Battle of Bannockburn

Robert the Bruce was the famous Scottish King who fought against King Edward II of England in the battle of Bannockburn. 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 last possession that the English controlled in Scotland and the current English King Edward II was his determined to hold on to this strategically important post.

1314 Battle of Bannockburn

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 infantry men 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.

Battle of Bannockburn

The Battle of Bannockburn

Robert the Bruce army

Robert the Bruce had a much smaller army for the battle of Bannockburn, it was only around 5000 men strong compared to Edwards II much larger army. The Scots only had a small cavalry and the bulk of the army was made up of footsoldiers.

King Robert the Bruce Battle tactics | Battle of Bannockburn

King Robert 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 would fight along side his armies. The Scots had decided to organise anti-cavalry pits and spikes all along the roads that led to Stirling knowing that the English army would be taking this route.

The bulk of the Scottish army were hidden in a place called new park in a wooded area provided them with cover and protection which was in the direct path of the English army. The Scottish army created shield formations with their infantry who were also armed with pike weapons that were similar to 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.

“These Barons you see before you, clad in armour, are bent upon destroying our whole nation. They do not believe we can resist”
Famous speech given by Robert the Bruce prior to the battle of Bannockburn 24th of June 1314

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 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 the Bruce’s army.

On the morning of 24th June 1314 Robert the Bruce had decided to attack the English army from his position in 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 quick attack.

Robert the Bruce ordered his cavalry to attack and the unprepared English soldiers scattered in all directions, the English did managed 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 armies.

Battle of Bannockburn

The Battle for Stirling Bridge in the Battle of Bannockburn

King Edward’s retreat

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 amongst the English army and they fled along with King Edward, many were butchered to death and few English soldiers returned to England.

Edward and his armies fled to Stirling but was 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 on the desperate English troops.

The war the 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, battles would raged on for another 14 years.

Battle of Bannockburn Summary

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.

Battle of Bannockburn Facts:

  • The battle of Bannockburn took place in 1314
  • King Edward had a larger and better equipped army than King Bruce of Scotland
  • King Edward’s English army was around 15,000 men strong
  • Robert The Bruce had a Scottish army that was around 5000 men strong
  • Robert The Bruce’s army was mainly infantry men armed with pike weapons (long spears)
  • King Edward’s army consisted of infantry, heavy cavalry, and archers
  • King Edward made many tactical mistakes in the Battle of Bannockburn
  • Robert The Bruce was tactically superior and led a surprise attacked on the English armies
  • The decisive moment in the battle was the surprise attack by Robert The Bruce on 24 June 1314
  • The retreating English army were butchered by the barbarian highlanders of the Scottish army
  • King Edward escaped and rested with his depleted army at Berwick on his way to England
  • It was 14 more years after the Battle of Bannockburn before Scotland finally won its Independence
  • The Holkham Bible illustrates in detail the chaos of the battle of Bannockburn
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