Battle of Old Byland


Battle of Old Byland

Helmsley, North Yorkshire The 14th of October 1322 AD

Bannockburn emboldened the Scots under Robert The Bruce . Desperate to expel King Edward II's forces from Scotland, taking Stirling was an immeasurable fillip for the Scottish king, and an embarrassment for Edward.

Bruce was hugely out numbered at Bannockburn ; his 6,500 strong army routed an English army nearly three times its size. 24th June 1314 is a date that resonates to this day in Scottish history, it was one that saved the nation's sovereignty at a time when it was most imperilled. If the victory at Bannockburn has a totemic gravitas to this day, imagine what it was like in the years that immediately followed.

Bruce took the war to England. He wasn't simply disorientated by the fumes of victory, he knew that the English did not have their troubles to seek. Edward's court was divided. England was divided. A rebellion was fermenting in England that threatened the unthinkable; civil war.

With Edward distracted, Bruce's men launched a series of sporadic raids on the north-east of England. Scotland's top commanders were afforded unprecedented latitude in enemy territory. James 'The Black' Douglas harried Hartlepool . Darlington was attacked by Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl Of Moray. Walter Stewart unleashed hell upon Richmond . All the while, one of England's most senior barons was stationed with his army at Pontefract , just 60-odd miles from where the Scots where raiding.

But this intransigence from the English couldn't and didn't last. Edward's priority was uniting his realm. Only then could he set about quelling this Scottish offensive. At the Battle Of Boroughbridge, 16th March 1322, Edward suffocated the threat of rebellion, defeating Lancaster, Humphrey de Bohun, Earl Of Hereford and Baron de Clifford. The Scots now had his undivided attention.

Edward headed north for a second sortie in Scotland. Bruce was more than ready. With scorched earth tactics to the fore he fought the battle on his own terms. Edward visited the Scottish capital but he didn't enjoy his time there. With no tactical strike on the Scots, his army tired and hungry, Edward bade a dispirited retreat.

The Scots headed to Yorkshire, accruing men on the hoof. By the time they reached Old Byland, the English were ready to be taken. John De Bretagne's troops may have outnumbered the Scots but the ferocity of the attack was too much for a tired, dispirited army. If Bannockburn secured Scotland for another day, Old Byland sent a clear message to Edward that in this First War Of Scottish Independence, Robert Bruce could strike in England too.

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