The Battle of Vernuiel

By Geoff Towers
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The harvest was nearly white.

France was prostrate, the land ravaged and denuded, bled of her children, bled of her wealth. Illustrious captains dead, defeated, captured, her armies destroyed and dispersed, her people in despair, hope dying, vitality seeping away in a war, now, almost one hundred years old. Her arrogant attacker, victories, their blood lust, came upon her once again. Now as the final battle for her soul approached she was all but helpless against this, her most dangerous foe.

One last effort against the curs(e)d Saxon, Bauge* had given her a momentary breathing space, nothing more. Just time to raise her last army, to bring in her allies, the Scots, the lombardians, the remains of her nobility, the remains of France.
At dawn on the 17th August 1424 with the Oriflamme  raised the French and their allies marched out of the walled city of Vernuiel and onto the plain that lay before them. In their courage, lay the fate of France. On the city walls, the population watched in silence as the great host past through the North gate.
People in the city began to point, not at the French, but at movement 4 miles to the North, towards the forest of Piseux.

                           The 'Goddamns'*were here!

Moving like lean grey wolves, the English moved out of the forest on that, hot August morning and made straight for the French army, forming up before them,  little more than a league distant. To their left the towers and walls of Vernuiel stood out blue and indistinct against an azure sky.
The English battles maneuvered into the 'Agincourt' formation. My Lord Bedford ( Thomas Lancaster ),  noting the ground much favouring cavalry put this tried and tested formation into practice, placing 4000 of his archers on the left, 4000 to his right and 1800 men at arms in the centre two ranks deep. The archers were to be protected by the by now usual hedgehog of stakes cut from the forest bivouac.
The French centre under Armalle consisted of 4000 men at arms, 10,000 Scots men at arms and archers under Archibold Douglas,( our old friend from Homildon hill ) 4000 cavalry on the right, 2000 French plus 2000 lombardian mecenaries' with the much vaunted armour, rumoured to be impervious to the sheaf arrow. Confidence mixed with anxiety permeated the schizophrenic Frenchmen, only the Scots, confident as usual, in their own prowess and numbers, proud, issued no quarter.......none was forthcoming.

Sailsbury's coat of arms
Bedford and Salisbury advanced to within bow shot of the French host at around 4 of the clock. The archers of his left division proceeded to hammer in their stakes. Being a hot summer,  the ground had baked hard, much difficulty was encountered in the placement of their hedgehog. Observing this the French cavalry seized their chance and charged the English bowmen, running down those too slow to move into the protection of the men at arms. With tremendous esprit de corps the archers rallied and merged with the centre of Bedfords army. The cavalry swept through the now none existent left wing, instead of reforming and charging the archers again, carried on to the baggage train, which lay 1/4 mile away. Unknown to them, ( the French ) it was guarded by 2000 archers of the rear guard, who, seeing the battle before them, itched to be involved, they were about to get the itch scratched.
2000 French cavalry charged toward the rear guard, were met by archers who had had time to drive in their stakes, were dreadfully mauled, veered off the battlefield and were seen no more. Meanwhile the lombardian cavalry charged toward the left of the English but the archers that had re formed in with the centre battle, shot them away before they could close. Seeing easier pickings in the baggage, like the French horse before them, veered away and made straight for it.
Aware of and perhaps despite the Italian claim that they could withstand the sheaf, the archers of the rear guard awaited the Italian charge with interested confidence. I say this because I have in my possession a description of the battle from one of my ancestors who fought for my Lord Salisbury and who was in the rear party.
                                 His name was William de France and this is his transcript;

"Ah tell thee summat for nowt.  When old Tom ( Bedford ) telt us to stay with the baggage, there were a reet uprore. Fuggin ell! Wee all said, an all was reet strowly. But Old Tom got his hangin face on so we shut up quick. Watch my back e said, so we did. We waited a long time afore owt happend, saw the lads on the left get a bit dusted but they managed to get sorted, the Frenchy horse just poked at em! Then they came for us, surprised when they saw us, but we just shot em off the field, no idea where they went. Then it were the Lombards, they came at us at a fast old lick like. Not had not time to collect our shafts that Jonny Crapaud had copped, but we still had plenty. Some of the Craps horses were still down an thrashin about which made it difficult for the Lombards to maintain the pace, an that broke things up a bit, but were makin a better fist of it than the Frenchies. We started to gaul them at around the 400 pace mark, a few flowers* peeled off but that were all. So then we gave em the chisels* at 300. A lot did bounce off, an still they come on, but slower now. Shot at a steady six up to that point, but then upped the rate to all out when it was down to 200, which was what you could manage. When you see all those big horses coming at you, the 'Gents' wanting to kill you, you manage, a lot! When they got closer, around 150 they started to tumble, shafts cutting em down, armour? Not keeping anything out. Shafted them right good an proper I can tell you. Well after that little kiss they sheered off an went away, I know not where!

The centenaurs an the ventenaurs got us all together because we could see our lads hard pressed agin the Schottiss. So we legged it up to our Lord Salisbury, tipped our hats as we passed, drew our falchions an speared straight into the left of the hellions. Then it was a reet hacking game I can tell you, heads, arms, legs flying all over the place, more blood spurting than a goose fair." IBID

Bedford, having badly beaten the main French body under Armalle, forcing it to flee in panic, to the utter dismay of the watching citizenry, back across the moat and into the city. The brave Armalle, desperately trying to rally his men was drowned in the moat, sinking like a tyre iron in a swimming pool.
Of that great army of France only the Scots were left. Bedford, peeling of from the pursuit of the main body came at the Scots from their right as they faced and were fixed by Salisbury. With the rear guard archers attacking the Scots on their left, the trap was complete. With the issue by themselves under the Oriflamme, of no quarter, the Lions of  the North received none.
The losses were staggering, of the 18,000 French, Lombards and Scots who saw the sun rise, only 4000 saw the sun go down.
As for ourselves, we lost 1600 men, bad day for us
France called it the second Agincourt. They were right. It was the culmination of 1066.When Norman and Anglo Saxon combined their fates and for good, or ill attacked the 'Vasty fields of France' *
                                   All honour was now theirs

Until that loony French tart from Domremy came along and spoilt everything.........

* Goddamns...English soldiers always swearing this word. French then called them this as an example of their devilishness and lack of respect for God.
* Bauge...battle the English lost.
* Flower..Frightened
* Chisels..Hardened bodkin points
* William Shakespeare.....Henry V
* Loony French tart..........Guess!

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