A battle fought at Senlac, inland from Hastings (south-east England) between the English under Harold and an invading army under Duke William of Normandy (William I). Harold heard the news of the Norman invasion after his defeat of Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge, near York, and immediately marched southwards with his troops. The English resisted the Norman attack throughout a long day's fighting but the Norman cavalry and crossbowmen were superior to the English soldiers, fighting on foot and armed with axes. Harold was killed, traditionally by an arrow piercing his eye, and William, the victor, marched towards London.
The history books have it all wrong and it is only fitting that through our Hastings magazine Vital Spark we should put the matter right.
When William Duke of Normandy came to this country, nothing was further from his mind than getting mixed up with a bunch of homicidal maniacs up the A21 (road). In fact, he didn't intend coming to England at all. He was with his army on their annual works outing. They were cruising along the Channel, having a fine old time, when suddenly a fog came down. They peered through the gloom and mistook the architectural magnificence of the Pevensey Bay railway station for the Notre Dame. As a matter of fact William didn't realise he was abroad until he discovered that the chocolate machine on number two platform wouldn't take French money.
He left the lads to finish the last of the cucumber sandwiches while he went to get his bearings. He stumbled upon an old shack where an elderly Saxon was engaged in some sort of primitive craft. "Hey you, with the lattice-work socks" he shouted What are you making?" "Trug basket" replied the local. Whereupon William, who disliked bad language at the best of times, gave the Saxon's ear a quick massage with one of those spiked balls on a chain which some of the nastier Normans used to carry about with them. Unfortunately for William, just at that moment, King Harold was passing by on the other side of the hedge picking a few goosegogs and he couldn't help but notice this dastardly assault on one of his subjects.
"What do you think you are doing my good man?" He said in his poshest voice. "Don't you "My good man" me" said William. "I would have you know that I am William the ruler of all Normandy" "Is that so?" replied Harold "Well allow me to tell you that I am Harold Godwinson The ruler of that piece of land you are standing on at this moment, so I would suggest that you push off before I pull it from under you" "It may interest you to learn" said William, "That down on the beach, just out of sight, I have an army of fearless French warriors." "That doesn't surprise me " said Harold "The fumes from the garlic are beginning to tarnish my breast-plate, but I also have a large army just up the road, and as soon as they have finished queueing at the chip shop they will be down here like a ton of bricks." This news seemed to make William a little more reasonable. "'I'll tell you what" he said, "It would be a shame to interrupt your lads in the middle of their tea. Lets arrange a little "do" at daybreak tomorrow, just outside the Home and Colonial in the High Street." "Done" said Harold, and the two men parted until the morrow.
Picture the scene the next day. There were horsemen, pikemen, archers, knights, swordsmen, and standard-bearers, all intermingled with the early morning shoppers. Harold won the toss and chose the end with the steep hill. From this vantage point they were able to pelt the Normans with old swedes and various items of produce which had passed the sell-by date. All the Normans could do in return was to shoot arrows up the hill, but none of these were getting past the Saxon's shields.
Understandably this peeved William somewhat so, brushing a handful of brussel sprouts from his visor, he convened a meeting of his think-tank. One of these bright lads had the solution. "It's like this Guv, if we fire our 'arrers into the air, the English will all look up and shout "Cor! Look at all them lovely 'arrers" and we will then dash up the hill and sort zem out" "You shove that in the old suggestion box Gaston" said William "I think you may have a winner there"
For a while the plan looked like succeeding but suddenly there was tragedy. The carpet of arrows was descending and most of the Saxons were shouting "Cor! look at all them lovely 'arrers" but Harold was shouting "Cor! look at all the lovely omygawd aaargh!" and there he was flat on his back with his fetlocks pointing skywards in what the Americans would describe as a situation of negative immortality.
William sprinted up the hill full of apologies "What a terrible thing - wouldn't have had that happen for the world - my goodness, is that the time? - must get back to the beach - boats all parked on double yellow lines" The Saxons however, were not having any of this. They had arrived here with a King and now owing to this Norman's sheer carelessness they hadn't got one. None of them wanted the job. They didn't want to spend the rest of their lives opening sales of work at the vicarage. They explained to William that, like it or not, he was short-listed for the vacancy. As he didn't care very much for the way they were flashing their battle-axes, he decided he would accept their kind offer, and pausing only to erect a rough sand-stone abbey, ( at the nearby town of Battle) he set out for London.
From a series of articles by the late Stan Simpson G4ITM Published in the magazine of the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club.