Battle of Crécy summary
The Battle of Crécy (occasionally written in English as the "Battle of Cressy") took place on 26 August 1346 near Crécy in northern France. It was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War because of the combination of new weapons and tactics used.
- The King of England decided they would wait for the enemy. He sent his best men to choose the exact site of the battle. It is also said that he chose this time to knight his son, Edward.
- In a strong defensive position, the English King ordered that everybody fight on foot and deployed the army in three divisions, one commanded by his sixteen-year-old son, Edward, the Prince of Wales and known as the Black Prince. The longbowmen were deployed in a V-formation along the crest of the hill. In the period of waiting that followed, the English built a system of ditches, pits and caltrops to maim and bring down the enemy cavalry.
- The French reached the site of the battle and without waiting to rest and prepare they immediately engaged the enemy.
- The first attack was from the French crossbowmen, who launched a series of volleys with the purpose of disorganizing and frightening the English infantry. This was accompanied by the sound of musical instruments, brought by Philip VI for use as scare tactics. The crossbowmen proved completely useless, with a shooting rate of around 1–2 bolts per minute, they were no match for the longbowmen, who could shoot five or six arrows in the same amount of time, and also had superior range due to their bows and higher elevation. Furthermore, the crossbowmen's weapons were damaged by the brief thunderstorm that had preceded the battle.
- The crossbowmen did not have their pavises (shields), which would have provided some cover for the men during the long reloading procedure, but they remained in the baggage train. Under the hail of English arrows, the crossbowmen suffered heavy losses and were unable to approach the English lines to where their crossbows would have been more effective. Their commanders, including Doria, died trying to rally their men. Frustrated and confused, the crossbowmen retreated.
- The French knights and nobles, upon seeing the mercenaries routed, hacked them down as they came back to their lines.
- The French knights decided it was time to charge, and they ran over the retreating mercenaries in an unorganized way. At this point the mercenaries cut the strings of their crossbows, presumably to indicate surrender.
- The slight slope and man-made obstacles disrupted the French charge. At the same time, the longbowmen continued shooting volleys of arrows upon the knights.
- The French Knights were forced to retreat and reorganize.
- The Knights attacked the English positions again and again. They fought bravely but could not break the English formation, and after several attempts, they had suffered many casualties without breaking the English lines.
- King Philip VI himself was wounded, and at nightfall, ordered the French to retreat.