a “hoar-apple tree”. This location was about 8 miles (13 kilometres) from William’s castle at Hastings. Some of the early contemporary French accounts mention an emissary or emissaries sent by Harold to William, which is likely. Nothing came of these efforts.

Although Harold attempted to surprise the Normans, William’s scouts reported the English arrival to the duke. The exact events preceding the battle are obscure, with contradictory accounts in the sources, but all agree that William led his army from his castle and advanced towards the enemy. Harold had taken a defensive position at the top of Senlac Hill (present-day Battle, East Sussex), about 6 miles (9.7 kilometres) from William’s castle at Hastings.

English forces at Hastings

The exact number of soldiers in Harold’s army is unknown. The contemporary records do not give reliable figures; some Norman sources give 400,000 to 1,200,000 men on Harold’s side.[j] The English sources generally give very low figures for Harold’s army, perhaps to make the English defeat seem less devastating.  Recent historians have suggested figures of between 5,000 and 13,000 for Harold’s army at Hastings, and most modern historians argue for a figure of 7,000–8,000 English troops.

These men would have been a mix of the fyrd and housecarls. Few individual Englishmen are known to have been at Hastings; about 20 named individuals can reasonably be assumed to have fought with Harold at Hastings, including Harold’s brothers Gyrth and Leofwine and two other relatives.

The English army consisted entirely of infantry. It is possible that some of the higher class members of the army rode to battle, but when battle was joined they dismounted to fight on foot The core of the army was made up of housecarls, full-time professional soldiers. Their armour consisted of a conical helmet, a mail hauberk, and a shield, which might be either kite-shaped or round. Most housecarls fought with the two-handed Danish battleaxe, but they could also carry a sword.

The rest of the army was made up of levies from the fyrd, also infantry but more lightly armoured and not professionals. Most of the infantry would have formed part of the shield wall, in which all the men in the front ranks locked their shields together. Behind them would have been axemen and men with javelins as well as archers.

Battle

Background and location

 

The battlefield from the north side

Because many of the primary accounts contradict each other at times, it is impossible to provide a description of the battle that is beyond dispute. The only undisputed facts are that the fighting began at 9 am on Saturday 14 October 1066 and that the battle lasted until dusk.  Sunset on the day of the battle was at 4:54 pm, with the battlefield mostly dark by 5:54 pm and in full darkness by 6:24 pm. Moonrise that night was not until 11:12 pm, so once the sun set, there was little light on the battlefield.

William of Jumieges reports that Duke William kept his army armed and ready against a surprise night attack for the entire night before. The battle took place 7 miles (11 km) north of Hastings at the present-day town of Battle, between two hills – Caldbec Hill to the north and Telham Hill to the south. The area was heavily wooded, with a marsh nearby. The name traditionally given to the battle is unusual – there were several settlements much closer to the battlefield than Hastings.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called it the battle “at the hoary apple tree”. Within 40 years, the battle was described by the Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalis as “Senlac”,[m] a Norman-French adaptation of the Old English word “Sandlacu”, which means “sandy water”.[n] This may have been the name of the stream that crosses the battlefield.[o] The battle was already being referred to as “bellum Hasestingas” or “Battle of Hastings” by 1087, in the Domesday Book.

Sunrise was at 6:48 am that morning, and reports of the day record that it was unusually bright. The weather conditions are not recorded. The route that the English army took to the battlefield is not known precisely. Several roads are possible: one, an old Roman road that ran from Rochester to Hastings has long been favoured because of a large coin hoard found nearby in 1876. Another possibility is a Roman road between London and Lewes and then over local tracks to the battlefield.

Some accounts of the battle indicate that the Normans advanced from Hastings to the battlefield, but the contemporary account of William of Jumieges places the Normans at the site of the battle the night before. Most historians incline towards the former view, but M. K. Lawson argues that William of Jumieges’s account is correct.

Dispositions of forces and tactics

Battle dispositions

Harold’s forces deployed in a small, dense formation at the top of steep slope, with their flanks protected by woods and marshy ground in front of them. The line may have extended far enough to be anchored on a nearby stream.  The English formed a shield wall, with the front ranks holding their shields close together or even overlapping to provide protection from attack.  Sources differ on the exact site that the English fought on: some sources state the site of the abbey, but some newer sources suggest it was Caldbec Hill.

More is known about the Norman deployment. Duke William appears to have arranged his forces in three groups, or “battles”, which roughly corresponded to their origins. The left units were the Bretons, along with those from Anjou, Poitou and Maine. This division was led by Alan the Red, a relative of the Breton count. The centre was held by the Normans,  under the direct command of the duke and with many of his relatives and kinsmen grouped around the ducal party.

The final division on the right consisted of the Frenchmen, along with some men from Picardy, Boulogne, and Flanders. The right was commanded by William fitzOsbern and Count Eustace II of Boulogne. The front lines were archers with a line of foot soldiers armed with spears behind.  There were probably a few crossbowmen and slingers in with the archers. The cavalry was held in reserve, and a small group of clergymen and servants situated at the base of Telham Hill was not expected to take part in the fighting.

William’s disposition of his forces implies that he planned to open the battle with archers in the front rank weakening the enemy with arrows, followed by infantry who would engage in close combat. The infantry would create openings in the English lines that could be exploited by a cavalry charge to break through the English forces and pursue the fleeing soldiers.

Beginning of the battle

 

View of the battlefield looking towards Senlac Hill

The battle opened with the Norman archers shooting uphill at the English shield wall, to little effect. The uphill angle meant that the arrows either bounced off the shields of the English or overshot their targets and flew over the top of the hill.

The lack of English archers hampered the Norman archers, as there were few English arrows to be gathered up and reused. After the attack from the archers, William sent the spearmen forward to attack the English. They were met with a barrage of missiles, not arrows but spears, axes and stones. The infantry was unable to force openings in the shield wall, and the cavalry advanced in support. The cavalry also failed to make headway, and a general retreat began, blamed on the Breton division on William’s left.

A rumour started that the duke had been killed, which added to the confusion. The English forces began to pursue the fleeing invaders, but William rode through his forces, showing his face and yelling that he was still alive. The duke then led a counter-attack against the pursuing English forces; some of the English rallied on a hillock before being overwhelmed.

It is not known whether the English pursuit was ordered by Harold or if it was spontaneous. Wace relates that Harold ordered his men to stay in their formations but no other account gives this detail. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the death of Harold’s brothers Gyrth and Leofwine occurring just before the fight around the hillock. This may mean that the two brothers led the pursuit. The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio relates a different story for the death of Gyrth, stating that the duke slew Harold’s brother in combat, perhaps thinking that Gyrth was Harold. William of Poitiers states that the bodies of Gyrth and Leofwine were found near Harold’s, implying that they died late in the battle.

It is possible that if the two brothers died early in the fighting their bodies were taken to Harold, thus accounting for their being found near his body after the battle. The military historian Peter Marren speculates that if Gyrth and Leofwine died early in the battle, that may have influenced Harold to stand and fight to the end.

Fact or Fiction E03 King Harold

Feigned flights

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry showing mounted Norman cavalrymen fighting Anglo-Saxon infantry

A lull probably occurred early in the afternoon, and a break for rest and food would probably have been needed. William may have also needed time to implement a new strategy, which may have been inspired by the English pursuit and subsequent rout by the Normans. If the Normans could send their cavalry against the shield wall and then draw the English into more pursuits, breaks in the English line might form.

William of Poitiers says the tactic was used twice. Although arguments have been made that the chroniclers’ accounts of this tactic were meant to excuse the flight of the Norman troops from battle, this is unlikely as the earlier flight was not glossed over. It was a tactic used by other Norman armies during the period.

Some historians have argued that the story of the use of feigned flight as a deliberate tactic was invented after the battle; most historians agree that it was used by the Normans at Hastings.

“Harold Rex Interfectus Est” (“King Harold was killed”). Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings and the death of Harold

 

Although the feigned flights did not break the lines, they probably thinned out the housecarls in the English shield wall. The housecarls were replaced with members of the fyrd, and the shield wall held. Archers appear to have been used again before and during an assault by the cavalry and infantry led by the duke. Although 12th-century sources state that the archers were ordered to shoot at a high angle to shoot over the front of the shield wall, there is no trace of such an action in the more contemporary accounts.

It is not known how many assaults were launched against the English lines, but some sources record various actions by both Normans and Englishmen that took place during the afternoon’s fighting.The Carmen claims that Duke William had two horses killed under him during the fighting, but William of Poitiers’s account states that it was three.

Death of Harold

Stone marking the spot of the high altar at Battle Abbey, where Harold died

 

Harold appears to have died late in the battle, although accounts in the various sources are contradictory. William of Poitiers only mentions his death, without giving any details on how it occurred. The Tapestry is not helpful, as it shows a figure holding an arrow sticking out of his eye next to a falling fighter being hit with a sword. Over both figures is a statement “Here King Harold has been killed”.

It is not clear which figure is meant to be Harold, or if both are meant. The earliest written mention of the traditional account of Harold dying from an arrow to the eye dates to the 1080s from a history of the Normans written by an Italian monk, Amatus of Montecassino.

William of Malmesbury stated that Harold died from an arrow to the eye that went into the brain, and that a knight wounded Harold at the same time. Wace repeats the arrow-to-the-eye account. The Carmen states that Duke William killed Harold, but this is unlikely, as such a feat would have been recorded elsewhere.

The account of William of Jumièges is even more unlikely, as it has Harold dying in the morning, during the first fighting. The Chronicle of Battle Abbey states that no one knew who killed Harold, as it happened in the press of battle.

A modern biographer of Harold, Ian Walker, states that Harold probably died from an arrow in the eye, although he also says it is possible that Harold was struck down by a Norman knight while mortally wounded in the eye. Another biographer of Harold, Peter Rex, after discussing the various accounts, concludes that it is not possible to declare how Harold died.

Harold’s death left the English forces leaderless, and they began to collapse.Many of them fled, but the soldiers of the royal household gathered around Harold’s body and fought to the end. The Normans began to pursue the fleeing troops, and except for a rearguard action at a site known as the “Malfosse”, the battle was over.

Exactly what happened at the Malfosse, or “Evil Ditch”, and where it took place, is unclear. It occurred at a small fortification or set of trenches where some Englishmen rallied and seriously wounded Eustace of Boulogne before being destroyed by Duke William.

Line Of Fire Battle Of Hastings 1066

Reasons for the outcome

Harold’s defeat was probably due to several circumstances. One was the need to defend against two almost simultaneous invasions. The fact that Harold had dismissed his forces in southern England on 8 September also contributed to the defeat. Many historians fault Harold for hurrying south and not gathering more forces before confronting William at Hastings, although it is not clear that the English forces were insufficient to deal with William’s forces.

Against these arguments for an exhausted English army, the length of the battle, which lasted an entire day, show that the English forces were not tired by their long march. Tied in with the speed of Harold’s advance to Hastings is the possibility Harold may not have trusted Earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria once their enemy Tostig had been defeated, and declined to bring them and their forces south. Modern historians have pointed out that one reason for Harold’s rush to battle was to contain William’s depredations and keep him from breaking free of his beachhead.

Most of the blame for the defeat probably lies in the events of the battle. William was the more experienced military leader, and in addition the lack of cavalry on the English side allowed Harold fewer tactical options. Some writers have criticised Harold for not exploiting the opportunity offered by the rumoured death of William early in the battle.  The English appear to have erred in not staying strictly on the defence, for when they pursued the retreating Normans they exposed their flanks to attack. Whether this was due to the inexperience of the English commanders or the indiscipline of the English soldiers is unclear.

In the end, Harold’s death appears to have been decisive, as it signalled the break-up of the English forces in disarray. The historian David Nicolle said of the battle that William’s army “demonstrated – not without difficulty – the superiority of Norman-French mixed cavalry and infantry tactics over the Germanic-Scandinavian infantry traditions of the Anglo-Saxons.”

Aftermath

The day after the battle, Harold’s body was identified, either by his armour or marks on his body. His personal standard was presented to William,  and later sent to the papacy.  The bodies of the English dead, including some of Harold’s brothers and his housecarls, were left on the battlefield,[121] although some were removed by relatives later.

The Norman dead were buried in a large communal grave, which has not been found. Exact casualty figures are unknown. Of the Englishmen known to be at the battle, the number of dead implies that the death rate was about 50 per cent of those engaged, although this may be too high. Of the named Normans who fought at Hastings, one in seven is stated to have died, but these were all noblemen, and it is probable that the death rate among the common soldiers was higher.

Although Orderic Vitalis’s figures are highly exaggerated,[w] his ratio of one in four casualties may be accurate. Marren speculates that perhaps 2,000 Normans and 4,000 Englishmen were killed at Hastings. The Normans buried their dead in mass graves. Reports stated that some of the English dead were still being found on the hillside years later. Although scholars thought for a long time that remains would not be recoverable, due to the acidic soil, recent finds have changed this view.

One skeleton that was found in a medieval cemetery, and originally was thought to be associated with the 13th century Battle of Lewes now is thought to be associated with Hastings instead.

Ruins of the monks’ dormitory at Battle Abbey

 

One story relates that Gytha, Harold’s mother, offered the victorious duke the weight of her son’s body in gold for its custody, but was refused. William ordered that Harold’s body be thrown into the sea, but whether that took place is unclear.

Another story relates that Harold was buried at the top of a cliff. Waltham Abbey, which had been founded by Harold, later claimed that his body had been secretly buried there. Other legends claimed that Harold did not die at Hastings, but escaped and became a hermit at Chester.

William expected to receive the submission of the surviving English leaders after his victory, but instead Edgar the Ætheling[y] was proclaimed king by the Witenagemot, with the support of Earls Edwin and Morcar, Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ealdred, the Archbishop of York. William therefore advanced on London, marching around the coast of Kent. He defeated an English force that attacked him at Southwark but was unable to storm London Bridge, forcing him to reach the capital by a more circuitous route.

William moved up the Thames valley to cross the river at Wallingford, where he received the submission of Stigand. He then travelled north-east along the Chilterns, before advancing towards London from the north-west,[z] fighting further engagements against forces from the city. The English leaders surrendered to William at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. William was acclaimed King of England and crowned by Ealdred on 25 December 1066, in Westminster Abbey.

Reenactment in front of Battle Abbey

 

Despite the submission of the English nobles, resistance continued to erupt for several years. There were rebellions in Exeter in late 1067, an invasion by Harold’s sons in mid-1068, and an uprising in Northumbria in 1068.[ In 1069 William faced more troubles from Northumbrian rebels, an invading Danish fleet, and rebellions in the south and west of England. He ruthlessly put down the various risings, culminating in the Harrying of the North in late 1069 and early 1070 that devastated parts of northern England.

A further rebellion in 1070 by Hereward the Wake was also defeated by the king, at Ely.

Battle Abbey was founded by William at the site of the battle. According to 12th-century sources, William made a vow to found the abbey, and the high altar of the church was placed at the site where Harold had died. More likely, the foundation was imposed on William by papal legates in 1070.

The topography of the battlefield has been altered by subsequent construction work for the abbey, and the slope defended by the English is now much less steep than it was at the time of the battle; the top of the ridge has also been built up and levelled.After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the abbey’s lands passed to secular landowners, who used it as a residence or country house. In 1976 the estate was put up for sale and purchased by the government with the aid of some American donors who wished to honour the 200th anniversary of American independence.

The battlefield and abbey grounds are currently owned and administered by English Heritage and are open to the public.

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered narrative of the events leading up to Hastings probably commissioned by Odo of Bayeux soon after the battle, perhaps to hang at the bishop’s palace at Bayeux.In modern times annual reenactments of the Battle of Hastings have drawn thousands of participants and spectators to the site of the original battle.

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Notes

  1. The Vikings in the region became known as the “Northmen,” from which “Normandy” and “Normans” are derived.
  2.  There is some slight confusion in the original sources about the exact date; it was most likely 5 January, but a few contemporaneous sources give 4 January.
  3. Other contenders later came to the fore. The first was Edgar Ætheling, Edward the Confessor’s great nephew who was a patrilineal descendant of King Edmund Ironside. He was the son of Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside, and was born in Hungary where his father had fled after the conquest of England by Cnut. After his family’s eventual return to England and his father’s death in 1057, Edgar had by far the strongest hereditary claim to the throne, but he was only about thirteen or fourteen at the time of Edward the Confessor’s death, and with little family to support him, his claim was passed over by the Witan. Another contender was Sweyn II of Denmark, who had a claim to the throne as the grandson of Sweyn Forkbeard and nephew of Cnut, but he did not make his bid for the throne until 1069. Tostig Godwinson‘s attacks in early 1066 may have been the beginning of a bid for the throne, but threw in his lot with Harald Hardrada after defeat at the hands of Edwin and Morcar and the desertion of most of his followers he.
  4. The surviving ship list gives 776 ships, contributed by 14 different Norman nobles. This list does not include William’s flagship, the Mora, given to him by his wife, Matilda of Flanders. The Mora is depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry with a lion figurehead.
  5. The comet’s appearance was depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, where it is connected with Harold’s coronation, although the appearance of the comet was later, from 24 April to 1 May 1066. The image on the tapestry is the earliest pictorial depiction of Halley’s Comet to survive.
  6.  Most modern historians agree on this date, although a few contemporary sources have William landing on 29 September.
  7. Most contemporary accounts have William landing at Pevensey, with only the E version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle giving the landing as taking place at Hastings.  Most modern accounts also state that William’s forces landed at Pevensey.
  8. Of those 35, 5 are known to have died in the battle: Robert of Vitot, Engenulf of Laigle, Robert fitzErneis, Roger son of Turold, and Taillefer.
  9. “Hoar” means grey, and probably refers to a crab-apple tree covered with lichen that was likely a local landmark.
  10. The 400,000 figure is given in Wace‘s Romance de Rou and the 1,200,000 figure coming from the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio.
  11.  Of these named persons, eight died in the battle – Harold, Gyrth, Leofwine, Godric the sheriff, Thurkill of Berkshire, Breme, and someone known only as “son of Helloc”.
  12. Some historians have argued, based on comments by Snorri Sturlson made in the 13th century, that the English army did occasionally fight as cavalry. Contemporary accounts, such as in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle record that when English soldiers were forced to fight on horseback, they were usually routed, as in 1055 near Hereford.
  13.  This was the name popularised by Edward Freeman,a Victorian historian who wrote one of the definitive accounts of the battle.
  14. “Sandlacu” can be rendered into Modern English as “sandlake”.
  15. Freeman suggested that “Senlac” meant “sand lake” in Old English with the Norman conquerors calling it (in French) “sanguelac”. Freeman regarded this use as a pun because the English translation of “sanguelac” is “blood lake”.
  16. There is a story that the first fighting at Hastings was between a jongleur named Taillefer and some of the English fighters which comes from three sources: the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio, Wace’s Romance de Rou, and the 12th-century account of Henry of Huntingdon.The story has two versions, in one of which Taillefer entertained the Norman army prior to the battle by juggling a sword but then killed an English soldier sent to kill him. Another version has the jongleur charging the English and killing two before dying himself.
  17.  Examples of the use of feigned flight include the Battle of Arques around 1052, the Battle of Messina in 1060, and the Battle of Cassel in 1071.
  18. The issue is furthered confused by the fact that there is evidence that the 19th century restoration of the Tapestry changed the scene by inserting or changing the placement of the arrow through the eye.
  19.  Amatus’ account is less than trustworthy because it also states that Duke William commanded 100,000 soldiers at Hastings.
  20. Modern wargaming has demonstrated the correctness of not pursuing the fleeing Normans,with the historian Christopher Gravett stating that if in a wargame he allowed Harold to pursue the Normans, his opponent “promptly, and rightly, punished such rashness with a brisk counter-attack with proved to be the turning point of the battle — just as in 1066”.
  21. A 12th-century tradition stated that Harold’s face could not be recognised and Edith the Fair, Harold’s common-law wife, was brought to the battlefield to identify his body from marks that only she knew.
  22.  It is possible the grave site was located where the abbey now stands.
  23. He states that there were 15,000 casualties out of 60,000 who fought on William’s side at the battle.
  24. This skeleton, numbered 180, sustained six fatal sword cuts to the back of the skull and was one of five skeletons that had suffered violent trauma. Analysis continues on the other remains to try and build up a more accurate picture of who the individuals are.
  25.  Ætheling is the Anglo-Saxon term for a royal prince with some claim to the throne.
  26.  William appears to have taken this route to meet up with reinforcements that had landed by Portsmouth and met him between London and Winchester. By swinging around to the north, William cut off London from reinforcements.
  27. The first recorded mention of the tapestry is from 1476, but it is similar in style to late Anglo-Saxon manuscript illustrations and may have been composed and executed in England. The Tapestry now is displayed at the former Bishop’s Palace at Bayeux in France

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Great British Battles – Battle of Musa Qala 7 – 12 Dec 2007

Great British Battles 

Battle of Musa Qala

Battle of Musa Qala
Part of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

Date
7–12 December 2007

Location
Musa Qala, Helmand province, Afghanistan

Result
Coalition victory
Taliban retreat

Belligerents
International Security Assistance Force:

International Security Assistance Force:       Versus Afghanistan Taliban insurgents

 United Kingdom

 United States

 Denmark

 Estonia

Afghanistan Afghan National Army

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THE BATTLE FOR MUSA QALA

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The Battle of Musa Qala (also Qaleh or Qal’eh)  was a British led military action in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, launched by the Afghan National Army and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) against the Taliban on 7 December 2007.

After three days of intense fighting, the Taliban retreated into the mountains on 10 December. Musa Qala was officially reported captured on 12 December, with Afghan Army troops pushing into the town centre.

The operation was codenamed snakepit (Pashto: Mar Kardad‎).

Senior ISAF officers, including U.S. general Dan K. McNeill, the overall ISAF commander, agreed to the assault on 17 November 2007. It followed more than nine months of Taliban occupation of the town, the largest the insurgents controlled at the time of the battle. ISAF forces had previously occupied the town, until a controversial withdrawal in late 2006.

It was the first battle in the War in Afghanistan in which Afghan army units were the principal fighting force. Statements from the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) emphasised that the operation was Afghan-led, although the ability of Afghan units to function without NATO control was questioned during the battle. Military engagement over Musa Qala is part of a wider conflict between coalition forces and the Taliban in Helmand. Both before and after the battle, related fighting was reported across a larger area, particularly in Sangin district to the south of Musa Qala.

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Musa Qala, Helmand Province, Afghanistan

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Background

Musa Qala is a town of around 15,000 to 20,000 people, with another 25,000 in the surrounding area.ISAF forces were first deployed in the town in mid-June 2006, as part of the “platoon house” strategy. This consisted of protecting the district centres of Northern Helmand with small detachments of British ISAF troops, at the request of the provincial governor Mohammed Daoud.

This move met with an unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Taliban and local tribesmen, who used conventional, rather than asymmetric tactics, to drive the coalition from their positions. The isolated British garrison found itself under siege and constant attack for long periods, and their replacements could only be brought in after a full battle group operation, codenamed Snakebite, broke through Taliban lines in early August.

The fighting ended in October 2006 when, in a controversial move, control was ceded to local tribal elders. The deal was intended to see neither British nor Taliban forces in the town in an effort to reduce conflict and civilian casualties. At the time, a British officer commented:

“There is an obvious danger that the Taliban could make the deal and then renege on it.”

The Taliban did renege on the agreement, quickly over-running the town with 200 to 300 troops in February 2007. The Taliban seizure followed a US airstrike that incensed militants; a Taliban commander’s brother and 20 followers were killed in the attack. A confluence of tribal politics, religion, and money from the opium trade helped ensure the uneasy truce would not hold.  At the time, the government claimed they could retake the town within 24 hours, but that plan had been postponed to avoid causing civilian casualties.

Musa Qala was the only significant town held by the Taliban at the time of the assault, and they had imposed a strict rule on its inhabitants. Special tribunals were set up, pronouncing sentences of stoning, amputation, or death by hanging against those who were considered enemies, or who contravened a strict interpretation of the Sharia. Four men are known to have been hanged as spies during this period.

The Taliban also levied heavy taxes, closed down schools, and drafted local men into their ranks by force.  Other deprivations were reminiscent of previous Taliban rule: men attacked for not wearing beards; music banned and recordings smashed; women punished for not wearing the burqa. The town is situated in a major opium poppy growing area and a BBC correspondent has reported it to be the centre of the heroin trade in Afghanistan.

Battle

Immediate prelude

Coalition military manoeuvres and a build-up of troops and supplies continued for weeks before the assault. On 1 November, British forces started reconnaissance patrols in preparation for the attack In the middle of that month, the MOD reported that troops from 40 Commando Royal Marines and the Right Flank Company of the Scots Guards were patrolling outside the town to confuse the Taliban insurgents and disrupt their supply routes.

In the days before the assault, reconnaissance patrols penetrated as close as a 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the Musa Qala town centre. Hundreds of families were reported to have fled from the pending assault, after the coalition dropped leaflets in warning.

Furthermore, the coalition secured the defection of a critical tribal leader, Mullah Abdul Salaam, who had been governor of Uruzgan province under Taliban rule.A leader of the Alizai tribe, Salaam was reported to be in negotiation with the coalition as early as October 2007, causing a rift within the Taliban.

His defection was personally sought by Afghan president Hamid Karzai and he brought as many as one third of the Taliban forces defending Musa Qala to the coalition side. However, it is unclear if they fought on the side of the ISAF or simply stayed out of the fight.

Prior to the battle, two thousand militants were reported to be holding the town. A similar claim of 2,050 “fully armed fighters” was made in late November by Enqiadi, a taliban commander. At the time, Enqiadi seemed confident that the whole of Helmand province would fall to the Taliban in the winter of 2007–08.

Subsequent estimates reduced numbers of Taliban fighters, with an ISAF officer suggesting that the maximum strength was closer to two to three hundred.

Main assault

Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan: Members of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment prepare for air assault on Musa Qala.

The main assault on Musa Qala began at 4 pm on 7 December. Several Taliban were reportedly killed in US airstrikes as the attack began. That evening some 600 American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were airlifted to the north of the town in 19 helicopters.

Black Hawk

 

Chinook and Blackhawk troop carriers escorted by Apache attack helicopters were involved in the assault. During the night the paratroopers broke through Taliban trenches to clear the way for further ground troops and then dug defensive positions.

During the attack, an Apache was hit by ground fire and had one engine knocked out but the pilot, CW2 Thomas O. Malone, managed to land safely despite being injured. More than 2,000 British troops of the Helmand Task Force (then under the direction of 52nd Infantry Brigade), including Scots Guards, Household Cavalry, and Royal Marines from 40 Commando, became involved in the operation. British troops set up a cordon around the town to aid the US attack and also began an advance with Afghan troops from the south, west, and east, exchanging gunfire with the Taliban.

At least on the first day of the battle these advances may have served as a feint to divert attention from the main US air assault Danish and Estonian troops were also involved in the initial assault.

Sergeant Lee Johnson

Sergeant Lee Johnson

Fighting continued on 8 December. As British and Afghan soldiers continued their ground advance, US air forces repeatedly attacked the Taliban, including numerous anti-aircraft positions surrounding the town.

The Taliban defended positions surrounded by minefields, a principal danger to coalition forces. The assault made progress nonetheless, with the Afghan Ministry of Defence reporting that day: “In this operation so far, 12 terrorists were killed, one captured and a number of weapons and ammunitions were seized.”

Sergeant Lee Johnson

 

A British soldier, Sergeant Lee Johnson of the 2nd Battalion (Green Howards) Yorkshire Regiment, was killed shortly after 10 am on the eighth, when his vehicle drove over a mine; another soldier was seriously injured in the blast.

Taliban forces took up new positions to defend the town on 9 December. Taliban sources suggested at the time that militants from nearby areas were entering the town to reinforce its defence. Fighting was on-going through the day and bombs planted by insurgents continued to take a toll on ISAF forces:

Corporal Tanner J O’Leary

An American soldier, Corporal Tanner J O’Leary of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was killed by the detonation of an improvised explosive device

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US Marine Musa Qala patrol, Afghanistan, Jan 2011

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Taliban retreat

By 10 December, news outlets reported that the Taliban insurgents had withdrawn north from the area and that Afghan Army and ISAF forces were in control of the town.

The British MOD was more cautious at the time, advising that “steady progress” had been made but that coalition forces remained on the outskirts of Musa Qala. Nevertheless, the Afghan government suggested that the coalition had “completely captured” the town.

NATO announced the town’s capture on the 11th, however at the time the MOD suggested forces were still proceeding cautiously “compound to compound”,  only officially confirmed the capture of Musa Qala the next day. Afghan troops were called forward for the final push and by midday on the twelfth were reported to be in the town centre, in a gesture symbolising their ability to fight and defeat the Taliban on their own. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Eaton, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, described the retaking of the town:

The current situation in Musa Qaleh is that it is underneath the Afghan flag … Midmorning today [12 December 2007] our operations to relieve and recapture Musa Qaleh were concluded with the final phase being an assault into Musa Qaleh by the Afghan Army…. The cooperation with the Afghan troops has been very good indeed. General Muhayadan was crucially involved in the planning. He moved his planning team to collocate with Headquarters 52 Brigade in Lashkar Gar.
Brigadier Andrew Mackay, commander of the Helmand Task Force, emphasised that the coalition’s plan encouraged the less committed local fighters—the so-called “tier two” Taliban—to break away from the more ideologically driven militants. This strategy may have been successful; Afghan president Hamid Karzai declared that he had been approached by Taliban members wanting to swap sides after a string of insurgent exactions against civilians.

He said:

“They hanged a boy of 15 from a ceiling and lit two gas canisters under him.”

Precise Taliban casualties were not reported although the Afghan Defence Ministry suggested hundreds killed, detained, or captured. The insurgents claimed 17 Afghan army and ISAF killed, and blamed the British for at least 40 civilians deaths, but their claims may not be reliable.

Although fierce in the first days, the battle did not produce the house-to-house combat that had been feared; the Taliban largely retreated without protracted resistance. Poor weather conditions, including fog, may have allowed them to retreat more easily.

Taliban spokesmen suggested the retreat was designed to avoid continued airstrikes and civilian casualties within the town. By the time the town centre was reached, fighting proved “unremarkable” and according to one senior US officer:

“The urban center of Musa Qala was not significantly opposed, it was not significantly barricaded”.

The final advance into the town’s main bazaar by the Afghan Army was physically led by an Advanced Search Team of the Royal Engineers of the British Army followed by EOD and the main Afghan force who raised their flag for the world’s press.

Relevance to larger campaign

Kajaki Dam, River Helmand

Musa Qala is just one flashpoint in the wider Helmand province campaign, a coalition effort to dislodge the Taliban from the volatile province, largely led by British forces. The battle to retake the town sparked conflict in adjoining areas. In November 2007, when reconnaissance patrols began, “vicious” Taliban attacks were launched in Sangin Valley, Helmand province, to the south, including one which saw Royal Marine Commandos endure two days of rocket and mortar fire.

Trooper Jack Sadler

 

 Just three days before the main assault, on 4 December, British forces suffered a fatality to the north of the village of Sangin, when Trooper Jack Sadler was killed by a roadside bomb.

The week prior to the assault saw a variety of other engagements in Helmand: the British confronted sustained attack near the Kajaki Dam, northeast of Sangin; further west, Estonian, British and American troops were engaged near the town of Nawzad at the center of Nawzad District. Danish forces under British command were attacked in the town of Gereshk.

In the days after the main battle was launched, Lieutenant Colonel Eaton confirmed that the Taliban were attempting to create pressure in other areas but that attacks on British bases had been repulsed. One Taliban commander noted:

“We have launched attacks in Sangin and in Sarwan Kala (Sarevan Qaleh) … We have orders to attack the British everywhere.”

When the principal Taliban retreat from Musa Qala occurred fighting continued elsewhere: on the eleventh and twelfth, retreating Taliban militants attacked a government centre in Sangin. They were repulsed with 50 killed, according to the Afghan Defence Ministry.

American, British, and other NATO special forces were specifically deployed to prevent the Taliban from withdrawing north into Baghran District, and east into Orūzgān Province, their traditional refuge.

Aftermath

The Afghan flag is raised over Musa Qala following its recapture.

British officers expressed satisfaction that Musa Qala had been recaptured without any artillery shells or bombs hitting the town itself. However, they acknowledged that the Taliban had not been definitively defeated and would probably “have another go” in the area.

Taliban fighters were believed to have merged back into the local rural population after the defeat, their traditional dress providing simple cover. In the days after the battle, counter-attacks on the town were considered likely and coalition officials suggested sustained defence would be necessary;

British forces plan to reinforce Musa Qala but have emphasised that future defence of the village will be largely Afghan controlled. The optimistic picture of Afghan capability presented by ISAF command has been challenged. A reporter on the ground, writing for The Times, notes that the Afghan forces “could barely function without NATO’s protection and NATO had to cajole them to move forward”.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Helmand

 

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in Helmand at the time of the assault, visiting troops at Camp Bastion. He suggested success at Musa Qala would provide a step toward Afghan peace and promised continued reconstruction relief. Coalition and Afghan government plans include the construction of a local mosque, the rebuilding of a district centre, police buildings, schools, and the repair of the electricity infrastructure.

The governor of Helmand, Assadullah Wafa, said a delegation would visit Musa Qala to distribute 5,000 tons of aid to returning civilians in the immediate aftermath of the battle.

On 26 December, engineers from 69 Gurkha Field Squadron, 36 Engineer Regiment moved into Musa Qala and started rebuilding the district centre. Their task includes the construction of a perimeter fence made of Hesco bastions, and sangars (watchtowers) made of sandbags.

Various Taliban supplies were seized by coalition forces following the battle. On 13 December, British and Afghan army units located bomb factories and weapons caches as they moved further into the outskirts of Musa Qala and searched Taliban positions. At the same time, the first civilians started to return to the area, some with reports of Taliban punishments and claims of active Pakistani and Arab jihadis.

A new orientation of British strategy in Helmand is to use military force to curb the influence of local drug barons, whose trade supports the insurgents. On 16 December, British troops burned an estimated £150 to £200 million worth of heroin that had been found in a drug factory and other buildings in Musa Qala.

The strategic purpose of controlling Musa Qala is both to squeeze Taliban operations in south-western Afghanistan and to serve as a symbol of Afghan National Army and ISAF strength; the town had taken on iconic proportions, according to British officials. The Taliban, however, continue to enjoy significant civilian support despite their atrocities and the broader campaign to win over the region remains difficult

Troop shortages have made it difficult for NATO to hold areas seized from the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

Civilian return to the town was slow, with shops still shuttered on 16 December. Civilian casualty reports were conflicting: one resident claimed 15 dead bodies lay in a single street and another that his family were dead under rubble. The coalition rejected such claims, admitting only that two children had been injured, and possibly killed, when a car driving at high speeds towards ISAF troops during the battle overturned when the driver was shot dead

Coalition and Afghan authorities continued their efforts to win over Taliban sympathizers. However a “miscommunication between authorities” created some tension. In late December, two western diplomats were expelled from Afghanistan. Governor Assadullah Wafa accused them of holding secret talks with the Taliban and proposing bribes to them; the secret talks were denied as a misunderstanding by a UN spokesperson.

In January 2008, Mullah Abdul Salaam was appointed governor of Musa Qala district by the Afghan government, a gesture that was intended to encourage other Taliban commanders to change sides.


Click here for details on The Siege of Musa Qala  which took place between July 17 and September 12, 2006 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province

Great British Battles – Battle of Goose Green

 

The Battle of Goose Green

The Falklands War – The Untold Story

The Battle of Goose Green (28–29 May 1982) was an engagement between British and Argentine forces during the Falklands War. Goose Green and its neighbouring settlement Darwin on East Falkland lie on Choiseul Sound on the east side of the island’s central isthmus. They are about 13 miles (21 km) south of the site where the major British amphibious landings took place in San Carlos Water (Operation Sutton) on the night of 21/22 May 1982.

Goose Green school.jpg
Darwin School House
Date 28–29 May 1982
Location Goose Green and Darwin, Falkland Islands
Result British victory
Belligerents
Argentina Argentina United Kingdom United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Lt. Col. Ítalo Piaggi (POW)
Vicecomodoro Wilson Pedrozo
Lt. Col. Herbert Jones 
Maj. Chris Keeble
Strength
684[4]-871 army
202 airforce
10 navy personnel
Total: 896-1083[5]
690[6]
Casualties and losses
45[7][8]-55 killed[9][10]
98 army wounded[11] and at least 14 air force personnel wounded.[12]
961[13] captured

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The Battle of Goose Green

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Times and nomenclature

British forces worked on UTC (Zulu) Time and many reports and sources quote the timing of events based on Zulu time. All times stated in this page are reflected as local, Falkland Island time (UTC−3), the same as Argentine time. On the day of the battle, sunrise was at 08:39 and sunset at 16:58.[17] To avoid confusion between similar company designations, Argentine companies are referred to in the form “Company A” while British forces are referred to as “A Company.”

Terrain and conditions

Map 1: Context map showing location of the Darwin isthmus in relation to the Falkland Islands. Area in red matches the area covered by Map 2

Vegetation and terrain: Low tussock covered hills with gorse filled valleys. Image is looking south in the direction of A Company, 2 Para attack with Darwin settlement on the left. Darwin Hill on the right.

Goose Green and Darwin are on a narrow isthmus connecting Lafonia to Wickham Heights, which together form the large eastern island of the Falkland Islands. The terrain is rolling and treeless and is covered with grass outcrops, areas of thick gorse and peat bogs making effective camouflage and concealment extremely difficult. From May to August, the southern hemisphere winter, the ground is sodden and frequently covered with brackish water, causing movement to be slow and exhausting, especially at night. The isthmus has two settlements, both on the eastern coastal edge with Darwin settlement to the north and Goose Green to the south. The islands have a cold, damp climate and light, drizzly rains occur two out of every three days with continuous winds. Periods of rain, snow, fog, and sun change rapidly, and sunshine is extremely limited, leaving few opportunities for troops to warm up and dry out.[18]

Reasons for the attack

The bulk of the Argentine forces were in positions around Port Stanley about 50 miles (80 km) to the east of San Carlos. The Argentine positions at Goose Green and Darwin were well defended by a force of combined units equipped with artillery, mortars, 35 mm cannon and machine guns.[19] British intelligence indicated that the Argentine force only presented limited offensive capabilities and did not pose a major threat to the landing area at San Carlos. Consequently, Goose Green seemed to have no strategic military value for the British in their campaign to recapture the islands and initial plans for land operations had called for Goose Green to be isolated and bypassed.[20]

After the British landings at San Carlos on 21 May and while the bridgehead was being consolidated, no offensive ground operations had been conducted and activities were limited to digging fortified positions, patrolling and waiting;[21] during this time Argentine air attacks caused significant loss of and damage to British ships in the area around the landing grounds. These attacks, and the lack of movement of the landed forces out of the San Carlos area, led to a feeling among senior commanders and politicians in the UK that the momentum of the campaign was being lost.[22] As a result, British Joint Headquarters in the UK came under increasing pressure from the British government for an early ground offensive of political and propaganda value.[23] There were also fears that the United Nations Security Council would vote for a cease-fire, maintaining current positions. If the Darwin-Goose Green isthmus could be taken prior to such a decision, British forces would control access to the entire Lafonia and thus a significant portion of East Falkland.[24] On 25 May Brigadier Julian Thompson, ground forces commander, commanding 3 Commando Brigade, was again ordered to mount an attack on Argentine positions around Goose Green and Darwin.[22]

Argentinian defences

The defending Argentine forces, known as Task Force Mercedes, consisted of two companies of Lieutenant-Colonel Italo Piaggi‘s 12th Infantry Regiment (IR12)—his third company (Company B) was still deployed on Mount Kent as Combat Team Solari and was only to re-join the battalion after the first days fighting.[25] The Task Force in 1982 also contained a company of the Ranger-type 25th Infantry Regiment (IR25).[26] Air defence was provided by a battery of six 20 mm Rheinmetall manned by Air Force personnel and two radar-guided Oerlikon 35 mm anti-aircraft guns from the 601st Anti-Aircraft Battalion, that would be employed in a ground support role in the last stages of the fighting. There was also one battery of three OTO Melara Mod 56 105 mm pack howitzers from the 4th Airborne Artillery Regiment. Pucarás based at Stanley, armed with rockets and napalm, provided close air support.[27][28] Total forces under Piaggi’s commanded numbered 1083 men.[29]

Piaggi’s orders required him: (a) to provide a reserve battle group (Task Force Mercedes) in support of other forces deployed to the west of Stanley; (b) to occupy and defend the Darwin isthmus; and (c) to defend Military Air Base Condor located at Goose Green. He assumed an all-round defence posture with Company A, IR12 providing the key to his defence, they being deployed along a gorse hedge running across the Darwin isthmus from Darwin Hill to Boca House.[25] Piaggi deployed his Recce Platoon as an advance screen forward of Company A IR12 towards Coronation Ridge while Company C IR12 were deployed south of Goose Green to cover the approaches from Lafonia. To replace his Company B left on Mount Kent, he created a composite company from headquarters and other staff and deployed them in Goose Green. 1st Lt Carlos Daniel Esteban‘s “Ranger” Company C IR25 provided a mobile reserve and were billeted at the school-house in Goose Green.[25] Elements were also deployed to Darwin settlement, Salinas Beach and Boca House and the air force security cadets together with the anti-aircraft elements were charged with protecting the airfield. Minefields had been laid in areas deemed tactically important (Refer Map 2) to provide further defence against attack.[30]

 

Argentinian 120mm mortar position (possibly close to Goose Green)

On paper Piaggi had a full regiment, but it consisted of units from three separate regiments from two different brigades, none of whom had ever worked together. IR12 consisted mostly of conscripts from the northern, sub-tropical province of Corrientes, while the IR25 Company was considered an elite formation and well-led. At the start of the battle, the Argentinian forces had about the same number of effective combatants as the British paratroopers.[31] Some elements were well-trained and displayed a high degree of morale and motivation (Company C IR25 and 25 Signal company); one of their officers remarking that: “…we are going to defend something that is ours.”[31] Other companies were less well motivated, with the 12th Regiment chaplain, Padre Santiago Mora writing:

The conscripts of 25th Infantry wanted to fight and cover themselves in glory. The conscripts of 12th Infantry Regiment fought because they were told to do so. This did not make them any less brave. On the whole, they remained admirably calm.[32]

The Argentine positions were well-selected, and officers were well-briefed.[31] In the weeks before the battle British air strikes, poor logistic support and inclement conditions had contributed to the reduction of overall Argentine morale,[33] but it remained strong among the officers, NCOs and conscripts of the 25th Regiment company and 4th Airborne Artillery battery.[34]

Remains of Harrier XZ998, shot down over Goose Green on 27 May 1982.

On 4 May three Royal Navy Sea Harriers operating from HMS Hermes attacked the airfield and installations at Goose Green. During the operation, a Sea Harrier was shot down by Argentine 35mm anti-aircraft fire, killing its pilot.[35] As part of the diversionary raids to cover the British landings in the San Carlos area on 21 May, which involved naval shelling and air attacks, ‘D’ Squadron of the SAS put in a major raid to simulate a battalion-sized attack on the Argentine troops dug in on Darwin Ridge.[36] Argentine forces had also spotted 2 Para reconnaissance parties in the days prior to the attack. Throughout 27 May, Royal Air Force Harriers were active over Goose Green. One of them, responding to a call for help from 2 Para, was lost to 35mm fire while attacking Darwin Ridge.[37][38][39] The Harrier attacks, the sighting of the reconnaissance elements as well as the BBC announcing that the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were poised and ready to assault Darwin and Goose Green the day before the assault alerted the Argentine garrison to the impending attack.[40]

British assault force

Thompson ordered 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) to prepare for and execute the operation as they were the unit closest to Goose Green in the San Carlos defensive perimeter.[41] He ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert ‘H’ Jones, Officer Commanding 2 Para, to “carry out a raid on Goose Green isthmus and capture the settlements before withdrawing in a reserve for the main thrust to the north.” The “capture” component appealed more to Jones than the “raid” component, although Thompson later acknowledged that he had assigned insufficient forces to rapidly execute the “capture” part of the orders.[42]

Milan missile, similar to those used in the battle

2 Para consisted of three rifle companies, one patrol company, one support company and an HQ company. Thompson had assigned three 105 mm artillery pieces with 960 shells from 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery; one MILAN anti-tank missile platoon and Scout helicopters as support elements. In addition, close air support was available from three Royal Air Force Harriers, and naval gunfire support was to be provided by HMS Arrow in the hours of darkness.[43]

SAS reconnaissance had reported that the Darwin – Goose Green area was occupied by one Argentine company. Brigade intelligence reported that enemy forces consisted of three infantry companies (two from IR12 and one from IR25), one platoon from IR8 plus a possible amphibious platoon together with artillery and helicopter support. Jones was not too perturbed by the conflicting intelligence reports and, incorrectly, tended to believe the SAS reports, on the assumption that they were actually “on the spot” and were able to provide more accurate information than the Brigade intelligence staff.[44] Based on this intelligence and the orders from Thompson, Jones planned the operation to be conducted in six phases, as a complicated night / day, silent / noisy attack. C Company was to secure the start line and then A Company was to launch the attack from the start line on the left (Darwin) side of the isthmus. B Company would launch their attack from the start line directly after A Company had initiated contact and would advance on the right (Boca House) side of the isthmus. Once A and B Companies had secured their initial objectives, D Company would then advance from the start line between A and B Companies and were to “go firm” on having exploited their objective. This would be followed by C Company, who were required to pass through D Company and neutralise any Argentine reserves. C Company would then advance again and clear the Goose Green airfield after which the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green would be secured by A and D Companies respectively.[45]

As most of the helicopter airlift capability had been lost with the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor, 2 Para were required to walk the 13 miles (21 km) from San Carlos to the forming-up place at Camilla Creek House.[46] C Company and the commando engineers moved out from there at 22:00 on 27 May to clear the route to the start line for the other companies. A fire base (consisting of air and naval fire controllers, mortars and snipers) was established by Support Company west of Camilla Creek, and they were in position by 02:00 on the morning of 28 May.[47] The three guns from 8 Battery, their crew and ammunition had been flown in to Camilla Creek House by 20 Sea King helicopter sorties after last light on the evening of 27 May. The attack, to be initiated by A company, was scheduled to start at 03:00, but because of delays in registering the support fire from HMS Arrow, only commenced at 03:35.[48]

Battle

 

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20th Century Battlefields – Falklands War

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Burntside House

Map 2: Actual course of British attack: Goose Green, 28–29 May 1982

At 03:35 HMS Arrow opened fire (she was to fire a total of 22 star-shell (illumination) and 135 rounds of 4.5″ HE shells in a 90-minute bombardment), signalling the start of the attack.[49] In the ensuing night battle about twelve Argentines were killed.[26] The platoon under Sub-Lieutenant Gustavo Adolfo Malacalza fought a delaying action against the British paratroopers, blooding themselves on Burntside Hill before taking up combat positions again on Darwin Ridge.[26]

Major Philip Neame’s D Company was temporarily halted by the Coronation Ridge position. Two of his men, 24-year-old Lance-Corporal Gary Bingley and 19-year-old Private Barry Grayling darted out from under cover to charge the enemy machine gun nest that was holding up the advance. Both were hit 10 metres (11 yd) from the machine gun, but shot two of the crew before collapsing. Bingley “got hit in the head and I got hit in the hip,” Grayling recalled in an interview published in 2007. “Unfortunately, he didn’t make it.”[50] Bingley was posthumously awarded the Military Medal and Grayling was decorated with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. With the enemy machine gun out of action, the Paras were able to clear the Argentine platoon position, at the cost of three dead.[26]

Then 2 Para moved on to the south via Darwin Parks. The Argentines made a determined stand along Darwin Ridge. As A and B Companies moved south from Coronation Ridge they were raked by fire from a couple of concealed Argentine FN MAG machine guns. An Argentine senior NCO, Company Sergeant-Major Juan Carlos Cohelo, is credited with rallying the IR12’s A Company remnants falling back from Darwin Parks, and was later awarded the Medal of Valour in Combat. He was seriously wounded later in the day. Another two IR12 NCOs, reported to be sergeants, who had fallen back from the earlier fighting, at great risk to themselves cleared the jammed machinegun of IR25 Private Jorge Oscar Ledesma, allowing him to resume fire at a critical point in the morning battle; Ledesma’s fire killed Colonel Jones, according to 2012 Argentine reports.[51]

The first British assault was broken up by fire from Sub-Lieutenant Ernesto Orlando Peluffo‘s IR12 platoon after the platoon sergeant, Buenaventura Jumilla, warned that the British were approaching. Corporal David Abols later said that an Argentine sniper was mainly responsible for holding up A Company and with shooting several Paras in the morning fighting.[a] Nevertheless, the Paras called on the Argentines to surrender. The death of Lieutenant-Colonel Jones was attributed to a sniper identified as Corporal Osvaldo Faustino Olmos, who was interviewed by the British newspaper “Daily Express” in 1996.[52]Corporal Olmos, of IR25 had refused to leave his foxhole and his section fired at Jones and the five paratrooperss who accompanied him as he moved forward.[b]

At this juncture of the battle, 2nd Para’s advance had become stuck. A Company was in the gorse line at the bottom of Darwin Hill, and against the entrenched Argentines who were looking down the hill at them. As it was now daylight, Jones led an unsuccessful charge up a small gully resulting in the death of the adjutant, Captain Wood, A Company’s second-in-command Captain Dent, and Corporal Hardman.[53]

Shortly thereafter Jones was seen to run west along the base of Darwin Ridge to a small re-entrant, followed by his bodyguard. He checked his Sterling submachine gun, then ran up the hill towards an Argentine trench. He was seen to be hit once, then fell, got up and was hit again from the side. He fell metres short of the trench, hit in the back and the groin, and died within minutes.[53][c]

As Jones lay dying, his men radioed for urgent casualty evacuation. However, the British Scout Helicopter sent to evacuate Jones was shot down by an Argentine FMA IA 58 Pucara ground attack aircraft. The pilot, Lt. Richard Nunn RM was killed and posthumously received the DFC, and the aircrewman, Sgt. Belcher RM badly wounded in both legs.[53] Corporal José Luis Ríos, of the 12th Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon who in the opinion of historian Hugh Bicheno had killed Lieutenant-Colonel Jones,[54] was later fatally wounded manning a machine-gun in his trench by Corporal Abols firing a 66 mm rocket.[d]

Jones was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Darwin Hill

Remnants of Argentinian defensive positions along gorse hedge on Darwin Hill

By then it was 10.30 am and Major Dair Farrar-Hockley‘s A Company made a third attempt, but this petered out. Eventually the British company, hampered by the morning fog as they advanced up the slope of Darwin Ridge, were driven back to the gulley by the fire of 1st Platoon of IR25’s C Company, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Roberto Estévez.

During this action Lieutenant Estévez directed Argentine 105 mm artillery and 120 mm mortar fire that posthumously earned him the Argentine Nation to the Heroic Valour in Combat Cross (CHVC). 2 Para’s mortar crews fired 1,000 rounds to keep the enemy at bay, and helped stop the Argentines getting a proper aim at the Paras.[e]

It was almost noon before the British advance resumed. A Company soon cleared the eastern end of the Argentine position and opened the way forward. There had been two battles going on in the Darwin hillocks – one around Darwin Hill looking down on Darwin Bay, and an equally fierce one in front of Boca Hill, also known as Boca House Ruins. Sub-Lieutenant Guillermo Ricardo Aliaga‘s 3rd Platoon of RI 8’s C Company held Boca Hill. The position of Boca Hill was taken after heavy fighting by Major John Crosland’s B Company with support from the MILAN anti-tank platoon. Sub-Lieutenants Aliaga and Peluffo were gravely wounded in the fighting. Crosland was the most experienced British officer and, as the events of the day unfolded, it was later said that Crosland’s cool and calm leadership of his soldiers on the battlefield turned the Boca House section of the front line.

About the time of the victory at the Boca Hill position, A Company overcame the Argentine defenders on Darwin Hill, finally taking the position that had resisted for nearly six hours,[f] with many Argentine and British casualties. Majors Farrar-Hockley and Crosland each won the Military Cross for their efforts. Corporal David Abols was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his daring charges which turned the Darwin Hill battle.

Attack on the airfield

35mm Oerlikon, similar to the two guns deployed by Argentinean forces at the airfield

After the victory on Darwin Ridge, C and D Companies began to make their way to the small airfield as well as Darwin School, which was east of the airfield, while B Company made their way south of Goose Green Settlement. A Company remained on Darwin Hill. C Company took heavy losses when they became the target of intense direct fire from 35 mm anti-aircraft guns, causing 20 per cent casualties.[55] Private Mark Hollman-Smith, a signaller in the company headquarters, was killed by anti-aircraft guns while trying to recover a heavy machine gun from wounded Private Steve Russell.[56]

Lieutenant James Barry’s No. 12 Platoon, D company, saw some fierce action at the airfield. They were ambushed,[26] by another platoon of the 25th Regiment but one of his men shot dead two of the attackers, and then reported the events to Major Neame.[g] The platoon sergeant charged the attacking enemy with his machine gun, killing four of them. Private Graham Carter won the Military Medal by rallying No. 12 Platoon and leading it forward at bayonet point to take the airfield.[26]

The IR25 platoon defending the airfield fled into the Darwin-Goose Green track and was able to escape. Sergeant Sergio Ismael Garcia of IR25 single-handedly covered the withdrawal of his platoon during the British counterattack. He was posthumously awarded the Argentine Nation to the Valour in Combat Medal. Four Paras of D Company and approximately a dozen Argentines were killed in these engagements. Among the British dead were 29-year-old Lieutenant Barry and two NCOs, Lance-Corporal Smith and Corporal Sullivan, who were killed after Barry’s attempt to convince Sub Lieutenant Juan José Gómez Centurión to surrender, had been rebuffed.[26][h][57][58] C Company had not lost a single man in the Darwin School fighting, but Private Steve Dixon, from D Company, died when a splinter from a 35 mm anti-aircraft shell struck him in the chest.[59] The Argentine 35mm anti-aircraft guns under the command of Second Lieutenant Claudio Oscar Braghini reduced the schoolhouse to rubble after sergeants Mario Abel Tarditti and Roberto Amado Fernandez reported to him that sniper fire was coming from there.[2][3]

At around this time three Harriers made an attack on the Argentine 35mm gun positions; the army radar-guided guns were unable to respond effectively because a piece of mortar shrapnel had earlier struck the generator to the guns and fire-control radar. This greatly lifted morale among the British paras and helped convince Piaggi of the futility of continued resistance. Although it was not known at the time, the Harriers came close to being shot down in their bomb run after being misidentified as enemy aircraft by Lieutenant-Commander Nigel Ward and Flight Lieutenant Ian Mortimer of 801 Squadron.[i]

Situation at last light on 28 May

J Company, 42 Commando, RM arrive in Goose Green as reinforcements on the evening of 28 May after fighting had ceased, but prior to the Argentinian surrender.

By last light, the situation for 2 Para was critical. A Company was still on Darwin Hill north of the gorse hedge, B Company had penetrated much further south and had swung in a wide arc from the western shore of the isthmus eastwards towards Goose Green. They were isolated and under fire from an Argentinian platoon and unable to receive mutual support from the other companies.[60] To worsen their predicament Argentine helicopters—a Puma, a Chinook and six Hueys—landed southwest of their position just after last light, bringing in the remaining Company B of IR12 (Combat Team Solari) from Mount Kent.[61] B company managed to bring in artillery fire on these new reinforcements, forcing them to disperse towards the Goose Green settlement, while some re-embarked and left with the departing helicopters.[62] For C Company, the attack had also fizzled out after the skirmish at the school-house with the company commander injured, no radio contact and the platoons scattered with up to 1,200m between them. The C Company second-in-command was also unaccounted for.[63] D Company had regrouped just before last light, and they were deployed to the west of the dairy; exhausted, hungry, low on ammunition and without water.[64] Food was redistributed to share one ration-pack between two men for A and C Companies, but B and D Companies could not be reached. At this time a British helicopter casualty evacuation flight took place, successfully extracting C Company casualties on the forward slope of Darwin Hill under fire from Argentine positions.[65]

To Keeble, the situation looked precarious: the settlements had been surrounded but not captured, and his companies were exhausted, cold and low on water, ammunition and food. His concern was that the Company B reinforcements dropped by helicopter would either be used in an early morning counter-attack, or used to stiffen the defences around Goose Green. He had seen the C Company assault stopped in its tracks by the AA fire from the airfield, and had seen the Harrier strikes of earlier that afternoon missing their intended targets. In an order group with the A and C Company commanders, he indicated his preference for calling for an Argentine surrender rather than facing an ongoing battle the following morning. His alternative plan, if the Argentines did not surrender, was to “flatten Goose Green” with all available fire-power and then launch an assault with all forces possible, including reinforcements he had requested from Thompson. On Thompson’s orders, J Company of 42 Commando, Royal Marines, the remaining guns of 8 Battery, and additional mortars were helicoptered in to provide the necessary support.[66]

Surrender

Once Thompson and 3 Brigade had agreed to the approach, a message was relayed by CB radio from San Carlos to Mr. Eric Goss, the farm manager in Goose Green – who in turn delivered it to Piaggi. The call explained the details of a planned delegation who would go forward from the British lines to the Argentine positions in Goose Green bearing a message. Piaggi agreed to receive the delegation.[67] Soon after midnight, two Argentine Air Force warrant officer prisoners of war were sent to meet with Piaggi and to hand over the proposed terms of surrender.[j] On receiving the terms, Piaggi concluded “..The battle had turned into a sniping contest. They could sit well out of range of our soldiers’ fire and, if they wanted to, raze the settlement. I knew that there was no longer any chance of reinforcements from 6th [Compañía ‘Piribebuy’] Regiment’s B Company and so I suggested to Wing Commander [Vice Commodore] Wilson Pedrozo that he talk to the British. He agreed reluctantly.” The next morning, agreement for an unconditional surrender was reached and Pedrozo held a short parade and those on parade then laid down their weapons. After burning the regimental flag, Piaggi led the troops and officers, carrying their personal belongings, into captivity.[68]

Aftermath

Prisoners and casualties

Initial burial place of British casualties at Ajax Bay

Between 45[8][69] and 55 Argentines were killed[10] (32 from IR12, 13 from Company C 25IR, five killed in the Platoon from IR8, 4 Air Force staff and one Navy servicemen)[9] and about 86 wounded.[10] The claim in various British books that the 8th Regiment lost five killed defending Boca House is disputed, with other sources claiming that Corporal Juan Waudrik (supposedly killed at Boca House) was mortally wounded in late May after the tractor he was riding detonated a mine at Fox Bay,[70] and that Privates Simón Oscar Antieco, Jorge Daniel Ludueña, Sergio Fabián Nosikoski and Eduardo Sosa, the four conscripts reportedly killed fighting alongside Waudrik, were killed in the same locality on West Falkland during a naval bombardment on 9 May. In all, the 8IR lost 5 killed during the Falklands War.[citation needed] The remainder of the Argentine force were taken prisoner. Argentine dead were buried in a cemetery to the north of Darwin, and the wounded were evacuated to hospital ships via the medical post in San Carlos. Prisoners were used to clear the battlefield; in an incident involving the moving of artillery ammunition, four IR12 conscripts were involved in a huge explosion that caused two fatalities and two seriously wounded.[14] After clearing the area and assisting with the burying of the dead, the prisoners were marched to and interned in San Carlos.[71] The British lost 18 killed (16 Paras, one Royal Marine pilot and one commando sapper)[14] and 64 wounded. The seriously wounded were evacuated to the hospital ship Uganda.[72]

Commanders

Lieutenant-Colonel Ítalo Ángel Piaggi surrendered his forces in Goose Green on the Argentinian National Army Day (29 May). After the war he was forced to resign from the army, and faced ongoing trials questioning his competence at Goose Green. In 1986 he wrote a book titled Ganso Verde, in which he strongly defended his decisions during the war and criticised the lack of logistical support from Stanley. In his book he said that Task Force Mercedes had plenty of 7.62mm rifle ammunition left, but had run out of 81mm mortar rounds, and there were only 394 shells left for the 105mm artillery guns.[4] On 24 February 1992, after a long fight in both civil and military courts, Piaggi had his retired military rank and pay reinstated as a full colonel.[73] He died in July 2012.[74]

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert H Jones

See Victoria Cross

 

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert ‘H’ Jones was buried at Ajax Bay on 30 May; after the war his body was exhumed and transferred to the British cemetery in San Carlos.[75] He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.[76]

Major Chris Keeble, who took over command of 2 Para when Jones was killed, was awarded the DSO for his actions at Goose Green.[77] Keeble’s leadership at Goose Green was one of the key factors which lead to the British victory, in that his flexible style of command and the autonomy he afforded to his company commanders was much more successful than the rigid control and adherence to plan exercised by Jones.[78] Despite sentiment among the soldiers of 2 Para for him to remain in command, he was superseded by Lieutenant-Colonel David Robert Chaundler, who was flown in from Britain to take command of the battalion.[79]

Order of battle

All order of battle data from Fitz-Gibbon (2002), unless otherwise stated[43]

Argentine Forces (Task Force Mercedes)
Lieutenant Colonel I. Piaggi
British Forces (2 Para Group)
Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones
The following forces were present at the start of fighting at circa 06:35 on 28 May 1982
Infantry
HQ Company (-) Infantry Regiment 12 (Lt. Col. Piaggi) HQ Company (-) 2 Para (Lt. Col H. Jones)
Company A, Infantry Regiment 12 (1st Lt. Manresa) A Company, 2 Para (Maj. D. Farrar-Hockley)
Company C, Infantry Regiment 12 (1st Lt. Fernández) B Company, 2 Para (Maj. J. Crossland)
Company C, Infantry Regiment 25 (1st Lt. Esteban) C (Patrol) Company, 2 Para [two platoons] (Maj. Roger Jenner)
3 Platoon, Company C, Infantry Regiment 8[80] D Company, 2 Para (Maj. P. Neame)
Support Company, 2 Para (Maj. Hugh Jenner)[81]
Recce Platoon (-) Infantry Regiment 12 NGFO 4, 148 Commando FO Bty[80]
202 air force personnel from Security Coy, Military Aviation School; Pucará Sqn, Malvinas; 1st Naval Attack Sqn [MB-399] and also including 20m AA crews[80]
Engineers
One section, Engineer Company 9 Recce Troop, 59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers
Artillery and support fire
3x 105mm pack howitzer: Troop from Battery A, Airborne Artillery Regiment 4[80] 3x 105mm light guns from 8 Commando Battery[80]
1x 120mm Mortar 2x 81mm Mortars
NGS from 1x Type 21 frigate (HMS Arrow: dark hours only)
Anti-tank
1x 105mm recoilless rifle 3x Milan ATGM detachments from 43 Battery, 32 Guided Weapons Regiment[80]
Air defence
2x 35mm radar controlled AA: 3 Sec, Battery B, GADA 601[80] 6x Blowpipe detachments: Air Defence Troop, Royal Marines
6x 20mm AA
Close air support
3x Pucará operated from Stanley airfield[82] 3x Harrier GR3s from HMS Hermes[83]
Reinforcements received during 28 May 1982
106 personnel: Company B, Infantry Regiment 12
Reinforcements received after fighting ceased
J Company, 42 Commando, Royal Marines
Remaining 3x 105mm light guns from 8 Commando Battery
Mortar locating radar
2x 120mm Mortars 6x 81mm Mortars
Reserves available as of 29 May
None 1x Type 21 frigate for NGS
Harrier close air support
Memorials related to the battle
Argentinian cemetery north of Darwin where most of the Argentinian casualties of the Goose Green battle were buried.
Memorial to 2 Para Group west of Darwin settlement, Falklands
Memorial to Lt. Col. H. Jones VC OBE, outside Darwin settlement, marking the spot where he was killed.
Memorial to casualties from 59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers, one of whom was killed in the Battle of Goose Green – NW of Darwin settlement.
Unofficial memorial to a fallen paratrooper in the gorse leading up to Darwin Hill.

BBC incident

During the planning of the assault of both Darwin and Goose Green, the Battalion Headquarters were listening in to the BBC World Service. The newsreader announced that the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were poised and ready to assault Darwin and Goose Green, causing great confusion with the commanding officers of the battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Jones became furious with the level of incompetence and told BBC representative Robert Fox he was going to sue the BBC, Whitehall and the War Cabinet.[84]

Argentine military trials of 2009

In the years after the battle, Argentine army officers and NCOs were accused of handing out brutal field punishment to their troops at Goose Green (and other locations during the war).[85] In 2009, Argentine authorities in Comodoro Rivadavia ratified a decision made by authorities in Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego. announcing their intention to charge 70 officers and NCOs with inhumane treatment of conscript soldiers during the war.[86] There were claims, however, that false testimonies were used as evidence in accusing the Argentine officers and NCOs of abandonment, and Pablo Vassel who has made the denouncements, had to step down from his post as president of Human Rights Department of Corrientes province.[87] Other veterans are sceptical about the veracity of the accusations with Colonel José Martiniano Duarte, an ex-601 Commando Company officer in the Falklands, saying that it has become fashionable for ex-conscripts to now accuse their superiors of abandonment.[88] Since the 2009 announcement was made, no one in the military or among the retired officers and NCOs has been charged, causing Vassel in April 2014 to comment:

For over two years we’ve been waiting for a final say on behalf of the courts … There are some types of crimes that no state should allow to go unpunished, no matter how much time has passed, such as the crimes of the dictatorship. Last year Germany sentenced a 98-year-old corporal for his role in the concentration camps in one of the Eastern European countries occupied by Nazi Germany. It didn’t take into account his age or rank.[89]

The Falklands War – The Untold Story

See Victoria Cross

……………………………………..

 

Great British Battles – The Battle of Rorke’s Drift– 22nd – 23rd January 1879

Battle of Rorke’s Drift

22–23 January 1879

Location
Rorke’s Drift, Natal Province, South Africa

Greatest Scenes in Movies, EVER

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The Battle of Rorke’s Drift

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift, also known as the Defence of Rorke’s Drift, was a battle in the Anglo-Zulu War. The defence of the mission station of Rorke’s Drift, under the command of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead immediately followed the British Army‘s defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879, and continued into the following day, 23 January.

Just over 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against an intense assault by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The massive, but piecemealZulu attacks on Rorke’s Drift came very close to defeating the tiny garrison but were ultimately repelled. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honours.

 

Dabulamanzi kaMpande who commanded the Zulu forces at Rorke’s Drift

Prelude

 

Rorke’s Drift, known as kwaJimu (“Jim’s Land”) in the Zulu language, was a mission station and the former trading post of James Rorke, an Irish merchant. It was located near a drift, or ford, on the Buffalo (Mzinyathi) River, which at the time formed the border between the British colony of Natal and the Zulu Kingdom. On 9 January 1879, the British No. 3 (Centre) Column, under Lord Chelmsford, arrived and encamped at the drift.

On 11 January, the day after the British ultimatum to the Zulus expired, the column crossed the river and encamped on the Zulu bank. A small force consisting of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (2nd/24th) under Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead was detailed to garrison the post, which had been turned into a supply depot and hospital under the overall command of Brevet Major Henry Spalding, 104th Foot, a member of Chelmsford’s staff.

On 20 January, after reconnaissance patrolling and building of a track for its wagons, Chelmsford’s column marched to Isandlwana, approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) to the east, leaving behind the small garrison. A large company of the 2nd/3rd Natal Native Contingent (NNC) under Captain William Stevenson was ordered to remain at the post to strengthen the garrison.

This company numbered between 100 and 350 men.

Captain Thomas Rainforth’s G Company of the 1st/24th Foot was ordered to move up from its station at Helpmekaar, 10 miles (16 km) to the southeast, after its own relief arrived, to further fortify the drift. Later that evening a portion of the No. 2 Column under Brevet Colonel Anthony Durnford, late of the Royal Engineers, arrived at the drift and camped on the Zulu bank, where it remained through the next day.

Late on the evening of 21 January, Durnford was ordered to Isandlwana, as was a small detachment of No. 5 Field Company, Royal Engineers, commanded by Lieutenant John Chard, which had arrived on the 19th to repair the pontoons which bridged the Buffalo. Chard rode ahead of his detachment to Isandlwana on the morning of 22 January to clarify his orders, but was sent back to Rorke’s Drift with only his wagon and its driver to construct defensive positions for the expected reinforcement company, passing Durnford’s column en route in the opposite direction.

Lt. John Chard, VC

Sometime around noon on the 22nd, Major Spalding left the station for Helpmekaar to ascertain the whereabouts of Rainforth’s G Company, which was now overdue. He left Chard in temporary command. Chard rode down to the drift itself where the engineers’ camp was located. Soon thereafter, two survivors from Isandlwana – Lieutenant Gert Adendorff of the 1st/3rd NNC and a trooper from the Natal Carbineers – arrived bearing the news of the defeat and that a part of the Zulu impi was approaching the station.

Upon hearing this news, Chard, Bromhead, and another of the station’s officers, Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton (of the Commissariat and Transport Department), held a quick meeting to decide the best course of action – whether to attempt a retreat to Helpmekaar or to defend their current position. Dalton pointed out that a small column, travelling in open country and burdened with carts full of hospital patients, would be easily overtaken and defeated by a numerically superior Zulu force, and so it was soon agreed that the only acceptable course was to remain and fight.

Defensive preparations

Once the British officers decided to stay, Chard and Bromhead directed their men to make preparations to defend the station. With the garrison’s some 400 men[15] working quickly, a defensive perimeter was constructed out of mealie bags. This perimeter incorporated the storehouse, the hospital, and a stout stone kraal. The buildings were fortified, with loopholes (firing holes) knocked through the external walls and the external doors barricaded with furniture.

At about 3:30 pm, a mixed troop of about 100 Natal Native Horse (NNH) under Lieutenant Alfred Henderson arrived at the station after having retreated in good order from Isandlwana. They volunteered to picket the far side of the Oscarberg (Shiyane), the large hill that overlooked the station and from behind which the Zulus were expected to approach.

 

With the defences nearing completion and battle approaching, Chard had several hundred men available to him: Bromhead’s B Company, Stevenson’s large NNC company, Henderson’s NNH troop, and various others (most of them hospital patients, but ‘walking wounded’) drawn from various British and colonial units. Adendorff also stayed, while the trooper who had ridden in with him galloped on to warn the garrison at Helpmekaar.

The force was sufficient, in Chard’s estimation, to fend off the Zulus. Chard posted the British soldiers around the perimeter, adding some of the more able patients, the ‘casuals’ and civilians, and those of the NNC who possessed firearms along the barricade. The rest of the NNC, armed only with spears, were posted outside the mealie bag and biscuit box barricade within the stone-walled cattle kraal.

The approaching Zulu force was vastly larger; the uDloko, uThulwana, inDlondo amabutho (regiments) of married men in their 30s and 40s and the inDlu-yengwe ibutho of young unmarried men mustered 3,000 to 4,000 warriors, none of them engaged during the battle at Isandlwana.

This Zulu force was the ‘loins’ or reserve of the army at Isandlwana and is often referred to as the Undi Corps. It was directed to swing wide of the British left flank and pass west and south of Isandlwana hill itself, in order to position itself across the line of communication and retreat of the British and their colonial allies in order to prevent their escape back into Natal by way of the Buffalo River ford leading to Rorke’s Drift.

By the time the Undi Corps reached Rorke’s Drift at 4:30 pm, they had fast-marched some 20 miles (32 km) from the morning encampment they had left at around 8 am, and they would spend almost the next eleven and a half hours continuously storming the British fortifications at Rorke’s Drift.

Most Zulu warriors were armed with an assegai (short spear) and a shield made of cowhide. The Zulu army drilled in the personal and tactical use and coordination of this weapons system. Some Zulus also had old muskets and antiquated rifles, though their marksmanship training was poor, and the quality and supply of powder and shot was dreadful.

 

Historical picture of Zulu warriors from about the same time as the events at Rorke’s Drift

 

The Zulu attitude towards firearms was that:

“The generality of Zulu warriors, however, would not have firearms – the arms of a coward, as they said, for they enable the poltroon to kill the brave without awaiting his attack.”

 

Even though their fire was not accurate, it was responsible for five of the seventeen British deaths at Rorke’s Drift.

While the Undi Corps had been led by inkhosi kaMapitha at the Isandlwana battle, the command of the Undi Corps passed to Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande (half-brother of Cetshwayo kaMpande, the Zulu king) when kaMapitha was wounded during the pursuit of British fugitives from Isandlwana. Prince Dabulamanzi was considered rash and aggressive, and this characterisation was borne out by his violation of King Cetshwayo’s order to act only in defence of Zululand against the invading British soldiers and not carry the war over the border into enemy territory.

The Rorke’s Drift attack was an unplanned raid rather than any organised counter-invasion, with many of the Undi Corps Zulus breaking off to raid other African kraals and homesteads while the main body advanced on Rorke’s Drift.

At about 4:00 pm, Surgeon James Reynolds, Otto Witt – the Swedish missionary who ran the mission at Rorke’s Drift – and army chaplain Reverend George Smith came down from the Oscarberg hillside with the news that a body of Zulus was fording the river to the southeast and was “no more than five minutes away”. At this point, Witt decided to depart the station, as his family lived in an isolated farmhouse about 30 kilometres (19 mi) away, and he wanted to be with them. Witt’s native servant, Umkwelnantaba, left with him; so too did one of the hospital patients, Lieutenant Thomas Purvis of the 1st/3rd NNC.

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Interview with Frank Bourne – Hero of Rorkes Drift

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Battle

At about 4:20 pm, the battle began with Lieutenant Henderson’s NNH troopers, stationed behind the Oscarberg, briefly engaging the vanguard of the main Zulu force. However, tired from the battle and retreat from Isandlwana and short of carbine ammunition, Henderson’s men departed for Helpmekaar. Henderson himself reported to Lieutenant Chard that the enemy were close and that

“his men would not obey his orders but were going off to Helpmekaar”.

Henderson then followed his departing men. Upon witnessing the withdrawal of Henderson’s NNH troop, Captain Stevenson’s NNC company abandoned the cattle kraal and fled, greatly reducing the strength of the defending garrison. Outraged that Stevenson and some of his colonial NCOs also fled from the barricades, a few British soldiers fired after them, killing Corporal William Anderson.

With the Zulus nearly at the station, the garrison now numbered between 154 and 156 men.[30] Of these, only Bromhead’s company could be considered a cohesive unit. Additionally, up to 39 of his company were at the station as hospital patients, although only a handful of these were unable to take up arms.

With fewer men, Chard realised the need to modify the defences, and he gave orders for the construction of a biscuit-box wall through the middle of the post in order to make possible the abandonment of the hospital side of the station if the need arose.

At 4:30 pm, the Zulus rounded the Oscarberg and approached the south wall. Private Frederick Hitch, posted as lookout atop the storehouse, reported a large column of Zulus approaching. The Zulu vanguard, 600 men of the iNdluyengwe, attacked the south wall, which joined the hospital and the storehouse. The British opened fire at 500 yards (460 m).

The majority of the attacking Zulu force swept around to attack the north wall, while a few took cover and were either pinned by continuing British fire or retreated to the terraces of Oscarberg. There they began a harassing fire of their own. As this occurred, another Zulu force swept onto the hospital and north west wall.

Those British on the barricades — including Dalton and Bromhead — were soon engaged in fierce hand-to-hand fighting. The British wall was too high for the Zulus to scale, so they resorted to crouching under the wall, trying to get hold of the defenders’ Martini-Henry rifles, slashing at British soldiers with assegais or firing their weapons through the wall. At places, they clambered over each other’s bodies to drive the British off the walls but were driven back.

Zulu fire, both from those under the wall and around the Oscarberg, inflicted a few casualties, and five of the 17 defenders who were killed or mortally wounded in the action were struck while at the north wall.

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Secrets Of The Dead – The Mystery Of Zulu Dawn

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Defence of the hospital

Chard realised that the north wall, under almost constant Zulu attack, could not be held and, at 6:00 pm, he pulled his men back into the yard, abandoning the front two rooms of the hospital in the process. The hospital was becoming untenable; the loopholes had become a liability, as rifles poking out were grabbed at by the Zulus but, if the holes were left empty, the Zulu warriors stuck their own weapons through to fire into the rooms. Among the soldiers assigned to the hospital were Corporal William Wilson Allen and Privates Cole, Dunbar, Hitch, Horrigan, John Williams, Joseph Williams, Alfred Henry Hook, Robert Jones, and William Jones.

Privates Horrigan, John Williams, Joseph Williams and patients tried to hold the hospital entrance with rifles and fixed bayonets. Joseph Williams defended a small window, and 14 dead Zulus were found later beneath the window. As it became clear that the front of the building was being taken by the Zulus, John Williams began to hack a way of escape through the wall dividing the central room and a corner room in the back of the hospital. As he made a passable hole, the door into the central room came under furious attack from the Zulus, and he only had time to drag two bedridden patients out before the door gave way.

The corner room that John Williams had pulled the two patients into was occupied by Private Hook and another nine patients. John Williams hacked at the wall to the next room with his pick-axe, as Hook held off the Zulus. A firefight erupted as the Zulus fired through the door and Hook returned fire – but not without an assegai striking his helmet and stunning him.

Williams made the hole big enough to get into the next room, which was occupied only by patient Private Waters, and dragged the patients through. The last man out was Hook, who killed some Zulus who had knocked down the door before he dived through the hole. John Williams once again went to work, spurred by the fact that the roof was now on fire, as Hook defended the hole and Waters continued to fire through a loophole.

After fifty minutes, the hole was large enough to drag the patients through, and the men – save Privates Waters and Beckett, who hid in the wardrobe (Waters was wounded and Beckett died of assegai wounds) – were now in the last room, being defended by Privates Robert Jones and William Jones. From here, the patients clambered out through a window and then ran across the yard to the barricade.

Of the eleven patients, nine survived the trip, as did all the able-bodied men. According to James Henry Reynolds, only four defenders were killed in the hospital: one was a member of the Natal Native Contingent with a broken leg; Sgt Maxfield and Private Jenkins, who were ill with fever and refused to be moved. Reportedly, Jenkins was killed after being seized and stabbed, together with Private Adams who also refused to move. Private Cole, assigned to the hospital, was killed when he ran outside. Another hospital patient killed was Trooper Hunter of the Natal Mounted Police.

Among the hospital patients who escaped were a Corporal Mayer of the NNC; Bombardier Lewis of the Royal Artillery, and Trooper Green of the Natal Mounted Police, who was wounded in the thigh by a spent bullet. Private Conley with a broken leg was pulled to safety by Hook, although Conley’s leg was broken again in the process.

The cattle kraal and the bastion

The evacuation of the burning hospital completed the shortening of the perimeter. As night fell, the Zulu attacks grew stronger. The cattle kraal came under renewed assault and was evacuated by 10:00 pm, leaving the remaining men in a small bastion around the storehouse. Throughout the night, the Zulus kept up a constant assault against the British positions; Zulu attacks only began to slacken after midnight, and they finally ended by 2:00 am, being replaced by a constant harassing fire from Zulu firearms until 4:00 am.

By that time, the garrison had lost 14 dead. Two others were mortally wounded and 8 more – including Dalton – were seriously wounded. Virtually every man had some kind of wound. They were all exhausted, having fought for the better part of ten hours and were running low on ammunition. Of 20,000 rounds in reserve at the mission, only 900 remained.

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Those that died in the Zulu war 1879

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Aftermath

As dawn broke, the British could see that the Zulus were gone; all that remained were the dead and severely wounded. Patrols were dispatched to scout the battlefield, recover rifles, and look for survivors, many of whom were executed when found. At roughly 7:00 am, an Impi of Zulus suddenly appeared, and the British manned their positions again.

No attack materialised however, as the Zulus had been on the move for six days prior to the battle and had not eaten properly for two. In their ranks were hundreds of wounded, and they were several days’ march from any supplies. Soon after their appearance, the Zulus left the way they had come.

Around 8:00 am, another force appeared, and the redcoats left their breakfast to man their positions again. However, the force turned out to be the vanguard of Lord Chelmsford‘s relief column.

Breakdown of British and colonial casualties:

  • 1st/24th Foot: 4 killed or mortally wounded in action; 2 wounded
  • 2nd/24th Foot: 9 killed or mortally wounded in action; 9 wounded
  • Commissariat and Transport Department: 1 killed in action; 1 wounded
  • Natal Mounted Police: 1 killed in action; 1 wounded
  • 1st/3rd NNC: 1 killed in action
  • 2nd/3rd NNC: 2 wounded

Also, as mentioned, one member of Stevenson’s 2nd/3rd NNC, Corporal William Anderson, was killed by British fire while fleeing the station just prior to the arrival of the Zulus.

351 Zulu bodies were counted after the battle, but it has been estimated that at least 500 wounded and captured Zulus might have been massacred as well.

Having witnessed the carnage at Isandlwana, the members of Chelmsford’s relief force had no mercy for the captured, wounded Zulus they came across. Nor did the station’s defenders. Trooper William James Clarke of the Natal Mounted Police described in his diary that:

“altogether we buried 375 Zulus and some wounded were thrown into the grave. Seeing the manner in which our wounded had been mutilated after being dragged from the hospital … we were very bitter and did not spare wounded Zulus”

 

Laband, in his book The Zulu Response to the British Invasion of 1879, accepts the estimate of 600 that Shepstone had from the Zulus.

Samuel Pitt, who served as a private in B Company during the battle, told The Western Mail in 1914 that the official enemy death toll was too low:

“We reckon we had accounted for 875, but the books will tell you 400 or 500”.

 

Lieutenant Horace Smith-Dorrien, a member of Chelmsford’s staff, wrote that the day after the battle an improvised gallows was used “for hanging Zulus who were supposed to have behaved treacherously”.[43]

Victoria Crosses and Distinguished Conduct Medals

John Chard VC, as a lieutenant-colonel

 

Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, seven of them to soldiers of the 2nd/24th Foot – the most ever received in a single action by one regiment (although not, as commonly thought, the most awarded in a single action or the most in a day: 16 were awarded at the Battle of Inkerman, on 5 November 1854; 28 were awarded during the Second Relief of Lucknow, 14–22 November 1857).

Four Distinguished Conduct Medals were also awarded. This high number of awards for bravery has been interpreted as a reaction to the earlier defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana – the extolling of the victory at Rorke’s Drift drawing the public’s attention away from the great defeat at Isandlwana and the fact that Lord Chelmsford and Bartle Frere had instigated the war without the approval of Her Majesty’s Government.

Certainly, Sir Garnet Wolseley, taking over as commander-in-chief from Lord Chelmsford later that year, was unimpressed with the awards made to the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, saying “it is monstrous making heroes of those who, shut up in buildings at Rorke’s Drift, could not bolt and fought like rats for their lives, which they could not otherwise save”.

Several historians have challenged this assertion and pointed out that the victory stands on its own merits, regardless of other concerns. Victor Davis Hanson responded to it directly in “Why the West has Won” saying

, “Modern critics suggest such lavishness in commendation was designed to assuage the disaster at Isandhlwana and to reassure a skeptical Victorian public that the fighting ability of the British soldier remained unquestioned. Maybe, maybe not, but in the long annals of military history, it is difficult to find anything quite like Rorke’s Drift, where a beleaguered force, outnumbered forty to one, survived and killed twenty men for every defender lost”.

 

Awarded the Victoria Cross:

In 1879 there was no provision for the posthumous granting of the Victoria Cross, and so it could not be awarded to anyone who had died in performing an act of bravery. In light of this, an unofficial ‘twelfth VC’ may be added to those listed: Private Joseph Williams, B Coy, 2nd/24th Foot, who was killed during the fight in the hospital and for whom it was mentioned in despatches that “had he lived he would have been recommended for the Victoria Cross”.

Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal:

On 15 January 1880, a submission for a DCM was also made for Private Michael McMahon (Army Hospital Corps). The submission was cancelled on 29 January 1880 for absence without leave and theft.

Depictions and dramatisations

The events surrounding the assault on Rorke’s Drift were first dramatised by military painters, notably Elizabeth Butler and Alphonse de Neuville. Their work was vastly popular in their day among the citizens of the British empire.

In 1914, a touring English Northern Union rugby league team defeated Australia 14-6 to win the Ashes in the final Test match. Depleted by injuries and fielding only ten men for much of the second half, the English outclassed and outfought the Australians in what quickly became known as the ‘Rorke’s Drift Test‘.

The 1964 film Zulu is a depiction of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. The film received generally positive reviews from the critics. Some details of the film’s account have, however, been criticised[by whom?] as historically inaccurate (for example, in the movie the regiment is called the South Wales Borderers but the unit was not in fact called that until two years after the battle, although the regiment had been based at Brecon in South Wales since 1873).[54] While most of the men of the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot (1/24) were recruited from the industrial towns and agricultural classes of England, principally from Birmingham and adjacent southwest counties, only 10 soldiers of the 1/24 that fought in the battle were Welsh. Many of the soldiers of the junior battalion, the 2/24, were Welshmen.

Of the 122 soldiers of the 24th Regiment present at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, 49 are known to have been of English nationality, 32 were Welsh, 16 were Irish, 1 was a Scot, and 3 were born overseas. The nationalities of the remaining 21 are unknown.

In 1990 the game developer Impressions Games released a video game based on the historical battle. The battle was also featured by Mad Doc Software in its 2006 strategy game Empire Earth II: The Art of Supremacy as one of its “turning point” battle modes.

The battle of Rorke’s Drift was given a chapter in military historian Victor Davis Hanson‘s book Carnage and Culture (2002) as one of several landmark battles demonstrating the superior effectiveness of Western military practices

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Forgotten soldiers who fought 4,000 Zulus during battle of Rorke’s Drift

They were the Brummies and Black Country fighting men who thwarted 4,000 Zulus in a battle that will forever be remembered among one of the most heroic stands in British military history.

 

Zulu warriors attack British troops in the Battle of Rorke's Drift
Zulu warriors attack British troops in the Battle of Rorke’s Drift

They were the Brummies and Black Country fighting men who thwarted 4,000 Zulus in a battle that will forever be remembered among one of the most heroic stands in British military history.

Rorke’s Drift – the subject of a blockbuster movie – will never be forgotten. Eleven Victoria Crosses were handed out following the bloody encounter – the most spawned by one battle.

But, with the exception of the 11 who received this country’s highest forces’ honour, the local lads who braved knobkerries clubs, rifles and assegai spears have faded from the history books.

Now, on Remembrance Sunday – a day when we pay tribute to those prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for this country – we salute the few from the 24th (Warwickshire) Regiment, although the unit, spawned in Warley, had based itself in Brecon by the time of the Zulu conflict.

Of the 122 of the regiment’s representatives at Rorke’s Drift, 49 were English, 32 Welsh, 16 Irish and there was a lone Scot.

Only four are believed to have been born and bred in Warwickshire. Their average age was 23, their average weight 10stone and their average height 5ft 3ins.

They were among the 139 defenders – a mix of British infantry and Natal irregulars – who defied the massive odds against them at the tiny garrison of Rorke’s Drift. Seeking sanctuary behind barricades of biscuit boxes and mealie bags, they held firm against a ceaseless onslaught that began at 4.20pm on January 22, 1879, and raged until dawn.

It has become the ultimate underdog victory. That red ribbon of men killed 351 Zulus and wounded 500 more: the African warriors decision to set alight the garrison hospital making them easy targets during night attacks. We lost 17.

Among them was Sergeant Joseph Lenford Windridge, played by Joe Powell in the 1964 film. He lived in Aston and after leaving the army found employment as a lamp-maker’s clerk, but his was a Civvy Street existence dogged by tragedy. Six of his 11 children died from TB.

 Some of the defenders of Rorke’s Drift towards the end of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879
Some of the defenders of Rorke’s Drift towards the end of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879

Windridge died from a stroke in 1902, aged 60, and was laid to rest in an unmarked, communal grave at Witton Cemetery. This year a campaign was launched to place a memorial on the plot.

Two other Birmingham survivors of the battle, Privates Robert Cole and Samuel Parry, are also buried at Witton and, again, their graves are unmarked.

Birmingham-born William Tasker was probably more deserving of a VC than many who received them.

The 33-year-old fought on despite blooding pouring from his head, the thin flesh split open by splinters from a musket ball. He died in his home city aged 42.

An unmarked grave was also the undignified final resting place for Joseph Bromwich, who fought at the battle alongside elder brother Charles. Joseph, buried at Bilston Cemetery, was 22 when he faced the Zulus. He was a broken man when he left the services and he died on February 25, 1916, with tongue cancer.

What’s clear from reading the documents that exist – many of them contradictory – is that troops emerged from Rorke’s Drift mentally scarred and never recovered from the harrowing experience.

William Jones, a down-and-out, was found wandering the streets of Manchester after selling his VC for £6. His family took him in, but terrified Jones remained convinced Zulus were coming through the windows of the modest home. He was declared insane and died in a mental institution.

Robert Jones VC took his own life with a shotgun.

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Last remnant of Rorke’s Drift:

Tiny scrap of paper gives rare first-hand account of the day British redcoats fought off Zulus, Captain, thousands of them

A rare first-hand account of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift – where 150 soldiers successfully fought off 4,000 Zulu warriors, has gone on display for the first time.

Written by one of the British heroes on a tiny scrap of paper, it is thought to be the earliest account of the battle which was immortalised in the 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker.

Assistant Commissary Officer (ACO) Walter Dunne’s letter to his friend Captain W.J. Warneford at Cape Colony, describes how he and a vastly outnumbered group of soldiers successfully defended their missionary outpost at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa.

zullu letter 1

ASSISTANT COMISSARY OFFICER WALTER DUNNE’S LETTER IN FULL

 Rorke’s Drift/ 24 Jan.r ’79/

My dear Warneford,

Sad news about the 1/24th. (1st Battalion, 24th Foot) 5Cd commanded by Col. Pulleine were cut to pieces and the camp sacked. 20 Officers are missing.

About 1000 of the Kafirs came in here and attacked us on the same day (22nd). We had got about 2 hours notice and fortified the place with trap of grain biscuit boxes &c. They came on most determinedly on all sides. They drove our fellows out of the Hospital, killed the patients and burned the place.

They made several attempts to storm us but the soldiers (B Co of 24th under Bromhead) kept up such a steady killing fire that they were driven back each time. We had only 80 men, the contingent having bolted before a shot was fired. The fight was kept up all night & in the morning the Kafirs retreated leaving 351 dead bodies.

Dalton was wounded in the shoulder and temp clerk Byrne killed & 12 of the men… W A Dunne (over)

Some of the missing are Pulleine, Col. Dunford, Capt. Russell, Hodson (killed), Anstey, Daly, Mostyn, Dyer, Griffith, Pope, Austin, Pulleine (2 Mr.) Shepherd (S… major) Wardell (killed), Younghusband, Degacher, Porteous, Carage Dyson, Atkinson – Coghill is believed to have escaped & also Melvill.

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Zulu Dawn (1979) – Final Battle

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Great British Battles – Battle of Agincourt – 25th October 1415

 Great British Battles

Battle of Agincourt

600 Anniversary 25th October 2015

Battlefield today

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History Documentary – The Battle of Agincourt, a Hundred Years of War

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The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory in the Hundred Years’ War.[a] The battle took place on Friday, 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin’s Day), near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France.[5][b] Henry V‘s victory at Agincourt, against a numerically superior French army, crippled France and started a new period in the war during which Henry V married the French king’s daughter, and their son, later Henry VI of England and Henry II of France, was made heir to the throne of France as well as of England.

Henry V led his troops into battle and participated in hand-to-hand fighting. The French king of the time, Charles VI, did not command the French army himself as he suffered from severe, repeating illnesses and moderate mental incapacitation. Instead, the French were commanded by Constable Charles d’Albret and various prominent French noblemen of the Armagnac party.

This battle is notable for the use of the English longbow in very large numbers, with English and Welsh archers forming most of Henry’s army. The battle is the centrepiece of the play Henry V by William Shakespeare.

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MIDIEVAL WEAPONS AND COMBAT – The Longbow

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Bbattle of Agincourt
Part of the Hundred Years’ War
Schlacht von Azincourt.jpg
The Battle of Agincourt, 15th-century miniature
Date 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin’s Day)
Location Agincourt, Pas-de-Calais, France
50°27′49″N 2°8′30″E / 50.46361°N 2.14167°E / 50.46361; 2.14167Coordinates: 50°27′49″N 2°8′30″E / 50.46361°N 2.14167°E / 50.46361; 2.14167
Result Decisive English victory
Belligerents
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg England France moderne.svg France
Commanders and leaders
Strength
Modern estimates range from 6,000[1] to 9,000[2]
(see Numbers at Agincourt.) About 56 longbow archers, 16 dismounted knights and men-at-arms in heavy armour.
Modern estimates range from 12,000 (outnumbering the English 4–3).[2] to 36,000 (outnumbering the English 6–1;[3] see Numbers at Agincourt.)
About 10,000 knights and men-at-arms (of which about 1,200 were mounted), unknown thousands of other infantry, crossbowmen and archers.
Casualties and losses
At least 112 dead, unknown wounded[3] 7,000–10,000 (mostly killed) and about 1,500 noble prisoners[

Contemporary accounts

The battle of Agincourt is well documented by at least seven contemporary accounts, three of them by eyewitnesses. The approximate location of the battle has never been in dispute and the place remains relatively unaltered even after 600 years. Immediately after the battle, Henry summoned the heralds of the two armies who had watched the battle together, and with the principal French herald, Montjoie, settled on the name of the battle as Agincourt, after the nearest fortified place.[6] Two of the most frequently cited accounts come from Burgundian sources: one from Jean Le Fevre de Saint-Remy, who was present at the battle, and the other from Enguerrand de Monstrelet. The English eyewitness account comes from the anonymous Gesta Henrici Quinti, believed to have been written by a chaplain in the King’s household, who would have been in the baggage train at the battle.[7] A recent reappraisal of Henry’s strategy of the Agincourt campaign incorporates these three accounts, and argues that war was seen as a legal due process for solving the disagreement over claims to the French throne.[8]

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Agincourt’s Dark Secrets Battlefield Detectives

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Campaign

Main article: Hundred Years War

Henry V invaded France following the failure of negotiations with the French. He claimed the title of King of France through his great-grandfather Edward III, although in practice the English kings were generally prepared to renounce this claim if the French would acknowledge the English claim on Aquitaine and other French lands (the terms of the Treaty of Brétigny).[9] He initially called a Great Council in the spring of 1414 to discuss going to war with France, but the lords insisted that he should negotiate further and moderate his claims. In the following negotiations Henry said that he would give up his claim to the French throne if the French would pay the 1.6 million crowns outstanding from the ransom of John II (who had been captured at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356), and concede English ownership of the lands of Normandy, Touraine, Anjou, Brittany and Flanders, as well as Aquitaine. Henry would marry Treaty of Brétigny the young daughter of Charles VI, and receive a dowry of 2 million crowns. The French responded with what they considered the generous terms of marriage with Princess Catherine, a dowry of 600,000 crowns, and an enlarged Aquitaine. By 1415, negotiations had ground to a halt, with the English claiming that the French had mocked their claims and ridiculed Henry himself.[10] In December 1414, the English parliament was persuaded to grant Henry a “double subsidy”, a tax at twice the traditional rate, to recover his inheritance from the French. On 19 April 1415, Henry again asked the Great Council to sanction war with France, and this time they agreed.[11]

Henry’s army landed in northern France on 13 August 1415, carried by a fleet described by Shakespeare as “a city on the inconstant billows dancing / For so appears this fleet majestical”, often reported to comprise 1,500 ships, but probably far smaller, and besieged the port of Harfleur with an army of about 12,000, and up to 20,000 horses.[12] The siege took longer than expected. The town surrendered on 22 September, and the English army did not leave until 8 October. The campaign season was coming to an end, and the English army had suffered many casualties through disease. Rather than retire directly to England for the winter, with his costly expedition resulting in the capture of only one town, Henry decided to march most of his army (roughly 9,000) through Normandy to the port of Calais, the English stronghold in northern France, to demonstrate by his presence in the territory at the head of an army that his right to rule in the duchy was more than a mere abstract legal and historical claim.[13] He also intended the manoeuvre as a deliberate provocation to battle aimed at the dauphin, who had failed to respond to Henry’s personal challenge to combat at Harfleur.[14]

The French had raised an army during the siege which assembled around Rouen. This was not strictly a feudal army, but an army paid through a system similar to the English. The French hoped to raise 9,000 troops, but the army was not ready in time to relieve Harfleur. After Henry V marched to the north the French moved to blockade them along the River Somme. They were successful for a time, forcing Henry to move south, away from Calais, to find a ford. The English finally crossed the Somme south of Péronne, at Béthencourt and Voyennes [15][16] and resumed marching north. Without the river protection, the French were hesitant to force a battle. They shadowed Henry’s army while calling a semonce des nobles,[17] calling on local nobles to join the army. By 24 October both armies faced each other for battle, but the French declined, hoping for the arrival of more troops. The two armies spent the night of 24 October on open ground. The next day the French initiated negotiations as a delaying tactic, but Henry ordered his army to advance and to start a battle that, given the state of his army, he would have preferred to avoid, or to fight defensively: that was how Crécy and the other famous longbow victories had been won. The English had very little food, had marched 260 miles (420 km) in two and a half weeks, were suffering from sickness such as dysentery, and faced much larger numbers of well equipped French men at arms. The French army blocked Henry’s way to the safety of Calais, however, and delaying battle would only further weaken his tired army and allow more French troops to arrive.[18]

Battle

Preparations

The battle was fought in the narrow strip of open land formed between the woods of Tramecourt and Agincourt (close to the modern village of Azincourt).

The battle of Agincourt

English deployment

Early on the 25th, Henry deployed his army (approximately 1,500 men-at-arms and 7,000 longbowmen; see Numbers at Agincourt) across a 750-yard (690 m) part of the defile. The army was organised into three “battles” or divisions: the vanguard, led by the Duke of York; the main battle led by Henry himself; and the rearguard, led by Lord Camoys. In addition, Sir Thomas Erpingham, one of Henry’s most experienced household knights, had a role in marshalling the archers.[19] It is likely that the English adopted their usual battle line of longbowmen on either flank, with men-at-arms and knights in the centre. They may also have deployed some archers in the centre of the line. The English men-at-arms in plate and mail were placed shoulder to shoulder four deep. The English and Welsh archers on the flanks drove pointed wooden stakes, or palings, into the ground at an angle to force cavalry to veer off. This use of stakes may have been inspired by the Battle of Nicopolis of 1396, where forces of the Ottoman Empire used the tactic against French cavalry.[c]

The English made their confessions before the battle, as was customary.[20] Henry, worried about the enemy launching surprise raids, and wanting his troops to remain focused, ordered all his men to spend the night before the battle in silence, on pain of having an ear cut off. He told his men that he would rather die in the coming battle than be captured and ransomed.[21]

Henry made a speech emphasising the justness of his cause, and reminding his army of previous great defeats the kings of England had inflicted on the French. The Burgundian sources have him concluding the speech by telling his men that the French had boasted that they would cut off two fingers from the right hand of every archer, so that he could never draw a longbow again. Whether this was true is open to question; as previously noted, death was the normal fate of any soldier who could not be ransomed.[22]

French deployment

The French force was not only larger than the English, their noble men-at-arms would have considered themselves superior to the large number of archers in the English army, whom the French (based on their experience in recent memory of using and facing archers) considered relatively insignificant.[23] For example, the chronicler Edmond de Dyntner stated that there were “ten French nobles against one English”, ignoring the archers completely.[23] Several French accounts emphasise that the French leaders were so eager to defeat the English (and win the ransoms of the English men-at-arms) that they insisted on being in the first line; as one of the contemporary accounts put it: “All the lords wanted to be in the vanguard, against the opinion of the constable and the experienced knights.”[24]

The French were arrayed in three lines or “battles”. The first line was led by Constable d’Albret, Marshal Boucicault, and the Dukes of Orléans and Bourbon, with attached cavalry wings under the Count of Vendôme and Sir Clignet de Brebant. The second line was commanded by the Dukes of Bar and Alençon and the Count of Nevers. The third line was under the Counts of Dammartin and Fauconberg.[25] The Burgundian chronicler, Jean de Wavrin, writes that there were 8,000 men-at-arms, 4,000 archers and 1,500 crossbowmen in the vanguard, with two wings of 600 and 800 mounted men-at-arms, and the main battle having “as many knights, esquires and archers as in the vanguard”, with the rearguard containing “all of the rest of the men-at-arms”.[26] The Herald of Berry uses somewhat different figures of 4,800 men-at-arms in the first line, 3,000 men in the second line, with two “wings” containing 600 mounted men-at-arms each, and a total of “10,000 men-at-arms”,[27] but does not mention a third line.

Thousands of troops appear to have been in the rearguard, containing servants and commoners whom the French were either unable or unwilling to deploy. Wavrin gives the total French army size as 50,000: “They had plenty of archers and crossbowmen but nobody wanted to let them fire [sic]. The reason for this was that the site was so narrow that there was only enough room for the men-at-arms.”[28] A different source says that the French did not even deploy 4,000 of the best crossbowmen “on the pretext they had no need of their help”.[29]

Terrain

The field of battle was arguably the most significant factor in deciding the outcome. The recently ploughed land hemmed in by dense woodland favoured the English, both because of its narrowness, and because of the thick mud through which the French knights had to walk.[30][31] An analysis by Battlefield Detectives has looked at the crowd dynamics of the battlefield.[32]

The Battlefield Detectives episode states that when the density reached four men per square metre, soldiers would not even be able to take full steps forward, slowing the speed of the advance by 70%.[32] Accounts of the battle describe the French engaging the English men-at-arms before being rushed from the sides by the longbowmen as the mêlée developed. The English account in the Gesta Henrici says: “For when some of them, killed when battle was first joined, fall at the front, so great was the undisciplined violence and pressure of the mass of men behind them that the living fell on top of the dead, and others falling on top of the living were killed as well.”[33]

Although the French initially pushed the English back, they became so closely packed that they are described as having trouble using their weapons properly. The French monk of St. Denis says: “Their vanguard, composed of about 5,000 men, found itself at first so tightly packed that those who were in the third rank could scarcely use their swords,”[34] and the Burgundian sources have a similar passage.

As the battle was fought on a recently ploughed field, and there had recently been heavy rain leaving it very muddy, it proved very tiring to walk through in full plate armour. The French monk of St. Denis describes the French troops as “marching through the middle of the mud where they sank up to their knees. So they were already overcome with fatigue even before they advanced against the enemy”. The deep, soft mud particularly favoured the English force because, once knocked to the ground, the heavily armoured French knights had a hard time getting back up to fight in the mêlée. Barker states that some knights, encumbered by their armour, actually drowned in their helmets.[35]

Fighting

Opening moves

“Morning of the Battle of Agincourt, 25th October 1415”, painted by Sir John Gilbert in the 19th century.

On the morning of 25 October, the French were still waiting for additional troops to arrive. The Duke of Brabant (about 2,000 men),[36] the Duke of Anjou (about 600 men),[36] and the Duke of Brittany (6,000 men, according to Monstrelet),[37] were all marching to join the army.

For three hours after sunrise there was no fighting. Military textbooks of the time stated: “Everywhere and on all occasions that foot soldiers march against their enemy face to face, those who march lose and those who remain standing still and holding firm win.”[38] On top of this, the French were expecting thousands of men to join them if they waited. They were blocking Henry’s retreat, and were perfectly happy to wait for as long as it took. There had even been a suggestion that the English would run away rather than give battle when they saw that they would be fighting so many French princes.[39]

Henry’s men, on the other hand, were already very weary from hunger, illness and marching. Even though Henry knew as well as the French did that his army would perform better on the defensive, he was eventually forced to take a calculated risk, and move his army further forward to start the battle.[18] This entailed abandoning his chosen position and pulling out, advancing, and then re-installing the long sharpened wooden stakes pointed outwards toward the enemy, which helped protect the longbowmen from cavalry charges.[40] (The use of stakes was an innovation for the English: during the Battle of Crécy, for example, the archers had been instead protected by pits and other obstacles.[41])

The tightness of the terrain also seems to have restricted the planned deployment of the French forces. The French had originally drawn up a battle plan that had archers and crossbowmen in front of their men-at-arms, with a cavalry force at the rear specifically designed to “fall upon the archers, and use their force to break them,”[42] but in the event, the French archers and crossbowmen were deployed behind and to the sides of the men-at-arms (where they seem to have played almost no part, except possibly for an initial volley of arrows at the start of the battle). The cavalry force, which could have devastated the English line if it had attacked while they moved their stakes, charged only after the initial volley of arrows from the English. It is unclear whether the delay occurred because the French were hoping the English would launch a frontal assault (and were surprised when the English instead started shooting from their new defensive position), or whether the French mounted knights instead did not react quickly enough to the English advance. French chroniclers agree that when the mounted charge did come, it did not contain as many men as it should have; Gilles le Bouvier states that some had wandered off to warm themselves and others were walking or feeding their horses[43]

French cavalry attac

The French cavalry, despite being somewhat disorganised and not at full numbers, charged towards the longbowmen, but it was a disaster, with the French knights unable to outflank the longbowmen (because of the encroaching woodland) and unable to charge through the forest of sharpened stakes that protected the archers. John Keegan argues that the longbows’ main influence on the battle at this point was injuries to horses: armoured only on the head, many horses would have become dangerously out of control when struck in the back or flank from the high-elevation long range shots used as the charge started.[44] The mounted charge and subsequent retreat churned up the already muddy terrain between the French and the English. Juliet Barker quotes a contemporary account by a monk of St. Denis who reports how the wounded and panicking horses galloped through the advancing infantry, scattering them and trampling them down in their headlong flight from the battlefield.[45]

Main French assault

King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415, by Sir John Gilbert in the 19th century.

The plate armour of the French men-at-arms allowed them to close the 300 yards or so to the English lines while being under what the French monk of Saint Denis described as “a terrifying hail of arrow shot”. A complete coat of plate was considered such good protection that shields were generally not used,[46] although the Burgundian contemporary sources specifically distinguish between Frenchmen who used shields and those who did not, and Rogers has suggested that the front elements of the French force may have used axes and shields.[47] Modern historians are somewhat divided on how effective the longbow fire would have been against plate armour of the time, with some modern texts suggesting that arrows could not penetrate, especially the better quality steel armour, but others suggesting arrows could penetrate, especially the poorer quality wrought iron armour. Rogers suggests that the longbow could penetrate a wrought iron breastplate at short range and penetrate the thinner armour on the limbs even at 220 yards (200 m). He considers a knight in the best quality steel armour would have been more or less invulnerable to an arrow on the breastplate or top of the helmet, but would still have been vulnerable to shots hitting the limbs, particularly at close range.[48] In any case, to protect themselves as much as possible from the arrows the French had to lower their visors and bend their helmeted heads to avoid being shot in the face—the eye and air-holes in their helmets were among the weakest points in the armour. This head lowered position restricted both their breathing and their vision. Then they had to walk a few hundred yards through thick mud, a press of comrades and wearing armour weighing 50–60 pounds (23–27 kg), gathering sticky clay all the way. Increasingly they had to walk around or over fallen comrades.[49]

The surviving French men-at-arms reached the front of the English line and pushed it back, with the longbowmen on the flanks continuing to shoot at point blank range. When the archers ran out of arrows they dropped their bows and using hatchets, swords and the mallets they had used to drive their stakes in, attacked the now disordered, fatigued and wounded French men-at-arms massed in front of them. The French could not cope with the thousands of lightly armoured longbowmen assailants (who were much less hindered by the mud and weight of their armour) combined with the English men-at-arms. The impact of thousands of arrows, combined with the slog in heavy armour through the mud, the heat and lack of oxygen in plate armour with the visor down, and the crush of their numbers meant the French men-at-arms could “scarcely lift their weapons” when they finally engaged the English line.[50] The exhausted French men-at-arms are described as being knocked to the ground by the English and then unable to get back up. As the mêlée developed, the French second line also joined the attack, but they too were swallowed up, with the narrow terrain meaning the extra numbers could not be used effectively. Rogers suggests that the French at the back of their deep formation would have been attempting to push forward and quite literally add their weight to the advance, without realising that they were hindering the ability of those at the front to manoeuvre and fight, actually pushing them into the English formation of lancepoints. After the initial wave, the French would have had to fight over and on the bodies of those who had fallen before them. In such a “press” of thousands of men, Rogers finds it plausible that a significant number could have suffocated in their armour, as is described by several sources, and is also known to have happened in other battles.[51]

The French men-at-arms were taken prisoner or killed in their thousands. The fighting lasted about three hours, but eventually the leaders of the second line were killed or captured, as those of the first line had been. The English Gesta Henrici describes three great heaps of the slain around the three main English standards.[33] According to contemporary English accounts, Henry was directly involved in the hand-to-hand fighting. Upon hearing that his youngest brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester had been wounded in the groin, Henry took his household guard and stood over his brother, in the front rank of the fighting, until Humphrey could be dragged to safety. The king received an axe blow to the head which knocked off a piece of the crown that formed part of his helmet.[52]

Attack on the English baggage train

1915 depiction of Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt : The King wears on this surcoat the Royal Arms of England, quartered with the Fleur de Lys of France as a symbol of his claim to the throne of France.

The only French success was an attack on the lightly protected English baggage train, with Ysembart d’Azincourt (leading a small number of men-at-arms and varlets plus about 600 peasants) seizing some of Henry’s personal treasures, including a crown.[53] Whether this was part of a deliberate French plan or an act of local brigandage is unclear from the sources. Certainly, d’Azincourt was a local knight but he may have been chosen to lead the attack because of his local knowledge and the lack of availability of a more senior soldier.[54] In some accounts the attack happened towards the end of the battle, and led the English to think they were being attacked from the rear. Barker, following the Gesta Henrici, believed to have been written by an English chaplain who was actually in the baggage train, concludes that the attack happened at the start of the battle.[54]

Henry orders the killing of the prisoners

Regardless of when the baggage assault happened, at some point after the initial English victory Henry became alarmed that the French were regrouping for another attack. The Gesta Henrici places this after the English had overcome the onslaught of the French men-at-arms and the weary English troops were eyeing the French rearguard (“in incomparable number and still fresh”[33]). Le Fevre and Wavrin similarly say that it was signs of the French rearguard regrouping and “marching forward in battle order” which made the English think they were still in danger.[55]

In any event, Henry ordered the slaughter of what were perhaps several thousand French prisoners, sparing only the most high ranked (presumably those most likely to fetch a large ransom under the chivalric system of warfare). According to most chroniclers, Henry’s fear was that the prisoners (who, in an unusual turn of events, actually outnumbered their captors) would realize their advantage in numbers, rearm themselves with the weapons strewn about the field and overwhelm the exhausted English forces. Although ruthless, Henry’s decision was thus arguably justifiable given the situation of the battle; even the French chroniclers do not criticise him for it.[56] In his study of the battle, John Keegan [57] argued that the main aim was not to actually kill the French knights but rather to terrorise them into submission and quell any possibility they might resume the fight, which would probably have caused the uncommitted French reserve forces to join the fray, as well. Such an event would have posed a mortal risk to the still-outnumbered English and could have easily turned a stunning victory into a mutually-destructive defeat, as the English forces were now largely intermingled with the French and would have suffered grievously from the arrows of their own longbowmen had they needed to resume shooting. Keegan also speculated that due to the relatively low number of archers actually involved in killing the French knights (roughly 200 by his estimate), together with the refusal of the English knights to assist in a duty they saw as distastefully unchivalrous and combined with the sheer difficulty of killing such a large number of prisoners in such a short space of time, the actual number of French knights killed might not have even reached the hundreds before the reserves fled the field and Henry called an end to the slaughter.[58]

Aftermath

The lack of reliable sources makes it impossible to give a precise figure for the French and English casualties (dead, wounded, taken prisoner). However, it is clear that though the English were outnumbered, their losses were far lower than those of the French. The French sources all give 4,000–10,000 French dead, with up to 1,600 English dead. The lowest ratio in these French sources has the French losing six times more men than the English. The English sources vary between about 1,500 and 11,000 for the French dead, with English dead put at no more than 100.[59] Barker identifies from the available records “at least” 112 Englishmen killed in the fighting, including Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, a grandson of Edward III.[3]

One widely used estimate puts the English casualties at 450, not an insignificant number in an army of about 8,500, but far fewer than the thousands the French lost, nearly all of whom were killed or captured. Using the lowest French estimate of their own dead of 4,000 would imply a ratio of nearly 9 to 1 in favour of the English, or over 10 to 1 if the prisoners are included.[60]

The French suffered heavily. Three dukes, at least eight counts, a viscount, and an archbishop died, along with numerous other nobles. Of the great royal office holders, France lost her Constable, Admiral, Master of the Crossbowmen and prévôt of the marshals.[61] The baillis of nine major northern towns were killed, often along with their sons, relatives and supporters. In the words of Juliet Barker, the battle “cut a great swath through the natural leaders of French society in Artois, Ponthieu, Normandy, Picardy.” [62] Estimates of the number of prisoners vary between 700 and 2,200, amongst them the Duke of Orléans (the famous poet Charles d’Orléans) and Jean Le Maingre (known as Boucicault) Marshal of France.[63]

Although the victory had been militarily decisive, its impact was complex. It did not lead to further English conquests immediately as Henry’s priority was to return to England, which he did on 16 November, to be received in triumph in London on the 23rd.[64] Henry returned a conquering hero, in the eyes of his subjects and European powers outside France, blessed by God. It established the legitimacy of the Lancastrian monarchy and the future campaigns of Henry to pursue his “rights and privileges” in France.[65] Other benefits to the English were longer term. Very quickly after the battle, the fragile truce between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions broke down. The brunt of the battle had fallen on the Armagnacs and it was they who suffered the majority of senior casualties and carried the blame for the defeat. The Burgundians seized on the opportunity and within 10 days of the battle had mustered their armies and marched on Paris.[66] This lack of unity in France allowed Henry eighteen months to prepare militarily and politically for a renewed campaign. When that campaign took place, it was made easier by the damage done to the political and military structures of Normandy by the battle.[67]

Notable casualties

French

Notable casualties (most named by Enguerrand de Monstrelet[68]) include:[69]

Leading officers:[citation needed]

Three dukes:

Seven counts (eight with d’Albret):[citation needed]

and some 90 bannerets and others, including:[citation needed]

English

Notable casualties included:

Prisoners

Among the circa 1,500 prisoners taken by the English, were the following French notables:[citation needed]

Numbers at Agincourt

Anne Curry in her 2005 book Agincourt: A New History, argues (based on research into the surviving administrative records) that the French army was about 12,000 strong, and the English army about 9,000, giving odds of 4–3.[2] By contrast, Juliet Barker in her Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle (also published in 2005) argues the English and Welsh were outnumbered “at least four to one and possibly as much as six to one”.[75] She suggests figures of about 6,000 for the English and 36,000 for the French, based on the Gesta Henrici‍ ’​s figures of 5,000 archers and 900 men-at-arms for the English, and Jean de Wavrin‘s statement “that the French were six times more numerous than the English”.[76] The 2009 Encyclopædia Britannica uses the figures of about 6,000 for the English and 20,000 to 30,000 for the French. The 1911 Britannica used somewhat different figures of 6,000 archers, 1,000 men-at-arms and “a few thousands of other foot” for the English, with the French outnumbering them by “at least four times”.[77]

With one of the lowest estimates for the size of the French army and also one of the highest estimates for the size of the English army, Curry is currently in a minority in suggesting that the odds were as near equal as 4–3. While not necessarily agreeing with the exact numbers Curry uses, some historians have however given support to her assertion that the French army was much smaller than traditionally thought, and the English somewhat bigger. Bertrand Schnerb, a professor of medieval history at the University of Lille, has said that he thinks the French probably had 12,000–15,000 troops.[78] Ian Mortimer, in his 2009 book 1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory, notes how Curry “minimises French numbers (by limiting her figures to those in the basic army and a few specific additional companies) and maximises English numbers (by assuming the numbers sent home from Harfleur were no greater than sick lists)”, but agrees that previous estimates have exaggerated the odds, and suggests that “the most extreme imbalance which is credible is fifteen thousand French troops against 8,100 English: a ratio of about two-to-one”.[79]

However, Clifford J. Rogers, professor of history at the United States Military Academy at West Point, has recently argued that archival records are too incomplete to substantially change his view that the English were outnumbered about 4–1.[78][80] Juliet Barker also disagrees with Curry’s arguments in the acknowledgements section of her 2005 book on Agincourt, saying: “Surviving administrative records on both sides, but especially the French, are simply too incomplete to support [Curry’s] assertion that nine thousand English were pitted against an army only twelve thousand strong. And if the differential really was as low as three to four then this makes a nonsense of the course of the battle as described by eyewitnesses and contemporaries.”[81]

Those supporting a greater imbalance have generally put more store by contemporary (and especially eyewitness) accounts. The Gesta Henrici gives plausible figures for the English of 5,000 archers and 900 men-at-arms, but Mortimer notes it is “wildly inaccurate” in stating the English were outnumbered 30–1, and there have also been doubts as to how much it was written as propaganda for Henry V. The proportions also seem incorrect, as from surviving records we know that Henry set out with about four times as many archers as men-at-arms, not five and a half times as many. Those who have supported the Gesta figures for the English army have generally thought that although the English army may have left Harfleur with eight or nine thousand men, it is plausible that after weeks of campaigning and disease in hostile territory they would have lost two or three thousand fighting men; however Mortimer states: “Despite the trials of the march, Henry had lost very few men to illness or death; and we have independent testimony that no more than 160 had been captured on the way.” [82]

As Mortimer notes, the Burgundian numbers for the size of the French vanguard of 8,000 men-at-arms in the vanguard with 1,400 (or 2,400) men-at-arms in the wings correspond roughly with the figures of ten thousand men-at-arms recorded by the duke of Berry’s herald. The Burgundians also recorded 4,000 archers and 1,500 crossbowmen in the “vanguard”, which would suggest “fourteen or fifteen thousand fighting men”.[82] (It should be noted that the Burgundians actually give the total size of the French army as an implausible 50,000,[83] and the numbers they use do not correspond closely to the odds they describe. Using very similar numbers, Jean Le Fevre states that the English were outnumbered 3–1, whereas Wavrin states that the English were outnumbered 6–1.[84])

One particular cause of confusion may have been the number of servants on both sides. Mortimer suggests that because there were a much higher proportion of men-at-arms on the French side, the number of non-combatants was much higher. Each man-at-arms could be expected to have a page, who would have ridden one of his spare horses. If the French army had an extra 10,000 mounted men (as opposed to only 1,500 extra for the English), then “the English probably did see an army about three times the size of their own fighting force”.[85]

It is open to debate whether these should all be counted as non-combatants; Rogers (for example) accepts that the French probably had about 10,000 men-at-arms, but explicitly includes one “gros valet” (an armed, armoured and mounted military servant) per French man-at-arms in his calculation of the odds.[86]

Popular representations

The 15th century Agincourt Carol

Soon after the English victory at Agincourt, a number of popular folk songs were created about the battle, the most famous being the Agincourt Carol, produced in the first half of the 15th century.[87] Other ballads followed, including King Henry Fifth’s Conquest of France, raising the popular prominence of particular events mentioned only in passing by the original chroniclers, such as the gift of tennis balls before the campaign.[88]

The most famous cultural depiction of the battle today, however, is through William Shakespeare‘s Henry V, written in 1599. The play focuses on the pressures of kingship, the tensions between how a king should appear – chivalric, honest and just – and how a king must sometimes act – Machiavellian and ruthless.[89] These tensions are illustrated in the play by Shakespeare’s depiction of Henry’s decision to kill some of the French prisoners, whilst attempting to justify it and distance himself from the event – this moment of the battle is portrayed both as a break with the traditions of chivalry, and as key example of the paradox of kingship.[90] Shakespeare’s depiction of the battle also plays on the theme of modernity – Shakespeare contrasts the modern, English king and his army with the medieval, chivalric, older model of the French.[91] Shakespeare’s play presented Henry as leading a truly English force into battle, playing on the importance of the link between the monarch and the common soldiers in the fight.[92] The original play does not, however, feature any scenes of the actual battle itself, leading critic Rose Zimbardo to characterise it as “full of warfare, yet empty of conflict.”[93]

The play introduced the famous St Crispin’s Day Speech; Shakespeare has Henry give a moving narration to his soldiers just before the battle, urging his “band of brothers” to stand together in the forthcoming fight.[94] One of Shakespeare’s most heroic speeches, critic David Margolies describes how it “oozes honour, military glory, love of country and self-sacrifice”, and it forms one of the first instances of English literature linking solidarity and comradeship to success in battle.[94][95] Partially as a result, the battle was used as a metaphor at the beginning of the First World War, when the British Expeditionary Force‘s attempts to stop the German advances were widely likened to it.[96]

Shakespeare’s version of the battle of Agincourt has been turned into (several minor and) two major films – by Laurence Olivier in 1944, and by Kenneth Branagh in 1989. Made just prior to the invasion of Normandy, Olivier’s gives the battle what Sarah Hatchuel has termed an “exhilarating and heroic” tone, with an artificial, cinematic look to the battle scenes.[97] Branagh’s version gives a longer, more Realist portrayal of the battle itself, drawing on both historical sources and images from the Vietnam and Falkland Wars.[98] In his film adaptation, Peter Babakitis uses digital effects to exaggerate realist features during his battle scenes, producing a more avant-garde interpretation of the fighting at Agincourt.[99] [clarification needed]

The battle remains an important symbol in popular culture. For example, a mock trial of Henry V for the crimes associated with the slaughter of the prisoners was held in Washington, D.C. in March 2010, drawing from both the historical record and Shakespeare’s play. Participating as judges were Justices Samuel Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The trial ranged widely over whether there was just cause for war and not simply the prisoner issue. Although an audience vote was “too close to call”, Henry was unanimously found guilty by the court on the basis of “evolving standards of civil society”.[100][101][102]