Tuesday 22 November 2011

Britain's 20 Worst Military Disasters 6 - the Battle of Castillon 1453

The Hundred Years War had been going on since 1337.   It is often described as a conflict between England and France, but that is not quite true.    In fact, the English kings ruled a lot of France when the war began, including Aquitaine in the south, and Ponthieu in the north, and many ‘Frenchmen’ served in ‘English’ armies.

By 1453, the French king Charles VII had virtually driven the English out, but many people in Aquitaine wanted them back, and so an army under England’s best general, John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury – the ‘English Achilles’, went out to try to exploit their discontent.

On July 16, he set off to relieve the town of Castillon to which the French were laying siege.   He came upon a small French force and routed them.  Then a messenger from Castillon told him they had seen clouds of dust coming from the main French camp.

Thinking the enemy were beating a hasty retreat, Talbot launched an attack even though many of his troops had not yet arrived.    In fact, only the camp followers had been leaving, and French artillery cut down the English mercilessly, inflicting a decisive defeat and virtually ending the war.

*There’s much more on Castillon in my BFBS interview:-

The Aberdeen Press and Journal published a piece on Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters on November 16, and the Tamworth Herald on November 17.

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