On the Wing

Flying in the face of widespread left wing extremism!

October 24, 1415. Somewhere in France.

Posted by Exile on October 24, 2007

King Henry’s scouts arrived back at the English camp with the news that the French had now moved in front of the weary English and were effectively blocking their path. They estimated that a force of some 30,000 French had made camp in front of the English advance and were preparing for battle. Henry had little option but to stop and take stock of the situation. From the high ground to his front he looked out over a large newly ploughed field flanked on both sides by woods. On the distant horizon he could see the French camp. The ground fell away from him and then rose again to the French position to the north. The open field was to be the battlefield. Henry knew that openly charging and attacking the French was not possible. His tactic would have to be defensive. He would wait until the French attacked him.

archer.jpgThe majority of his forces were archers. 5,000 yeoman of good stock, they had practised their skill with the longbow since boyhood. They were the closest thing to a professional army ever mustered under an English king. Well paid for their services, well trained and not bound by the usual code of chivalry that the knights observed, these were hardened soldiers. Wearing light mail armour and armed with the bow, supplemented by a sword or axe for close combat, they were a flexible and highly manoeuverable force. Another 900 men, comprising Knights, nobles and common men at arms were to form the basis of Henry’s defensive lines.

The French forces were the usual mix of knights, noblemen and pressed peasants. They outnumbered the English by five to one. Most of the French nobility were among them. Well mounted on heavy horses, they represented a formidable cavalry. They were confident that they would simply sweep the English away with the use of mounted knights and a following assault on foot. The French were seen to be exercising their horses and practicing battlefield manoeuvres. Military exercises have been around for a long time.

Henry returned to this troops. They made camp and prepared to defend themselves. Henry made his plans and the men that had followed him made their peace with themselves and God and rested while they had the chance. Henry ordered that noise should be minimised in the English camp. Silence was to be enforced at the risk of losing horse and harness for his knights and the loss of an ear for the common soldiery. So effective was the silent behaviour of Henry’s troops, that the French observers during the night believed that the fires they could see were the remains of an abandoned position and that the English had left the field.
The French camp was another and entirely different affair. The knights there were engaged in gambling and bragging, wagering on who would kill whom, on how many they would kill and what ransom could be had from the coming battle. So confident were they of victory, that some had painted a cart with which they would transport Henry, dead or alive, to Paris and parade him through the streets.

While the English slept, fully expecting to be slaughtered the following day, the French celebrated a foregone conclusion. In their minds, they had already won the battle and France was free of the English.

It rained all night.

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