The Incident on Blood Lake Ridge Oct 4, 2019 15:51:46 GMT -5
Post by herosrest on Oct 4, 2019 15:51:46 GMT -5
Brave Ansgar flies our banner high. The crumb's boys keep coming but our wall holds firm....
Godwinson stands proud, resolute and defiant.
But look, there - over there... it's a horse. A horse in a tree............
THE FIGHT AT THE MAL FOSSE
Of that bloody day, there remains to be mentioned the incident at the ‘Mal fosse’ or ‘Evil Ditch’. According to Poitiers, during the pursuit north of the battlefield Norman knights encountered a number of Englishmen who were determined to make a stand on or close by an old rampart or entrenchment (possibly man-made), which was addi-tionally protected, by a number of ditches. These may have been survivors of the fighting on Senlac Ridge (Blood Lake Ridge), or perhaps latecomers only just arrived and spoiling for a fight, but perhaps they were most likely a mix of survivors and late-comers. The Normans were taken aback and when the Duke arrived, the stump of a broken lance in his hand, he found Eustace of Boulogne with a contingent of around 50 knights streaming in the other direction. While William remonstrated, a blow struck Eustace between the shoulder blades with such force that blood poured from his nose and mouth and he was carried away badly wounded. Notwithstanding, the Duke led his men on and mopped up this last pocket of resistance.
Nearly all the chroniclers tell a different story. Some versions even appear to occur during the battle, and it is extremely likely that these versions refer to the struggle on the Hillock and marshy ground previously described. Others vary the type of obstacle encountered. Orderic Vitalis, in his interpolations of William of Jumieges (before 1109 AD to after 1113 AD), describes an ancient rampart hidden by long grass, at which the Norman riders fall.
In his, own Ecclesiastical History - the relevant section finished about 1120 - Orderic seems to combine Poitiers’ account with his own, so that the Normans ride into the rampart and, seeing this as well as an entrenchment and many ditches, a number of Englishmen make a stand. Orderic mentions one casualty as being Engenulf, a Castel-lan of Laigle, and it may be that he received the story from that family. It is not until the Battle Abbey Chronicle of c.1180 AD that the deep pit, as it now becomes, is given the name of ‘Mal fosse’. Unfortunately Wace, the storyteller, has made no men-tion of the fight at the Mal Fosse, which could well mean that there were two inci-dents, the fight at the Hillock and marshy streams during the battle, and a second dur-ing the Norman pursuit. It is worrying that no chronicler mentions both; perhaps gar-bled versions were picked up and latched on to one version or the other. If only one occurred, it was almost certainly the fight during the battle at the Hillock, since the Malfosse has never been satisfactorily located but the Hillock can still be seen. More-over the Malfosse fight seems to show much less continuity of description.
But as we know, most of what has been passed down to us is what the Normans and their descendents wanted us to know, so they would obviously prefer to tell us of their own strength and victories, than anything that may have put them and their descendents in a rather sticky situation, of which the struggle at the Mal Fosse would have done. But we must also take into account the time of the action at the Mal Fosse, and darkness, we must remember that the sun set that evening at around 17.04, leaving little time for a through pursuit of the fleeing English. The comment in the Interpolations of Jumieges, that the Normans chased the Englishmen until the following morning is nothing more than a wild exaggeration. There have been modern experiments that have shown that by 18.15 hours the area would have become so dark and the ground so treacherous as to make mounted pursuit more or less impossible. The moon, which was low that night, did not appear until midnight, so we may say, that the action at the Mal Fosse may well have taken place either during the hours after midnight, when the moon had reached its high point giving mounted movement enough light to move or during the early morning light.
There isn’t much on this subject, from the point of view of the English, either from those who were there, but there has been some mention from the Norman side as I’ve pointed out above, but incident at the Mal fosse has been perhaps deliberately glossed over by the Norman chroniclers and simply unmentioned by their descendents. But we do have some information on the fight at the Mal fosse:
At the end of that bloody day 14/10/1066 AD there occurred what is known as ‘the Mal fosse incident’ or Mal Fosse (Evil earthwork or Ditch in Norman French).
We have already established a rough time for the action at the Mal Fosse to have taken place, i.e. between the hours after midnight, and the early hours of the following morning the 15 October.
A number of Norman knights pursue English stragglers north of the site of the main battle, the Norman pursuit ran into contact with either the English remnants of the hard long bloody struggle of the 14 October, or newcomers, who being late for the main battle decided to make a stand where they were, or as I’ve mentioned above there may have been a mixture of the remnants and newcomers, but we can say that none of the remnants were Huscarls, who wouldn’t have left the hacked and mutilated body of their beloved lord and King. But those stubborn Englishmen, who had decided to make a last ditch stand on or by an old earth work, which may have been protected by a ditch or ditches, which may well have turned the tide for the English, and turned victory into defeat and a bloody death for the Normans and for William the “crumb” himself .
It is said that Eustace of Boulogne commanded the French-Flemish wing during the battle in the so-called feigned flights. He was also one of four knights who were said to have hacked Harold down, cutting him to pieces. During the Mal fosse fight he is reported as saying to William – “It were death to go on”.
One of the Norman knights who was said to have been killed during that hard stub-born fight at the ‘Evil Ditch’ was one Engerren de Aquila whose descendants held what became the Barony of Pevensey.
During the fighting at the ‘Evil Ditch’, William is said to have come up to press the faltering Norman attack against Eustace’s advice.
An Englishman (who some say was an Huscarl, but by then all of the Huscarls were lying dead and mutilated by, and around the body of their beloved liege lord and good King,) who playing dead saw two Norman knights consulting. The Englishman rose from the ground and struck one of them “So that blood poured from his nose and mouth”. It just unfortunate he chose Eustace instead of the “crumb” Duke, it is not recorded, but we must presume that the Englishman was then killed in turn. As the fighting at the Mal fosse continued, and was as desperate a fight as the struggle that took place on Senlac Hill (Blood Lake Hill) and could well have turned against the Normans, and a well deserved victory for the stubborn English defenders, William the “crumb” led fresh attacks against those stubborn English warriors and finally pre-vailed.
Mal-Fosse (Evil Ditch) mentioned in five chronicles:
Orderic Vitalis – English born Norman Monk who called it, “An eminence – deep ditch.” William of Jumieges – A Norman Monk who called it, “An ancient causeway.” William of Poitiers – A Norman Chaplain of the Duke’s who called it, “A steep bank with numerous ditches.” And from the Battle Abbey Chronicle of c. 1180 which termed it, “A dreadful chasm’ called the Mal fosse.”
There are also five possible sites.
Generally accepted site is Oakwood Gill, by C. T. Chevallier. 1963, in deeds of Battle Abbey and Manorial maps of 1724 and 1811. Also Dugdale’s ‘Monasticon’ 1538. And Four Deeds c. 1240, c. 1245, 1279 and 1302. ‘Man fosse’
From ‘1066 – Origin of a Nation’ By Michael Phillips. 1973
"The desperate struggle for the English standards and headquarters was over by early evening. The declining sunset – a suffusion of red, pink and mauve over the Downs to the west – seemed to symbolise a declining England. The English were leaderless, the King mutilated by the knights he had thwarted, his two brothers slaughtered earlier in the battle. But it was a noble end, an end worthy of England, as was the final stand of the Huscarls. They refused to surrender and were fought or trampled to death, almost to the last man."
"The survivors fled over cover of darkness to join bodies of the Fyrd who had escaped top the edge of the forest. Here was staged a fierce rearguard action, surprising the Normans who had thought all struggle over. Bands of pursuing horsemen careering over Caldbec Hill came upon a miniature ravine, topped by an ancient earthwork, later named Mal fosse (The Evil Ditch) and stout defenders. It was to be a name later celebrated in the tales of the English resistance."
"Unable to rein back, their steeds snorting, neighing shrilly with fear of the unknown, riders and steeds fell headlong to their deaths, even before they were belaboured by Saxon axes. In the forest redoubt the other side, the English fought the resistance of despair and drove back their adversaries. Only organised charges and the hurried personal intervention of William himself forced them to succumb and retreat further into the deep wooded mystery behind."
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