Plan_of_Leith_showing_the_French_fortifications_of_1560

7th May A Forgotten Failure – the Siege of Leith 1560

560px-Siege_of_Leith_map,_1560A good Quiz question.  Which foreign army occupied a Scottish port for over a decade in the middle of the C16th?

A:The Siege of Leith ended a twelve-year encampment of French troops at Leith, the port near Edinburgh, Scotland. The French troops arrived by invitation in 1548 and left in 1560 after an English force arrived to assist in removing them from Scotland. They finally left under the terms of a treaty signed by Scotland, England and France.

Siege of Leith here.

Wikipedia article

Site opn the History of Leith 

One of the key episodes was the assault on 7th May 1560.    Elizabeth and her secretary William Cecil were exerting pressure on Norfolk for a result at Leith. To show that progress was being made, Norfolk started forwarding Grey’s dispatches and apologising for his deputy’s “humour”, asking that Elizabeth should send Grey a letter showing her thanks. Norfolk brought in expert military advisors, Sir Richard Lee and his own cousin Sir George Howard, who Norfolk believed would bring the siege to a rapid conclusion. Norfolk wrote to William Cecil on 27 April that it was a shame to have “to lie so long at a sand wall.”

It was planned to storm the town before daybreak on 7 May. In early May cannon were deployed to make a substantial breach in the western ramparts.  The assault was to be carried out in two waves, the first at 3.00 am by 3,000 men, the second by 2,240, with a further 2,400 holding back to keep the field. William Winter would wait for a signal to land 500 troops on the quayside of the Water of Leith at the Shore inside the town. As a diversion, Cuthbert Vaughan’s 1,200 men with 500 Scotsmen were to attack from the south, crossing Leith Links from Mount Pelham. James Croft’s men would assault from the north-west, presumably at low-tide.

Mary of Guise, Regent of Scotland from 1554 to 1560
Mary of Guise, Regent of Scotland from 1554 to 1560

There was an accidental fire in Leith on 1 May which burnt in the south-west quarter. The next evening Grey planted his battery against the west walls and started firing before 9.00 am, writing to Norfolk that his gunners had not yet found their mark. Next day, Grey was worried that the French had effected repairs so the town appeared even stronger. He continued with the bombardment and ordered his captains to try small-scale assaults against the walls to gather intelligence. Cuthbert Vaughan measured the ditch and ramparts for making scaling ladders.

The attempt was now scheduled for 4.00 am on Tuesday 7 May and by two hours past daylight the English were defeated. Although there were two breaches, the damage to the walls was insufficient. None of the flanking batteries were disabled, and the scaling ladders were too short. The result was heavy losses estimated at 1000 to 1500 Scots and English.

A report by Peter Carew estimated a third of the dead were Scottish. However, Carew’s total of six-score dead, which was followed by George Buchanan, is roughly a tenth of the other reports. The accountant Valentine Browne noted there were 1,688 men unable to serve, still on the payroll, hurt at the assault or at various other times, and now sick or dead. The author of the Diurnal of Occurents put the total number slain at 400.[61] Humfrey Barwick was told the French collected the top-coats of the English who had reached and died on the walls, and 448 were counted. The French journal claims only 15 defenders were killed. John Knox and the French journal attributed some of the casualties to the women of Leith throwing stones from the ramparts.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Leith

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