Bannockburn. Robert the Bruce’s battle of the underdog against Edward II’s army, the largest ever to invade Scotland, a piece of Scottish history that evokes pride in a nation that refused to give up. A nation determined, stubborn and passionate with belief in a dream called Freedom.
It was a two-day battle, on the 24th & 25th June 1314, that saw Stirling Castle surrendered and Edward II fleeing in shameful defeat. Bannockburn was the victory that would eventually see Bruce recognised as the King of Scots and independence fought heroically for, finally given.
It was Bruce’s brother, Edward Bruce, who provided the catalyst for Bannockburn. He had reached a deal with the English garrison of Stirling, that the castle would be surrendered, unless, it was relieved by an English army before midsummer. The challenge was one which even the English king could not ignore.
It was the first time since Falkirk that an English king had led his army to battle in Scotland. Over the years Bruce had lost almost everything. His wife, daughter and sisters had been held captive in England for seven years. He had lost friends, allies and family during his campaign for independence. Finally, the Scottish King would face the English King.
William Wallace, Scotland’s greatest hero, had been a huge and inspiring influence to Bruce. It was Wallace who taught him how to fight his campaigns, how to unite and inspire the Scots to fight with him and how to use the Scottish land to his advantage.
With this in mind Bruce carefully chose the ground at Bannockburn. He used the natural terrain to counter the threat of Edward’s heavy cavalry and dug small pit traps to defend their flanks and force the English to fight them head on. He used moving schiltroms to undo the English cavalry led by Sir Robert Clifford. It was these dense schiltroms of Scottish Spearmen that would force the English to retreat on the first day of battle.
On the second day of battle these schiltroms would again play a pivotal role. The English knights found themselves hemmed in between the Scots schiltroms and the mass of their own army. Bruce’s tactics of using the land to his advantage was a strategic success.
In the centre of the field was a brutal battle. Hand to hand combat between knights and spearmen. At this crucial point Bruce committed his own schiltrom, which included the Gaelic warriors of the Highlands and Islands. Under their fresh onslaught, the English began to give ground. Proud Edward’s army was defeated and those who did not die in the bloody battle were sent homeward tae think again.
History was made. For Scots, the Battle of Bannockburn continues to evoke dreams of freedom, independence, patriotism, heroism, perseverance, and the triumph of the underdog against overwhelming odds.