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The Battle

After taking the town of Harfleur Henry moved into France. He had abandoned his original plans and now simply intended to travel across country to Calais to show hi disdain of the French army.

On the 24th October he found his way barred by a French force of 25,000 heavily armed French troops.

They settled in for the battle which would surely see the English wiped out the next day.

 

By this time Henry had only 6,000 men, comprising of 5,000 archers and 1,000 men-at-arms. However the archers were armed with a weapon that was to command battlefields for years to come, the longbow.

Probably welsh in origin the longbow required immense physical strength to fire, but it had a huge range and experienced men could fire 12 arrows in a minute, the crossbow could manage only two. The English had perfected the art by forcing the populace to practice on Sundays, it was even against the law to play football on a Sunday. Even today many villages and towns still have a village green which was originally used for this purpose, some are even referred to their ancient name 'The Butts'.

Henry deployed his small army and waited. The huge French army, which was led by Charles D'Albret, sat and waited for the English to make a move so that it could go in for the kill.

Henry decided to move and advanced to within 200yards of the French with the cry 'Advance banners!'

They advanced across the field to a position that could not have suited them better. From there they sent a volley of arrows which struck ferociously into the first French ranks

There had been steady rain and the ground which was ploughed was soft and muddy, in addition the field was narrow so thick woods protected that Henry's flanks. This also forced the huge numbers of French to bunch together as they advanced.

As they came forward the English archers fired their first volleys, some into they air so that they rained down on their victims and some horizontally like snipers bullets. Within five minutes the entire first wave of French were reduced to a helpless bloody mess struggling in their heavy armour.

Their arrows gone the lightly armoured English archers darted about the struggling French masses, retrieving arrows and dispatching struggling men-at-arms with daggers. Still the French came on, pushed forward by national pride and aristocratic arrogance. Time again the waves of attack were decimated, the English now protected by a wall of French dead. Finally the French reserves led by the Duke of Brabant made a last heroic attempt to break the English line, but he effectively joined a lost battle just in time to be killed.

Aftermath

The French losses were put at 10,000 including its commander Charles D'Albret. Only a handful of English were lost. Henry like his men had shown immense bravery in the face of overwhelming odds and had been assisted by bungling form the French and very favourable conditions. It was a great victory, which handed the English psychological advantage over their old adversary for hundreds of years to come.

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