Anniversaries of two major battles
We are heading up to the anniversaries of two major battles on Scottish soil.
The one that everyone should be aware of now is the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. The other is the 363rd anniversary of the Battle of Dunbar.
The battles have one thing in common and that is the defeat of armies with overwhelming numbers by far smaller armies made up of professional soldiers.
In the case of Flodden, the Yorkshire and Cheshire regulars of the Earl of Surrey (later Duke of Norfolk) took on a Scottish army made up, mainly, of pressed men. A majority of the Scottish army was untrained, unfed, ill equipped and there because not to be there would mean they would lose property or employment. They had to fend for themselves as far as food was concerned and they had to arm themselves. Even the Earl of Surrey’s men hadn’t had a proper meal for two days because supplies had been delayed.
At the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, was a Scottish army made up of men who had been forced from their homes (contemporary reports tell us that until Haddington, Cromwell’s invading army saw no man over age of 10 or under the age of 60). Men were driven from the Borders into the environs of Edinburgh, leaving women, children and elderly at the mercy of the invaders.
Not only were the majority of the Scots ill fed, but their Presbyterian leaders also imposed a day of fasting on the day before the battle. Cromwell’s men were given what shelter and food was available during the night before the battle and, most importantly, their officer stayed with them, whereas the Scottish officers went off to their billets.
Many people try to make out that Flodden was not an invasion attempt by the Scots, but in 1509, even before he was crowned, Henry was warned of James IV’s intentions towards him - one very good reason for Henry not to pay his sister Margaret’s dowry to James.
Thomas Spinelli (later Sir Thomas Spinelli), Henry VII’s eyes and ears in Europe, warned Henry that James was having guns cast in Antwerp for use against England. James also had timber laid up in France for the construction of a 1,000 ton vessel which later entered into service for the French. James probably thought that a youngster like Henry would be easy meat.
Dunbar was different in that Cromwell’s army was the invading army. The invasion was ordered by the English Parliament whilst Cromwell was in Ireland.
The reasons given were: 1. The Duke of Hamilton’s attempted invasion of England to rescue Charles I; 2. The Scots proclaiming Charles II King of England and raising an army to impose both Charles and Prebyterianism on the English people. Thomas Fairfax refused to lead an army into Scotland and so the burden fell on Oliver Cromwell.
What the Scots failed to recognise was their own part in the overthrow of Charles I. It was the Scots who first rebelled against the imposition of the ‘Common Prayer Book’. It was then the Scots who found it impossible to deal with the perfidious Charles after he escaped to their camp at Newark and sold him to the English Parliament, rather like Pilate handing Jesus over to the Jewish authorities and washing his hands.
In both the Battle of Flodden and the Battle of Dunbar, the English are accused of massacre when actually it was the Scottish commanders’ incompetence and their cycnical use of untrained men as, what can only be called ‘cannon fodder’, which was responsible for the massive losses. That and the fact that the ‘Borderers’ decided to raid the losing Scots’ encampment and the Scottish soldiers ‘fell on the French soldiers’ for getting them into that mess at Flodden.
Had the Scots won either battle, there would have been a massacre of English soldiers and if the Scots had won at Flodden, they would certainly have attempted an invasion. Which is why Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s Regent, had raised and mobilised an army of 40,000 and marched it to Woburn by the time of the results of the battle reached her. There was also another, smaller army marching from Nottingham to Northumberland at the time of Flodden.
All of the information about Flodden has been gleaned by myself from the state papers of King Henry VII and the state archives of Milan and Venice, all of which are available to view on ‘britishhistoryonline.ac’.
The information on the Battle of Dunbar has been taken from various sources including ‘The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell’ by Thomas Carlyle, ‘Oliver Cromwell’ by John Buchan and various other authors, including House of Commons Journals (also available on britishhistoryonline.ac.
On September 3, at 6am, I will be standing on the top of Doon Hill overlooking the battlefield at Dunbar, waiting for the sun to come up, out of the ‘German Sea’. By 7.30am I will head off in search of a cup of tea, being that in 1650, the battle was all but over by that time and by 9.30am a Scottish messenger had arrived at St Giles to inform its congregation of the Scottish defeat.
Recent years have brought forward people who question Cromwell’s generalship. Many say that Lambert was the better general, or Monck or Blake, but many people would say that Beckham was a better footballer than Alex Ferguson. Perhaps, like Ferguson, Cromwell was an excellent judge of people and deserves the credit for the fact that he never commanded a lost battle or ever had to come to terms in order to survive.
Both Flodden and Dunbar deserve to be remembered, if only for the fact that at both times the Scottish army had superior numbers and strong positions and were defeated by armies which were marched out, hungry and with a high incidence of sickness, including dysentry. Cromwell himself suffered from malaria all through the Scottish campaign. An old man of 50 who first took up the sword only three or four years previously.
Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, became the Duke of Norfolk, making room for his son, also Thomas Howard to become Earl of Surrey. This familial shuffle caused me some confusion during my initial studies.
Dunbar was the first battle in which General George Monck’s regiment fought and it was basically the same regiment, later know as The Coldstream Guards, that restored the monarchy in 1660 by marching frrom Scotland to restore order in England where factions were working towards another Civil War.
General Monck was later to become Duke of Albermarle and General Sir David Leslie, the Scottish commander at Dunbar, was later to become Earl of Newark.
General Leslie also saw action at the Battle of Marston Moor, fighting for the Parliament, and at Worcester, fighting for King Charles II. He had fought under the Earl of Leven in the Palatinate Wars and was a brave and skillful general.
His downfall at both Dunbar and Worcester was due mainly to politicians and clerics not letting him do his job. Some things never change.
One final note is that the accounts of Thomas Howard in the state records of Henry VIII show that the ‘Mary Rose’ was also involved in escorting the Earl’s ships north. The discovery of which added to the joy of trawling through the state records. It must have been a worrying time for the people who built her and fitted her out because it was only late on in 1513 that the bills for her build and fitting were submitted!
High Street, Ayton.
Entitled to our opinions
Further to your article (August 15) regarding last week’s left-wing media frenzy about my political comments made on behalf of the Traditional Britain Group, I remain steadfast in my belief that all of us are entitled to our political opinions whether they be left-wing or right-wing.
We are supposed to live in a country which prides itself on freedom of thought and expression.
The demonisation of individuals because their views differ is Stalinist and unacceptable in a free society.
The local groups I belong to and have served faithfully are non-political and exist to serve all in the community. I believe that I have always done this.
Dismay and frustration
I would like to express my feelings of dismay and frustration over Gregory Lauder Frost’s comments on Mrs Lawrence’s recent elevation to the House of Lords on Newsnight, BBC2.
To say there is no merit in it and that she is a complete nobody was, I believe, an appalling thing to say and utterly wrong.
After her son’s murder, it was the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police to find the culprits.
As it happens they failed in this because, basically, they didn’t care. It is this apathy in our core institutions that, if unchecked, will spread and cause our society to rot away and eventually fall into chaos.
Mrs Lawrence has been campaigning tirelessly to achieve justice for her son for nearly two decades. Whilst doing so her, and her family, have displayed the most humbling dignity, self control and patience.
Precious few of us would be able to display the same under her circumstances. Because of this she is an example to us all.
Her years of hard work has eventually forced the Met into a state of self examination and improvement.
As Gregory Lauder Frost knows only too well - with his double first in Russian History - a mothers love for her child lies at the very core of Western Civilisation.
This overrides every other consideration in society, including; race, religion, politics, war, prejudice, violence, bigotry etc.
With this in mind I feel that Mrs Lawrence’s recent peerage is wonderful news.
Her elevation to the House of Lords will fuel it with some much needed value and relevance in the world of today. She will breathe new life into it and give it a resonance it sadly lacks at the present time.
Summer full of memories
We would like to express our thanks to everyone who has shown support throughout Reivers week and all the other festivals throughout the summer from Berwick to Coldstream.
Seeing a familiar face cheering in the crowd made all the difference to a summer full of memories we will never forget.
A special thanks must go to the Duns Summer Festival Committee and the Ex-Reivers Association for all of their help and support throughout.
Duns Dings A’
Reivers Party 2013,
Danger to Pinkfoot Geese
Pinkfoot Geese will commence to appear at Hule Moss (Greenlaw Moor) within a matter of weeks, if not days.
Average numbers - taken over a 22 year period - are, 12,050, and that’s the ones I know about!
Flight route, as they move out, will be in a direct line towards the feeding grounds at Bemersyde Moss, Whitrig Bog and Smailholm.
Sadly, early into their flight they could be faced with the proposed windfarm at Rumbletonrig, with disastrous consequences.
It is worth adding that this is not a NIMBY tale - from the hide at Hule Moss at least five or six wind farm sites are evident.
James D. Lough,
Norris Close, Duns.
Support your local shows
There is a lot of media cover about the Great British Bake Off programme but we have been having baking competitions at our local flower shows etc for years.
Also the WRI organise cooking demonstrations and craft classes.
So don’t just view it - do it and take part in your local show or join a WRI, there is one near you.
Mabons Place, Chirnside.
Immediate action needed
Walking along Spittal promemade last Wednesday I noticed, in the distance, the personal flag of the Queen flying alongside the Lion Rampant of Scotland.
Since you make no mention in your latest editions of a visit by the Queen to Spittal, I can only presume that the flag is being flown in ignorance.
The Royal Arms are only flown when the Monarch is actually present.
No other person or company has the right to fly this flag at any time. As it represents the Monarch, the flag is also never flown at half-mast as when a monarch dies their successor is immediately in office.
Misunderstanding about this caused complaints at the time of Diana’s death when people claimed that the flag flying over Buckingham Palace should be lowered to half-mast as a token of respect.
I would suggest that the company involved with the bouncy castle at Spittal and Berwick Council take immediate action to take down this flag.
Edington Mill, Duns.
Money will fund nurses
On behalf of the Berwickshire Fundraising Group, I would like to thank all those who supported our coffee morning in Duns Parish Church Hall on Saturday, June 29.
The event was most successful and the sum of £509.10 was raised.
This will go towards funding Marie Curie nurses who provide nursing care for the terminally ill in their own homes.
This can take the form of a short visit in order to allow relatives to carry out essential shopping or it can be an entire 9 hours night shift which allows relatives a period of well earned rest, without having to be continually on the alert.
The service is free to those who require it, but it is not a fully funded NHS service. Marie Curie Cancer Care providing 50% of the finance required to keep the service running, and this 50% has to be raised by voluntary donations or local fundraising.
If anyone would like to help with local fundraising or would like more information on Marie Curie Cancer Care, please do not hesitate to contact me on 018907 71547.
Secretary, Berwickshire Fundraising Group.