Battle of Crecy (Hundred Years War - 26th August 1346)

During the opening years of the Hundred Years War the English army once again found itself in France under the leadership of Edward III, King of England. The English were retreating northwards towards Flanders closely followed by a large French army under the command Philip IV, King of France. Ten miles north of Abberville, the vastly outnumbered English turned to give battle to the pursuing French army.

The English fielded approximately 5,500 archers, 1,000 WELSH infantry (just in case of any complaints from our Welsh friends) and 2,500 men at arms. A total of around 9,000 fighting men. Ranged against them was the cream of the French army; 6,000 professional infantry including the famed Genoese crossbowmen, 10,000 men-at-arms and 14,000 feudal militia, a total of 30,000 men.

The English position lay along a shallow ridge between Crecy and Wadicourt, with the archers formed up in wedges on the flanks of the men-at-arms. Holes had been dug along the entire front in order to hinder the charge of the French cavalry.

With parts of the his army still strung out in line of march, Philip, confident in his numerical advantage decided to attack with his Genoese crossbowmen. Outranged by the English longbowmen, there ranks were shot to pieces and as they fled they were ridden down by the impatient French knights as they surged forward to attack. Most of the latter were also shot down in hail of arrows and those that did reach the English lines were cut down by the men-at-arms in localized counter attacks. Throughout the day as each division of French knights reached the battlefield they attacked over the same ground and by late evening there had been as many as fifteen charges, each repulsed with heavy casualties.

With the chivalry of France decimated by an army one-third its size, the English victory sent shockwaves through Europe. It signalled the end of centuries of domination of the battlefield by the mounted knight. A major factor in the French defeat was their failure to understand that they were dealing with disciplined, professional infantry whose weapon handling skills and tactics had been honed to a pitch of high efficency. It took a special kind of man to stand firm in front of a determined cavalry charge and repeated charges had failed to break the English line.

By the time Philip withdrew the remnants of his army he had lost 1,542 nobles and knights with 10,000 infantry and militia killed. The English army had lost 100 men.

After the battle Edward resumed his march and besieged Calais which fell the following year. The French army had been destroyed.

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