During the Wars of Independence, Philip de Mowbray agreed to surrender Stirling Castle if not assisted by England. Edward II therefore came across the border and by the time he left Edinburgh for Falkirk on the 22 June, he had amassed an army of sixteen thousand infantry and two and a half thousand knights on horseback.
The army’s supply train was twenty miles long. Robert the Bruce prepared to meet him with six thousand spearmen, five hundred light horse and a few archers. He pitched in a deer park which had a half-mile of farmland on its east, a moor on its west and Bannock Burn along its south. The Burn flowed to a bog then into a gorge, whilst the farmland ended steeply into the tidal Forth.
The first contact was made on 23 June when English cavalry attempted a strategic strike and suffered badly. The next day the cavalry initiated the fighting again. The Scots had grouped into four battails using their schiltron formations of spearmen in variable squares.
The ground had been covered in balls of spikes called caltrops to disable the horses, and Edward’s infantry were inoperable on the narrow front they were given. The Scots forced the English back and into the Burn where self-defence was all but impossible.
Edward meanwhile had fled with five hundred of his knights to Stirling Castle. Mowbray could see which side to back however and would not open the gates.
Side-stepping the battle, Edward headed for Winchburgh, then Dunbar and escape, pursued by Douglas, while the Earl of Pembroke made for Carlisle with two thousand Welshmen.
Bruce ensured that those taken prisoner be treated well and he was remembered by them for his humanity.