The English had already been driven out of most of Scotland and Robert the Bruce had managed to capture Edinburgh Castle from the English armies’ grasp prior to the Battle of Bannockburn.
It was the year 1314 and most of the English army had been defeated throughout Scotland, however, the English were to make one last stand against the Scots at Stirling Castle.
Stirling Castle was the last possession that the English controlled in Scotland and the current English King Edward II was determined to hold on to this strategically important position.
The battle of Bannockburn took place in the year 1314, Edward II had gathered together a large army of around 15,000 soldiers that included 2000 heavy cavalry, 10,000 infantrymen, and a large force of well train archers.
This was quite a formidable army and the combination of these forces would have been difficult for any army to defeat, however, Robert the Bruce was a great military man and legend has it that his armies were also joined by some of the Knights Templar forces who had fled to Scotland.
Robert the Bruce had a much smaller army for the battle of Bannockburn, it was only around 5000 men strong compared to Edwards II’s much larger army. The Scots only had a small cavalry and the bulk of the army was made up of foot soldiers.
Robert the Bruce was a clever military man and it is also part of legendary tales that he had the help of the best military minds of the time in the form of the Knights Templar military who had sought sanctuary in Scotland and would fight alongside his armies.
The bulk of the Scottish army was hidden in a place called ‘new park’ in a wooded area which provided them with cover and protection. This area was in the direct path of the English army.
The Scottish army would create shield formations with their infantry who were also armed with pike weapons that were like very long spears.
King Edward made two fatal mistakes during the battle of Bannockburn, firstly he launched a premature attack on the Scottish forces, which led to many of his forces being killed and injured in the cavalry traps that the armies of Robert the Bruce had previously prepared.
King Edward then decided to take his troops along a stream called the Bannockburn which proved to be another fatal mistake, the journey was difficult and left his troops tired and weary, unable to continue they had to camp for the night in a vulnerable position just across the burn.
Edwards’s troops were tightly packed together in an open vulnerable position and they were lulled into a false sense of security as they were not expecting a direct attack from Robert Bruce’s army.
Famous Speech by Robert the Bruce to Motivate his Troops “These Barons you see before you, clad in armor, are bent upon destroying our whole nation. They do not believe we can resist”
Famous speech was given by Robert the Bruce prior to the battle of Bannockburn 24th of June 1314
On the morning of 24th June 1314, Robert the Bruce had decided to attack the English army from his position in the new park instead of waiting for the army to come to him, this was an inspired decision as King Edward and his troops were caught totally unprepared for this rapid onslaught.
Robert the Bruce ordered his cavalry to attack and the unprepared English soldiers panicked and scattered in all directions.
The English did manage to offer some resistance and did muster their own small cavalry charge and some of the English archers had managed to attack the Scottish flanks – but it was all too little too late for the English and victory was now certain for Robert the Bruce and his army.
The English army was now in total disarray and completely disheartened but there was another surprise waiting for them as King Bruce released a reserve force of Highland warriors who were considered to be barbarians by the English.
The sight of these ferocious fighters caused panic among the English army and they fled along with King Edward – many were butchered to death and few English soldiers returned to England alive.
Edward and his armies fled to Stirling but were unable to find a safe haven and continued on towards England finally resting at Berwick. His troops were being massacred as they retreated at the same time from the Scottish Barbarian reserve forces that had been released by Bruce.
The war for Scottish independence didn’t stop here though and although Robert the Bruce had won a famous battle over the English in the war for independence, more battles would continue on for another 14 years.
The battle of Bannockburn proved that a smaller inferior equipped army could beat a much larger army if it had the right battle tactics and superior knowledge of an area, indeed we could praise King Bruce for his superior planning and tactics, but we must also consider that King Edward made some very bad choices during the battle of Bannockburn which he should have won with his superior forces.