The Dryfield is a natural fortress defended at Milton Ford, a bottleneck: Scotland's Thermopylae, where only a few men can cross at a time. The burn is impassable for a mile up and downstream due to escarpments, trees and high banks in most places. De Bohun crosses first, cannot progress, turns to report back and is killed by Bruce from behind with an axe blow. [Vita, 51].
Randolph, Earl of Moray, defends the Castle from an attack on the English right flank. Edward Bruce, defends the gap between Milton and Halbert's bogs on the English left flank, where the burn becomes passable upstream from today's Chartershall. Douglas is in the centre at the highest point of the Dryfield (200ft), as Barbour says, to assist divisions in need. Robert Bruce is at the Ford, north bank, his pikemen in a semi circle 30 yards across in the flat ground under the escarpment, the road ascends into the Dryfield on its way to St Ninians The road is nearly dead straight to the Castle: curves right to the Ford and then curves back onto the straight heading for St Ninians Main Street with the Kirk beside it built in 1242. See para 16 Historians' Errors herein, where the road of 1314 is proved to cross Milton Ford on 23rd June.
Gloucester leads the van at Milton Ford where the Scots occupy the North Bank leaving an inviting, flat space for the English to cross into. The Scottish pikemen are kneeling in a semi circle, butt in the ground (made by a dunt), point over the shoulders in front. A gap of a foot or two between the men to allow the pike to be aimed and lodge in the equine tank. Otherwise the men are bunched. This way, 14 pikemen, 7 on each side, hit the knight before his lance hits them. Like hitting a tree trunk 2 ft wide: no contest. Then the momentum of the knight is taken by the ground, not the man. The Genius of Bannockburn (GB) Ch 12. The schiltrom easily holds fast: ten deep or so The space is soon congested. The English cavalry, leading the invasion, have no speed and cannot advance, manoeuvre or regroup. They are forced to retreat. By then, Clifford and Beaumont with 300 knights have ridden into the Carse to outflank the Scots and cross it, stopped by Livilands Bog, having failed to see the expected route defended by Moray uphill on the left, hidden by trees. They eventually find a lesser route up the escarpment. Moray, desperate to recover his failure, runs half his force along St Ninians Main Street to try and catch up. Hearing this, the English wait for him to arrive [Scala, 54]. Moray forms a schiltrom of pikemen and they attack it. They make no impression. Sir Thomas Gray Senior is unhorsed and captured. [His son is the author of Scalacronica]. They leave to camp by arrangement [Vita, 51] in the Carse. Meanwhile, young knights at the rear of the cavalry, impatient to get into the fight, have outflanked the Ford on the English left and are able to cross higher upstream. They are driven off by Edward Bruce, defending the gap in the bogs on the Scottish right. Once the English at the Ford extricate themselves, their entire army moves into the Carse. Gloucester occupies the English left in their camp, prime position. [He is killed by Douglas the next day and must oppose Douglas because of that]
Unable to penetrate Moray's schiltrom, Clifford's English knights move off to camp where arranged [The place they were accustomed to camp in 1304,1298 et al: The Carse of Balquhiderock, with its bounding streams and pools of water, the best camp site available in midsummer with a desperate need for water by men and horses.] A few knights go off to the Castle [Scala 54], seeking the glory of raising the siege first. Moray now must defend both approaches up to the escarpment, as the English will soon arrive in the Carse to camp in great numbers. The Bruce divisions, having been engaged, occupy the Dryfield above Balquhiderock Wood, to face the English (unseen by the woods) who are camping in the Carse in no order but in the best position, out of bowshot of Balquhiderock Wood, for a foxhunt of rebels in the morning, around the front of the Knoll left for King Edward and his retinue. The Scots do nothing to provoke attack, remain hidden within the wood. Douglas's men not having been engaged, deploy to protect the Ford and the gap in the bogs while the main body of the English spend the afternoon reaching the Carse. At night fall, Douglas will move his men down the burnside into the Bannock Valley where, hidden by the trees, they will spend the night.
Marshalling. How do the Scots get into formation in the early morning? Where they sleep is important. The two Bruce divisions sleep in Balquhiderock Wood hidden by the wood. They will walk out into the Carse on the cusp of dawn, already in fighting formation. Moray's will sleep in Pelstream Woods, hidden there. Douglas's will sleep in the Bannock valley, left bank, where there is room enough, again hidden by trees. Silence will be ordered all night and during the march to set the pikes as close as possible to the English cavalry lines which are in front, the best places for a foxhunt of rebels next day. Moray's left flank and Douglas's right flank will form the front rows of their divisions.These have the best fighters.
Edward Bruce commands the Bruce divisions, slightly behind the wings [Lanercost, 207]. Robert Bruce commands the entire army and is 'ahead of his whole army' [Trokelowe, 84, BR 192], with squires holding shields protecting him from arrows. 'They advanced like a thick-set hedge,' [Vita, 52] Bruce's immediate aim is to imprison the English in the Carse. If he can reach the start of the Great Bend in the burn, the line he will defend will be shorter by 100 yards. If he can get really close, he will save Scottish lives by depriving the cavalry of space to get up speed. He has to be in front to make that decision. The first position is achieved: Douglas reaches it on the right. Bruce sets his pikes right across the Carse. The English, who have been carousing all night, have not seen him approach because of the black backdrop of the wood, the very flat ground, the silence of the Scots and the noise of the English, still at 'Wassail and Drinkhail' [Le Baker 7,8 BR 196], still drunk or asleep. Only from the Knoll have the Scots been seen, but no action is taken because no command and control has been arranged because of their overconfidence. Edward II (on the Knoll, 60 ft high) thinks they are begging for mercy, seeing them kneeling [Barbour, BK 12, 450 et seq]. Umphraville disagrees. Gloucester (Bruce's kinsman, aware of his audacity) alone understands the danger, rushes out of the King's tent and, without stopping to arm himself properly, or wearing his colours, rides to try to prevent the Scots coming closer, which Bruce realises he can, for the overconfident, drunken, English are unprepared and there is nothing they can do to prevent it. Bruce gets his pikemen up on their feet and they advance further (GB 297-300). His standard tells them by its movement. The closer they get, the less room for the English cavalry to get up speed. This will save Scottish lives. Halted, they are cavalry no longer. Bruce takes them very close and resets the pikes! Gloucester who commands 500 men at arms is felled and slain by Douglas and his men while they are moving forward. 'At a sudden rush of Scots, the earl's horse is killed and the earl rolls to the ground...he almost alone is killed.' [Vita, 52]. He is unsupported because unrecognised, no time to prepare himself. He, alone of the English commanders on the Knoll, understood their danger and tried to prevent it. Englishmen wake up from their slumbers and start to 'mount in alarm', [Scalacronica, 55]. They charge when they are ready, as individuals, like the day before. They are easily halted because they have no space to get up speed. 'The shattering of pikes' (and lances) [Trokelowe, 84].The Scots pull them down and kill them: lift the visor, axe in the face. There is so much baggage (tents, wagons, tables, barrels,fires, people, horses) around the Carse that the knights cannot even get a straight run at the Scots. They are on a picnic before a foxhunt of Scottish peasants.
The bottleneck at the Ford on day 1 has excluded many enemies. On day 2 Bruce fills the bottleneck across the Carse (830 yards) which again excludes many enemies: all the infantry and nearly all the archers. Because of the second move, taking the Scots very close, the English cavalry have no space to get up speed, are easily halted and cavalry no longer: impotent then, unable to advance because of the Scots or move sideways because of the muddy, bounding streams in full torrent after so much heavy rain that caused the pools. Cavalry pile in behind their first rank, rank after rank, doing no damage to the Scots. There are at least 2,000 English cavalry (Vita 50, BR 173). No one leads. They move when ready, as individuals.
The space vacated by the cavalry is filled with infantry, archers, servants and sightseers eager to see the acts of chivalry. Thus the cavalry cannot retreat to regroup. They are hemmed in, crushed together, pulled down and slain by axes under the visors. Horses are killed to prevent them thrashing about. Scottish archers can see English knights high up on their horses very easily and shoot them down at close range. The Scots are armed with hand axes (Trokelowe BR 192) the weapon everyone carries, on a string on the wrist, for use, as well as a pike ('weapons of war', essential here) and a targe (small shield, Trokelowe BR 192) on the forearm to deflect a lance.
English archers, all behind their cavalry, are hemmed in and unable to load or see to take aim, at kneeling Scots, over the heads of the knights on six foot high horses, a barrier 9 feet high, in front of them on the flat ground. They shoot some of their own men in the back and are told to stop shooting. Others try to shoot in a high parabola and their arrows bounce off Scottish helmets. [Le Baker 7,8; GB 329]. The nimble, lightly armoured Scots advance into the English cavalry who are weighed down with armour, hemmed in and unable to move or defend themselves, killing them as they go. The English cannot move to the front because of the Scots or the sides, because of the muddy, bounding streams in torrent, or retreat because of the hordes of infantry, archers and servants behind them, rushing forward to watch the chivalry (the games of glory). Seeing that the position is impossible and he must be captured, King Edward II is led off the Knoll towards Stirling Castle, where he is refused entry and escapes, outrunning pursuers, to Dunbar where he takes ship for England.
Once the King leaves, as he must, or be captured (for a king's ransom!), Englishmen begin to leave from the rear. English knights are easily killed when crushed together and unable to defend themselves. The Pond in front of the Knoll is soon full of them, pushed down by pikes and drowned. Bruce himself fought there: it is the Carse centre. Many Englishmen are killed fleeing on the way home to England across the South Carse to the Bannock burn, twice as wide and ten feet deep in places due to the recent heavy rain that caused the pools. And very muddy: lethal to heavily armoured men. 'Between the stony stream and the obstruction of their camp the treacherous English people come to grief' [Scotichronicon Vol VI Bk XII lines 73,74, p359, 361] by the spike of a hand axe in the back of the head. Many others flee N.E. and drown in the River Forth. The burn is soon full of English corpses. 'You could walk across dry shod,' says Barbour [Bk13,340, p497].