In 1461 The Battle of Towton, a clash between two English kings which led to the death of perhaps 28,000 Englishmen is a complex but little publicised episode in English history.
The battle site is between Tadcaster and Sherburn-in-Elmet and it was at The Crooked Billet in Saxton on Tuesday, 2 May, that some twenty Headingley Rotarians and their guests met up with Philip Ashe, a retired Head of History at GSAL Junior School, who is a considerable authority on the battle. He had circulated a seventeen page background to us and now we were to follow on the ground the progression and tactics of this awesome event.
How the Yorkists were triumphant and how the Lancastrians were defeated by Faucenberg’s strategic command of the Yorkist bowmen, bleak snowy weather and the late surprise arrival of The Duke of Norfolk’s forces from Pontefract, is a story both thrilling and appalling! Any suggestion of chivalry or respect for the enemy was abandoned. The Cock Beck was clogged with a bridge of slaughtered men and the fleeing Lancastrians were given no mercy, even after the day was decided.
Event organiser Nick Pinches thanked Philip for his masterly exposition and we all returned to The Crooked Billet for a superb lunch. It is quite wonderful how history can leap to life in the hands of a good teacher! CJW