Respect is paid to the thousands who lost their lives

A jet flies over the Flodden monument on the 500th anniversary of the battle
A jet flies over the Flodden monument on the 500th anniversary of the battle

From near and far, they came to pay respect. Thousands lost their lives on a blood-soaked Flodden Field on September 9, 1513. Five hundred years on, hundreds came to remember.

Tourists travelled from America and South Africa to the site on anniversary day. Clan societies, re-enacters, political activists, locals and others who wanted to mark the day joined them on a climb up the steps to the memorial .

2013 Coldstreamer Grant Campbell is joined in laying a wreath Laying at Flodden Memorial

2013 Coldstreamer Grant Campbell is joined in laying a wreath Laying at Flodden Memorial

Quincentenary day itself was not marked by one big event on Monday. But around 300 people were intrigued enough by the Flodden story to join historian Clive Hallam Baker as he talked and walked through the events of the day on a 
guided tour on the battle site. The tour moved through the places where the action happened in real time.

The atmosphere was one of commemoration: voices were lowered, and the loudest sound was a lone piper playing outside a nearby church.

Harold Hansen, 70, and son Kevin, 46, who both travelled from Wisconsin in America, were moved by the setting.

Mr Hansen Snr said: “It’s so shocking that so many died in such a short time, not just on the Scots side but both. It’s a very visceral experience coming here. We had ancestors from the Borders, and it’s likely that some may have died here.”

History student Margaret Ann Fletcher came from Falkirk to pay her respects. “It was the last time a British king died on the field, so it had real significance,” she said.

So significant that it changed the course of Scottish and British history.

The Scots had marched into England in support of the French, who had called upon them to fulfil their side of the Auld Alliance.

But James IV’s 30,000 men, armed with unwieldy 18ft pikes, floundered in a bog, and were set upon by English troops carrying the lighter and more effective billhooks. It was a massacre.

The English lost some 4,000 men. But the Scots lost 10,000 men and their king. The loss of so many noblemen left behind a nation bereft of leaders. The scale of the defeat laid out the path for the union of the crowns 90 years later.

But the story of Flodden is being told by different people in different ways this year.

“It means different things to different communities and they want to do it in different ways,” explained Alistair Bowden, project manager for the Flodden 1513 eco-musuem.

A group of English Democrats carrying St George Cross flags laid a wreath commemorating the “memory of the brave Englishmen who came to Branxton to defend their country.”

It sat next to another floral arrangement which reads “Scotland remembers your sacrifice, sleep in peace”.

A third, a bouquet made of thistles and white roses, left by Scottish re-enactment group, the Borders Clansmen, found a more conciliatory tone: “In sincere memory of all those who fell in the Battle of Flodden”.

As the afternoon wore on Tornado jets screamed overhead while local artist Anna Dakin sat on the ground in front of the memorial, staring at the hill ahead of her, painting an abstract canvas to “try and capture my own feelings about Flodden”.

An interactive exhibition marking the quincentenary of the bloodbath was held in a marquee. Visitors could see displays and exhibits relating to the conflict through the day.

Volunteers from historical groups were on hand to describe the art of translating old documents from the period and giving people the chance to carry out their own translations.

This 500th anniversary year has spawned a raft of commemoration events, but one group always remembers.

The Flodden 1513 Club hold an annual service at the monument to the battle. Monday night’s service was for members and invited guests with readings and toasts, while members of the public watched and listened.

This year it was always going to be special.