Battle of Halidon Hill

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Battle of Halidon Hill
Halidon Hill Battlefield (2007)
Halidon Hill Battlefield (2007)
date July 19, 1333
place Halidon Hill, Northern England (near Berwick-upon-Tweed )
output English victory
Parties to the conflict

ScotlandScotland Kingdom of Scotland

England kingdomKingdom of England Kingdom of England


Douglas Arms 1.svg Archibald Douglas

Royal Arms of England.svg Edward III. from England

Troop strength
approx. 7,500 men, including
• 900 horsemen
• 6600 foot soldiers
maybe 5000 men

at least 4,000 fallen


The Battle of Halidon Hill on July 19, 1333 was a battle of the Scottish Wars of Independence . In an attempt to relieve the besieged city of Berwick-upon-Tweed , the Scottish troops under Sir Archibald Douglas were crushed by the English on unfavorable terrain.


Since mid-March 1333 an English army under the command of the Scottish titular king Edward Balliol besieged the strategically important border town of Berwick. In May the besiegers were defeated by an army under the English King Edward III. reinforced. On July 15th, the Scottish defenders signed an armistice with the besiegers. In return, they declared that they would surrender on July 20th if a Scottish army on Scottish land had not defeated the English army by then. Alternatively, the English would lift the siege if two hundred Scottish men-at-arms reached the city. The Scottish Guardian Archibald Douglas had gathered a large army from all parts of Scotland to relieve the city. There is no precise information about the strength of the Scottish Army, it is estimated at around 7,500 men. Douglas had so far hesitated to face the English in open battle. Instead, he tried, similar to the siege of 1319 , to persuade the English to break off the siege by raiding northern England. Under the terms of the armistice, he was now forced to face battle if he did not want to give up the city. There is no precise information about the strength of the English army, but it was probably outnumbered by the Scots. Coming from Northumberland, the Scots crossed the Tweed to get to Berwick from the land side.


When the English king heard of the approach of the Scottish army, he deployed 500 soldiers to continue the siege of Berwick, while he moved with the bulk of his army to Halidon Hill, a hill over 160 m high that extends about three kilometers to the northwest from Berwick and dominates land access to the city. The Scottish army had spent the night after crossing the Tweed at Duns before attempting to attack the English army the next day. On the morning of July 19, one day before the end of the armistice, the Scottish Army marched towards Berwick, some twenty kilometers away. When the English saw the Scottish army approaching around noon, they were divided into three divisions for battle. The Earl of Norfolk as Marshal and Sir Edward Bohun as representative of his brother John , the Constable of England , commanded the right wing. The king commanded the middle division while Edward Balliol commanded the left wing. Each of the three divisions grouped the archers around their edges. Contrary to the chivalrous tradition, the English king, probably on the advice of the experienced Henry de Beaumont , let his troops take a defensive position. The knights and men-at-arms were to fight on foot, while the archers could shoot the attacking Scots. The king himself fought improperly on foot, which caused quite a stir. Behind the lines of the men-at-arms, however, the horses were kept ready in order to have them quickly available to pursue the defeated enemy.

The Scots also divided their army into three divisions. The right wing was under the command of the young Earl of Moray , while the young Robert Stewart commanded the middle division. The left Scottish wing was led by Archibald Douglas. The Scots had to cross marshy terrain at the foot of the hill before they could attack the English up the hill. This made a cavalry attack very difficult, which is why Archibald Douglas let his army fight on foot. Like the English, the Scottish knights left their horses behind the lines in the care of grooms.

Course of the battle

As in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, there was a duel between two knights before the battle. The Scot Turnbull , who was described as a true Goliath, challenged the English to a duel. Robert Benhale , a knight from Norfolk accepted the challenge and was able to defeat Turnbull. Thus, as in Bannockburn's case, the outcome of the duel was a sign of the outcome of the battle.

At the beginning of the battle, the Scots crossed the swampy ground and rallied to charge up the hills against the English lines. But as soon as they were crossing the swampy bottom they came under constant fire from the English archers and suffered heavy losses. Before the Scottish center and the left wing could intervene in the battle, the first attacking Scottish right wing was defeated under Moray. Discouraged by this, the remaining Scottish divisions crowded together and lost their order of battle. A little later the Scottish army broke up in frantic flight and fled down the hill. Only Aodh, 4th Earl of Ross and his men now faced the attacking English. When Ross and his men had fallen, nothing stood in the way of a pursuit of the fleeing Scots. The Scottish grooms mounted their horses themselves when they saw the Scottish defeat coming and fled. In doing so, they effectively surrendered the Scottish knights to the pursuing English, who now mounted their horses and pursued the fleeing Scots. Numerous Scots were killed while trying to escape, but the English only took a few prisoners. It was only at dusk that the English broke off their pursuit of the Scots and returned to their foot soldiers who had meanwhile looted the battlefield.

Among the Scots killed were Archibald Douglas and five Earls, namely John Campbell, 1st Earl of Atholl , Alexander Bruce, 1st Earl of Carrick , Malcolm, 5th Earl of Lennox , Aodh, 4th Earl of Ross and Kenneth of Sutherland . According to the English chroniclers, between 35,712 and 60,000 Scots are said to have been killed. These figures are certainly vastly exaggerated, but the Scottish casualties were enormous while the British had only minor casualties. Allegedly they only lost a knight, a squire and twelve foot soldiers. The morning after the battle, Edward III. behead one hundred Scottish prisoners.

Memorial stone to the Battle of Halidon Hill


As a direct result of the Scottish defeat, Berwick and Berwick Castle surrendered on the morning of July 20th . The strategy followed by the Scottish Guardian had proven disastrous. Because of his long hesitation, he was finally forced into open battle. The site of the battle was chosen by the English, so that the Scots found an unfavorable terrain for their attack and suffered a crushing defeat in the battle. For the English archers, however, the outcome of the battle was a triumph. The Scottish defeat was so catastrophic that the English thought the war had been won. They believed that there would be few Scottish survivors with the courage, ability and means to continue the war. He let Balliol cede large parts of southern Scotland and let him conquer the remaining areas. But the Scottish resistance was not broken despite the defeat, so that the English king had to lead a new campaign to Scotland in the winter of 1333 to 1334.


  • Ranald Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. The formative Years of a Military Career . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965.
  • William James Ashley: Edward III and His Wars, 1327-1360. Extracts from the Chronicles of Froissart, Jehan Le Bel, Knighton, Adam of Murimuth, Robert of Avesbury, et al. BiblioBazaar, 2010, ISBN 978-1-141-20420-5 .

Web links

Commons : Battle of Halidon Hill  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. ^ A b J. F. Verbruggen: The art of warfare in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. From the eighth century to 1340. Boydell & Brewer , 2002, ISBN 0-85115-570-7 , p. 168.
  2. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 128.
  3. Figures from medieval chroniclers about the troop strength of the Scots range from 14,629 (cf. Walter of Guisborough Continuator, II 308 f.) To over 100,000 men (cf. Layamon : The Brut , I 285), which is considered exaggerated from today's perspective.
  4. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 124.
  5. ^ Kelly De Vries: Infantry Warfare in the Early Fourteenth Century. P. 122.
  6. The only figure for the troop strength of the English comes from Thomas of Burton, who exaggerates with 10,000 men.
  7. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 131.
  8. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 133.
  9. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 133.
  10. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 136.
  11. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 134.
  12. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 134.
  13. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 135.
  14. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 136.
  15. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 137.
  16. H. Seehase, R. Krekeler: The feathered death. P. 182 f.
  17. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 138.
  18. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 110.
  19. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 135.
  20. Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. P. 138.

Coordinates: 55 ° 47 ′ 9 ″  N , 2 ° 3 ′ 6 ″  W.