Road to Crecy 1346 – The Somme Campaign – Overview

Jan 5th, 2009 | By | Category: AD 1346 Crecy

The First Somme Campaign – August 1346
(The Road to Crecy)

by Garry Harbottle-Johnson

The Somme Campaign – Overview

Illustration of Battle of Crecy August 1346 from Chronicles of Jean FroissartThe Campaign on the Somme

Arriving at Airaines on 23rd August. Edward III rested an army that had fought and marched 140 kilometres in 6 days, an average of just over 15 miles per day, including the fighting.

From here he sent his flank commands, led by the Earl of Warwick and Sir Geoffrey d’Harcourt, with 1,000 men-at-arms and 2,000 mounted longbow, to check that the River Somme bridges were intact. It was discovered that all the bridges were too securely held to capture, or else had been destroyed. But worse yet, Philippe’s enormous army was now one day’s march away at Amiens.

Calling a council of war. Edward decided to see whether Abbeville would give him passage over their bridges, but ended up fighting a skirmish against the townspeople, plus 2,000 foot and some horse. (See Battle of Abbeville later in this series) This skirmish caused around 500 English casualties with many captured, and for the first time Edward’s forces were chased from the field.

Withdrawing from the town. Edward marched towards Oisemont, burning everything the army came across. There, the English were again forced to fight, but this time routed their opponents and captured the Sire de Boubers who had led the native soldiery. (The Battle of Oisemont is also detailed in this series).

Taking lodgings in the captured town, Edward learned that d’Harcourt, who had been sent on ahead, had failed to capture the coastal town of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. Had he done so, the King would have had the option of using boats to cross the river, or like William the Conqueror to sail from the port for England. Worse still, he also learned that Philippe was now only 20 kilometres away at Airaines.

Edward IIIs options at the Somme 1346His situation now critical, the English King decided upon a river crossing at a ford reputed to be somewhere between Abbeville and the sea. Having lived in the area as a boy, he knew of the ford’s existence, but not of its location.

Questioning his captives, each replied that they did not know of the ford. He began with the knights and then their foot soldiers. Those of lesser rank were promised one hundred gold nobles and a horse (this being a fortune to a feudal militiaman), they were also promised the freedom of five or six prisoners of their choice.

Eventually, one Gobin Agache who lived less than a mile from the ford at Mons, agreed that he knew of the ford and would lead the army there. This same simple cowherd also explained the origins of the ford’s name, “The ford that I refer to your Royal Highness, consists of a bed of white marl, hard and strong where carts can pass with complete safety. That is why the crossing is called Blanquetaque.”

Edward issued orders to raise camp at midnight on three trumpet calls. The first for the army to get up and arm itself, the second to load up and take positions in the column, and the third to set off. Thus before daybreak, they were on the move and had covered five leagues before dawn.

With the coming of daylight, they discovered that they had reached the ford at high tide and could not cross. Realising that the French were somewhere behind them, Edward could do nothing but order a rest. At the same time, it was discovered that there was a large force on the north bank. What followed is the third scenario later in this series – The Battle of Blanquetaque Ford.

But what of the French?

Coat of Arms of the City of AmiensOn 22nd August, after weeks of mustering, Philippe left Amiens very early, hoping to catch Edward at Airaines. The English however had been warned by letters from traitors in the French King’s court, and had moved on hurriedly. Philippe took up the chase again, and at 3.00am on the 24th reached Oisemont having missed his enemy by a few hours.

Questioning those left in the town, he guessed Edward’s intentions and asked if he could cross the ford himself, and was told not at this time, as it was high tide. He therefore sent runners to check the story.

They arrived at the crossing in time to see the last of the English baggage moving northward, and the tide rising again. Philippe therefore decided to halt and rest his army for a while.

Very soon however he was to move off again, and after several fruitless pursuits, to arrive at Crecy.

Earlier articles in this series

Later articles in this series

  • Road to Crecy 1346 – Battle of Abbeville – Longbows from horseback (onsite 12 Jan 2009)
  • Road to Crecy 1346 – Battle of Oisemont – Boys doing Men’s work (onsite 19 Jan 2009)
  • Road to Crecy 1346 – Battle of Blanquetaque Ford – Knights are not Marines (onsite 26 Jan 2009)
  • Road to Crecy 1346 – Bibliography, Conclusions, and Hindsight (onsite 2 Feb 2009)

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