The Remembering Flodden Project

Tour of the Battle   3. Armed for the Fight

Although this spot is very tranquil these days, it was here in this dip where the battle was centred and where most of the slaughter took place. Today the land is drained by a ditch, but 500 years ago this area was a marsh, made into a quagmire by weeks of autumn rain. When the two armies met, thousands of feet began to churn up the ground. As men began to fall and blood began to flow, the whole area became a seething, slimy morass.

The picture below shows typically armed soldiers from each of the two armies. Most of the Scots carried long, unwieldy pikes which relied on tight formations for their effectiveness. The typical English soldier carried a billhook, a much shorter weapon which could be thrust in short, piercing jabs or swung like an axe. Given the conditions, which way would you prefer to have been armed?

The Scottish battle plan was to use their French-trained pike formation to cut through the English lines but everything fell apart when they reached here. They sank knee-deep in the mud, lost momentum and the tight formation that made the pike such a devastating weapon. It was then that the English struck, jabbing, cutting, pulling and hacking with the billhooks. When it came to this close-quarter, hand-to-hand fighting in such difficult conditions, the Scots proved to be at a serious disadvantage.

Armed for the fight