Formigny


By D Furius Venator

The Background

This battle was fought in 1450 between the English under Sir Thomas Kyriell and the French under the Constable de Richemont and the Count of Clermont. Kyriell was marching to relieve the siege of Bayeux, one of the few Norman towns still in English hands. His march had been so laggardly that the French had plenty of time to assemble forces against him. On April 15th he was resting in his camp - a mere ten miles form Bayeux when Clermont's troops were sighted approaching from the west.

The Armies

Kyriell had 800 men at arms and about 3200 archers - the feared English longbowmen.

Clermont had 3000 men at arms and two culverins, de Richmont 1200 men at arms.


The Battle

The English took position on a ridge, blocking the road down which Clermont was advancing, a wooded stream to their rear. The men at arms were divided into two bodies with archers between them and on the flanks. The archers planted their sharpened stakes in front of them and the English waited for the French to attack and be repulsed as had become the invariable rule in battles between English and French.
Clermont tried a frontal assault, that was not pressed very hard, probably to test the strength of the English missile fire. He then launched mounted attacks on either flank but the archers drove them off. Then he brought up his two guns to try and make the archers leave their positions. This they did - and swiftly! The guns were captured but the French counter attacked and a general melee ensued.
Then de Richemont appeared to the south. The two sides broke off their combat, Clermont's men reforming so that they could assault in conjunction with the Constable's men, the English drawing up in a semi-circle facing both south and west against the two enemy forces. The English, who had already lost heavily in the melee against Clermont were overwhelmed by the combined attack. As they were driven back into the woods and over the stream they broke completely and were slaughtered.

Aftermath

3774 English dead were counted on the field, most of the rest were captured, including Kyriell, only the merest handful managing to win free. Formigny was the first set piece battle lost by the English since the Hundred Years war had begun 113 years before. The whole of Normandy fell to the French within four months and was never recovered.