In June 1314, Edward II, led his army of over 20,000 men into Scotland. His cavalry, his main strength, was supported by
archers and foot soldiers carrying spears. Against this massive force were Bruce's army of 5,000, comprising mainly spearmen
on foot but there was a small force mounted on Garron ponies (small stocky Highland ponies famed for their hardiness) and
an even smaller body of archers. Hopelessly outnumbered, there was not the slightest chance that such an army, however well
trained or or high morale, could hope to keep at bay (far less defeat) the full might of England's best on an open battlefield.
It was late in the day when the English forces arrived so they made camp for the evening on the marshy ground between the
Forth and Bannockburn, little realising that they had placed themselves precisely where Bruce wanted them to be. From Edward's
point of view the Scots had two choices; to take his army into the west and give up the struggle or to act foolishly by facing
the 20,000 strong English army on the plain where Bruce would be crushed. Edward II was confident of victory, Bruce was satisfied
his careful planning had led the English army into a position where they were hemmed in.
It was typical of Bruce that on the eve of battle he should consider the morale of his men and take them into his confidence.
"We have them where we want them. Do you wish to go on and try the issue with them? If we lose, we lose everything including
our lives. If we gain the day, I can promise you not only glory but something infinitely greater, more important to each of
you - freedom. What is your wish? I will abide by your decision". The reply was that they would "tak the ure" and would
fight on the morrow. They fought and won a victory that set in motion events that were ultimately to shape forever Scotland's
When dawn broke on Midsummer Day 1314, the Scottish spearmen came out of the woods and onto the plain. It was a bold tactic
to use infantrymen and, armed only with spears, advance on a mass of cavalry before it was ready or able to charge. In so
doing Bruce managed to throw Edward's army into considerable confusion. They attempted to charge but could gain no momentum.
Riderless horses turned back and added to the growing confusion in the English lines, whose rear was held by the waters of
the Forth. There appeared suddenly to be total mayhem within the English ranks with many trying to escape by swimming the
Forth, only to drown in the attempt. Others were cut down as they attempted to flee south across the Bannockburn. So great
was the number of English corpses filling the Bannockburn that those still attempting an escape found themselves using their
fellow countrymen as a 'bridge'.
Edward II stood amidst the battlefield, seemingly unable to believe what had happened; he had brought to Scotland the best
and the most experienced of his knights and fighting men, outnumbering the Scots by five to one yet all around him lay the
corpses of England's finest. He was the son of the "hammer of the Scots" and although he did not lack courage, he did
not have his father's instinct for battle. His advisors pleaded with him that he should now leave the field of battle as his
life was now seriously in peril but Edward refused. Eventually the reins of his horse were taken and he was led from the battle
in some haste and taken to Dunbar, from where he sailed to Berwick and relative safety.