Saturday, 3 March 2012

King Edward III's invasion of France moves on from Caen, 1346

Caen Castle Gateway
On 31 August 1346 the English army turned their backs on the shattered city of Caen and headed east towards Rouen, where King Philip was gathering a mighty French army to defeat them.

The landscape through which the English marched was eerily empty and silent. The delay at Caen had given the local French plenty of time to evacuate the villages and smaller towns, taking everything of value with them. The business of chevauchée still demanded that desolation be inflicted, so all buildings except churches were set on fire and anything that could be found was destroyed.

Edward left a small force at Caen to watch Bertrand and his garrison in the castle. The Acta Bellicosa calls these “a few men”, while Richard Wynkeley and Bartholomew Burghersh fail to mention them at all. Given that Bertrand had some 3,000 men with him, it is unlikely that Edward gave his few men orders either to lay siege to the castle or to try to defeat Bertrand in battle if he sallied out. Presumably they were to hang about to keep an eye on things for a while, then ride off to find Edward or put to sea down the Orne.

The French made much of the fact that when Bertrand sallied out he defeated Edward’s covering force with ease. But then the French were in need of some good news.

The 1 August 1346 was spent by King Edward III getting the army and its lengthy supply train across the River Dives and its adjacent marshes and swamps. There was just one narrow road across the soft ground, so the carts had to go in single file while the men splashed along beside them. 


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