The Battle

On the morning of 21st July 1403, as Percy hurriedly left Berwick, he was aware that his options were severely limited. The looked-for support from Glyndwr and Mortimer had not materialised; the River Severn blocked his path south; the King’s forces were now harrying his troops; his troops were for the most part raw recruits, and he was out-numbered. Flight was not an option, with Henry’s troops so close, yet his own untried forces were likely to disintegrate under pressure. Deciding to face his enemy Percy now sought the most favourable ground. Some two miles to the north-west of Berwick and close to the Whitchurch road is a flat plain with a ridge on the north side running east to west. It was here that Percy chose to make his stand.

Deploying his troops, probably numbering about 10,000, along the ridge he faced the king’s forces, perhaps 14,000, strong drawn up only a few hundred yards away, downslope to the south. Hostilities did not begin at once, as the Abbot of Shrewsbury attempted to negotiate a truce. When this failed the king’s archers advanced. Percy’s archers, who had the slight advantage of the rising ground, opened fire as soon as the royal troops were in range, to devastating effect as ‘men fell on the kin's side as fast as leaves fall in autumn after the hoar frost’. The royal archers returned fire but under the onslaught from the Cheshire bowmen they broke and fled back down the hill. Percy sent his men-at-arms in pursuit and a fierce hand-to-hand battle ensued. At this stage the rebels had the upper hand, having pushed the royal troops back several hundred yards.

Percy and Douglas now led some of their finest knights in a direct assault upon the king, and had they succeeded in killing him then the battle would surely have been theirs. But the king was persuaded to fall back from the mêlée and the rebels did not reach him. Meanwhile Prince Harry on the Royalist left wing now swung his force around to attack the rebel’s right flank. Wheeling around still further Harry was able to attack the rebels from the rear. Percy’s forces were now hemmed in between the two Royal divisions. In the bloody fighting that followed Prince Harry was hit in the face by an arrow but, after remarkably successful surgery he was to survive. Percy was not so lucky, he was struck in the eye with an arrow and killed instantly. With Percy’s death the rebel cause disintegrated, his troops fleeing the field, Henry’s forces pursuing them for three miles.


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