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    Bannockburn 1314: Robert Bruce's great victory

    Bruce Coville Paperback Books. He knew that Bruce was dangerous and warned Edward of the strength of the Scottish position in the New Park, where the woods had been made impassable by blocking the narrow pathways. In fact this was true, the leading troops were pressing forward eagerly, leaving much of the army straggling and strung-out over many miles to the rear. The leadership similarly was in disarray as King Edward, in a foolish gesture of favouritism towards his nephew, the young Earl of Gloucester, had appointed him not only constable of the army on this occasion but also joint commander of the vanguard with Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford.

    The older and more experienced Hereford was by right the hereditary Constable of England. As neighbouring lords of the Welsh Marches, there was a long-standing and bitter rivalry between the De Bohuns of Brecknock and the Clares of Glamorgan. Panorama of the Bannock Burn valley looking north towards Stirling Castle from the English line of advance.

    The course of the Bannock Burn is marked by a line of trees in the middle distance. Gillies Hill. Ben Lomond. Coxet Hill. Flagpole and rotunda on site of the borestone. Stirling Castle. Ochil Hills. The course of the Bannock Burn is marked by a line of trees in the dip in the middle distance. The afternoon shadows were lengthening when Edward and his entourage halted to decide whether the army should take up quarters for the night or fight that day.

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    The vanguard knew nothing of this delay but rode on towards the New Park. As they emerged from the Torwood they saw the Scottish mounted reconnaissance force withdrawing before them and spurred their mounts forward in pursuit towards the entry to the New Park. To the fore was the Earl of Hereford with his strong retinue of knights and men-at-arms, among whom were his brother Gilbert and his hot-blooded nephew Henry. As the leading groups of horsemen crossed the open valley of the Bannock Burn, the Scots pikemen began to emerge from the woods ahead and form up to oppose their advance.

    Henry de Bohun was a good bow-shot to the fore and, as he drew rein before the Scots, he sighted a knight mounted on a spirited grey palfrey, arraying his pikemen with an axe in his hand; the double tressured lion of his surcoat and the glint of gold from the crown encircling his bascinet identified him as the Bruce. De Bohun, sensing that his moment of glory had come, wheeled his charger and spurred towards the king with an arrogant taunt on his lips.


    Bruce set his horse towards his challenger, who bore down full-tilt. The axe shaft shattered with the impact and De Bohun crashed from the saddle, dead before he hit the ground. The ranks of pikemen formed an impenetrable, bristling hedge of steel-tipped pikes against which the charge of the horsemen of the English vanguard, far outstripping their infantry support, foundered in bloody confusion.

    Gloucester, at the head of his troops, was dragged to safety as his horse was killed under him in the thick of the fray. With a great shout, the Scots surged forwards and the English horsemen turned and fled, beaten and in disorder.

    The Scots pursued them but the well-mounted English escaped with little further loss. Bruce recalled his men and withdrew to the safety of the wooded New Park. The Bruce made no answer but bemoaned the loss of his good battle-axe. The Vita gives a rather less heroic account of the duel. Estimates of the strength of this mounted squadron vary, but it was far more than a patrol or raiding party, it was undoubtedly a formidable fighting force. However, this is not confirmed by contemporary writers. Grey offers no explanation.

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    It seems that the English at this stage were still confident that the Scots did not intend to fight a pitched battle outside Stirling. However, we can be sure that there was neither liaison nor co-ordination between these advance units of the English army, and both may have started out under the delusion that they were pursuing an enemy in full retreat. Henry de Bohun, hot-blooded nephew of the Earl of Hereford, was at the forefront of the English vanguard as it emerged from the Torwood.

    Scorning flight Bruce turned his grey palfrey towards his challenger and as De Bohun thundered towards him nimbly swerved aside. Standing in his stirrups he brought his battle-axe crashing down on the helmet of his opponent. The blow cut through the helm and bit deep into the brain of the impetuous young knight, killing him instantly and shattering the shaft of the axe.

    The Scots lords chastised their king for taking such a risk, but Bruce remained unrepentant, lamenting only the loss of a good axe.


    Graham Turner. They were unopposed and must have thought their way to Stirling was clear. Bruce made no dispositions to cover an advance further out on the carse, so presumably he considered the terrain there impractical. Moray was annoyed and angry with himself and set about restoring the situation, and with no more than hastily assembled men he hurried to confront Clifford.

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