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R. A Forczyk
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Pete Armstrong, a British artist and model-builder, has written an excellent campaign summary of Scotland's greatest military victory, the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Although some of the exact details of this famous battle remain open to debate, Armstrong does a fair job in presenting a balanced campaign narrative that incorporates different viewpoints. Bannockburn is also enhanced by excellent artwork and maps, which help to bring the battle into sharp focus. All in all, this is one of the better Osprey Campaign series titles.
In accordance with standard Osprey Campaign series format, Bannockburn 1314 begins with short sections on the origins of the campaign (8 pages), a campaign chronology, opposing commanders, opposing armies and opposing plans. The section on armies details the infantry and cavalry formations of both sides and the author stresses that while the English had superior cavalry, their failure to employ combined arms tactics utilizing both infantry and cavalry was a fundamental flaw in their numerically superior army. Certainly combined arms tactics are sound advice in any period, but while the author points out the English failure in this regard, he fails to point out how the Scottish were any different. If the English were overly reliant on their cavalry, the Scots were certainly overly reliant on spear-armed infantry. The Scots had no answer to the English superior quality and quantity in archers, and this had led to the defeat at Falkirk 16 years before. The section on plans notes that the English King Edward II was well provided with intelligence about the enemy as well as supplies, but had no real plan of campaign other than to relieve the siege of Stirling Castle. Edward's lack of combat experience and his assumption that the Scots would disperse in the face of a major English invasion are cited as primary causes of his negligent planning. Again, while the author's assessment of deficient English planning appears correct, it is hard to see that the Scottish King Robert the Bruce had any serious plan of campaign either. Until the second day of battle, the Scots kept their options open to fight or flee and their victory was the result of opportunity, rather than planning.
The campaign narrative itself is 38 pages long and is enhanced by five 2-D maps (Scotland in 1314, Edward II's invasion, the flight of the English army, Scottish raids in northern England, Bannockburn then and now) and three 3-D "Birds Eye View" maps (the fighting on 23 June 1314, the Scottish attack and the collapse of the English army). There are also three excellent battle scenes: the encounter between Robert the Bruce and Henry de Bohun, the attack of the Earl of Gloucester's cavalry on a Scottish schiltron and Edward II's flight). A somewhat longer than usual 20-page section on the battle's aftermath covers casualties, reasons for the English defeat, results of the battle, the continuation of the English-Scot war and changes in military tactics because of the battle. Indeed, the author should be applauded for finding space for some analysis of the battle. Essentially, the author blames most of the defeat upon Edward II's atrocious lack of leadership and faulty decisions, which was certainly a key ingredient in the disaster. Coupled to Edward's poor leadership, Robert the Bruce's ability to boldly seize opportunity presented by English indecision and confusion resulted in a successful Scottish counterattack on the second day. Rather than merely blaming one individual, I think it might be fairer to say that English arrogance was to blame for the defeat, since this same kind of arrogance figured in other battles where professional English armies opposed irregulars (e.g. the American Revolution, the Zulus, the Boers). Inexperienced as he was, Edward II probably would have entered battle more cautiously if opposing a professional continental foe like the French or Spanish. The author does conclude that the English eventually learned at great cost to deal with Scottish tactics and that they put this to good use against the French in the Hundred Years War.