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Bloodiest Battle on British Soil

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Ian Dunn
798054.  Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:00 am Reply with quote

It appears to be the little known Battle of Towton.

The Battle was part of the Wars of the Roses and took place in 29th March, 1461 (making this year the battle's 550th anniversary). It is believed that between 50,000 and 80,000 people fought and 28,000 people were killed - almost 1% of the popluation of England at the time.

This summer it is believed that Britain's largest mass grave will be unearthed between Towton and Saxton, 12 miles south of York.

Source: The Independent on Sunday

 
Sadurian Mike
798056.  Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:09 am Reply with quote

Is Towton that little known? It was one of the most significant of the battles of the Wars of the Roses and there is a famous painting by Caton Woodville commisioned as an illustration in a book about British battles.

One reason for the slaughter was that many of the Lancastrians tried to escape across the river, not a good idea in driving snow and in armour whilst being pursued by horsemen and being shot at by longbowmen.


EDIT: Found the picture.

 
ali
798058.  Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:18 am Reply with quote

While the exact location is not known for certain, and Tacitus cannot be regarded as an unimpeachable source; he suggests (in book XIV, chapter 37 of his Annals) that the decisive battle between the forces of Boudicca and Rome resulted in a British death toll of 80000 to Rome's 400.

Quote:
Chapter 37. [The decisive battle]

The engagement began. The Roman legion presented a close embodied line. The narrow defile gave them the shelter of a rampart. The Britons advanced with ferocity, and discharged their darts at random. In that instant, the Romans rushed forward in the form of a wedge. The auxiliaries followed with equal ardour. The cavalry, at the same time, bore down upon the enemy, and, with their pikes, overpowered all who dared to make a stand. The Britons betook themselves to flight, but their waggons in the rear obstructed their passage. A dreadful slaughter followed. Neither sex nor age was spared. The cattle, falling in one promiscuous carnage, added to the heaps of slain. The glory of the day was equal to the most splendid victory of ancient times. According to some writers, not less than eighty thousand Britons were put to the sword. The Romans lost about four hundred men, and the wounded did not exceed that number. Boudicca, by a dose of poison, [ended] her life. Poenius Postumius, the Prefect in the camp of the second legion, as soon as he heard of the brave exploits of the fourteenth and twentieth legions, felt the disgrace of having, in disobedience to the orders of his general, robbed the soldiers under his command of their share in so complete a victory. Stung with remorse, he fell upon his sword, and expired on the spot.

 
suze
798113.  Sun Mar 20, 2011 9:10 am Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
Is Towton that little known? It was one of the most significant of the battles of the Wars of the Roses and there is a famous painting by Caton Woodville commisioned as an illustration in a book about British battles.


Sadly Mike, it probably is little known to people who are very much younger than you and me.

Most GCSE History specifications are devoted to the twentieth century, and in Lesson 1 a guy in a fancy suit takes a bullet in Sarajevo. A few cover the nineteenth (although this is more often the main topic of study at A level), and some of the specifications have options on the History of Medicine and on the Elizabethan period.

Pre-GCSE, the period 1066 to 1500 is normally covered in Year 7, and the main topics are usually the Norman Conquest and "Life in the Olden Days". The Wars of the Roses will get a mention, but often only a cursory one, and won't come up again until A level (if then).

 
Sadurian Mike
798114.  Sun Mar 20, 2011 9:13 am Reply with quote

ali wrote:
While the exact location is not known for certain, and Tacitus cannot be regarded as an unimpeachable source; he suggests (in book XIV, chapter 37 of his Annals) that the decisive battle between the forces of Boudicca and Rome resulted in a British death toll of 80000 to Rome's 400.

Standard practice for ancient sources is to divide the numbers quoted by a considerable amount.

Especially in cases where the victor is writing about the level of victory for home audiences. The phrase "According to some writers," is another dead giveaway!

 
ali
798248.  Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:37 pm Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
Standard practice for ancient sources is to divide the numbers quoted by a considerable amount.


I agree, but I think that the figures quoted for Towton should be divided by at least a certain amount, and the Tacitus account is still the highest claimed butcher's bill.

 
T J Alex
891059.  Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:48 am Reply with quote

Before the Battle of Towton Moor, both sides declared that they would neither seek nor grant quarter .

Archeological Digs have confirmed that at least some prisoners were killed and thrown into a ditch after they'd ceased fighting.

 
soup
891080.  Sat Mar 03, 2012 7:03 am Reply with quote

I had never heard of Towton mind you I never did history beyond 2nd year[1] and I am a jock so was taught a lot more about Culloden, Prestonpan, Bannockburn, Stirling bridge etc.
Have heard of a battle at Sedgemore but I have no idea who won indeed I have no idea who was fighting.

[1] I seem to remember spending an inordinately long time drawing a leather strap and buckle on my history folder and spending a long time building/investigating a viking village.

 
Efros
891090.  Sat Mar 03, 2012 7:29 am Reply with quote

My history teacher must have been a rebel, we spent a year studying ancient Egypt.

 
Posital
891190.  Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:33 pm Reply with quote

How about the battle of Malaya in 1941-2? Fought in British Malaya, which was British Soil. Maybe not that many dead, but over 100,000 captured.

Towtown gets the medal for English Soil.

 
Sadurian Mike
891197.  Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:53 pm Reply with quote

Official figures are a little over 130 000 captured of a total casualty figure of 138 708. PoWs don't generally count when it comes to 'bloodiestness', so we would have to use the figure of approximately 8 700.

Remember, however, that the figures are based on the number of troops sent to peninsula at the time. Care needs to be taken because they use numbers assuming theoretical full strength units (13 brigades at 10 000 each, plus a few thousand fortress troops)* and the number of missing is almost impossible to determine.

*9th Indian Division (2 brigades)
11th Indian Division (2 brigades)
8th Australian Division (2 brigades)
18th British Division (3 brigades)
12th, 28th, 44th, 45th Indian brigades
Singapore fortress troops


The War Against Japan, vol. 1 (HMSO, 1957)

 
Efros
891205.  Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:56 pm Reply with quote

Somewhat coincidentally the teacher I'm referring to was my teacher at Bourne School, sited at the Alexandra and Gillman Barracks in Singapore.



Gillman annex, my History classroom is right in the middle.

 
Posital
891264.  Sun Mar 04, 2012 4:01 am Reply with quote

Wow - it's amazing what they can fit into vans nowadays...

I suspect that the battle of malaya wasn't really a single battle anyway.

 
Zebra57
891374.  Sun Mar 04, 2012 12:19 pm Reply with quote

Soup wrote: "Have heard of a battle at Sedgemore but I have no idea who won indeed I have no idea who was fighting."

The Battle took place on 6 July 1685 in Somerset and involved the forces of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, who was the illegitimate son of Charles II and the forces of the King. His attempt to seize the Crown from his uncle James II failed and ended in his brutal execution and his followers experiencing the summary justice of Judge Jefferies.

 
duglasbell@hotmail.co.uk
1247726.  Mon Sep 04, 2017 11:52 am Reply with quote

Zebra57 wrote:
Soup wrote: "Have heard of a battle at Sedgemore but I have no idea who won indeed I have no idea who was fighting."

The Battle took place on 6 July 1685 in Somerset and involved the forces of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, who was the illegitimate son of Charles II and the forces of the King. His attempt to seize the Crown from his uncle James II failed and ended in his brutal execution and his followers experiencing the summary justice of Judge Jefferies.


It's often said that this was the last pitched battle to be fought on English soil but this is debatable.

A much later contender is the Battle of Bossenden wood, fought in 1838 between a small group of labourers from the Kent area and a detachment of troops from the Canterbury area sent to arrest their leader. eleven men were killed in the confrontation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bossenden_Wood

 

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