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The Battle for Wales

Peter and Dan Snow revisit the battles that shaped our nation. They tell the story of when the Welsh, led by rebel leader Owain Glyndwr, last invaded England.


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600 years ago,

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the mountains and valleys of Wales rang with the sound of war.

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For one tantalising moment,

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Wales stood on the threshold of freedom and independence.

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After five years of armed resistance against English rule,

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the Welsh people did the unthinkable.

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A Welsh army, ten thousand strong,

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invaded England.

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It was a decisive moment in a vicious struggle for Wales

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between the English king, Henry IV,

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and the leader of the last great Welsh rebellion, Owen Glendower.

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I've come here with my son Dan to find out what happened.

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I'll be looking at the strategies the two military leaders used to try and outwit each other.

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And I'll be looking at what life was like for the ordinary people caught up in these violent events.

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-WELSH ACCENT:

-A fire has been lit that cannot go out.

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We will smash all these laws and chains that hold us down.

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I'll be looking at medieval armour,

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tactics and weapons of mass destruction.

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We'll be tracing the story of a decade of Welsh defiance.

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It lasted longer than any Welsh rebellion ever

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and it brought English rule to its knees.

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It was the battle for Wales.

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By the year 1400, England had ruled Wales for a century.

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The Welsh people had suffered every kind of indignity and brutality

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at the hands of the English occupiers.

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Even though the English and Welsh lived side by side,

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governed by the same parliament, they were treated differently in law.

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There were restrictions on how much beer and mead the Welsh could brew.

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They weren't allowed to own land within ten miles of a town.

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If they wanted to carry arms, they had to swear loyalty to the king.

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There were even local taxes that the Welsh did have to pay and the English didn't.

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It was racial apartheid.

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They made it very clear from the laws that we, er,

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were no more than dogs or pigs or rats or whatever lowly creatures to them, you know.

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I hate the English. I hate what they've done to Wales

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and I hate the way they've made the Welsh people feel.

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This oppressed nation was about to explode into open rebellion.

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All it needed was a leader.

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That leader, the greatest hero in Welsh history,

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was to emerge from a dispute over a small piece of land.

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In 1400, a Welsh noble had some of his land here in north-east Wales seized by an English neighbour.

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The Welshman appealed to Parliament in London for his land back,

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but Parliament threw out his appeal and insulted him and all Welshmen

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by saying, "What care we for these barefoot rascals?"

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The English parliament had picked on the wrong man.

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This was one Welshman who would not accept insult and rejection.

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His name was Owen Glendower

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and he vowed to take revenge.

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Little is known about how he looked.

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He was 40 years old and descended from Welsh royalty.

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He knew the English well.

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He'd studied law in London and fought in their army.

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He was a respected military commander -

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ideal credentials for a good rebel leader.

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Glendower became a magnet for other Welsh nobles.

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He was a leader they could follow.

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On the 16th of September 1400,

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at his grand fortress home,

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they proclaimed him Owen Glendower, Prince of Wales.

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It was an act of the utmost defiance.

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For the last 100 years, the title of Prince of Wales

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had been reserved for the eldest son of the King of England.

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Glendower had seized back the title

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and now he intended to seize back Wales.

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It would be no easy task.

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For 100 years, the kings of England had suppressed the Welsh

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by establishing great fortresses like this one at Harlech.

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These English-controlled castles, and the towns that surrounded them, formed an iron ring around Wales.

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The castles at Conwy, Beaumaris in Anglesey, Carmarthen and Harlech

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are as elaborate as any strongholds in 14th-century Europe,

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and there are scores of other castles around the coast of Wales,

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up the middle of it and along the border with England.

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There are more castles to this day per square mile in Wales than anywhere else in the world.

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Every castle housed a garrison of English soldiers to enforce the law and keep the Welsh at bay.

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Those who had proclaimed Owen Glendower Prince of Wales

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signed up to a campaign to drive the English out.

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A fight back was about to begin.

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The rebels' first target was Rhuthun in north-east Wales.

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Glendower chose Rhuthun with good reason.

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It was the home of the English lord who'd stolen Glendower's land,

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and also it had many English settlers.

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The 18th of September 1400

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was a day that Lord Rhuthun and his town would never forget.

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Owen Glendower led 250 rebels into the town

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and created mayhem.

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They set fire to the town, and in the chaos they stole valuables, food, weapons and livestock.

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Only three buildings were left standing, including the castle.

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The damage amounted to £12,000, many millions in today's money.

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For Owen Glendower's men, the rebellion had got off to a good start.

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To at last get back...

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take something back,

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take back, after all, what was ours, what they'd taken from us,

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was fantastic.

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I just felt proud to be part of the, er, the start of something,

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you know. Um, the people looked at us as heroes.

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News of the attack spread like wildfire and supporters flocked to Glendower's side.

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Over the next week, the Welsh rebel forces burned and raided another seven towns over north-east Wales,

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from Denbigh to Oswestry, here.

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It was a scorched-earth policy

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focusing on the English-controlled settlements dominated by the castles.

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And, er, the thing was

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there weren't so many of us, really,

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but the next time we had a major engagement,

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there were ten times as many people turning out under Glendower to fight the English.

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We just wanted to fight for Wales and to follow Glendower.

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Even learned men as far away as Oxford were coming back.

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They even caught some of them plot, plot, plotting in the privy

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and they locked them up, you know, as spies.

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Glendower's rebellion sent shock waves through Wales

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and there was widespread panic amongst the English there.

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The isolated castle garrisons sent out pleas for reinforcements.

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Henry IV, King of England, was not amused.

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Henry IV had seized the throne by force in 1399,

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the year before the Welsh rebellion started.

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He was a tall and athletic man in his mid-thirties.

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His position was far from secure.

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There was already unrest in Ireland and Scotland

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and the last thing Henry needed was trouble in Wales.

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Owen Glendower's raids and his claim to be Prince of Wales

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were a direct threat to the English crown.

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King Henry had to take action before the rebellion could spread too far.

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Henry IV was determined to crush Owen Glendower.

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He declared war on the Welsh rebels.

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Within weeks of Glendower's first attacks, King Henry led an army

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into the north-east of Wales.

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Henry's army was well-equipped with supplies of food and weapons.

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The soldiers wore as much protective clothing as they could afford -

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a padded jacket, leather jerkin or chain mail.

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But only the wealthiest knights had full suits of armour.

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One, two, three.

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40 kilos of armour.

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The heaviest thing I've ever worn.

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-What would a suit of armour cost now?

-A nice harness of armour,

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the price of a top-of-the-range sports car today.

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-Really?

-That sort of cost.

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The top-of-the-range suit of armour in 1400

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compares to a Ferrari today.

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What, er, covers the...

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-..important area?

-Ah, right.

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-Well, not a lot in this case.

-Really?

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Is that usually the...?

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-Ready.

-Thank you, my good squire.

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ARMOUR CLANKS

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With all this clanking noise, I have no chance of sneaking up on my enemy by surprise, but I do feel safe.

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In fact, if I was in a battle, I'd feel pretty indestructible.

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In order to talk to anyone, I've got to raise the visor like this.

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Before battles, commanders would ride in front of their troops and give instructions or motivate them.

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They'd raise their visor to do it. That's where the salute comes from.

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With their armour and weaponry in plentiful supplies,

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Henry's warriors were far better equipped than Glendower's band of Welsh rebels.

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The disadvantage was that they had to follow the main route through Wales.

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This put them out in the open.

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I'm in cover behind the ridge. Anyone in the valley can't see me well,

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so I can keep an eye on them.

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These Welsh mountain tracks are appallingly bumpy, even today,

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and in the valleys they were a boggy morass,

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so moving an army like this along in the old medieval days

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would have been an appalling task and vulnerable to ambush.

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Glendower's men could travel easily. They didn't need to carry supplies

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as they had friendly bases across the country. They were fighting on friendly territory.

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Whereas Henry IV's army - Dad -

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were fighting in a foreign land and had to carry everything with them.

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Well, Dan, I'm trundling along. I can't see you. Are you up there?

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Yeah, I've been keeping tabs on your Blitzkrieg-like progress.

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I'm only about 50 metres away from you, so it just shows how close you can get without being seen

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-in this terrain.

-I'm not surprised.

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I feel extremely vulnerable here

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and I can imagine behind me scores of other wagons and knights in armour and goodness knows what.

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We must be a very easy target.

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It strikes me that I could ambush you by cutting in front of you,

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or if there were any stragglers, I could pick them off at the back.

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I'm doing my best to control the stragglers, but it's quite tricky.

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They're looking forward to their drink at lunch.

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It would be hard to straggle at that pace, Dad.

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Glendower's tactics played to his strengths.

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Time and again, he avoided confronting the powerful army.

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He struck like lightning,

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only targeting stragglers and small convoys of soldiers.

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They stole whatever they needed - food, weapons and money -

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before melting back into the countryside.

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The effect on the English was demoralising.

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-ENGLISH ACCENT:

-Tricky bastard.

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We're fighting a different kind of enemy, fighting a man

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who's kind of reinventing the rules.

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They hide, they skulk, they stab you in the back, rather than stand up and fight you proper.

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I think they're savages. They're worse than the Scots.

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Even nature seemed to favour Glendower.

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The weather that Henry's army seemed to encounter every time it went into Wales was dreadful,

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and it was said that Glendower must be a magician to have engineered such extraordinary weather.

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Once, Henry was asleep in his tent and the thing collapsed, so awful was the rain and the wind,

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and only because he was wearing his armour did Henry survive.

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Henry took his army into Wales many times.

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Each time, Glendower outwitted him.

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The English king was losing face.

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Henry's failure only underlined Glendower's success, and the rebellion simply gathered strength.

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Henry returned to London, but he was not going to let the Welsh humiliate him and get away with it.

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In desperation, he turned to another weapon - the law.

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In the new year of 1401,

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the Welsh were subjected to even more draconian legislation.

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Now they weren't allowed to hold public office.

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If a stranger stayed overnight, they had to ask permission,

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and they couldn't marry an English person.

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Amongst the Welsh, there was fear of genocide.

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Welsh people could be killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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There was one instance, a friend of mine was in town,

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visiting his girlfriend who just happened to be English,

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and he decided to stay with her as, you know, most men would,

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and he was caught in town that night

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and was executed, just for being Welsh.

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The increased oppression only fuelled Glendower's rebellion.

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Supporters were flocking to him and his raids spread all across Wales.

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After two years, there were very few English-controlled castles and towns that were left unscathed.

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Wales was becoming ungovernable.

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Law and order broke down and taxes were not being paid,

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neither to the King, nor to the local English landowners.

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Their property ransacked, their farms abandoned,

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their workers gone to join Glendower -

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no wonder the English landlords were angry.

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One of them had had enough.

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Sir Edmund Mortimer.

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At just 25, Mortimer was a powerful English knight,

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a cousin of the king, with lands all along the Welsh-English border.

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When Glendower attacked his lands, he decided to fight back.

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He raised an army to hunt down Glendower.

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Mortimer finally found Glendower at Pilleth in mid-Wales.

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On the 22nd of June 1402, the peace of this valley was shattered.

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2,000 English soldiers were on the march, headed by Sir Edmund Mortimer.

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He was determined to crush the Welsh rebels.

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But Owen Glendower was prepared. He had a new strategy.

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After two years of small-scale raids and attacks,

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his rebel forces were now a disciplined army

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and they were ready to take on the English army face to face.

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Glendower was waiting for Mortimer here in the hilly terrain on the Welsh-English border,

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near the village of Pilleth, just inside Wales.

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He chose the hill of Bryn Glas over there.

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It's a very steep slope with a valley off to the right there.

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He wanted to use the contours of the hill to good effect.

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Here's Bryn Glas on the map case.

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Glendower had about 1,500 men

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and some of them he positioned in the valley -

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perhaps half of his entire force.

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Behind here, they were completely invisible to the advancing English.

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The 2,000 men in Mortimer's army approached the bottom of the hill.

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All they could see was an army of about 750 men,

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the rest of Glendower's troops, up above them.

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What we saw, we saw...

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a small, disorganised, badly armed...rabble,

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two thirds of the way up this hill.

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The soldiers of Mortimer's army at the bottom of the hill felt like they should have had the advantage.

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They were outnumbering Glendower's men on top by about three to one.

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But this ground favoured the Welsh.

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This hillside is an extraordinary place to try and have a battle. The gradient is about one in four.

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I'm getting pretty exhausted walking up it, and I'm not carrying

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any chain mail or weapons.

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Just getting up here would have been quite a challenge.

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Despite this, Mortimer must have believed he could win,

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because the Welsh guerrilla army had little experience of open warfare.

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Glendower must have believed that HE could win,

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because he had the high ground, and that favoured his archers.

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Archery was almost like a religion in the Middle Ages.

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With no standing professional army,

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the king had to rely on all his subjects being armed and trained in case he needed to use them in war.

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Archery was compulsory. In fact, other activities like football were banned,

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so that archery wasn't just a sport, it was a national duty.

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But the pull weight needed to use one of these longbows is enormous

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and it took a lifetime of training to become a professional bowman.

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Boys as young as seven trained with rocks to build their muscles.

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Medieval skeletons of bowmen have been found and they have hugely overdeveloped bones and muscles

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in their shoulders and arms. They must have been formidable men.

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The longbow was the medieval weapon of mass destruction,

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able to shoot further and faster than anything else on the battlefield.

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We tried them out at an archery club in South Wales.

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Ooh!

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Right through the bull's-eye...

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Not bad. In the black.

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Archery is a great leveller.

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In skilled hands, a longbow arrow can travel 250 metres.

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To see just how devastating longbows can be, we conducted an experiment.

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We've got 40 archers aiming into a target area representing the ranks of the enemy.

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We've got just one minute.

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Archers ready.

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Draw.

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Shoot.

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Not a bad one there, Dad.

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I think I've got mine on the wrong side of the bow.

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-There we go.

-Oh, nice!

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-I think I've pulled a muscle in the back of my neck.

-What?

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-You poor guy.

-Well, it's a tough life being a bowman.

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Stop.

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-How many did you get off?

-Nine, but they were carefully aimed...

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I got 11, carefully aimed too.

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The results ranged from eight to 21,

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and the average was 12 arrows per archer.

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-This is terrifyingly effective, Dan, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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There's a good 100 arrows in the box.

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Absolutely. It's frightening to look at, isn't it?

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You hardly see a space where a person would have been standing

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who wouldn't have been hit.

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I mean, here, someone might have been lucky. Right here, perhaps.

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But then a metre to the side, you're dead or wounded.

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You're talking about 6,000 archers firing 12 a minute. That's what?

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-72,000.

-70,000.

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-72,000...

-72,000 arrows per minute landing on the enemy.

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Unbelievable. Look at this devastation. 72,000 in a minute!

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On Thursday the 22nd of June 1402,

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Mortimer and Glendower lined up their armies at Pilleth.

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It would be one of the first ever battles of longbow against longbow on British soil.

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The archers prepared to fight by sticking the arrows in the ground in front of them.

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The arrowheads picked up germs from the soil, made even more toxic

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because men went to the toilet there.

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If the arrow didn't kill outright, it could lead to death by infection,

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an early form of biological warfare.

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Glendower's archers up on the hill were ready and waiting.

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Then the Battle of Pilleth began.

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Pull.

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ARROWS TWANG

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SWISHING

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This noise just...

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just grew. It were like, er...

0:27:220:27:25

It were like a swarm of bees.

0:27:250:27:28

That was all you could hear, the sound of them going through the air and someone screaming.

0:27:400:27:45

And the sky just...turned black.

0:27:450:27:48

The significance of the slope immediately began to tell, and it gave the Welsh a massive advantage.

0:27:530:28:00

Their arrows shot downhill travelled further than the English arrows shot uphill.

0:28:000:28:06

The English were taking all the casualties. The Welsh were safely out of range.

0:28:060:28:11

The Welshmen on top of the hill could see that Owen Glendower's plan was working.

0:28:160:28:22

We were just laughing at them, because they couldn't reach us at all,

0:28:220:28:27

and that was exactly what we wanted because that was the plan.

0:28:270:28:31

The remainder of Glendower's men, hidden in the valley, had to sit tight.

0:28:340:28:40

We'd been told to wait for the signal, so all we could hear

0:28:440:28:49

was arrows flying through the air and a battle beginning.

0:28:490:28:52

The English archers were taking a pounding.

0:28:570:29:01

To win the battle, Mortimer would have to change tactics and take the fight to Glendower.

0:29:030:29:08

The English knights and men-at-arms waited impatiently behind their archers for the order to advance.

0:29:120:29:18

Then the whole army scrambled up the steep slope into the storm of arrows.

0:29:280:29:32

It was murderous.

0:29:320:29:35

Men were just falling all around us

0:29:410:29:44

and people just started cursing Mortimer.

0:29:440:29:47

The battle had begun badly for Mortimer and was about to get worse.

0:29:480:29:52

In order to swell his ranks,

0:29:520:29:54

he had recruited some of his archers from Wales.

0:29:540:29:58

It was to be his undoing.

0:29:580:30:00

Mortimer may still have trusted to his superior numbers, but then disaster struck.

0:30:020:30:08

His own Welsh archers on the left flank of his English army suddenly delivered a lethal blow.

0:30:080:30:15

Without warning, they mutinied.

0:30:150:30:17

They turned on their own ranks and loosed off their arrows at the English infantry.

0:30:230:30:29

I'd been fighting with them for weeks and these bastards turn on us.

0:30:360:30:41

We don't know why the archers did it.

0:30:460:30:49

Maybe there were double agents in the English camp and the whole thing was prearranged,

0:30:490:30:54

or the archers may have recognised Glendower's military superiority

0:30:540:30:58

and changed sides for self-preservation.

0:30:580:31:01

Either way, the effect of those point-blank volleys shattered Mortimer's army.

0:31:010:31:06

Glendower's men up on the hill saw their chance and charged.

0:31:060:31:10

Now there was just ferocious hand-to-hand combat,

0:31:250:31:29

one man against another.

0:31:290:31:31

Grand strategy had no place here.

0:31:430:31:46

It was just individuals fighting for survival

0:31:460:31:50

with every fibre of their being.

0:31:500:31:52

Your world kind of shrinks. All you've got is...

0:32:040:32:08

the person right in front of you and the people to the side of you.

0:32:080:32:12

You don't know what else is happening.

0:32:120:32:14

All that matters to you is getting through the next few seconds.

0:32:140:32:17

And because there were no uniforms,

0:32:190:32:22

you didn't always know if you were killing your own men or not.

0:32:220:32:26

Just hack your way through people.

0:32:260:32:28

You just make use of what weapons you have.

0:32:280:32:32

This evil-looking weapon is called a billhook. You could use it as a spear

0:32:370:32:42

or bring this point down on somebody's head,

0:32:420:32:45

or you could exploit the area between the helmet and the breastplate,

0:32:450:32:49

slip this round the back of somebody's neck and pull.

0:32:490:32:52

The flail was for crushing injuries.

0:32:550:32:58

An axe could cut through chain mail.

0:32:590:33:02

Swords were used, but not for the fancy swordplay in the movies.

0:33:030:33:07

They were good for hacking, breaking bones and immobilising people.

0:33:070:33:11

You could hold them like this

0:33:140:33:16

and bring this heavy part down on the top of somebody's head.

0:33:160:33:20

If you hit them hard enough, it drove their spinal column into their brain.

0:33:210:33:26

Injured men on the ground were finished off by the archers, who now had a new role.

0:33:300:33:36

You'd sling your bow on your back and then take out your dagger. I'd got a little thin dagger.

0:33:380:33:43

And you just go to the wounded men lying on the ground

0:33:430:33:47

and you finish them off. If they've got armour on,

0:33:470:33:50

you find a gap in the armour where you can slide the dagger in.

0:33:500:33:53

You look for any sort of weakness in the armour, just stabbing them anywhere vulnerable

0:33:540:33:59

like the ear or in the armpit, the groin, the backside,

0:33:590:34:03

just go round, finishing them off.

0:34:030:34:05

It was just total carnage.

0:34:090:34:12

Everywhere you looked, someone was killing someone else.

0:34:140:34:18

People were screaming, knives were going in and blood was coming out.

0:34:180:34:22

There's this fear inside you that's driving you on.

0:34:230:34:26

All you can hear is yourself breathing hard, your heart's racing,

0:34:260:34:30

and just keep yourself alive,

0:34:300:34:33

just keep going, just keep hacking.

0:34:330:34:35

Glendower had the upper hand from the start.

0:34:540:34:57

He had chosen the high ground,

0:34:570:34:59

his archers had inflicted heavy casualties

0:34:590:35:02

and then his enemy's crack troops had mutinied.

0:35:020:35:06

Now he was about to play his trump card.

0:35:060:35:10

Remember, all this time, Owen Glendower had a group of men

0:35:140:35:18

deep in the valley, beside the hill.

0:35:180:35:21

Now they moved into the attack.

0:35:210:35:24

We ambushed them. That's what we're good at.

0:35:240:35:26

They didn't see us coming.

0:35:260:35:28

Glendower is a genius from the first to the last

0:35:310:35:34

and that was a great example of how good he was on a battlefield.

0:35:340:35:37

From out of nowhere, they raced up over the brow of the slope

0:35:400:35:44

and fell on the exhausted remnant of Mortimer's army.

0:35:440:35:47

The English were outnumbered and outclassed.

0:35:530:35:56

Owen Glendower's rebel army had won the battle of Pilleth.

0:35:560:36:01

Their first major victory

0:36:070:36:10

in open warfare.

0:36:100:36:12

Like a...charnel house.

0:36:280:36:31

Confusion of...of mud and...

0:36:320:36:37

and blood

0:36:370:36:39

and just bodies all over the place.

0:36:390:36:41

English bodies, mainly.

0:36:420:36:44

My friends.

0:36:440:36:46

At the end of that June day, over 800 bodies lay on this slope,

0:36:480:36:53

most of them English.

0:36:530:36:56

The Welsh ransomed corpses, a particularly gruesome practice. But there was worse.

0:36:560:37:01

One account of the battle said that local Welsh women came and mutilated the bodies of the English.

0:37:050:37:10

They cut off their penises and stuffed them into the men's mouths.

0:37:100:37:14

If true, it was a brutal act of martial humiliation by the Welsh,

0:37:170:37:22

or it may be the story was invented by the English to portray the Welsh as savages.

0:37:220:37:27

Either way, the battle of Pilleth was a monumental victory for the Welsh.

0:37:270:37:32

We'd done raids, little skirmishes,

0:37:340:37:37

but this was an open battle against an English army and we won.

0:37:370:37:41

We found that we could beat the English in open warfare.

0:37:410:37:44

Many of the dead were buried on this hillside.

0:37:480:37:52

A hundred years ago, huge quantities of human bones were discovered

0:37:520:37:56

and that cluster of wellingtonia trees was planted to mark the spot.

0:37:560:38:01

This crushing Welsh victory here at Pilleth, only a few miles from the English border,

0:38:010:38:07

was Glendower's greatest success yet

0:38:070:38:09

in two years of struggle to restore Welsh freedom.

0:38:090:38:13

Mortimer, the English army commander,

0:38:130:38:15

was captured and held for ransom.

0:38:150:38:18

Wealthy prisoners were often sold back for money to help buy arms and foodstuffs.

0:38:180:38:23

But as things turned out, Mortimer's value wouldn't be measured in money.

0:38:230:38:28

He would be of far more use to Glendower than that.

0:38:280:38:31

Mortimer was taken into Glendower's heartland,

0:38:350:38:39

into the impenetrable landscape of Snowdonia,

0:38:390:38:42

where he'd be hidden from the king.

0:38:420:38:44

But Glendower needn't have bothered.

0:38:460:38:48

The king had no intention of paying the ransom.

0:38:480:38:52

The fact was, it rather suited Henry

0:38:540:38:57

to have Mortimer locked away in deepest Wales.

0:38:570:39:00

Mortimer's family had a stronger claim to the throne than he did.

0:39:000:39:05

So the king decided not to pay Mortimer's ransom.

0:39:050:39:08

He could hardly have made a bigger mistake.

0:39:080:39:11

Mortimer, abandoned by the king,

0:39:110:39:14

promptly declared his allegiance to Glendower and married his daughter.

0:39:140:39:18

It was a spectacular U-turn

0:39:180:39:21

and it would transform Glendower's fortunes.

0:39:210:39:24

Because Mortimer had some influential connections.

0:39:250:39:29

His sister was married to one of the most powerful knights in England,

0:39:290:39:34

Sir Henry Percy, known as Hotspur.

0:39:340:39:37

In his mid-thirties, Hotspur had fallen out with the English king

0:39:370:39:42

and now hated Henry as much as did Mortimer and Glendower.

0:39:420:39:46

Through Mortimer, Hotspur and Glendower started secret talks

0:39:480:39:52

about how they could work together.

0:39:520:39:55

We don't know the detail of their plan, but from what followed

0:39:550:39:59

it seems they decided to join forces and together bring down the King.

0:39:590:40:04

Our army and his army joining together, we could be unstoppable.

0:40:040:40:08

You know, this could be the start of a free Wales.

0:40:080:40:11

Hotspur's first move was to raise an army of 10,000 Englishmen and Welshmen.

0:40:190:40:25

His first target was a town right on the Welsh-English border.

0:40:320:40:36

Hotspur had chosen Shrewsbury with good reason.

0:40:450:40:49

This was the base of the King's son, the official Prince of Wales.

0:40:490:40:54

Prince Hal was only 16, but already a courageous young warrior.

0:40:590:41:04

He was now in command of a garrison of 1,500 men

0:41:040:41:08

with a brief from his father, the King, to quell Owen Glendower's rebellion.

0:41:080:41:13

If Hotspur could capture Shrewsbury and the Prince of Wales,

0:41:190:41:23

it would be a blow to King Henry and a boost to Owen Glendower.

0:41:230:41:27

Hotspur must have thought that taking this town would be easy.

0:41:290:41:33

His army was six times the size of Hal's garrison.

0:41:330:41:37

But as Hotspur approached,

0:41:370:41:39

he was shocked to find King Henry had come to his son's rescue

0:41:390:41:43

with a large army.

0:41:430:41:45

Hotspur now faced a far more powerful enemy than he'd expected.

0:41:450:41:49

But instead of retreating and waiting until he could meet up with Owen Glendower,

0:41:490:41:55

Hotspur decided to stand and fight.

0:41:550:41:57

The battle that followed promised a tantalising prize.

0:42:020:42:07

If Hotspur won,

0:42:070:42:09

Henry IV would lose the throne of England. If that happened,

0:42:090:42:13

Glendower would be within reach of his goal of Welsh independence.

0:42:130:42:18

For Glendower, the battle of Shrewsbury could be the decisive step in the battle for Wales.

0:42:180:42:24

This is where the battle of Shrewsbury was fought,

0:42:270:42:31

three miles north-east of the town,

0:42:310:42:33

a wide, flat plain with just one rise on the landscape.

0:42:330:42:37

On July 20th, Hotspur spotted that ridge over there

0:42:400:42:44

and positioned his army on it.

0:42:440:42:46

They stretched half a mile along that ridge, facing south.

0:42:460:42:50

He felt that gave him a strong defensive position, looking down across the plain.

0:42:500:42:55

Here is that ridge.

0:42:550:42:58

Hotspur had 6,000 archers.

0:42:580:43:01

He placed them along the front and the sides, about seven deep,

0:43:010:43:05

and behind and between the archers

0:43:050:43:08

he placed his 4,000 infantry - 10,000 men altogether.

0:43:080:43:12

Shortly after Hotspur arrived,

0:43:120:43:14

King Henry and Prince Hal arrived with their two royal armies.

0:43:140:43:19

King Henry's army, also 10,000 strong,

0:43:200:43:23

took up their position facing Hotspur.

0:43:230:43:26

Henry's son, Prince Hal, put his smaller force

0:43:260:43:29

on the left flank, further back.

0:43:290:43:32

At four o'clock in the afternoon

0:43:360:43:38

on the 21st of July, a battle began.

0:43:380:43:41

Hotspur's archers were more experienced

0:43:520:43:55

and they were on the higher ground.

0:43:550:43:57

They unleashed an overwhelming volley of arrows.

0:43:570:44:00

One description written at the time

0:44:020:44:05

says that men fell like apples in autumn when stirred by the west wind.

0:44:050:44:10

It was too much for the king's men.

0:44:110:44:13

The royalist archers began to retreat back down the hill,

0:44:140:44:18

but they ran slap-bang into their own advancing foot soldiers

0:44:180:44:22

who were still obeying the king's orders to attack. It was chaos.

0:44:220:44:25

Within minutes, the entire royalist line was in disarray

0:44:250:44:28

and retreating back down the hill.

0:44:280:44:30

Men all around me were falling

0:44:350:44:38

and I just started to pray, really, pray and run.

0:44:380:44:42

Hotspur's men up here saw this, roared their battle cry and charged.

0:44:420:44:47

The ensuing struggle was as vicious as any in medieval history,

0:44:590:45:04

a brutal free-for-all that went on for three hours.

0:45:040:45:08

In the carnage, men were mutilated, beheaded and disembowelled.

0:45:080:45:12

The locals said this field was obscured by a red cloud,

0:45:140:45:17

the red clay soil combined with sweat and blood.

0:45:170:45:21

With both armies now locked in close-fought combat,

0:45:250:45:29

Hotspur seemed to be winning.

0:45:290:45:31

But now the Prince of Wales's army, on the left there, made a move

0:45:310:45:36

which would swing the battle decisively in favour of the king.

0:45:360:45:39

Hal wheeled his troops up to the tip of the melee

0:45:450:45:49

and launched them at the exposed end of Hotspur's line.

0:45:490:45:53

Now Hotspur's army was under fire from both sides.

0:45:530:45:57

Hotspur himself fought on bravely,

0:46:010:46:04

but then disaster struck.

0:46:040:46:06

He'd been injured and was lying on the ground, gulping for air,

0:46:080:46:11

when an enemy arrow struck him in the mouth and killed him.

0:46:110:46:15

The shocking news swept across the field

0:46:150:46:18

and Hotspur's men knew it was over.

0:46:180:46:21

Within hours, the battle was over.

0:46:360:46:39

Henry had won.

0:46:390:46:41

Owen Glendower had lost a powerful ally and a great opportunity.

0:46:410:46:46

Nevertheless, in Wales, his army was stronger than ever.

0:46:460:46:50

His Welsh rebel army, now 8,000 strong,

0:46:570:47:00

was driving the English occupiers out.

0:47:000:47:04

Glendower was winning the battle for Wales.

0:47:040:47:07

In a series of spectacular raids and sieges,

0:47:180:47:21

the Welsh rebels took towns and castles like Harlech and Aberystwyth.

0:47:210:47:26

The capture of these great bastions of English power

0:47:260:47:30

was a huge boost to the rebellion and further depressed English spirits.

0:47:300:47:34

By 1404, Owen's men controlled nearly the whole of Wales.

0:47:340:47:38

The dream of independence was within reach.

0:47:380:47:42

Owen Glendower based himself here in Harlech Castle with his family.

0:47:490:47:54

In the space of just five years, he'd transformed himself

0:47:540:47:58

from rebel leader to the sovereign head of an independent country.

0:47:580:48:02

He held parliaments attended by the aristocracy from all over Wales,

0:48:020:48:07

and he won recognition from Scotland, Ireland and France.

0:48:070:48:12

But the recognition he didn't get was the one that mattered to him,

0:48:120:48:16

from England's king.

0:48:160:48:18

So Glendower decided to change tactics completely

0:48:180:48:22

and to take the battle to Henry.

0:48:220:48:25

And he soon found himself a ready-made ally to help him...

0:48:250:48:29

France,

0:48:290:48:30

England's oldest enemy,

0:48:300:48:32

became Wales's new best friend.

0:48:320:48:36

The Franco-Welsh alliance was cemented in south-west Wales.

0:48:370:48:42

In July 1405,

0:48:500:48:52

Glendower began his most ambitious military campaign ever.

0:48:520:48:56

He persuaded his allies in France

0:48:560:48:58

to send a fleet of ships here, to the port of Milford Haven.

0:48:580:49:03

The ships were packed with over 2,500 men.

0:49:080:49:12

Some of the knights had brought their plate armour and their horses.

0:49:120:49:16

They were driven by dreams of chivalry.

0:49:160:49:19

They wanted to go to a foreign land, make a name for themselves,

0:49:190:49:22

and return with a pile of plunder.

0:49:220:49:24

When the French finally arrived here in Milford Haven,

0:49:270:49:31

they were met by a Welsh army 10,000 strong. It must have been an extraordinary sight.

0:49:310:49:36

Then the biggest army Glendower had ever commanded headed east to the English border.

0:49:360:49:42

Glendower and the French cut their way through South Wales.

0:49:430:49:47

They marched on east,

0:49:470:49:49

raiding and pillaging for food,

0:49:490:49:52

and then, at the end of August 1405,

0:49:520:49:56

in an extraordinary but little-known moment in British history,

0:49:560:50:00

the Welsh army invaded England.

0:50:000:50:03

We could barely believe that we were invading England.

0:50:050:50:08

Instead of the other way around, we were invading England.

0:50:080:50:12

The king acted swiftly to block this new threat to his regime.

0:50:180:50:22

He gathered an army and headed west

0:50:220:50:24

and the two armies met here,

0:50:240:50:27

just 12 miles north of Worcester.

0:50:270:50:30

King Henry's forces were spread along Abberley Hill over there,

0:50:300:50:35

his battle line probably about half a mile long.

0:50:350:50:38

And they faced down the slope and across this valley here,

0:50:380:50:42

about a mile wide, to Woodbury Hill over there to the west.

0:50:420:50:46

There were Owen Glendower's Welsh forces with their French allies.

0:50:460:50:51

On the map case, I'm just here on the plain between the two hills,

0:50:540:50:58

one over here to the east and one over here to the west.

0:50:580:51:02

Over here, King Henry's forces,

0:51:020:51:04

across the plane, Glendower's forces with his French allies.

0:51:040:51:08

On these tranquil Worcestershire hills,

0:51:180:51:21

two mighty armies faced each other, some 10,000 men in each camp.

0:51:210:51:26

The Welsh had never pressed so far into England.

0:51:320:51:36

They now struck at the very heart of King Henry's realm.

0:51:380:51:41

The stakes could not have been higher.

0:51:410:51:45

We were expecting the biggest battle ever, because we had the French and the Welshies facing up against us -

0:51:460:51:52

a chance for revenge on them both.

0:51:520:51:54

The next morning, they prepared for battle,

0:51:570:52:00

but neither the king nor Glendower wanted to make the first move.

0:52:000:52:05

It was just tense.

0:52:110:52:13

At any moment, we could be asked to run down into the valley

0:52:130:52:17

and fight the English, but this didn't happen.

0:52:170:52:20

Both sides had very powerful defensive positions, and that was the problem.

0:52:210:52:26

Both were well placed to defend themselves, not to attack.

0:52:260:52:31

Each side was reluctant to lose the advantage of the high ground to attack the other.

0:52:310:52:36

As the week went on, the tension became unbearable.

0:52:360:52:40

There was only so much you could do. Sharpen your weapon and then what?

0:52:400:52:44

By the end of the week, it was beyond a joke.

0:52:440:52:47

We just wanted the battle to begin.

0:52:470:52:50

Henry had one huge advantage -

0:52:510:52:54

this was England

0:52:540:52:56

and he controlled the territory that surrounded his enemy's position.

0:52:560:53:00

Knowing that an army marches on its stomach,

0:53:000:53:03

he blocked off all the supply routes to the Welsh camp on Woodbury Hill.

0:53:030:53:08

It was under siege.

0:53:080:53:10

We hadn't had food for days

0:53:110:53:14

and people were squabbling over scraps of food.

0:53:140:53:17

Everyone felt desperate,

0:53:240:53:26

tired, hungry,

0:53:260:53:29

just completely worn out.

0:53:290:53:31

All the hope and hearts just crumbled away

0:53:370:53:40

and...

0:53:400:53:42

..it was very sad.

0:53:440:53:47

As the days dragged on, the large Franco-Welsh army began to starve.

0:53:470:53:52

They'd marched 150 miles from Milford Haven in all weathers

0:53:520:53:57

and now they'd spent a week on a cold hillside in enemy territory.

0:53:570:54:01

It was as though we were being...

0:54:010:54:04

gnawed at, bit by bit.

0:54:040:54:07

I wanted to fight. I did want to fight.

0:54:080:54:12

This wasn't the way for us to lose.

0:54:120:54:14

If we'd have lost, we could have lost in a battle,

0:54:140:54:17

but this was just demoralising.

0:54:170:54:20

It just made us feel useless.

0:54:200:54:23

As the sun rose on the eighth day,

0:54:300:54:33

Henry got wind of conditions in the enemy's camp.

0:54:330:54:37

He realised that he had won.

0:54:370:54:39

He'd starved his enemy out and Glendower was no longer a threat.

0:54:390:54:43

Henry stood his troops down and he himself went off to Worcester.

0:54:430:54:48

His beleaguered opponents, the Franco-Welsh army

0:54:480:54:51

which had marched into England days earlier, struck camp and marched back to Wales.

0:54:510:54:56

Glendower had squared up to King Henry

0:54:580:55:01

but had failed to engage him in battle.

0:55:010:55:04

The two men would never face each other again.

0:55:040:55:08

Glendower's grand plan,

0:55:120:55:14

which just for a moment had looked achievable,

0:55:140:55:17

was now in ruins.

0:55:170:55:19

Back in Wales, Owen Glendower's men fought on in the hills

0:55:250:55:28

for four more years,

0:55:280:55:31

but the rebellion began to crumble

0:55:310:55:33

and only the most committed stayed on.

0:55:330:55:36

The money to pay for other Welsh fighters had dwindled

0:55:360:55:41

and many now began to accept offers of pardon from the English.

0:55:410:55:45

They could tell that after all the years of fighting,

0:55:450:55:48

the rebellion was a spent force.

0:55:480:55:51

They were, um, five amazing years of my life,

0:55:510:55:55

fighting with Owen Glendower and...

0:55:550:55:58

just nearly becoming a free nation...

0:55:580:56:02

Um...

0:56:020:56:04

but it wasn't meant to be.

0:56:040:56:07

King Henry's garrison troops gradually took back the castles

0:56:070:56:12

and the towns,

0:56:120:56:14

and by 1408, the King had reasserted English control over Wales.

0:56:140:56:20

The final blow to Glendower came in February 1409.

0:56:210:56:24

At the age of 50, exhausted after a decade of rebellion,

0:56:240:56:29

he finally lost his beloved Harlech Castle.

0:56:290:56:32

His wife, daughters and granddaughters were seized and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

0:56:320:56:38

Glendower himself was never captured

0:56:380:56:40

and he soon disappeared from public view.

0:56:400:56:44

He was said to be roaming the Welsh hills,

0:56:490:56:52

a broken man.

0:56:520:56:55

No-one knows when or where he died.

0:56:550:56:57

Some say that, like King Arthur, one day he will return.

0:56:580:57:02

No other native Prince of Wales has ever come forward,

0:57:040:57:09

and though there are those to this day who demand a separate Wales,

0:57:090:57:13

nobody has made a serious attempt

0:57:130:57:16

to seize back Welsh independence by force.

0:57:160:57:19

For information about all the events, activities and places to visit

0:57:240:57:28

connected with these battlefields,

0:57:280:57:30

go to bbc.co.uk/history

0:57:300:57:34

Find out about leaders and strategies

0:57:340:57:36

and try being a military commander

0:57:360:57:39

in our new interactive game.

0:57:390:57:41

What were the English doing, attacking straight up that hill?

0:57:430:57:47

Well, you would, wouldn't you? There's a...

0:57:470:57:50

In the next programme, how England took on

0:57:540:57:57

the world's greatest superpower.

0:57:570:58:00

In 1588, Spain launched a massive invasion fleet

0:58:000:58:04

against the British Isles.

0:58:040:58:06

For the Spanish, it was a crusade

0:58:060:58:08

against an island of pirates and heretics.

0:58:080:58:11

For the English, it was a battle of survival

0:58:110:58:15

against the mighty Spanish Armada.

0:58:150:58:17

Subtitles by BBC Broadcast 2004

0:58:170:58:20

E-mail us at [email protected]

0:58:200:58:22

Peter and Dan Snow tell the story of when the Welsh - led by rebel leader Owain Glyndwr - last invaded England. The Battle of Shrewsbury was the scene of the biggest archery-centred conflict on British soil, and the final showdown came outside Worcester. On the way, father and son try out the weapon of mass destruction of the day, the longbow, and experience how Owain Glyndwr used the rough terrain of the Welsh borders to outwit his enemies.