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The English and French forces had deployed in the cold before dawn, and hours had passed without either side making any move.

"They were so technologically superior that it wasn’t even a fight, really."

Finally, King Henry V r—22 ordered an advance. But before they moved forward, a fascinating and seemingly extraordinary act took place: each man knelt — archers and men-at-arms alike — kissed the ground, and took a little earth in his mouth. This collective and yet deeply personal ritual seems to have been sacramental; a ceremony that combined elements of the Eucharist with the burial service.

It served as a blessing, a purification, and a preparation for death. Throughout the Anglo-French war, battles had enormous religious and symbolic significance. Not only was victory or defeat an indication of divine judgement, but for many it might bring one decidedly closer to divine judgement of a very personal nature. While chronicle accounts allow us to reconstruct the narrative of the battle of Agincourt with some precision, the size of the opposing forces remains a matter of contention. Shakespeare would have us believe that in the English were outnumbered at least to-one.

Such a number was shaped by dramatic necessity and also by various contemporary and near-contemporary English sources that suggested the French army totalled between 60, and , men. Recent work makes it clear that the Valois army was considerably more modest in size, perhaps 20,—30, troops. And, indeed, in her account of the battle, Anne Curry argues that the French army was smaller still, numbering no more than 12, soldiers.


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By comparison, Henry commanded between 6, and 9, soldiers — the anonymous author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti The Deeds of Henry V , who witnessed the battle, suggested he led 5, archers and around 1, men-at-arms although the numbering is not precise. The French, therefore, outnumbered the English by two to one, but probably no more. Among such developments, the evolution of gunpowder weaponry was particularly significant. That evolutionary process was, however, a slow one.

At Agincourt, for example, it appears that French artillery accounted for a solitary English archer during the battle, and in Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, fired cannonballs into the town of Lagny and succeeded only in killing a chicken.

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Nonetheless, as the war entered its final phase such weapons were becoming increasingly effective. Thereafter, the weapons available to the French grew in number and efficiency, and they proved their worth in successive sieges. Gunpowder weapons allowed the French to eject the English from Normandy and Gascony with astonishing speed. In some cases, as at Bourg in , the mere presence of guns was sufficient to bring about an immediate surrender.

Around this time, gunpowder weapons also began to be used effectively as field artillery. Formigny in a decisive victory for the French may have been the first battle decided by gunpowder artillery. The engagement began with a cavalry assault on the English infantry and longbowmen, which was repulsed. Soon afterwards, however, the Bureau brothers arrived with two breechloading culverins on wheeled carriages.

These were capable of a high rate of fire and could outdistance the English archers. Although it required the arrival of further reinforcements to decide the battle, the artillery clearly played a telling role. This was, undoubtedly, determined by artillery, and, as a consequence, the battle marks a deeply significant point in the history of European warfare. It was during this campaign he was shot down for the fourth and final time. During a strafing attack on a German motorised column near Ravenna, his Spitfire was hit by ground fire and he bailed behind enemy lines.

After being cared for by Italian partisans, a young girl from the locality guided Hemingway, disguised in peasant clothing, past German positions to the safety of Allied lines. Hemingway says he was more frightened for the life of that small child than his own. After the war, he served as a staff officer in the Middle East, acted as station commander of RAF Leconfield in Yorkshire, and then senior staff officer at Nato headquarters in France, before being posted to the air ministry.

He retired in We use cookies to personalise content, target and report on ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic.

For more information see our Cookie Policy. Joseph Quinn. Dunkirk Such was the extent of the losses that his squadron was withdrawn from France after a week of fighting.

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