Agincourt and Crécy, two of the bloodiest Anglo–French battles of the Middle Ages, took place near the attractive little town of Hesdin (familiar to Simenon fans from the TV series Inspector Maigret). Twenty kilometres southwest of Hesdin, at the Battle of Crécy, Edward III inflicted the first of his many defeats of the French in 1346. This was the first appearance on the continent of the new English weapon, the six-foot longbow, and reputedly the first use in European history of gunpowder. Today you just see the Moulin Édouard III (now an inconspicuous wooden watchtower), 1km northeast of Crécy-en-Ponthieu on the D111 to Wadicourt, site of the windmill from which Edward watched the hurly-burly of battle. Further south, on the D56 to Fontaine, the battered croix de Bohème marks the place where King John of Bohemia died fighting for the French, having insisted on leading his men into battle despite his blindness.
Ten thousand more died in the heaviest defeat ever of France’s feudal knighthood at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415, the six hundredth anniversary of which was recently celebrated. Forced by muddy conditions to fight on foot in heavy armour, the French, though more than three times as numerous, were easy prey for the lighter, mobile English archers. The rout took place near present-day Azincourt, about 12km northeast of Hesdin off the D928. Agincourt Centre Historique Médiéval uses video and interactive facilities to bring the story to life and a map takes you for a circular drive around the English and French lines, including an orientation point by the crossroads of the D104 and the road to Maisoncelle.