Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A detour to Flodden Field - Scotland's tragedy PART 2

Our walking tour of Flodden Field continues....

Having 'advanced' down the north face of Branxton Hill and managed (just) to stay on our feet, Toggy and I found ourselves in the 'Killing ground'.


Explaining the dilemma facing the Scots in the bog

At the foot of Branxton hill the size of the depression between the two positions becomes all to apparent. This dip is now drained by a modern drainage ditch about two feet wide and permanently wet to a depth of a foot or so it appeared.

Looking along the line. The King is reckoned to have fallen at the trees behind Tog's right shoulder.

At the time of the battle the ground was not drained and formed a wide, wet bog. For an close order pike block which had just slithered down a steep hill and was probably coming under artillery and archery fire it would have proved to be the worst possible news. In the picture above the line of the ditch can be seen in the yellow grass running parallel to the hedge behind Toggy.

On this ridge the English Army stands or sallies to attack us

Imagine then, 6 or 7 similar pike blocks of between 1,000 and 2,000 men arriving simultaneously having taken the same slide down the hill on a frontage of about 1,000 yards.  The front ranks would have contained heavily armoured nobles and knights.

Archery and artillery from the ridge line into our pike block - our view

The press from behind combined with the desperation of being stuck in the mud must have compelled many to attempt to get up the hill. Although on our left the Earl of Hume has broken the enemy and is now on the higher, dry ground we are still facing stiff resistance.


At the spot behind me King James is reckoned to have fallen to multiple blows and arrows

The English Army has used reinforcements to curl around the Scots' right flank and now launches an attack on the line from the east. It is reckoned this force contained many longbow men.

Safety is all to far away at the top of Branxton Hill.. no way back

We have no reserves and the entire army apart from Hume's victorious left flank is stuck in the bog being cut to pieces from front and right flank. It is possible that our Border troops have 'done a deal' with their English counterparts and decided on a non aggression encounter. Hume although victorious was later executed for his failure to assist the rest of the army and win the battle,

It's all over, the army is caught in the bog and outflanked

All is lost, the command structure has disintegrated. The battle is all about personal survival. The front rank of nobles, lords and bishops suffers proportionately. The King is cut down by archers and billmen.

Looking at the Scots position(skyline) from the heart of the English position

Some of the dead (probably Lords and nobles) of both sides are brought to the small church in Branxton. Casualties are estimated at 14,000 across both armies. The Scots Army has effectively ceased to exist.

The memorial cross on the position taken by Hume on the English right

The lament still played for both military commemorations and some civilian funerals 'The Flowers of the Forest' - a haunting solo pipe tune remembers the destruction of the Scots Army at Flodden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTkGNcntD7s

A fine version by Isla St Clair and worth a listen. The bag pipe version is also very haunting.

A haunting place

Branxton church is a little modified from its original form but not too much. The cemetery is more modern and is full of border names which exist on both sides of the line.

The weather closed in after about 90 minutes of walking and a blustery and wet April Sunday made us run for the cover of a warm car.  Unforgettable and truly haunting - one of Britain's most evocative battlefields.  

2 comments:

  1. These have been very interesting posts Barry. Very thought provoking.

    ReplyDelete

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