French Invade Sussex

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French Invade Sussex

Winchelsea, Sussex The 15th of March 1360 AD

It is a moot point whether the French attack on Winchelsea and Rye in March 1360 amounts to an invasion, or just a raid, albeit a significant one. We think of the Hundred Years War as fought on French soil alone, but the French at the time did not see it that way, and in spite of the bulwark of the Channel England was the scene of several incursions by French forces in that period, the then major port of Winchelsea in Sussex often bearing the brunt of French wrath.
Such raids on the town occurred in 1326; in 1359 when those seeking safety in St Giles Church were massacred; in 1360; in 1377 when the town repelled the invaders who turned their ire on Rye ; in 1380; and for a final time in 1449. Winchelsea was a tempting target given its proximity to the French coast, and its wealth as part of the Cinque Ports confederation.
In 1360 one Enguerrand Ringoes who commanded a French force numbering perhaps 2000, landed at Winchelsea, stormed the New Gate whose completion in 1330 had in theory improved the town’s defences but which proved a weak point; and pillaged the town before sacking Rye the following day. The French were able to return to their fleet at Winchelsea and head back to France unhindered by English soldiery.

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