Official recognition for battlefield where Scots beat English invaders

The site of a largely forgotten battle, in which an army of heavily outnumbered Scots beat off an English invading force, is to be given official recognition.

The Battle of Sark was fought in 1448 and marked the first decisive victory for the Scots over the English since the Battle of Otterburn, 60 years before.

Photograph by: Andrew SprattBattle of Sark

In October of that year Henry Percy, the 2nd Earl of Northumberland, invaded Scotland with 6,000 men and the blessing of the English King Henry V.

Percy’s plan had been to ransack the lands of the Douglas family in the Borders and he carried out a number of raiding parties on properties, stealing goods and burning villages in the surrounding area.

However, while camped between the River Sark and Kirtle Water, southwest of Gretna in Dumfries and Galloway, an army of around 4,000 Scots, led by Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, caught up with him on October 23.

Although the English army were warned of Ormonde’s advance and had deployed for battle in time to meet the Scots, they chose the wrong place to fight.

The Scots, unwilling to stand and take volleys of arrows from the English longbows, charged their enemy armed with swords, axes and spears. The force of the charge broke the English ranks and forced them to flee.

The escaping soldiers found themselves trapped by three watercourses – the Esk, the Sark, and the Kirtle Water. Hemmed in on three sides many drowned trying to get away.

Reports of the battle claimed as many as 3,000 English soldiers were killed, around half the army, while less than 600 Scots died.

Despite being a decisive victory for the Scots the battle has been largely forgotten.Now, some 568 years later, the site is to get the recognition and protection of being added to the official Inventory of Historic Battlefields.

“The Inventory raises awareness about important battlefield sites which add to our understanding of Scotland’s archaeology and history,” said Philip Robertson, Historic Environment Scotland’s Deputy Head of Designations for battlefields.

“Following an application from a member of the public, we carried out further research into the Battle of Sark, and found that it met the criteria to be added to the inventory.

“The battle was fought during a fascinating and tumultuous period of Scottish history, and we hope that by adding it to the inventory we will raise awareness of the battlefield site, stimulate further research around it, and develop its potential as an educational resource and site for visitors.”