Battle of Neville’s Cross at Durham, October 17th 1346
Context – The Hundred Years War
In the summer of 1346 the hundred years war took a disastrous turn for the French King, Phillip IV, when King Edward III of England led a massive invasion into France, winning substantial and shocking victories including the battle of Crecy which witnessed the destruction of “the flower of the French aristocracy” at the hands of English long-bowmen. Before Crecy, Edward moved through the French countryside pillaging and looting, rather than capturing and holding. Now he could afford to hold territory and so laid siege to Calais. In desperate need of relief Phillip implored his old ally the Scottish King, David II, to invade England and divert Edward’s attention. Unfortunately for King David and the Scotts, Edward foresaw this threat and stationed a sizeable force to counter any Scottish incursion.
David entered England on October 7th with approximately 10-12,000 men. The army headed towards Durham, sacking and burning as they went and reached their target on October 16th. During this time the English moved some 6 to 8 thousand troops in two separate groups north to reinforce Durham including a large contingent of English and Welsh Bowman. Only half of that force was to reach Durham in time.
On the morning of October 17th a Scottish raiding party stumble upon
the approaching English army and experienced heavy casualties. Upon
hearing the startling and altogether unforeseen news that an English
army was so close at hand, David decided to take up immediate
defensive positions on a nearby ridge. The English army, in the mean
time, was allowed to take the best strategic position. Both armies
formed up three battalions in defensive positions, though the
English formed a fourth kept back in reserve. The two armies faced
each other for the better part of the day, each wishing to fight a
defensive battle. David was finally drawn out in the afternoon by
David managed to escape capture during the battle but was captured as he hid under a bridge and remained English prisoner for 11 years. The Scottish army is thought to have lost approximately 1,000 dead and many captured, while the English suffered “very few killed.” The English invaded Scotland the next year, virtually unopposed.