The Battle of Towton – A Re-Enactors Viewpoint
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On Palm Sunday 16 March 2008 The Beaufort Companye joined members of the Towton Battlefield Society, their affiliated re-enactment group, the Frei Compagnie, other re-enactors and members of the public to commemorate the Battle of Towton at Towton Hall, North Yorkshire. The following is a record of the day viewed through the eyes of two participants separated in time by five hundred and forty seven years:


7.00am
 
2008: After a good night’s sleep we were up early on Palm Sunday having spent the evening before in a succession of York’s finest pubs helping out Group Chair, Allan Harley, celebrate Wales’ Grand Slam success. With the cars loaded and our stomachs full of hot coffee and sausage butties we set off for the brief twenty minute drive to Towton and our first event of the 2008 season.

1461: Huddled under a hedge, a cold sleepless night with no fire for warmth. Kicked to my feet by my Captain. Stamping feet on frozen ground, trying in vain to warm my bones. No food to quell my hunger.
 

9.00am

2008: We quickly changed into authentic kit and for the first time in over five hundred years the livery colours of the Lancastrian Commander; the Duke of Somerset could be seen on the fields of Towton. Our first stop was the Living History Camp within which various 15th Century re-enactment groups, including the Frei Compagnie, the Ferrers and Savile Households, Red Wyvern, Buckingham’s Retinue, Garrick Garrison and British Plate Armour Society were preparing for the days events. We bid welcome to old and new friends alike and complemented all those who had had the great fortitude to camp overnight.

1461: Standing in the middle of tightly packed ranks. Jugs of ale and wine passed down the line. Drink deep before they are snatched away. The Duke of Somerset rides by shouting, arm pointing at the enemy. I’m to far away to hear his words but I cheer regardless. Despite the ale in my belly I‘m scared. I grip the ash shaft of my billhook tight and pray.


11.00am

2008: Under dark brooding skies heavy with the threat of rain we joined a large, enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of hikers for the Battlefield walk. With Mick and Helen of the Towton Battlefield Society as our guides we shouldered our bills and set off along the muddy track that was once the Old London Road. As we reached the battlefield plateau proper we were glad of our layers of wool as a bitingly cold northerly wind had now risen and was whipping authentically across the bare landscape. All the while Mick and Helen kept up a passionate and knowledgeable commentary interspersed with demonstrations of the clothing, weapons and equipment of the period by ourselves.

1461: Snow blowing in our faces, muffled shouts and orders. Men in front and all around falling to the ground - Arrows! The line sways, hands at my back pushing me forward, stepping over bodies, snow turning crimson.
 

1.00pm

2008: Back from the walk we quickly devoured a delicious home-made Pork Pie made to an authentic recipe by Jayne before joining the Members of the Towton Battlefield Society, public and other re-enactors for the memorial service. Gathered close to the location of the grave pits beneath Towton Hall we stood in silence during the poignant drumhead service which culminated in the recital of the Lord's Prayer in both Middle English and Latin.

1461: We’re winning, gaining ground. Kill or be killed. Hack, stab, parry, no quarter, arms heavy as lead, lungs burning, relentless slaughter, bill slick with blood.


3.00pm

2008: With the burger van doing a roaring trade in supplying a constant stream of hot food and drinks to all concerned the only respite from the icy wind and occasional showers was provided inside a nearby barn. Inside a variety of stalls were being stoically manned by members of the Richard III Society, Towton Battlefield Society and several historical traders. Outside the entertainment continued in the Living History encampment with a weapons display and talk by the Red Wyvern, a falconry display and the finale, a bill drill and skirmish by members from all the attending groups.

1461: Endless fighting, piles of dead. Lord Dacre felled by an arrow. Then a shout, fresh enemy troops entering the fray, confusion, panic, pressure on the left. A step backwards…… then another.


4.00pm
 
2008: The sun finally comes out and we end the day with an interview and photo shoot with the local newspaper and talk of the impending 550th Anniversary in 2011. Despite the weather we had an enjoyable although at times sombre first event of the season and with our gear packed away it’s time for a quick pint before saying our goodbyes and heading home for a hot shower and curry.

1461: Running……..….slipping, sliding in snow….……..breathless………...horses behind me……...screams……..a bridge ahead……...knocked off my feet……… falling......cold dark water…..sinking…...hands from below grasping at my feet pulling me down…..water in my mouth, filling my lungs…..…darkness…………...