Battle of La Roche-Derrien
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|Battle of La Roche-Derrien|
|Part of the War of the Breton Succession|
Charles de Blois, Duke of Brittany, is taken prisoner after the battle of La Roche-Derrien
|House of Montfort (England)||House of Blois (France)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Sir Thomas Dagworth||Duke Charles of Blois|
|1,000||4,000 to 5,000|
The Battle of La Roche-Derrien was one of the battles of the Breton War of Succession; it was fought in 1347 during the night between English and French forces. Approximately 4,000–5,000 French, Breton and Genoese mercenaries (the largest field army ever assembled by Duke Charles of Blois) laid siege to the town of La Roche-Derrien in the hope of luring Sir Thomas Dagworth, the commander of the only standing English field army in Brittany at the time, into an open pitched battle.
Charles of Blois, in an effort to defeat the hated English longbowmen, gave orders to set up four encampments around the town's four gates. Weak palisades were established to give cover to his men—his thinking being that the archers could not kill what they could not see. Duke Charles gave his men strict orders to stay in their encampments so as not to be easy targets for the dreaded archers.
When Dagworth's relief army, less than one-fourth the size of the French force, arrived at La Roche-Derrien they attacked the eastern (main) encampment and fell into the trap laid by Duke Charles. Dagworth's main force was assailed with crossbow bolts from front and rear and after a short time Dagworth himself was forced to surrender.
Duke Charles, thinking he had won the battle and that Brittany was effectively his, lowered his guard. However a sortie from the town, composed mainly of townsfolk armed with axes and farming implements, came from behind Charles's lines. The archers and men-at-arms who remained from the initial assault now rallied with the town's garrison to cut down Charles' forces. Charles was forced to surrender and was taken for ransom.
His strict orders to his commanders to stay in their encampments was his eventual downfall as the English forces managed to clear each encampment one by one.
The Battle of La Roche-Derrien in historical fiction
The battle features in Bernard Cornwell's historical novel Vagabond—part of his Grail Quest trilogy of books, set against the background of the Hundred Years' War. A related account can be found in his book "Harlequin", ('The Archer's Tale' in the U.S.A.) in which the English are the ones attacking the city.