Tuesday 11 August 2015

Welsh Mercenaries in History : "He's fought the wide world over,he's given blood and bone. He's fought for every bloody cause except his bloody own"

Following the recent British celebration of the Battle of Waterloo in Wales when the despicable beast of Trinidad  Sir Thomas Picton was lionised as a hero we now  have Agincourt celebrations this October 2015 and a celebration based on Shakespeare's falsification of history about the extent of Welsh involvement.

Alun Rees's  poem tells below us more about our Welsh history than the falsifications around Sir Thomas Picton and the upcoming Agincourt celebrations this October.



Taffy is a Welshman,
Taffy is no thief.
Someone came to Taffy's house
and stole a leg of beef.

Taffy made no protest,
for he doesn't like a row,
so the someone called on him again
and stole the bloody cow.

They stole his coal and iron,
they stole his pastures, too.
They even stole his language
and flushed it down the loo.

Taffy is a Welshman,
Taffy is a fool.
Taffy voted no, no, no
when they offered him home rule.

Six days a week upon his knees
Taffy dug for coal.
On the seventh he was kneeling, too,
praying for his soul.

And now the mines are closing down
and chapel's had its day,
Taffy still lives upon his knees,
for he knows no other way.

Now sometimes Taffy's brother
will start a row or so,
but you can bank on Taffy:
he doesn't want to know.

For when they hanged Penderyn
he had nothing much to say,
and when Saunders Lewis went to jail
he looked the other way.

Taffy is a Welshman
who likes to be oppressed.
He was proud to tug his forelock
to a Crawshay or a Guest.

They give him tinsel royals,
so he has a pint of beer,
and sings God Bless the Prince of Wales
as he joins the mob to cheer.

Now Taffy is a fighter
when he hears the bugle call.
Name any war since Agincourt:
Taffy's seen them all.

He's fought in France and Germany
and many another land;
he's fought by sea and fought by air
and fought on desert sand.

He's fought for many a foreign flag
in many a foreign part,
for Taffy is a Welshman,
proud of his fighting heart.

He's fought the wide world over,
he's given blood and bone.
He's fought for every bloody cause
except his bloody own

So, Was The Longbow Really Welsh?

In a word: no. The Welsh archers at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt were paid mercenaries, shooting English longbows; no longbows were ever commissioned from Wales. The scaled up 6' longbow was developed in England, between 1300 and 1320, in a large-scale English Army context.

The draw-weight power of the small but strong South Welsh bows must have been one of the influences that inspired a scaling up of the English bow; quite possibly it was picked up by the elite Cheshire archers while on service in Wales with Edward I.

The adoption of the springier self-yew bow stave in the 1290s (not a Welsh thing) will have improved the efficiency of Edward I's English Army arrowstorms, and must also have been a great facilitating factor in scaling up to the 6' longbow.

The young King Edward III will have seen the new longbow in the 1320s and will have seen in it the power that would enable him to take on the heavily armoured French knights, and the weapon around which he could build his battle strategies, to give the longbow its legendary battle-winning success.

Legend has given high prominence to Welsh archers for forming the backbone of the English armies in its victories over the French at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415). However, with more accurate historical records available these days, it turns out that the factual numbers are not quite so romantic.

There was a sizeable Welsh archer presence at Crecy, but not a majority: Edward III's army totalled about 13,500, of which about half were archers; 4,500 English and 2,000 Welsh. At Agincourt in 1415, following Owain Glyndwr's Welsh Revolt of 1400-1410, not many Welsh were taken to France at all: of the 6-7,000 archers in Henry V's army at Agincourt, recruitment records show that only 400 were Welsh.

Source: http://www.bowyers.com/bowyery_longbowOrigins.php


A free company (sometimes called a great company) was a late medieval army of mercenaries acting independently of any government, and thus "free". They regularly made a living by plunder when they were not employed; in France they were the routiers and écorcheurs who operated outside the highly structured law of arms.[1]

The term "free company" is most applied to those companies of soldiers which formed after the Peace of Brétigny during the Hundred Years' War and were active mainly in France, but it has been applied to other companies, such as the Catalan Grand Company and companies that worked elsewhere, such as in Italy[2] and the Holy Roman Empire.

The free companies, or companies of adventure, have been cited as a factor as strong as plague or famine in the reduction of Siena from a glorious rival of Florence to a second-rate power during the later fourteenth century; Siena spent 291,379 florins between 1342 and 1399 buying off the free companies.[3]

The White Company of John Hawkwood, probably the most famous free company, was active in Italy in the latter half of the fourteenth century


The year in which Owain entered the service of the king of France is uncertain. Froissart claims that he fought on the French side at the Battle of Poitiers, but there is no other evidence to support this

He was however deprived of his English lands in 1369, suggesting he was in the service of the French as leader of a Free Company when the period of truce between France and England following the Treaty of Brétigny ended and hostilities resumed in 1369.

His French name was Yvain de Galles (Owen of Wales).[2]

Owain's company consisted largely of Welshmen, many of whom remained in French service for many years.[3]

The second in command of this company was Ieuan Wyn, known to the French as le Poursuivant d'Amour, a descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, Seneschal of Gwynedd under Owain's ancestors Owain also received financial support while in France from Ieuan Wyn's father, Rhys ap Robert While in French service Owain had good relations with Bertrand du Guesclin  and others and gained the support of Charles V of France.[3]

Welsh soldiery and longbowmen who had fought for Edward I in his campaigns in North Wales remained armed and sold their services to Norman kings in their battles in Scotland at Crecy and Poitiers. Ironically, the Norman attempt to conquer Wales set in train events which reignited Welsh identity and raised up new Welsh military leaders such as Owain claiming descent from the ancient Princes of Wales.

In May 1372 in Paris, Owain announced that he intended to claim the throne of Wales.

He set sail from Harfleur with money borrowed from Charles V. Owain first attacked the island of Guernsey, and was still there when a message arrived from Charles ordering him to abandon the expedition in order to go to Castile to seek ships to attack La Rochelle.

Owain defeated an English and Gascon force at Soubise later that year, capturing Sir Thomas Percy and Jean de Grailly, the Captal de Buch. Another invasion of Wales was planned in 1373 but had to be abandoned when John of Gaunt launched an offensive.

In 1374 he fought at Mirebau and at Saintonge. In 1375 Owain was employed by Enguerrand de Coucy to help win Enguerrand's share of the Habsburg lands due to him as nephew of the former Duke of Austria.

However, during the Gugler War they were defeated by the forces of Bern and had to abandon the expedition.

In 1377 there were reports that Owain was planning another expedition, this time with help from Castile. The alarmed English government sent a spy, the Scot Jon Lamb, to assassinate Owain, who had been given the task of besieging Mortagne-sur-Gironde in Poitou.

Lamb gained Owain's confidence and became his chamberlain, which gave him the opportunity to stab Owain to death in July 1378, something Walker described as 'a sad end to a flamboyant career'.[2] The Issue Roll of the Exchequer dated 4 December 1378 records "To John Lamb, an esquire from Scotland, because he lately killed Owynn de Gales, a rebel and enemy of the King in France ... £20".

With the assassination of Owain Lawgoch the direct line of the House of Cunedda became extinct.[4] [1] As a result, the claim to the title 'Prince of Wales' fell to the other royal dynasties, of Deheubarth and Powys.

The leading heir in this respect was Owain ap Gruffudd of Glyndyfrdwy, who was descended from both dynasties.[2]

Owain Glyndwr
Prince of Wales
Lord of Glyndyfrdwy and of Cynllaith Owain



With defeat at home, the Welsh infantry retained and increased their place in the heart of the Royal armies, Lodwyk van Veltham wrote of Welshmenn serving in Edward 1st Army in Flanders in 1297in the very depth of winter they were running around bare legged.

They wore a red robe. The money they recieved from the King was spent on milk and butter.They would eat and drink anywhere. I never saw them wearing armour.

Their weapons were bows and arrows and swords. They had no javelins. They wore linen clothing. They were great drinkers ..Their pay was to small so it came about they took what did not belong to them.

Welsh mercenaries remained however, disobedient and riotious soldiers, on one occasion almost killing Edward 1st himself in a camp dispute in Scotand. Undisiplined in combat Welsh Mercenaries often murdered rather than captured opponents with ransom value. They would not have received the reward themselves, so it was only natural to kill someone who had just been trying to kill you.

The gradual rehabilitation of the Welsh Gentry helped restore their descipline, as the Welsh Soldiers only really obeyed their own native officers.

SOURCE : https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Cm6oAwAAQBAJ&pg=PT230&lpg=PT230&dq=welsh+mercenaries+terry+breverton&source=bl&ots=XgfoczQFo-&sig=eUi_kxk0jUg6PjHp4r9bI3WmQJk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEQQ6AEwBWoVChMIpIXNtOqgxwIVBusUCh10uA6x#v=onepage&q=welsh%20mercenaries%20terry%20breverton&f=false

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