Friday, 19 November 2010

On this day in Scottish Military History #10 - English Army returns to Berwick

In 1304 after six years of bitter fighting John Comyn had surrendered the Scots army at Strathord, near Perth , to King Edward I of England . That should have been the end of Scottish Independence.

The Scots had other ideas and over the next ten years a vicious guerrilla war was fought across Scotland and sometimes over the border into England .

English garrisons were attacked and the English retaliated by sending punitive expeditions into Scotland . In 1307 Edward I had decided to punish the Scots personally but died in Cumbria on the way here. It took his son three years to follow his lead.

In August 1310 King Edward II finally decided to lead an army north to beat the Scots. He advanced through the Selkirk and as far as Renfrew and then through Biggar, Lanark and Linlithgow trying to find the Scottish Army; but the Scots weren't ready to fight and led him and his army through the South of Scotland without committing to a major battle.

"Vita Edwardi Secundi", a contemporary English chronicle describes the campaign. It was written in Latin but here’s an English translation:

"The King entered Scotland with his army but not a rebel was to be found...At that time Robert Bruce, who lurked continually in hiding, did them all the injury he could. One day, when some English and Welsh, always ready for plunder, had gone out on a raid, accompanied by many horsemen from the army, Robert Bruce's men, who had been concealed in caves and woodland, made a serious attack on our men...From such ambushes our men suffered heavy losses"

Walter Scott provides more information in his "History of Scotland"

"..cutting off provisions, harassing their marches and augmenting the distress and danger of an invading army in a country at once hostile and desolate; and by this policy the patience of Edward and the supplies of his army were altogether exhausted".

After nearly three months wandering around the country, a frustrated and depleted English Army had to admit defeat and on this day 700 years ago they returned to their Border stronghold at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

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