St Crispin's Day
Saint Crispin's Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian (also known as Crispinus and Crispianus, though this spelling has fallen out of favour), twins who were martyred c. 286.
It is a day most famous for the battles that occurred on it, most notably the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Because of the St. Crispin's Day Speech in Shakespeare's play Henry V, calling the soldiers who would fight on the day a "band of brothers", other battles fought on Crispin's day have been associated with Shakespeare's words. Other notable battles include the Battle of Balaclava (Charge of the Light Brigade) during the Crimean War in 1854 and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific theatre in 1944.
The feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian is 25 October. Although this feast was removed from the Roman Catholic Church's universal liturgical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, the two saints are still commemorated on that day in the most recent edition of the Roman Martyrology. The feast remains as a "Black Letter Saints' Day" in the calendar of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1662) and a "commemoration" in Common Worship (2000).
The Battle of Agincourt was dramatised by William Shakespeare in Henry V featuring the battle in which Henry inspired his much outnumbered English forces to fight the French saying "the fewer men, the greater share of honour". The main part of the speech begins "This day is called the feast of Crispian", and goes on to say that each soldier who survives the battle, will, each year, "rouse him at the name of Crispian" and say "'These wounds I had on Crispin's day'", and:
Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
When the Battle of Balaclava was fought on the 25 October, the coincidence was noticed by contemporaries, who used Shakespeare's words to comment on the battle. The contrast between the two battles, one a complete victory, the other indecisive and notorious for the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, has also been noted. The Battle of Shangani (1893) in the First Matabele War was also fought on Crispin's day.
During World War II a similar phenomenon emerged. Several battles in the war occurred on the day: the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the third day of the Second Battle of El Alamein, and, on the other side of the world, the Battle of Henderson Field at Guadalcanal. Two years later (1944) important naval battles took place at Cape Engano, Samar Island and in the Straits of Surigao; in the latter, the Japanese fleet was effectively destroyed.
Other battles have also been fought on the day, but were not associated with its symbolism at the time. In 1315, a century before Agincourt, Adam Banastre, Henry de Lea and William Bradshaw, led an attack on Liverpool Castle. An early battle of the U.S. Civil War, the Second Battle of Springfield, Missouri, was fought on October 25, 1861, and was a Union victory. Another forgotten battle in that war, the Battle of Marais des Cygnes, Kansas (Mine Creek), was fought on that day in 1864.
- "Ss. Crispin and Crispinian". New Advent. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- Shakespeare, W., The Life of King Henry the Fifth, Act 4, Scene 3.
- Deborah Bachrach, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Lucent Books, 1997, p.60.
- Evan Thomas, Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945, Simon and Schuster, 2006, p.245.
- Miles F. Shore & Robert I. Rotberg, The Founder: Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power, Oxford University Press, 1988, p.442.