22nd September 1066
Word is just filtering through of the catastrophic battle that was fought at Fulford Gate on 20th September 1066.
It was indeed a black day when the northern Earls Edwin and Morcar were defeated by the Norse.
There are reports of heavy casualties on both sides and our Northern Army has been decimated and is in disarray. The report of the demise of the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Morcar was found to be untrue and My Lord leads what is left of his forces from the relative safety of York.
York is now at the mercy of Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, and Tosti Godwinson, that treacherous brother of the King Harold Godwinson.
News from our Correspondent with the Northern Army, 21st September 1066
The English Earls Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and Morcar, who had replaced Tostig as Earl of Northumbria, gathered together an army to defend York. Although they had had about ten days to prepare a fighting force, intelligence of Hardrada’s intentions was sparse and the move to defend York was delayed until confirmation that Scarborough had been sacked.
The Mercian forces were based in Chester and had to move quickly across the Pennines to join up with Morcar’s men and form a line between Fulford and the Town Walls.
Their bravery was unsurpassed but they were outnumbered almost two to one and it was slaughter.
Those who managed to flee the carnage sought refuge in York. It was disheartening to listen to the battle cries of the Norse that echoed long into the night whilst we recovered what dead we could.
York is a dark and sombre place today, fearful of the cruel Norse fate that awaits the town.
Harald Hardrada’s army numbered about 10,000 to the defenders’ 5,000 men. The English were so outnumbered that Harald was able to hold 4,000 of his troops out of the battle entirely. The result was a foregone conclusion
Hindsight is a wonderful thing
Talk among the leading Townsfolk has been little short of bravado. Many see themselves as master strategists with little experience of war to back up their ideas. One was overheard to say “The Earls should have hidden behind the walls of York. They would probably have been more successful in defending the town then facing Hardrada in battle. Why they chose to meet the Norse army across the River Ouse is beyond comprehension. They must have known they were outnumbered”
His comments went unanswered.
The Master of the Town Guard speaks Reason
The Master of the Town Guard was more lucid as to the battle strategy. He said “The English had spread their forces out to secure the flanks, with the river on their right and a swamp on their left. It would create a narrow battle field that would nullify the Norse strength in numbers. They could not be outflanked and they could always fall back to the walls of the town.” He continued “Not wishing to speak ill of those that fought, as my fighting days are long gone, but the Earls had never really fought a full blown battle before and neither had their men. That Hardrada had the high ground and double the number of men that were used to fighting. For some unknown reason, the Earls chose to fight. Me, I’d have used the town walls and waited for reinforcements just to be able to fight another day”
News from the Royal Court
19th September. King Harold learns of the sack of Scarborough. He issues a ‘call to arms’ and prepares his loyal Huscarls, Thegns and supporting frydmen for the march north to defend the Kingdom. On the
20th September, Harold and his forces leave London along Ermine Street toward York.
King Harold has ridden north with the hopes and fears of all England resting on his shoulders. He has campaigned before but York is almost 200 miles away and it will be an epic march. For once, the threat of Duke William is forgotten.
Long Live King Harold