1066 prototypes (9 MAR)
9 MAR 2021
The Battle of Hastings took place on the 14th October 1066. Although the numbers on each side were about equal, William had the advantage of having both cavalry, infantry and many archers.
The battle opened with the Norman archers shooting uphill at the English shield wall, …to little effect.
In the battles between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes in England, most of the Saxon army would have consisted of the inexperienced Fyrd, which was a militia composed of free peasants. The shield wall tactic suited such soldiers, as it did not require extraordinary skill, being essentially a shoving and fencing match with weapons.
Relatively lightly trained fyrdmen gained morale from being shoulder-to-shoulder with their comrades, but often fled once this was compromised. Once the wall was breached, or the commander was lost, it could prove difficult or impossible to re-establish a defensive line, and panic usually set in among the defenders.
In the early Saxon period and as late as the 10th century it was regarded as a disgrace for retainers to leave the field of battle alive if their lord had been killed, unless the victory was theirs. Such men as did were declared “nithing” and no longer existed in the eyes of the law. The heavy slaughter of Vikings at Stamford Bridge in 1066 was probably a result of many of the Vikings resolution to die with their king.
Saxon battle-cries recorded by the 12th century historian Wace, which were supposed to have been used at Hastings were “Olicrosse” (Holy Cross), “Godamite” (God Almighty, and “Ut, Ut” (Out, Out). It is also recorded that there were two Saxon traditions when describing their battle formations. Whenever Kentish men accompanied the King in battle, theirs was the right to strike the first blow, and that it was also the right of Londoners to guard the King’s person and standard.
The Bretons were originally from the ancient province of Brittany which lies in the northwest peninsula of France. Formerly known as Armorica, a possession of the Roman Empire, this land consists of a plateau with a deeply indented coastline, and is broken by hills in the west. The region was renamed Britannia Minor by the Romans, following the emigration of six thousand Britons across the English channel, an event which took place at the behest of the Roman commander in Britain.
The Bretons constituted one third of the Norman forces at Hastings, and were to play a significant role in the Norman conquest of England.
During the Battle of Hastings, there is evidence that Alan Rufus led William’s Household Knights whilst Alan’s brother Breon led the left wing. This put Alan in the perfecr position to co-ordinate feints with his brother. Breon would draw the inexperienced Saxon fyrdmen forward, and the other would follow in behind and isolate the pursuing Saxons. This was a modification of tactics used by the Bretons for many years. An example being the Battle of Jengland AD851.
Unfortunately the Bretons will not be available until mid to late 2021.