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 Recording the events of September 1066
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Dr Nick Bridgland cites John Oxley, the city of York archaeologist, as causing him to change his mind about the way the Norse literature pointed to Germany Beck. But Oxley is misquoted by Bridgland, claiming that the Sagas put the battle between the river and the ditch.

I have asked English Heritage to tell the court that they misinformed them, but they have declined to correst their mistake.

 

I prepared this for my QC:

Comparing translations: Having bought a copy of the Magnusson/Palsson version, I recognise that this was indeed the primary version used by Dr Richard Hall to guide the landscape research and was doubtless why he put me in touch with Prof Palsson. I used the Laing version as Penguin would not grant me free copyright. In this particular section the Laing version is more coherent militarily but both fit Germany Beck well when all the text is considered. A modern English translation of volume 2 of Heimskringlais in preparation. There are no more recent translations according to my Scandinavian informants.

1844 translation by Samuel Laing.

1966 translation by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson

Notes by Chas Jones

King Harald now went on the land, and drew up his men. 

..he went ashore and began to draw up his army,

Neither mention the move from Riccall towards York

The one arm of this line stood at the outer edge of the river,

with one flank reaching down to the river

The term translated as arm refers to an army. Flank is a tactical location not a group which is problematic later.

the other turned up towards the land

and the other stretching inland

From the dry land beside the river one could turn to the land or stretch inland.

along a ditch; and

towards a dyke where

Looking from the river one would go towards the ditch/dyke as the flooded ings would submerge the beck until it emerged beyond the breach where we find the stone-lined ford.

there was also a morass, deep, broad, and full of water.

there was a deep and wide swamp full of water.

This would describe the Ings or Germany Beck on the morning of 20/9/1066 and the land beyond.

The earls let their army proceed slowly down along the river, with all their troops in line. 

The English Earls brought their army slowly down along the river in close formation.

The Orkney saga refers to Germany Beck as the Upper Ouse.‘They met at that river which is the upper Ouse’ The ‘close formation/troops in line’ is ashieldwall.

The king's banner was next to the river, where the line was thickest.

King Harald’s standard was near the river, where his forces were thickest,

The river Ouse bank is not visible from Germany Beck. The landscape is relevant to what happens next.

It was thinnest at the ditch, where also the weakest of the men were.

but the thinnest and least reliable part of the line was at the dyke.

So the Norse had a thin shieldwall along a ditch or at a dyke. This must have been facing the English and not off to the flank as M/P suggest.

When the earls advanced downwards along the ditch, the arm of the Northmen's line which was at the ditch gave way;

The earls now advanced down the line of the dyke, and the Norwegian flank there gave way;

Down and downwards describe descending in this landscape. The weak army or flank gave way when the English advance at the ditch or dyke;

and the Englishmen followed, thinking the Northmen would fly.  The banner of Earl Morukare advanced then bravely.

The English went after them, thinking that the Norwegians would flee. Earl Morcar’s banner was in the van.

It looked like a rout because Mocar was unaware of the army by the river. This was a tactic reportedly used by Harald as a Byzantine mercenary.

In the following stanza it has

 

 

The English array had come to the ditch against him..

 ..the English flank was advancing down the dyke..

Flanks don’t advance, so I favour the terms army or array used by Laing. But M/P use of ‘down’might represents descent into the steep sided, wide ditch.

 

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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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