All posts by Frank

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

6th May 1644 Manchester Capture’s Lincoln

Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester

During the First English Civil War Lincoln was besieged between 3 May and 6 May 1644 by Parliamentarian forces of the Eastern Association of counties under the command of the Earl of Manchester. On the first day, the Parliamentarians took the lower town. The Royalist defenders retreated into the stronger fortifications of the upper town, which encompassed and incorporated Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral. The siege ended four days later when the Parliamentarian soldiers stormed the castle, taking prison the Royalist governor, Sir Francis Fane, and what remained of his garrison.

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Lincoln Castle

On 6 May, Lincoln Castle was stormed with scaling ladders, which proved to be too short, but the Parliamentarians nonetheless managed to scale the walls and enter the castle. The Royalists fled from the parapets, begging for quarter, which was granted. Parliamentarian casualties were eight killed and about 40 wounded. The Royalists had about 150 killed and between 650 and 800 taken prisoner.

Lincoln Historic Trust page on the siege  

The  Earl of Manchester’s Regiment’s Blog

5 May 1943 – A Turning Point in the Battle of the Atlantic

SS Harperely, sunk by U 264 on the night 4-5 May 1943
SS Harperely, sunk by U 264 on the night 4-5 May 1943, her master was Captain J E Turgoose

“Both torpedoes struck almost simultaneously on the port side, the first one in the vicinity of the engine-room, whilst the 2nd torpedo struck in the way of the fore-mast. The explosion was not very violent, and appeared to be more of a dull thud. I did not notice a flash, neither was there a column of water thrown up, although I later learned from survivors of another vessel that they saw a big flash. Neither the submarine, nor the track of the torpedoes was observed.  I was in the wheel-house at the time, and was surprised to find that apparently there was practically no visible damage. Even the glass windows of the wheel-house were unbroken, the only visible damage being that one of the port boats was destroyed and No. 4 raft had carried away. The ship listed very heavily to port, submerging the holes in ship’s side, thus making it impossible to see the extent of the damage.    Owing to the heavy list I ordered “abandon ship”. A W/T message was sent out, and the rockets fired, one of which failed to function. I endeavoured to ring the engine-room telegraph but found that it was jammed, although the engines must have stopped when the first torpedo struck as it was the first”  Extract from the Master’s Report on the loss of SS Harperley 4-5 May 1943

On the 5th May 1943  Slow Outbound Convoy Convoy ONS 5, outbound from Liverpool to Halifax lost eleven merchant ships to U Boat attack in a force 6 seas in the mid Atlantic.  The Battle of the Atlantic was the most important naval campaign waged by Britain in WW2 and the only matter which Winston Churchill said kept him awake at night

By the time the week long voyage n the course of a week, ONS 5 had been the subject of attacks by a force of over 40 U-boats. With the loss of 13 ships totalling 63,000 tons, the escorts had inflicted the loss of 6 U-boats, and serious damage on 7 more.

This battle demonstrated that the convoy escorts had mastered the art of convoy protection; the weapons and expertise at their disposal meant that henceforth they would be able not only to protect their charges and repel attack, but also to inflict significant losses on the attacker.

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U264, a type VII C U Boat. The SS Harperley was one of three ships sunk by this U Boat. over two years. She was sunk by depth charges dropped by the British sloops HMS Woodpecker and HMS Starling on 19 February 1944. There were no deaths, fifty-two men survived.

ONS 5 marked the turning point in the battle of the Atlantic. Following this action, the Allies inflicted a series of defeats and heavy losses on the U-boat Arm, a period known as Black May. This culminated in Dönitz withdrawing his forces from the North Atlantic arena.

The official historian, Stephen Roskill commented: “This seven day battle, fought against thirty U-boats, is marked only by latitude and longitude, and has no name by which it will be remembered; but it was, in its own way, as decisive as Quiberon Bay or the Nile”(1)

More on the battle here 

The ships lost on 5th May are shown in the following table from the U Boat Net. 

5 May 1943 U-264  Hartwig Looks Harperley 4.586  br
5 May 1943 U-264  Hartwig Looks West Maximus 5.561  am
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Bonde 1.570  nw
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Gharinda 5.306  br
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Selvistan 5.136  br
5 May 1943 U-358  Rolf Manke Bristol City 2.864  br
5 May 1943 U-358  Rolf Manke Wentworth 5.212  br
5 May 1943 U-584  Joachim Deecke West Madaket S 5.565  am
5 May 1943 U-628  Heinrich Hasenschar Harbury 5.081  br
5 May 1943 U-638  Oskar Staudinger Dolius 5.507  br
5 May 1943 U-707  Günter Gretschel North Britain S 4.635  br

Although the battle has no name or location other than a track over points of latitude  and longitude, there are places to see the U Boat war in Britain.

It is possible to see a U Boat in Birkenhead on Merseyside. This is a type XI larger than the type VII Uboats used by the German wolf packs against ONS 5.

U boat conningtower
U 534 preserved in Birkinhead

The Western Approaches control room in Liverpool is where the Atlantic war was fought.

The  Commonwealth War Grave Commission lists 736 fatalities on 4-5 May 1943, a time when there were operations on  land in Burma and Tunisia  and in the air over Germany. Of these 114 were lost at sea, most oif them in the battle for ONS-5

The merchant marine sailors who lost their lives on ONS 5  are recorded on the Tower Hill memorial to the missing.    The Royal Artillery and Royal Navy Gunners are listed on the Chatham , Portsmouth and Plymouth Memorials.

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Tower Hill Merchant Marine Memorial

If you would like to visit any of the places associated with this battle contact British Battlefields

4 May 1471 Battle of Tewksbury

EXAMPLE RATINGThe Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were completely defeated by those of the rival House of York under their monarch, King Edward IV. The Lancastrian heir to the throne, Edward, Prince of Wales, and many prominent Lancastrian nobles were killed during the battle or were dragged from sanctuary two days later and immediately executed. The Lancastrian king, Henry VI, who was a prisoner in the Tower of London, died or was murdered shortly after the battle. Tewkesbury restored political stability to England until the death of Edward IV in 1483.

The Lancastrians arrived at Tewkesbury first on 3rd May. They had marched swiftly for several days, covering the last twenty four miles in just sixteen hours, and so their troops were exhausted. With Edward hard on their heels Somerset chose to stand and fight, rather than risk his army being caught in a bottle-neck as they attempted the difficult crossing of the Severn at Lower Lode, a mile south of the Abbey.

Somerset had the choice of ground and he chose to set his camp in a pasture close called ‘Gastum’ (now The Gastons) to the south of the Abbey. The next morning, the 4th May, he probably deployed his army between the Gastons and Gupshill Manor, with his left flank against the Swillgate River (little more than a stream) and his right across the gently sloping ground to a stream on the west. Thus Edward arrived to find the Lancastrians already deployed and so he arrayed his army to the south of and parallel to Somerset’s.

The battle of Tewkesbury was to prove a decisive encounter, which ended the second phase of the Wars of the Roses. Edward IV’s victory and the death of Henry VI’s son and heir, shortly followed by Henry’s own death and Queen Margaret’s imprisonment, destroyed hopes of a Lancastrian succession and led to fourteen years peace.

There is an annual festival to commemorate the battle and the town  has recently erected new statures.

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3-4 May 1944.The Raid on Mailly-Le-Camp:- No Milk Run

“We were circling this flare for approximately half a hour and becoming increasingly worried as it appeared impossible to receive any radio instructions due to an American Forces Broadcasting Station blasting away. I remember only too well the tune, “Deep in the heart of Texas”, followed by hand clapping and noise like a party going on. Other garbled talk was in the background but drowned by the music.

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Memorial at Mailly-le-Camp Cemetery, France

Whilst this noise was taking place I was suddenly aware from my position that several Lancasters were going down in flames, about five aircraft and the fire in  each was along the leading edge of the main plane. I saw some of the planes impact  on the ground with the usual dull red glow after the initial crash.  My job was to keep my eyes open for enemy aircraft so I did not dwell for more  than fleeting seconds on those shot down planes.
Account by Sgt Eeles 49 Sqn

Pz  VI B  "King Tiger" Tanks training at Mailly -le-Camp
Pz VI B “King Tiger” Tanks training at Mailly -le-Camp

On 3–4 May 1944, during the German occupation of France, the town was subject to a heavy Allied bombing. During preparations for the Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord), 346 British Avro Lancasters and 14 de Havilland Mosquitoes of RAF Bomber Command attacked the German military camp situated near the village of Mailly-le-Camp. Mailly-le -Camp was a French military training area used by the germans for training their armoured Troops and the raid was an attempt to hinder the Germans preparing their reserved for the forthcoming invasion. .

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German PZ Mk V Panther Tank unloading at Mailly-le -Camp, presumably aftert the raid, from the damage to the station buildings.

Generally missions to targets in France rather than Germany were seen by the RAF as easy missions, and did not always count towards the number of operational sorties in a Bomber crew’s tour of duty. There were far fewer German night fighter and AA defences than over German cities, and the shorter routs gave the defenders less time in which to inflict casualties.

Although the target was accurately marked, communications difficulties led to a delay in the Main Force attack, during which Luftwaffe fighters intercepted the force. Subsequently, 1500 tons of bombs were dropped on the camp, causing considerable damage to the weapons and equipment held there and heavy casualties ot the Germans in the camp. No French civilians were killed in the bombing, although there were a small number of casualties when one of the Lancasters shot down crashed on a house.

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Bomb flash photograph from the Raid 3-4 May 1944

42 Lancasters – some 11.6% of the attacking force – were shot down – accounting for approx 300 personnel. Losses of 10% were regarded as unsustainable by Bomber Command. The losses on the 3-4th May were proportionately as bad as some of the raids on Berlin or the Ruhr.

The Commonwealth War Graves records show 356 RAF war dead on the 3rd and 4th May worldwide. Of these 299 are in France or on the Runnymede memorial. Mostly men in their early 20s. There were eighteen teenagers, including 18 year old Sgt Raymond Dance,(207 Sqn) from Benson Oxfordshire The two oldest, aged 36 were Sgt James Ellis (550 Sqn) and Sgt John MacDougall (431 Sqn ) from Canada.

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Before and after photogralhs showing damage to the barracks at Mailly-le-Camp

Thirty five men are listed as serving with 101 Squadron RAF,. (Though the RAF web site says that only 32 men were lost in four Lancaster Bombers) The RAF website entry also comments “101 Squadron flewon more raids than any other bomber Squadron during the bomber campaign and suffered the highest casualties, losing 1176 aircrew” It is sobering to consider that even at its largest establishment the squadron;might have had no more than 200 aircrew on its establishment.

The wikipedia Entry for this unit says “ 101 Squadron Lancasters were later equipped with a top secret radio jamming system codenamed “Airborne Cigar” (ABC) operated by an eighth crew member who could understand German, some with German or Jewish backgrounds known as “special operators” commonly abbreviated to “spec ops” or “SO”. They sat in a curtained off area towards the rear of the aircraft and located and jammed German fighter controllers broadcasts, occasionally posing as controllers to spread disinformation. The aircraft fitted with the system were distinctive due to the two large vertical antennae rising from the middle of the fuselage. Deliberately breaking the standing operating procedure of radio silence to conduct the jamming made the aircraft highly vulnerable to being tracked and attacked, which resulted in 101 Squadron having the highest casualty rate of any RAF squadron.” They certainly did over Mailly le Camp

800px-Lancaster_I_NG128_Dropping_Load_-_Duisburg_-_Oct_14_-_1944
A 101 Sqn Lancaster bombing on daylight raid on Duisburg, later in the war.

101 Sqn were based in RAF Ludford Magna. A stone memorial tothe Squadron’s dead, unveiled on the village green in July 1978, permanently marks its residency. Ludford Magna is twinned with the French Village of Voue whose churchyard is the burial place of nine men who died in the early hours of 4th May 1944. There is a emmorial to 101 Sqn in Ludford Magna. Although the airfield has been nretutrned to farmland it is possible to see the perimeter track.

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RAF Ludford Magna airfield today, with the remains of the perimeter track still visible

3 MAY 1944 TARGET #78 WIZERNES NO BALL

C10/V-2The war in the West was a race between the Allies and the Germans. Could the Allies mount D Day before the Germans had perfected a new generation of weapons which would terrorise Britain into submission. The German revenge weapons included the Fi 176 cruise missile, (the V1 flying bom), the A4 surface to surface ballistic missile (the V2) and a very long range gun, the V3.

Mimoyecques-Eperlecques-Wizernes_map
Map showing the location of Wizernes and two other V Weapon sites in the Pas de Calais

Ever since the allies became aware of the existence of these weapons the Allied air forces had mounted a bombing campaign against the structures that the Germans were building to house these weapons. This campaign cost the allies 1,900 aircrew, a comparable number of fatalities to those lost on D Day.

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1944 conjectre about the use of the Wizernes Site

On 3rd May 1944 the 8th USAAF Target was the the huge bunker at d’Helfaut-Wizernes, northern France. This vast structure was intended as a hardened launch centre for V2 and built with slave labour. This air raid was one of sixteen carried out by the allies air forces between march and the end of July 1944. 47 B24 Bombers of the 392nd Bombardment Group of the USAAF would drop 180 x 2000 lb bombs.

Briefing for crews was held between 0930-1000 hours. The mission was to be GH ship led with (22) aircraft carrying 2000# GP bombs. Despite fairly good visual bombing weather over the target with 3/lOths – 5/lOths cloud cover, bombing was poor with only a few hits in the target area of the (80) weapons released. While no enemy fighters were sighted, flak over the target was intense and accurate causing damage to (14) aircraft and wounding some crewmembers. No aircraft were lost and the mission recovered at base around 1740 hours after a 4 1/2 hour mission.http://www.b24.net/missions/MM050344.htm

B-24Bombs
B-24 Bomber being loaded with 2,000 lb bombs

The bombing by bombs of up to a ton in weight made no impact on the concrete dome, but wrecked the un-armoured facilites above ground, including the rail connections.

The bunker would be abandoned after a raid by 617 Sqn RAF :Lancasters and a on 17th July using six ton Tallboy bombs. Three of these exploded next to the tunnels, one burst just under the dome, and another burst in the mouth of one tunnel. The whole hillside collapsed, undermining the dome support, and covering up the two rocket vertical entry ways. The Germans abandoned the site in late July 1944.

Wizernes_low_level_6_July_1944
Photograph taken by a low flying RAF aircraft on 6th July 1944, before the raid by 617 Sqn RAF.

According the the French Records, the ultimate fate of the 1,100 Russian slave labourers who worked site is not known.

The Bunker complex is now a museum, easily accessible from Calais and a day trip from the SE of England. Although the Germans never used the site for its intended purpose, the sheer scale of the building , the conditions under which it was built and its sinister purpose make it a thought provoking place. It is part of the V weapon story and the defeat of the V weapon bombardment of London. The story of the aerial campaign waged by the RAF and USAAF against the V weapon sites deserves to be better known.

La Cupole Visitor Centre site

USAAF Official History – Chapter on Operation Crossbow

392 BG website

2 May – 70th Anniversary of the Largest Exercise ever staged in the UK

Troops_coming_ashore_from_landing_ships_during_an_invasion_exercise_in_Britain,_5_May_1944._H38213
Troops coming ashore landing from Landing ships during an invasion exercise in Britain 5 May 1944

Exercise Fabius 2-7 May 1944  was, arguably, the largest training exercise to take place in the UK.  It would be the final rehearsal for Operation Overlord .  It was a rehearsal of the landings on the four invasion beaches in the Normandy coast between the rivers Orne and Dives; ( Sword, Juno, Gold and Omaha beaches) .

Utah beach,  geographically separated from the other four beaches was considered a separate assault from  naval point of view. The rehearsal for the landing on Utah Beach was Exercise Tiger and took place on  26-30 April on Slapton Sands in Devon.

Ex Fabius  allowed participants the chance to rehearse under conditions as close as possible to those they would face.  It also allowed the ports to practice supporting a large scale landing.   This was a dress rehearsal with the landing forces approaching the beaches behind mine sweepers and landing craft lowered ten miles off shore.  The landings were accompanied by live firing from ships.

Men_of_6th_Battalion_the_Green_Howards_receive_48-hour_ration_packs_before_embarking_onto_landing_ships_during_Exercise_Fabius_5_May_1944._H38222
Men of 6th Battalion the Green Howards receive 48-hour ration packs before embarking onto landing ships during Exercise Fabius 5 May 1944. IWM H38222 These men will land on Gold beach a month later.

The assault troops for each of the D Day beaches would practice landing on a stretch of coast with a similar configuration to that they would face on D Day.   The exercise was too close to D Day for any  further experimentation or changes to the plan.  Some units would not return to their previous accommodation, but instread to their assault assembly area.

3rd British Infantry Division was assigned to assault Sword beach with the town of Ouistrhem and the River Orne on their left flank and the city of Caen as its objective.  On Exercise Fabius it landed near Littlehampton with the  River Arun on its Left and Arundel its objective.

beach_looking_west
On 5th May Hayling Island would substitute for Gold Beach.

Robin Dunn, who was Battery Commander  of 16 Battery of 7 Field Regiment claimed post war that there were problems which were identified and if put right would have  enabled the allies to do better on D Day.

” While at Bolney we had our final rehearsal of the invasion on the south coast near Arundel……..We had a new divisional commander, Tom Rennie, who had commanded  a brigade of 5lst Highland Division with distinction in 8th Army and had a high reputation. The commander of 185th Brigade was Brigadier K. R Smith, who had been with the brigade for some time and had so far in the war seen no action. He  was a good trainer of troops who had worked us hard during our training in Scotland. But he did not fully accept the role of the brigade in the divisional plan. We had  heard that 21st Panzer Division had been identified as having recently arrived about thirty miles inland of our landing beach. The presence of this division became a fixation in K.P.’s mind. He was haunted by the idea that, if 185th Brigade pushed too boldly inland, 2lst Panzer would come round our right flank, which was in open country and cut us off from the beaches. There was wooded country on the left and  KP. wished to infiltrate his infantry through the woods beside the river and approach the objective in that way along the divisional left flank. During our final rehearsal  he attempted this manoeuvre, which involved keeping one battalion on our original thrust line and passing the other two round their left flank in a wide turning movement. The result was chaos. The battalions became separated from one another  and the Brigadier lost communication with the flanking force which lost all momentum. I was at brigade HQ when Tom Rennie arrived and said wearily, ‘You won’t let this happen on the day will you KP?  It would have been better, even at that late stage, if he had sacked KP. on the spot.”  Robn Dunn   Sword and Wig.

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Littlehampton, the stand in for Ouestsrhem on the dress rehearsal for D Day

Although many fewer than on Ex Tiger, there were casualties on Exercise Fabius. On the Morning of 4 May twin engine fighter bomber aircraft of Coastal Command attached Allied motor boats inflicting many casualties.  Possibly the German attack on Ex Tiger had made the airmen a little trigger happy.

Places associated with the story of the training and rehearsals for D day can be found across Britain, from the sections of Atlantic Wall built in Scotland to the beaches which stood in for the Norman Coast.

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1 May 1464 – the Royal wedding which re-ignited the wars of the Roses

1st May 1464 is regarded as the date of the wedding of Edward IVth the Yorkist claimant and defacto King  to Elizabeth Woodville,  the widow of   Sir John Grey of Groby; who  died at the Second Battle of St Albans, leaving Elizabeth a widowed mother of two sons.

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Elizabeth Woodville: “the most beautiful woman in the Island of Britain” with “heavy-lidded eyes like those of a dragon”

Edward’s marriage to this impoverished commoner was one of the reasons for the rift between Edward and his cousin  Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick, “The King maker.”  By marrying Elizabeth, Edward  had derailed Warwick’s plans to marry Edward  to a French princess and undermined Warwick’s position as Edward’s principle adviser.   The consequences of the rift would be the resumption of the Wars from the rebellions fermented by Warwick in the late 1460s and Warwick’s eventual ill fated alliance with Margaret of Anjou and adoption of the Lancastian cause.

It has been suggested that the reason that the young Edward agreed to marry Elizabeth was because he had been influenced by Elizabeth’s beauty and her insistence on marriage as a price for her remaining virtue. Or maybe, as suggested by popular fiction she had used some occult charms  on Edward.

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King Edward IV

However, the idea that Edward was head over heels in love with Elizabeth deems at odds with his  subsequent  behaviour throughout their marriage,  Edward was also an astute politician.  His marriage to Elizabeth, from a large, fecund and impoverished  family  was not without its advantages,  It gave Edward a clan of followers entirely reliant on him.  It may have been a  mere co-incidence that Elizabeth’s dowry included the services of talended in laws such as Earl Rivers was a very fine soldier, or perhaps an eye for an opportunity.   Marrying the widow of a Lanacastrian was a gesture of reconciliation to others who took up arms for Henry VI.  It is around this time that Edward had tried to effect a reconciliation with Somerset.

The winner of this war was Elizabeth Woodville, whose descendants still occupy the British throne.

Possible site of the hermitage at Grafton
Possible site of the hermitage at Grafton

Although there was a state wedding in 1465 the secret wedding is alledged toi have taken place at the Hermitage in the village of Grafton.   There has  some archaeological work to find the site of the hermitage, reported here

There is also a traditional site of where Edward met Elizabeth under an oak street and offered to marry her,  a historic site of a clash in the battle of the sexes.

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The Woodville Oak” was where, according to local tradition Edward first met Elizabeth. The original oak died in the 1990s . This is a replacement planted by Prince Charles.

30th April 1524 –”Good night” for the Good Knight

Pierre_Bayard490 years ago, Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard, the commander of the French rear guard at the Battle of the Sesia, was mortally wounded by an arquebus ball, on April 30, 1524. This French soldier, generally known as Chevalier de Bayard, was renowned by his contemporaries as the fearless and faultless knight (le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche). He himself preferred to be referred to as “le bon chevalier”, or “the good knight”. The death of a man famed for his chivalry at the hands of an anonymous arquibussier appear to symbolise a transition in warfare. However the Bon Chevalier was much more than just a symbol. While most of his military services was in Italy and the borders of France, there are parts of his story which touches British Military history.

From the insular Britain the reign of the Tudors is fairly peaceful, fgive or take the odd Scottish incursion or Yorkist plot. But the forty years from 1490 was a turbulent time in Europe, with France at war for most of the time with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire was fought in Italy and along France’s still ill defined boundaries. This was a period when military technology, organisation and tactics were changing rapidly.

The wikipedia entry on Chevalier de Bayard lists his military service over thirty years service for three successive French monarchs Charles VII, Louis XII and Francis I mainly in Italy but also in Flanders. He seems to have played an important role in many of the battles of the Italian wars, from Charles’ ,VII’s campaigns .

The Chevalier de Bayard seems to have combined the personal qualities expected of a medieval knight with the professional abilities needed in the new world of gun powder, and pike and shot. While his chivalrous deeds and gallantry charmed Kings and courtiers – and Lucretia Borgia, he was far more than a dashing knight. He was a good organiser and trainer. In 1509 he raised a body of horse and foot which set the standard for discipline and battlefield effectiveness in an army which had previously despised infantry as a mere rabble. As a commander he was known for his accurate knowledge of the enemy, obtained by skilled reconnaissance and efficient espionage. In 1521, with 1000 men he had successfully held the “indefensible” city of Mezieres in the Meuse valley against an Imperial army of 35,000

Chevalier de Bayard defends the Bridge over the Garigliano near Minturno 1509
Chevalier de Bayard on the Bridge over the Garigliano

In 1503 the re was a battle on the line of , with the Spanish Army assaulted the French Army across the the River Garigliano, via bridges of boats. One of the more famous incidents of the battle is the single handed defence of a bridge over the Chevalier de Bayard single handed held off a force of 300 Spaniards. This took place close to the village of Minturno, close to where the British Army attacked in a similar fashion in January 1944 and a few hundred metres from the Commonwealth War Cemetery.

Troops of the Fifth Army near the Garigliano river 19 Jan 1944© IWM (TR 1527)
Fifth Army crossing the Garigliano 19 Jan 1944© IWM (TR 1527)
Map showing the crossing by 2nd  Wiltshires in relation to the site of the medieval bridge over the Garigliano
Map showing the crossing by 2nd Wiltshires in relation to the site of the medieval bridge over the Garigliano

Ten years later Bayard fought at the battle of Guines, known by the English as the battle of the Spurs, in which a French cavalry force was defeated by the English. Fleeing from the field Bayard was trapped, but noticing an English knight un-armoured and resting he forced the man to yield and then in turn offered himself as a prisoner. This act of chivalry endeared him to Henry VIII who released him on parole.

battleofspurs

On 30th April 1524 Bayard died in “the midst of the enemy, attended by Pescara, the Spanish commander, and by his old comrade, Charles, duc de Bourbon, who was now fighting on the opposite side. Charles is reported to have said “Ah! Monsieur de Bayard… I am very sad to see you in this state; you who were such a virtuous knight!” Bayard answered,“”Sir, there is no need to pity me. I die as a man of honour ought, doing my duty; but I pity you, because you are fighting against your king, your country, and your oath.”

That is an interesting view from a historic figure at a time which we assume is dominated by treachery, Machaivelli and mercenaries.

For more about Chevalier de Bayard check the following:-

His Wikipedia entry

The Battle of the Garigliano 1503 

and the Battle of the Garigliano in 1944

And the assault crossing 

The Battle of the Spurs 

and more documents on the battle of the Spurs

The Battle of the River Sesia 

To visit the battlefields of Chevalier de Bayard contact mus!

28 April 1944 – The Battle of Slapton Sands

US Forces rehearsing on Slapton Sands
US Forces rehearsing on Slapton Sands

Shortly after midnight on  28 April 1944 a German torpedo Boat flotilla ran into a convoy of landing ships containing US troops practicing for  D- Day.    Within a few minutes two tank landing ships were sinking and 749 soldiers dead.  The tragedy of Slapton Sands is commemoraterd by a monument, an M4 tank recovered from the sea.

More on the wikipedia article 

Pictures of the wrecks off the coast here

There are memorials on Slapton Sands. If you are interested in visiting Slapton Sands or seeing the places where the Allied armies rehearsed D Day contact British Battlefields.