The Battle of Poitiers 1356


The French advance on foot under a hail of arrows

The Battle of Poitiers on September 19th 1356 is regarded as the last battle of the "Edwardian" phase of the Hundred Years War between England and France. The English army was led by Edward III's eldest son, Prince Edward "The Black Prince" who had won his spurs at Crecy some ten years earlier. The French army was led by King John himself, accompanied by most of the nobility of France as well as his 14 year old son and heir, Philip.


As is our rule in Battles For Wargamers, we do not list for particular rules, but rather a broad outline of forces and events that you can use to your own favourite ruleset.

Working on a scale of 1:50 men

ENGLISH ARMY

Left Flank

Earl of Warwick - Knight - sub-commander

Earl of Oxford - Knight - sub-commander

Dismounted Knights (500 men) 10 figures - elite, veteran. heavy armour, swords and shields

Medium Infantry (500 men) 10 figures - regular, steady, light/minimal armour, spear and shields

Longbowmen (1500 men) 30 figures - veteran, excellent shots, unarmoured, longbow and side arms

Centre Division

Edward the Black Prince - Knight - CinC

Sir John Chandos - Knight - sub-commander

Dismounted Knights (1000 men) 20 figures - elite, veteran, heavy armour, swords and shields

Dismounted Squires (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, veteran, heavy armour, swords and shields

Dismounted Men At Arms (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, steady, armoured, halberds/bills

Right Flank

Earl of Salisbury - Knight - sub-commander

Earl of Suffolk - Knight - sub-commander

Dismounted Knights (500 men) 10 figures - elite, veteran. heavy armour, swords and shields

Medium Infantry (500 men) 10 figures - regular, steady, light/minimal armour, spear and shields

Longbowmen (1500 men) 30 figures - veteran, excellent shots, unarmoured, longbow and side arms

A total of 160 wargames figures + commanders


FRENCH ARMY

Forlorn Hope

Jean de Clermont - Knight - sub-commander

Arnoul D'Audrehem - Knight - sub-commander

Mounted Knights (400 men) 8 figures - elite, impetuous, heavy armour, barded horses, lance & shield

Mounted Knights (400 men) 8 figures - elite, impetuous, heavy armour, barded horses, lance & shield

Vanguard

Gautier De Brienne - Knight - sub-commander

Men-At-Arms (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, steady, armoured, halberds/polearms

Militia (1000 men) 20 figures - trained, poor, light/minimal armour, swords & sidearms

Crossbowmen (1500 men) 30 figures - regular, steady, light armour, crossbow & sidearms

1st Division

Dauphin Charles - Knight - sub-commander

Men-At-Arms (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, steady, armoured, halberds/polearms

Light Infantry (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, steady, light/minimal armour, spear and shields

Militia (1000 men) 20 figures - trained, poor, light/minimal armour, swords & sidearms

2nd Division

Philippe D'Orleans - Knight - sub-commander

Men-At-Arms (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, steady, armoured, halberds/polearms

Light Infantry (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, steady, light/minimal armour, spear and shields

Militia (1000 men) 20 figures - trained, poor, light/minimal armour, swords & sidearms

3rd Division

King John of France - Knight - CinC

Geoffroi De Charny - Knight - sub-commander

Dismounted Knights (1000 men) 20 figures - elite, impetuous, heavy armour, swords and shields

Dismounted Squires (1000 men) 20 figures - regular, impetuous, heavy armour, swords and shields

Men-At-Arms (2000 men) 40 figures - regular, steady, armoured, halberds/polearms

Militia (1000 men) 20 figures - trained, poor, light/minimal armour, swords & sidearms

Crossbowmen (500 men) 10 figures - regular, steady, light armour, crossbow & sidearms

A total of 316 wargames figures + commanders

The battlefield should have a gentle, steadily increasing slope from one end to the other, with the French positioning at the lower end facing uphill and the English on the top of the slope facing downhill. There should also be some hedgerows along the upper slope that in reality the longbowmen positioned themselves behind.


THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

The Black Prince positioned his men among the hedges and tress in a defensive formation, the longbowmen standing behind a particularly prominent thick hedge through which a road ran at right angles.

King John was advised by his Scottish commander, Sir William Douglas, that the French attack should be on foot, as horses were particularly vulnerable to English archers, the arrows fired with a high trajectory falling on the unprotected necks and backs of the mounts. King John took this advice, his army in the main leaving its horses with the baggage and forming up on foot.

The French attack began with a mounted charge by the forlorn hope of knights commanded by two Marshals of France; Barons Clermont and Audrehem. The force reached a gallop, closing in to charge down the road into the centre of the English position. The attack was a disaster, with those knights not shot down by the English archers dragged from their horses and killed or secured as prisoners for later ransom.

The English archers then began firing at the massed French infantry as they made their way forward in heavy armour up the slope. The 1st Division commanded by the Dauphin finally reached the English lines, having suffered a hail of arrows but with far fewer casualties and disorder than if they had been on horseback. Savage and brutal hand to hand fighting ensued and the opposing forces fought for over two hours before the French, exhausted, began to fall back in retreat. However their retreat was met by the 2nd Division's advance and the the two merging caused considerable confusion and disarray in the ranks, and soon both Divisions were retreating. King John decided to try and steady his army by advancing his 3rd Division, encouraging some retreating men to turn again and join his advancing men.

From the crest of the slope, the English too were getting a confused vision of events before them, seeing the 1st Division repulsed and then the 2nd Division retreat without even making contact with them, the Black Prince thought the entire French army was leaving the battlefield. Eager not to let them slip away, he ordered some of his knights to mount their horses and in an encircling move to the right, trap the retreating French while his main army charged forward down the slopes to give chase.

Mounted English knights appearing at the rear of the French army led King John's men to panic and run in any direction to avoid being trapped. King John and his son, Philip the Bold, found themselves encircled by English soldiers and surrendered. Fleeing French soldiers found the city of Poitiers gates locked and unable to escape many were killed or captured including a large number of French nobles. Reports after the battle quoted 3,000 French dead with only 40 English being killed, and French prisoners included the King and his son, 17 great lords, 13 Counts, 5 Viscounts, and over 100 Knights.

The capture of King John and his son Philip

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